Zoroastrian Calendar

(The Zarathushtrian Calendar)

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S H E N S H A I

K A D M I

F A S L I

Ancient Zoroastrians observed a 360 days Calendar of 12 months with each month comprising of 30 days. The months were named after seasonal festivals but the days of each month were merely numbered from one to thirty. In the middle of the fifth century BCE, during the Achaemenian era, a distinctive 360 days Calendar was created. Each day (Roj) of the twelve months was assigned. However, the Egyptians of that era had a Calendar based upon a 365 days solar cycle. In 46 CE the Romans adopted the Egyptian Calendar but the Persians kept on following the 360 days Calendar until the middle of the third century CE.

The Shenshai Calendar:

In the Shenshai calendar, a year consists of 12 months or Mahs, and each month has 30 days. Each of these days is known as a Roj, and each roj has a distinct name. However, the 12th month is followed by five additional Gatha or Gah days. A major revival of the Zoroastrian religion took place in 226 CE when the Sassanian King Ardashir I came to the Persian throne. He changed the old 360 days Calendar to 365 days by adding five extra days, which were piously dedicated to the five Gathas of Zarathushtra. The Zoroastrian calendar uses the Y.Z. suffix (Yazdegerdi Era) for its calendar era (year numbering system), indicating the number of years since the coronation in 632 CE of Yezdegerd III, the last monarch of the Sassanian dynasty.

A solar calendar, however, is around 365 ¼ days, which the Gregorian calendar accommodates by adding a day every four years (leap day). Because of this difference, the Zoroastrian calendar and solar year began to diverge. In 1006 CE, the roaming New Year's day once again coincided with the day of the vernal equinox, and (according to legend) it was resolved that the Zoroastrian calendar henceforth intercalate an additional month every 120 years as prescribed in Dinkard (III.419). At the time of the decision to intercalate every 120 years, the calendar was called the Shenshai “imperial” calendar. At some point between 1125 CE and 1250 CE, the Parsi-Zoroastrians of the Indian subcontinent inserted such an embolismic month, named Aspandarmad vahizak (the month of Aspandarmad but with a vahizak suffix). The Zoroastrians in India last remembered to add this extra month in 1129 CE. Consequently, New Year, which originally correlated with the vernal equinox on March 21st, has since fallen earlier in the Gregorian calendar year such that it now occurs in August. The Parsis, not aware that they were not intercalating correctly, continued to call their calendar Shenshai. This practice has survived to this day, and adherents of other variants of the Zoroastrian calendar denigrate the Shenshai or Shahenshahi as "royalist".

The Kadmi Calendar:

The Zoroastrians in India intercalated an extra month to the calendar around 1129 CE, Meanwhile, the Zoroastrians who remained in Iran never once intercalated a thirteenth month. Around 1720 CE, an Irani-Zoroastrian priest named Jamasp Peshotan Velati traveled from Iran to India. Upon his arrival, he discovered that there was a difference of a month between the Parsi calendar and his own calendar. Around 1740 CE, some influential priests argued that since their visitor had been from the ancient 'homeland', his version of the calendar must be correct, and their own must be wrong.

On June 6th, 1745, a number of Parsis in and around Surat adjusted their calendars according to the recommendation of their priests, believing it to be more authentic. This calendar became known as the Kadimi calendar in both India and Iran, which in due course became contracted to Kadmi or Quadmi.

The Fasli Calendar:

In 1906, Khurshedji Cama, a Bombay Parsi, founded the "Zarthosti Fasili Sal Mandal", or Zoroastrian Seasonal-Year Society. The Fasili or Fasli calendar, as it became known, was based on an older model, introduced in 1079 CE. This calendar had two salient points. It was in harmony with the seasons and New Year's Day coincided with vernal equinox. Similar to Shenshai and Kadmi calendars, it followed the model (12 months of 30 days each plus 5 extra days), but also had an auto-regulatory leap day every four years - the leap day, called Avardad-sal-Gah (Pahlavi : Ruzevahizak), followed the five existing Gah days at the end of the year. The Fasli society also claimed that their calendar was an accurate religious calendar, as opposed to the other two calendars, which they asserted were only political.

The new calendar received little support from the Indian Zoroastrian community since it was considered to contradict the injunctions expressed in the Dinkard (III.419). In Iran, however, the Fasli calendar gained momentum following a campaign in 1930. In Yazd, however, the Zoroastrian community resisted, and to this day follow the Kadmi calendar.