The new year has knocked on the door again. I had answered the new year twice this year, lol. We, Nepalese, are not only one to celebrate new year twice a year. We all follow both the date system, Anno Domini ( year of our lord meaning in latin) and Bikram Samwat. However, the official system is B.S abbreviation to Bikram Samwat. We are actually 56.7 years ahead of solar Gregorian calendar. The B.S system was started around 57 BCE and named after the King Vikramaditya.
According to popular tradition, the legendary king Vikramaditya of Ujjain established the Bikram Samwat era after defeating the Śakas, who migrated into parts of central, northern and western South Asia from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD. It is believed that Gandharvasena, the then-powerful king of Ujjain, abducted a nun called Sarasvati, who was the sister of the monk. The enraged monk sought the help of the Śaka ruler King Sahi in Sistan. Despite heavy odds but aided by miracles, the Śaka king defeated Gandharvasena and made him a captive. Sarasvati was repatriated, although Gandharvasena himself was forgiven. The defeated king retired to the forest, where he was killed by a tiger. His son, Vikramaditya, being brought up in the forest, had to rule from Pratishthana (modern Paithan in Maharashtra). Later on, Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away the Śakas. To commemorate this event, he started a new era called the “Vikrama era”. The Ujjain calendar started around 56-58 BCE, and the subsequent Shaka era calendar was started in 78 CE at Pratishthana.
The Rana rulers of Nepal made the B.S as official calender. Before the Rana rule, Shah kings used to follow the Saka era which was replaced by Bikram Samwat. And before Shah came into power in Nepal, Malla dynasty was prevalent which followed the Nepal Samwat. The Nepal Samwat remained in official use for a time being even after the rise of the Shahs which is justified by the treaty of Tibet that is signed during the reign of Pratap Singh Shah dated on Nepal Sambat 895 (1775 AD). In 1903, Saka Sambat in turn was superseded by Bikram Sambat as the official calendar. However, the government continued to use Saka Sambat on gold and silver coins till 1912 when it was fully replaced by Bikram Sambat.
The classical Vikram Samvat uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. Because 12 months do not match a sidereal year exactly, correctional months are added (adhika-masa) or occasionally subtracted (kshaya masa). The first month, Baisakh, of B.S fall on mid-April to mid-May and the last month, Chaitra, falls on mid-March to mid-April on Georgian Calender. The first day of new year is rejoiced and celebrated in a historical carnival that takes place every year in Bhaktapur, called Bisket Jatra.