The Vedic / Indian Influence on Calendar : Iran to Cambodia

In my travel to various countries across globe… this habit of visiting many places and meet local people was actually boosted up in me by my lovely friend Harish Chauhan. He introduced me to the concept of surfing and staying with local nationals, which in turn makes you observe and see their life style closely.

In this exploration, I have collected some information, more by talking to the various nationalities and understanding their culture. I am compiling some of the information here on this blog.

At times my exploration landed in finding similarities between the Indian culture and their lifestyle, festivals etc.

I am exploring the similarities between the calendars we use for our festivals, time measurement and usage. I shall compare and contrast the time charts of Iran, Thailand, and Cambodia. The central theme is Indian Lunar and Solar calendars influencing these nation’s time measurement and calendars.

In India major two sets of calendars are utilized since many centuries’ viz. Solar (Saur) and Lunar (Chandra). Depending on the influencing and powerful king the calendar is named by them, as well which type to adopt was decided by the king. This is also seen in countries like Iran, Thailand and Cambodia. I will try not to be too technical in this information piece. I shall make it simpler which can be understood by common man.

Well what amazes me is the utilization of various calendars in India and then it is expanded not only in Southeast Asia but in Middle East (primarily Iran and Afghanistan) also. This influence is predominantly seen by Hindu time calculation style.

Let us see how Indian / Sanskrit names has influenced the Day names of Thai Calendar

Thais call their calendar as Suriyakhati, which has base from Sanskrit. Surya means sun. This means the Thai calendar is based on Solar (Saur in Hindu) type for day and month calculation. They also call the week as Sapdaha or Sapda meaning Seven Days which has Sanskrit origin as Saptaha. Thais call their day as Wan which has origin in Sanskrit word War. I was amazed to see such huge influence can be seen in Thailand. I have spent so much time talking to my Thai friend Chaichana in Bangkok about their time measurement system.

English name Planet Name Sanskrit Name of the Planet Sanskrit Name Thai Name Hindu Color for Planet Thai Dedicated Color
Sunday Sun Ravi or Aditya Aditya Wasare Bhanu Wasare Ravi Wasare Wan Athit Red Red
Monday Moon Chandra Som Wasare Chandra Wasare Wan Chan White or Yellow Yellow
Tuesday Mars Mangal or Angarak Mangal Wasare Angarak Diwase Bhaum Wasare Wan Angkhan Redish or Pink Pink
Wednesday Mercury Budha Budh Wasare Wan Phut Green Green
Thursday Jupiter Bruhaspati Guru Wasare Bruhaspati Wasare Wan Phruehatsabodi Orange or Deep Yellow Orange
Friday Venus Shukra Shukra Wasare Wan Suk Blue or Super White Blue
Saturday Saturn Shani Shani Wasare Wan Sao Blue or Purple Purple

Wasare is taken as War many a times. War is non-Sanskrit linguistic forms in Indic speech prior to approximately the 3d century a.d. called as Apabhansh (Please keep this word in mind we might use this word frequently). Ba of Sanskrit becomes Pa of Thai. Thais do not use hard word in their language hence we can see

Aditya become Athit. Chadra become Chan. Angarak becomes Angkhan. Budh is called as Phut. Bruhaspati becomes Phruehatsabodi. Shukra is called as Suk, and Shani become Sao. Many more Sanskrit words in day to day life of Thai people can also be observed. However the major influence I have seen in their day to day life is the calendar they use. Their day to day calendar is not Gregorian calendar and the months they use are also not January, February (Gregorian). The basis of the months can be seen the Sun Sign (Rashi in Sanskrit). The names utilized by them are Hindu names for various Sun Signs. They call their new year as Songkaran (Apabrahnsh of Sankrant), literally means transition of Sun. In India every moth Hindus celebrates Sankranti. The biggest amoung them are Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti. This is dedicated to the transition of Sun into Makara rashi: Capricorn and Karka Rashi: Cancer respectively. In this way every month has sankranti. Thai people celebrate their new year on Mesh Sankranti: Transition of Sun into Aries.

Thais use 2 suffixes after each month name viz. Ayon and Akhom. The origin of the Ayon is Ayan in Sanskrit means Beginning. Akhom comes from Sanskrit word Aagam meaning entry. This is particularly differentiate the 30 and 31 day solar months e.g Makarakhom Makar- Akhom meaning beginning of Makar period (Capricorn) or Kanyayon i.e Kanya- Ayon meaning entry into Kanya (Virgo) period.

Name of February is KumbhaPhan as we have already seen “Ba” of Sanskrit becomes “Pa” of thai hence we can say it is Kumbha-Bhan. The word Bhan comes from Bandh meaning tying or binding. The day added in February leap year is called as “Athikasuratin” again Sanskrit origin. This word is made out of 2 Sanskrit words Adhika (Addition) and Sura (Move). In India Malayalam calendar also uses same names of the month as Thai people.

English name of the Month Thai Name of the Months Malayali Name of the Month Sanskrit word Zodiac sign
January Makarakhom, Mokkarakhom Makaram Makar Capricorn
February Kumphaphan Kumbham Kumbha Aquarius
March Minakhom Minam Meen Pisces
April Mesayon Medam Mesha Aries
May Phruetsaphakhom Edavam (Idavam) Vrishabh Taurus
June Mithunayon Mithunam Mithun Gemini
July Karakadakhom Karkadakam Karka Cancer
August Singhakhom Chingam Simha Leo
September Kanyayon Kanni Kanya Virgo
October Tulakhom Tulam Tula Libra
November Phruetsachikayon Vrscikam Vrishchhika Scorpio
December Thanwakhom Dhanu Dhanu Sagittarius

 

Thai people celebrate their traditional new year by spilling water on each other, sometimes they use colored water to pour on each other. This is similar to the Holi festival of India. The Holi festival is celebrated on Full Moon day of Falgun month usually comes in March or April. This is also a period of Thai New Year. If you will observe the festivals of India Holi is predominantly played in North India. Hence we see the festival similarity and while tracing the parallels between the influences on Thai calendar, I feel it is more getting pushed from North India. However it is said that Cholas from Tamil Nadu have ruled Thailand and it also coincides with Tamil New year Puthandu also called as Chiittrai Vishu.

 

It becomes more interesting hereafter. Mesha Rashi Is the 1st zodiac sign. The sun moves into Chitra Nakshatra hence it is called as Chittarai Vishu. And the name of the 1st Month of lunisolar calendar month followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kashmir and Sindhis is “Chaitra” coming from the name Chitra Nakshatra.

Nakshatra is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu Astrology. A nakshatra is one of 27 sectors along the ecliptic. The opposite point for the nakshatra is the point on the ecliptic; it is the beginning of the zodiac sign. Spica is called Chitrā in Sanskrit. Which is also known as Meshadhi (From the opposite point is the zodiac sign Mesha – Aries begins), hence the name Chaitra is given to this 1st month of the calendar.

The name of Cambodian new year is Moha Songkaran taken from Sanskrit word Maha Sankranti (the important transition of sun). This again lies in April month. This is influenced in many south east countries.

Lunar Calendar Day International date Public holiday in Notes
Full moon of Pausa January Sri Lanka
Full moon of Magha February Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand  
Full moon of Phalguna March Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka
Almost always in Chaitra, sometimes in Vaisakha April Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Traditionally, the New Year’s Day is marked when the Sun enters Aries but the day is now fixed in most countries; Myanmar still follows the tradition
Full moon of Visakha May Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka Buddha Pournima
Full moon of Jyaistha June Sri Lanka
Full moon of Ashadha July Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka  
Full moon of Sravana August Sri Lanka
Full moon of Bhadrapada September Laos, Sri Lanka
Full moon of Asvina October Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka
Full moon of Karttika November Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Full moon of Margasirsa December Sri Lanka

Well April (Date differs as per solar transition or new moon) is not just the New year for India, South East Asia but in Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan also.

In all below calendars March – April is the New Year period.

Month Indian Lunar Calendar Indian Solar Calendar Indian Solar Sign Name Thai Calendar Iranian Persian Afghan Pashto
Mar- Apr Chaitra Chaitra Mesh Mesayon Farvardin Wray (Means Lamb; That’s Mesh)
Apr- May Vaishakh Vaishakh Vrishabh Phruetsaphakhom Ordibehesht Ǧwayay (Means Bull; That’s Coming from Family of Gau – Cow)
May- Jun Jyaishtha Jyaishtha Mithun Mithunayon Khordad Ǧbargolay (Means Twin; Coming from word Yugula)
Jun- Jul Āshādha Āshādha Karka Karakadakhom Tir Čungāx̌ (Means Crab)
Jul- Aug Shrāvana Shrāvana Singham Singhakhom Mordad Zmaray (Representas Lion)
Aug- Sep Bhādrapada Bhādrapada Kanya Kanyayon Shahrivar Waǵay (Virgin)
Sep- Oct Āshwin Āshwin Tula Tulakhom Mehr Təla (Meaning weighing scale)
Oct- Nov Kārtika Kārtika Vrishchika Phruetsachikayon Aban Laṛam (Scorpio)
Nov- Dec Margasirsha Margasirsha Dhanu Thanwakhom Azar Līndəi (Sagittarius)
Dec- Jan Pausha Pausha Makar Makarakhom, Mokkarakhom Dey Marǧūmay (Capricorn)
Jan- Feb Māgha Māgha Kumbha Kumphaphan Bahman Salwāǧa (Aquarius)
Feb- Mar Phālguna Phālguna Meen Minakhom Esfand Kab (Pisces)

The new year in Persian is called as Nav-Rooz having roots in Sanskrit word Nav- Varsh literally meaning New Year.

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