Tamil New Year on Pongal Day – Controversy

I do not know how many really wished ‘Happy New Year’ on the Pongal Day.  But whoever I spoke to gave me the impression that none exchanged greetings for a Happy New Year.  Only the private TV channels made a feeble reference to celebrating New Year on the Pongal Day.  I think people of Tamilnadu are not highly enthused about this change.  For most of them the Tamil New Year still falls in Chithirai(April).

My question is was the change from April(Chithirai) to January(Thai) really needed?  Is there any logical and convincing reason to change the age old tradition of celebrating Tamil New year from ‘Chittira’ to ‘Thai’.

Following is the excerpts from the last year’s budget speech given by the Finance Minister Mr. Anbazhagan:

“In view of the consensus amongst almost all Tamil scholars that the first day of the month of Thai, the opening month of the Thiruvalluvar year, is the first day of the Tamil year, this Government has declared 1st Thai as the Tamil New Year day and a legislation to this effect was enacted on 1.2.2008. Therefore, the people of Tamil Nadu who now celebrate Pongal as the festival of Tamils, can now celebrate it as the Tamil New Year day also with redoubled joy………………”

I have some questions.  Why it should be Thiruvalluvar year?  Is it because the Tamil calendar is calculated from the birth year of Thiruvalluvar?  Did not Tamil exist at the time of Thiruvalluvar’s birth?  Did Thiruvalluvar not celebrate Tamil New Year in Chithirai.  To honour Saint Thiruvalluvar we may celebrate Thiruvalluvar New Year on the 1st day of Thai.  But changing the age old tradition which was established based on astronomical data, planetary systems and time calculations based on the movements of the Sun and the Moon was totally uncalled for.  Celebrating New Year in Chithirai is not unique to Tamilnadu.  All the other regions in the south and also in other parts of the country celebrate New Year during this period only.  That falls in line with the tradition and culture of the Hindus as a whole.   If the CM has his way he may even try to shift Diwali to a different date/month.

I think the Tamilnadu Chief Minister has done a disservice to the Tamils by changing the New Year date.   On the Pongal day ‘Pongal’ takes predominance over the New Year which is literally relegated to lower status.  Not that the change really matters because all the Tamilians are going to celebrate New Year only in Chithirai.  So after changing the New Year to Pongal will the CM forbid the celebrations in Chithirai or cancel the public holiday on the Chithrai New Year day.  No, he will not.  Instead he has found a new name ‘Chithirai Thirunaal’ for the celebration, to keep the public in good mood.  So the TV channels can blare ‘Chithirai Thirunaal’ celebrations and the government will declare holiday for ‘Chithirai Tirunaal’.

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