Assamese Calendar
Assamese Calendar

History and Evolution of Assamese Calendar

Tracing Time: Unveiling the Rich Tapestry of the Assamese Calendar's Journey Through History

Introduction of Assamese Calendar

Bhaskarabda, an epoch marking the ascension of Bhaskar Varman, a 7th-century ruler of the Kamrupa kingdom, now finds its place in the official calendar of Assam alongside the Saka and Gregorian systems. This lunisolar calendar honors the legacy of a local monarch while enriching Assam's cultural landscape.

In 2021, the Assam government announced the inclusion of 'Bhaskarabda' alongside the existing Saka and Gregorian calendars in its official timekeeping system. This addition reflects the rich historical and cultural tapestry of the region, intertwining local rulers' legacies with broader calendrical systems.

Exploring Types of Calendars: A Celestial Journey

Solar Calendar: The solar calendar is a dating system based on the Earth's orbit around the Sun, spanning approximately 365 1/4 days per year.

Key Features:

  • It determines dates and seasons based on the Earth's position relative to the Sun.

  • Notable solar calendars include the Gregorian calendar, widely used internationally, and the Vikram Samvat, a Hindu solar calendar.

  • Months in solar calendars often follow the seasons, with each month averaging around 30 or 31 days.

Lunar Calendar: The lunar calendar is a dating system based on the cycles of the Moon, consisting of synodic months—complete phases of the Moon.

Key Features:

  • It determines dates and months based on the Moon's phases, typically ranging from new moon to full moon and back to new moon.

  • Lunar calendars, such as the Islamic Hijri calendar, are widely used in religious contexts for determining festivals and observances.

  • Months in lunar calendars can vary in length, typically alternating between 29 and 30 days.

Luni-Solar Calendar: The luni-solar calendar is a hybrid system incorporating both lunar months and solar years.

Key Features:

  • It reconciles lunar months with the solar year, ensuring alignment with both lunar phases and seasonal changes.

  • Luni-solar calendars, like the Hebrew calendar and the Saka calendar, are prevalent in various cultures and regions.

  • Months in luni-solar calendars typically follow lunar cycles, while additional adjustments, such as leap months, maintain synchronization with the solar year.

Bhaskarabda : 

Origin and Significance:

  • Bhaskarabda marks the coronation of Bhaskar Varman, a pivotal figure in the medieval history of Kamrup. His reign, alongside contemporaries like Harshavardhana, shaped the political landscape of the region.

  • Unlike linear systems, Bhaskarabda embraces the complexities of lunar phases and solar cycles, reflecting the interconnectedness of celestial movements and earthly events.

Lunisolar Dynamics:

  • The Bhaskarabda calendar operates on a lunisolar system, seamlessly blending lunar phases with solar years. This intricate balance mirrors Assam's cultural ethos, where natural rhythms hold profound significance.

  • In contrast to the Gregorian calendar's reliance on the solar cycle, Bhaskarabda encompasses both lunar and solar influences, offering a holistic approach to time reckoning.

Temporal Commencement:

  • A notable departure from the Gregorian tradition, the Assamese calendar commences and concludes its days at sunrise, spanning a full 24-hour cycle. This alignment with natural phenomena underscores the calendar's organic connection to the rhythms of nature.

Temporal Disparity:

  • The gap of 593 years between Bhaskarabda and the Gregorian calendar highlights the temporal variance inherent in different calendrical systems. This temporal bridge spans centuries, serving as a conduit between historical epochs.

Calendar Reforms in Assam:

  • The decision to incorporate Bhaskarabda into the official calendar underscores Assam's commitment to preserving its heritage while embracing modernity. This move aligns with the state's endeavor to promote cultural diversity and historical awareness.

Functional Distinctions:

  • Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which starts and ends at midnight, the Assamese calendar commences and concludes at sunrise over a 24-hour period. Furthermore, while the Gregorian calendar operates solely on the solar cycle, both the Saka and Bhaskarabda calendars integrate lunar phases into their calculations.

Month Names of Assamese Calendar:

The Assamese calendar boasts a rich tapestry of month names, each reflecting the nuances of the region's cultural and natural landscape:

  1. Chaitra (March 21 – April 20)

  2. Vaishakha (April 21 - May 21)

  3. Jyeshtha (May 22 - June 21)

  4. Ashadha (June 22 - July 22)

  5. Shravana (July 23 - August 22)

  6. Bhaadra (August 23 - September 22)

  7. Ashwin (September 23 - October 22)

  8. Kartika (October 23 - November 21)

  9. Agrahayana (November 22 - December 21)

  10. Pausha (December 22 - January 20)

  11. Magha (January 21 - February 19)

  12. Phalguna (February 20 - March 20/21)

Theme-Based Calendars: In an effort to celebrate Assam's rich tapestry of flora, fauna, cuisine, and cultural heritage, the government plans to issue theme-based calendars annually. These calendars will serve as visual narratives, showcasing the state's natural beauty and cultural vitality.

Bhaskar Varman: A Beacon of Medieval Kamarupa

Bhaskar Varman, born around 594 AD, ascended to the throne of Kamarupa at a pivotal moment in its history. Also known as Kumara Raja, his reign marked the genesis of the Bhaskarabda era, beginning from the year of his coronation.

Political and Diplomatic Engagements:

  • Struggle and Triumph: Captured by the Gauda king during his father's reign, Bhaskar Varman's tenacity saw him reclaiming the Varman dynasty's rule over Kamarupa. His resilience in the face of adversity solidified his legacy as a formidable ruler.

  • Alliances and Confrontations: Bhaskar Varman forged strategic alliances with influential figures like Harshavardhana of Thaneswar, countering regional powers like the Gauda and East Malwa alliance led by Shashanka of Bengal (Karna Suvarna). This diplomatic maneuvering bolstered Kamarupa's position on the political map of medieval India.

Encounters with Chinese Pilgrims:

  • Historical Encounters: Bhaskar Varman's court attracted the attention of renowned Chinese pilgrims, including Xuanzang and Li Yi-piao, who chronicled their experiences in Kamarupa. Their accounts offer invaluable insights into the kingdom's socio-political milieu.

  • Gifts and Gestures: During Xuanzang's visit, Bhaskar Varman bestowed upon him a painting titled "Paat aru Tulika" and a cap of skin (Ho-la-li) during his farewell, exemplifying the diplomatic exchanges and cultural interactions of the era.

Legacy and Succession:

  • Dynastic Prestige: Bhaskar Varman, tracing his lineage to mythical figures like Narakasura, Bhagadatta, and Vajradatta, enhanced the royal pedigree of the Varman dynasty.

  • Administrative Contributions: Notable among his administrative deeds were the issuance of the Dubi and Nidhanpur copper plate grants, reaffirming land-grants made by his ancestors, and the establishment of a clay seal found in Nalanda, illustrating his enduring imprint on governance.

Succession and Historical Legacy:

  • Following Bhaskar Varman's reign, he was succeeded by Salastambha or, according to some sources, Avantivarman, whose reign blurred the lines of historical interpretation.

Saka Calendar : 

Origin and Migration:

The Saka era, rooted in ancient Hindu traditions, finds its genesis in the ascension of Indo-Scythian king Chashtana around 78 CE. This pivotal moment in history marks the advent of the Saka calendar, a lunar-based system founded by migrating Scythian tribes during the 2nd century BC.The Scythians, also known as Sakas in Indian sources, were Iranian nomadic pastoral tribes renowned for their mobility and cultural impact.

Saka Era Calendar:

  • Lunisolar Dynamics: The Saka era calendar operates on a lunisolar system, integrating both lunar months and the solar year. This nuanced approach ensures accuracy in determining the dates of Hindu festivals and ceremonies.

  • Month Names and Structure: The Saka era calendar comprises twelve lunar months, each delineated into two fortnights (Paksha). Notable among these months are Chaitra, Vaishakha, and Magha, each carrying distinct cultural and religious significance.

Historical Significance:

  • Scythian Influence: The Scythians, also referred to as Sakas in Indian sources, were instrumental in the formation of the Saka era. Their migration to India marked a pivotal moment in the region's history, leading to cultural exchanges and societal transformations.

  • Southeast Asian Adoption: Beyond India, the Saka calendar found resonance in Southeast Asia, where it serves as the official calendar in countries like Indonesia and Thailand. Its enduring legacy underscores its cultural and historical significance beyond the Indian subcontinent.

Functional Utility:

  • Religious and Cultural Purposes: The Saka calendar remains integral to Hindu communities, particularly for religious and cultural observances. Its structured system provides a framework for organizing festivals, ceremonies, and other communal events.

  • Official Usage: In addition to its religious and cultural roles, the Saka era serves as a chronological reference in official documents and administrative proceedings in certain regions of India and Nepal, highlighting its enduring relevance in contemporary contexts.

Gregorian Calendar:

The Gregorian calendar, a solar dating system, emerged as a reform of the Julian calendar in 1582 under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII. This pivotal reform aimed to realign the calendar with the seasons and rectify the discrepancies inherent in its predecessor.

Leap Day:

  • Additional Day: Leap Day, occurring approximately every four years, is an extra day added to the calendar to compensate for the discrepancy between the solar year and the calendar year.

  • Purpose: By introducing Leap Day, the Gregorian calendar ensures that the calendar remains synchronized with the seasonal changes, maintaining temporal accuracy over time.

Reform and Restoration:

  • Julian Legacy: The Julian calendar, with its intercalation of a leap day every four years, attempted to reconcile the solar year with the calendar year. However, a slight inaccuracy in measurement led to a gradual regression of the calendar dates vis-à-vis the seasons.

  • Gregorian Intervention: Pope Gregory XIII's reform in 1582 aimed to restore the alignment of the calendar with the seasons. This involved advancing the calendar by 10 days to realign the vernal equinox with March 21, the date it occurred during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.

Refinements and Adoption:

  • Centurial Adjustment: The Gregorian calendar introduced a refinement where century years are leap years only if divisible by 400, ensuring greater precision in timekeeping.

  • Global Adoption: Initially adopted by Catholic countries, the Gregorian calendar gradually gained acceptance worldwide. From Italy and Portugal to Great Britain and Japan, nations embraced the calendar to synchronize temporal reckoning with the changing seasons.

The inclusion of Bhaskarabda alongside the Saka and Gregorian calendars represents a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity in Assam. It honors the legacy of local rulers while embracing the global standard of timekeeping. As Assam strides into the future, its calendars serve as poignant reminders of its glorious past and promising future.

Advait IAS