Bikram Sambat in Nepal
by Dirgha Raj Prasai on 14 Apr 2012 0 Comment

Bikram Sambat (Sanskrit, Samvat) is the glory of Nepal. Bikram Sambat 2069 starts from Mekh Sankranti, 1st of Baishk, April 14. Bikram Sambat is an ancient and original Era of Nepal in Himavatkhanda. Before Prithvi Narayan Shah, Sen ruled states, Baisi Chaubisi (22 and 24 independent states of Undignified Nepal), Malla dynasty of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and after Prithvi Narayan Shah regime, Muluki Ain (law) of Janga Bahadur, before and after the Chandra Shamsher regime, Bikram era was used.


Before Bikram Sambat 1961, Bikram era including Nepal Sambat and Shaka Sambat were based on Tithi. Since any changes in Tithies produce difficulties in managing the schedule of governmental works, Chandra Shamsher on the advice of Jyotishies (astrologers) started to write dates maintaining the same day, Tithi and month. There are 365 days in a year in accordance with the Bikram era. The Nepal era and Shaka era count 354 days in a year, as they are in accordance with Tithi and are therefore impractical.


Yogi Narahari Nath, a literary saint, has mentioned that King Bikramaditya as per the Devmala Bansabali had a throne at the place where there now stands a Ram Mandir at Battisputali of Kathmandu. According to the Pashupati Puran, the Bikram era was initiated during the reign of the first king of the sun-worshipping Suryabanshi Lichchavis who ruled Nepal after their victory over the Kiratas, known as Dharmapal or Bhoomi Barma or Bikramaditya.


A study of Bhasa Bansabali, (ed. Nayanath Paudyal) published by the Department of Archeology, Government of Nepal, reveals that during the regime of King Dharmagat, over the name of the king, a Chatarmukh Narayan or four-mouthed statue of God Narayana, along with a spout, now Narayanhiti, was created towards the south of royal palace and opened for pilgrimage. The Bansabali mentions this was the time when the Bikram era was initiated.


The Lichchhavi king declared himself Baishalipati, king of Baishali, and with the grace of lord Pashupatinath became king of Kashi as well. Bikram era was initiated when a brave and victorious Suryabanshi king established his capital at Bishalnagar and Battaishputali (Himabatkhand). This is another proof that Bikram era was started in Nepal from unknown ancient times. Just near a temple of Sankhu Bajrayogini is another temple in which the head of King Bikramaditya has been kept.


It is still being worshipped by Bajracharya priests. It is a myth that King Bikramaditya ruled the Uttarapur state, now: Nala of Kavre district. A Bansabali at Harisiddhi temple established by Lichchhavi dynasty cites Bikram Sambat 711. Harisiddhi upapuran mentions that Harisiddhi drama was demonstrated at Bikram Sambat 945. A Subarna patra (gold plate) of the time of Jayasthiti Malla mentions Bikram Sambat 1448.


Some people suggest that the Bikram era was started from Madhya Pradesh, India. This is not true. Chandra Gupta II in the fourth century became king of Ujjaini. He captured Ayodhya around 400 AD and made it his capital, and struck copper coins of himself as ‘Bikramaditya’. But the same Chandra Gupta declaring himself Bikramaditya was not the originator of Bikram Sambat. In fact, the Gupta kings of Magadh were influenced by Lichchhavis of Nepal and Chandra Gupta I married a princess of the clan.

It is likely that under this influence, Chandra Gupta II might have decorated himself as ‘Bikramaditya’. The historian Baburam Acharya says, “During 58 BC when Bikram Era was begun, there is no proof of existence of King Bikramaditya in Ujjayani of India. No proof was established when excavates of Ujjayani were studied.”


In Bikram Sambat 1937, researcher Pandit Bhagawan Lal Indraji from Gujarat, India, came to Nepal and searched and studied 23 different inscriptions. He believed that the era practiced by Lichchhavis was Bikram era.


Similarly, Prof. Radhagovind Basak of Calcutta University, in History of Northern East part of India, says, “The era of Mandev 386 mentioned in record of Changu is Bikram era. In this way, era starting from 386 to 489 (written in records at Chapali village) is Bikram era.”


Historian Shankaraman Rajbansi also believes that era used by Mandev is also Bikram era. The era is traditionally being used in different states of India. In Bengal, Panchangs based on solar theory in accordance with the Bikram era are in vogue.


Along with the Bikram Era, Nepal era was practiced from Mid Lichchhavis to Prithvi Narayan Shah and Rana regimes. Since Tithis are unbalanced, for ease in administrative management, Chandra Shamsher started to write the date of Bikram era as in AD (Isvi Sambat). In India, Shaka era continually disappeared. But in 1957, Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru stated the passive Shaka Era in the belief that it is of Indian origin. But as Shaka Era is also run with Tithis and has 354 days in a year, it was not practical and could not last. So India practiced AD (Isvi Sambat). Similarly, compared to Bikram Era, Nepal era was not practical.


Mekh (megh) Sankranti, Srawan Sankranti and Makara Sankranti are the most important months of Bikram Sambat. Bikram Sambat starts with Mekh Sankranti on April 14-15; Srawan Sankranti starts around 17th July, and Makar Sankranti around 15th January when the Sun begins the northward journey, marking the beginning of 'uttarayana' from the South Pole. Similarly, from the month of Srawan, the sun begins the southward journey, 'dakhinayana.'


In Bikram Sambat, these three month are notable. Siva Ratri (birthday of Lord Shiva) in March is when there is a natural gift of rainfall. Bikram Sambat accords with nature. In Makara Sankranti the Sun passes from one Zodiac sign to another, thus a Sankranti marks the beginning of every solar month in the Vedic cylindrical system when Sun passes from one sign to the other; it's the cusp of the months as Astro-wallas say. These are remarkable days for Hindus and Buddhists.


A fabled pair of orchid flowers used to bloom at Siraha's Salhes Garden exactly on the new year of Bikram Sambat, to welcome the New Year. The orchid is the symbol of undying love. Thousands of people from neighboring districts and Indian villages visit this place to watch the blooming of the pair of flowers and attend a local festival.


On this occasion of the coming New Year 2069, we extend good wishes to all for a prosperous and successful life.

The author is a Nepalese patriot; he lives in Kathmandu

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