To day is the 1st day of the 1st month, Chingam, according to the Malayalam Era (ME). The year that starts today is 1183 ME. In Malayalam, this Era is called ‘Kollavarsham’, a combination of the Malayalam words ‘Kollam’ (name of the place where the new calendar was created) and ‘varsham’ (year). Kollam (Quilon), which was also known as Desinganad, was a flourishing trading port even during the first millennium of the Christian Era.
There is difference of opinion among the historians about the origin of Kollavarsham. The theories relating to this are: (1) linked to the consecration of a Shiva temple built during the reign of Udaya Marthanda Varma, (2) marks the settlement of Nestorian (a denomination of Christians) traders near the port, and (3) started by the disciples of Sri Shankaracharya.
No dispute however about the year in which Kollavarsham began – 825 AD. To convert Kollavarsham to AD and vice versa, add/deduct 825. There could be a slight overlap because Kollavarsham starts in the eighth month of the Gregorian calendar. The new calendar quickly gained acceptance and was officially in force till recently. Kerala astrologers still use Kollavarsham for calculations.
For the benefit of those Mallus who might have forgotten – the twelve months of a Kollavarsham are Chingam, Kanni, Thulam, Vrischikam, Dhanu, Makaram, Kumbham, Meenam, Medam, Edavam, Midhunam and Karkidakam.