Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vontikoppal Panchanga.

[click to enlarge]
Cover and first page of our copy of Sri Nandana Samvatsara Mysore Panchanga, valid from tomorrow 23.3.2012 to 10.4.2013.  The cover comes ready laminated since a few years!

Vontikoppal Panchanga - Five generations of expertise in Almanac

[From Star of Mysore: 22-3-2012 - Feature Articles]

Caption: Siddanthi Tammaiah Shastry, Siddanthi T.V. Krishna Shastry, Siddanthi V. Ramakrishna Shastry, Siddanthi R. Kumar, Siddanthi K. Mohan

By M.S. Apuurva

Most of us will have memories of our childhood with our grandfathers reading from a book full of tables and text in small font, which we could never understand. The ease with which they would decipher the information in the book remained a mystery to us. The book — Panchanga — has been a part of Hindu household since ages and no ritual is held without referring to it.

During Ugadi (tomorrow), which marks the start of a new Hindu year, it is a tradition to read Panchanga (Panchanga Shravanam). The Panchanga reveals the forces that will rule various aspects of life in the coming year. This forecast deals with the transition and effect of constellations on the social life of people. It is a belief that those who read the Panchanga as well as those who listen will be rid of their sins and blessed with a long, prosperous and happy life.

Panchanga's importance

Dharma plays a very vital role in Indian culture. Sages have allotted a specific time for every work (rituals) and this is defined in Dharma Shastra. Unlike in western traditions wherein for example, Dec. 25 every year is celebrated as Christmas, in Hindu customs, every festival has a fixed start time. Every ritual, be it naming or house-warming ceremony, must compulsorily be carried out within the designated span of time. This calculation of time is done using Panchanga. In simple words, the five attributes of Panchanga (Pancha-Anga) are: Vara – Time from one sunrise to the next sunrise; Tithi – It is the distance between the sun and moon; Nakshatra – It is the movement of the moon; Yoga – It involves the movement of both sun and moon; Karna – It is half of Tithi. The Pancha-nga has two systems — Chandramana and Souramana. The former is calculated based on the moon and the 12 months span from Chaitra to Phalguni, the latter is based on sun with the 12 months where sun travels from Mesha rashi to Kumbha.

Consisting of complex calculations mainly based on spherical trigonometry, Panchanga is propounded with the theories in Surya Siddantha. It is said that demon Maya meditated and Surya appeared before him to grant him a wish. Maya asked Surya to explain all the effects of the movement of Sun. Surya explained them through Sanskrit Shlokas. This was followed by Vakya, Aryabhatiya Siddantha and Dru Ganita (western). Vakya is followed by Tamilians and those who follow Souramana system; Aryabhatiya is used by Vaishnavas; Dru Ganita is mainly followed by people of South Kanara and Surya Siddantha by the remainder of Karnataka.

Vontikoppal Panchanga

One family from city has the pride of writing and printing Pan-changa continuously for the past 126 years. The Vontikoppal Panchanga, as it came to be known, was started by Siddanthi Tammaiah Shastry in 1887-88. Presently, the fifth generation of the family is carrying on the work.

Over the years, Vontikoppal Panchanga has been widely used across Karnataka and even abroad. When asked the reason for this popularity, Siddanthi R. Kumar says, "Ours is the only Panchanga in the world to print information in detail. We print according to all four categories — Surya Siddantha, Aryabhatiya Siddantha, Vakya and Dru Ganita — along with Chandramana and Souramana systems. Presently my son K. Manohar and I are its authors and my father is the verifier. Its printing has not stopped since it was first started by my great great grandfather."

The Vontikoppal Panchanga has been accepted as the official Panchanga by the Government of Karnataka. The dates for all utsavs under Muzrai Department and govt. holidays are given by the family during June-July and the gazette notification is given during October.

Five generations of expertise

Siddanthi Tammaiah Shastry: This panchanga was started by him. He was born in 1862 at Agara of Yalandur and started learning astrology, literature, philosophy and dharma shastra from the age of eight years. He became the President of Sri Chamarajeshwara Sanskrit Pathashala, Chamarajanagar, in 1914. During 1887-88, he started writing the panchanga and printing it in Madras. In 1925, he was named as the Asthana Vidwan by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. In 1942, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar honoured him with the title Jyotishya Ratna and presented a golden bracelet. For 38 years he published the Panchanga before he passed away in 1944.

Siddanthi T.V. Krishna Shastry: Born in 1892, he learnt medicine, astrology, literature and Veda from his father. In 1932, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar appointed him as the Head Master of Vontikoppal Middle School and requested him to compile Vakya Panchanga for the Palace. Since he resided in Vontikoppal, the Panchanga got its name. He passed away in 1946.

Siddanthi V. Ramakrishna Shastry: Born in 1918, he continued the publication for 80 years after the death of his father. He set up a press in city for printing the Panchanga. He was also the Hon. Member of American Astronomical Society. He retired after his son took over the responsibility.

Siddanthi R. Kumar: Born in 1950 at Kanuru, Hassan, he practiced law for a few years. He started learning from his father since the age of 14 years and lent a hand with the Panchanga since 1965. In 1980, he set up Bhagirathi Printers in memory of his mother. He started printing using offset method and recently shifted to web offset.

Siddanthi K. Mohan: Has been learning Sanskrit, astrology and panchanga calculation from his father since childhood and is presently helping his father with the preparation and printing.

When asked why no daughter of the family had continued the tradition, Kumar said, "It is not the question of son or daughter. Learning this knowledge should come in one's horoscope. I have two brothers and four sisters but only I could continue this."

American Panchanga

Vontikoppal Panchanga is the first in the world to bring out a Panchanga exclusively for America. "Many Mysoreans living in America would take this Panchanga. But this cannot be used to prepare horoscope there. Hence I started preparing one according to America latitude and longitude in 2001. Since America has 10 zones along with daylight saving, I have prepared this for New York City and have given conversions for other places," says Kumar.

Publications: Apart from Panchanga, they also print pocket calendars, wall calendars, Ready Reckoner and Muhurtha Manjari. The Ready Reckoner Nitya Kundali Mattu Grahasputa is for professionals who write horoscope, etc. Muhurtha Manjari is an advanced Panchanga. It helps in fixing dates one year in advance. The work usually begins during June-July. Their press is presently located in Hebbal Industrial Area. The printing and sales is completed one month prior to Ugadi. "We need 6 to 7 months to prepare the Panchanga. We don't use any software or computer and rely only on hand calculation," says Kumar.

Panchanga can never be repeated

"Some allege that the same Panchanga published some 100 years back is repeated. But this is impossible because the position, speed and distance of stars will keep vary hence changing our calculations. We can never use the same Panchanga and write for another year," says Kumar.

"If you want to check its accuracy, then the position of the moon or the occurrence of eclipse can be tallied with that mentioned in the Panchanga," he adds.

Today, Vontikoppal Panchanga has become a household name in Mysore and across the State. Let us hope that the tradition is carried forward by the family for generations to come. [Kumar and Manohar can be contacted on e-mail:]

SOM was printed here

Remembering the time when Star of Mysore office was in Saraswathipuram, Kumar says, "On two or three occasions, when there was power failure at SOM office just before the paper was printed, it was brought to us for printing. Both had the same Mercedes printing press and it was a time when SOM sister publication Mysooru Mithra was yet to be started."