A large number of expatriates working in Nepal have always been saying that there are too many holidays in this country. Having heard it continuously all these years, I was getting to the stage that I accepted this as a fact. The end of March 2017 was however a time of awakening for me. The government issued a statement decreeing the holidays that Nepal will have for this coming Bikram Sambat (BS) year of 2074. The surprising fact is that it adds up to a total of just 100 days in all.
When one looks at what is happening in the developed countries of the world one sees that the trend is for a five day week with two days of weekend. Of course at times of recession it was quite in order to have a 4 or even 3 days week. Overlooking this for a moment it means that there are generally in the Western world, 104 days plus also a few more additional ones to cater for Easter, Christmas, Bank holidays or special days as in the US. Then in the UK there is also the provision for the Monarch’s Birthday but this is however confined to the civil servants only. All said and done, the four weeks of annual holiday inclusive of the weekends in the period is outside of this.
What in fact has been the situation in the past? The custom in Nepal in the olden days was that we followed the lunar calendar and it was on this our activities were based. The drawback of the three calendars then in use i.e. Bikram, Sakya, Buddha Sambats was that all of these were based on tithis. This method of reckoning sometimes resulted in having two tithis in the course of one day. It was also customary then to have just two or three holidays in a month – the two Ekadasi on which ever date these fell on, plus two or three Sangranti days during the course of the year. It was thus a rather haphazard situation to say the least. Furthermore, Sakya and Nepal Sambats had only 354 days in the year. On the other hand both the Bikram Sambat and the Gregorian calendars had a total of 365 days and so a working format which would be compatible with these. A recent article by Dirga R Prasai in the Rajdhani stated that it was PM Chandra Shumsher who got the local jyotishis to discuss all these issues and to correlate the two calendar systems. Thus it the widespread use of the Bikram Sambat started on 1st Baisakh 1961, corresponding to Mid April 1904.
Surprisingly this Bikram Sambat had been in use in some of the baiese and chaubise rajyas existing in the country at that time. Inscriptions found in the Pashupati area confirm its use during the course of the Lichavi era in Nepal. Work by various archaeologists has unearthed much proof that BS has been in use in Nepal for a very long time. References have been made to a bust of King Bikramaditya's head at Sankhu, and various other inscriptions of BS have been seen of 711, 945, 1763, 1814 and of 1910 when Jung Bahadur had the Muluki Ain enacted. Chandra's action of officially establishing the use of this Sambat in the country was therefore a mere formality.
An interesting point however is that there is also a Saka Era, which started around 78 AD from Ujjain and was in use in Southern India at the time that the Vikram Era was in use in Northern India. Another surprising fact is that Nepali mohurs issued by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1765 AD has the imprint of 1685 Shakya Era on it!
But coming back to the total tally of 100 holidays one should remember are 52 are Saturdays. However for 2074 five of the other 48 happen to fall on this day - a loss to the worker! Of the remainder 3 are for women only, 4 for the residents of the capital only, 4 for National or International obligations e.g. Republic Day or May Day, 6 for birthdays of religious personages and finally 6 as New Year reasons! This is something that we should take pride in for welcoming the future and going overboard in celebrating the New Year.
Another comment that also upsets me is when expatriates in this country comment about our Dashain holidays saying that the country has shut down. What happens during the summer months in the countries of Europe and America? Government offices in France are is said to be at standstill in August as most employees are usually at the sea shores!
What has however intrigued me is the fact of its use in other areas of Asia. The calendars of Burma, Thailand and Cambodia are based on the lunar system. In neighbouring India the event is, though not in a countrywide basis, celebrated gusto in Haryana and Punjab. In other areas e.g. Bengal, this New Year day, like Fagu Purnima and Krisnastami falls one day later. In Sri Lankan too the New Year, though they celebrate the event for preceding seven days, is one day behind as in India.
Finally are our captains of politics in this day of Republicanism yearning for the Panchayat Era when they initially ordered two public holidays on the occasion of the Head of State's visit to India. Public criticism of such a diktat made the government to reduce it to one day only.
The New Year holiday mood is still with me as I am fortunate to be able to celebrate six of them. I have not however made any resolutions for I feel they are bound to be broken sooner or later. So why make them in the first place.
The author writes fiction under the name of
Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd