Why the Financial Year begins on April 1

published on April 8, 2007

By Ravi Kumar
Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh
International Joint Coordinator


The Relevance of Hindu Solar New Year to the Financial Year beginning on April 1


The Christian calendar begins on 1st January, yet the financial year starts from 1st April, why? What is the history behind this?


We would need to go back a few hundred years. Before the year 1582,Hindu Solar New Year day or Punjabi Vaisakhi day or Tamil New Year day or Malayalam Vishu day or Bengali New Year day used to fall on 1st April. This is an important day for the Hindus and they celebrated this day as the day of harvests. Children wore new clothes, men and women visited temples and many acts of charity were performed.


 A special paste was prepared with crushed neem (Margos) leaves and sweet jaggery. Neem leaves being bitter, this paste was a mixture of sweetness and bitterness. This was served in the meals and it signified that life is full of both happiness and bitterness and one should take success and failure, gain and loss, happy and gloomy days,praise and insult with equanimity and poise. Social functions included picnics, outings, village games and competitions. This was an ideal day for starting ones financial year.


East India Company Adopts 1st April


400 years before India was the World Trade Centre. Bharat’s share in world trade was 23%, that of Britain was 2% and US was a mere 0.2%.Bharat’s wealth attracted most nations of the world. England formed British East India Company in 1600 AD to get a large slice of India’s trade. Dutch East India Company in 1602 and French East India Company in 1664 were subsequently formed with the same intentions. When British East India Company landed in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Bengal they saw that the Hindus celebrated their New Year day or Vishu or Vaisakhi on 1st April with gay abandon. Hence the British also adopted April 1st as the beginning of New Year for their commercial activities.


It may also be recalled that 400 years ago, Emperor Akbar identified Vaisakhi Day as Fasli year and it marked the beginning of his financial year and he used it for his administration. It is interesting to note that Akbar did not use the Islamic calendar. Why? It is because the Muslim calendar has only 354 days in a year which is 11 days short of the solar year.


14th April due to Gregorian calendar Reforms


The Hindu Solar New Year Day or Vishu or Vaisakhi day which used to coincide on 1st April became the International Financial year Day. But today our Vishu or Vaisakhi day falls on 13th or 14th April. Why so, one may ask curiously. We will now see how this difference of 12 or 13 days occurred over these four centuries. To understand this we need to consider the changes that have taken place in the Christian Calendar during this period.


In the Julian and modified Julian calendar that existed before 1582 AD, 1st January and 1st April fell on Hindu festivals namely Makara Sankranti and Besakih the Hindu solar New Year. The influence of Hinduism can be easily appreciated from the fact that these days are
declared holidays in Europe.


On 24th February 1582 Pope Gregory issued a papal bull, Inter Gravissimas, establishing what is now called the Gregorian calendar reform. The Gregorian calendar is the calendar which is currently in use in all Western and Westernized countries. One of the Gregorian reforms was the shifting of New Year Day from 25th March to 1st January. The other was to delete 10 days in 1582. Accordingly October 4, 1582 was followed not by October 5 but by October 15th. Thus the Christian calendar was advanced by ten days in 1582. Until 1582 the 1st April fell on the Vaisakhi day which was also the solar new year as per the Indian calendar. In 1583 however, the 1st April preceded Vaisakhi by 10 days and hence it was 11th April on the Vaisakhi day.


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 further gained another three days, thus adding up to 13 days as the difference between 1st of April and the Vaisakhi day. That explains why Vaisakhi falls on the 14th or 13th of April now.


The above explanation is also valid for Makar Sankranti which falls on January 14/13 today. Originally January 1st. coincided with Makar Sankranti.


Initially most countries in Europe continued to observe March 25 as their New Year which was very close to Hindu lunar New Year day or Varsha Pratipada. Only Catholic countries of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland readily adopted the Gregorian calendar upon the promulgation of Pope Gregory’s decree in 1582. France and Luxembourg followed shortly. During the next two years most Catholic regions of Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands came on board.Hungary followed in 1587. The rest of the Netherlands, Denmark,Germany and Switzerland made the change during 1699 to 1701. The Gregorian calendar was adopted in Britain (and in the British colonies) in 1752, with September 2, 1752, being followed immediately
by September 14, 1752. Sweden adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1753,Japan in 1873, Egypt in 1875, Russia and Eastern Europe during 1912 to 1919 and Turkey in 1927. 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 this continued till 1918. This day of 1st April was the day of merriment not only in Bharat but all over Europe. Many hoaxes and pranks were played to make the day memorable.


1st April Celebrations in other countries


Since Bharat had a wide contact and influence in the ancient world,this 1st April was also a day of celebrations in the ancient civilizations. It was the last day of Assyrian New Year Celebrations.
Roman Empire celebrated Veneralia Festival to honor Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. The worship of the goddess Fortuna Virilis (“Bold fortune”) was also part of this festival. In Rome, women removed jewelry from the statue of the goddess, washed her, and adorned her with flowers, and similarly bathed themselves in the public baths wearing wreaths of myrtle on their heads. It was generally a day for women to seek divine help in their relations with men. Hindu empires in South East Asia had developed great civilizations through syncretization and not through bloodshed. Hence 13th or 14th April is celebrated as New Year Days in Bali Island, Thailand and Nepal. In Bali, the entire island of 3 million people observe silence and fast from sunrise to sunset.


In Japan, it is the official start of school years in most universities and schools. It is also, the official first day of work at companies and offices for new university graduates hires, marked by
welcoming ceremonies and speeches. Canadian government too begins its fiscal year on 1st April. In England and Wales, local government reorganisations traditionally happen on April 1st. Some of universities in Russia (e.g. Omsk State University) celebrate mathematician day on April 1.

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