Comment from reader

A comment on “The calendar system”

C. K. Raju

This refers to the article “Calendar system: how to measure time” by Tapas Piplai under “Cultural exchanges and pluralism”.

Clearly, Mr Piplai is totally out of his depth. He seems to have sourced his information from an article by Amartya Sen, and is relaying it without bothering to check facts or understand the issues involved. Amartya Sen is a political economist, not an expert on timekeeping.

The Greeks borrowed their calendar from Egyptians, as Herodotus tells us (History book 2, Euterpe, 4, p. 49), but were unable to maintain it because they were arithmetically challenged. The Greek calendar was so bad that the Romans laughed at it: “Greek calends” (meaning never) was a common witticism with Romans. But their own calendar was so bad that the Julian reform (suggested by the learned Egyptian Sosigenes) needed a year of 445 days! The months were in a state of confusion on the Julian/Gregorian calendar with the ides having no relation to the cycle of the moon. Compare this with the Indian months which are always exactly 30 tithis, and poornima (=ides) always falls on the 15th.  Even after the Julian reform, the Romans could not even get the duration of the (tropical) year right because they could not easily say it, and hence used the wrong figure of 365¼  days, a figure awfully wrong even by the standards of the 5th c. Araybhata (not Aryabhatta). So, what is the evidence for the claim that the (horribly wrong) “Hellenic” calendar influenced the accurate Indian calendar, accurate from at least -1500 CE?

Glorifying the Greeks was a strategy of Crusading historians to churchify and falsify history, a strategy later picked up by racist and colonial historians. This is explained in more detail in my booklet Is Science Western in Origin? (Mlutiversity, Penang, 2009) and in the abstract and notes of my five lectures against racist history, “Not out of Greece”, delivered at the University of South Africa, and posted at

Indeed what is the hard evidence that Greeks did any astronomy? (They lacked the arithmetic skills for it.) The earliest actual manuscript of the Almagest we have comes from the 12th c. CE. There is nil evidence to connect it to any early Greek, and the text is clearly accretive and bears the stamp of Indian influence (via Baghdad, 8th c.) for instance in its Indian multiplication tables common to Arabic astronomy texts (zijes)  of the 9th c. It does NOT have the right duration of the tropical year. Had the text existed in the 5th c. Roman empire, the Hilarius calendar reforms of the 5th c. would not have failed so abjectly. The Gregorian reform by the way also involved imported calendrical knowledge from India (via Clavius’ student Matteo Ricci, see video linked below). Indeed, Protestants (including Newton) did not accept the Gregorian reform until 1752, for no one in Europe then was sure of the exact duration of the tropical year, certainly not Tycho Brahe or his assistant Kepler.

Adopting this unscientific Christian Gregorian calendar ruins our economic interests and the interests of our farmers, for India still depends upon farming which depends upon the monsoons which are part of the Indian calendar, and culture, but not indicated on the Gregorian or Julian or Greek calendar. Amartya Sen should have said something about the economic significance of the calendar. Did he?

Anyway to cut a long story short, I refer Mr Piplai to my popular video “A tale of two calendars” and an article of the same title (just google the title). Formally,  the article is in Claude Alvares ed. Multicultural Knowledge and the University (Multiversity, Penang, 2014), and the video is posted at There is also another video on “Decolonizing time” based on a recent talk I gave in Berlin: which looks at the three “time” gifts of colonization, calendar, clocks, and the clockwork cosmos. Finally, the difficulty that Greeks and Romans (and Europeans) had with elementary arithmetic is brought out in the first few slides of the video of my MIT talk, “Calculus: the real story”, posted at

There are also numerous other details and issues in my two books on time, The Eleven Pictures of Time, Sage 2003, and Time: Towards a Consistent Theory, Kluwer, 1994. 

C. K. Raju

Jun 13, 2017

Vol. 49, No.47, May 28 - Jun 3, 2017