A calendar is often the reflection of a culture and its religious beliefs. We tell you about the different calendars used around the world and the systems they follow.
By Leena Ghosh
Of all the uncertainties in life, one thing we can take for granted is our yearly calendar. Whatever happens, May will come after April and January will hold the promise of a new year and a new beginning. But, many countries around the world follow their own calendars, based on their cultures and traditions.
While some follow the lunar cycle, others follow the solilunar calendar that comprises 12 year cycles. Some calendar systems are more popular than others but each of them teaches us a lot about the different cultures of the world and their belief systems.
Here are some of the most popular calendars and what our children can learn from them.
Julian Calendar: The Julian calendar was the first major calendar to move away from the lunisolar method. It was based on the Roman calendar and introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. It utilises a 365-day, 12-month model and adds an extra day in February every 4 years.
The Hindu Calendar: The Hindu calendar consists of three separate calendars like the Vikram Samvat, Shaka Samvat and Kali Yuga. This calendar is based on the lunar system and takes into account the sidereal year as well to keep track of time. Hindus in India, Java and Bali follow the Shaka Samvat and count the months based on the tropical zodiac signs. The calendar is used to denote important Hindu festivals and holy days.
Hijri or Islamic Calendar: The Hijri calendar, also known as the Islamic calendar, relies on the lunar system of counting months and marking important days. It consists of 12 months and a year has either 354 or 355 days. After 33 years, the cycle repeats itself. Four of the 12 months in the Islamic calendar are considered sacred. The first day of the first month in the Hijri calendar was marked on the day of the first new moon after Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. The calendar is used to record important Islamic holidays and events.
The Buddhist Calendar: The Buddhist calendar is based on the lunisolar system and is followed throughout Southeast Asia. This calendar is primarily based on an older version of the Hindu calendar and takes into account the sidereal year to denote the number of days in a year. A sidereal year is the time taken by the Earth to complete one rotation around the Sun and has approximately 365 days. Today, the traditional calendar is not used as the official calendar anymore and is used to mark important festivals and days.
Japanese Calendar: In use since 701 AD, the Japanese calendar uses the solar year of the Gregorian calendar. In this calendar system, the beginning of an era is based on the rule of each emperor. This method is similar to the Chinese system of keeping track of important events in the history of the country. Before 1873, however, the eras were marked by important events rather than the rule of an emperor.
Chinese Calendar: Based on the lunisolar system, the Chinese calendar is used to mark important days and holidays. In this system, each month starts with the beginning of the new moon. The start of the new year also depends on the position of the moon and occurs when the moon is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
Hebrew Calendar: First created before 10 AD, the Hebrew calendar, also called the Jewish calendar, was based on the lunar cycle. As a result, an extra month had to be added to the year every three to four years to make up for the difference. However, that system changed over time and the calculations of the months and years started to rely more on mathematical calculations. The calendar is still followed by the Jews to mark religious holidays and important events.
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