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Nanakshahi - The Sikh Calendar

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Neutral Singh, Jul 17, 2005.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Birth Date of Guru Nanak Sahib by Pal Singh Purewal

    Over the past one hundred years a lot has been written about the birth date of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Perhaps it might be thought that the issue has been discussed 'ad nauseum'. But there is one aspect which has been overlooked by all researchers so far. I endeavour to discuss that in this article.

    Let me first summarise the views of two opposing schools of thought.

    Traditional View

    Traditionalists maintain that Guru Ji was born on Kartik sudi pooranmasi, 1526 Bikarami. They also adhere to the view that Guru Ji's Jyoti Jot date was Asu vadi 10, 1596 BK, quoting from Bhai Bala's Janam Sakhi and mentioning entries made in various very old hand-written copies of the Adi Granth Sahib. Since, the older texts give Guru Ji's age as 70 years, 5 months and 7 days, they are unable to reconcile the birth date, the Jyoti Jot date, and the age. So they believe that the figure of 70 years, 5 months and 7 days is incorrect and calculate the age as less than 70 years.
    The champion of this school has been Giani Ishar Singh Nara who in his book "Vaisakh Nahi Katik" (Punjabi) has tried to prove that the horoscope which S. Karam Singh Historian has tried to prove incorrect, is in fact correct. Giani Ishar Singh Nara shows total lack of knowledge of calendars, which we shall go into in detail a little later.

    Converting the above dates into the corresponding dates of the Common Era (CE) and the Bikarami solar year we get:

    Katik sudi pooranmasi 1526 BK
    = 20 Oct, 1469 CE
    = 21 Katik, 1526 BK
    = Friday

    The next pooranmasi occurs on 19 November, 1469 CE; 22 Maghar 1526 BK, the day being Sunday. That pooranmasi is Maghar sudi 15 and not Katik sudi 15.

    Asu vadi 10, 1596 BK
    = 7 Sep, 1539 CE
    = 8 Asu, 1596 BK
    = Sunday

    Guru Ji's age:

    a). Katik sudi 15, 1526 to Asu vadi 10, 1596 BK= 69y 10m 10d

    b). 21 Katik 1526 to 8 As 1596 BK = 69y 10m 17d*

    c). 20 Oct 1469 CE to 7 Sep 1539 CE = 69y 10m 17d*

    * May differ by 1 day by using different methods of subtraction

    Age in number of days = 25524
    = 3646 wks 2d

    Modern View

    Modern researchers believe that the Jyoti Jot date is Asu sudi 10, 1596 BK which is 15 days later than that which the traditionalists believe. They accept 70 years, 5 months and 7 days as the correct age of Guru Ji. Calculating backwards, and citing from various Janamsakhis they arrive at the date of Vaisakh sudi 3, 1526 BK as the birth date, rejecting Katik pooranmasi.

    Converting these dates into the corresponding dates of the Common Era (CE) and the Bikarami solar year we get:

    Vaisakh sudi 3, 1526 BK
    = 15 Apr, 1469 CE (Saturday)
    = 20 Vaisakh, 1526 BK
    Asu sudi 10, 1596 BK
    = 22 Sep, 1539 CE (Monday)
    = 23 Asu, 1596 BK
    Guru Ji's age:
    d). Vaisakh sudi 3, 1526 to Asu sudi 10, 1596 BK = 70y 5m 7d

    e). 20 Vaisakh 1526 to 23 Asu1596 BK = 70y 5m 3d

    f). 15 Apr 1469 to 22 Sep 1539 CE = 70y 5m 7d

    Age in number of days = 25727
    = 3675 wks 2d

    Let us ignore the CE dates for our discussion from now onwards, since this era came into use in India only after the advent of the English into India. Dates in items (a) and (d) are given in sudi and vadi system of the luni-solar calendar of Bikarami era while the dates in items (b) and (e) are according to the solar calendar of the Bikarami era. In north India lunar month starts with vadi 1, which is the next day after pooranmasi of the previous month, and ends on pooranmasi the full moon day. The solar months of the same era start on the 'sankranti' day.

    The lunar year is shorter than the solar year by about 11 days. To keep this year in step with the solar year an extra lunar month is added to the lunar year every 2 or 3 years. This makes 13 lunar months in that lunar year. This additional month is known as malmas or adhika mas or intercalary month. There are 7 intercalary months in a cycle of 19 solar years. In 2056 BK (1999-2000 CE) there were 2 lunar months by the name Jeth, one being the adhika or mal.

    Because the lunar months differ from the solar months in number of days in the month, and since the lunar years frequently contain intercalary months, the age of a person reckoned in the two system will rarely be exactly the same. This can be confirmed comparing item (a) with (b), and (d) with (e). Therefore, it may be easily seen that if along with the age it is not mentioned whether it is according to luni-solar calendar or solar calendar one may arrive at erroneous conclusions. The following example will make it more clear:

    1. Chet sudi 1, 2049 BK occurred on 22 Chet
    2. Chet sudi 1, 2050 BK occurred on 11 Chet
    3. Chet sudi 1, 2051 BK occurred on 29 Chet

    Although lunar dates in 1 and 2 differ exactly by one year, and lunar dates 2 and 3 also differ exactly by one year yet according to the solar calendar (using sankrantis) the same dates differ by 11 days less than a year in one case, and by 18 days more than a year in the other. Also lunar dates in 1 and 3 differ by 2 complete years but the same according to solar calendar differ by 2 years and 7 days.

    Proponents of Vaisakh sudi 3 as the birth date should bear in mind that it is not the originally recorded date. It is a 'calculated' date using the luni-solar calendar. It has been arrived at by a simple subtraction of 70 years 5 months and 7 days from the assumed date of Jyoti Jot viz: Asu sudi 10. It is immaterial for our discussion whether this subtraction was performed by Bhai Mani Singh or by any other earlier Janam Sakhi writer. The date is not original but calculated. Citing an earlier writing is more meaningful in the case of an actually recorded date than of a calculated one.

    The Spurious Teva

    Before we try to 'establish' a more rational and convincing birth date of Guru Ji, let us first dispose of some of the inconsistencies of the birth chart (horoscope or 'teva') which Giani Ishar Singh Nara believed to be accurate:

    1. Katik sudi pooranmasi is shown on 9 Maghar, 1526 BK in the horoscope. As mentioned earlier Katik sudi pooranmasi was on 21 Katik. The next pooranmasi was on 22 Maghar. So the date of 9 Maghar is totally wrong. In fact on 9 Maghar the lunar date was Maghar sudi 2.

    2. The week day given in the horoscope is Thursday. This is also wrong. Katik pooranmasi was on Friday and the next pooranmasi on Sunday.
    3. The time given in the teva is 41gharis and 18pala which works to about half an hour before midnight. But all agree that the birth-time of Guru Sahib was after midnight. So the time given is also wrong.

    Was it a mirracle after 500 years?

    Giani Ji makes much of the 'fact' (according to him) that exactly after 500 years Katik pooranmasi occurred 'again' on 9 Maghar 2026 BK, just to show that the earlier date was correct. But it is not a fact, as very simple arithmetic will show precisely the opposite i.e. pooranmasi cannot occur on the same Bikarami solar date after exactly 500 BK years. It occurred on 9 Maghar 2026 BK because it was Maghar sudi 2, not pooranmasi, on 9 Maghar 1526 BK:

    9 Maghar 1526 BK = 6 Nov 1469 CE (Julian calendar)
    9 Maghar 2026 BK = 23 Nov 1969 CE(Gregorian calendar)

    Number of days between these 2 dates may be worked out as follows:
    6 Nov 1469 to 6 Nov 1569 = 36525 days
    6 Nov 1569 to 6 Nov 1669 = 36525 days
    6 Nov 1669 to 6 Nov 1769 = 36514 days (11 days dropped in 1752 CE)
    6 Nov 1769 to 6 Nov 1869 = 36524 days (1800 not leap yr)
    6 Nov 1869 to 6 Nov 1969 = 36524 days (1900 not leap yr)
    6 Nov 1969 to 23Nov 1969 = 17 days
    Total number of days = 182629 days = 26089 weeks 6 days

    one lunar month = 29.530589 days
    182629 days =6184 lunar months and 12 days

    Therefore, the tithi on 9 Maghar 1526 BK would be less by 12 days than that on 9 Maghar 2026 BK. Since we know that the tithi on 9 Maghar 2026 BK is pooranmasi, therefore according to the above calculation it should be sudi 3 on that day. Actually the tithi is sudi 2. This difference of 1 tithi is because we have used the average value for calculations. The true tithi may differ from the average tithi by 1. Also from the above calculation we can see that the week day would be 6 days earlier than that on 9 Maghar, 2026 BK. It was Sunday on that date. Therefore, the week day on 9 Maghar 1526 BK should be 6 days earlier than Sunday. We find from Jantri 500 that it was indeed Monday on 9 Maghar 1526 BK, which is correct according to the above calculation. Determination of the name of the lunar month is a little more involved and will not be given here.

    In stead of giving all the above calculation, we could have simply looked into Jantri 500, page 1, and found that it was Maghar sudi 2 on Maghar 9, 1526 BK, and also got the dates in the other calendars along with the day of the week.

    The New Date

    Now let us try to determine the 'correct' birth date of Guru Ji. It is common knowledge that the age of a person is reckoned by solar calendar and not by lunar calendar. This can be easily confirmed by going to a village and asking an elderly illiterate person his date of birth. If he knows, he shall tell the date by solar Bikarami calendar saying 'so many days the month of Chet or Vaisakh etc had gone' when he was born. He shall not answer in vadis and sudis. Why the Sikh writers have been using sudis and vadis to calculate the ages and the periods of guruship of the Gurus is not known. It may be surmised, however, that since the sudis and vadis are used for fixing most religious festivals, the Sikh writers used them for calculation of periods between dates also. However, an instance of lunar calendar being used for calculating age may be found in the book "Ma'asre Alamgiri" by Must'ad Khan in which he gives the age of Aurangzeb according to lunar as well as solar calendars. But more importantly, he does not fail to mention the calendar used in each case. It must also be borne in mind that the Hijri calendar used by Muslims is a purely lunar one.

    The author believes that 70 years, 5months and 7 days is the correct age of Guru Ji as mentioned in earliest records, and also that Asu vadi 10, 1596 BK is the correct Jyoti Jot date, since this date has been found recorded in very old handwritten recensions of Adi Granth Sahib Ji, and according to Dr Piar Singh the 'story' about this date got 'established' even before the time of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. If the date were spurious and it were a story only, surely Guru Arjan Dev Ji would have taken steps to rectify it. With these values let us do the calculation in a different manner, the way neither of the two schools have done before:

    Asu vadi 10,1596BK=1596 Asu 8 (Sunday)
    subtract age 70y 5m 7d
    Birth Date =1526 Vaisakh 1 (Monday)
    *** It was also pooranmasi on that date ***

    Why no one arrived at this result before was due to two reasons. First, researchers consistently ignored the calculation by solar calendar. Second, even if they had done the calculation as above they would have arrived at the wrong conclusion because Dr Ganda Singh erroneously gave 1596 Asu 7 BK as the equivalent of Asu vadi 10., when actually it was Asu 8, according to Punjab usage of the Bikarami Calendar.

    The calculation given above shows that both schools are partly right and partly wrong. From Katik pooranmasi the pooranmasi portion is right and from Vaisakh sudi 3 the Vaisakh portion is correct.

    Guru Ji's correct birth date is Vaisakh 1, 1526 BK (Vaisakhi day), Monday, it also being Chet sudi 15 (pooranmasi). The Common Era date is 27 March, 1469. This date may help reconcile the two opposing schools. If the highest religious authority accepts this date, then it would have to decide whether to celebrate Birth day Gurpurab of Guru Ji on Vaisakhi or on pooranmasi.

    With this date one does not have to stretch one's imagination to interpret the word 'vasoaa' in Bhai Gurdas's famous line 'Ghar ghar andar dharamsaal hovai keertan sadaa vasoaa'! 'Vasoaa' means 'Vaisakhi' or Vaisakh 1, and nothing else.

    The author of this article is convinced in his mind that the starting of Vaisakhi celebrations by Guru Amar Das Ji, and picking of this day for creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib was not coincidental, but because it was Guru Nanak Dev Sahib's birthday.

    Note: CE designates Common Era which is the same as AD but is more commonly used now because of its adoption by non Christian countries of the world as well.
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