Sikhism Calendar (Nanakshahi)

Sikh Holidays, a List of Important Dates

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Vaisakhi Day Float. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Nanakshahi Sikhism Calendar

The Nanakshahi calendar is used only by Sikhs. It was created by Pal Singh Purewal to establish fixed dates for observing important Sikh commemorative events related to the history of the Sikh gurus which took place in ancient Punjab (North India) including:

  • Birth (prakash - the manifestation of light)
  • Inauguration as Guru (guru gadee - enthronement)
  • Martyrdom or death (jyoti jot - the merging of manifest light into divine light)

Prior to the use of the Nanakshahi calendar, the date on which a commemorative Sikh event would be observed corresponded to a solar calendar based on lunar cycles which changed with each succeeding year. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), the governing office of Sikhism located in the Punjab, adopted the Nanakshahi calendar in 1988, mandating its use and spurring controversy among Sikhs accustomed to tradition.

The Nanakshahi is a solar based calendar which begins in the middle of March. The Nanakshahi calendar year 0001 begins with the year of Guru Nanak's birth in 1469 AD. The New Year begins on March 14th.

The Nanakshahi Calendar was amended in 2003 and again in 2010, on the Nanakshahi New Year 542 by the SGPC of India to accommodate traditional full moon festivals causing great controversy and many potential problems with dates and seasons shifting especially between differing East and West calendars. Each subsequent year has amendments to original fixed dating of the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar.

The Twelve Months of the Guru Granth Sahib

The names of the Nanakshahi months correspond to those in the hymns of Gurbani which appear numerous times throughout the scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Original Nanakshahi Fixed Dates (2003):
Chet - March 14 - (31 days)
Vaisakh - April 14 - (31 days)
Jeth - May 15 - (31 days)
Harh - June 15 - (31 days)
Savan - July 16 - (31 days)
Bhadon - August 16 - (30 days)
Asu - September 15 - (30 days)
Katak - October 15 - (30 days)
Maghar - November 14 - (30 days)
Poh - December 14 - (30 days)
Magh - January 13 - (30 days)
Phagan - February 12 - (30/31 days)

Commemorative Dates Observed in Sikhism

The events and dates of The Nanakshahi calendar entries given may differ by months, or even years, from original historical records such as the Vikram Samvat (SV), or Bikram Sambat (BK), calendar based on lunar cycle dating. Some of the names of the Nanakshahi months are like those of the Hindu Calendar. Even with the creation of the Nanakshahi calendar, the dates observed in Western parts of the world sometimes vary. This may be due to the confusion over conversion of calendar months from Vikram Samvat to Julian to Gregorian to Nanakshahi, differences between time zones of Punjab and other parts of the world, or other factors such as convenience and tradition. A date which falls close to a holiday observed in a particular country or a weekend may be celebrated when people are able to take time off from work. Celebrations are sometimes staggered over a period of weeks, or even a couple of months, so that festivities in different locations can take place without over lapping. Commemorative festivities in Sikhism, such as gurpurab, focus on events having to do with the ten gurus, their families, and Guru Granth Sahib:
Original Nanakshahi Fixed Dates (2003)

  • November 24
    Inauguration of Guru Gobind Singh
    Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadar
  • December 21
    Martyrdom Guru Gobind Singh's eldest two sons, Ajit Singh, and *Zorawar Singh.
  • December 26
    Martyrdom Guru Gobind Singh's youngest two sons, *Jujhar Singh and Fateh Singh.

Other Important Dates Not Fixed to the Nanakshahi Calendar

There are several Sikh holidays which have not been fixed to the Nanakshahi calendar because they traditionally coincide with lunar festivities:

*As per the published research of historian Aurthur Macauliffe