Why Is The Bengali Year 1405?
[Contributed by Sandip Dasverma, Los Angeles]
The Bengali Era or Bangabda
is used in Bangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura. It is also used in Assam
where it is called the Bhaskar (Sun) Era, The era is an adaptation of the
solar calendar that was introduced by Emperor Akbar in 1584 AD. Netters
will recall that the Hijri era is based on the lunar calendar where the
month of harvest keeps shifting from year to year. This had made it awkward
to assign a fixed date for collecting taxes which became due after harvest.
Akbar's calendar was the Emperor's solution to the problem.
unlike the Arabs, follow a solar calendar where the year begins on the
day of vernal equinox (21st March). Akbar's calendar was based on the Persian
model. Though introduced in 1584 AD, Akbar had the calendar backdated to
start on 21st of March of 1556 AD which was the year he had ascended the
throne. This was the year 963 in the Hijri era.
Bengal adopted Akbar's calendar
with certain modifications. In 1556 AD, the Bengali calendar was assigned
the year 963 to coincide with the year in Hijri era which today reads 1418.
It is 1405 in the Bengali year. If we recall that a solar year is about
11 days longer than the lunar year, it is not difficult to figure out why
the Hijri era has marched ahead by: [11 X (1998 - 1556)] days = 13 years
in the 442 years since 1556 AD.
There is one other significant
difference with Akbar's calendar which, like the Persian calendar and the
Christian calendar, had months of fixed number of days. The Bengali month,
on the other hand, is based on the ancient Sanskrit treatise, "Surya Siddhanta"
where the months are assigned by the zodiac sign. The sun's stay under
a zodiac sign varies from year to year. That is why any Bengali month can
vary in length anywhere from 29 to 32 days. The Sun enters the Mesh Rashi
(Aries) on 15th of April, give or take a day. This marks the beginning
of the Bengali year and is celebrated as the first of Baishakh.
The Bengali calendar is a
prime example of the eclectic spirit that had prevailed during the rule
of Emperor Akbar. It was a synthesis of features from ancient Indian calendars
based on "Surya Siddhanta" with those of the Hijri calendar and the Persina
calendar. No wonder that the Bengali calendar is catering successfully
to the needs of a quarter billion Muslims and Hindus of Bangladesh and