You may have realised already that the Persian-speaking world uses multiple calendar systems. Now, I’m going to be honest with you, converting dates between the Gregorian calendar (January, February, etc.), the Islamic calendar, and the Persian calendar can be a bit of a nightmare. Indeed, it might make you wonder how a system so complicated can still be in use. If it’s any consolation, this issue is something which the Persian people also struggle with: ask an Iranian for their birthdate in the Gregorian (i.e. “European” or “Western”) calendar and watch them sweat! I have tried time and time again to learn all the different calendar systems properly, but after discovering that Afghanistan uses a different Persian calendar to Iran, and that Tajikistan uses yet another different calendar system, I must admit I gave up a little bit. So, this blog post is a reference point or quick guide for anyone who gets stuck or confused – just take a deep breath and come to this blog and we can struggle through it together!
Let’s begin with the traditional Persian calendar, called the گاه شماری هجری خورشیدی gāhshomāri-ye hejri-ye khurshidi ‘the Solar Hijri calendar’ or sometimes گاه شماری جلالی gāhshomāri-ye jalāli ‘the Jalali calendar’. The Solar Hijri calendar is based on the earlier Zoroastrian and Avestan calendars, whereby each of the twelve months take their names from a Zoroastrian archangel or spiritual concept, and correspond to a zodiac sign. The Solar Hijri calendar is the principal calendar in current use throughout Iran and Afghanistan. Afghanistan uses the same Solar Hijri calendar system as Iran, but with different names for the months. This is because Afghanistan named the twelve months of the year after the Arabic names for the zodiac signs, rather than after the Zoroastrian tradition. (See the start of this earlier blog written by Iskandar which goes over the Afghan Dari months in more detail.) Below is a table showing the month names in the original Avestan (the liturgical Zoroastrian language), in Pahlavi (Middle Persian), in modern Persian (Farsi) and in modern Afghan Persian (Dari) alongside their approximate meanings. Because the Persian calendar months do not correspond directly to Gregorian months, I find that it is easiest to learn them with their associated zodiac sign instead.
|Avestan||Pahlavi||Approximate meaning||Modern Persian (Farsi), used in Iran||Modern Dari, used in Afghanistan||Corresponding Gregorian months and zodiac sign|
|Fravashi||Frawardin||‘Guardian spirits’||فروردین Farvardin||حمل Hamal||March-April Aries|
|Asha Vahishta||Ashawahist, Ardwahisht||‘Best truth, righteousness’||اردیبهشت Ordibehesht||ثور Sowr||April-May Taurus|
|Haurvatat||Khordād||‘Wholeness, perfection’||خرداد Khordād||جوزا Jawzā||May-June Gemini|
|Tishtrya||Tir||‘Sirius, fertility, life-giving rain’||تیر Tir||سرطان Saratān||June-July Cancer|
|Ameretat||Amordād||‘Immortality’||مرداد Mordād||اسد Asad||July-August Leo|
|Amesha Spenta||Shahrewar||‘Desirable dominion, holy immortal’||شهریور Shahrivar||سنبله Sombola||August-September Virgo|
|Mithra||Mihr||‘Covenant, oath, justice’||مهر Mehr||میزان Mizān||September-October Libra|
|Apas, Apam||Ābān||‘Waters’||آبان Ābān||عقرب Aqrab||October-November Scorpio|
|Atar, Azar||Ādur||‘Fire’||آذر Āzar||قوس Qows||November-December Sagittarius|
|Dathusho||Day||‘The creator’ (i.e. Ahura Mazda)||دی Dey||جدی Jadi||December-January Capricorn|
|Vohu Manah||Wahman||‘Good purpose, good mind’||بهمن Bahman||دلو Dalwa||January-February Aquarius|
|Spenta Armaiti||Spandarmad||‘Holy devotion’||اسفند Esfand||حوت Hut||February-March Pisces|
Counting the year in the Solar Hijri (SH) calendar is different: we have to add 621 years or 622 years to the Solar Hijri year to arrive at the Gregorian (“European”) equivalent. Note: add 621 years if the date is before Nowruz, and add 622 years if the date is after Nowruz. This is because the Solar Hijri calendar starts with the prophet Mohammad’s Hijrah or هجرت hejrat ‘migration from Mecca’, whereas the Gregorian calendar begins with the birth of Jesus Christ.
For example, the year 1401 SH would be 2022 AD:
1401 SH (+622) → 2022 AD
Another example, the whole date this time:
1st September 2022 AD → 10th Shahrivar 1401 SH
Alright, so we have covered the Solar Hijri calendar in both its Iranian and Afghan variants. What about the Gregorian and Islamic calendars? The Islamic calendar, گاه شماری هجری قمری gāhshomāri-ye hejri-ye qamari ‘the Lunar Hijri calendar’, is used almost exclusively for marking important Islamic holidays and occasions in the Muslim world, such as رمضان ramazān ‘Ramadan’, عید فطر id-e fetr ‘Eid al-Fitr/the Breaking of the Fast’, عاشورا āshurā ‘Ashura/the Mourning of Muharram’, and عید قربان id-e qorbān ‘Eid al-Adha/the Sacrificial Feast’. This means that most Muslim countries have a dual system of using the Gregorian calendar for day-to-day use and the Islamic calendar for marking special religious events. The Islamic calendar, because it follows the lunar cycle, is 10-11 days shorter than solar calendars such as the Gregorian or Persian calendars. This means that the Islamic calendar months vary significantly every year when compared with the solar months, and should be viewed as a completely different system which does not match up exactly with the other calendar systems.
|Arabic name||Persian pronunciation||Meaning and religious significance|
|المحرم al-Muḥarram||Moharram, Moharram-ol-Harām||‘Forbidden’, because all fighting is forbidden during this month|
|صفر Safar||Safar||‘Void, empty’|
|ربیع الاول Rabiʿ-ul-’Awwal||Rabi’-ol-Avval||‘First month of spring’|
|ربیع الثاني Rabiʿ-uth-Thāni||Rabi’-os-Sāni||‘Second month of spring’|
|جمادی الاول Jamādā ul-’Awwal||Jamādi ol-Avval||‘First month of parched land’|
|جمادی الثاني Jamādā uth-Thāni||Jamādi os-Sāni||‘Second month of parched land’|
|رجب Rajab||Rajab||‘Respect, honour’|
|رمضان Ramaḍān||Ramazān||‘Burning heat’. A month of fasting|
|شوال Shawwāl||Shavvāl||‘Raised’. The first day of Shawwāl is marked by Eid al-Fitr and the end of fasting|
|ذو القعدة Ḏu al-Qaʿdah||Zo-l-Qa’de||‘Month of truce’|
|ذو الحجة Ḏu al-Ḥijjah||Zo-l-Hajje||‘Month of pilgrimage’|
Now that leaves us with the Gregorian calendar: the calendar that the majority of you should already be very familiar with (the calendar system which starts on the 1st of January and ends on the 31st of December). In Persian it is called the گاه شماری میلادی gāhshomāri-ye milādi ‘the birth of Christ calendar’, or the солшумории мелодӣ/григорий solshumorii melodī/grigoriy in Tajiki. So this should be quite straight-forward, right? Yes, I promise you that it is straightforward. The only complication is that the three main Persian-speaking countries borrowed their Gregorian month names from different languages. So, in Iran they borrowed the Gregorian months from French, in Afghanistan from English, and in Tajikistan from Russian. Luckily, there are not considerable differences to be found here because French, English and Russian ultimately all borrowed the names of their months from Latin. It is important to note at this point that Tajikistan only uses the Russian months, and the Tajik people are largely unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Persian Solar Hijri calendar.
|Iran (French-origin months)||Afghanistan (English-origin months)||Tajikistan (Russian-origin months)||English|
|ژانویه Zhānviye||جنیوئری Janyueri||Январ Yanvar||January|
|فوریه Fevriye||فبریوئری Febryueri||Феврал Fevral||February|
|مارس Mārs||مارچ Mārch||Март Mart||March|
|آوریل Āvril||ایپریل، آپریل Eypril, Āpril||Апрел Aprel||April|
|مه Me||می Mey||Май May||May|
|ژوئن Zhu’in||جون Jun||Июн Iyun||June|
|ژوئیه Zhu’iye||جولای Julāy||Июл Iyul||July|
|اوت Ut||آگست، آگوست Āgest, Āgust||Август Avgust||August|
|سپتامبر Septāmbr||سپتمبر September||Сентябр Sentyabr||September|
|اکتبر Oktobr||اکتبر، آکتبر Oktober, Āktober||Октябр Oktyabr||October|
|نوامبر Novāmbr||نومبر November||Ноябр Noyabr||November|
|دسامبر Desāmbr||دسمبر Desember||Декабр Dekabr||December|
Aaaand… that’s it! We’re done! We’ve covered six calendars: Iranian Solar Hijri, Afghan Solar Hijri, Lunar Hijri, French-inspired Gregorian, English-inspired Gregorian and Russian-inspired Gregorian. Your challenge is to learn your birthdate in all its different manifestations!
Finally, I will leave you with these three invaluable date-converting tools: www.taghvim.com, www.time.ir and www.time.af.