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The Buddhist calendar is used on mainland Southeast Asia in the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma (officially known as Myanmar) and Sri Lanka in several related forms. It is a lunisolar calendar having months that are alternately 29 and 30 days, with an intercalated day and a 30-day month added at regular intervals. All of its forms are based on the original 3rd-century Surya Siddhanta, not its modern form (both forms are used by the various Hindu calendars).[1][2]

Contents

Intercalation system

Its lunisolar intercalation system generally adds seven extra months (adhikamasa) every 19 years and 11 extra days (adhikavara) every 57 years, but this is only a rough guide to the results of the actual calculations. The average year is 365.25875 days reckoned from the mahayuga of 4,320,000 years, simplified to 292,207 days every 800 years by removing a common factor of 5400 from the total days and years. This year is slightly longer than the modern sidereal year and is substantially longer than the modern tropical year. The Hindu version adds extra months and days (or removes months and days) as soon as the astronomical formulae require, whereas the southeast Asian versions delay their addition. The Thai/Lao/Cambodian version does not permit an extra day to occur within years having an extra month, whereas the Burmese/Sri Lankan version permits an extra day only in years having an extra month. Thus there are four types of lunisolar years, of 354, 355, 384, or 385 days. Even though the intercalation cycles imply a tropical year, the sidereal year that is actually used causes the 'cycles' to gradually shift throughout history.

Names of the months

The month names in Pāḷi are:

Citta, Visakha, Jeṭṭha, Āsāḷha, Sāvaṇa, Poṭṭhapāda,
Assayuja, Katthika, Māgasira, Phussa, Māgha, Phagguṇa.

The month names are Sanskrit (except in old Burmese):

Caitra, Vaisakha, Jyestha, Ashadha, Sravan, Bhadrapada,
Asvina, Karttika, Margasirsha, Pausha, Magha, Phalguna.

The month names in Sinhala are:

Bak, Vesak, Poson, Æsala, Nikini, Binara,
Wap, Il, Undhuvap, Dhuruthu, Navam, Mædhin.

The old Burmese month names were:

Tagu, Kason, Nayon, Waso, Wagaung, Tawthalin,
Thadingyut, Tarzaungmon, Natdaw, Pyatho, Tabodwe, Tabaung.

Common years have months that alternate 29 and 30 days with an extra day being added to Jyestha/Nayon making it 30 days, and an extra month is obtained by counting Ashadha/Waso twice. Each month has a waxing half of 15 days and a waning half of 14 or 15 days.

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Burmese names of the months

Burmese calendar
Regular year Leap year
Tagu 29 days 29 days
Kason 30 days 30 days
Nayon 29 days 30 days
Waso 30 days First Waso 30 days
Second Waso 30 days
Wagaung 29 days 29 days
Tawthalin 30 days 30 days
Thadingyut 29 days 29 days
Tazaungmon 30 days 30 days
Natdaw 29 days 29 days
Pyatho 30 days 30 days
Tabodwe 29 days 29 days
Tabaung 30 days 30 days
12 months 354 days 13 months 385 days

Kason, Nayon, First Waso, and Second Waso have 30 days each and are called the "four even continuous months" in a year with an extra month.

Year numbering

The numbered year coincides with the sidereal year containing twelve zodiacal signs (rasi) so it can begin on any date from 6 Caitra/Tagu to 5 Vaisakha/Kason, meaning the rest of the month will be in an adjacent year. Thus any particular numbered year may be missing some days of the month while an adjacent year has the same set of dates at both its beginning and end.

Four eras were/are used:

  • Anchansakarat, from 10 March 691 BC (rarely used),
  • Buddhasakarat, Buddhist Era or BE, from 11 March 545 BC, believed to be the date of the death of the Buddha. (BE–AD of 544 used to be common, but BE–AD is now 543 in Thailand, beginning after April before 1940, then began and still begins 1 January),
  • Mahasakarat from 17 March 78 (same as the Saka Era in India, used in Thailand until the mid-13th century, standard in Cambodia),
  • Chulasakarat from 22 March 638 (adopted in Thailand mid-13th century, standard in Burma).

All years are elapsed/expired/complete years, thus their epochal year is year 0, not year 1, because a complete year had not yet elapsed during it. The epochal dates only apply to year 0 — modern dates for the entry of the Sun into the first rasi (the beginning of the sidereal year) occur later in the Gregorian calendar due to precession of the equinoxes. The calculations do not begin with zero at epoch — instead an offset of a certain number of whole and fractional days, which can amount to more than one year, must be added to all calculations, explaining the apparent Buddhasakarat inconsistency. Here 544 has an offset of 4 days at epoch whereas 543 has an offset of 369 days.

Chronology of the Buddhist Era

It should be borne in mind that there is controversy about the base date of the Buddhist Era, with 544 BC and 483 BC being advanced as the date of the parinibbana of the Buddha. As Wilhelm Geiger pointed out, the Dipavamsa and Mahawamsa are the primary sources for ancient South Asian chronology; they date the consecration (abhisheka) of Asoka to 218 years after the parinibbana. Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne 56 years prior to this, or 162 years after the parinibbana. The approximate date of Chandragupta's ascension is known to be within two years of 321 BC (from Megasthenes). Hence the approximate date of the parinibbana is between 485 and 481 BC - which accords well with the Mahayana dating of 483 BC.[3]

According to Geiger, the difference between the two reckonings seems to have occurred at sometime between the reigns of Udaya III (946-954 or 1007-1015) and Pârakkama Pandya (c. 1046-1048), when there was considerable unrest in the country.[3]

However, mention is made of an embassy sent to China by Cha-cha Mo-ho-nan in 428. The name may correspond to 'Raja (King) Mahanama', who (by the traditional chronology) reigned about this time. [4]

Furthermore, the traveller-monk Xuanzang, who attempted to visit Sri Lanka about 642, was told by Sri Lankan monks (possibly at Kanchipuram) that there was trouble in the kingdom, so he desisted;[5] this accords with the period of struggle for the throne between Aggabodhi III Sirisanghabo, Jettha Tissa III and Dathopa Tissa I Hatthadpath in 632-643.

Recent indological studies have indicated that the Parinibbana of the Buddha may be even later than previously supposed. A majority of the scholars at a symposium held in 1988 in Göttingen regarding the problem were inclined towards a date of 440-360 BCE. However, their calculations were based on the chronology of Tibetan Buddhism, preferred over that of the Dipavamsa/Mahavamasa; the modified chronology, in order to work, needs to identify the Indian ruler Kalasoka, son of Susunaga, with the Emperor Asoka, son of Bindusara.[6][7] It should also be noted that the Sri Lankan chronicles are based on even earlier works and that the Buddhist canon was first put into writing in Sri Lanka.

References

  1. ^ J.C. (John Christopher) Eade. The calendrical systems of mainland south-east Asia. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995.
  2. ^ J.C. (John Christopher) Eade. Southeast Asian ephemeris. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asian Program, 1989.
  3. ^ a b Geiger (Tr), Wilhelm (1912). The Mahawamsa or Great Chronicle of Ceylon. Oxford: Oxford University Press (for the Pali Text Society). p. 300. http://lakdiva.org/culavamsa/vol_0.html.  
  4. ^ S G M Weerasinghe, A history of the cultural relations between Sri Lanka and China: an aspect of the Silk Route, Colombo: Central Cultural Fund, 1995, ISBN 955-613-055-1, p.40)
  5. ^ Stephen Spencer Gosch, Peter N. Stearns, Premodern Travel in World History, Routledge, 2008; ISBN 0415229405, p.93
  6. ^ L. S. Cousins, 'The Dating of the Historical Buddha: A Review Article', Indology: Resources for Indological Scholarship
  7. ^ Charles S. Prebish, 'Cooking the Buddhist Books: The Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha for the History of Early Indian Buddhism', Journal of Buddhist Ethics

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Calendars
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The Buddhist calendar is used on mainland Southeast Asia in the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sri Lanka in several related forms. It is a lunisolar calendar having months that are alternately 29 and 30 days, with an intercalated day and a 30-day month added at regular intervals. All of its forms are based on the original third century Surya Siddhanta, not its modern form (both forms are used by the various Hindu calendars).

Its lunisolar intercalation system generally adds seven extra months (adhikamasa) every 19 years and 11 extra days (adhikavara) every 57 years, but this is only a rough guide to the results of the actual calculations. The average year is 365.25875 days reckoned from the mahayuga of 4,320,000 years, simplified to 292,207 days every 800 years by removing a common factor of 5400 from the total days and years. This year is slightly longer than the modern sidereal year and is substantially longer than the modern tropical year. The Hindu version adds extra months and days (or removes months and days) as soon as the astronomical formulae require, whereas the southeast Asian versions delay their addition. The Thai/Lao/Cambodian version does not permit an extra day to occur within years having an extra month, whereas the Burmese/Sri Lankan version permits an extra day only in years having an extra month. Thus there are four types of lunisolar years, of 354, 355, 384, or 385 days. Even though the intercalation cycles imply a tropical year, the sidereal year that is actually used causes the 'cycles' to gradually shift throughout history.

The month names are Sanskrit (except in old Burmese):

Caitra, Vaisakha, Jyestha, Ashadha, Sravan, Bhadrapada,
Asvina, Karttika, Margasirsha, Pausha, Magha, Phalguna.

The old Burmese month names were:

Tagu, Kason, Nayon, Waso, Wagaung, Tawthalin,
Thadingyut, Tarzaungmon, Natdaw, Pyadho, Tabodwe, Tabaung.

Common years have months that alternate 29 and 30 days with an extra day being added to Jyestha/Nayon making it 30 days, and an extra month is obtained by counting Ashadha/Waso twice. Each month has a waxing half of 15 days and a waning half of 14 or 15 days.

Burmese calendar
Regular year Leap year
Tagu 29 days 29 days
Kason 30 days 30 days
Nayon 29 days 30 days
Waso 30 days First Waso 30 days
Second Waso 30 days
Wagaung 29 days 29 days
Tawthalin 30 days 30 days
Thadingyut 29 days 29 days
Tarzaungmon 30 days 30 days
Natdaw 29 days 29 days
Pyadho 30 days 30 days
Tabodwe 29 days 29 days
Tabaung 30 days 30 days
12 months 354 days 13 months 385 days

Kason, Nayon, First Waso, and Second Waso have 30 days each and are called the "four even continious months" in a year with an extra month.

The numbered year coincides with the sidereal year containing twelve zodiacal signs (rasi) so it can begin on any date from 6 Caitra/Tagu to 5 Vaisakha/Kason, meaning the rest of the month will be in an adjacent year. Thus any particular numbered year may be missing some days of the month while an adjacent year has the same set of dates at both its beginning and end.

Four eras were/are used: Anchansakarat (from 10 March 691 BC) (rarely used), Buddhasakarat (Buddhist Era or BE, 11 March 545 BC) (BE–AD of 544 used to be common, but BE–AD is now 543 in Thailand, beginning after April before 1940, then began and still begins 1 January), Mahasakarat (17 March 78) (same as the Saka Era in India, used in Thailand until the mid-13th century, standard in Cambodia), and Chulasakarat (22 March 638) (adopted in Thailand mid-13th century, standard in Burma). All years are elapsed/expired/complete years, thus their epochal year is year 0, not year 1, because a complete year had not yet elapsed during it. The epochal dates only apply to year 0 — modern dates for the entry of the Sun into the first rasi (the beginning of the sidereal year) occur later in the Gregorian calendar due to precession of the equinoxes. The calculations do not begin with zero at epoch — instead an offset of a certain number of whole and fractional days, which can amount to more than one year, must be added to all calculations, explaining the apparent Buddhasakarat inconsistency. Here 544 has an offset of 4 days at epoch whereas 543 has an offset of 369 days.

References

  • J.C. (John Christopher) Eade. The calendrical systems of mainland south-east Asia. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995.
  • ———. Southeast Asian ephemeris. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asian Program, 1989.

See also

External links


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