Meet Edmonton resident Pal Singh Purewal, the Architect of Sikh Calendar

Sikhs around world celebrate new year using Edmonton man, Pal Singh Purewal’s calendar.

Up until 2003, when the Nanakshahi calendar was adopted as the official calendar of Sikhs, followers of the religion shared the ancient Bikrami calendar with Hindus.The Bikrami calendar contains a complicated set of rules to help accommodate annual festivals and days of observance, and is an unwieldy merger of lunar and solar cycles, according to some.

That led to many inconsistencies in dates for annual events. And that was problematic for Pal Singh Purewal.

 The 86-year-old, Purewal said with a laugh Tuesday, “It wasn’t simple. It was chaos. That’s why I came to the rescue of my people.”

When he first began toying with creating a calendar specifically for Sikhs, he did so with three core principles in mind.

First and foremost, it should respect sacred holy scriptures.Second, it should discard the lunar calendar and use only a solar one.Third, all the dates should be fixed and not vary from year to year.

In the 1950s, Purewal studied astronomy texts and almanacs over 1,000 years old to understand how the Hindu calendar came to be.

Part of the reason he embarked on the research was that he was captivated with the science and math behind the original observations.

But he also wanted to understand why there were so many differences between dates from author to author, and why some of the original dates were so different.So he produced his own jantri, or a calendar of important dates and milestones.

He created a book that spanned 500 years, stretching back to the first year of the founding of the Sikh faith in 1469.

The retired computer engineer then consolidated data from 34 sources from earlier authors and used that information to identify historical dates that could be checked for accuracy.

A year after publishing his book in 1994, Purewal, who has lived in Edmonton since 1974, began perfecting the Nanakshahi calendar, which is named after the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. It features five months of 31 days and seven months of 30 days.

An 11-member committee representing the highest authorities of the Sikhs adopted the calendar in 2003.

But like all change, the shift to a new calendar was met with opposition and by 2010, forces from within the community insisted upon changes, turning it into a hybrid version that melded the lunar and solar calendar dates, he said.

But by 2014, the changes were scrapped and the calendar has again been adopted in its original form, Purewal said.

Opposition against its use continues even today, with not all Sikhs happy with the calendar or willing to follow it.

As for whether or not there will be wholesale acceptance of the calendar, Purewal is holding out hope.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “This is based on truth, it is based on science and it’s based on our holy scriptures.”