i. Pre-Islamic calendars. ii. In the Islamic period. iii. Afghan calendars. iv. Other modern calendars. Although evidence of calendrical traditions in Iran can be traced back to the 2nd millennium B.C., before the lifetime of Zoroaster, the earliest calendar that is fully preserved dates from the Achaemenid period. The Old Persian calendar was lunisolar, like that of the Babylonians, with twelve months of thirty days each.



i. Pre-Islamic calendars.

ii. In the Islamic period.

iii. Afghan calendars.

iv. Other modern calendars.

i. Pre-Islamic Calendars

Although evidence of calendrical traditions in Iran can be traced back to the 2nd millennium B.C., before the lifetime of Zoroaster (see discussion of the Zoroas­trian calendar below), the earliest calendar that is fully preserved dates from the Achaemenid period.

The Old Iranian calendar. The Old Persian calendar was lunisolar, like that of the Babylonians, with twelve months of thirty days each; the days were numbered but not named (with the exception of the last day of the month, Jiyamna “the decreasing one(?)” in the ex­pression Jiyamnam patiy, DB 2.62; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 122, 124). Only eight month names are mentioned in the Old Persian inscriptions (cf. Kent, Old Persian, pp. 128, 131; see also individual months): Ādukanaiša (Kent, Old Persian, p. 167; Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, p. 101, with refs.; Cornillot; lit. meaning and ety­mology uncertain), Θūravāhara, possibly “(month) of strong spring” (Kent, Old Persian, p. 188; cf. Branden­stein and Mayrhofer, p. 147), Θāigraciš “garlic-­collecting month” (Kent, p. 187, with ref. to Justi), Garmapada “heat-station (month)” (Kent, Old Per­sian, p. 183), Bāgayādiš, probably “(month) of the worship of baga (i.e., Miθra)” (Kent, Old Persian, p. 199, and bāgayādiš), Āçiyādiya “(month) of the worship of the fire” (Kent, Old Persian, p. 166), Anāmaka “month of the nameless god(?)” (Kent, Old Persian, p. 167), and Viyax(a)na “digging-up (month)” (Kent, Old Persian, p. 208). The Old Persian names of the remaining four are known in Elamite transcription, but only two—the eight and the eleventh—have re­ceived probable etymologies (for the remaining two see Hinz, pp. 68-69): *Vrkazana “(month) of wolf killing,” Elamite Mar-ka-ca-na° (DB 3.88; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 126, 128; Weissbach, 1911, pp. 56-57; cf. Branden­stein and Mayrhofer, p. 152; Hinz, p. 68), and *Θwayauvā “the terrible one,” Elamite Samiyamaš/Samiyamantaš (Hinz, p. 69, comparing Av. θβa­iiahuuant- “terrible”; cf. the Ossetic name of January/February: “month of threat”). The absence of the three other names and uncertainty about the order of the months led H. C. Rawlinson, J. Oppert, G. F. Unger, F. Justi, J. Prášek, and J. Markwart to propose different sequences (cf. Ginzel, I, p. 296 table), which were shown to be incorrect after A. Poebel (1938, pp. 130-65, 285-314; 1939, pp. 121-45) was able to specify the three missing names from newly discovered Akkadian and Elamite sources. A list of Old Persian month names (only partial in Old Persian script but complete in Elamite script) is thus available for com­parison with the lists in Elamite and Babylonian (see Table 20).

As E. J. Bickerman has shown, the Achaemenids used the lunisolar calendar at least until 459 B.C. Between 471 and 401 the Babylonian calendar was still used in Aramaic documents issued by the Persian administration (almost all found at the colony of Elephantine in Egypt). The testimony of Quintus Curtius Rufus (3.3.10) Magos trecenti et sexaginta quinque iuvenes sequebantur puniceis amiculis velati, diebus totius anni pares numero; quippe Persis quoque in totidem dies descriptus est annus (The magi were followed by three hundred and sixty-five young men clad in purple robes, equal in number to the days of a whole year; for the Persians also divided the year into that number of days), referring to the year 333 B.C., seems to indicate the existence of a somewhat later solar calendar, though opinions differ on this point (Bickerman, 1967, p. 205 n. 41).

Another problem is posed by the system of interca­lation used in the Achaemenid calendar, for which no direct and explicit testimony survives. Hallock (1969, p. 74) maintains that the Old Persian calendar followed the same system of intercalation as the Babylonian calendar. Hartner’s interpretation differs: “The Old Persian and the Babylonian calendars will then have had different systems of intercalation. The latter we have seen operated with irregular, empirical Ulūlu and Addāru intercalations down to 527, then passed over to the octaëteris and finally, when in the 19th year of Darius the beginning of the year coincided with spring equinox, to the 19-year cycle” (1985, p. 747).


T. Benfey and M. A. Stem, Ueber die Monatsnamen einiger alter Völkeṛ …, Berlin, 1836.

E. J. Bickerman, “The "Zoroastrian" Calendar,” Archív orientální 35, 1967, pp. 197-207.

R. Borger, Die Chronologie des Darius-Denkmals am Behistun-Felsen, Göttingen, 1982.

Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 23-25.

W. Brandenstein and M. Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen, Wies­baden, 1964.

G. G. Cameron, Persepolis Treasury Tablets, Chicago, 1948.

F. Cornillot, “Le secret d’Adukanaiš,” IIJ 24, 1982, pp. 205-13.

W. Eilers, Der alte Name des persischen Neujahrfestes, Abh. der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz, Geistes- und sozialwissenschaftliche Klasse, Wiesbaden, 1953, no. 2.

R. Fruin, “Der Anfang des susischen Jahres I: Zur Zeit der elamitischen Könige; II: Zur Zeit der persischen Könige,” Acta Orientalia 13, 1935, pp. 319-23.

I. Gershevitch, “No Old Persian spāθmaida,” in Studies in Diachronic, Synchronic, and Typological Linguistics. Festschrift for Oswald Szemerényi …, ed. B. Brogyanyi, I, Amsterdam, 1979, pp. 290-95.

F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathe­matischen und technischen Chronologie I, Leipzig, 1906, pp. 275-98.

L. H. Gray, “Calendar (Persian),” in J. Hastings, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics III, Edinburgh, 1910, pp. 128-31.

Idem, “The Iranian Calendar,” in Zoroastrian Studies, 2nd ed., New York, 1965, pp. 124-31.

R. T. Hallock, Perse­polis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969, pp. 74-75.

W. Hartner, “Old Iranian Calendars,” in Camb. Hist. Iran II, 1985, pp. 714-92.

W. Hinz, Neue Wege im Altpersischen, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 64-70 (names of months).

S. H. Horn and L. H. Wood, “The Fifth-­Century Jewish Calendar at Elephantine,” JNES 13, 1954, pp. 1-20.

T. Hyde, Veterum Persarum et Par­thorum et Medorum Religionis Historia, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1760.

F. Justi, “Die altpersischen Monate,” ZDMG 51, 1897, pp. 233-51.

A. Kohut, “The Tal­mudic Records of Persian and Babylonian Festivals Critically Illustrated,” AJSLL 14, 1897-98, pp. 183­-94.

H. Lewy, “Le calendrier perse,” Orientalia, 1941, pp. 1-64.

Th. Nöldeke, “Zur persischen Chrono­logie,” ZDMG 50, 1896, p. 141.

J. Oppert, “Le calendrier perse,” in Actes du onzième Congrès International des Orientalistes I, Paris, 1897, pp. 327-48.

Idem, “Der Kalender der alten Perser,” ZDMG 52, 1898, pp. 259-70.

J. A. Paine, “The Eclipse of the 7th Year of Cambyses,” JAOS 14, 1890, pp. xl-xliii.

A. Poebel, “The Names and the Order of the Old Persian and Elamite Months during the Achaemenid Period,” AJSLL 55, 1938, pp. 130-41.

Idem, “Chronology of Darius’ First Year of Reign,” AJSLL 55, 1938, pp. 142-65, 285-314.

Idem, “The Duration of the Reign of Smerdis the Magian and the Reigns of Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV,” AJSLL 56, 1939, pp. 121-45.

Idem, “Critical Note. The King of the Persepolis Tablets the Nineteenth Year of Artaxerxes,” AJSLL 61, 1939, pp. 301-04.

J. Prášek, “Die ersten Jahre Dareios’ des Hystaspiden and der altpersische Kalender,” Beiträge zur alten Geschichte I/1, Leipzig, 1901, pp. 26-50.

M. Sprengling, “Chronological Notes from the Aramaic Papyri. The Jewish Calendar. Dates of the Achaemenians (Cyrus-Darius IV),” AJSLL 27, 1910-­1911, pp. 233-66.

S. H. Taqizadeh, “Sur le calendrier iranien,” in Atti del XIX Congresso Internazionale degli Orientalisti, Rome, 1935, pp. 268-75.

Idem, Gāhšomārī dar Īrān-e qadīm, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937.

Idem, Old Iranian Calendars, London, 1938.

Idem, “The Old Iranian Calendars Again,” in Studies Presented to Vladimir Minorsky, BSOS 14, 1952, pp. 603-11.

F. H. Tolman, “Ancient Persian Month Garmapada,” American Journal of Philology 32, 1911, pp. 444-45.

F. H. Weissbach, “Über einige neuere Arbeiten zur babylonischen Chronologie,” ZDMG 55, 1901, pp. 195-220.

Idem, “Zur neubabylonischen und achämenidischen Chronologie,” ZDMG 62, 1908, pp. 629-47.

Idem, Keilinschriften der Achämeniden, Leipzig, 1911, p. lxxi.

The Seleucid and Parthian calendar systems. Alex­ander probably used the Macedonian calendar, but the Achaemenid system seems not to have been abolished. In the time of Seleucus I (321-281 B.C.) the Babylonian calendar was adopted, but the original names of the months were replaced by the Macedonian names, in which Nīsannu corresponded to Artemisios and so on (cf. Bickerman, 1980, p. 20). The Arsacid kings fol­lowed the same practice, but it appears from material discovered at Nisa (2nd-1st century B.C.) and Avroman (1st cent. a.d.) that the Zoroastrian solar calendar (see below) was also used. The names of the months are shown in Table 21. The names of the days are only partly attested (see Boyce, pp. 814-15). For dates in documents using the Seleucid calendar, see dating.



E. J. Bickerman, “Notes on Seleucid and Parthian Chronology,” Berytus 7/2, 1944, pp. 73-83.

Idem, “The "Zoroastrian" Calendar,” Archív orientální 35, 1967, pp. 197-207. Idem, Chronology of the Ancient World, 2nd ed., London, 1980.

M. Boyce, “Iranian Festivals,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 792-815. I. M. D’yakonov and V. Livshits, Dokumenty iz Nisy, Moscow, 1960.

J. Harmatta, “Late Bactrian Inscriptions,” Acta Anti­qua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 17, 1969, pp. 297-432.

J. Oppert, “L’éclipse lunaire de l’an 232 de l’ère des Arsacides (23 mars 24 a. J.-C.),” ZA 4, 1889, pp. 174-85.

R. Schmitt, “Zu den alten armeni­schen Monatsnamen,” Annual of Armenian Linguistics 6, pp. 91-100.

The Zoroastrian calendar. Reconstruction of a calendrical tradition from before the time of Zoroaster is based on hypothetical derivations from Avestan texts and on comparison with the Vedic tradition (see Taqizadeh, 1938, pp. 10-11; Hartner, pp. 749-55). The precise differences between a supposed Old Avestan and a Later Avestan calendar seem ambiguous, however, given that both have been reconstructed on the basis of the same Avestan and Pahlavi sources. In Belardi’s view (pp. 113-49) the earliest calendar may originally have been lunar and sidereal, consisting of thirteen months of twenty-seven days (27.3 x 13 = 354.9 days), with Miθra at the midpoint of each. Traces of a synodical cycle have also been transmitted in the Avesta, however (cf. Māh yašt 2: “fifteen days the moon waxes, fifteen days the moon wanes”). Traces of an ancient lunar calendar also persisted in the Pahlavi texts (cf. Belardi, passim), especially the Dēnkard (bk. 3, ed. Madan, I, pp. 274-76; ed. Dresden, pp. 624-23; tr. Menasce, pp. 262-64), where there is a description of a lunar year used by Zoroastrians (cf. Harmer, 1985, pp. 778-79).

The Zoroastrian calendar consisted of twelve months of thirty days each (cf. Y. 16.3-6; see Sī-rōzag xwurdag and Sī-rōzag wuzurg, Dhabhar, pp. 175-81, 223-59; Table 22, Table 23), Avestan sources give the names of all thirty days but of only seven of the twelve months (cf. Belardi, p. 77). That the names of the days are of Old Iranian origin and not merely Middle Iranian inno­vations may be inferred from the fact that they are recorded in their correct Old Iranian genitive singular forms, governed by an understood “day of.” The internal structure of the months has been considered by different scholars to have been quadripartite (Nyberg, 1931, pp. 128-34) or bipartite (Lewy, p. 64 n. 2). Belardi (pp. 59-139) attempted to establish the central position of Miθra (the fourteenth of twenty-seven days was named Mihr).

This lunar calendar, with the addition of the epact in each year, became the Sasanian “civil” calendar. In a second calendar, the cumulative lag of an additional quarter-day per year was corrected, theoretically at least, by the intercalation of one month in every 120 years. According to Bīrūnī (Āṯār, p. 11; tr. Sachau, pp. 12-13; but see Dēnkard, bk. 3, ed. Madan, I, pp. 402­-05; ed. Dresden, pp. 519-16; tr. Menasce, pp. 374-79), another system of intercalation was also used: insertion of one month in every 116 years in order to recover the quarter-days plus an additional one-fifth of an hour per year.

The date on which the intercalary calendar was introduced is a matter of debate. W. E. West put it in 505 B.C. (pp. xxvii-xlvii), Markwart lowered it to 493­-90 (Marquart, p. 210 n. 1), and Taqizadeh proposed 441 (1938, pp. 36-37). All these hypotheses are based on the same assumptions about the way in which interca­lations were performed in the 120-year system. The first intercalary month was supposed to have been inserted after the twelfth month of the 120th year and to have been given the same name as the first month of the year. The five Gathic days were then inserted after the extra month in order to avoid confusion. In this way the first month of the intercalated calendar corresponded to the second month of the civil calendar; after another 120 years the first month corresponded to the third month in the civil calendar and so on until the eighth addition, after which intercalation was no longer practiced. Multiplying the 120 years of the cycle by the number of intercalations made should thus yield the full number of years in which the calendar was in use, and simple subtraction should produce the date on which the calendar was introduced.

The sources are contradictory, however. The astron­omer Abu’l-Ḥasan Kūšyār (fl. ca. 990/1000; Ger. tr., p. 291) reported that in the time of Ḵosrow II (531-79) the sun entered Aries in Āḏar and the five epagomenal days were added at the end of Ābān (the eighth month and thus the eighth intercalation); then following the fall of the Sasanian empire intercalation was no longer practiced until it was reintroduced in 375 Yazdegerdī (a.d. 1006). Bīrūnī (Āṯār, p. 45; tr. Sachau, pp. 55-56), on the other hand, declared that in the time of Yazdegerd b. Šāpūr (399-420) two extra months were inserted, one to correct the cumulative lag, the other to forestall future errors. On that occasion, too, the epagomenal days were added at the end of Ābān.

Taqizadeh (1938, pp. 36-37), relying on Bīrūnī, took the first year of the reign of Yazdegerd I as his point of reference and, multiplying 120 by 7 (the 8th interca­lation being for the future), arrived at 441 B.C. for the date on which this system of intercalations was intro­duced. This and other solutions have been contradicted, however, by the documents assembled by Bickerman (1967, pp. 197-207); the earliest (aside from the Avesta) in which the use of the Zoroastrian calendar is attested is an ostracon referring to the month Hrwt (Av. Haurvatātō) of the year 90 B.C. (see also Boyce, 1970).

More recently (1985, pp. 759-72) Hartner, noted that the shorter, 116-year cycle of intercalations would accord well (at the beginning dates) with the sidereal year (365.25636 days; multiplying Bīrūnī’s figures yields 365.2586 days), and, from comparisons with later dates and with the Egyptian (Sōthic) calendar, arrived at the date 503 for the introduction of the Zoroastrian calendar. Nevertheless, the problem remains open (cf. Bickerman, 1983).

The late Avestan (probably Sasanian) text Āfrīnagān gāhānbār 3.2, 7-12, and Pahlavi texts mention six seasonal holidays (gāhānbār; see Table 24), the origins of which are problematic (Taqizadeh, 1939, pp. 6-12). Hartner (1985, pp. 749-56) maintains that they were fixed on the basis of observations at Persepolis of the acronical risings and cosmical settings (observable at sunset and sunrise respectively) of different stars in the late 6th century B.C. The intervals between the gāhānbār were sixty days from the first to the second, seventy-five from the second to the third, thirty from the third to the fourth, eighty from the fourth to the fifth, seventy-five from the fifth to the sixth, and forty-five from the sixth to the first (Āfrīnagān 3.7-13; cf. Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 215-­33; tr. Sachau, pp. 199-219).

The five days of the epact took their names from the five Gathas, which have been transmitted with several variants in the Zoroastrian literature (cf. Belardi, pp. 77-81). Bīrūnī (Āṯār, pp. 43-44; tr. Sachau, pp. 53­-54) mentions six different sets of names for the epago­menal days. In the district of Natanz, among others, the epagomenal days are still inserted after the eleventh month, Bahman.

In addition to information on the standard Zoroas­trian calendar and its variants, Bīrūnī (Āṯār, p. 11; tr. Sachau, p. 13) reported that the so-called “Pīšdādian” kings of the Persians had calculated the length of the year as 360 days, with twelve months of thirty days each. Every six years an intercalary month was inserted and every 120 years two months, in the first instance to recover five days for each year (the uncomputed epago­menal days), in the second to recover the remaining quarter-days. It is doubtful, however, that such a calendar ever existed (Hartner, 1985, p. 750 n. 2; Belardi, p. 82).


J. S. Bailly, Histoire de l’astronomie ancienne …, 2nd ed., Paris, 1781.

W. Belardi, Studi Mithraici e Mazdei, Rome, 1977.

E. J. Bickerman, “The "Zoroastrian" Calendar,” Archív orientální 35, 1967, pp. 197-207.

Idem, “Time-Reckoning,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 778-91.

M. Boyce, “On the Calendar of the Zoroastrian Feasts,” BSOAS 33, 1970, pp. 513-39.

W. B. Hen­ning, “An Astronomical Chapter of the Bundahishn,” JRAS, 1942, pp. 229-48.

K. R. Cama, “The Zoroas­trian Calendar,” in Spiegel Memorial Volume, ed. J. J. Modi, Bombay, 1908, pp. 230-36.

Idem, “The Inter­val of Time between one Gahambar and Another,” in Actes du 6e Congrès International des Orientalistes III, Leiden, 1885, pp. 583-92.

E. Cavaignac, “Note on the Origin of the Zoroastrian Calendar (tr. H. D. Banaji),” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 22, 1932, pp. 1-6.

Idem, “Note sur l’origine du calendrier zoroastrien,” JA 202, 1923, pp. 106-10.

J. Darmesteter, Le Zend-Avesta, Paris, 1892; repr. 1960, I, pp. 33-41.

B. N. Dhabhar, ed., Zand i Kūrtak Avistāk, Bombay, 1927; Eng. tr. Bombay, 1963.

J. Duchesne-Guillemin, “Yasna 45 and the Iranian Calendar,” BSOAS 13, 1950, pp. 635-48.

N. Fréret, “De l’ancienne année des Parses,” in Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 16, Paris, 1751, pp. 233-85; repr. in Fréret, Œuvres complettes, 4 vols., London, 1775.

W. Geiger, Ost­iranische Kultur im Altertum, Erlangen, 1882, pp. 314-27.

I. Gershevitch, “No Old Persian spāθ­maida,” in Studies in Diachronic, Synchronic, and Typological Linguistics. Festschrift for Oswald Szemerény …,ed. B. Brogyanyi, I, Amsterdam, 1979, pp. 290-95.

J. B. Gibert, “Nouvelles observations sur l’année des anciens Perses,” Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 31, 1768, p. 68.

F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie I, Leipzig, 1906, pp. 275-309.

L. H. Gray, “Der iranische Kalender,” in Grundriss II, pp. 675-78.

Idem, “Medieval Greek References to the Avestan Calendar,” in Avesta, Pahlavi and Ancient Persian Studies in Honour of … P. B. Sanjana, Strass­burg, 1904, pp. 167-75.

A. von Gutschmid, “Über das iranische Jahr,” in Kleine Schriften III: Schriften zur Geschichte und Literatur der nichtsemitischen Völker von Asien, Leipzig, 1892, pp. 209-15.

C. de Harlez, “Le calendrier persan et les pays originaires du zoroastrisme,” Bulletin de l’Athéné Orientale 1881/2, pp. 79-97, 159-83.

Idem, Le calendrier aves­tique et les pays originaire de l’Avesta, Louvain, 1882. W. Hartner, “Old Iranian Calendars,” in Camb. Hist. Iran II, pp. 714-92.

Idem, “The Young Avestan and Babylonian Calendars and the Antecedents of Precession,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 10, 1979, pp. 1-22.

M. N. Kuka, “The Antiquity of the Iranian Calendar and the Era of Zoroaster,” Journal of the South Indian Association, 1913, pp. 1-25.

Abu’l-Ḥasan Kūšyār b. Labbān Jīlī, in L. Ideler, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie II, Berlin, 1825-26, pp. 547, 624; Ger. tr. in F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie I, Leipzig, 1906, p. 291; Eng. tr. W. Hartner, “Old Iranian Calendars,” in Camb. Hist. Iran II, p. 758.

H. Lewy, “Le calendrier perse,” Orientalia, N.S. 10, 1941, pp. 1-64.

J. Markwart, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran II, Leipzig, 1905.

D. N. MacKenzie, “Zoroastrian Astrology in the Bundahišn,” BSOAS 27, 1964, pp. 351-529.

N. P. Metha, “A Study of the Zoroastrian Calendar,” Journal of the Cama Oriental Institute 34, 1940, pp. 1­-36.

J. D. Nadershah, “The Zoroastrian Months and Years with their Division in the Avestaic Age,” in The K. R. Cama Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1900, pp. 244-73.

H. S. Nyberg, “Questions de cosmogonie et de cosmologie mazdéennes,” JA 219, 1931, pp. 1-134.

Idem, “Texte zum mazdayasnischen Kalender,” Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift, Uppsala, 1934.

R. Roth, “Der Kalender des Avesta und die sogenann­ten Gahanbār,” ZDMG 34, 1880, pp. 698-720.

J. J. Scaliger, Thesaurus Temporum, Amsterdam, 1658.

Idem, De Emendatione Temporum, Geneva, 1962.

A. S. Shahbazi, “The "Traditional Date of Zoroaster" Explained,” BSOAS 40, 1977, pp. 25-35.

W. E. West, Pahlavi Texts V: Marvels of Zoroastrianism, SBE 47, Oxford, 1880; repr. Delhi, 1965, 1977.

Calendars derived from the Zoroastrian calendar.

1. The Cappadocian calendar. That the Cappadocian solar calendar, with twelve months of 360 days plus five epagomenal days, was an imitation of the Zoroastrian calendar is especially clear from the names and order of the months. The names have been transmitted only in Greek characters, however (Nyberg, p. 479; see Table 25). According to Markwart’s calculations (Marquart, p. 210), the Cappadocian calendar must have begun in 490 B.C.; Duchesne-Guillemin (1948, pp. 108-13) put the date between 490 and 480. Bicker­man objected (p. 198) that its system was only a local form of the Julian calendar, but the names of the months (which are in the genitive) are preserved in linguistic forms of an earlier period (Duchesne­-Guillemin, loc. cit.; Belardi, p. 76).

This calendar is attested in the texts of the Greek astronomers (Lagarde, 1899, pp. 259-60) with a few variants in the spelling of the month names (see, e.g., Hemerologium Florentinum in Ginzel). It is not certain when it was introduced in Cappadocia, but it was in use before the Roman conquest, from the time of King Archelaos (34 B.C.-A.D. 17) until that of King Epiphanios (A.D. 400; Ginzel).



W. Belardi, Studi Mithraici e Maz­dei, Rome, 1977.

F. J. Bickerman, “The "Zoroastrian" Calendar,” Archív orientální 35, 1967, pp. 197-207.

J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Zoroastre, Paris, 1948, pp. 108­-13.

Idem, La religion de l’Iran ancien, Paris, 1962.

K. F. Ginzel, “Kappadokischer Kalender,” in Pauly-Wissowa, X/2, col. 1917.

K. Hannel, “Das Meno­logium des Liber glossarum,” Bulletin de la Société des Lettres de Lund, 1931-32, pp. 7-38.

P. de Lagarde, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, Leipzig, 1866.

J. Mar­quart, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran II, Leipzig, 1905.

J. H. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism. Lectures …, London, 1913; repr. London, 1926, pp. 33, 103-07, 430-37.

H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, tr. H. H. Schaeder, Leipzig, 1938, p. 479.

2. The Armenian calendar. The Armenian calendar also has twelve months of thirty days each plus five epagomenal days (aweleacʿ). The names and order of the months are given in Table 26. At least four of the twelve month names are clearly of Iranian origin: Nawasard-i “month of the new year” from *naṷa­sarda-; Trē, obviously derived from Middle Persian tīr; Mehekan-i “month of Mithra” from *Miθrakāna-, probably via Parthian *Mihrakān (cf. Gr. Midrákana, MPers. Mihragān); Ahekan-i “month of the fire” from *Aθrakāna. All twelve month names are in the genitive form, originally governed by amis “months of …” (cf. Schmitt, pp. 91-100). In a.d. 1084 this calendar ceased to be used when John the Deacon adopted the Julian calendar.


H. S. Badalyan, Ōracʿuycʿi patmuṭʿyun (=G. S. Badalyan, Istoriya kalendarya), Erevan, 1970.

V. Bânâteanu, “Le calendrier arménien et les anciens noms des mois,” Studia et Acta Orientalia 10, 1980, pp. 33-46.

E. Dulaurier, Recherches sur la chronologie arménienne. Technique et historique I: Chronologie technique, Paris, 1859.

N. Fréret, “De l’année arménienne, ou suite des obser­vations sur l’année vague des Perses,” Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 19, 1953, pp. 95-114.

F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathemati­schen und technischen Chronologie III, Leipzig, 1914, pp. 314-21.

L. H. Gray, “On Certain Persian and Armenian Month-Names as Influenced by the Avesta Calendar,” JAOS 28, 1907, pp. 331-34.

V. Grumel, La chronologie, Paris, 1958.

F. Macler, “Calendar (Armenian),” in J. Hastings, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics III, Edinburgh, 1910, pp. 70-73.

J. Marquart, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran II, Leipzig, 1905.

A. K. Sanjian, Colophons of Armenian Manuscripts, 1301-1480. A Source for Middle Eastern History, Cambridge, Mass., 1969.

R. Schmitt, “Zu den alten armenischen Monatsnamen,” Annual of Armenian Linguistics 6, 1985, pp. 91-100.

B. E. Tumanian, “Measurement of Time in Ancient and Medieval Armenia,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 5, 1974, pp. 91-98.

3. The Sogdian calendar. The Sogdian calendar, which was described by Bīrūnī (Āṯār, pp. 45-47; tr. Sachau, pp. 56-57), is better known today, owing to the discovery and decipherment of original Sogdian sources (cf. Henning, 1939, pp. 87-95). It consisted of twelve months of thirty days each. The names of the days correspond closely to those of the Zoroastrian calendar (Table 27), while those of the months did not. According to Bīrūnī, the five epagomenal days were added at the end of the year, rather than at the end of Ābān, which resulted in some disjunctions between the two calendars. The order of the months is given in Table 28 according to the documents from Mount Mug, the Manichean texts, and Bīrūnī. According to the Sogdian text M 18400, the year was divided into three seasons of four months each (Kudara and Sundermann, p. 340).

In Manichean texts we also find a system of seven weekdays (Table 29), called by their Middle Persian names: šmbyd, ʿyw-šmbyd (or i-šmbyd), … pṇč-šmbyd, ʾʾ’yng (Henning, 1945, e.g. pp. 149ff., where both systems are used; also attested in a Chinese text, Pelliot, 1913, pp. 162-65, 176) or by the names of the seven “planets” (Müller, p. 458). It is possible that this planetary week was diffused by the Nestorian and Manichean communities in Central Asia and from them found their way to China, where they are attested in Chinese astrological texts, in which they are attributed to Mani (Pelliot, 1913, pp. 161-77). See also Henning, loc. cit.; Belardi, pp. 65, 80-81; and Boyce, pp. 814-15.


M. Boyce, “Iranian Festivals,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 792-815.

É. Chavannes and P. Pelliot, eds., “Un traité manichéen retrouvé en Chine,” JA, 10th ser., 18, 1911, pp. 191-201; 11th ser., 1, 1913, pp. 99-199, 261-394, esp. pp. 167-77.

M. J. Dresden apud M. Boyce, “Iranian Festivals,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 814-15.

A. A. Freĭman, Datirovannye sogdiĭskie dokumenty s gory Mug v Tadzikistane, Leningrad, 1936; repr. in his Sogdiĭskie dokumenty s gory Mug I: Opisanie, publikatsii i issledovanie dokumentov s gory Mug, Moscow, 1962, pp. 27-45.

Idem, “Sogdiĭskiĭ rukopisnyĭ dokument astrologicheskogo soderzhaniya (kalendar’),” VDI, 1938, 2/3, pp. 34-49; repr. in Sogdiĭskie dokumenty …, pp. 46-60.

W. B. Henning, “Zum soghdischen Kalender,” Orientalia, 1939, pp. 87-95 (Selected Papers I, Acta Iranica 5, Tehran and Liège, 1977, pp. 629-37).

Idem, “The Manichaean Fasts,” JRAS, 1945, pp. 146-64 (Selected Papers II, Acta Iranica 6, pp. 205-23).

K. Kudara and W. Sundermann, “Zwei Fragmente einer Sammelhandschrift buddhistischer Sūtras in soghdischer Sprache,” AoF 14, 1987, pp. 334-49.

F. W. K. Müller, “Die "persi­schen" Kalenderausdrücke im chinesischen Tripitaka,” SPAW, 1907, pp. 458-65.

R. Schmitt, “Zu den alten armenischen Monatsnamen,” Annual of Armenian Linguistics 6, 1985, pp. 91-100.

K. Usman, “Un calendario sogdiano della scuola di Ulug Beg,” in VII Centenario della nascita di Marco Polo, Venice, 1955, pp. 319-25.

4. The Choresmian calendar. This calendar consists of twelve months of thirty days each with the epago­menal days inserted after the last month. According to Bīrūnī (Āṯār, pp. 47-49; tr. pp. 57-58), the five days of the epact were not individually named. The names of the months are given in Table 30 in the forms found on the ossuary of Tok-kala (a.d. 8th century; for a com­parison of these names with those given by Bīrūnī, see Livshits, 1968, pp. 444-46; for the names of the days, see Livshits, loc. cit., and Boyce, pp. 814-15; for the Chores­mian gāhānbār, see Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 236-38; tr., pp. 223-­26; Henning, 1953, passim; and for the reform of the Choresmian calendar, see Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 241-42; tr., pp. 229-30).


M. Boyce, “Iranian Festivals,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 792-815.

Henning, “Mit­teliranisch,” pp. 20-116 (see also pp. 56-58, 109-20).

Idem, A Fragment of a Khwarezmian Dictionary, ed. D. N. MacKenzie, London, 1971.

V. A. Livshits, “Khorezmiĭskiĭ kalendar’ i èry drevnego Khorezma,” in Istoriya, kul’tura, yazyki narodov Vostoka, Mos­cow, 1970, pp. 5-16; Eng. tr. “The Khwarezmian Calendar and the Eras of Ancient Chorasmia,” Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 16, 1968, pp. 433-46.

5. The calendar of Sīstān. Thanks to Bīrūnī (Āṯār, p. 42; tr., pp. 52-53), the structure of the calendar of Sīstān has been recorded; it consisted of twelve months of thirty days each plus five epagomenal days inserted according to the Persian custom (Taqizadeh, 1938, p. 2 n. 2). The names of the months are given in Table 31, though the spelling is uncertain. The names of the days are unknown.

Duodecennial calendars.

1. The Khotanese calendar. The names of the months are known from private and official letters, reports, and receipts, as well as from medical texts translated from Sanskrit or Tibetan (especially Ravigupta’s Siddhasāra “The perfect selection” and the Suvarṇabhāsasūtra “Sutra of golden light”). In the medical texts translated from Sanskrit two divisions of the year are recorded, one of four seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) of three months each, and one of six seasons of two months each (see Table 32). In a passage of the Siddhasāra that is not translated from the Sanskrit or Tibetan, the seasons in the sixfold division are counted from the middle rather than the beginning of the first month. Since only the four seasons have special names in Khotanese, this may be the indigenous division; the exact distribution of the months in this division, however, is not known. In the Book of Zambasta a somewhat different four-part division is found (names of months are in Khotanese, of seasons in Sanskrit); the winter season (hemanta) goes from the middle of the fourth month to the middle of the eighth (= four months), then summer (grīṣma) to the middle of the twelfth (= four months), then the rainy season (varṣa) to the middle of the first (= one month), and finally the long rainy season (dīrgha-varṣa) to the middle of the fourth month (= three months). The various divisions no doubt reflect the differences between the actual seasons of India and Khotan. (For editions of the private and official documents see especially Bailey, 1961; 1968. For the Sanskrit and Tibetan text of Siddhasāra 1.4, see Emmerick, 1981, p. 17, 1982, pp. 14-15; for the Khotanese text see Bailey, 1969, p. 6. For the chapter on healing from the Suvarṇabhāsasūtra, see Skjærvø, pp. 454-57, with references. For the Book of Zambasta, see Emmerick, 1968, pp. 260-61. See also Bailey, 1937.) The origin of the month names is still conjectural (Bailey, 1982, p. 30).

The years are named according to the central Asian animal cycle, in which one animal presides over one year in the twelve-year cycle, which is then repeated (Table 33), and are also numbered according to the regnal year of the ruling king. In the view of L. Bazin (p. 355), the Khotanese animal cycle must have been of Chinese origin, but sinologists are still debating this question (Needham, pp. 405-06). A complete list of the animal years in Khotanese is found in the text edited by Bailey (1937, pp. 924-30) in which it is explained how a man’s destiny is linked to the year of his birth. For the identification of years by regnal years, see, e.g., Bailey, 1937, pp. 933-36, and dating. The day was divided into twelve double hours, each governed by one of the twelve animals of the animal cycle (Bailey, 1937, p. 924).


H. W. Bailey, “Hvatanica (I),” BSO(A)S 4, 1937, pp. 923-36; repr. in Bailey, Opera Minora I, Shiraz, 1981, pp. 336-50.

Idem, Khotanese Texts IV, Cambridge, 1961, p. 11.

Idem, Khotanese Texts I-III, Cambridge, 1969.

Idem, Saka Docu­ments. Text Volume, Corp. Inscr. Iran. II/V, London, 1968.

Idem, The Culture of the Sakas in Ancient Iranian Khotan, New York, 1982, pp. 29-31, 41.

L. Bazin, “Histoire et philologie turque,” Annuaire de l’École pratique des hautes études, 4th sec., 1973, pp. 353-56.

R. E. Emmerick, The Book of Zambasta. A Khotanese Poem on Buddhism, London, 1968.

Idem, The Siddhasāra of Ravigupta, Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Suppl. 23, 1-2, Wiesbaden, I: The Sanskrit Text, 1980; II: The Tibetan Version with Facing English Translation, 1982.

S. Konow, “The Calendar,” Acta Orientalia 20, 1948, pp. 293-94.

Idem, “The Dates in Saka Texts from Khotan and Tun-huang,” Acta Orientalia 7, 1928, pp. 66-76.

H. Lüders, “Zur Geschichte des ostasiatischen Tierkreises,” SPAW, 1933, pp. 1-27.

J. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China III: Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth, Cambridge, 1959.

P. O. Skjærvø, “The Old Khotanese Fragment H 147 NS 115 and Remarks on Old Khotanese haṃdräväto, patīśu, vya and ya,” BSOAS 44/3, 1981, pp. 453-67.

2. The calendar of Tumšuq. The months of the calendar of Tumšuq were named by number or name. Only three names are known, all from private letters (genitive singular or adjectival forms): Ahverjane (cf. Man. So. Xwrjnyc), (perhaps) Buzaḏine, Tsviẓānañye. The years are named according to the animal cycle and by regnal year of the ruling king.


W. B. Henning, “Neue Materi­alien zur Geschichte des Manichäismus,” ZDMG 90, 1936, pp. 1-18 (esp. pp. 11-14).

S. Konow, “Ein neuer Saka-Dialekt,” SPAW, phil.-hist. Kl., 1935, 20, pp. 772-823.

Idem, “The Oldest Dialect of Khotanese Saka,” NTS 14, 1947, pp. 156­-90.

(Antonio Panaino)


ii. In the Islamic period

Soon after the inception of Islam Muslim leaders found it necessary to establish a basis for determining the proper dates for recurring religious observances. As the community grew, this simple calendar had to be altered and supplemented to meet the need for more sophisticated recording of events and transactions. Finally, after the conquest, it became clear that effective administration of a vast territorial empire would require a consistent calendar suitable especially for the collec­tion of taxes and tribute. Gradually evolving awareness of these increasingly complex demands was reflected in anomalies like the concurrent use of different calendars for different purposes. Several of the calendars introduced in the Islamic period were adaptations of ancient Iranian systems, and in Iran itself foreign influences continued to be assimilated to indigenous practices and requirements.

The lunar Hejrī calendar (Q. = Qamarī, A.H. = anno hegirae). For several years after the hejra (the Prophet’s flight from Mecca to Medina), which took place in the Arab month of Rabīʿ I, that event was taken as the starting point of the Islamic calendar, and dates were reckoned by counting the months from Rabīʿ I. Wāqedī (130-207/747-823), who was a major source for most later historians, reckoned dates in this way until the expedition against Dūmat al-Jandal in the forty-ninth month after the hejra (5/626; I, p. 402). After that, though he sometimes dated an event or expedition by this system, he more often specified the year, following the old Arabian system in which the years began with the month of Moḥarram. It thus seems clear that he did not calculate the dates himself but simply copied them as he found them in his sources. Ebn Saʿd (168-230/784-845), author of Ketāb al-ṭabaqāt at-kobrā, and the historians Yaʿqūbī (d. 284/897), Ṭabarī (d. 311/923), and Masʿūdī (d. ca. 345/956) also included both kinds of dates in the same apparently random way, no doubt reflecting their sources.

Early Islamic historians and later scholars have been virtually unanimous in reporting that the so-called lunar Hejrī calendar was introduced by the second caliph, ʿOmar b. Ḵaṭṭāb (r. 13-23/634-44), in A.H. 16, 17, or 18 (637-39). This statement has apparently never been seriously questioned, yet the sources contain other evidence that this calendar was already in use before his succession. Ṭabarī, who gives a lengthy account of the introduction of the lunar calendar by ʿOmar (I, pp. 1250-56, 2480), also quotes the full texts of letters from Ḵāled b. Walīd (d. 21/642) to the governors of certain towns (I, pp. 2044-45, 2051); they are dated in different months of the twelfth year after the hejra, before ʿOmar’s accession to the caliphate. Balāḏorī (pp. 80-81) quotes a message from the Prophet himself, dated in the ninth year of the hejra; another letter from the Prophet, of the same year, is quoted by Abū Noʿaym (I, pp. 52-53) and Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī (pp. 229-31; for other documents, see Abdollahy, 1987, pp. 15-­25).

The practice of counting months from Rabīʿ I but years beginning with Moḥarram soon led to difficulties, however, and it was to resolve the resulting confusion that ʿOmar decided to convene a council, reports of which are included in several sources (Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, pp. 266-67; Yaʿqūbī, II, p. 29; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 1250-56, 2480). These accounts suggest that two matters were discussed at the meeting of this council. The first was official definition of the lunar Hejrī era. The second was formulation of an appropriate calendar for collecting tribute and taxes (see below). In order to regularize public business, either 1 Rabīʿ I or 1 Moḥarram of the year in which Moḥammad made the hejra had to be chosen as the official beginning of the Muslim epoch. According to Ṭabarī (I, p. 1253), ʿOmar summoned the leading men and asked, “from which day should we write [dates]?” ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb answered, “from the day on which God’s Apostle emigrated [from Mecca],” that is, the first day of Rabīʿ I. ʿOmar, however, preferred 1 Moḥarram (15 July 622; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 1254-­55). As the Prophet’s departure from Mecca had taken place on the eve of a Monday (i.e., on a Sunday night), that Monday was established as the first day of the month of Rabīʿ I of the first year in the Hejrī calendar (12 September 622).

The lunar Hejrī calendar was based on the synodic month, reckoned from one sighting of the new moon to the next. The root meanings of the month names, many of which refer to climatic conditions (see Table 34), indicate that in pre-Islamic Arabia lunar months had customarily been brought into line with the seasons through recurrent insertion of an intercalary month and thus that a sort of lunisolar calendar was in use. There is, however, a great deal of evidence to suggest that no such intercalation took place in the territory under the Prophet’s rule during the first decade after the hejra (Nallino, pp. 108ff.; Beeston, pp. 15-25; Nilsson, pp. 251-55; see also Abdollahy, 1987, pp. 29-30). The lunar Hejrī calendar used by Muslims today for the timing of religious observances still follows the same pattern as in those first Hejrī years; it consists of lunar years and months with no intercalations.

For the purpose of establishing consistent intervals between the beginning of the epoch and given dates, however, astronomers adopted an “artificial” standard calendar. As a result, two separate lunar Hejrī calendars have arisen: an unofficial version used for determining religious observances and an official one computed mathematically, in which dates are more predictable. It often happens that the calculated first days of lunar months given in almanacs differ by one or two days from the dates of religious celebrations determined by sightings.

Astronomers base their computations for almanacs and perpetual lunar calendars on a mean value for the length of a synodic month: 29; 31, 50 days, expressed sexagesimally (i.e., 29 days plus 31 sixtieths of a day plus 50 sixtieths of a sixtieth of a day); the length of the year is 354; 22, or 354 11/30 days. The lengths of the months are normally set alternately at thirty and twenty-nine days; Ḏu’l-ḥejja, the last month, contains twenty-nine days in an ordinary year and thirty in a leap year. In the computed lunar Hejrī calendar leap years are dis­tributed over thirty-year cycles. Each cycle consists of 354 11/30 x 30, or 10,631 days, which are divided among nineteen ordinary years of 354 days each (a total of 6,726 days) and eleven leap years (a total of 3,905 days). Within each cycle the second, fifth, seventh, tenth, thirteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth, twenty-first, twenty-fourth, twenty-sixth, and twenty-ninth years are designated as leap years. This is the system of Ḵᵛārazmī and of Yaḥyā b. Abī Manṣūr (see Pingree, p. 110). Others intercalate on the third, sixth, eighth, eleventh, thirteenth, sixteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, twenty­-fourth, twenty-seventh, and thirtieth years, but gener­ally all astronomers follow Yaḥyā (see Ginzel, I, p. 255).

The ḵarāji calendar. Early Muslim leaders dispensed with the old Zoroastrian method of intercalation, based on a solar year of 365 1/4 days. In this cycle a normal year contained 365 days, and after 120 years an extra month of thirty (120 x 1/4) days was added. Under the newly adopted Hejrī calendar, however, the period during which ḵarāj, or land tax (paid in cash or kind), was to be collected fell earlier in each annual agricul­tural cycle; as a result there were long intervals in which the tax came due before harvest time. This problem must have been recognized very early. The captive Iranian general Hormozān is said to have attended ʿOmar b. Ḵaṭṭāb’s advisory council (see above) to explain the solar calendar by which taxes had been collected in the Sasanian empire (Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 29-­30; Ḥabīb al-sīar I, pp. 484-85). Some modern research­ers have exaggerated the importance of Hormozān’s role, even claiming that ʿOmar’s formulation of the lunar Hejrī calendar was made on his advice (Homāʾī, pp. 399-402), but it is clear that Hormozān could not have had either the competence or the status to participate in such a decision. Although early historians do not mention whether or not ʿOmar decided to adopt a version of the Iranian calendar for tax purposes, Moḥammad b. Abī ʿAbd-Allāh Sanjar Kamālī, author of Zīj-e ašrafī (ca. 710/1310), reports that in his time the people and astronomers believed that it was ʿOmar who had introduced it (fol. 3a-b).

The assumption that a ḵarājī calendar was in use in early Islam and that it was based on a calendar originally introduced by the Sasanians (see i above; see also Abdollahy, 1988, pp. 225-34, 279-95) is corrobo­rated by a report in Zīj-e ašrafī (fol. 10b), in which it is stated that the calendar used for collecting the ḵarāj began 468 solar years before the beginning (1 Far­vardīn) of the Jalālī era (see below), which fell on 9 Ramażān 471/15 March 1079 (see also Fārsī, fol. 7b). If 468 years of 365 days are subtracted from the beginning of the Jalālī era, the result is a.d. 611, the twenty-first year of the reign of Ḵosrow II (591-628); despite arguments to the contrary put forward by S. H. Taqizadeh (1937-39, pp. 909-10; 1967, pp. 164-66), this date was not related to the Hejrī era. Further confir­mation is to be found in the Ẓafar-nāma (828/1424-25) of Šaraf-al-Dīn ʿAlī Yazdī, who noted that the ḵarājī calendar had been introduced in the late Sasanian period (see Taqizadeh, 1937-39, p. 909).

Early Islamic Persian writers rarely cited ḵarājī dates, but the few instances in which they did give them with their Hejrī equivalents throw some light on the nature of the early ḵarājī calendar. For example, according to Zīj-­e ašrafī (fol. 10b), the months used in Fārs coincided exactly with those of the Yazdegerdī calendar, though they were eleven full years apart. This calendar of Fārs must have been the original ḵarājī calendar adopted soon after the coming of Islam. The ḵarājī dates given by Moḥammad b. Ebrāhīm (see Abdollahy, 1988, pp. 289, 290, 365; 1977, pp. 140-41, 194) are of the same nature. On the other hand, those given by Waṣṣāf (663-735/1265-1334; Abdollahy, loc. cit.) indicate that he followed a system in which the months coincided with the months of the Jalālī calendar (see below; cf. Fārsī, fol. 5b).

Whether or not it was ʿOmar b. Ḵaṭṭāb who adapted the Sasanian ḵarājī calendar for tax purposes in Islam, it was already in use by the time of the caliph Hešām (r. 105-25/724-43); Bīrūnī reports that landlords petitioned one of his officials to restore the intercalary month and thus to postpone the beginning of tax collection (eftetāḥ ḵarāj; Āṯār, p. 32). Although taxpayers’ complaints persisted through the early ʿAbbasid period, it was not until the reign of al-Moʿtażed (279-89/892-902) that an intercalation of two months was introduced into the Zoroastrian year (Bīrūnī, Āṯār, p. 33; Qomī, pp. 145-46; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, V, pp. 172-73; tr. Pāyanda, II, p. 664); through the addition of sixty days to the year 264 Yazdegerdī (282/895), Nowrūz was relocated from Saturday, 1 Farvardīn (12 Ṣafar/12 April), to Wednesday, 1 Ḵordād (13 Rabīʿ 1/12 May; see Abdollahy, 1988, pp. 280, 283).

The Jalālī calendar. A true solar calendar was introduced during the reign of the Saljuq sultan Jalāl-al-Dawla Moʿezz-al-Dīn Abu’l-Fatḥ Malekšāh (465-85/1072-92) and variously designated tārīḵ-ejalālī, tārīḵ-emalekī, tārīḵ-emalekšāhī, tārīḵ-esolṭānī, and tārīḵ-emoḥdaṯ (modern). According to early historians and astronomers, the main purpose of the reform was to fix the beginning of the calendar year (Nowrūz) at the vernal equinox. Thenceforth the first day of the official new year was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon. That is in fact the definition of Nowrūz given by Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī (Zīj-e īl-ḵānī, fol. 15b), Oloḡ Beg (p. 310), and many later authors (Bīrjandī, fol. 23b; Mollā Moẓaffar, bāb 2, sec. 4).

Calculations based on the many Jalālī dates recorded by historians and astronomers give the Hejrī date of its adoption as Friday, 9 Ramażān 471/15 March 1079 (= 19 Farvardīn 448 Yazdegerdī; cf. Taqizadeh, 1940-­42, p. 112; Ginzel, I, pp. 303-04; Bulsara, pp. 66ff.). Although some astronomers mention both the years 468 and 471 for the beginning of the Jalālī calendar, the former is not a Hejrī date but the corresponding ḵarājī date (see above; cf. Abdollahy, 1988, pp. 298ff.).

Most astronomers and historians agree that the first eighteen days of Farvardīn of the Yazdegerdī year in which the Jalālī era began were treated as an intercal­ation (kabīsa-ye jalālī). In order to distinguish the two calendars, in which the same Zoroastrian month names were used, the Yazdegerdī months were qualified as qadīmī (old) or fārsī and those of the Jalālī calendar as either jalālī or malekī. Similarly, Nowrūz in the Jalālī calendar was designated Nowrūz-e malekī, Nowrūz-e solṭānī, and Nowrūz-e Ḥamal. Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī de­scribes the Jalālī calendar in Zīj-e īl-ḵānī; elsewhere, however, he remarks that certain earlier astronomers had recorded the introduction of new names for the months and days in the Jalālī calendar (1330/1912, faṣl b). These names also appear, with some differences, in Zīj-e ašrafī (Sanjar Kamālī, fol. 4a). See Table 35, Table 36.

Medieval astronomers mention that, because the Jalālī year was a true solar year, some people assumed, that the length of its months was that of a true solar month; they therefore also assumed incorrectly that the beginning of each month was the day on which the sun entered the associated sign of the zodiac. In fact, the months were not true solar months but consisted of thirty days each. The seasons in this calendar were astronomically true, however, as the beginning of each was marked by the apparent passage of the sun through the equinox or solstice.

The astronomers responsible for devising the Jalālī calendar worked out rules for the sequence of ordinary and leap years. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḵāzenī (fl. 6th/12th century), who is said to have been one of the eight astronomers in charge of the reform, explains in his al-­Zīj al-moʿtabar al-sanjarī the method of intercalation in a cycle of 220 years (Moḥīṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾī; Taqizadeh, 1939-42, pp. 111, 114-16; Abdollahy, 1977, p. 151; 1988, pp. 306-08). It seems, however, that his formula was abandoned in later centuries. The establishment of the observatory at Marāḡa in the second half of the 7th/13th century resulted in significant advances in astronomy, and the length of the true solar year was found to differ from the length of the year in the Jalālī calendar; modification of the intercalation system there­fore became necessary.

In Zīj-e īl-ḵānī Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī gives a table in which the quadrennia and quinquennia of the first 295 Jalālī years are shown (fol. 16a). That is, an extra day was added every four years, and after seven such quadrennia the extra day was added to a period of five years. The quinquennial leap years are the Jalālī years 31, 64, 97, 130, 163, 192, 225, 258, and 291 (Abdollahy, 1977, pp. 154-56; 1988, pp. 309-16). In 295 years there­fore a quarter-day was intercalated 295-9 = 286 times, for a total of 295 x 365 + 286 x 1/4 days. The length of a solar year thus closely approximated Ptolemy’s 365 1/4-1/300 days (expressed sexagesimally, 6, 5; 14, 48 days; the length of the Jalālī year would be 6, 5; 14, 45 days by this reckoning).

In order to discover whether a particular year in the Jalālī calendar is an ordinary or a leap year, it is necessary first to add 3 to the year in question (correct­ing for the beginning of the epoch), then to multiply the total by 39 (the number of leap years in each major cycle), and finally to divide the product by 161; if the remainder is less than 39, the year was a leap year. The fraction 39/161 is a crude approximation of the excess of a solar year over 365 days: 39/161 ~ 0; 14, 33, instead of Ptolemy’s 0; 14, 48. (For the more accurate 128-year cycle see discussion of the solar Hejrī calendar below).

The duodecennial animal cycle. As Ṭūsī supervised construction of the observatory at Marāḡa at the request of the Mongol ruler Hūlāgū (Hülegü) Khan, it is not surprising that the greater part of his Zīj-e īl-ḵānī, which he wrote there, is devoted to the calendar used by the Mongols, the duodecennial animal cycle (see also i above), in which the years are named after each of twelve animals in turn. There can be no doubt, however, that the original Chinese-Uighur form of this calendar was never used by Iranians, either during the Mongol period or later. The only references to it are several dates in the early Mongol period mentioned by Rašīd-al-Dīn (p. 18; Boyle, 1971, pp. x, 346). The form of this cal­endar used by Iranians combined features of the Chinese-Uighur original with those of the lunar Hejrī and Jalālī calendars. Furthermore, during the period of seven centuries in which this calendar was in use, from the Mongol invasion until 1304 Š./1925, certain ad­ditional modifications were made. (Cf. Tables 33, 42.)

The point from which the years are reckoned is the same as for the Hejrī era (Thursday, 15 July 622). A new starting point was adopted in the reign of Ḡāzān Khan (r. 694-703/1295-1304), but it did not remain in use for long; contemporary historians do not agree on the corresponding lunar Hejrī date (see Abdollahy, 1977, pp. 164-65; 1988, p. 330). Dating by the Tārīḵ-eḡāzānī, or Tārīḵ-eḵānī, continued in official Il-khanid circles during the reign of Ḡāzān’s successors Ūljāytū (Öljeitü, 703-17/1304-17) and Abū Saʿīd (717-36/1317-35) but was not in general use (see Sayılı, pp. 229-31).

Even after the duodecennial animal cycle became widely accepted, use of the lunar months determined by direct observation was not given up. Consequently, two features of the lunar Hejrī calendar were incorporated into it: the starting point, which was directly connected with the Prophet of Islam, and the lunar months, which, according to Koranic teaching, could not be changed. The religious year was considered to begin on the first day of the lunar Hejrī calendar, but in administrative affairs the solar Nowrūz-e jalālī was used, and the year ended on the day before the next Nowrūz. In order to keep the reckonings of these lunar and solar years in harmony any lunar year that happened to fall com­pletely within a solar year was dropped from the animal cycle (Poole, pp. xviii-xx; see also Abdollahy, 1988, pp. 334-36).

In 1329/1911 the Persian parliament adopted as the official calendar of Iran the Jalālī solar calendar with months bearing the names of the twelve constellations of the zodiac and the years named for the animals of the duodecennial cycle; it remained in use until 1344/1925. The naming of years for animals is still customary in certain Persian almanacs. In order to determine the animal to which a given Hejrī year is allotted, 6 must first be added to the year in question and the sum divided by 12; the remainder can be matched to an animal in the cycle: 1 = mouse, 2 = ox, 3 = tiger, and so on up to 12 = pig, the last animal in the cycle.

The solar Hejrī (Š. = Šamsī) and Šāhanšāhī calendars. The combination of the solar year with the Hejrī era, called Taqwīm-e hejrī-e šamsī, is a comparatively recent development. The law by which it became the official Persian calendar was enacted by the Majles on 11 Farvardīn 1304 Š./31 March 1925; it has remained in force since, except for a short break (Table 37).

On 24 Esfand 1354 Š./14 March 1975 the Majles approved a new era based on the supposed year of accession of the first Achaemenid king, Cyrus the Great (559 b.c.); thus, 21 March 1976 became the first day (Nowrūz) of the year 2535 in the Šāhanšāhī era. The month names of the Persian solar Hejrī calendar were retained without change. Official documents and publications were dated ac­cording to the new calendar. This caused much confusion and created widespread discontent, particularly among the clergy. Eventually, on 5 Šahrīvar 1357 Š./27 August 1978, the government, in the face of the coming revolution, reverted to the solar Hejrī calendar. This calendar is reckoned from 1 Farvardīn, 119 days before 1 Moḥarram of the Arabian lunar year in which the hejra took place. The Julian date corre­sponding to the first day of the solar Hejrī era is 19 March 622. Taqizadeh gives 17 March 622 (1937-39, p. 916), which was apparently the date arrived at by the Persian commission for calendar reform in 1304 Š./1925.

The months of the solar Hejrī and Šāhanšāhī calendars are named for the ancient Iranian months, first attested in the Arsacid period (see i above; cf. Abdollahy, 1977, p. 78; 1988, p. 166) and used in various Iranian calendars up to the present day. Although the sequence and number of months are identical in all Iranian calendars, the lengths of the months were changed by the reform of 1304 Š./1925. In the solar Hejrī calendar the year begins on Nowrūz-e jalālī; the first six months have thirty-one days each, the next five thirty days each, and the last one twenty-nine days in ordinary years and thirty in leap years. The length of each year is thus absolutely solar.

The timing of ordinary and leap years in this calendar follows the Jalālī rule of intercalation over a 128-year cycle. To determine whether a particular year in the solar calendar is an ordinary or a leap year, 38 must be added to the year in question (correcting the epoch), the sum multiplied by 31, and the product divided by 128. If the remainder is greater than 30, the year is an ordinary year; if not, it is a leap year. The fraction 31/128 means that each year contains 6, 5; 14, 32 days, close to the previous 6, 5; 14, 33 days.

Conversion of dates. The method of converting dates traditionally given in astronomical handbooks is to reckon the number of days between the date in question and the beginning of the calendar in which it appears and then to translate this figure into the comparable interval in the second calendar (Abdollahy, 1987, pp. 67-95). For example, to convert a lunar Hejrī date to the corresponding date in the Julian calendar (in use before the Gregorian reform on 16 Ramażān 990 = 22 Mehr 961 Š./4 October 1582), the elapsed complete lunar Hejrī years are multiplied by 354 11/30 (the average number of days in a lunar year) and the elapsed days of the date year (see Table 38) are added; the resulting total of elapsed days is added to the number of days between the beginnings of the two calendars. The result represents the number of days between the beginning of the Christian era and the date in question. This number is then divided by 365 1/4; the quotient is the number of elapsed years and the remainder the number of additional elapsed days. As Christian dates are given in current years, the elapsed years must be increased by one. (For Gregorian equivalents up to a.d. 1699, ten days must be added to the Julian date, for 1700-99 inclusive eleven days, for 1800-99 inclusive twelve days, and for 1900-2099 inclusive thirteen days.) When the highest possible number in the columns of elapsed days in the Julian year is subtracted from the remainder (i.e., the number of days in the current year), the residue is the day of the month corresponding to that highest possible number. (See Bīrašk for methods of conversion from Hejrī lunar to Hejrī solar and Christian dates and vice versa, as well as lists of conversion from 621 to 2621 a.d.)


Primary sources: Abū Noʿaym, ed. S. Dedering, Geschichte Isbahans, 2 vols., Leiden, 1931-34.

Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, ed. ʿA. Anīs al-Ṭabā, Beirut, 1957.

Abū Solaymān Dāwūd Banākatī, Raw­żat ūli’l-albāb fī maʿrefat al-tawārīḵ known as Tārīḵ-eBanākatī, ed. J. Šeʿār, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

Mollā ʿAbd-al-ʿAlī Bīrjandī, Šarḥ-e zīj-e jadīd-e solṭānī, India Office Library and Records, ms. Ethé 2237.

Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-tafhīm le awāʾel ṣenāʿat al-tanjīm, tr. R. Wright, London, 1934.

Idem, al-Qānūn al-masʿūdī, 3 vols., Hyderabad, 1373/1953-54.

Ebn Esḥāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, tr. Qāżī Abarqūh, ed. A. Mahdawī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.

Abu’l-Ḵayr Moḥammad Fārsī, Ḥall at-taqwīm, India Office Library and Rec­ords, London, ms. 2244.

Moḥammad b. Abī Bakr Fārsī, Zīj-e momtaḥan, University Library, Cam­bridge, ms. Gg. 3.27.

Ḥamza Eṣfahānī, Tārīḵ senī molūk al-arż wa’l-anbīāʾ, ed. J. Īrānī Tabrīzī, Berlin, 1340/1921-22.

Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Jamšīd b. Masʿūd Kāšī, Zīj-e ḵāqānī, India Office Library and Records, ms. Ethé 2232.

Masʿūdī, Morūj, tr. A. Pāyanda, 2 vols., Tehran, 1344-46 Š./1965-67.

Idem, Tanbīh, tr. A. Pāyanda, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970.

Moḥammad b. Ebrāhīm, Tārīḵ-esaljūqīān-e Kermān, ed. M. T. Houtsma, Leiden, 1886.

Mollā Moẓaffar, Šarḥ-e bīst bāb, Tehran, 1267/1851.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī, Tārīḵ-egozīda, ed. A.-Ḥ. Navāʾī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960.

Nowrūz-nāma, ed. M. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1312 Š./1933.

Ḥasan b. Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Qomī, Ketāb-e tārīḵ-e Qom, ed. J. Ṭehrānī, Tehran, 1313 Š./1934.

Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, Tangsūq-nāma, Tehran, 1350/1971.

Moḥammad b. Abī ʿAbd-Allāh Sanjar Kamālī, Zīj-e ašrafī, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. Suppl. 1488.

Ḥasan b. Ḥosayn b. Ḥasan Šāhanšāh Semnānī, Tawżīḥ-e zīj-e īl-ḵānī, British Museum, ms. Add. 11, 636.

Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Ḥāseb Ṭabarī, Zīj-e mofrad, Cambridge, ms. Browne 0.1(10). Tārīḵ-eWaṣṣāf, ed. M. M. Es­fahānī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959.

Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī, Sī ­faṣl, Tehran, 1330/1912.

Idem, Zīj-e īl-ḵānī, Cam­bridge, ms. Browne 0.2.(7). Moḥammad b. ʿOmar b. Wāqedī, Ketāb al-maḡāzī, ed. M. Jones, 3 vols., London, 1966.

Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīḵ, tr. M. Āyatī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1344-45 Š./1965-66. Zīj-e Oloḡ Beg, ed. A. Sédillot, Paris, 1847.

Studies: R. Abdollahy (ʿAbd-Allāhī), A History of Chronology and Calendars in Iran from Ancient to modern Times with Principles of Date Conversion, Ph.D. thesis, Durham University, 1977. Idem, Taḥqīq-ī dar zamīna-ye gāh-šomārī-e hejrī wa masīḥī, Tehran, 1365 Š./1987. Idem, Tārīḵ-etārīḵdar Īrān, Tehran, 1366 Š./1988. L. Bazin, Les calendriers turcs anciens et mediévaux, thesis, Paris University, 1972; publ. Lille University, 1974. A. F. L. Beeston, Epi­graphic South Arabian Calendar and Dating, London, 1956. Ḏ. Behrūz, Taqwīm-e nowrūzī-e šahrīārī (šamsī-­e qamarī-e fārsī), Īrān Kūda 18, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968. A. Bīrašk, Gāhnāma-ye taṭbīqī-e se-hazār-sāla, n.p., 1367 Š./1988. J. A. Boyle, “The Longer Introduction to the Zīj-e Ilḵānī of Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī,” Journal of Semitic Studies 8/2, 1963, pp. 244-54. Idem, tr., The Successors of Genghis Khan, New York, 1971. S. T. Bulsara, “The Old Iranian Calendar,” in M. P. Kharegat Memorial Volume I, Bombay, 1953, pp. 177-97. G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville, The Muslim and Christian Calendars, London, 1963.

F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1906-14.

J. Homāʾī, Tārīḵ-eadabīyāt-e Īrān az qadīmtarīn ʿaṣr-e tārīḵī tā aṣr-e ḥāżer, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961.

L. Ideler, Hand­buch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie II, Berlin, 1826.

N. Majd, Taqwīm-e taṭbīqī-e šaṣt-o-šeš sāla.1304-1369 šamsī, 1925-1991 mīlādī, London, 1987.

S. M. Moḥīṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾī, “Eḥqāq-e ḥaqq-e Ḵāzenī-e maẓlūm,” Gowhar 1, 1352 Š./1973, pp. 683-­92.

C. A. Nallino, ʿElm al-falak. Taʾrīḵoh ʿend al-ʿArab fi’l-qorūn al-wost¡ā, Rome, 1911.

M. P. Nilsson, Primitive Time-Reckoning. A Study in the Origins and First Development of the Art of Counting Time among the Primitive and Early Culture Peoples, Lund, 1920.

D. Pingree, “The Fragments of the Works of al­-Fazarī,” JNES 29/4, 1970, pp. 103-23.

R. S. Poole, The Coins of the Shahs of Persia. Safavids, Afghans, Efsharis, Zands and Kajars, London, 1887.

T. Rīāḥī, Šarḥ-e taqwīmhā-ye moḵtalef wa masʾala-ye kabīsahā-­ye Jalālī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.

A. Sayılı, The Observatory in Islam and Its Place in the General History of the Observatory, Ankara, 1960.

S. H. Taqizadeh, “Various Eras and Calendars Used in Countries of Islam,” BSO(A)S 9, 1937-39, pp. 903-­22; 10, 1939-42, pp. 107-32.

Idem, Gāh-šomārī dar Īrān-e qadīm, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938.

Idem, Bīst maqāla, tr. A. Ārām, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.

V. V. Tsybulsky, Calendars of Middle East Countries. Conversion Tables and Explanatory Notes, Moscow, 1970.

(Reza Abdollahy)


iii. Afghan calendars

The solar (šamsī) hejrī calendar, beginning with the vernal equinox, has been official in Afghanistan since 1301 Š./1922 (See afghanistan x. political history). Prior to this time all official events were recorded according to the lunar hejrī calendar, although the solar one was already in common use.

The Afghan solar calendar (Table 39) is basically the same as the Persian one. In Persian of Afghanistan (darī) the names of the twelve months are the same as the Arabic terms for the zodiacal signs. Pashto translations of these names also exist but are rarely used. Before 1336 Š./1957 the number of days in most months ranged from 29 to 32 according to the year. In 1336 Š./1957 the number of days was fixed at 31 days in each of the first six months, 30 each in the next five, and 29 in the last (30 in leap years).

The lunar calendar in use in Afghanistan before 1301 Š./1922 was the common Arabic one (Table 40). While local Persian speakers borrowed the Arabic names of the twelve months, non-Persian speakers such as the Pashtun and Hazāra created partly original termi­nologies (Table 40). The latter shared the common practice of naming Rabīʿ I and II and Jomādā I and II according to a four-number system, calling them the first, second, third, and fourth “sister” (ḵōr) in Pashto, and the first, second, third, and fourth “leap” (alḡō) in Hazāragī—possibly a remnant of old Iranian traditions of jumping over a fire as a purification rite at the beginning of each of these months (Ferdinand, p. 45).

The special calendars traditionally in use among the mountain populations of the eastern Hindu Kush were described by W. Lentz, whose work is now the standard. West of them the Hazāra and some of their Aymāq and Uzbek neighbors have developed a peculiar type of sidereal calendar based on the conjunction (Darī qerān; Hazāragī, tōḡal) of the moon and the Pleiades (Darī parvīn; Hazāragī mēčīd/t). There are eleven visible tōḡals in the year, each of them with a different number reckoned in descending odd order from the twenty-first tōḡal in early summer to the first in early spring. As the winter tōḡals are the only ones that can be observed before midnight, the five last tōḡals in the year (9th-1st) are more commonly used than the six early ones (21st-11th). Each “tōḡal month” lasts two days less than a lunar month. Between early spring and early summer the Pleiades are no longer visible in the sky, and the Hazāra reckon time by the few days in each solar month when the moon appears in the constellation Scorpio (Ferdinand; Bausani; Šahrestānī).

The old Sino-Turkish animal cycle of twelve solar years was commonly used in Kabul at the beginning of the 14th/20th century and still is in remote parts of the country such as Hazārajāt (Schurmann, p. 292). Older people still remember in which animal year they were born, and this system of time-reckoning (sāl-e ḥaywānī) was explicitly referred to in the supplement to the enumerator’s instruction manual for the determination of age of the population that was used during the demographic census of 1358 Š./1979.


A. Bausani, “Osservazioni sul sistema calendariale degli Hazara di Afghanistan,” Oriente moderno 54, 1974, pp. 341-54.

P. Centlivres, Un bazar d’Asie Centrale, Wiesbaden, 1972 (pp. 123f. contain a detailed description of popular time-reckoning in northern Afghanistan based on meteo­rological, rather than astronomical, observations).

K. Ferdinand, Preliminary Notes on Hazāra Culture, Hist. Filos. Medd. Dan. Vid. Selsk. 37, no. 5, Copenhagen, 1959, esp. Appendix I, pp. 40-46.

W. Lentz, Zeitrechnung in Nuristan und am Pamir, APAW, phil-hist. Kl., no. 7, Berlin, 1938, 2nd expanded ed., Graz, 1978.

Šāh ʿAlī-Akbar Šah­restānī, “Adab-e ʿāmmīāna-ye darī-e hazāragī,” Adab (Kabul) 21/3, 1352 Š./1973, pp. 43-106-XVI (Setāra-šenāsī, pp. 91-95).

Idem, Qāmūs-e lahja-ye darī-e hazāragī, Kabul, 1361 Š./1983, s.v. tōḡal, pp. 313-14.

H. F. Schurmann, The Mongols of Afghanistan, Central Asiatic Studies 4, The Hague, 1962.

(Daniel Balland)


iv. Other Modern Calendars

Modern Zoroastrian calendars. The vague Zoroas­trian year (see i, above) was subject to varying correc­tions by the Zoroastrian communities in Iran and India. In Iran the Jalālī calendar (see ii, above) was adopted by several Zoroastrian communities; the 5 or 6 epagomenal days follow the month of Esfandārmoḏ or, in some villages in the district of Naṭanz, the month of Bahman (Taqizadeh, p. 610; A. K. S. Lambton apud Hartner, 1971, p. 784). Indian and Iranian Zoroastrians (cf. Vitalone) were already aware from a.d. 1635 of the mutual differences in their calendars but showed no interest in resolving them until in 1720 a man from Kermān named Jāmāsb Welāyatī arrived in Surat and noted that the calendar of the Parsi community was a month behind that of Iran (Darmesteter, p. xii). On 17 June 1745 (Darmesteter, loc. cit.) or 1746 according to Boyce (1979, p. 189) and Hinnells (1981, p. 51) one segment of the Parsi community there­fore adopted the Persian calendar, calling it qadīm “old.” The majority of Parsis, however, rejected this innovation and adopted the name rasmī “traditional” for their calendar, in opposition to the qadīmīs (cf. Darmesteter, p. xcv; Boyce, 1977, pp. 164-66; 1979, pp. 189-90). The rasmīs (also known as “Sharshais” or “Shenshais,” Boyce, 1979, p. 190) claimed in fact that it was the Iranian community that was a month behind because it had not intercalated one month after each cycle of 120 years. In 1906 an attempt was made to resolve the controversy with the adoption of a new calendar similar to the Gregorian. This provoked the formation of a new group, the faṣlīs (separatists), who are particularly concentrated in western India (Boyce, pp. 212-13, 221). The qadīmīs and the rasmīs have preserved their own respective calendars. The latter community is the more numerous. Today, however, the three sects do not differ in other important ways, and the hostility and polemics of the last century are only a memory. The qadīmī and “Shenshai” (royalist: Boyce, 1979, p. 190; cf. Sogd. šʾnšʾy “king of kings”; Sundermann) calendars are dated from the coronation of the last Sasanian king, Yazdegerd III, in a.d. 631 (e.g., 1358 Yazdegerdī = 1989).


M. Boyce, A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977.

Idem, Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London, etc., 1979.

J. Darmesteter, Le Zend-Avesta I, Annales du Musée Guimet 21, Paris, 1892, pp. xii, xciv-xcvi.

J. R. Hinnells, Zoroastrianism and the Parsis, London, 1981, pp. 51-53.

F. M. Kotwal and J. W. Boyd, ed. and tr., A Guide to the Zoroastrian Religion. A Nineteenth Century Catechism with Modern Commentary, Chico, Calif., pp. 10, 65, 158, 162, 176-81.

K. P. Mistree, Zoroastrianism. An Ethnic Perspective, Bom­bay, 1982, pp. 110-15.

Sundermann, “Sogdische šʾnšʾy,” AoF 10, 1983, pp. 193-95.

S. H. Taqizadeh, “The Old Iranian Calendars Again,” in Studies Presented to Vladimir Minorsky, BSOS 14, 1952, pp. 603-11.

M. Vitalone, “Note su due Revāyat persiane inedite,” in Proceedings of the First European Conference of Iranian Studies, Turin, 1987 (forthcoming).

The Syro-Macedonian calendar. The Syro-­Macedonian calendar (Table 41), which has been adopted by the eastern Christian communities in Iran, is regulated according to the Julian calendar but with Arabic (derived from Phoenician) names for the months. This calendar is old, probably pre-Islamic, according to Bīrūnī (Āṯār, pp. 59-60, tr. Sachau, pp. 69-70).

Bibliography : G. D’Erme, Grammatica del Neopersiano, Naples, 1979, p. 210. M. O. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam. Conscience and History in a World Civilization I: The Classical Age of Islam, Chicago, 1974, p. 22.

The Turkish duodecennial calendar. The Turkish calendar was inspired by the same duodecennial system as, for instance, the ancient Khotanese calendar (see i, above), but its origin is clearly Turkish. Each twelve-year cycle is called a mucal. The year (ïl) is solar, divided into twelve “mansions” according to the signs of the zodiac; it begins with the vernal equinox (see Table 42; modern Tk. forms in parenthesis). See further ii, below.


L. Bazin, Les calendriers turcs anciens et mediévaux, thesis, Paris University, 1972; publ. Lille University, 1974.

G. D’Erme, Grammatica del Neopersiano, Naples, 1979, p. 210-11.

The Ossetic calendar. Although the names of the months in the Ossetic calendar have been adopted from the Latin tradition in the corresponding Russian forms, in the Iron and Digoron dialects other names are also preserved; at least some of them seem to have been adopted after the conversion of the Alans to Christian­ity (a.d. 10th century). Still another group of month names is linked to observations of recurring natural phenomena clearly traceable to pagan traditions of the Alans, though these names have also been Christianized. In Table 43 the names of the months are given after Abaev, 1970, with variants from Magometov in brackets.


V. I. Abayev, “The Names of the Months in Ossetic,” in W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, ed. M. Boyce and I. Gershevitch, London, 1970, pp. 1-7.

Idem, Istoriko-ètimologicheskiĭ slovar’ osetinskogo yazyka, Moscow and Leningrad, 1958- (s.vv.).

J. F. Baddeley, The Rugged Flanks of the Caucasus, Oxford and London, 1940, I, p. 187.

A. Christensen, Textes ossètes, Copenhagen, 1921, p. 64.

G. Gappo Baiew, Iron k’pelindper, Berlin, 1925.

J. von Klaproth, Reise in den Kaukasus und nach Georgien, 2 vols., Halle and Berlin, 1814, II/1, p. 599.

A. Kh. Magometov, Kul’tura i byt osetinskogo naroda, Ordzhonikidze, 1968, pp. 504-05.

V. Miller, Osetinskie ètyudy, Uchenyya zapiski Imperatorskago Moskov­skago Universiteta, otd. ist.-filol., 2, Moscow, 1882, pp. 262-88 (on festivals and the calendar).

B. Mun­kácsi, Blüten der ossetischen Volksdichtung, Budapest, 1932, pp. 208-22.

The Sangesari calendar. The Sangesaris, a semitribal people living north of Semnān and south of the Alborz mountains, has a special calendar of 12 months with 30 days each and an epact (pētak) added after the last month of the year. Of the old names of the days only two have been retained: Varmaz (Hormoz), Anirān (Anīrān); the 13th day of Tīrə-mō is called Tīrə-mō-yi sizdə. (See Table 44.)

Bibliography : Č.-ʿA. Aʿẓamī, “The Sangesari Calendar,” Journal of the K R. Cama Oriental Institute 55, 1988, pp. 155-99.

(Antonio Panaino)

Table 20. Month names in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian

a. Avestan Zaremaya; Dadīstān ī dēnīg, chap. 16; tr. West, SBE 17, p. xxiv.

Table 21. Parthian month names

Table 22. The months of the Zoroastrian calendar

Table 23. The days of the Zoroastrian calendar

Table 24. The Zoroastrian Gāhānbār

Table 25. The names of the months in the Cappadocian calendar

Table 26. The names of the months in the Armenian calendar

Table 27. The days of the Sogdian calendar

Table 28. The names of the months in the Sogdian calendar

Table 29. The seven weekdays in Sogdian

Table 30. The names of the months in the Choresmian calendar

Table 31. The names of the months in the calendar of Sīstān

Table 32. Names of the six-fold Khotanese calendar divisions

Table 33. Names of the years in the Central Asian animal cycle

(1) Genitive singular. (2) For Konow’s Śiẓye D. Hitch reads Gikhye (unpublished)

Table 34. Lunar hejrī months

(1) Definitions are taken from E. W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, London, 1863; repr. Beirut, 1968, s.vv. (2) According to some medieval sources, the name Jomādā was derived from “freezing of water” and the two months of that name originally fell in winter, an interpretation that would seem reasonable in more northern climates. For these sources and the opinion that in Arabia the two months originally fell in a dry period of late spring, see Lane, s.v. Jomādā.

Table 35. Jalālī month names

(1) Garmāfazāy in Sanjar Kamālī, fol. 4a. (2) Sarmāfazāy in Sanjar Kamālī, fol. 4a. (3) Ṭūsī gives the name of this month as Māh-e Rūzafzūn (1330/1912, faṣl b), a repetition of the name of the fourth month. The name Māh-e Sālafzūn is given by Sanjar Kamālī, and its correctness is confirmed by its literal meaning “the month of increasing year(s),” i.e., the month after which a new year is added: Māh-e Rūzafzūn, lit. “month of increasing days,” may be interpreted as the month in which the day becomes longer than the night.

Table 36. Jalālī day names

Table 37. Names of the months in the Persian civil calendar

Table 38. Aggregate totals of months and days

Table 39. The Afghan solar calendar

Sources: 1322/1904-05 after a calendar printed in Kabul for that year. 1312-17 Š./1933-39 after Lentz, p. 53

Table 40. The Afghan lunar calendar

Notes: 1. Supplementary material (dialect forms) is to be found in Lentz, pp. 49f. and 57, and tables A and C. 2. From Ferdinand, pp. 44f.

Table 41. The names of the months in the Syro-Macedonian calendar

Table 42. The names of the months in the Turkish calendar

Table 43. The names of the months in Ossetic

Table 44. The months in Sangesari

(Antonio Panaino, Reza Abdollahy, Daniel Balland)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6-7, pp. 658-677