Article: Jain calendar

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Śaka era

Written in red ink, this colophon is found at the end of a manuscript. As is usual, it gives the date of the text's composition and the date it was copied in the style of the Indian lunar calendar. The poem was composed in 1621 and copied in 1726 CE.

Detailed colophon
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Beginning in 78 CE, the Śaka era or Śaka-saṃvat was once widespread in western India, particularly in Gujarat and Saurashtra. It is used extensively in Jain manuscripts and inscriptions. Sometimes it is mentioned alone, but, in most cases, it occurs together with the date in the Vikrama era. It is no longer in use today.

Generally, the year is counted when it has finished. Therefore in order to get the equivalent year in the Common Era, one has to add 78 to the Śaka era date. This example shows the date as part of the colophon, written in red ink.

The term 'Śaka' refers to a king, most probably belonging to 'one of the non indigenous dynasties of the first century A.D.' (Salomon 1998: 184).

Ilāhī era

The Ilāhī era – Tārīkh-i-Ilāhi in Arabic – was instituted by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1556 CE. It is found in Jain inscriptions and historical records or chronicles of Akbar’s time but was employed neither systematically nor alone. Instead, it was used rather consciously by Śvetāmbara authors – monks or lay people – or scribes who had close connections with the court and wanted to show their respect and allegiance to the emperor.

Christian or Common Era

The Christian era – known as Isvī san, san or khrīstābda – is occasionally used in modern Jain books written in the Indian languages and published in India today. However, it is normally used in tandem with the dating systems more commonly found in India.

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