Friday, January 25, 2008

The new New Year

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, announced yesterday that Pongal, the first day of the Tamil month of Thai, will be announced as the Tamil New year’s day and a government directive to this effect will come into force very soon. He claimed that a group of 500 Tamil scholars after various deliberations had finally arrived at the consensus of making Thai as the first month of the Tamil calendar instead of Chithirai, which is currently followed and mostly falls on April 14.

But this disagreement over renaming the Tamil New year seems to have had its genesis in 1921 spearheaded by Maraimalai Adigal, a Tamil Scholar who lived during the early 19th century.

The Hindu calendar is based on both the solar and lunar movements and has been formulated based on their relative positions to earth. This is based on principles of Surya Siddhanta, a treatise of Indian astronomy written as early as 3rd century BC, which even Indian astronomers such as Arya Bhatta and Varahamihira too have made references in their works. It follows a 60-year-cycle culminating in a yuga or an era, which is even followed by the Chinese. As per this calendar, the Tamil New Year’s day follows the vernal equinox and usually falls on April 14. It also marks the Sun’s entry into Mesha rasi,

The astronomical significance of the Pongal festival is that it marks the beginning of Uttarayana, the sun's movement northward for a six-month period. Makara Sankranthi refers to the event of the sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn).
Uttarāyana is the six month period between Makar Sankranti around (January 14) and Karka Sankranti around (July 14), when the Sun travels towards north on the celestial sphere. The period from July 14 to January 14 is known is Dakshināyana

However, Maraimalai Adigal, a Tamil purist, while launching his Pure Tamil Movement in 1921, held a meeting at Pachaiyappa college in Chennai, to declare Thiruvalluvar time (31 B.C), to be used as a reference thereafter, instead of the 60-year cycle of the Hindu Vedic calendar, which does not contain any Tamil words. He also insisted that Suravam (thai), to be celebrated as Tamil new year month instead of sithirai. Tamil Nadu Government accepted the Tiruvalluvar year in 1971.For eg. jan. 17, 2008 is suravam, 2039.[2]

And guess it’s only from then on the Tiruvalluvar day on January 15 came into existence and was declared a state holiday!


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Blogger Arattai Ambujammal said...

Talking of holidays, I don't think it would matter; Apr 14 is Ambedkar Jayanti and people get their break.
Thai 1 would blend the New Year with the Pongal Celebrations. That's fine too. What would backfire is if the Tamilnadu Govt says they will start following only the Tiruvalluvar calendar. Mr. Karunanidhi knows that we are too globalized for that. Imagine how confusing an official memo would looks like it it is dated 2039. That would definitely look weird. Or would it be futuristic? If he does do that though, he definitely has gone all the way for the cause of Tamil.

1:39 AM  
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