Pal Singh Purewal
Passing of a Sikh Luminary.
Pal Singh Purewal. 12 Nov 1932 – 22 Sept 2022
Karminder Singh Dhillon PhD (Boston)
Pal Singh Purewal, the architect of the iconic Mool Nanakshahi Calendar and a beacon for the independent identity of Sikhs, passed away in Edmonton, Canada on September 22, 2022.
Purewal, a Canadian based research scholar contributed towards freeing Sikhi from the shackles of Snatanism by working tirelessly to create the solar based Nanakshahi calendar (named after Guru Nanak) in the hope that it would replace the lunar based Bikrami one. Purewal had stated that he had three objectives in formulating the Nanakshahi calendar. The first was to formulate a calendar that was in line with the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). Second was to discard the inaccurate lunar calendar. And third was to allow for all Sikh festival dates to be fixed and not vary from year to year.
The Nanakshahi calendar uses the accurate tropical year of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds. Year one of the Nanakshahi calendar is the year of Guru Nanak’s birth (1469 CE). April 1, 2022 CE is thus Nanakshahi 554. The names of the months within the Nanakshahi calendar are taken from a bani within the SGGS. The Nanakshahi calendar contains 5 months of 31 days followed by 7 months of 30 days. There is a leap year every 4 Years in which the last month (Phagun) has an extra day.
In contrast, the lunar based Bikarmi calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar one. This means after every 30 months an additional month is added to the year making the year consisting of 384 days and 13 months. Such a situation creates a chaos for Gurpurabs, amongst other problems. The birthday of Guru Gobind Singh for instance appears twice in certain years, and not at all in certain years. In the 20th Century, the Bikarmi calendar’s Vesakhi fell on 12 April, then 13th and then 14th. By the year 3000, Vesakhi would have moved to 1st of May. No such problem exists within the Solar calendar.
Pal Singh presented his Nanakshahi Calendar to the Sikh world in 1996. It passed a general house resolution of the SGPC in 1999 and was released by the same body at the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. It was accepted by the Akal Takht (AT) in 2003. The Sikh world operated within this calendar till 2009.
In 2009 the Sant Samaj, Dera Chownk Mehta and taksali groups pressured SGPC and AT through the Akali Dal to revert to the Snatan Bikarmi calendar. They had the backing of the then RSS chief KS Sudarshan Kumar. To appease these groups, in 2010 the SGPC created its own modified Nanakshahi calendar that coincided the dates of the Sikh festivals with the Bikrami calendar. Having no expertise on the matter of making calendars, what the SGPC did was a hodge podge mixing of dates. An outcry resulted, and instead of reverting to the original Nanakshahi calendar, the SGPC, in 2014, reverted fully to the Bikrami calendar and labelled it Nanakshahi instead. Purewal’s calendar has since been called Mool Nanakshahi (Root or Original Nanakshahi).
The backtracking of the SGPC has put the Sikh communities across the world in a quandary. Dera, taksal and sant samaj controlled gurdwaras and institutions continue to use the Snatan Bikrami calendar. These groups have further sought to push Bikarmi calendar supporters to take over the management of Gurdwaras and remove those who are in favour of implementing the Mool Nanakshahi calendar.
In 2010 the AT excommunicated one of its former Jathedars – Prof Darshan Singh. Despite the official “justification” that was given by the AT, not many are aware that the real reason was his vociferous support for the Mool Nanakshahi calendar and constant attacks on the RSS leader KS Sudarshan to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Sikhs. One of the five Jathedars who signed the excommunication order was himself removed from his position in 2015 because he had turned subsequently into a supporter of the Mool Nanakshahi calendar and called for its implementation.
Unlike SGPC, many other gurdwara committees including Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) follow the Mool Nanakshahi Calendar. It has been adopted by the vast majority of the Gurdwaras the world over. In Malaysia, the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) has adopted this calendar as well.
Pal Singh Purewal was an engineer by training and an expert in mathematics and science. He had extensive working experience in his field in Punjab, UK and Canada with stints in Germany and the USA. He had been a resident of Edmonton, Canada – where he passed on September 22 – since 1974.
He authored various research papers promoting the authenticity of a Sikh calendar since 1960, thus establishing himself as a calenderologist. In the process, Purewal gave the Sikh and Muslim world two iconic publications. The Jantri 500 Years is a thoroughly researched book on the Sikh calendar that was published by the Punjab School Education Board in November 1994. This 550-page book is a useful tool for historians to check and convert dates in Indian calendars from 1469 CE onwards. For his work on the Nanakshahi calendar he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the World Sikh University, UK. The Hijri Calendar is his contribution to the Muslim community. He received a ‘lifetime achievement’ award for his work on this book.
Pal Singh was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal for his three-decade long voluntary work. He was also recognized in the Alberta Legislature by the Minister of Community Development Hon’ble Gene Zwozdesky.
Sikh leaders and organizations from across the world have paid glowing tributes to Pal Singh Purewal. The President of Global Sikh Council, Lady Kanwaljit Kaur captured the sentiments of the Sikh Panth in her message: “Purewal was a beacon for promoting the Sikh identity as being unique and independent. He was a great wise man, the likes of whom appear rarely. Unfortunately, the Sikh Kaum has shown a lack of wisdom in recognising the value of the diamond that he was. He will be remembered for years to come for his work on the Nanak Shahi calendar.”
The real recognition the Sikh world can accord to Pal Singh Purewal is in rejecting the adulterated calendar that was concocted by the SGPC under duress of anti-Sikh forces within the Sant Samaj, Dera Chownk Mehta and taksali outfits; and in implementing the Mool Nanakshahi calendar.
May the family and loved ones of Pal Singh Pureval remain blessed with the courage to deal with his passing. May the Sikh Panth have the courage to accord Pal Singh Pureval the recognition he rightfully deserves – even if in his death.