Start of financial year has Indian connection: study

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Mumbai, Apr 1 (UNI) The financial year, that started today, has about 425-year-old history and an overwhelming Indian connection, a recent study has revealed.

According to the study, conducted by Ashok Motwani, (Editor of Diaspora Network News), before the year 1582, Lunar New Year / Vaisakhi / Tamil New Year / Malayalam Vishu Day or Bengali New Year Day used to fall on April 1.

This was an important 'harvest day' celebrated by people of Indian origin. It was also considered as an auspicious day for starting the financial dealings then.

The study states that till then, India was at the centre of world trade, with its share in global trade at estimated 23 per cent and that of Britain at two per cent and US at just 0.2 per cent.

England established British East India Company in 1600 AD to get a large slice of India's trade. The Dutch formed their East India Company in 1602 and the French set up a similar Company in 1664 with same intentions.

When British East India Company landed in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bengal, they saw that Indians celebrated their New Year day on April one with gay abandon. Hence, the British quickly adopted April 1 as the beginning of New Year for their commercial activities.

Earlier, Mughal emperor Akbar had identified Vaisakhi Day as Fasli Year and it marked the beginning of his financial year. He did not use the Islamic calendar that has only 354 days in a year that is 11 days short of our Lunar Year.

The harvest festival on April 1, however, shifted to April 14 due to reforms in Gregorian Calendar. In the Julian and modified Julian calendar that existed before 1582 AD, January 1 and April 1 fell on Indian festivals namely 'Makar Sankranti' and 'Baisakhi' of the Lunar New Year.

On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory issued a papal bull, Inter Gravissimas, establishing what is now called the Gregorian calendar reform. The Gregorian calendar is currently in use in all western countries.

One of the Gregorian reforms was the shifting of New Year's Day from March 25 to January 1. The other was to delete 10 days in 1582.

Accordingly, October 4, 1582, was followed not by October 5 but by October 15. Thus, the Christian calendar was advanced by 10 days in 1582. Until 1582, April 1 fell on the Vaisakhi day, which was also the Lunar New Year as per the Indian calendar. In 1583, however, April 1 preceded Vaisakhi by 10 days and hence, the Vaisakhi day falls on April 11.

Also, as per the calendar reform, the century years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not counted as leap years as these numbers are not divisible by 400. As a result, the Christian Calendar gained 3 more days, thus adding upto 13 days, as the difference between April 1 and the Vaisakhi day. That explains why Vaisakhi falls on the April 13 or 14 nowadays.

The above explanation is also valid for Makar Sankranti which falls on January 13 or 14 nowadays. Originally, January 1 coincided with Makar Sankranti, the study found.

Initially, many European countries continued to observe March 25 as their New Year which was very close to Hindu Lunar New Year day or 'Varsha Pratipada'.

In Europe, April 1 therefore coincided with Vaisakhi till the year 1582 and in case of Britain, till the year 1752 and in case of Russia, the trend continued till 1918. Thus, April 1 was the day of merriment not only in India but also across Europe. Many hoaxes and pranks were played to make this day memorable like April Fool's Jokes, which continue till date.

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