The Buddhist Calendar

The Buddhist calendar is used in several form on mainland Southeast Asia in the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The lunisolar calendar consists of twelve months, each having 29 or 30 days, with an intercalated day and a 30-day month added at regular intervals. The vsrious form are all based on the original third century Surya Siddhanta.

Photo of a buddha statue
The Great Buddha, Kamakura


Common years have months that alternate 29 and 30 days with an extra day being added to Jyestha/Nayon making it 30 days, and an extra month is obtained by counting Ashadha/Waso twice. Each month has a waxing half of 15 days and a waning half of 14 or 15 days.

Sanskrit* Sinhala Burmese
Caitra Bak Tagu
Vaisakha Vesak Kason
Jyestha Poson Nayon
Ashadha Æsala Waso
Sravan Nikini Wagaung
Bhadrapada Binara Tawthalin
Asvina Wap Thadingyut
Karttika Il Tarzaungmon
Margasirsha Undhuvap Natdaw
Pausha Dhuruthu Pyadho
Magha Navam Tabodwe
Phalguna Mædhin Tabaung
* except in old Burmese


Its lunisolar intercalation system generally adds seven extra months (adhikamasa) every 19 years and 11 extra days (adhikavara) every 57 years, but this is only a rough guide to the results of the actual calculations. The average year is 365.25875 days reckoned from the mahayuga of 4,320,000 years, simplified to 292,207 days every 800 years by removing a common factor of 5400 from the total days and years. This year is slightly longer than the modern sidereal year and is substantially longer than the modern tropical year.
The Hindu version adds extra months and days (or removes months and days) as soon as the astronomical formulae require, whereas the southeast Asian versions delay their addition. The Thai/Lao/Cambodian version does not permit an extra day to occur within years having an extra month, whereas the Burmese/Sri Lankan version permits an extra day only in years having an extra month. Thus there are four types of lunisolar years, of 354, 355, 384, or 385 days. Even though the intercalation cycles imply a tropical year, the sidereal year that is actually used causes the 'cycles' to gradually shift throughout history.

Numbering of the years

The numbered year coincides with the sidereal year containing twelve zodiacal signs (rasi) so it can begin on any date from 6 Caitra/Tagu to 5 Vaisakha/Kason, meaning the rest of the month will be in an adjacent year. Thus any particular numbered year may be missing some days of the month while an adjacent year has the same set of dates at both its beginning and end. Four eras were/are used:

  • Anchansakarat, from 10 March 691 BC (rarely used)
  • Buddhasakarat, Buddhist Era or BE, from 11 March 545 BC, believed to be the date of the death of the Buddha. (BE–AD of 544 used to be common, but BE–AD is now 543 in Thailand, beginning after April before 1940, then began and still begins 1 January)
  • Mahasakarat from 17 March 78 (same as the Saka Era in India, used in Thailand until the mid-13th century, standard in Cambodia)
  • Chulasakarat from 22 March 638 (adopted in Thailand mid-13th century, standard in Burma)

Epochal years

All years are elapsed/expired/complete years. This means their epochal year is year 0 (and not year 1) because a complete year had not yet elapsed during it. The epochal dates only apply to year 0 — modern dates for the entry of the Sun into the first rasi (the beginning of the sidereal year) occur later in the Gregorian calendar due to precession of the equinoxes. The calculations do not begin with zero at epoch — instead an offset of a certain number of whole and fractional days, which can amount to more than one year, must be added to all calculations, explaining the apparent Buddhasakarat inconsistency. Here 544 has an offset of 4 days at epoch whereas 543 has an offset of 369 days.