With a section of the Sant Samaj (a group of Sikh religious leaders) unhappy with the amended Nanakshahi calendar, a fresh controversy is in the offing.
Last December, Damdami Taksal head of the Sant Samaj Harnam Singh Dhuma moved an application before Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh to revert to the traditional Bikrami calender, which the Sikhs followed before the Nanakshahi calender came into effect.
But, the jathedar continues to maintain silence over the issue even as the clergy’s last meeting of the year is scheduled for December 20.
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said the Akal Takht would take a final call on the matter.
The amendments to the Nanakshahi calendar carried out in 2010 at the behest of the Akal Takht jathedar have led to more discrepancies rather than offer clarity over significant dates in Sikh history.
The Sikhs in Pakistan and other parts of the world continue to observe events according to the 'original' Nanakshahi calendar, despite jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh’s directive in 2010 to all Sikhs to follow the amended version.
While the Sikh community abroad observed the fifth guru's martyrdom day on June 16 this year, those in India followed the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s (SGPC) instruction and observed it on June 1.
The 2003 calendar mentions Gurpurab, the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, as January 5, while the Nanakshahi version mentions it as December 28.
Going by past experience, even if the issue is taken up in the upcoming meeting, at most the jathedar may instruct the SGPC to set up a panel of experts to study the amended calender and make suggestions.
Dal Khalsa leader Kanwarpal Singh said the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was behind Dhuma’s application. He claimed, “The jathedar is aware that any move to revert to the Bikrami calendar will generate a fresh controversy and cause embarrassment to the clergy.”
Opposition within SGPC
Dhuma's suggestions are being opposed by a large section even within the SGPC.
It is no secret that when the calendar was amended in 2010 and the mandate of the executive was sought, member Karnail Singh Panjoli and SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur had raised objections. They are both strong supporters of Purewal’s version.
The Dal Khalsa which supports reverting to the 2003 calendar has claimed that Dhuma's move is aimed at pleasing the Hindutva forces. Kanwarpal Singh said it did not make sense to revert to the Bikrami calendar at a time when SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Giani Gurbachan Singh have demanded amending Article 25 (b) of the constitution which clubs Sikhs with Hindus.
Meanwhile, former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta felt the controversy could have been averted had the Akal Takht stood by the 2003 version. “Originality is lost by making amendments. We cannot call the 2010 version as our calendar.”
• The original Nanakshahi, a solar calendar, was charted by Canada-based scholar Pal Singh Purewal in 1999. The dates of all events including Diwali, Holi and Guru Nanak’s birthday were different from those mentioned in the Bikrami lunar calendar. Owing to the confusion, Purewal agreed to fix the dates according to the lunar 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.
• It was changed to include dates of Holi, Diwali, Guru Nanak's birthday and a few other important events according to the Bikrami calender. However, Sikhs abroad continue to follow Purewal’s calendar.