Nanakshahi Calendar and the almanac (Jantri), had been meticulously prepared with the highest possible accurate scientific calculations about the measurement of time with respect to the position of the sun. The dates of all the important Sikh events such as Sangrands and Gurpurbs were fixed in a very scientific way. This document was widely circulated, studied, discussed and debated by the representative of all the prominent Sikh organisations including SGPC. After due deliberations, it was finally approved by Sri Akal Takht Sahib and was unanimously accepted and released for implementation at Takhat Sri Damama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, in the presence of all the Jathedars and representatives of the five Takhats, President SGPC, President SAD and representatives of all prominent Sikh organizations. The calendar came into force w.e.f. 2003. It was accepted by the Sikhs all over the globe and all Sikh events came to be observed as per the dates given in Nanakshahi Calendar. The Sikhs all over the world were happy that they had their own calendar like all other religious groups had, and also because it was more convenient as they had fixed dates of all their festivals and could plan the celebrations much in advance. Like the other distinct symbols of Sikh faith such as its scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, place of worship, the Gurdwaras, the Sikh flag, Nishan Sahib, Sikh Saroop with unshorn hair and beard, Nanakshahi Calendar also became an established standardized document of the distinct identity of Sikh religion.
Recently, this Calendar was allowed to be tampered with and its new hodgepodge version, which is a conglomeration of both the solar and lunar components, was implemented after representations were made by some organizations that appear to have some unfounded doubts about the calendar. As a result, not only the dates of several Gurpurabs and other events have again become irregular, the issue has vertically divided the community in two groups. Nothing can be sadder than that. Many Gurdwara Managements and Sikh organizations in several countries like USA, Canada, Pakistan and Sikh organizations in some states of India have refused to follow the amended version. Though the Sikh organizations in Punjab decided not to defy the authority, they feel that neither the decision to amend the calendar was right nor the way it was done was in keeping with the Sikh traditions. The decision was taken by the executive of the SGPC with a note of dissent by some members and was formally declared as adopted by the Jathedar Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. The Sangat at large was not taken into confidence, whereas the Sikh tradition says that all the decisions concerning the community must be taken collectively.
The decision to amend the calendar has led to the observance of two sets of dates for the same event. What is more damaging is that no thought has been given to the fact that with the implementation of the amended calendar, Barah Maha, the Banis composed by Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Arjan Sahib, that form a part of Guru Granth Sahib will lose their relation with the seasons in the years to come, if the amended calendar continues to be followed. The length of a lunar calendar is based on the position of the moon which waxes and wanes according to its position with respect to the sun and earth. The lunar year is also shorter than the solar year by eleven days. Every year a difference of eleven days has to be adjusted. As a result, months in a lunar year wander in seasons.
The result – the relation of the months with seasons as given in Gurbani will change when the months wander from one season to the other. Because of this, in a few hundred years Baisakhi will occur in the month of June and a few hundred years still further away, it will occur in the month of December. Imagine the recitation of the month of Baisakh, the harvest season, being done in the month of December with woolens wrapped around and the snow falling outside. Or for that matter the beauty of the spring season described in Barah Maha about the month of Chet will have to be read out in the season of autumn; and the lush greenery of Sawan might have to be celebrated in the month of February or March. What a ridiculous situation it will be!
The description of the beauty of different seasons as portrayed in Barah Maha is not a superficial one. It has a deep philosophical and spiritual import. Integration of this world and the other world, so fundamental to the Sikh worldview, finds an artistic expression in the Bani of Barah Maha. Personal spiritual experience of the Sikh Gurus has been beautifully articulated here and emotions and deepest yearnings of human heart have been expressed in terms of the changing moods of Nature.
Effects of seasons on the human mind and on all other species are too well known and have been beautifully portrayed in Guru Granth Sahib. With the implementation of the lunar calendar where the seasons wander, the relation of the months with seasons as given in Gurbani will change and we will be deprived of sharing the spiritual experience of the Gurus, so beautifully described in Barah Maha, where the description of the panoramic beauty of the changing landscape of each season ignites the imagination of the soul bride and she intensely feels the pangs of her own Birha reflected in different facets of Nature. She becomes a participant in the cosmic scene, and she feels integrated with the Divine Nature. This intensity of spiritual experience ultimately unites her with the Husband Lord, the ultimate aim of human life.
With the shifting of the seasons in lunar calendar, we will be losing the opportunity to be benefitted from spiritual experience of the soul bride of Bara Maha that comes from the integration of the inner and outer world. Needless to say, No Sikh of the Guru having spiritual longings would like to let this happen even in his remotest imagination
In the solar calendar, the original Nanakshahi calaendar, this thing has been taken well taken care of. The sangrands have been fixed, and in this system, the months don’t wander and the position of the seasons is maintained as it has been depicted in Bara Maha. The original Nanakshahi calendar has been scientifically designed and keeps in precise time with the sun’s position, and seasons won’t wander from year to year and Barah Maha as composed by the Gurus will remain relevant to the seasons for all the times to come.
Keeping in view the above stated points, Institute of Sikh Studies Chandigarh, earnestly appeals to Sri Akal Takht Sahib to review the latest decision and restore the earlier Nanakshahi Calendar so that the inheritors of the rich spiritual heritage of the Gurus, are not deprived to experience the soulful renderings of Gurbani which picturesquely describe the beauty of seasons and integrate it with the spiritual states of a devotee and lift him to the higher levels of spirituality. We do believe that the whole Gurbani compiled in Guru Granth Sahib is nothing but the Truth, permanent Truth, which does not alter with the change of space or time and seasons. The amended Nanakshahi calendar based on the movement of the moon, where the months wander in seasons, will belie this fact, even if it happens after several hundreds of years. This is against the basic postulates of the Sikh Faith and should in no case be allowed to happen. That the community will have uniform observance of celebrations of religious events and unity will also be forged among its members are added advantages which are equally important.
With the advancement of civilization and the new developments in the field of science, all the progressive communities in the world are adopting solar calendars as these are more practical and convenient, and are in tune with the present day realities in these days of globalization when the whole world has become one village. Migration of the people in large numbers from one country to the other has become the order of the day. Solar calendars with the fixed dates will be relevant to all the people the world over wherever they have settled. This is equally true of community specific calendars. Sikhs are a forward looking, progressive and dynamic community, guided in everyday life by the message of Gurbani, which says :
ਅਗਾਹਾ ਕੂ ਤ੍ਰਾਘਿ ਪਿਛਾ ਫੇਰਿ ਨ ਮੁਹਡੜਾ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਸਿਝਿ ਇਵੇਹਾ ਵਾਰ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਜਨਮੜਾ॥
The line exhorts one to look forward, and not to take any retrograde steps and to be successful in all the endeavors so that one does not have to try again and again and for this purpose, reincarnated. The Sikhs must follow the dictates of the Guru and be progressive and forward looking with an optimistic attitude.
The Sikh community took a progressive step and has proved to be farsighted by taking into consideration the problems, it could face hundreds of years later, regarding the celebrations commemorating the important milestones in their onward march; and have created a calendar that takes care of all the discrepancies that could have crept in because of the measurement of time as per the lunar calendar. Let them not retrace their steps now. Fortunately, the original Nanakshahi calendar based on solar calculations met all their requirements and was universally accepted. Any amendment that has to be made should further improve it. ਦੇ ਲੰਮੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਐ (Look ahead to future with a foresight)