Vir Samvat and Vikram Samvat – Traditional Indian Calendars

traditional Indian calendars

Vikram and Vir Samvat (samvat means ‘era’) are two traditional Indian calendars. In the year 2016 I decided to shift my personal year reckoning to these Indian calendars. Because it has a whole cultural and traditional net around it, making it a very useful tool to make life more meaningful.

And also I was delving into the ancient Indian timeline, looking at when many impactful events happened in our country and I noticed that the gregorian calendar is Christian. It revolves around Jesus Christ. Why should I use that one? And so my resolve to move these Indian calendars became stronger. I started getting acquainted with these calendars which revolve around events which are much more relevant and meaningful to me personally.

Vikram Samvat:

Vikram Samvat begins with the day Vikramaditya won back Ujjain from the Saka king. Apparently, *Wikipedia version alert*, Vikramaditya’s dad was a crazy coot and kidnapped a bhramacharini. Because of this eventually, the Saka king deposed him and took over the rule. Vikramaditya was thus born in a forest… but he was a just, able and awesome fellow. He then overthrew the Saka kings and the time when he won back Ujjain (known as Avanti back then), he declared it a significant time. And so the western and northern India largely celebrates the new year as per this calendar on the day after Diwali, Kartik ekam – first day of month Kartik. It comes after the Diwali day, which is an amavasya, so the day when moon is in phase 1.

But it seems, again from Wikipedia, that Nepal and Southern India also follow the same calendar but they celebrate the new year in April – May. So it is interesting… a calendar that has different New Years for different communities.

You see, this is why it makes so much sense to shift to the Indian calendar it becomes so ambiguous and diverse already! 😀

Now the really interesting bit,

Vikramaditya is the same king of the Vikram and Betal stories. I just found this out, I now see those stories in a new light. This is the king whose calendar has been traditionally adopted not just in India but also in Nepal. Aaha…

So not just is the calendar totally diverse and ambiguous but it also has connections with supernatural phenomenon. Ghouls, ghosts and long stories. 😀

I will now try and find some Vikram & Betal stories copy. Wonder if I can get something a little more detailed than Amar Chitra Katha.

And I just saw that the entire TV serial earlier created around Vikram and Betaal is on YouTube,

Though I would like a bit more intelligent version of these stories… but would still be good to go through these stories 🙂

Vir Samvat:

This is a Jain calendar that commemorates Mahavir Swami’s (the most recent Jain tirthankar) nirvana day. He was enlightened earlier – so his enlightenment day comes earlier  on Vaishakh sud 10. After that he retained his body, one of the few enlightened beings who retain their body after enlightenment. And then he established Jainism again and added immense value to the world and fellow beings. He then left his body on Diwali day – Ashwin vad amavasya. and so for Jains, the main significance of Diwali is Mahavir Swami’s nirvana day. And then the next day is the New Year as per this Vir Samvat calendar too. This new year day is also the enlightenment and nirvana day of Gautam Swami, one of the prominent disciples of Mahavir Swami. As I mentioned most enlightened beings leave their body at enlightenment – Gautam Swami was one of these.

This brings to us, the story of Gautam Swami’s nirvana…

He is one of the most prominent of Mahavir Swami’s disciples. Under him many who took diksha got enlightened quickly and yet he was not able to. When he asked Mahavir Swami his Guru about this, then the Guru told him that in the immense love he had for his Guru, there was a strand of attachment. And because of this strand he was held back.

Then one day Mahavir Swami sent him off on a long pilgrimage… and as he was returning he heard Mahavir Swami’s end was near. So he made haste and started heading towards his Guru earnestly. But just the night before he was going to reach him, he got the news – Mahavir Swami has reached Nirvana. And that time a tempest rose within him, because his most beloved Guru wouldn’t even wait for him before leaving. And in this tempest, finally he understood that all this attachment was only from his end, the Guru was free of all of this… free to leave whenever. And in this the strand of attachment broke and he got enlightened.

I find these stories of the final enlightenment of great yogis very insightful.

Also, it is considered that the Nirvana day of any Guru is a very significant maybe most significant day of his disciples. A very large number of them tend to attain enlightenment and leave then too.

So, both these calendars give me a more meaningful relevance to my culture and ancestral history. 🙂

Moreover, when I put an instagram update mentioning these calendars many young people asked me what it was. It is funny because we all still do wish each other Happy New Year (the traditional way to wish is नूतन वर्षाभिनंदन ), but clearly very few people know any details about it. And for all we know in another generation even more of this tradition may get corroded. And then what are we left with?

In Tune with the Sun and Moon

One of the things I really like about these traditional Indian calendars is that it puts significance on the Moon and Sun positions and phases and so on. This has a lot of value,

  • it helps people remain aware of these natural forces which literally cause LIFE on this planet
  • with the increased technology specifically electric lights – the significance of these life sources has greatly diminished for us psychologically. Imagine in a time when there were no man-made lights – there was no way you could ignore these life sources – but now, we can live in complete ignorance of them and nothing may seem amiss. And this is happening. The loss is only in the fact that you are getting cut off from a literal life source. And that’s terrible as per my sense about life
  • these life sources impact life even now – it’s not like we have replaced them. As ocean tides are impacted by Moon, so is the water content in our bodies. Our digestion system is very much tuned in with the Sun cycle. And  the plants and animals all thrive on this light and heat from the Sun.

So this Indian calendar again acts as an aid to keep us in tune with the Sun and Moon. I appreciate it. And it is also sad that our parents, while they are better versed with the Indian calendar and tithis and such… they hardly properly acknowledge the Sun and Moon. So we can do better. 🙂

Oldest Calendars in the World

It would be interesting to look at the oldest calendars in the world. Because these two calendars of India are not the oldest ones. There is clear evidence that we had much older calendars. Obviously also because our history dates back much further from Mahavira Swami and Vikramaditya. So what were those older Indian calendars? And what were the calendars used around the world much before Christ happened?

If You want to Research More,

I haven’t yet researched much about the other calendars followed in different Indian regions. I am also not entirely clear about what is ‘sidereal solar year’ I have seen it mentioned in some places. Also the South Indian calendar is somewhat different, as in doesn’t put full emphasis on phase of moon but rather some star of the day or something. So interesting to look at all these.

Also it can be interesting to dig up various stories that took place on the same specific days but across completely different eras. For example for Diwali,

there is Ramji’s return, Mahavir Swami nirvana day, Krishna kills Narkasura, Kali pooja in Kolkata (what is the story there?) and so on. I find it amazing that across different cultures and different stories some particular days have high value.

These are very powerful and significant days in the year I say.

So again, another reason to base the year around these 🙂

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