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Vikram Samvat (Hindi: विक्रम सम्वत्, Nepali: विक्रम सम्वत्) (abbreviated as V.S. (or VS) or B.S. (or BS)); Listen (help·info)) (also called the Bikrami calendar or sometimes just Hindu calendar) is the historical Hindu calendar of India and Nepal. It uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. It is the official calendar of Nepal.
- 1 Origins and history
- 2 The calendar system
- 3 Significance and origins
- 4 Divisions of a year
- 5 History
- 6 Culture
- 7 Converting Vikram Samvat to CE
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Origins and history
The Vikram Samvat is named after king Vikramaditya, and starts in 58 BC. The Vikrami era, or Vikrami-samvat, is notable because many ancient and medieval era inscriptions use it. However, in early inscriptions the term Vikrami-samvat is not used, rather the same calendaring system is found by other names such as Krita and Malava.
The Vikrami era is an ancient calendar and has been historically used by Hindus and Sikhs. It is one of the several regional Hindu calendars that have been in use on the Indian subcontinent, and it is based on twelve synodical lunar months and 365 solar days. The lunar new year starts on the new moon in the month of Chaitra. This day, known as Chaitra Sukhladi, is a restricted holiday in India.
The Vikrami samvat (Bikrami Samvat system) has been in use in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times, and remains in use by the Hindus in north, west and central India as well as Nepal. In south India, and some parts of east and west India such as Assam, Bengal and Gujarat, saka era has been widely used.
With the arrival of the Islamic rule era, the Hijri Islamic calendar became the official calendar of various Sultanates and the Mughal Empire. During the colonial rule era of the Indian subcontinent, the Gregorian calendar was adopted and it is commonly used in the urban areas of India and Nepal. The predominantly Muslim countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh use the Islamic calendar since 1947, but older texts variously included the Bikrami and Gregorian calendar systems. In 2003, the India-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee of Sikhism adopted the Nanakshahi calendar, a move that continues to be debated. The Vikrami calendar is the official calendar of Nepal.
The calendar system
The Vikrami calendar is similar in conceptual design to the Jewish calendar, but different from the Gregorian calendar. Unlike Gregorian calendar which adds additional days to lunar month to adjust for the mismatch between twelve lunar cycles (354 lunar days) and nearly 365 solar days, the Vikrami and Jewish calendars maintain the integrity of the lunar month, but insert an extra full month by complex rules, every 4 years, to ensure that the festivals and crop related rituals fall in the appropriate season. This Indian system of calendar keeping is one of the luni-solar calendar systems innovated in ancient human cultures. Early Buddhist communities of India adopted the ancient Indian calendar, later Vikrami calendar, and then local Buddhist calendars. Buddhist festivals continue to be scheduled according to a lunar system.
The Vikram Samvat has two alternative systems. It started in 56 BCE in the southern (purnimanta) and 57–56 BCE in the northern (amanta) systems of the Hindu calendar. The Shukla Paksha, when most festivals occur, coincides in both systems. The era is named after King Vikramaditya of India.
The luni-solar Vikram Samvat calendar is 56.7 years ahead of the solar Gregorian calendar. For example, the year 2074 VS began in 2017 CE and will end in 2018 CE.
The Rana rulers of Nepal made Vikram Samvat the official Hindu calendar in 1901 CE, which started as Samvat 1958. In Nepal, the new year begins with the first day of the month of Baishakh, which usually falls within the months of April–May in the Gregorian calendar. The first day of the new year is passionately celebrated in a historical carnival that takes place every year in Bhaktapur, called biska Jatra. From 2007 AD, Nepal Sambat is recognized as the national calendar.
In India, the reformulated Saka Calendar is officially used (although not for computing the dates of the traditional festivals). In the Hindi version of the Preamble of the Constitution of India, however, 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.
Significance and origins
The Vikrami era, or Vikrami-samvat, is notable because many historic manuscripts and inscriptions use it. However, in early inscriptions such as the Badva yupa inscriptions and Mandasor inscriptions, the term Vikrami-samvat is not used, rather the same calendaring system is found by other names such as Krta (Krita) and Malava.
In the colonial era scholarship, Vikrama-samvat was believed to be based on the commemoration of King Vikramaditya expelling the Sakas from Ujjain. However, later epigraphical evidence and scholarship suggests that this theory has no historical basis and very likely was an error. Until the 9th century, the same era is inscribed in numerous archeological sites by other names such as Krta and Malava. Starting in the 9th century and thereafter, epigraphical artwork uses Vikrama-samvat, suggesting that sometime around the 9th-century, the Hindu calendar that was already in use became popular as Vikrami calendar, while Buddhist and Jain epigraphy continued to use an era based on the Buddha or the Mahavira.
Divisions of a year
The classical Vikram Samvat uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. Because 12 months do not match a sidereal year exactly, correctional months (adhika māsa) are added or, occasionally, subtracted (kshaya masa). A lunar year consists of 12 months. A lunar month has two fortnights. The lunar days are called "tithis". Each month has 30 tithis, which may vary from 20 – 27 hours. During the waxing phases, tithis are called "shukla" or the bright phase — the auspicious fortnight, beginning with the day after the new moon called "Amavasya". Tithis for the waning phases are called "krishna" or the dark phase, which is regarded as the inauspicious fortnight, starting from the day after the full moon or "purnima".
- A Tithi (or lunar day) is defined as the time it takes for the longitudinal angle between the Moon and the Sun to increase by 12°. Tithis begin at varying times of day and vary in duration from approximately 19 to 26 hours.
- A Paksa (also Pakṣa) or lunar fortnight consists of 15 tithis.
- A Māsa or lunar month (approximately 29.5 days) is divided into 2 Pakṣas: the one between new moon and full moon (waxing) is called gaura (bright) or Śukla Pakṣa; the one between full moon and new moon (waning) Kṛiṣhṇa (dark) or Vadhya Pakṣa
- A Ṛitu (or season) is two Māsa
- An Ayana is three Ṛitus
- A year is two Ayanas 
Months of the Vikram Samvat:
|No.||Name||Nepali||Hindi||Days||Corresponding Gregorian months|
|1||Baishakh||बैशाख||बैशाख||30 / 31(30.950 exactly)||mid-April to mid-May|
|2||Jestha||जेठ or जेष्ठ||जेष्ठ||31 / 32(31.429 exactly)||mid-May to mid-June|
|3||Ashadh||असार or अषाढ़||आषाढ़||31 / 32(31.638 exactly)||mid-June to mid-July|
|4||Shrawan||साउन or श्रावण||श्रावण or सावन||31 / 32(31.463 exactly)||mid-July to mid-August|
|5||Bhadra||भदौ or भाद्र||भाद्र or भादो||31 / 32(31.012 exactly)||mid-August to mid-September|
|6||Ashwin||असोज or आश्विन||आश्विन or कुआर/क्वार||30 / 31(30.428 exactly)||mid-September to mid-October|
|7||Kartik||कार्तिक or कातिक्क||कार्तिक||29 / 30(29.879 exactly)||mid-October to mid-November|
|8||Mangsir||मंसिर or मार्ग||मार्ग or मंसिर/अगहन||29 / 30(29.475 exactly)||mid-November to mid-December|
|9||Poush||पुष or पौष||पौष or पुष/पूस||29 / 30(29.310 exactly)||mid-December to mid-January|
|10||Magh||माघ||माघ||29 / 30(29.457 exactly)||mid-January to mid-February|
|11||Falgun||फागुन or फाल्गुन/फागु||फाल्गुन||29 / 30(29.841 exactly)||mid-February to mid-March|
|12||Chaitra||चैत or चैत्र||चैत्र||30 / 31(30.377 exactly)||mid-March to mid-April|
The exact length of each month is the time taken by the Sun to move through a full zodiac sign.
The table below starts the calendar from the Solar month of Vaisakh.
The names of months are
|S.No.||Solar Month Name||Duration|
|1.||Visakh (Besakh) (Baisakh)||Mid of April to Mid of May|
|2.||Jeth (Jestha)||Mid of May to Mid of June|
|3.||Harh (Ashad)||Mid of June to Mid of July|
|4.||Sawan (Shrawan)||Mid of July to Mid of August|
|5.||Bhadon (Bhadhray) (Bhadra)||Mid of August to Mid of September|
|6.||Asooj (Assun) (Ashwin)||Mid of September to Mid of October|
|7.||Kattek (Kattun) (Kartik)||Mid of October to Mid of November|
|8.||Maghar (Marga or Margsheersh)||Mid of November to Mid of December|
|9.||Poh (Poush)||Mid of December to Mid of January|
|10.||Maah (Magh)||Mid of January to Mid of February|
|11.||Phaggan (Falgun)||Mid of February to Mid of March|
|12.||Chetar (Chaitra)||Mid of March to Mid of April|
A day consists of 8 Peh'r/Pahars, every Peh'r/Pahar equals to 3 hours of the modern clock. These Pahars are named:
- 1: Sajar vela or Sver vela = Morning/Day-break (6'o clock to 9'o clock).
- 2: Dhammi vela = Pre- noon time(9'o clock to 12'o clock).
- 3: Paishee vela = Noon(12'o clock to 3'o clock).
- 4: Deegar vela = Afternoon(3'o clock to 6'o clock).
- 5: nimasheen/namashan vela = Sunset + Evening + Early hours of night(6'o clock to 9'o clock).
- 6: Kuftain vela = Pre-midnight time (9'o clock to 12'o clock).
- 7: Adh Raat vela = Midnight to 3'o clock (12'o clock to 3'o clock).
- 8: Sarghee vela = Pre Dawn/Very early morning before the sunrise(3'o clock to 6'o clock).
The word vela (or vailaa) means "time of the day", whereas the word Adh means half. 'Dowpahar/dowpeh'r' denotes noon time; and 'shikardowpehr' when sun is right above.
The names of the lunar months are as follows with the new lunar year starting on new moon in Chetar:
|S.No.||Lunar Month Name||Duration|
|1.||Chetar (Chaitra)||March to April|
|2.||Visakh (Besakh) (Baisakh)||April to May|
|3.||Jeth (Jestha)||May to June|
|4.||Harh (Ashad)||June to July|
|5.||Sawan (Shrawan)||July to August|
|6.||Bhadon (Bhadhray) (Bhadra)||August to September|
|7.||Asooj (Assun) (Ashwin)||September to October|
|8.||Kattek (Kattun) (Kartik)||October to November|
|9.||Maghar (Marga or Margsheersh)||November to December|
|10.||Poh (Poush)||December to January|
|11.||Maah (Magh)||January to February|
|12.||Phaggan (Falgun)||February to March|
Kalakacharya Kathanaka ("An account of the monk Kalakacharya") 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 58–56 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.
Earlier, some scholars believed that the Vikrama Samavat corresponded to the Azes era of the Indo-Scythian (Śaka) king King Azes. However, this was disputed by Robert Bracey following discovery of an inscription of Vijayamitra, which is dated in two eras. The theory seems to be now thoroughly discredited by Falk and Bennett, who place the inception of the Azes era in 47–46 BCE.
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, Odisha, 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. Hindu religious festivals are based on Vikram Samvat. In North India the new year in Vikram Samvat starts from the first day of Chaitra Skukla paksha. 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.
Converting Vikram Samvat to CE
While an approximate conversion can be made by subtracting 56 or 57, a precise computation requires identification of the version of Vikam Samvat that was used:
- Year expired (default) or current
- Kartikadi (older or western India) or Chaitradi (modern Northern India). Kartikadi starts 7 months later in Kartika. Until 12th century Kartikadi year was common even in North India.
- Months Amanta (south) or Purminata (North). Amanta Chaitra Krishna Paksha is Purminata Vaishakh Krishna Paksha. For the Shukla Paksh, the month is the same.
A software program, Pancanga, is available to make the calculations.
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