Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

When Is the Tamil New Year?

by K.Mylvaganam

There is a controversy as to whether the Tamil New Year falls around the 14th of April or on the 14th of January.

For several years we have followed the tradition to celebrate it on the first of the Tamil month of Chithirai.  Now it is claimed by learned people well versed in Tamil and Tamil culture that the day of Thai Pongal should be the Tamil New Year.  They say that the 14th of April is the Hindu New Year.  In Sri Lankan calendars it is termed the 'Hindu Sinhala' New Year.  Here one should note that it is not termed the 'Hindu Buddhist' New Year.  This because in other parts of the world different Buddhists have their own New Year dates.

It is worth reminding of the Purana that is believed by the Hindus, especially those in India.  According to that story, the Rishi Naratha developed a sexual desire and copulated with one deity and got sixty sons.  The names of these children are starting from Pirabawa to the sixtyth Atchaya.  This story is narrated in a book called Abithana Chinthamani.  Whether the story is true or not, if a New Year date is based on such a disgusting history it is beyond all form of science and common sense.  Besides, it is in contradiction to Tamil culture, Tamil values and Tamil tradition.  Above all none of the sixty names are in Tamil.  If so, how could it be the Tamil New Year?

Another school of thought is that all these sixty years were named by a north Indian called King Salivahanan.  According to the existing system, once the sixty years are over with the year called Atchaya, then the next sixty years start with Pirabawa.  This makes it mathematically impossible to keep track or record of historical events that happened in the past.  Suppose a great leader was born in the year of Atchaya after a lapse of one or two centuries it will not be able to decipher the exact age or period of that event.

In 1921 Tamil scholars who gathered under the leadership of the "Tamil Kadal" (Sea) Maraimalai Adikal researched on the subject of the Tamil New Year.  This committee included Tamil veterans like Tamil Thenral V. Kalyanundaram, Tamil Kavalar K.Subramaniumpillai, Saiva Periyar Satchithananthampillai, Navalar Somasundara Barathiyar, Navalar N.M. Vegkadasami Naddar and Muthamil Kavalar K.A.P. Visvanatham.  After long deliberations they unanimously arrived at the conclusion that the Tamil New Year commenced on the first day of the Tamil month "Thai."  All the twelve months that followed have pure Tamil names.  They also named the seven days as:

Gnayiru

Thingal

Sevai

Arivan

Viyalan

Velli

Kaari

Puthan and Sani were not accepted as Tamil words.  They also said that Thiruvalluvar was born thirty one (31) years before Lord Jesus Christ.  Hence it was decided to add 31 years to the English year and adopt that as the Tamil year called Thiruvalluvar Aandu.  The calendars in Tamil Nadu commenced using Thiruvalluvar Aandu in 1971.  The state of Tamil Nadu accepted the Thiruvalluvar Aandu officially in 1972.

According to researchers, the Tamils have used the months commencing from Thai to Markali even during the Indus civilisation (Sinthu Vaeli Nkareekam).  The Gujarathi people, even though they are Hindus, yet their New Year falls on the day of Deepavali.  The Marathies have their own.  Similarly, people speaking different languages in India celebrate their own seperate New Years.

It is a pity that the Tamils both in India and Sri Lanka continue to follow the Hindu New Year as the Tamil New Year.

Puradchchi Kavignan Parathithasan in one of his songs said:

Thaiye Muthal Thingal

Thai Muthale Aandu Muthal.

Hence, let us celebrate Thiruvalluvar Aandu as the Tamil New Year.

Rooster instead of a lingam

A reader asks:

I am interested to know why a rooster is on the traditional Hindu oil lamp (Kuththu villaku) instead of a lingam.  Vide your page expressing Thamil New Year wishes.

From our religion consultant:

The Rooster and Peacock are the vehicle (vaahanam) of Lord Murugan (the Thamil Theivam).

Sevalum, Mylum Potri!

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Posted April 22, 2005