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In R. K. Narayan's short story "The Missing Mail", from the 1943 collection Malgudi Days, which I've been reading online, the resident Ramanujam is desperately trying to arrange a marriage for his daughter Kamakshi. At one point he says to Thanappa:

The season would be closing, with only three more auspicious dates, the last being May 20. The girl would be seventeen in a few days. The reminders from her grand-father were becoming fiercer. Ramanujam had exhausted all the possibilities and had drawn a blank everywhere. He looked helpless and miserable. ‘Postman,’ he said, ‘I don’t think there is a son-in-law for me anywhere. . .’

And later, during negotiations with the family that Thanappa found for him:

‘But,’ the lady added, half-overwhelmed with happiness and half-worried, ‘there is this difficulty. We had an idea of doing it during next Thai month. . . It will be so difficult to hurry through the arrangements now. But they say that if the marriage is done it must be done on the twentieth of May. If it is postponed the boy can’t marry for three years. He is being sent away for some training. . .’

In the end the wedding takes place successfully on the 20th of May. My question is: why is this date considered special?

Is the 20th of May a generally significant date for Hindu marriages? Or is it "auspicious" for Kamakshi only because of some personal factors?

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It's not the 20th of May specifically - we have our own calendar, which is used alongside the western Gregorian calendar. Since dates don't map precisely you often find that we talk about dates in the Tamil system with the corresponding western dates.

However the important context here is "with only three more auspicious dates" - there are specific dates, usually looked up using an almanac such as the pambu panchangam, but also taking into account other factors like star signs and other astrology.

So... 20th May is the day when the last auspicious day considered suitable for a wedding. I would assume from context that it was the month of "thai" - considered essentially wedding season, but due to other circumstances, it would have to be done on that specific date.

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    Thanks for the info! Specifically, can I conclude from your middle paragraph that it's a bit of both: auspicious dates are partly a global thing (based on criteria that are the same for everyone in a given year/season) and partly personal (taking into account star signs and horoscopes and so on)? – Rand al'Thor Apr 20 at 17:06
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    Generally good days are global, but there may be some adjustments made for individuals. – Journeyman Geek Apr 20 at 17:10
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    @Randal'Thor (and partly regional - in the case of my own wedding, my north Indian friends are relatives were surprised at the date chosen, but south Indian friends and relatives seemed to think it was just fine ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) – muru Apr 21 at 3:02

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