Dating the future
Come July and Gadag district in Karnataka is caught up in setting the future. Literally. From fairs and festivals, thread ceremonies, house opening ceremonies, marriage ceremonies, agricultural tables, vastu details and even surprisingly accurate rain timings (unlike the IMD), the calendars designed here are your go-to for anything and everything. A glance at the neat squares and one could get the perfect ‘muhurat’ for almost anything—at least till smartphones and laptops took over the job of telling the date and time for some. Still famous in Karnataka, these calendars can give the religious ‘panchanga’—an almanac that follows traditional units of Indian timekeeping—a run for its money.
Gadag is known as a printing hub, famous for its calendars that it has been steadily printing from the last six decades. Ishwar Pattar, a resident of Shirol village said, “Gadag calendars give complete information. We don’t need any panchanga. Moreover, the details are given in an easy language.” The printers start getting orders from July and begin printing from September, which goes on till November-end. Come December and the calendars start making their way to retail shops. But in the age of the internet, many printers have had to look for other options. The calendar printing work requires skilled workers who are well-versed in ‘patti-making’—which uses a heavy desktop machine to print the pages needed.
These professionals come to Gadag from far-off Uttar Pradesh. The printing work starts with them making plates and printing entire copies, which are then cut into pages arranged as per the months and bound together. The process requires 30 to 40 people working full steam from July to January every year.
Shabadimath, Hombali, Sankeshwar printers and others in Gadag have earned a good name for their meticulous work. Shabadimath, started almost a century ago in 1921, steals a march over the others. They print nearly 10 lakh calendars every year.
Though the Shabadimath printing business was set up in 1921, they started printing calendars only from 1959. The family, which is one of the reasons for Gadag named ‘Printing City’, brings out calendars under two brand names today—PC Shabadimath and MS Shabadimath—run by brothers Basavaraj and Babanna. And it’s not just Karnataka that boasts their loyal patrons; people residing in other countries also order hundreds of copies every year. Kiran Huilgol, originally from Gadag who resides now in Ireland, says, “Every year we order calendars from Gadag. Anybody who goes to Gadag carries back some copies and we distribute them to other Kannadigas here.
Though we are residing in other countries, through these calendars we remember the fairs and festivals and it brings in a flavour of home.” During the pandemic, this almanac city also suffered a financial setback as most machines came to standstill and maintenance became an additional trouble for the owners. With skilled workers looking for other professions that would keep them afloat in these troubled times, many printing presses were forced to shut down. But things are slowly improving. Orders are edging back in, even though the makers rue it’s not much as they await their date with destiny.
The printers start getting orders from July and begin printing from September, which goes on till November-end