Demystifying The Tamil Calendar – The Basics

All of my 35 years, I never understood the Tamil Calendar. And I never cared to understand it, too. It always seemed confusing. It meant people peering over the almanac and discussing terms that I found very difficult to remember and repeat. For most part, it used to get mixed up with astrology and superstition – good time, bad time, auspicious time, rahukaalam, yamagandam, and so on. To add to the confusion, my Tamil birthday would sometimes come ahead of my date of birth, and sometimes later. All this and more meant that I hardly gave it a second thought.

All that changed when my son started going to school. One of the first things that he learned in school was ‘January, February, March ……’ One of the first things that he wanted to figure out on his own was, when his birthday would come. It was pretty easy for him to figure that out. Month and date. Just two parameters. He was clear.

I suddenly wanted him to know about the Tamil Calendar too. Why? Don’t know. Just wanted him to. May be because I wanted him to be aware of our culture, even though I wasn’t aware of the same. And so, because I had to know it first before I could share it with him, I started to check what the Tamil Calendar was all about. And to my surprise, I didn’t find it that complicated. Making me wonder why it took me so long to look at this.

People who are already familiar with the Tamil Calendar, may find this post meaningless. However, I know many people who are, like how I was just a few months ago, totally clueless about the Tamil Calendar. Should they wish to know, here are a few basics that could introduce them to the Tamil Calendar. And, as mentioned above, I would like my son to know it too. And because I often fail to explain anything properly to him, I leave my understanding here so that he may get to know of it whenever he is ready.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that:

  • this post has nothing to do with astrology or any other related field. The idea is only to get familiarized with, and understand how days are tracked in the Tamil Calendar. And nothing more. It has got nothing to do with calculating auspicious or inauspicious timings, which day is good and which is not. I will leave that to experts
  • for the sake of easy comprehension, I refer to the Gregorian Calendar as ‘English Calendar’ here
  • there are still many elements related to the Tamil Calendar that I am not clear about. I will also leave my doubts here, with a request to anyone who comes across this post and knows about them to please enlighten us.

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Basic Parameters

The basic parameters for tracking a day/date in the English Calendar are Year, Month, Date, and Day. Ignoring Year for a moment, to track a day in the English Calendar, we refer to the Month and Date. Eg. March 27.

In the Tamil Calendar we have the Year and the Month. After that there are 3 separate tracks:

  1. Date,
  2. Star or Nakshatram, and
  3. Thidhi.

Depending upon the purpose, days could be tracked based on Month and the Date; or Month and the Star; or Month and the Thidhi. Eg.:

  1. First day of Thai Month, or
  2. Panguni (Month) – Uttaram (Star), or
  3. Chitirai (Month) – Pournami (Thidhi), etc.

We will get to know them – Stars and Thidhi – as we go along.

Let’s understand the months first. Twelve months. Often confusing. Which one comes when? To remember them easily, we can have some reference points in relation to the English Calendar. I have given a sample below. You can work out your own.

Tamil Month Corresponding English Period (Approx.) Reference Points
Thai Jan 15 to Feb 14 Our Republic Day comes in Thai. Valentine’s day, too?!
Maasi Feb 15 to Mar 14 March 1 is Maasi.
Panguni Mar 15 to Apr 14 My son’s birthday comes in Panguni. So does All Fools Day!
Chittirai Apr 14 to May 14 May Day is in Chittirai
Vaigaasi May 14 to June 14 Schools reopen in Vaigaasi. I got married in Vaigaasi.
Aani June 15 to July 14 July 4, American Independence day comes in Aani.
Aadi July 15 to Aug 14 August 1 is Aadi.
Aavani Aug 15 to Sep 14 Sep 11 is in Aavani. Independence Day? Aadi or Aavani?
Puratasi Sep 15 to Oct 14 Gandhi Jayanthi generally comes in Puratasi.
Aipasi Oct 15 to Nov 14 My wife was born in Aipasi.
Karthigai Nov 15 to Dec 14 December 1 is Karthigai.
Margazhi Dec 15 to Jan 14 Christmas is in Margazhi. Always.

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Tracking Birthdays – What is a Star/Nakshatram?

Let’s leave the technicalities for a moment. Stars are about 27-28. They follow one after the other in the same sequence. Birthdays are calculated against the Month and the Star which prevailed on the day you were born. So if you were born in Panguni and your birth star is Bharani, your birthday based on the Tamil Calendar would be on March 26 this year. Pretty Simple, right. Just Month and Star.

However, because there are only 28 stars, and there are more days in a month than that, couple of stars could get repeated each month. So what do we do if your star comes twice during the month in which you were born? Not clear, but in my home, they celebrate on the day towards the end of the month as opposed to the beginning of the month. Could be the same everywhere. Could be different somewhere.

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More in the next post:
Thidhi – How to track anniversaries?
How to track festivals?

To be Continued …..

Categories: Life | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Demystifying The Tamil Calendar – The Basics

  1. Rajaganesh Vanarajan

    I Like this one – “My son’s birthday comes in Panguni. So does All Fools Day!” That was a funny referense 🙂

  2. Saikumar Iyer

    I found this very informative and interesting, particularly the way you have clearly described what you wanted to. However, one point is not very clear. I am a Tamil Indian living in Australia, and I do not know how the star on a particular day is determined. If you can enlighten me on this, please email me. Regards, Saikumar Iyer

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