Calendars-Active and lost, from different parts of the world – Part 2

Voxytalksy scours the history books to bring you some of the active and lost calendars from different parts of the world and how they are/were used.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Indian/Hindu calendar

The Hindu calendar starts on Baisakhi, which marks the start of the harvest season, falling on April 13 each year. It was last reformed in 1957. It is a lunisolar calendar in which there are 12 lunar months and each month begins with the new moon before sunrise. There are roughly 29 to 30 days in a lunar month as against the 30 to 31 days of a solar calendar and leap years generally coincide with those of the Gregorian calendar. The months have traditional Indian names and are divided into four eras as per Hindu religion called as ‘yugas’ (ages). The ages are Satya Yug, Treta Yug, Dwapar Yug and Kali Yug.

Zoroastrian calendar

It is a solar calendar that follows the Gregorian leap-year system and has the New Year permanently fixed on March 21. The base year for the calendar is the date of the coronation of the last Zoroastrian Sasanian King, Yazdegerd II in 631 CE.

It is composed of 12 months, each containing 30 days. The final month has 5 “gatha” days added whereas initially, an additional month of 30 days was added once every 120 years. The Iranian Zoroastrians stopped adding this additional month in 1009 CE and the believers in India stopped in 1129 CE. The New Year has been gradually moving earlier (about 1 day every 4 years) from its original date in mid-March which occurs in the fall months. Khurshedji Cama proposed a revised calendar in 1906 CE to fix this error. This calendar is used by Zoroastrians around the world, except India.

Egyptian calendar

It was a lunar calendar that was based on the moon’s cycles but was later adapted to a solar calendar of 365 days. The earliest date recorded in the Egyptian calendar corresponds to 4236 BC of the Gregorian calendar. The calendar worked on the basis of a system of 36 stars that marked out the year. Later on, the Egyptians developed three different calendars that were used concurrently for over 2000 years in which a star-based or stellar calendar was for agriculture, a solar year of 365 days for daily life and a quasi-lunar calendar for festivals respectively.

Hijrah (Islamic) calendar

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar having 12 months, with each month being either of 29 or 30 days. The calendar begins with the date when Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) emigrated (Hijra) from Mecca to Madina in 622CE which corresponds to July 16, 622AD.

Since each year of the Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian year (approx. 11 days), it takes approximately 33 years for the calendar make a full round of the yearly seasons. The lunar calendar repeats itself every 30 years. Year 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 24, 26 and 29 are leap years and have 355 days. Common (non-leap years) have 354 days. When measured by the Gregorian calendar, about three times a century, Muslims can celebrate two new years each year. In most countries, each lunar month begins with the visible sighting of the crescent of the new moon. Other countries use a calculated date for the new moon and don’t rely on sightings.

Mayan calendar

It is the oldest known measurement of a calendar year established around fifth century BC and used by the Aztecs and Toltecs. Mayans were experts in mathematics and primitive astronomy and the calendar system they used was a system of three calendars or dating systems – the Tzolkin (divine calendar), has 260 days associated with good and bad luck; the Haab (civil calendar) having a length of 365 days, 18 months of 20 days, plus 5 extra days and 52 cycles; and the Long Count is of 20 days

A stone tablet discovered in Tabasco during the 1960s was supposed to have contained predictions of the world’s end (doomsday) on December 21, 2012. However, that didn’t happen, it was just the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar which conspiracy theorists turned into a doomsday phobia. In 1999 too people thought the world was coming to an end because the new millennium was thought to be bringing bad luck and evil upon the earth.

Buddhist calendar

These calendars vary according to the location in which this faith is followed. The starting year was kept as 2484 BE and was based on the estimated year the death of Gautama Buddha. Since then, the Buddhist Era “BE” equals that of the Gregorian Calendar (CE) plus 543 years. The Buddhist calendar is a set of lunisolar calendars primarily used in mainland Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand as well as in Sri Lanka and Chinese populations of Malaysia and Singapore for religious or official occasions. While the calendars share a common lineage, they also have minor but important variations such as intercalation (day inserted in the calendar to harmonize it with the solar year, e.g. 29 February in leap years) schedules, month names, use of cycles and numbering, etc. In Thailand, the name Buddhist Era is a year-numbering system shared by the traditional Thai lunisolar calendar and by the Thai solar calendar.

The Southeast Asian lunisolar calendars are largely based on an older version of the Hindu calendar, which uses the sidereal year (the orbital period of the earth around the sun) as the solar year.

Persian/Iranian calendar

Even though it is one of the oldest calendars in the world, it is considered the most accurate solar calendar in use today. The reason behind this is that the astronomical measurements in this calendar are based on meticulous mathematical calculations which split a year into 12 months of 29 to 31 days and the year generally starts at the spring equinox which generally begins in March every year.

Hebrew calendar

It is a solilunar calendar in which there are 12 months plus an extra ‘intercalary’ or leap month is added every three years. The present Hebrew calendar is the product of evolution, including a Babylonian influence. Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in autumn on the first two days of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar.

It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm readings, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is used for religious purposes, provides a time frame for agriculture and is an official calendar for civil purposes, although the latter usage has been steadily declining in favour of the Gregorian calendar.

So, that’s a roundup of the most famous calendars from around the world! Which one do you follow? Tell us in the comments!


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