The Kurdish calendar was originally a lunisolar calendar related to the Babylonian calendar, but is now a solar calendar related to the Iranian calendar. On March 21, 2016, it will be the first new-day in the Kurdish calendar which is first of Cejnan 2628.
Some claim that the Kurdish calendar starts at 700 BC; this was the year Deioces united the Medes according to Herodotus. However, the claim of unification by Herodotus is proven wrong. The Medes still were vassals of the Assyrian Empire. The Median kingdom and the founding of its capital city at Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) was probably not before 625 BC when Cyaxares (grandson of Deioces) succeeded in uniting the many Median tribes into a single kingdom. In 614 BC, he captured Ashur, and in 612, in an alliance with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his forces stormed Nineveh, putting an end to the Assyrian Empire.
The Medes and other Indo-European tribes were only part of the Kurdish nation formation, the Hurrian tribes another part, but Medes entry in history, in 612 BC, must be considered as the initial stage of the Kurdish history, hence the year 612 BC is the initial year of the Kurdish calendar.
Also in the national anthem, Ey Reqib it is stated "Ême roley Mîdya û Keyxusrewîn" (We are the children of the Medes and Cyaxares), hence the empire of Cyaxares and not of Deioces.
Evidence of the area's prior history indicates that the Middle East in general had been one of the earliest areas to experience what the Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe called the Neolithic Revolution. That revolution witnessed the development of settled, village-based agricultural life. Kurdistan (Western Iran) has yielded much evidence on the history of these important developments. In the early Neolithic (sometimes called the Mesolithic) period, evidence of significant shifts in tool making, settlement patterns, and subsistence living including nascent domestication of both plants and animals, which comes from such important Kurdish sites as Tepe Asiab (Asíyaw), Guran, Ganj Darra (Genjí Darra), and Ali Khosh (Elí xosh). Similar developments in the Zagros are also traceable at sites such as Karim Shahir and Zawi Chemi-Shanidar. This early experimentation with sedentary life and domestication was soon followed by a period of fully developed village farming, as is evident at important Zagros sites such as Jarmo, Sarab, upper Ali Kosh, and upper Guran. All of these sites date wholly or in part to the 8th and 7th millennia BC.
The transition from food-gathering to food-production began within the natural territorial ranges of the early domesticates' wild ancestors, in the general area of the Zagros Mountains. Additionally, the present evidence strongly points to the foothill valleys along the Kurdish mountain chains (with a spur stretching into Samaria) as being the main geographic setting of this transition. Agriculture necessitated domestication of flora and fauna. Earlier forms of modern-day wheat, barley, rye, oats, peas, lentils, alfalfa, and grapes were first domesticated by the ancestors of the Kurds shortly before the 9th millennium BC. Wild species of most common cereals and legumes still grow as weeds in the Zagros and eastern Taurus Mountains, and to a lesser degree in the Amanus Mountains.
By this time, such a historical agricultural society had developed forms of celebration and religious belief closely related to their way of life. Many names that today remain in the modern Kurdish calendar are derived from festivals, annual natural events, and from tasks usually performed in the given month, according to local needs.
Some ancient Kurdish religious calendars begin with major religious events. For instance, the Soltani calendar of the Yaresan has the birthday of Soltan Sahak in AD1294 as its starting year. Calendars may also begin in AD 380, the year that marks the fall of the last Kurdish kingdom of the classical era, the
House of Kayus (or the Kâvusakân dynasty). An enigmatic seven extra years are added, which may be connected to the veneration with which the number is held in native Kurdish religions and would be the time needed for the reincarnation of the souls of departed leaders. In this system, AD 2000 is the year 1613. This calendar has been variously called Kurdi (Kurdish) or Mây'I (Median).
The Ancient and religious calendar system in the Near East and the Middle East was a lunisolar calendar, in which months are lunar but years are solar, i.e., they are brought into line with the course of the Sun. This was used in the early civilizations of the entire Middle East, except in Egypt and Greece. The formula was probably invented in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. Study of cuneiform tablets found in this region facilitates tracing the development of time reckoning back to the 27th century BC, around the time that writing was invented. The evidence shows that the calendar is a contrivance for dividing the flow of time into units that suit society's current needs. Though calendar makers put to use time signs offered by nature—the Moon's phases, for example—they rearranged reality to make it fit society's constructions.
In Zagros and Mesopotamia the solar year was divided into two seasons, the "summer", which included the barley harvest in the second half of May or in the beginning of June, and the "winter", which roughly corresponded to today's fall-winter. Three seasons (Assyria) and four seasons (Anatolia) were counted in northerly countries, but in Zagros and Mesopotamia the bipartition of the year seemed natural. As late as 1800 BC, the prognoses for the welfare of the city of Mari, on the middle Euphrates, were taken for six months at a time. The Proto-Kurdish names for bipartition of the year still remain in the Kurdish language, passed down from the ancient Kurds who lived in Zagros. Summer (Tawistan) (seven months), or the land of lightness or the land of the sunshine, and Winter (Zimistan) (five months), or the land of the coldness. Various Kurdish dialects also call Tawistan "Tawsan, Hawín, Hamin and Tawsu", words that are based on "Taw" (light or sunbeam), the connective "i", and "stan" (state as in a place or state as in state of being). This suffix is used quite often in the Kurdish language to create compound words like "Kurdistan," the land of Kurds. Zimistan or "Zimsan, Zistan, Zisan, Zimistu, Zimsu, Zimstun" is made of "Zim" (cold), the connective "i", and the suffix "stan."
Today the Kurdish solar system calendar is normally 365 days with the remaining natural few hours being marked by a leap year every fourth year. It starts with the exact first day of spring according to the Gregorian calendar (March 20 or 21).
Like the Gregorian system, the Kurdish calendar divides the year into four seasons: Buhar, Tawistan or Hawín, Payiz and Zimistan. It divides the year into 12 months, each month into four weeks and every week into seven days. In the Kurdish calendar the first six months (comprising spring and summer) are each 31 days long, while the next five months (in fall and winter) are 30 days each. The last winter month, the 12th month in the annual calendar, is normally 29 days but 30 in the leap years. The months coincide with the 12 zodiac signs, i.e., the first month is identical with the duration of Aries, the second with Taurus, the third with Gemini, and so on.
The Kurdish names for each month were designated depending on the geographical division and the lifestyle of specific Kurdish tribes. The name for a former tribe might be different from a nomadic or agricultural tribe in Kurdistan. Remarkable similarity exists between the names of these months, which put the natural events at the center of choice for the certain name. For example, "Gelawêj" (ca. 23 July – 23 Aug), the second month of summer, is the Kurdish name of a star, which appears at this time of the year in the sky above Kurdistan.
In northern areas of Kurdistan, the ban on Kurdish cultural and language education has diminished the significance of the role that Kurdish names of the months play in the daily lives of Kurds. Military actions forced many civilian Kurds to lose their land and property in rural areas and move to cities, a process that causes people to break ties with their generations' long traditional lifestyles. In the case of Kurdistan, where the practice of "Kurdishness" is itself considered a crime, it is clear that the Kurdish farmer, nomad, and agriculturist who moved to major cities has not found it necessary to maintain the tradition of his ancient Kurdish calendar.
The Kurdish calendar that is used today in the northern part of Kurdistan is a combination of non-Kurdish names of the months—taken mainly from the Babylonian calendar—and Kurdish names, or in some cases non-Kurdish names that have been transformed. This solution has made the names more acceptable among Kurds, for example in the case of Shabatu, which has become Shevba (the windy nights) in Badînî, or Nisanu, which has become Nîskan or Adar has become Avdar.
The influence of the Babylonian calendar was seen in many continued customs and usages of its neighbor and vassal states long after the Babylonian Empire had been succeeded by others. In particular, the Hebrew calendar in use at relatively late dates employed similar systems of intercalation of months, month names, and other details. The Jewish adoption of Babylonian calendar customs dates from the period of the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BC. The Babylonian month names were Nisanu, Ayaru, Simanu, Du`uzu, Abu, Ululu, Tashritu, Arakhsamna, Kislimu, Tebetu, Shabatu, Adaru. The month Adaru II was intercalated six times within the 19-year cycle but never in the year that was 17th of the cycle, when Ululu II was inserted. Thus, the Babylonian calendar until the end preserved a vestige of the original bipartition of the natural year into two seasons, just as the Babylonian months to the end remained truly lunar and began when the New Moon was first visible in the evening. The day began at sunset. Sundials and water clocks served to count hours.
It is proposed that the standard Kurdish calendar should start at 612 BC or the taking of Nineveh by the Medes. According to this if the Gregorian calendar is used as a reference for calculation then it is realized that the simple equation will give the correct Kurdish year on 20 or 21 March depending on the Gregorian year;
- 1+ (Actual Gregorian Year + 611) = Kurdish Year
- 1+ (2011 + 611) = 2623 on March 21, 2011
- 1+ (2012 + 611) = 2624 on March 20, 2012
The Gregorian calendar has no year 0. The year 1 AD (or 1 CE) was preceded by the year 1 BC (or 1 BCE). Because this is so awkward for evaluating time periods that include 1 BCE to 1 CE, astronomers sometimes use a different form, employing negative dates and zero. For them it is not confusing: a "-" year or a zero year is always interpreted according to the astronomical reckoning, and a year recorded as BC (or BCE) is always interpreted according to the historians' reckoning. Year 0 is 1 BC, year -1 is 2 BC etc. Then it is just simply said -612 BC as the starting year while the Georgian calendar is being used as references; practically, a nomenclature is used that adheres to neither standard.
It is assumed that the Kurdish calendar starts on March 20 in 612 BCE (year -611 with astronomical year numbering), starting with the Kurdish year 1 (the practice of counting from a year 0 generally seems restricted to astronomers). The Gregorian date March 20, 612 BCE would be close to the vernal equinox, and an event shortly after this would be in Kurdish year 1. An event during the summer of 2004 CE would be a bit more than 2004+611 years later, or 1+(2004+611) = year 2616 of the Kurdish calendar. Today, in 2004 CE, before the vernal equinox of 2004, it would be year 2615 of the Kurdish calendar. Furthermore, if it is chosen instead to start the Kurdish calendar count with year 0 for the year starting March 20, 612 BCE, today would be year 2614 in the Kurdish calendar. It Should be mentioned that if the Kurdish year is defined by the date of the true vernal equinox (in Kurdistan), it will diverge from the Gregorian calendar, amounting to about 19 hours over 2615 years.
- Cejinan is the first month of spring. It is 31 days long and normally is from March 20 or 21 to 20 April. This the month of celebration and happiness, Newroz is the first day of this month. There are several annual agricultural ceremonies that take place in this month.
- Gullan is the second month of spring. It is 31 days long and normally is from April 20 to 21 May. During this month, yellow and red flowers color the mountain and landscape of Kurdistan. Shepherds take their animals to the mountains for grazing. Gardeners and agriculturists have a busy month and the Kurdish nomads start their annual movement. In Hewraman Kurds celebrate the "Píri Shalyar" days from 11th to 15th Gulan.
- Zerdan means yellow and is the third month of spring, when the seeds turn to yellow to make the landscape look like a huge yellow carpet. This month is 31 days long and normally is from May 21 to June 22.
- Puşpeř is the first month of summer. It is 31 days long and normally is from June 21 to July 22. The dry air and warm days dry up many natural greens and harvest. The agriculture communities start cutting their harvest for the year.
- Gelawêj is the second month of summer. The star of the same name will appear at this time and the weather conditions will change toward cooler nights. This month is 31 days long and normally is from July 23 to August 23.
- Xermanan is the third month of summer. The agricultural community collects the cut harvest and brings to the village. This month is 31 days long and normally is from August 23 to September 23.
- Beran is the first month of fall. Many different fruits come to market and grapes become ripe. Leaves turn orange and yellow. The fall celebration is also in this month. The sheep at the farm will mate. This month is 30 days long and normally is from September 23 to October 24.
- Xezan is the second month of fall. Leaves fall off trees and gardeners prepare for the winter. This month is 30 days long and normally is from October 24 to November 22.
- Saran is the third month of fall. The season of cold weather starts at this month. The follower of the ancient Kurdish religion "Yaresan" celebrates a holy day "Rújhi Xawinkar" at 9 Saran. This month is 30 days long and normally is from November 22 to December 22.
- Befran is the first month of winter in the Kurdish year. Starts with the longest night of the year and winter celebrations. Long nights mean less work in the field, giving the elderly the chance to pass their life experiences onto next generation by telling tales and singing. In the colder part of Kurdistan snow will make the landscape white and in the warmer areas the rain falls during the day. This month is 30 days long and normally is from December 22 to January 20.
- Rêbendan is the second month of winter in the Kurdish year. The winter road for the nomads will be closed by heavy snow. This month is 30 days long and normally is from January 20 to February 19.
- Reşemê is the third month of winter in the Kurdish year. The sky will often be filled with dark clouds and the rainy season for spring will start. This month is 29 days long (depending on the leap year) and normally is from February 19 to March 20.
Days of the week
As with the months of the year, a variety of names exist for each day of the week; although different Kurdish groups throughout Kurdistan follow the same principal structure for the "Kurdish days of the week". The Kurdish name for the first day of the week Sheme (Saturday) is in fact descended from Akkadian word Shabattu (In Sumerian Shabbât, Arabic Sabbath, Pahlavic Shunbat, Persian Shambed; Shamba; Shanbeh, even transferred to Greek as Sabbaton, German Samstag, Italian sabato, Spanish sábado, French Samedi). The Akkadian called the 15th day of the month, the day a full moon appears, Shabbattu. The question still remains why such an adoption was made for Kurdish and Persian days of the week.
It has been documented that the Babylonian calendar preserved a vestige of the original bipartition of the natural year into two seasons, just as the Babylonian months to the end remained truly lunar and began when the New Moon (a Shabattu) was first visible in the evening. The day began at sunset. From a New Moon (a Shabattu) up to the next New full Moon each day were named by a digit like one-Shabattu, two- Shabattu, three-Shabattu and so on. The seven-day week also originated in ancient Mesopotamia and became part of the Roman calendar in 321 BC.
At about the time of the conquest of Babylonia in 539 BC, the kings of Persia made the Babylonian cyclic calendar standard throughout the Persian Empire, which at the time comprised Kurdistan as well. The Seleucids, and afterwards the Parthian, rulers of Iran maintained the Babylonian calendar. The fiscal administration in northern Iran, from the 1st century BC, at least, used Zoroastrian month and day names in documents in Pahlavi (the Iranian language of Sasanian Persia). It became official under the Sasanian dynasty, from about AD. 226 until the Arab conquest in AD 621. The Arabs introduced the Muslim lunar year, but the Persians continued to use the Sasanian solar year, which in 1079 was made equal to the Julian year by the introduction of the leap year.
Probably under the same circumstances, the Kurds learned to use the same abductions for the days of a week. The first Kurdish day of the week Sheme, gets a digit prefix to mark the first, second, third, fourth and fifth day after first day of week. The last day of the week is Heynî or Jume (Friday) which is a free day of work for many cultures in Mideast. Heynî (none, relax) make a best explanations for the last free day of the week in Kurdish. Jume, Jivîn, Jemîn and Jemu (gathering or jamboree) which is Avestay world Jem that have survived in Iran languages. For more efficiency on using the Kurdish name for the days of a week on Internet these abbreviations are suggested as Sh (Şem.), Ye (Yekşem.), Du (Duşem.), Sê (Sêşem.), Ca (Çarşem.), Pê (Pêncşem.), and În (Înî).
Names of weekdays
- Archeology section of KURDISTANICA - Encyclopedia of Kurdistan
- The comparison table of variety Kurdish names for each month
- Interview with older Kurds from Southern Kurdistan in Exile
- Kurdish-Persian Dictionary, A. Sharafqhandi "Hejar Tehran, Iran. 1991.
- Kermanshahan and Its Ancient Civilization. Iraj Afshar. Tehran 1992.
- Historical Geography and Comprehensive history of Kermanshahan, M. ali Soltani. Vol. 2, Tehran. 1993.
- The Kurdish calendar published by Sérwe the Kurdish Cultural Journal, Wirmí 1995.
- The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, Mehrdad R. Izady, Taylor & Francis Publishers, Washington, D.C., 1992.
- Interview with older Kurds from Northern Kurdistan in Exile
- The Kurdish calendar published by PSK (Socialist party of Kurdistan) for year 2000 in Sweden.
- Kurdish traditional calendar, Abdula Ayobiyan, Tabriz University of Literature publication, Vol.16, No2, 1964.
- Newroz in Kurdistan, Mostafa Kaywan, Tehran 1970.
- Borhan-i Qateh, Mohammad Moein. Tehran 1342, III, p. 1300, footnote one.
- Encyclopaedia of Kurdistan. KURDISTANICA
- KEO-Culture - National Characters, Kurdish Calendar
- Kurdish Calendar
- The Kurds: A Concise Handbook By Mehrdad R. Izady