There are many theories regarding the origin of the era, but according to historian Noburu Karashima (2014), it commemorated the "foundation of Kollam" after the liberation of the region (known as Venadu) from the Pandya rule by Chera king at Kodungallur. The earliest record mentioning Kollam Era is a royal order by Sri Vallava Goda, the chieftain of Venadu, dated to c. 973 CE (Kollam Era 149). In the inscription the phrase "Kollam Tontri Andu" is employed.
Another era referred to as "Kollam Azhinta Andu", counting from 1097 CE, was reckoned by the Pandyas for some time. It is tentatively calculated that the Pandya kings, under the sanction of their Chola overlords, captured the port of Kollam in 1097 CE.
Kollam Era initially remained a local era in the port of Kollam alone and perhaps in the whole chiefdom of Venadu. Later it spread through out Kerala and came to be known as the Malayalam Era.
There are multiple conflicting accounts regarding the origins of the Malayalam calendar, some of which are mentioned below:
The Malayalam months follows the Sanskritic Sauramāsa (solar month) naming convention. Thus, Chingam is named after the corresponding Sanskrit solar month, the Simham, and so on. This is unlike the case in Tulu calendar which follow the names of lunar months. The following are the months of the astronomical Malayalam calendar:
|No.||Months in Malayalam Era||In Malayalam||Sanskrit solar month||Gregorian Calendar||Tulu calendar||Tamil calendar||Saka era||Sign of Zodiac|
The days of the week in the Malayalam calendar are suffixed with Aazhcha (ആഴ്ച), meaning week.
|1.||Njayar||ഞായർ||Bhānu vāsara||Sunday||Bhanuvara||Nyaayiru (ஞாயிறு)||Ravivar||al-aḥad||Ravivara (ੜਰਿਰਾਹ)|
|2.||Thinkal||തിങ്കൾ||Soma vāsara||Monday||Somavara||Thingal (திங்கள்)||Somvar||al-ithnayn||Sovara (ਸੋਰਾਹਾ)|
|3.||Chowva||ചൊവ്വ||Maṅgala vāsara||Tuesday||Mangalavara||Chevvai (செவ்வாய்)||Mangalvar||al-thalāthāʾ||Mangla Var (ਝੱਗਲਾ ਰਾਥ)|
|4.||Budhan||ബുധൻ||Budha vāsara||Wednesday||Budhavara||Budhan (புதன்)||Budhvar||al-arbaʿā||Budhvarʾ (ਬੁਦ੍ਝਰਾਹ)|
|5.||Vyazham||വ്യാഴം||Guru vāsara||Thursday||Guruvara||Vyazhan (வியாழன்)||Guruvar||al-khamīs||Gurūvar (ਗੁਰੂ ਹਾਰ)|
|6.||Velli||വെള്ളി||Śukra vāsara||Friday||Shukravara||Velli (வெள்ளி)||Sukravar||al-jumuʿah||Ta visvar (ਤਾਂ ਹਿਥਹਾਹ)|
|7.||Shani||ശനി||Śani vāsara||Saturday||Shanivara||Shani (சனி)||Shanivar||al-sabt||Sanivar (ਸਯੀਰਾਥ।)|
Like the months above, there are twenty seven stars starting from Aswati (Ashvinī in Sanskrit) and ending in Revatī. The 365 days of the year are divided into groups of fourteen days called Ñattuvela (ഞാറ്റുവേല), each one bearing the name of a star.
Vishu (വിഷു), celebrated on the 1st of Metam, and Onam (ഓണം), celebrated on the star Thiruvonam [t̪iruʋoːɳəm] in the month of Chingam, there are two of the major festivals in Kerala. In Indian astrology, the passing of the sun into Aries at the vernal equinox on Metam 1, now calculated to fall on April 14, is generally celebrated as Vishu (derived from the Sanskrit Maha Vishuva Sankranti, the word "sanGkrAnti" सङ्क्रान्ति meaning "transference or transition to"), and was considered a candidate for marking the start of a year. However, a conference of astronomers that the king Udaya Marthanda Varma summoned in 825 CE, resolved to start the New Year on the first of Chingam (in mid-August). While Cochin, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Ceylon followed suit, Palghat and North Kerala retained another ancient mode of reckoning the New Year from the first day of Kanni (Virgo) in September.
The Makaravilakku festival is celebrated in the Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on the 1st day of month Makaram. This marks the grand finale of the two-month period to the Sabarimala pilgrimage. The 1st of Makaram marks the Winter Solstice (Uttarayanam) and the 1st of Karkaṭakam marks the summer solstice (Dakshinayanam) according to the Malayalam calendar. (According to the astronomical calendar the summer solstice is on June 21, and the winter solstice on December 21.)
Chaitram 1 (usually coinciding with March 20) or Metam 1 (mostly coinciding with April 14, for 2019 it was on April 15th), both in the proximity of the date of the vernal equinox (March 21), mark the beginning of the new year in many traditional Indian calendars such as the Indian National calendar and the Tamil calendar. When the Government of Kerala adopted Kolla Varsham as the regional calendar, the 1st of Chingam, the month of the festival of Onam, was accepted as the Malayalam New Year instead.
Many events in Kerala are related to the dates in the Malayalam calendar.
The agricultural activities of Kerala are centred on the seasons. The southwest monsoon which starts around 1 June is known as Etavappathi, meaning mid-Etavam. The northeast monsoon which starts during mid October is called thulavarsham (rain in the month of thulam). The two harvests of paddy are called Kannikkoythu and Makarakkoythu (harvests in the months kanni and makaram) respectively.
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