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Tulu calendar begins with Pagu month

Even though now in routine most us follow the Western or Gregorian calendar that consist of twelve months commencing with January and ending with December, Tulu people traditionally had have a specific calendar which consist of twelve months in the serial order such as Paggu, Besha, Kārtel, Āti, Sona, Nirnāla, Bontyel, Jārde, Perārde,Puyintel, Māyi and Suggi. It is interesting to note that the first Tulu month Pagguliterally corresponds with the last month Phalguna in the General Indian Calendar. What is the significance of Paggu and why it was chosen as the first month would make an interesting revelation.

Nowadays these twelve months are equated with twelve months of the Standardized Indian calendar, in the order of Chaitra, Vaishaka, Jeshta, Ashada, Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvina, Kartika, Agrahayana, Pausha, Maghaand Phalguna.


Orbit of Moon around Earth

The moon orbits around the Earth in a period of 27.32 days each or roughly one month. The   practice of dividing the calendar year into twelve months (the   sexagesimal  system), was essentially based on the lunar cycles that lasted about 28 days each, is as old as   our human civilization. The concept of lunar calendar, with each month beginning   on a new moon day is said to have been conceived during the ancient Sumerian civilization. Subsequently the concept spread to various loci of civilizations.


Orbit of Earth around Sun

The Earth rotates around its own axis in a day and besides it also orbits around the Earth in an elliptical orbit path in 365.24 days or one year.However, generally it appears that Sun is moving around the Earth as people earlier erroneously believed. The axis of Earths rotation is tilted 23.5° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. The tilted axis of the Earth causes different seasons as Earth proximity to Sun varies along the elliptical path, with a part of the Earth exposed to Sun and the opposite part being hidden from the Sun. During the obit of Earth around the Sun along an elliptical plane, it looks as if Sun is passing through various constellations during the course of a year. Our ancestors have identified 12 such constellations (groups of stars) that appear to share 1/12 part each of the elliptical plane. These 30° parts correspond with the twelve Zodiac constellations such as Aries (Mesha), Taurus (Vrishabha), Gemini (Mithuna), Cancer ( Karkataka), Leo (Simha), Virgo (Kanya), Libra (Tula), Scorpio (Vrischika), Sagittarius (Dhanu), Capricorn (Makara), Aquarius (Kumbha) and Pisces (Mina).



Two days in year are characterized by equal duration of day and nights. These are called vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes. Traditionally, the astrologers considered the day of Vernal or Spring equinox as the beginning of a new year which corresponded to Sun (apparently) transiting through the constellation Aries or the Mesha.

It has been discovered that the date of equinoxes (or the point of equinox) shifts anticlockwise by 30° every 2150 years.Thus about 6000 years ago Sun was transiting in Aquarius; about 4000 years ago (ie ca. 2000 BC) Sun was passing through Aries (Mesha) and 2000 years ago ie, during initial period of the Common Era, the Sun was “passing through” the zodiac constellation of Pisces (Mina).


Annual Calendars


During the history, there was also alternate convention of dividing years into ten months. For example, in the old Roman calendar the year was divided into ten months and the calendar started from March as also indicated by names of months like September (septa means 7th month), October (Octo, for 8th   month) November (novem, for 9th   month) and December (Decem, for 10th month) months.

Julius Caesar introduced his calendar (Julian calendar) in 45 B.C.E. wherein each year commenced on January 1st. The present Western calendar known as Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585).


Indian Calendar

The Indian astrological calendar with twelve months (like the ancient Sumerian calendar) evolved probably during the Vedic period ca 1700-1500 BC. In this calendar lunar months were to correspond with solar months. Thus the month of Chaitra corresponded with zodiac constellation of Mesha (Aries). During the Vedic period the Sun was apparently transiting through the constellation of Aries during the Vernal equinox.

The twelve Solar Months in Indian calendars:

Mesha, Vrishabha, Mithuna, Karka, Simha, Kanya, Tula, Vrushchika,Dhanu, Makara,Kumbha, and Meena.

The lunisolar calendar combines lunar and solar features and adopts lunar calendar such that it corresponds to solar calendar. The First day in Mesha (Meshadi) is considered as beginning of Chaitra.

Thus the Indian system of calendar appears to have been improvised by Vikramaditya who started the Vikram Shaka during early years of Common Era. Now the Indian calendars consist of tweleve lunar months such as:
1. Chaitra (30 / 31 Days) -Begins March 22 / 21

2. Vaisakha (31 Days) -Begins April 21

3. Jyaistha (31 Days) -Begins May 22

4. Asadha (31 Days) -Begins June 22

5. Shravana (31 Days) -Begins July 23

6. Bhadra (31 Days) -Begins August 23

7. Asvina (30 Days) -Begins September 23

8. Kartika (30 Days) -Begins October 23

9. Agrahayana (30 Days) -Begins November 22

10. Pausa (30 Days) -Begins December 22

11. Magha (30 Days) -Begins January 21

12. Phalguna (30 Days) -Begins February 20


In most parts of the India this calendar is being used probably since past two millennia. Tamils use Tamil equivalent names for the months like Chittirai, Vaikaci, Ani, Adi etc for the twelve months. Malayalees have adopted the equivalent zodiac /rashi month names  that begin with Chingam (Leo), Kanni (Virgo) Tulam (Libra) etc. Interestingly, the Bengal and Nepali calendars the year begins with the month of Baishakh (=Vaisakha) and ends with Chaitro (Chaitra). Gujarati calendar starts with the month Kārtika.


Paggu   month: Tulu.

The Tulu calendar year characteristically starts with Paggu month, unlike rest of the known calendars of India.The Tulu calendar also contains unusual month names such as Nirnal, Bontyel, Jārde, Perarde and Puyinthel. The names are unusual because apparently nobody knows the meanings or origin of these strange sounding words.


Tulu months (SW India) Indian months


Paggu Chaitra
Besa  Vaisakha
Kaartel  Jyaistha
Aati Asadha
       Sona  Shravana
Nirnaala  Bhadra
Bontyolu  Asvina
Jaarde  Kartika
Peraarde Agrahayana
Ponny/Puyinthel  Pausa
Maayi  Magha
Suggi  Phalguna


The Tulu Nighantu just nmentions names as name of Tulu months without explaining the source origin or meaning of thse words.In general it seems Tulu calendar has possibly borrowed these strange sounding words for names of the months from lingual substrata that prevailed in the land before the domination of Tulu language and culture.

Of these words, the name of the first month Paggu provides us some relict clues regarding its origin and significance.


Paggu festival


Paggu (or Phagu or Phagun) is an annual festival celebrated by Austro-Asiatic Munda tribes in commemoration of victory of Rama and Laxmana over the villainous Ravana. Communities of Munda tribes of Chotanagpur-Jharkhand areas still celebrate the Phagu festival. Whether the epic Ramayana compiled by Valmiki, a hunter turned poet, was based on a realistic event that occurred during bronze era or a folk tale that was prevalent among ancient Indian tribes, the Munda tribes were definitely aware of the theme and enjoyed celebrating the festival of victory during a specific day in the year. In the Karavali region of south western India Mundala tribes presently constitute a small insignificant component in the society, the available evidences suggest that the Munda tribes were a dominant community with distinct cultural inclinations that prevailed before the arrival, ascent and domination of Tulu speaking people.

Even though precise information not available on the calendar system among the ancient Munda people, it is evident that the Tulu people borrowed the name of the festive month of Paggu from the Munda people.

Similarly, it is also possible that the inscrutable words like Nirnal, Bontyel, Jārde, Perarde and Puyintel were borrowed from one of the substrata languages that prevailed in the terrain.



1. In the Tulu calendar the first month is known as “Paggu” (which is also known as Phagu, Paghun, Pankuni,   Phalguna in other lingual areas.). The Tulu people have the word Paggu preserved unknowingly in their language, even though now they have forgooten the meaning and heritage of the word.


Paggu is the name of a popular festival of the Munda tribes, who ceremoniously celebrate the victory of Lord Rama and Laxmana over the demonic Ravana. Munda tribes living in other parts of India (like Chotanagapur, Jharkhand area) still celebrate the Paggu festival. The Holi festival celebrated all over India appears to be a modified form of the ancient Paggu festival. The tradition of celebration of the Paggu festival, suggests that the original Story of Ramayana was familiar to tribes of India like the Mundas since historic days.


2. In Tulunadu, vestiges of ancient Munda culture have been preserved in the form of place names, fossil words and cults. Possibly the Paggu festival attributed to Munda tribes was being celebrated in Tulunadu in ancient days during the Paggu month, even though such a festival is rather unknown at present in Tulunadu.


3. The term Paggu, (Paghu or Paghun) has eventually become Phalgun in Sanskrit literature and has been adopted as the twelfth month in the general Indian calendar.


4. The first month Chaitra was designated based on position of intersection of Earth- Sun axis towards constellation Aries on the day of Vernal equinox about 4000 years ago.


5. However, about 2000 years ago during the initial period of Common Era, at the time of the Vernal equinox, the notional intersection of Sun- Earth alignment corresponded with the Zodiac constellation of Pisces. This period corresponds with the lunar month of Phalguna.


6.  Who introduced the Tulu Calendar in Tulunadu? During the early period of Common Era (ca. 2-6 Centuries CE), Alupa kings ruled over Tulunadu. However, the status of astronomic studies during Alupa period of reign is not known as basically Alupas were engaged in trade.

On the other hand, the Kadamba kings Like Mayura Sharma / Varma were deeply interested in education, literature and probably astronomy. Mayura went to Kanchi to acquire higher education; even though he was denied entry there, it shows his keen interest in education distinctly. After establishing a new Kingdom at Banvasi (Uttara Kannada) he extended his suzerainty over Karavali /Tulunadu as well. He is also credited with bringing Brahmins from Ahichatra to manage and maintain Temples in Tulunadu and Malnad (Banvasi). It is possible that Kadamba Mayura Varma ca 4-5 Century CE, consulted experts in astrology and revised the calendar for the Karavali and Malnad region   over which he ruled.

The Kadamba Kings are considered by some people as of Munda origin. Kadamba Kings are known to have adopted the Kadamba tree as their royal insignia. Traditionally, the Kadamba (Kaim) tree is of religious significance to Munda tribes. Besides, the Paggu was an important holy festival traditionally for the people of Munda origin.

Thus, the words of unknown meanings in the Tulu Calendar such as Paggu, Bontyel, Jarde, Perarde, Puyinteletc could have been the heritage Munda terms designated  for different seasons and those prevailed during the reign of  the Kadamba Kings  .


7. Thus, it appears that the Kadamba Kings revised and updated the then prevalent calendar to correspond the corrected alignment of the zodiac constellation of Pisces with Sun on Vernal equinox as was visible during their period. The solar month of Pisces corresponded with the lunar month of Paggu or Phalguna. Hence, the Kadamba subjects including the Tulu people appears to have adopted the Paggu month as beginning of the year during the regime of Kadamba Kings.


8. It seems with passage of time the original significance of the initial Tulu month Paggu was forgotten and eventually has been equated inadvertently with the first month in General Indian calendar, namely the Chaitra.

Thus, the term Paggu in the traditional Tulu calendar has interesting hidden strings of history preserved for the benefit of  retrospection by the posterity.


By Ravi Mundkur ( Tulu Studies )

About Pavanesh D

Pavanesh D

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