Complicated Calendar Conversions

Complicated Calendar Conversions

Complicated Calendar Conversions

 
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.
 

The Persian ‘Solar Hijri’ Calendar

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

Persian zodiac calligraphic image
Najmoddoleh Esfahani’s horoscope, 1272 SH.
Photo from http://www.khabaronline.ir/news-50371.aspx, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 
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.
 

The Islamic ‘Lunar Hijri’ Calendar

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’
شعبان Shaʿbān Sha’bān ‘Scattered’
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.
 

The Gregorian 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.
– Sam

Early lunar observations from the Kitab al-Tafhim by al-Biruni. Al-Biruni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Early lunar observations from the Kitab al-Tafhim by al-Biruni.
Al-Biruni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Click here to study the ‘Solar Hijri months (Iran)’ Quizlet set

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