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A case for a universal calendar

Whatever may be the case, today in this high tech age, among the 150 calendars, the Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582 A.D. based upon the Julian calendar of 45 B.C. has become the de facto global calendar. It reckons time by determining the start of a New Year from the midnight of 31 December although in our country the New Year celebrations continue month after month.

A. K. MERCHANT | New Delhi |

Nature is the greatest time manager in the life of all creatures on the planet. While seasonal changes govern the time cycle of plants and animals, we human beings created calendars to pattern our life around the seasons.

The Egyptians were the first to formulate a calendar from the time of the Bronze Age, with 12 months of 30 days each, for a total of 360 days per year. Around 4000 B.C. they added five extra days at the end of every year to bring it more into line with the solar year.

In India, the Saka calendar is solar, while the Vikram Samvat is lunisolar; most Hindu festivals are according to this calendar. Some calendars are based on the waning and waxing of the moon, and some linked to particular events such as harvesting of crops or religious events by different sections of the population.

Whatever may be the case, today in this high tech age, among the 150 calendars, the Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582 A.D. based upon the Julian calendar of 45 B.C. has become the de facto global calendar. It reckons time by determining the start of a New Year from the midnight of 31 December although in our country the New Year celebrations continue month after month.

For example, the January festive season encompassing north, south, east and west was so diverse and so colourful that just listing them should suffice – Lohri, Makar SankrantiKhichidi, Magh Bihu, Gaan-Ngai, Uttrayan, Makara-Villaku and Pongal. Soon, the festival of Holi on 18 March followed by Gud Padava and Ugadi will mark the spirit of unity in diversity as exemplified by our ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”.

Like the all-day breakfast, a New Year can start at any time of seasonal change, or the twelve-month cycle. According to the Ethiopian calendar, New Year falls on 11 September; the Chinese New Year can take place anytime between 21 January and 20 February, the Tibetan Losar this year was celebrated on 3 March, although the Mahayana Buddhists’ New Year was on 18 January.

Islamic New Year, according to the Hijri calendar, starts with the 1st day of Muharram and this year it falls on 29-30 July. From 25-27 September is the festival of Rosh HaShanah, which is the Jewish New Year. Baisakhi on 14 April, a public holiday, is the Sikh New Year, according to the Nanakshahi calendar and the Hindu Solar Calendar.

A significant occurrence in March is the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, which usually occurs on 21 March. It is the day of Now-Ruz, the New Year for Zoroastrians and followers of the Bahá’í Faith, for whom it also marks the termination of their 19 days of fasting. Now-Ruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, and other regions.

It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness. Celebrations include a variety of rituals, ceremonies, traditional games, special dishes, performances, and other cultural events which take place during a period of around two weeks. In 2010, the “International Day of Now-Ruz” was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.

It is inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and observed in 12 countries embracing a population of over 300 million people – Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey. Unravelling the conundrum of a panorama of calendars is not easy.

Despite the grave uncertainty that has gripped our world, as an optimist I believe that these testing times should impel every individual, every institution, and every community on earth to utilize the unprecedented opportunities to participate in the writing of the planet’s future. With a profound shift of consciousness, the process of structural reorganization on a planetary scale is accelerating.

The breakthroughs made during the past one-and-half century have opened the door to a new kind of world by compelling us to accept our interdependence and oneness. Nations have cooperated and collaborated to address issues of climate emergency, providing relief in times of disasters, space exploration and the like. Therefore, a fresh effort should be made to adopt a universal calendar.

In the past some efforts were made to create a world calendar providing a simple structure. Each day was assigned an exact, repetitive date relative to week and month. Quarterly statistics would be easier to compare, with all the four-quarters having the same length each year. Economic savings would occur from less need to print calendars because only the year number would change. There would be no need to reinvent work and school schedules as being done year after year, at great cost.

The world calendar could be easily memorised just as we do for a clock. However due to objections by religious groups there was no further progress. An alternative method of computing could be to divide the year into 19 months of 19 days with addition of intercalary days to harmonize the extra days. The acceptance of a universal calendar by humankind will be a sign of profound maturity. It will reshape human perception of material, social, and spiritual reality.

The aim would be to call us back to spiritual awareness and collective responsibility. Through this new calendar the ennobling purposes for which humanity was created by an all-loving Creator would be realized and the natural rhythm of life aligned to sustainable future and world peace.

(The writer is an independent researcher and social worker based in New Delhi. He can be contacted at [email protected])