Celestial Monologues

Few Bengalis can imagine life without a ‘panjika’. The pink book has ruled heads and hearts alike from time immemorial. Team Wheels delves deep into the Bengali psyche and its association with the ‘panjika’
Almost every Bengali family living in and outside Bengal has had its brush with the ‘panjika’ at some point in their lives. Nobody can escape the pink print that plays such a significant role, in more ways than one.

Right from the time you are born till you die, or even after, the ‘panjika’ has almost an authoritative presence in the psyche of Bengalis. As soon as a baby is brought home from the hospital, the elders get busy fixing the date of ‘mukheybhaat’ (first meal ceremony). This heralds the little one’s long association with the book.
As the years go by the baby becomes more familiar with the book. He sees his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and even neighbours refer to it at any event involving celestial activity. More so, if the family is in the habit of cooking and throwing food in between lunar and solar eclipses. All festivals, pujas, marriages, ‘paitey’ (thread ceremonies), birthdays, New Year celebrations, ‘shradh’ are observed in keeping with the date and time specified in the ‘panjika’.
Says Rohan Sarkar, “I cannot imagine life without the ‘panjika’. It means a lot to me and I refer to it before signing any business deal. It is a part of our tradition”.
No wonder Poila Boishakh has become synonymous with the ‘panjika’. Once the festive fervour dies down, people hit the nearest bookshop for their copy of the ‘panjika’ also known as ‘panji’.
There are two schools of panjika makers in Bengal. Driksiddhanta (Bisuddhasiddhanta Panjika) and Odriksiddhanta (Gupta Press, PM Bagchi). These two schools follow different calendars of luni-solar movement on which they are based. Gupta Press follows 16th century Raghunandan’s work, ‘Ashtabingshatitatwa’, based on the 1500-year-old astronomical treatise Suyasiddhanta. The Bisuddhasiddhnata Panjika is based on an 1890 amendment of the planetary positions given in Suyasiddhanta.
The earliest was Navadvip Panjika, edited by renowned ‘smriti’ scholar Raghunandan. The printed version edited by Biswanbar Jyotisharnabha came out in 1869. The printed version of the Bisuddhasiddhnata Panjika came out in 1890. Gupta Press follows Suyasiddhanta.
In 1952, a major revision of the ‘panjika’ was undertaken by the Government of India. Scientist Meghnad Saha, chairman of the Calendar Reform Committee reviewed the edition and suggested reforms. Thus the publication was brought under the purview of the Government.
Before the media boom in India, especially in Bengal, panjikas played a big role in the advertising sector. Since newspapers were few many people booked advertisements in the book. For others it is almost like an encyclopedia.
Over the years, the publication has evolved and digital formats are also out. If you are living overseas and missing your copy you need not worry. The Gupta Press has brought out editions in London, Washington and New York based on sunrise and sunset in those countries. Back home, it is available in all major departmental stores.
What is special about this association is that it brings one closer to his roots. Of course there are some who will deny any association with it and argue there are better ways of keeping in touch with one’s roots. Yet, somehow those who have grown up with it cannot dismiss its importance. We can almost see life coming a full circle when a father decides the date of his daughter’s wedding from the ‘panjika’, and the daughter doing the same when her children are ready for marriage.
No matter how advanced the Bengali family is in its approach to the world and its inhabitants, they still keep going back to the ‘panjika’. Agrees Bhanu Paul, a teacher. “Although I don’t refer to it everyday, yet, I do leaf through it once in a while. ‘Panjika’ is synonymous with our Bengali culture and we can never really do away with it,” he said.
Laxchman Chakraborty, a Delta Airlines employee in Atlanta, said, “Every time I visit India, I take several copies of the panjika. Most of my colleagues and friends request me to buy a copy for them as well.”

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