How four visionaries invented India’s first modern secular calendar

In the last hundred years, not a single mistake has been made while carefully preparing the calendar
How four visionaries invented India’s first modern secular calendar
How four visionaries invented India’s first modern secular calendar
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Nothing in most Indian homes happens without consulting a calendar. Whichever part of the country you are in, whatever is the event, big or small, without checking a calendar no one takes any major decisions. Today in the internet age, we have everything online. But a hundred years ago, when India was still a large conglomeration of princely kingdoms and small states, things worked very differently, probably more exciting than now!

Under the Wodeyar dynasty rulers, the princely kingdom of Mysore was the second richest in South India after the Nizam of Hyderabad. Under the reign of the twenty-fourth king Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1895 – 1940), Mysore Kingdom saw several institutions flourish.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Just a look at his time line is enough to show how passionate the king was about bringing progress and modernity into his kingdom. In 1903, he established the Minto Eye Hospital Banglore, which is among the world's oldest specialized ophthalmology hospitals. Bangalore became the first city in India to get electric streetlights in 1905.

On the advice of Swami Vivekananda he convinced Sir J R D Tata to establish the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 1909. The State Bank of Mysore in 1913, the Kannada Sahitya Parishat in Bangalore in 1915, the University of Mysore in 1916, School of Engineering in Bangalore, later called UVCE was established in 1917, Mysore State Railway between 1916 and 1918 which opened 232 miles of railway lines.

The Government Sandalwood oil factory in Bangalore in 1917, the Maharani's Science College for Women in Mysore in 1917 and many many more top notch institutions for that era. Mysore was the first Indian state to enfranchise women by 1923. The progressive king was also highly secular and inclusive.

In 1918, he appointed Sir Lesley Miller to look into problems of backward classes in his kingdom and recommended reservation of 25% of jobs in the Government to non-Brahmins. He established St Philomena’s Church in Mysore in 1933. He was also the first chancellor and co-founder of Banaras Hindu University.

Mysore was also the first State in the country to implement compulsory education. Child labour was abolished and legislation was brought in to send children between the ages of seven and eleven to school. Urdu education and education for the physically disabled children was prioritized.

Under his rule, there were over three thousand five hundred schools in the State. Just his qualifications and achievements are enough to fill several books! He was not alone. He had an able team of highly qualified advisors, statesmen and ministers who he would consult from time to time. Among the most popular names were Dewan Mirza Ismail, Sir Mokshagundam Vishweshwarayya, Sir K P Puttanna Chetty and C Hayavadana Rao who had the title of Rao Bahadur.

Sir Mokshagundam Vishweshwarayya

While Bharat Ratna Sir Vishweshwarayya is well known, the other two people are not familiar to many non-Kannadigas. Krishnarajapur Palligonde Puttanna Chetty (1856-1938) was one of the leading administrative luminaries of Bangalore.

After having served as a traffic manager in the Mysore state railways from 1884 to 1898 and as the Deputy Commissioner from 1898 to 1906, he became a member of the Bangalore City Council. In 1913, he was elected President of the Bangalore municipality where he served till 1919.

KP Puttana Chetty

It was in his tenure that the famous Victoria Hospital was inaugurated. He was known for his philanthropy. Today the Town Hall in old Bangalore is named after him. He was also elected to the Mysore Legislative Council in 1925. He was honoured with the title of ‘Diwan Bahadur’ in 1911.

In 1917, he was made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire and was subsequently made a Knight Bachelor in 1925. He was also awarded the 1911 Durbar Medal and the Gold Kaiser-i-Hind Medal in 1914. The other genius Conjeevaram Hayavadana Rao (1865- 1946) was a scholar, musicologist, historian, economist and anthropologist. A graduate in history, Rao studied law and economics and worked as the curator of the Government Museum in Madras.

He compiled ‘The Indian Biographical Dictionary’ in 1915. Fluent in a dozen languages, Rao also edited the Journal of Oriental Research. He edited the Srikara Bhashya, Being the Virasaiva Commentary on the Vedanta-Sutras by Sripati Pandita and several other important Sanskrit texts.

Conjeevaram Hayavadana Rao

In 1924, Rao was appointed the head of a committee formed to revise B L Rice’s famous Mysore State Gazetteer. Rao helped in revising it and republished as a seven-volume set in 1927. Rao also authored History of Mysore chronicling the Wodeyar Dynasty. A versatile genius that he was, Rao was a member of several prestigious institutions like the Royal Anthropological Institute, Indian Historical Records Commission and a fellow of the Royal Society of Economics. Surrounded by such stalwarts the erstwhile king and his kingdom flourished with prosperity.

In 1912 the Maharaja on his trip to London was curious to find out what it would take to print wedding invitation cards. On the advice of his loyal ministers and inner circle, he was told he could establish his own press back home in Mysore. And that is how The Bangalore Press was born on 5th August 1916. 

This year, particularly this weekend, it celebrates its birth centenary! Five years later they printed their first calendar. These calendars were to soon be the most wanted ones in the market and slowly have a cult following over the decades. So what was it about this calendar that was so different from the rest?

For the first time a comprehensive English language calendar was ever printed anywhere in India that catered to all citizens alike. After consulting the best of Hindu and Muslim astrologers, scholars in astronomy and allied fields, dates were drawn out according to both the almanacs.

Sticking to simple colour scheme and design, the calendar has remained the same for the last century. Printed in black, red and gray colours on a white paper, the calendar is an easy read for everyone. The traditional Hindu dates on the calendar mention both the Sowramana (solar) and Chandramana (lunar) cycles, neatly laid out in columns. In addition to this is the Muhammadan calendar that lists out the months of the Islamic year. A quick reference column helps you navigate the rest of the month with special symbols.

Ekadashi with an image of a plate of food crossed out as many devout Hindus observe a fast, Pournami with a full moon, Amavasya with a black dot to signify no moon, G for general holiday, R for restricted holiday, J for Jayanthi, MR for moon rise and so forth.

These symbols are attested as per the days they occur in, on the rest of the calendar grid. A separate column indicates the hours of the day that have been designated as auspicious and inauspicious like Rahu Kalam, Gulika Kalam and so forth. In four corners of the calendar are portraits of the four visionaries who established The Bangalore Press.

The calendar is prepared with much care, year after year. In the last hundred years, not a single mistake has occurred! The confidence that people invest in the calendar is high and they have never been disappointed. It might have been the untiring work of those four visionaries who knew how useful a tool this would be in the following decades.

The calendar is usually out in the last quarter of the year and can be seen sold at all major traffic signals in Bangalore. It is also sold in a much-abridged version as a desktop form. Everyone who has lived in the garden city would have encountered this calendar at least once in his or her life.

There are those who swear by it and many NRIs who visit India during winter vacations keep it as a ‘must buy’ on their list. There are fans who have been collecting and filing these calendars for decades now! Just browsing through its archives is a lesson in history by itself.

In this day and age, when consulting calendars seems like an old world idea, just like wearing a simple wrist watch has become, The Bangalore Press prints their calendars with the same accuracy as they did a hundred years ago. They do it, almost as a public service. As The Bangalore Press embarks on their birth centenary celebrations this weekend, we wish them many more centuries of continued service!

Images Courtesy : Krishnamurthy, Nagaraja Rao, Suresh

(Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He writes extensively on Indian performing arts, cultural history, food and philosophy. He lives in New Delhi and can be reached at

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