Writing Advice • Chronogram Calculator • Najma Seth’s Stories • Zer-o-Zabar Chronogram Calculator
You may enter a chronogram below, in Arabic (or Persian, Urdu, etc.) script:This chronogram calculator was developed with Daniel Majchrowicz. For help writing in the Urdu script, use Google’s input tool.
What is a Chronogram?Along with a phonetic value, each letter of the Arabic alphabet (abjad) is also associated with a numerical value. By adding together the value of the letters in a given word or phrase, one may arrive at its numeric equivalent. Perhaps the most well-known example is the number 786, which is equivalent to the phrase, “bismillah ar-rahmān ar-rahīm” (﷽, “in the name of God, the Benevolent, the Merciful”). This system can be used to create chronograms (tārīkh, pl. tavārīkh), phrases that encode a relevant date. One of South Asia’s most famous chronograms gives the year of the death of Humayun, who perished as he descended the steps of his library:
ہمایون پادشاہ از بام افتاد Humāyūn Pādshāh az bām uftād, i.e., “King Humayun fell from the roof,” equivalent to 962 A.H., or about 1555 C.E.
Another well known one is the title, and year of completion, of a popular qissa (story or romance):
باغ و بہار Bāgh o Bahār, i.e., “The Garden and Spring,” equivalent to 1217 A.H., or about 1802 C.E.
In Persian and Urdu, letters that do not exist in Arabic are assigned the value of the letter to which they most closely correspond (e.g., ت = ٹ). Tashdīd ( ﹼ ), which doubles the sound-value of a letter, usually also doubles its numeric value (though sometimes not – use the tashdīd toggle to see both results).
Chronograms have long been popular in South Asia, and a recent paper on the subject has shown that the art of chronogram composition remains alive and well. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the abjad system or wish to see more chronograms in action, there are a number of resources available. Frances Pritchett maintains an instructive page with more detailed information and many more chronograms. Mehr Afshan Farooqi’s article on the subject is definitive, and contains a number of other references for further study, including the entry on abjad in the Farhang-e Āsafiyya dictionary.
Notes on using the calculator
- While the system for assigning value to letters has largely been standardized across South Asia and Iran, there is still plenty of variation. For this reason, the calculated value offered above should not be taken as definitive.
- Moreover, while most chronograms give a date in either the Hijri or Gregorian calendars, they are also occasionally written to give dates in a variety of other calendars, such as the Fasli and the Bikrami.
- Some chronograms contain instructions for their calculation, asking the reader to add or subtract a certain value. Our calculator is not yet fluent enough in Urdu to know when to make these additional calculations.
- Although we have tested the calculator out on a variety of chronograms, there remains the possibility for error. It has also been optimized for Urdu, so using certain Persian input systems may result in an incomplete result. If you find an error, please let us know.