This is not a review of the book by Edward. R. As!
This is about the traditional vernacular almanac in Tamil, popular worldwide. The 'Asal No.28. Pambu Panchangam'. Can anyone believe that over 2 lakhs copies of this almanac is sold every year?
I saw a copy hanging in a book shop where I went to buy a few stationery items. Even though it is two months to go for the Tamil New Year, I picked up a copy of the panchangam for the next year. No special reason. . . I thought anyway I am going to buy one, why not now?
As kids, we have watched our dad buy an almanac, carefully stitch it on to a cover and tie a string so that it can conveniently hang on the wall. We had interest only in reading about the 'Makara Sankaranti Devatha' of that year, which normally appears on the 10th page of the almanac. The description is strange. . . The devatha appears with two faces, three eyes, four mouths and with red tusks! She is described as trvelling on any animal, be it a lion or a donkey. Her dress, fragrance, the vessel she carries, all are related to the predictions for the year.
But what is interesting is the number attached to the panchangam! The door number of the house where the original publisher Konnur Manicka Mudaliar lived bore the number 28. The almanac always has 28 pages, in all the years! (How do they maintain it?!)
The snake on the front cover has 27 circles (The almanac calls the snake as 'Rahu Phani Chakram') These 27 circles denote 27 stars as per Indian astrology. This chakram is used to decide the day for sowing seeds in that year.
The irony is the origin that from Kanjanur Appanaiyengar and his son Annavaiyengar. But now who is doing it? There is no mention about it in the Panchangam. But M. S. Pachaiyappa Mudaliar is the present publisher.
The legend also says that Konnur Manicka Mudaliar had an adopted son, Lokanatha Mudaliar. His wife was Selvarangammal. Their grandson M . S. Pachaiyappa Mudaliar is the present publisher!
Another interesting feature is that the panchangam lists the Mohammadian festivals also. It is said that many Muslims also buy this almanac!