Meghnad Saha, who headed the Calendar Reform Committee. A 1934 picture.
IN the preface to the Report of the Calendar Reform Committee (published in 1955), the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “I am told that we have at present thirty different calendars, differing from each other in various ways, including the methods of time reckoning. These calendars are the natural result of our past political and cultural history and partly represent past political divisions in the country. Now that we have attained independence, it is obviously desirable that there should be a certain uniformity in the calendar for our civic, social and other purposes and that this should be based on a scientific approach to this problem.”
A few important recommendations of the committee were the following:
(1) “The Shaka era should be used in the unified national calendar.” (The year 2008 A.D. corresponds to 1929-30 Shaka.)
(2) “The year should start from the day following the vernal equinox day.” (This falls on March 22 in a common year and March 21 in a leap year.)
(3) “A normal year would consist of 365 days while a leap year would have 366 days. After adding 78 to the Shaka era, if the sum is divisible by 4, then it is a leap year. But when the sum becomes a multiple of 100, it would be a leap year only when it is divisible by 400, otherwise it would be a common year.”
(4) Chaitra “should be the first month of the year, and the lengths of the different months would be fixed as follows – Chaitra (30 days; 31 days in a leap year), Vaishakha (31), Jyaishtha (31), Ashadha (31), Shravana (31), Bhadra (31), Ashvina (30), Kartika (30), Agrahayana (30), Pausha (30), Magha (30) and Phalguna (30).”
(5) “The day should be reckoned from midnight to midnight of the central station (82.5° East Longitude and 23° 11 minutes North Latitude) for civil purposes, but for religious purposes the local sunrise system may be followed.”
On the issue of beginning the year with Chaitra and not Vaishakha, the report explains that: “The dates of festivals have already shifted by 23 days from the seasons in which they were observed about 1,400 years ago as a result of our almanac-makers having ignored the precession of equinoxes. Although it may seem desirable that the entire amount of shifting should be wiped out at a time, we consider it expedient to maintain this as a constant difference and stop its further increase. As a result, there would at present be no deviation from the prevailing custom in the observance of the religious festivals.”
It went on to add: “This recommendation is to be regarded only as a measure of compromise, so that we avoid a violent break with the established custom. But it does not make our present seasons in the various months as they were in the days of Varahamihira or Kalidasa. It is hoped that at not a distant date further reforms for locating the lunar and solar festivals in the seasons in which they were originally observed will be adopted.”R. Ramachandran
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