I am sure ‘Rani Muthu’ means nothing to anyone except Tamilians. But to them, it means a lot! Rani Muthu is a daily tear-away calendar, without which no Mami can operate!
It is amazing how much information a page of approx. 2.5 inches square can pack. Not only does it give the ‘English month, date’ and day, but equally boldly, the Tamil day, date and month. This is just the start. Other information includes:
- Rahu kalam: This is the period of Rahu— a certain period of time every day that is considered inauspicious for any new venture.(Of course, self-respecting Tams don’t need to consult an almanac for this, they know it offhand. For the next tier of not-so-well informed, there are mnemonics like Mother Saw Father Wearing The Turban Suddenly. Too complex to explain to the uninitiated, but a breeze for the savvy ones)
- Yama gandam: Yamagandam means death time. Only death ceremonies are performed during Yamagandam. Any activity commenced during this time invites the ‘death’ of the work or energies relating to that work. So activities during Yamagandam leads to a failure or destruction of the end-result.
But it is not all gloom and doom. The page will also give you:
- Nalla nayram: Good time to start anything.
- Festivals falling on the date (local, regional, national, pan-religious included).
- Phases of the moon
- Whether the day is auspicious for house-warmings, and other sundry celebrations.
Last but not the least. Quirky little illustrations enliven the pages. You have to look closely to figure them out, but it is worth it.
The size and the colour illustration on the main card board have remained unchanged for as long as I can remember (and that is pretty long!). A very benevolent pic of the God-child Subramanian is a pleasant sight to look at first thing in the morning.
Sadly, I could find no reference to the history of the Rani Muthu. And, as journalists say, e-mail to the concerned did not get any response till time of publication. A senior uncle says it goes back at least to the ‘50s.
Rani Muthu is a Tamil household essential. Many regions and states in India have their own calendar-almanacs, which are as basic to a home as a threshold.
What would life be without Rani Muthu!
Scrambling to buy a Rani Muthu by Jan 1 was one of my year-end tasks. Alas, with the passing of my mother, this is one more ritual that I will no longer undertake.