The Persian Calendar

The calendar in use in Iran and Afghanistan today was introduced in Persia in 1925, while Afghanistan adopted the calendar in 1957, using the Arab names of the zodiacal signs for the corresponding months of the Persian calendar.

A solar calendar with years of 365 days each was in use in pre-islamic Persia already. Every year consisted of 12 months with 30 days each, and five additional days. These additional days were being inserted between the 8th and the 9th month. From the year 1000 or so on, the extra days were shifted to the end of the year.

With the tropical year 0,2422 days longer than the old Persian year, the beginning of the calendar year moved backwards a day every four years. Soon, taxes had to be paid before harvesting, which was simply impossible. Therefore, caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 847-861) proposed to delay New Year, called Naw Ruz, by 57 days, but the reform seems not to have been carried out. Caliph al-Mu'tadid (r. 892-902) ordered Naw Ruz to be delayed by 60 days, but this reform, too, was not implemented.

In 1079, the Selchuk Djalal ad-Din Malik Shah (r. 1073-1092) fixed Naw Ruz to the vernal equinox. The year should have 365 days until the sun didn't enter Aries before noon on the last day of the year. In this case, six additional days had to be counted. There was no regular leap year pattern, despite the proposal of a leap year cycle of 33 years, containing 8 leap years, by the mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyam. With this rule, the Persian year would have had a mean length of (365 + 8/33) d = 365.2424.. d, which would have been even more accurate than the Gregorian year.

The modern Persian calendar uses quite complicated leap year rules, defining a 2820-year cycle with 683 leap years, which results a in mean length of a year of (365 + 683/2820) d = 365.2422 d. Considering the length of the tropical year as being constant, the remaining error would amount to a day in more than 2 million years!

The 2820-year cycle is divided into 21 subcycles of 128 years each, and a 132-year subcycle at the end of each 2820-year cycle. A 128-year subcycle consists of a 29-year sub-subcycle, followed by 3 sub-subcycles of 33 years each. Finally, the 132-year subcycle consists of one sub-subcycle of 29 years, followed by two 33-year sub-subcycles and a final sub-subcycle of 37 years.

The years are numbered within each cycle. Writing n for the number of a year within a cycle, this year is a leap year if n > 1 and n mod 4 = 1.

A year of the Persian calendar has 12 months, the order, names, and lengths of which can be seen in the following table (* - length of the month in leap years).

 No. MonthLength 
Farvardin31
Ordibehesht31
Khordad31
Tir31
Mordad31
Shahrivar31
Mehr30
Aban30
Azar30
10 Dey30
11 Bahman30
12 Esfand29, 30*

The years are counted from the year 622 CE on, which was the year of the Hidjra, Mohammed's escape from Mekkah to Medina. Thus, on 20 March 2008, the Persian year 1387 began with 1 Farvardin. Naw Ruz 1388 is on 21 March 2009, Gregorian.

Table for the Conversion of Persian Dates into Gregorian Dates

The table mainly consists of three columns in which the Gregorian dates of the first day of each Persian month are given for the several possibilities of Gregorian and Persian normal and leap years falling on each other. The difference between the Gregorian and Persian number of the year is shown in the last column, that difference being 621 for the months from Farvardin to Dey and 622 for the last two months of the Persian year, Bahman and Esfand.

To convert a Persian date into a Gregorian one first find the column in which the Persian number of the year is to be found. On top of that column find the Gregorian date of the first day of the Persian month which the date to be converted is in. Increase the year number by the number shown in the last column of the row of the Persian month.

Example

What is the Gregorian date of 10 Tir 1369 (Persian)? The number 1369 is to be found in the middle column of the table. In the upper part of that column we find 1 Tir = 22 June. The number of the Gregorian year is 1369 + 621 = 1990. Thus, 1 Tir 1369 (Persian) corresponds to 22 June 1990 (Gregorian). Going nine days ahead we find 10 Tir 1369 on 31 June 1990 which is 1 July 1990, because June has only 30 days.

 1 Farvardin22.321.320.3+621 
1 Ordibehesht22.421.420.4+621
1 Khordad23.522.521.5+621
1 Tir23.622.621.6+621
1 Mordad24.723.722.7+621
1 Shahrivar24.823.822.8+621
1 Mehr24.923.922.9+621
1 Aban24.1023.1022.10+621
1 Azar23.1122.1121.11+621
1 Dey23.1222.1221.12+621
1 Bahman22.121.120.1+622
1 Esfand21.220.219.2+622
     
    1281 1282 1285 1286 1289   1280 1283 1284 1287 1288   1375 1379 1383 1387 1391 
    1290 1293 1294 1297 1298   1291 1292 1295 1296 1299   1395 1399 1403 1404 1407 
    1301 1302 1305 1306 1310   1300 1303 1304 1307 1308   1408 1411 1412 1415 1416 
    1314 1318 1322 1326 1330   1309 1311 1312 1313 1315   1419 1420 1423 1424 1427 
    1334 1338    1316 1317 1319 1320 1321   1428 1431 1432 1435 1436 
     1323 1324 1325 1327 1328   1437 1439 1440 1441 1443 
     1329 1331 1332 1333 1335   1444 1445 1447 1448 1449 
     1336 1337 1339 1340 1341   1451 1452 1453 1455 1456 
     1342 1343 1344 1345 1346   1457 1459 1460 1461 1463 
     1347 1348 1349 1350 1351   1464 1465 1467 1468 1469 
     1352 1353 1354 1355 1356   1470 1471 1472 1473 1474 
     1357 1358 1359 1360 1361   1475 1476 1477 1478 
     1362 1363 1364 1365 1366  
     1367 1368 1369 1370 1371  
     1372 1373 1374 1376 1377  
     1378 1380 1381 1382 1384  
     1385 1386 1388 1389 1390  
     1392 1393 1394 1396 1397  
     1398 1400 1401 1402 1405  
     1406 1409 1410 1413 1414  
     1417 1418 1421 1422 1425  
     1426 1429 1430 1433 1434  
     1438 1442 1446 1450 1454  
     1458 1462 1466 1479  

The table can also be used to convert Gregorian into Persian dates. To find out how to do this is left to the reader.

 

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