[Published at : http://nation-online.com/200204/14/n2041402.htm#BODY3 ]Of so many gifts of the Muslim civilization the Bengali Calendar is the one that has survived the test of time. Time is inexorable, immeasurable and indivisible. Yet to identify the progress not only of the individual's works and achievements but of the humanity as a whole, units like second, minute, hours, day, week, month and year have been conceived of for convenience and practical purposes. The progress of civilization has witnessed the innovation and introduction of calendars of different denominations suiting the particular purposes of the innovators and most of them have not withstood the onslaught of the destructive forces of time.
The Bengali Calendar, we know, was introduced by Akbar the great Mughal emperor of Delhi in order particularly to suit the purpose of collecting rent (land tax) in an effective manner. Akbar's sagacity and foresight prompted him to this innovation, for he was strongly motivated to put the Bengal Suba-a part of the subcontinent that was always bent on breaking the shackles of domination and restoring independence at every opportunity-under permanent Mughal rule by creating congenial condition for, among others, clearance of rent immediately after the harvesting season so that people could not feel the burden unbearable and the resultant disaffection for the ruler. Whatever be the motive of the emperor, be it enrichment of his treasury, prolongation or permanence of the Mughal rule, we Bengali people were enriched with a calendar of permanence.
The Bengali Calendar (Bangla Sone/Sal) comes of a respectable family i.e. it is proud of a rich heritage, of a distinguished origin. The words "Sone" and "Tarikh'' are derived from Arabic meaning year or calendar, and day respectively, "Tarikh" also means history. The word "Sal" is also of foreign origin, being a Persian word meaning year. Similarly, the Bengali Calendar has its origin in the Arabic Calendar, precisely known as Hijri Calendar that is an insignia of the great event of the migration in 622 A.D. of the greatest man the world has ever produced-the holy Prophet (Sm.) from Makkah, his land of birth, to Madinah to hold aloft the banner of Islam in obedience to the command of the Creator.
A happy coincidence marks the origin of both these Bengali and Hijri years-they both are christened with antedated seniority. The Hijri year was not introduced instantly with the migration of the holy Prophet form Makkah to Madianah on July 16, 662 A.D. It was Hazrat Omar, the second Caliph of Islam, who introduced it in 638 A.D. after 16 years of the Hjirat (Migration). The Hijri year began to be counted and made effective from the first day of Muharram - the first day of the then current Arabic year, not from the exact date of the Hijrat on the 12th of Rabiul Awal i.e. it was 16 years old at its introduction. The Bengali year bears close resemblances in all its detail with the Hijri year so far as its origin is concerned. The Bengali year was introduced antedated like its progenitor the Hijri year when the later was 998 years old in 1584 A.D. after 28 years of Akber's ascent to the throne of Delhi (1556 A.D). As in the case of Hijri, the Bengali year began to be counted and made effective not from when Baishakh exactly started but the 1st of Muharram of 963 Hijri (the year of Akbor's ascent to the throne of the Mughal empire (14.02.1556) did not come into consideration, instead the year and the Hijri month were effected while introducing the Bengali year keeping the Hijri year and date in tact giving antedated seniority of 963 years i.e. the Bengali year was made 963 B.S. at the start instead of counting it as 1 (one) B.S.
It is common knowledge that the Bengali year was introduced for the purpose of collecting rent effectively and easily following harvesting season when the peasantry would be relatively sound in financial position. Whatever be the motive behind introduction of the Bengali year, whatever commercial instincts came to play in its initiation, the net profit of the Bengalis is that they could be proud of having possessed a year and Calendar of their own. In keeping as it was with the harvesting season it initially came to be known as 'Fasali Sone' (the harvesting calender). Introduced though the 'Fasali Sone' was in other Subas (provinces) during the reign of Akbar, they came to an end with the end of the mughal rule. But the Bengali year came to sustain and sustain it did though Bengla had to sustain subjugation under several dynastic and colonial rules.
During the reign of Akbar, Bengal came under the mughal rule. Complications were however, noticed in rent administration. In those days crops were paid as rent and as such particular month need to be fixed for collection of rent in keeping with the harvesting season. But the Hijri 'Sone' then effective being lunar year, the same month did not occur in the harvesting seasons, for a lunar year consists of 354 days whereas a solar one of 365 days. For example, we had to observe the Edul Azha in February this year (2002) but in March in 1999. The remedy to the problem necessitated the evolving of a solar calendar out of the lunar one then in currency.
Akbar entrusted the royal astrologer Amir Fatehullah Seraji to do the job. With the arduous exercise of his intellect, scholarship and acumen he could innovate the 'Fasali Sone' in keeping with the harvesting season to facilitate effective collection of land tax. This 'Fasali Sone' was christened as 'Bangla Sone' accordingly as it was introduced in Suba-e-Bangla (the province of Bengal).
Originated though it was in the Hijri year, the Bangla Sone (the Bengali year) is a remarkable departure from the parent Hijra, for the Hijra is a lunar year while the 'Bangla Sone' is a solar year. This departure, basic and preponderating, has caused a difference in the peace of movement of the two types of years. The result is that the Hijra has outstripped the solar year by 14 years i.e. the 'Bangli Sone' is now 1409 and the Hijra 1423, though they both began their journey form the same point of time, i.e. July 16, 622 A.D. The solar year, we know, consists of 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds while the lunar year spans over 354 days 8 hours 53 seconds. This shortage of nearly 11 days in the lunar years has hastened the movement of the Hijri by 14 more years than the Bangla Sone. Thus it is established that the Bengali Calendar is a conglomerate of the lunar and solar years the Hijri and Gregorian Calendars reaping the harvest of both the systems to our benefit.
The Bengali Calendar was further modified and deflawed by a Committee headed by the celebrated scholar Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah under the auspices of the Bangla Academy in 1967 AP. The Committee made the following recommendations in consideration of the different problems and their solutions with reference to our culture and tradition in the context of the involvement of rural life due to changes of months and seasons.
(a) The first five months of the year from Baishakh to Bhadra will be of 31 one days' duration each.
(b) The remaining seven months of the year with effect from Aswin to Chaitra will consists of 30 days each.
(c) The 366th days after each fourth year will constitute what is known as a leap year which shall occur in the month of Falgaun corresponding to the month of February of the leap year in the Gregorian Calendar called as the English Calendar in popular parlance. Falgun will, therefore, have 31 days in the leap-year.
These recommendations voiced the need of the hour and of life and having been implemented they have brought in adjustment and correspondence of the different important dates of the Bengali Calendar with those of the Gregorian one that is in vogue in the country. Now the Bengali New Year (the 1st of Baishakh) correspondences with April 14, the Shahid Day (Martrys, Day on 21st February) with 9th Falgun, the Independence Day (26th March) with 12th Chairtra and the Victory Day (16th December) with 2nd Paush.
As has been told before the BS (Bangabda) was made effective since 1556 A.D., the year Akber ascended the throne of the Mughal empire. The various calendars like Lakshmanabda, Bikramabda, Jalali Sone, Sekender Sone, Shakabda, Guptabda etc. were then in use in the subcontinent. These different calendars were used in different parts of the empire making it necessary for a uniform calendar in all parts of the sub-continent and to cater to this necessity the 'Fasali Sone' came into being but they were not uniformly practiced in the vast territories of the empire. The calendar that was innovated at Akber's instance is, indeed, a unique conglomerate of the three partners in the calculation of the year in the sub-continent-the Bengali months, the Hijri Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar. This found general and spontaneous acceptance in Bengla but not so in other parts of the empire leaving it out of use there as many of the calendars mentioned above and practiced earlier in Bengal went out of vogue and ceased to exist. The different calendars that were used in Bengal clearly appeared to have been named after particular area, ruler, dynasty etc; but the 'Bangabda' is named after the whole land and relates with the entire populace. It is our own. It is inextricably weaned with our culture and life, its acceptance and continuity pointing to the essential democratic ideal that our people cherish so ardently in their mind they accept and give currency to what serves the interest of the entire nation, not the parochial interest. We cannot but take pride in the facility of this democratic ideal. A legacy of the rich Bengali, Roman, British civilizations and at the top of all the Islamic civilization, the Bengali Calendar is, no doubt, our proud possession. The 'Bangla Sone' (BS) is proudly adorned with Shakespearean beauty, rather it is creditably crowned with Shakespearean success as having derived from different sources it has been wholly and solely our own in the way the greatest dramatist of the world has done by the skillful handling of his source materials.
Rather the calendar is reformed from the old calendar
Rules for civil use
Principles of the religious calendar
History of the Indian calendar