Who’d have thought that bringing out a calendar can become a political act? Well, not Jayraj Salgaokar. Not until 15 years ago, when the date of Shivaji Jayanti became the centre of a controversy. Salgaokar, whose Mumbai-based Sumangal Press publishes the Kalnirnay calendars, printed the date for Chhatrapati Shivaji’s birth anniversary according to the Gregorian calendar. A section of angry patrons argued that Shivaji Jayanti should be celebrated according to the Maharashtrian calendar. “It helped that I knew late Vilasrao Deshmukh (the chief minister at the time) and he understood that we were coming from a position of neutrality,” says the 63-year-old.
Kalnirnay was never supposed to be a mere calendar, Salgaokar says. It is a calmanac, he asserts. And not an ordinary one either. It sells close to 1.8 crore copies every year and is a household name. It is available in nine different languages (Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi) and multiple formats, such as those for home, office, car and desk. Each edition is customised. For instance, the one in Marathi mentions the dates as well as mahurats for auspicious days like ekadashi and sankashti chaturthi. The English calendar includes the dates for the feasts of Christian saints as well as Parsi festivals.
Kalnirnay was founded by Salgaokar’s father Jayantrao Salgaokar. Formerly a crossword maker for prominent newspapers and magazines, he was an astrologer by hobby, occasionally lending his services to a publisher of a panchang. Faced by a lull in business, he decided to publish a calmanac, where he could use his understanding of the print industry as well as astrology to use. The first edition was published in 1973 in Marathi. It sold 25,000 copies. The English edition came two years later and other languages soon followed. According to Salgaokar, Kalnirnay was a success from the start. “It bridged the gap between the old and the new. Until 1973, panchangs would publish dates for the auspicious days according to the Hindu calendar and time. Kalnirnay made that more accessible,” he points out.
The other draw, he says, were the articles at the back of each page — from pieces on health and general knowledge to recipes and poetry. In the early years, they would also publish train schedules and information on agriculture. “We have always had the finest of writers, from Durga Bhagwat to PL Deshpande,” says Salgaokar, also Kalnirnay’s editor. The first print in 1973 had 12 articles, all penned by Mangala Barve. Barve’s cookbook Annapurna is a part of every upper caste Maharashtrian girl’s trousseau. “In order to ensure quality content, we begin printing by August 15. To meet that deadline, we finalise content by December 31,” says Salgaokar, pointing to the names of the writers shortlisted for Kalnirnay 2019.
“The popularity of the articles prompted us to launch a Kalnirnay Diwali ank, a special issue with essays on a wide array of subjects by known writers,” says Shakti, Salgaokar’s daughter who helps him with the business. “The subjects vary, from an article on John le Carre to a profile of a rock star. One issue had a well-researched piece on the history of Japanese geishas in Mumbai’s red-light area.”
The company continues to bridge the old with the new. Salgaokar has also made Kalnirnay available as an app.