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Sikh Clergy Adopts Nanakshahi Calendar


The Tribune, Amritsar, Jan. 17, 2003

The Sikh clergy today approved the Nanakshahi calendar, prepared by Canada-based Sikh scholar, Pal Singh Purewal. However, birth and death anniversaries of the Gurus and other Sikh festivals would be observed in accordance with the Nanakshahi calendar while other common festivals of Hindus and Sikhs would continue to be celebrated as per the old [Bikrami] calendar [until] a final decision [is reached]. The Sikhs who have been celebrating gurpurabs [Gurus' birth and death anniversaries] and other festivals according to the Bikrami calendar for more than four centuries will now have a separate calendar. This decision was taken after [hearing] the recommendations of the 11-member committee formed to resolve the issue at the Akal Takht secretariat. All committee members, except the author of the calendar, were present at the meeting.

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Akal Takht's jathedar [high priest], pronouncing the decision said [that although] no time-frame could be fixed yet, [the Nanakshahi calendar] was likely to be implemented by Apr. this year. During the presidentship of Bibi Jagir Kaur, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee [S.G.P.C.] had virtually divided the Sikh Panth on the Nanakshahi calendar issue and Giani Puran Singh, Akal Takht's former jathedar, had banned its implementation [based] on the demand of a section of the Sant Samaj [until] a consensus was arrived at. However, [this year] the S.G.P.C. violated the directives of Akal Takht by celebrating the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh on Jan. 5 as per the Nanakshahi calendar. A parallel birth anniversary was celebrated few days later in accordance with the Bikrami calendar.

The conflict [had] led to the excommunication of Bibi Jagir Kaur from the Sikh Panth through a hukam-nama [edict] which she never accepted. Subsequently, the pro-Bibi Jagir Kaur S.G.P.C. members sacked Giani Puran Singh as Akal Takht's jathedar. . . . [A] section of the Sant Samaj led by late Sant Mangal Singh had taken a clear stand against the implementation of the Nanakshahi calendar on the plea that it would divide Hindus and Sikhs who had been celebrating many festivals jointly [for] ages.

However, Mr. Purewal had defended his almanac saying it was based on [the] scientific concept of a tropical year and would help fix [the] dates of important Sikh festivals and days as per various references in Sikh scriptures. The project was finalised after wide-ranging discussions amongst Sikh scholars and [receiving] the backing of Bibi Jagir Kaur and her predecessor Mr. Tohra. In support of the Nanakshahi calendar, Mr. Purewal had explained that currently Sikhs were celebrating all festivals as per [the] Bikrami calendar (B.C.) which is [part solar and part lunar]. 'This was resulting in various festival dates being pushed further down the year with the passing of each year, thus negating [the seasonal] association between certain festivals,' he added.