To bring about unity in the ‘Panth’ (Sikh community), the Akal Takht has made it clear that a solution will be found to the Nanakshahi calendar controversy by the end of their current year in March 2016 and a new calendar shall be in place by then.
For this a committee, comprising representatives of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and of Sikh intellectuals and historians, will be formed by the end of this month. The committee will submit its report to the highest temporal seat of Sikhism by November-December this year.
“The committee will incorporate the views of all concerned, so that there is no space left for any rift. The report of the committee should reflect the spirit of ‘gurbani’ and should be based on facts from Sikh history,” said Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh here on Monday after presiding over a 5-hour meeting of Sikh high priests.
The Jathedar refused to comment if this was the end of the road for the solar Nanakshahi calendar or he was thinking of bringing back the traditional lunar Bikrami calendar.
Two Takhts outside Punjab to be part of panel
Other than the SGPC and the DSGMC, the Akal Takht has decided to involve Takht Hazoor Sahib in Nanded in Maharashtra and Takht Patna Sahib, the two Takhts outside Punjab as both the Takhts did not accept the Nanakshahi calendar in any form and kept following the lunar Bikrami calendar.
The SGPC will have two representatives on this panel while the DSGMC, Takht Hazoor Sahib and Takht Patna Sahib, will have a representative each.
The clergy has decided to include Canadian based scholar, Pal Singh Purewal, Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba (USA), Anurag Singh from Ludhiana and Col Surjit Singh Nishan (retd) on the panel. Purewal had compiled the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar.
The ‘Sant Samaj’ headed by Damdami Taksal head, Harnam Singh Dhuma, will also forward two names. There will be a representative each from the Nihang ‘jathedbandis’ (groups) and the Nirmal Bhek sect.
Sikhs settled in the United States (US), Canada, Australia, England and in other parts of Europe too can send the names of a representative each. The high priests have clarified that the individual must have knowledge of calendars, like the Bikrami and the Nanakshahi.
“The names must reach us within one week. Thereafter we will decide on the final constitution of the panel,” the Jathedar told the media.
Ever since its launch in 2003, the Nanakshahi calendar has only seen controversies, with Sikhs divided on following it despite the orders of Akal Takht. The latest controversy to erupt was in December 2013 when the Sant Samaj handed over a memorandum to the Jathedar demanding that Sikhs revert back to the Bikrami calendar as the Nanakshahi had only caused confusion and till date had not been accepted by the entire community.
SGPC to decide on calendaR
With the SGPC yet to print the Nanakshahi or any other calendar for the Sikh new year beginning on March 14 (the first day of the first month of Chet), the Jathedar asked the SGPC to compile a suitable calendar for the Sikhs to follow from March 14 this year to March 13, 2016.
Indications are that the SGPC may keep the Bikrami calendar as its base.
This is the third time that a committee has been formed to resolve the calendar issue.
GENESIS OF THE CONTROVERSY
In 1999, the SGPC introduced Nanakshahi calendar, designed by Canada-based Sikh scholar Pal Singh Purewal, replacing the time-old Bikrami calendar, to work out the dates of Gurpurb and festivals such as Baisakhi and Diwali. The basic premise was that a separate calendar would reinforce separate Sikh identity. But, the Nanakshahi version has since been dogged by confusion and controversies and has divided the Sikhs, with a growing section demanding reverting to the Bikrami calendar.
The Nanakshahi calendar was amended in 2010 after Sikhs outside Punjab, and the jathedars of Takht Patna Sahib and Takht Hazoor Sahib continued to celebrate events as per the Bikrami calendar.
Sant Samaj, a conglomerate of Sikh groups that is backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), is in favour of reverting to the traditional lunar-based Bikrami calendar.
Argument: The Nanakshahi calendar has caused confusion among Sikhs and the entire community has not accepted it so far. The Bikrami calendar existed during the times of the Sikh gurus and was followed by all Sikhs.
A staunch supporter of the original Nanakshahi calendar of 2003 is Balwant Singh Nandgarh, the sacked Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar. He has gone on record alleging that the RSS is behind the move to revert to the Bikrami calendar.
Argument: The Nanakshahi calendar is solar-based and it gives the Sikhs a distinct identity. “This is our own calendar,” is what Purewal said in 1999.