GENESIS: 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.
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. The Sant Samaj is led by Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Dhuma. Other groups include the Buddha Dal (Nihang jathebandi), Tarna Dal (Nihang jathebandi), Nanaksaria samparda (community), Harianvelanwale samparda, Buchowale Sant, Rara Sahib samparda, Jannadi Taksal, Baba Major Singh, and Baba Hari Singh Randhawa. Prominent SGPC support comes from Amarjit Singh Chawla, a committee member.
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, Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar. He has gone on record alleging that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is behind the move to revert to the Bikrami calendar.
Other supporters are radical Sikh groups such as the Dal Khalsa, the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) led by Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, Paramjit Singh Sarna-led SAD (Delhi), Bhai Mohkam Singh’s United Akali Dal, Simranjit Singh Mann’s SAD (Amritsar), SAD (1920), Panthic Tal Mel Sangathan of Giani Kewal Singh (former Damdama Sahib Jathedar) and Akal Purkh Ki Fauj.
Within the SGPC, the calendar’s staunch backers are executive member Karnail Singh Panjoli and general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur.
Argument: The Nanakshahi calendar is solar-based and it gives the Sikhs a distinct identity. “This is our own calendar,” is what Purewal had said in 1999.