ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Making of the Assamese Almanac

Perhaps the most ubiquitous piece of wall hanging to adorn the wall of an Assamese home is a calendar-almanac published by a certain Borkotoky Company, Jorhat. The current issue of 2014-15, the 85th one in circulation, predates the adoption of the Saka era by the Indian government and its more popular Marathi counterpart Kalnirnay. In its completely drab appearance and least creative layout design that has remained unchanged for decades, the Assamese almanac – albeit without a proper name – is a rich repository of information, or rather public advisories, on which date(s) of a particular month its users may conduct their social affairs. The range of advisories is quite large: from as sacerdotal as upanayan to as profane as a commercial transaction. Nowhere are almanacs taken as seriously as they are in fixing a date for marriage. By way of example, the months of Puh (the Bengali month of Pausa, corresponding with December-January of the Gregorian calendar) and Cho’t (the Bengali month of Chaitra, corresponding with March-April of the Gregorian calendar) are generally considered inauspicious for the purpose of tying nuptial cords. One then hardly sees any Assamese weddings in those two months. Of late, since 2012-13 to be precise, a new item has become a standard element in the advisory. The almanac advises its users on propitious days to repair and/or use computers.

Given such high importance accorded to days and dates in Assamese cultural life, it should seem ludicrous that there is no Assamese era on the lines of the Saka era or the Hijra era. The Assamese year corresponds exactly with the Bengali year or saal. The names of the months are similar, barring the month of Aghun in Assamese, which is Agrahayan in Bengali. The rest vary only in the manner of pronunciation, the key words being primarily the same. Curiously enough, however, when a reference to the Assamese year is made, one does not date a particular year corresponding to the Bengali saal. Instead, it is the Saka era that is used. This is an incorrect usage, to say the least. The Indian national calendar based on the Saka era is completely different from the Assamese year. The national calendar starts with Chaitra, the month the Assamese calendar ends with, i e, Cho’t. The incorrect usage, as it is done, is akin to writing a date in the form of 18 Ramzan 2014 whereas the correct form is 18 Ramzan 1435 AH. Thus when one means to suggest 1 Puh, i e, 1 Pausa of the Bengali calendar, of the current year (2014), it has become acceptable as a consequence of repeated usage to write as 1 Puh 1936 Saka era rather than the proper 1 Puh 1421 saal. This improper usage has gained currency in prominent Assamese publications including newspapers and literary journals.

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