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Written by: Jayanthi
Monday, July 06, 2009

Kerala Calendar Tutorial
By BN Kartha and Jennifer Kumar

Reading, understanding and using a Malayalam calendar is a skill and a dying art. Not all Kerala families use it, preferring to refer to Western calendars with the Indian holy-days calculated in before printing. The Kerala calendar is dynamic as day and date combinations change based on the position of the heavenly bodies (stars). Even families who do follow the Malayalam calendar may consult with their astrologer or family priest (pujari) for corresponding Western dates rather than directly consulting the calendar on their own. In modern times, Western calendars are available in India in English, rather than the local languages, with the Hindu and other interfaith spiritual holidays already listed, making reference of holidays effortless. Regardless of this, many do want to consult the Malayalam calendar for various important dates, including events, holidays and birthdays, while other ethnic groups in India, such as some communities in Tamil Nadu refer to the Tamil calendar for help in naming newborns.*

Mathrubhumi Kerala India Calendar

There are a few calendars giving details of Kerala events and holidays. The popular calendar is the one published by Mathrubhumi Newspaper (pictured to the right). The Mathrubhumi Calendar covers both the English calendar as main and the Malayalam calendar in addition, along with important details of the Tamil calendar, Saka (North Indian) Calendar and Islamic calendar. Given here is the comparative details of English and Malayalam calendars and how to read various details therein. (See a web rendition of Mathrubhumi calendar.)

How to Figure Out the Structure of the Calendar

The first column of the calendar indicates the English Month/year in the center; Malayalam Month/year on the left and Tamil/SakaIslamic year/month on the right side.
The second column shows the days of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc). The third columns onwards gives the dates under each corresponding day.   The dates are indicated in the following order :-  The English date in big bold print in the center of each box in red or black; Malayalam date followed by Malayalam Nakshatra** of the day  and its duration, and under it the Dasakalam and its duration under  it are mentioned in the bottom left-hand corner; and the Tamil date at the top right-hand corner; the Saka date in the bottom right-hand corner with the Islamic date under it.

Similarly, the auspicious times (Muhurthams), as observed by Keralites; Muslim niskara times on different dates of corresponding English months and the Rahukalams, Gulikakalams, Yamakandakakalams (inauspicious times which are fixed for each weekday); are also indicated in various columns where permitted.

The calendar also indicates various auspicious days and  holy/ceremonial/festival days
Every month on the left and right sides respectively of the calendar.

Finding your Malayalam Birthday

One of the perks of being born or married into a Hindu or Indian family that follows their respective regional calendar is that you will be celebrating two birthdays most years! You will celebrate your Western birthday, which falls on the same date (ex. July 3) every year, and your respective calendar (ex. Malayalam) birthday. The Malayalam calendar birthday is calculated based on your Nakshatra, or your birth star. This birth star is calculated by taking your birth details- birthdate, birthday, exact time of birth, and time zone to an astrologer. Based on detailed mathematical calculations, your Malayalam (Indian spiritual) birthday will be calculated. Because this calendar is recalculated every year, the Indian calendar birthdays fall on different times in the Western calendar, before or after your Western birthday. Very occasionally, the Western birthday and Malayalam (or Indian/Hindu) calendar birthday will fall on the same day.

It is only recently in India’s culture that birthdays are taking on a western flavor, with large parties. Generally, in India, when a birthday is celebrated the birthday boy or girl will give treats (usually cake) to his or her friends, opposite of the American or Western ways. Asking some older people, you will come to know that celebration of birthdays was never done, and they do not care to celebrate or honor their own birthdays. Some villagers I met in Tamil Nadu do not know their birthday. These villagers most likely do not follow any Western calendar, though they can tell you I was born in this star that passed this long ago.

If you want a ‘quick and dirty’ way of calculating your Malayalam birthday star (nakshatra), check out this site at Prokerala.com.

*Some communities in Tamil Nadu provide birth information to a pujari who calculates a birthstar for a newborn. Based on this prediction, an auspicious syllable or a few syllables are chosen. Names beginning with these syllables are researched and a suitable name is chosen in this method.

**Malayalam nakshatras are as follows: Ashwathi, Bharaṇi, Kārttika, Rōhiṇi, Makayiram, Tiruvātira (Ātira), Puṇartam, Pūyam, Āyilyam, Makam, Pūram, Utram, Attam, Chittira, Chōti, Vishākham, Anizham, Kēṭṭa (Trikkēṭṭa), Mūlam, Pūrāṭam, Utrāṭam, Tiruvōnam, Aviṭṭam, Chatayam, Pūruruṭṭāti, Uttṛṭṭāti, Rēvati. For more on Nakshatras in Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Gujurati, Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam with corresponding baby name syllable recommendations see panchang.com.



Related Sites/Posts:
India- America Interfaith and Secular Calendar focusing on Tamil, Kerala and select North Indian celebrations
Nakshatra – Wikipedia
Nakshatra finder at prokerala.com
Nakshatras listed in Various Indian Languages with Baby Name Recommendations

Vedic Calendar- Brief comparison of Tamil, Malayalam, North Indian and Western Calendars with translations of days of the week
Web rendition of Mathrubhumi calendar

synopsis: Many Malayalee families continue to consult the family priest or astrologer to calculate special days. Many holy-days are now transcribed into a Western calendar format for easier reference, though these dates change yearly in the Western calendar. Many who want to follow the Malayalee calendar more closely for the appearance of certian stars (nakshatras) would be curious on the basics on how to read a Kerala calendar.Others may be intrigued to follow the Malayalam calender to celebrate not one, but two birthdays a year! Click inside to find out more!

Thank you for reading and participating in Alaivani.com


Jennifer Kumar is a cross-cultural coach; an American living in India married to a Keralite. See her life coaching website here.


Updated July 2011

Copyright ©2009 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar


16 comments so far...

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Nice articel Jennifer. A little trivia here for you. Your malayalam star birthday and western birthday dates fall on the same date every 19 years ! I checked mine when I turned 19, and it was true. But have to wait 19 years for this !!

By Ranjith on   Monday, August 10, 2009

Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it. I will be back for more!

By Esha on   Monday, August 10, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Nice article. Here is some trivia..your malayalam calendar star birthday and western calendar birthday fall on the same day every 19 years. Check it out.

By Ranjith R on   Monday, August 10, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Dear Jenni,
Great information abt our calender. Thankyou.
I brought one to look the Amavasi. My husband lost his Mom this yr. For one yr he must be a strict veggie - the day before the Amavasi. For the first death anniversary he must goto "Thirunelli Temple", kerala & do the last rituals.
For every imp event we look at this Rahukalam- Bride searching , marriage, house warming, naming of the kid etc.
Well abt Nakshatras Pooram is good for boys & Makam for girls . In malayalam there's a saying " Pooram piranna Purushan" & "Makam piranna Mankka"
"Chitra" is bad for girls. I don't know why ? You can ask someone abt it .Even in Tamilnadu they don't like this star.
Have a nice day

By Aarathi on   Monday, August 10, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Hi All.
I am sorry for delay in posting and responding.
Thank you Ranjith. That is a great piece of trivia! I wondered about that... you had read my mind. Unique indeed!!!

Thank you Aarathi. Nice to know more informaiton on this and the traditions of different communities in India. I will ask on that Chitra star... that is interesting...

By admin on   Monday, August 10, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

To understand the malayalam calender, you have to learn the malayalam culture. To read and understand the calender, we call it panchangam, the new generation may find it difficult. In the olden days the names of the stars were taught in the early school days and so also thithhi (days denoting the phases of moon). But I dont think anybody in the new generation knows the names of the stars or the thithi. A star and the thithi is said to last each day for 60 nazhika which is the measure of time. If 60 nazhika is equal to one day, 2.5 nazhika equals an hour. Each nazhika is again divided into 60 vinazhika. Nazhika and vinazhika are counted from the day break. You will find find some digits mentioned against the names of the star is to indicate for how many nazhika and vinazhika a star is available in a day. Astrologers attach importance for this and the exact time of birth is calculated based on how may nazhika/vinazhika in the day. It is pure mathematical calculation and they do it very fast and accurate. I dont know whether i have been able to throw any light on the subject or i have only helped to increase your confusion. But it is not so simple as it appears.

By Ramachandra Menon on   Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

Thank you Mr. Menon.
I am glad you went through the time to try to explain it. Yes, it is not so easy, I guess. This was an introduction from my father in law, to make it easy for me to understand. It's a place to start. If so compelled, I am happy for you to write up some more information for publishing on my blog. Few others have been sending me questions that I pass on to my father in law who asks the pujari. If so compelled, do let me know. Thank you.
Happy Diwali (regret for long wait to approve your comment.)

By admin on   Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

I have read through the whole comments on the subject. I appreciate Mr. Menon's concluding the subject "it is not so simple as it appears". Very true. I am not very much in the know of things about panchangam and other intricacies about nakshatras and its relation with the constellation position at a given time and date - that is where I prefer to consult an astrologer or a priest to guide me and find a solution, lest I go wrong. I have only tried to make Jen understand the basics of Panchangam or Malayalam Calender and I am proud that being an American girl she has picked up the thread very fast and even attempted to analyse them. The comments like from Mr. Menon and others will, I am sure, help her in getting more knowledge on the subject.

By B N Kartha on   Monday, November 09, 2009

Re: Kerala Calendar Tutorial

What is the significance of Karkadha month which started on 17th july, 2010

By Asha on   Monday, July 19, 2010

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

hi jennifer,
thanks.. i found out my nkshatra, but havent been able to figure out my malyali birthdate this month,,
do let me know how can i find the same out

By piyusha on   Monday, December 03, 2012

Re:to know the date of birth

nice to something new.can you tell me what would be the date and month for tulam -punurtham for the year 1968

By reshma nair on   Monday, December 03, 2012

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

Piyusha, the best bet is to take your birthdate, time, place to an Indian astrologer or Hindu priest. They know the right way to calculate.

Reshma, I will give the same advice I had given to Piyusha. It's better to refer to a priest or an astrologer to get these answers.

By Blog Owner on   Monday, December 03, 2012

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

My birthday was kollavarsham 1144 (Malayalam month) in Basic calender 1968 star Thiruvathira. Please let me know the correct birthdate of mine is on Basic calender

By sasikumar on   Saturday, December 15, 2012

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

Would you know what date would my birthday be according to the Gregorian calendar, if my kollavarsham is 1140 and month is chingam. My nakshatra is punartam.

By Surya on   Monday, January 06, 2014

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

My date of birth was kollavarsham 1164 , 5-5-1989 13 nazhika 45 vinazhika, Bharani star. please rply for the correct birth time for me

By RESHMI on   Monday, January 06, 2014

Re: Introduction to The Kerala & Malayalee Traditional Calendar

No not always in every 19 years malayalam calendar star birthday and western calendar birthday fall on the same day...especially on your 19th birthday,it could vary,might fall on the same day after every 19 years...but not always on your 19th b'day...

By Remya on   Sunday, August 24, 2014

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