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As we prepare ourselves to welcome the coming year with all the learnings from the year that has gone, we are filled with wonderment about how we have devised the various systems of tracking time. One of these is the Calendar system for dividing time over extended periods, such as days, months, or years, and arranging such divisions in a definite order. 

In the earliest times, human beings calculated time by observing the periods of light and darkness that alternated continuously. The solar day is considered the earliest form of the calendar. The second basic type of the calendar was the arbitrary calendar, which was created by counting the number of days over and over again, either towards infinity or in a cycle. There were a lot of problems in the arbitrary calendar- farmers of early civilizations could not calculate the perfect time to plant their crops. Crop planting is an activity that is based on seasons and the arbitrary calendar was not based on the durations of these seasons.

Most of the oldest calendars were lunar calendars, based on the time interval from one new moon to the next—the so-called lunation. But even in a warm climate, there are annual events that pay no attention to the phases of the Moon. In some areas it is a rainy season; in Egypt, it was the annual flooding of the Nile River. The calendar had to account for these yearly events as well. Click on the Histories of the different calendars which have been used across the ages.

Six things you may not know about the Gregorian calendar. Click on the link to know about it.

Have you ever wondered how exactly we got our current calendar? Was it always 12 months? How did they end up with 365 as the number of days? And why on earth do we have leap days, much less leap seconds? Click on the link to watch this amazing video on the history of calendar.

The national calendar of India is based on the Saka calendar which has been adopted as the official civil calendar besides the Gregorian calendar. The Saka era is believed to have been founded by King Shalivahana of the Shatavahana dynasty. The fact that the Saka era marks the commemoration of King Shalivahana’s major military victories has been based on popular legends but hardly has any historical fact. The historical consensus is that it began at the 78th year of the Common Era. The earliest evidence of an association between Shalivahana and the Saka era was substantiated by the 1222 CE Kannada work Udbhatakavya by Somaraja. Works like the Muhurta-Martanda suggest that the beginning of the Saka Era is calculated from the birth of Shalivahana, while the Kalpa Pradipa written in 1300 CE suggests that it marks the victory of Shalivahana over Vikramaditya. Click on the link to know more about the Saka calendar and how it originated and the difference between Gregorian calendar and Saka calendar.

The Saka calendar is based on the lunisolar reckoning of time. The calendar works just like the Gregorian calendar. Chaitra is the first month of the year and it begins on March 22 (why Chaitra starts from March and why from 22nd March, click on the above video link). During the leap years, the starting day of Chaitra corresponds with March 21.

The Islamic calendar (or Hijri calendar) is a purely lunar calendar. It contains 12 months that are based on the motion of the moon. The calendar is based on the Qur’an and its proper observance is a sacred duty for Muslims.

The Islamic calendar is the official calendar in countries around the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. But other Muslim countries use the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes and only turn to the Islamic calendar for religious purposes. Click on the link to know more about the Islamic calendar.