Vikram Samvat or Bikram Samvat (Nepali: विक्रम सम्वत्) (abbreviated as V.S. or B.S.; Listen (help·info)) is a calendar era used in a Hindu calendar of the same name. It uses lunar months and solar sidereal year (see and Vedic time keeping). In Nepal it is also termed Bikram Sambat, but is computed using the tropical year.
The Vikram Samvat calendar is 56.7 years ahead (in count) of the solar Gregorian calendar. For example, the year 2056 BS began in AD 1999 and ended in AD 2000. The new year begins with the first day after the new moon, in the month of Chaitra, Chaitra Shuddha 1 or Chaitra Shukla Paksha Prathama; which usually falls in March–April in the Gregorian calendar. The nine-day Navaratri festival season begins on this day, culminating on Ram Navami day. In Nepal, it begins in mid-April and marks the start of the solar new year.
The Vikrama Samvat is said to have been founded by the legendary Indian king Vikramaditya, variously considered to a partly historical figure or a purely mythical character. The Rana rulers of Nepal made it their official calendar. In India, the reformulated Saka Calendar is officially used, although in the Hindi version of the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the date of adoption of the constitution, 26 November 1949, is presented in Vikram Samvat (Margsheersh Shukla Saptami Samvat 2006). There have been calls for the Vikram Samvat to replace Saka as India's official calendar.
|No.||Name||Nepali||Days||Corresponding Gregorian months|
|1||Kartik||कार्तिक||29 / 30||mid-October to mid-November|
|2||Mangsir||मार्ग or मंसिर/असोज/अगहन||29 / 30||mid-November to mid-December|
|3||Poush||पौष or पुष/पूस||29 / 30||mid-December to mid-January|
|4||Magh||माघ||29 / 30||mid-January to mid-February|
|5||Falgun||फाल्गुन or फागुन||29 / 30||mid-February to mid-March|
|6||Chaitra||चैत्र or चैत||30 / 31||mid-March to mid-April|
|7||Baishakh||बैशाख||30 / 31||mid-April to mid-May|
|8||Jestha||जेष्ठ or जेठ||31 / 32||mid-May to mid-June|
|9||Ashadh||आषाढ़ or असार||31 / 32||mid-June to mid-July|
|10||Shrawan||श्रावण or साउन / सावन||31 / 32||mid-July to mid-August|
|11||Bhadra||भाद्र or भदौ/भादो||31 / 32||mid-August to mid-September|
|12||Ashwin||आश्विन or कुआर/क्वार||30 / 31||mid-September to mid-October|
Kalakacharya Kathanaka ("An account of the monk Kathanaka") by the Jain sage Mahesarasuri gives the following account: Gandharvasena, the then-powerful king of Ujjain, abducted a nun called Sarasvati, who was the sister of the monk. The enraged monk sought the help of the Śaka ruler King Sahi in Sistan. Despite heavy odds but aided by miracles, the Śaka king defeated Gandharvasena and made him a captive. Sarasvati was repatriated, although Gandharvasena himself was forgiven. The defeated king retired to the forest, where he was killed by a tiger. His son, Vikramaditya, being brought up in the forest, had to rule from Pratishthana (modern Paithan in Maharashtra). Later on, Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away the Śakas. To commemorate this event, he started a new era called the "Vikrama era". The Ujjain calendar started around 56-58 BCE, and the subsequent Shaka era calendar was started in 78 CE at Pratishthana.
Historicity of the legends
The association of the era beginning in 57 BCE with Vikramaditya is not found in any source before the 9th century CE. The earlier sources call this era by various names, including Kṛṭa (343 CE and 371 CE), Kritaa (404 CE), the era of the Malava tribe (424 CE), or simply, Samvat.
The earliest known inscription that calls the era "Vikrama" is from 842 CE. This inscription of Chauhana ruler Chandamahasena was found at Dholpur, and is dated Vikrama Samvat 898, Vaishakha Shukla 2, Chanda (16 April 842 CE). The earliest known inscription that associates this era with a king called Vikramaditya is dated 971 CE. The earliest literary work that connects the era to Vikramaditya is Subhashita-Ratna-Sandoha (993-994 CE) by the Jain author Amitagati.
For this reason, multiple authors believe that the Vikram Samvat was not started by Vikramaditya, who might be a purely legendary king or the title adopted by a later king who renamed the era after himself. V. A. Smith and D. R. Bhandarkar believed that Chandragupta II adopted the title Vikramaditya, and changed the name of the era to "Vikrama Samvat". According to Rudolf Hoernlé, the king responsible for this change was Yashodharman: Hoernlé also believed that he conquered Kashmir, and is same person as the "Harsha Vikramaditya" mentioned in Kalhana's Rajatarangini.
Alternatively, the era has been thought by some scholars to correspond to the Azes era of the Indo-Scythian (Śaka) king King Azes, but this seems to be now thoroughly discredited by Falk and Bennett, who place the inception of the Azes era in 47/6 BCE.
After the rise of the Rana oligarchs in Nepal, Vikram Samvat came into unofficial use along with the official Śaka era for quite some time. They discontinued the Śaka era in its 1823rd year and replaced it with the Vikram Samvat for official use since then. Vikram Samvat came into official use in its 1958th year.
The traditional New Year of Vikram Samvat is one of the many festivals of Nepal, marked by parties, family gatherings, the exchange of good wishes, and participation in rituals to ensure good fortune in the coming year. It occurs in mid-April each year, and coincides with the traditional new year in Assam, Bengal, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Kashmir, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.
In addition to Nepal, the Vikram Samvat calendar is also recognized in North and East India, and in Gujarat among Hindus. In Buddhist communities, the month of Baishakh is associated with Vesak or Buddha's Birthday. It commemorates the birth, Enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha on the first full moon day in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June. Although this festival is not held on the same day as Pahela Baishakh, the holidays typically fall in the same month (Baishakh) of the Bengali, Hindu, and Theravada Buddhist calendars, and are related historically through the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South Asia.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Vikramaditya.|
- Harry Falk and Chris Bennett (2009). "Macedonian Intercalary Months and the Era of Azes." Acta Orientalia 70, pp. 197–215.
- "The Dynastic Art of the Kushan", John Rosenfield.