Buddhist Calendar

Discover the many different Buddhist Calendars which exist in Southeast Asia today, how they work and of which Buddhist festivals and important events they keep track.

Buddhist CalendarThe Buddhist Calendar is a term for a set of Religious Calendars all of which are Lunisolar Calendars in use throughout countries in South Eastern Asia like Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and, perhaps most well-known, in Sri Lanka to record religious and official events. Each country has its own variations concerning the Buddhist Calendar, despite sharing common ancestry, such as, the names and numbering of the months as well as the use of cycles.

Whilst predominantly based on the ancient version of the Hindu Calendar which uses the sidereal year in the place of a solar year, the collection of Southeast Asian Calendars, known as Buddhist Calendars, do not use apparent reckoning to remain synchronized with the tropical year. Instead, the Buddhist Calendars use their own versions of the Metonic cycle which, intended to match the progression of tropical year and not sidereal years, is slowly forcing the Buddhist Calendars further and further out of sync with the tropical year by around one day every sixty years.

Buddhist Festival Calendar

Although it no longer holds the title of official calendar in Southeast Asia, having been replaced by the Thai Buddhist Era which is effectively a renumbered form of the Gregorian Calendar in countries like Thailand, the Buddhist lunisolar calendars are still used to determine important Buddhist festivals.

Buddhist date International date Public holiday in Notes
Full moon of Pausa January Sri Lanka Duruthu Poya: Commemorates the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka
Full moon of Magha February Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand Magha Puja in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Navam Poya in Sri Lanka
Full moon of Phalguna March Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka Boun Pha Vet (Laos), Tabaung Festival (Myanmar), Medin Poya (Sri Lanka)
 Caitra (occasionally in Vaisakha) 13–17 April
(varies by country)
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand New Year's Day
New Year's Day was traditionally marked by the Sun´s entry into Aries but is now fixed in most countries; Myanmar still follows the tradition
Full moon of Caitra April Sri Lanka Bak Poya: Commemorates the second visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka
Full moon of Visakha May Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka Buddha Day
Full moon of Jyaistha June Sri Lanka Poson Poya: Commemorates introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka
Full moon of Ashadha July Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka Start of Buddhist Lent
Full moon of Sravana August Sri Lanka Nikini Poya
Full moon of Bhadrapada September Laos, Sri Lanka
Full moon of Asvina October Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka End of Buddhist Lent
Full moon of Karttika November Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand That Loung Festival (Laos); Tazaungdaing Festival (Myanmar); Il Poya (Sri Lanka); Loi Krathong (Thailand)
Full moon of Margasirsa December Sri Lanka Undhuvap Poya (Sri Lanka)

History of the Buddhist Calendars

The Buddhist Calendar starts measuring time from the Paranirvana (ie. the death) of the Buddha but, due to the ambiguity over the exact date this event occurred, different countries follow slightly different variations of the Buddhist Calendars. For example, those who follow the dates of the Buddhist Era started counting from 545 B.C whereas the Burmese, who follow a different Era, started counting in 638 B.C.

Generally, to convert Buddhist dates according to the Gregorian Calendar, scholars agree that you simply need to subtract 544 from the Buddhist date. However, this calculation will occasionally be off by one year as the Buddhist year starts in the month of May instead of the customary January  in the Christian Calendar. The year 2014 AD according to the Gregorian Calendar is 2558 BE.

How does the Buddhist Calendar work?

The Buddhist Calendar follows the lunar months with each lasting 29 ½ days. Each month is divided into two fortnights for the waxing and waning of the moon and each half of the month is numbered.

For the Lunar Months to correspond with the Solar Year, the Buddhist Calendar adds an extra day every 57 years.

Months in the Buddhist Calendar

You can also consult the name of the months according to the Buddhist Calendar in the following table:

Name Roman Calendar Equivalent
1. Citta Feb./Mar. – Mar./April
2. Vesâkha Mar./Apr  -April
3. Jettha April./May – May/June
4. Âsâlha May/June – June/July
5. Sâvana June/July – July/August
6. Pottapâda July/August – August/Sept
7. Assayuja August/Sep. – Sept./Oct
8. Kattikâ Sept./Oct. -  Oct./Nov
9. Maggasira Oct./Nov. – Nov./Dec
10. Phussa Nov./Dec – Dec./Jan
11. Mâgha Dec./Jan – Jan./Feb.
12. Phagguna Jan./Feb. – Feb./Mar.
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