The new year offers a time to look forward and set our intentions. In my home this is a year of many beginnings as we settle into our new location and business endeavors. And in looking ahead, I’ve had some time to compare various Sikh calendars and reflect on ways to increase my connection to the rhythms and celebrations across the Sikh diaspora.
Sikhs throughout the world generally use the Nanakshahi (Gurmukhi: ਨਾਨਕਸ਼ਾਹੀ, nānakashāhī) calendar. In 1998 the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) adopted the Nanakshahi leaving behind the lunar-based Saka calendar. It was designed by Pal Singh Purewal with the intention of replacing the Saka calendar which is based on the Hindu liturgical year.
The epoch of the Nanakshahi calendar is the birth of the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev Ji who was born in 1469. The Sikh New Year begins with Chet (ਚੇਤ) 1 which in the Common Era calendar is March 14. Thus, March 14, 2014 marks the beginning of the year 546 in the Nanakshahi calendar and is Chet (ਚੇਤ) 1, 546.
With the Nanakshahi calendar we avoid having to re-calculate our holidays each year as the dates of celebration and remembrance remain constant from year to year. Dates are fixed because the Nanakshahi calendar is primarily solar and is based on the length of the tropical solar year, instead of lunar cycles. When you look at the Nanakshahi you may find it helpful to review the meanings of some of the Gurmukhi words. Some terms used in the Sikh calendar include Parkash which means birth, Gurgadi which means ascension to Guruship, and Jotijot which means death.
Calendars are important because they help us organize celebrations across the Sikh diaspora and they affirm our identity. By using the Nanakshahi calendar we have only three holidays whose annual dates might move around, namely Hola Mohalla, Bandi Chhor Divas, and Parkash Guru Nanak Sahib. (You’ll also note that some calendars place Guru Nanak Ji’s birthday as Baisakhi while others note his birth as a moving Lunar date in November — that’s just to keep us on our toes and realize the diversity within Sikhi!)
Here at Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara as with other Sikh Dharma sangats, we follow the Nanakshahi calendar.
One of my favorite sources for Sikh calendar information is the BBC. Over the years I’ve seen that the BBC keeps the online calendar up-to-date. Sikhnet’s description of the Sikh calendar is both thorough and helpful. Also helpful is Sikhiwiki.
May the year ahead be filled with a deep awareness of Divine Love and your connection to God and Guru help carry you through.
ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ ॥
Aadh Sach Jugaadh Sach ||
True In The Primal Beginning. True Throughout The Ages.
ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ॥੧॥
Hai Bhee Sach Naanak Hosee Bhee Sach ||
True Here And Now. O Nanak, Forever And Ever True. ||