Different Types of Calendars and Date Systems
Whether it is planning an event or a vacation, scheduling a business meeting or remembering important days like anniversaries and birthdays, one thing that most of us refer to is the calendar. Calendars, though of different types have been assisting the human beings in planning their day to day lives better since centuries now.
Be it wall calendars, digital calendars or calendar as a tool in our smartphones and laptops in this new age, it has become an essential part of our ever so busy lives, all thanks to our ancestors who discovered a system to track time.
Calendars came into existence soon as human beings started timekeeping and using various methods to keep track of days and time. Several archaeological findings affirm the fact that ancient people started timekeeping and tracking days, weeks, months and years based on lunar, solar or luni-solar cycles.
A calendar has always been an indicator of religious beliefs and culture, thus they are distinct from each other. Similar is the case with time, every country follows different standard time according to the positioning of the Sun and the Moon. However, we the humans have taken the precision of the calendars for granted, uninformed about the intriguing science that revolutionised the world.
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World’s First Calendar
If the British scientists are to be believed, the first ever calendar of the world was created by hunter gatherers nearly 8,000 BC and was discovered in Scotland in the year 2004. Unlike the printed calendars that we use now, the monuments were used to measure time. After excavation by the National Trust for Scotland, researchers from University of Birmingham categorised the monument as a Mesolithic monument which was used as a calendar by the hunter gatherers back then.
Some Ancient Calendars of the World
Sumerian Calendar: The Sumerians (people of Mesopotamia) are said to be the initial users of a calendar around 3100BC according to the material evidences and documents. The Sumerian calendar is also known as ‘Umma Calendar’ that became the inspiration for Babylonian Calendar in the later years. The Sumerians tracked days and months based on the observation of first full moon as it was based on Lunar cycle. Their year had 360 days. However, this calendar did not track weeks like we do today.
Established in 2510 BC is probably the first Calendar to use a year of 365 days nearly equivalent to a solar year. The Egyptians maintained two calendars, the first one was the civil calendar that used the Solar cycle while the other one was tracked by the Lunar cycle. The Egyptian Lunar Calendar is said to be the older one amongst the two. The star named Sirius played a key role in tracking the change of year.
The Roman calendar is one such calendar that has been modified several times till date and is now the most commonly used calendar worldwide. It is a Lunisolar calendar. It was reformed into the Julian calendar and later on it was modified into the Gregorian calendar that most countries follow till date.
A Chinese calendar is based on the astronomical phenomena i.e longitude of the sun and the phases of the moon. Archaeological evidences hint that the Chinese calendar was invented in the 14th century BC. In a traditional Chinese calendar days start and end at midnight while the new moon signals the start of a new month. A new year starts on the second or third new moon following the winter solstice.
It is the new day calendar that most of us use today. Revealed in the year 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian calendar is a reform of the Julian calendar. This reformed calendar was initially accepted by a few western countries and later in the 20th century most of the countries started referring to this calendar atleast for official purposes.
Some Calendars Based on Religions
Popularly known asthe Panchanga in India, is a lunisolar calendar & it is used for various religious purposes. It has been in use since the Vedic period and continues to be referred to in recent times also by the Hindu all around the world.
It is also known as the Hijri calendarand comprises of 12 lunar months. New moon day indicates beginning of a new month. However, the months in the Islamic calendar are divided into sacred and non-scared months. Prominent days in Islam such as the fasting period and ritual of Hajj are tracked using this calendar.
The Jews in Israel use this calendar to mark the scared and important religious days. This calendar also signifies the time period for agricultural purposes for various crops and fruits.
Much similar to the Calendar, the importance of dates
is also noteworthy in our lives. Since the beginning of humanity, various events, important days are remembered by its date. When we hear the date, 15 August 1947, the Independence Day of India instantly comes to every Indian’s mind. That is the power of date system for any civilization. Tracking timeline or remembering the deadlines for important tasks, dates have been playing a significant role since humans began timekeeping.
Like the Calendars, the date systems also vary
from one country to other. However, to standardize the date format universally, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) set an official date format i.e YYYY-MM-DD.
Though a major population in the European countries, USA, Africa and South Asia, Central Asia follow the DMY format, countries like China, Japan, Hungary, Mongolia use YMD format, some island territories follow the MDY format.
Countries like India, Russia, Germany, Iran, France, UK, Spain, Afghanistan and few more follow the DMY and YMD format.