Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Today I happened to watch a debate in Makkal TV on the change of Tamil New Year to Chiththirai and wish to note down here some of my observations.
The debate was not a balanced one as there were 2 persons speaking for Thai (Pushya maasam) as the first month of the Year and only one person speaking for Chiththirai. This resulted in more time given for Thai – side. The speaker for Chiththirai was constantly interrupted by the others thereby not giving him room for replying to their side of arguments. But there is not much to lose as they could not give one proof or explanation to say that Thai was the first month of the Year. All they were saying were repeats of what Karunanidhi used to say, accusing of Aryan and the so-called Sanskrit influence on Tamil. If their view is to be accepted, we have to throw all works in Tamil including Sangam literature and Tholkappiyam to dustbin and start a new literature in Tamil. May be that is what Karunanidhi attempted to do by making a beginning in Samaccher kalvi books (Uniform Syllabus) by filling them with his and Kanimozhi's 'poems'
The change to Thai effected by Karunanidhi was based on the suggestion mooted by a conference of Maraimalai Adigal with 500 Tamil scholars. There exists no records of that Conference, no records on who those 500 scholars were, nor about the materials accessed by them that made them come to the conclusion that ancient Tamils celebrated New Year in Thai. From the way the debaters for Thai failed to give any clue on what they spoke and who they were showed that it was more like a conglomeration of "Tamil Scholars" of the kind we saw in last year's Semmozi Maanadu. What was to be essentially dismissed as of little significance has been given importance by Karunanidhi and made an issue.
Coming to what the debaters for Thai spoke, it was a good joke because what one debater of Thai said was off set by the other debater for Thai! One said that the traditional Tamil New Year on Chiththirai was a Vedic influence. He also raked up the defunct Aryan influence and said the traditional one in Chiththirai was thrust on Tamils. He conveniently forgot that 2 of the 5 Thinais of ancient Tamils had Aryan (Vedic) Gods namely Varuna and Indra. Does he mean to say that Tholkaappiyam which gives the system of these Gods is a book thrust on Tamils?
Interestingly, the other debater for Thai harped exactly on Vedic concept of Uththarayana and said that it marked the beginning of the Year.
The very term Uththarayana is a Sanskrit term having importance in Vedic culture. In those days Uththarayana homas were done. Vedanga Jyothisha locates the beginning of Yuga (5 year Yuga called as Pancha Varshathmaka Yuga) at the beginning of Uththarayana. The Rik Jyothisha of Lagadha says in verse 5 that when the sun and the moon enter Dhanishta constellation, the yuga begins. In the next verse he explains that in the beginning of Dhanishta, Surya and Chandra move towards the North and form the midst of Aslesha they move towards the South – thereby indicating that he is talking about the 2 ayanas. The Vedic Yuga of 5 years meant for Homas started in Utharayana! Would our Tamil scholar agree that it is what the Tamils followed in those days? Anyway thanks to him for accepting that Tamils followed Vedic beginning of Uththarayana.
The Uththarayana started in Dhanishta during Lagadha's period. (Lagadha was the author of Rik Jyothisha). The Jain astrological work called Surya Pragnapti was written in the period when the Uthatharayana started in Abhijit! Their Yuga started in Abhijit. Abhijit was the star that occupied the space which is now attributed to Uththrashada 4th pada and 50 minutes of the first degree of Shravana. That star is no longer in the reckoning now. But it was in the reckoning at that time.
The Utharayana started in the 2nd pada of Uththrashada in Varahamihira's time. The Pancha Varshathmaka yuga started at that time in Varahamihira's period. Thus we see that this Ayana coinciding with Year / Yuga was very much a Vedic concept. But the speaker for Thai, quoted this Vedic concept to support Thai as the first month for Tamils!
Even if we were to accept his version of New Year in Thai, today Uththarayana does not start in the first degree of Makara, (Uththrashada 2nd pada) but starts in the 2nd pada of Moola. (6th day of Maargazi). This system of Yuga and year were given up when Pancha varshathmaka yuga based Vedic austerities were no longer done. Without any idea about what these things mean or what these are about, these 'scholars' keep harping on Vedic concepts saying that they want to cleanse Tamil of any Vedic or Sanskrit influence!!
However this debater did catch up with the year from Chiththirai but dismissed it as something applicable to agriculture. Does he not know that agriculture and food production are the very basis of a culture and its people? The New Year in chiththirai precisely gives clues about the rainfall, agricultural produce, price level of different commodities, the nature of flora and fauna in the coming year and overall happiness of the people based on these factors. Only these are indicated by the Year names and Year lords. The Tamil society was predominantly agricultural society as known from the Muthal, kerup poruL of the 5 ThiNais. The Chola desam was known for food production only. (சோழ நாடு சோறுடைத்து)
Their arguments which can at best be qualified as personal views would not stand for scrutiny in an informed Forum. But they showed the true agenda behind the change of the Year to Thai when they said that not all Tamils can celebrate it if it is in Chiththirai! Yes not all those who speak Tamil can celebrate it because it is essentially a Hindu festival. But that was not so until Tamils were converted to Abrahamic religions. All the people of Tamilnadu were Hindus only until conversions took place and even the Jain influence was temporary. In their anxiety to make the Tamil New Year relevant to Christians and Muslims who speak Tamil, they went to the extent of saying that the ancient Tamils had no religion and that sangam literature does not speak of any religion. They even said that there is no religion called Hinduism.
This shows how little they know of not only of Hinduism but also of Tamil literature. This also confirmed my opinion expressed in a previous post* that a section of people like these so-called scholars are worried that a day would come when Tamils following Tamil culture would start considering the converts to Abrahamic religions as non-Tamils. It is true that Tamil speaking non Hindus cannot be called as Tamils as they do not follow the customs of ancient Tamils. To offset this view, Karunanidhi & Co invented Samaththuvap pongal (Pongal common to all people), least knowing that Pongal as such was never a festival in Tamil lands but only a modification of Makara Sankaranthi which is celebrated throughout India on the first day of Thai.
Theirs is a mischievous agenda by which they are trying to undermine our culture, the culture of Tamil Hindus. We don't ask them to celebrate Tamil New Year's day in Chiththirai. Let them celebrate their festivals imported from foreign lands. But we want to retain our festivals of our land. Let them not meddle with our festivals. They have left their mother religion. They have left their mother culture. Why do they want this festival of mother culture?
*A big thanks to Ms Jayalalithaa for restoring Tamil New Year in Chiththirai. (or) Who is a Tamilian?
Palani excavation triggers fresh debate
Did the Tamil-Brahmi script originate in the post-Asokan period, that is, after the 3rd century BCE, or is it pre-Asokan? A cist-burial excavated in 2009 at Porunthal village, on the foothills of the Western Ghats, 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu, has reignited this debate because of the spectacular variety of grave goods it contained.
One of the two underground chambers of the grave was remarkable for the richness of its goods: a skull and skeletal bones, a four-legged jar with two kg of paddy inside, two ring-stands inscribed with the same Tamil-Brahmi script reading "va-y-ra" (meaning diamond) and a symbol of a gem with a thread passing through it, 7,500 beads made of carnelian, steatite, quartz and agate, three pairs of iron stirrups, iron swords, knives, four-legged jars of heights ranging from few centimetres to one metre, urns, vases, plates and bowls. It was obviously a grave that belonged to a chieftain ( The Hindu , June 28, 2009 and Frontline , October 8, 2010).
When K. Rajan, Professor, Department of History, Pondicherry University, excavated this megalithic grave, little did he realise that the paddy found in the four-legged jar would be instrumental in reviving the debate on the origin of the Tamil-Brahmi script. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of the paddy done by Beta Analysis Inc., Miami, U.S.A, assigned the paddy to 490 BCE. "Since all the goods kept in the grave including the paddy and the ring-stands with the Tamil-Brahmi script are single-time deposits, the date given to the paddy is applicable to the Tamil-Brahmi script also," said Dr. Rajan. So the date of evolution of Tamil-Brahmi could be pushed 200 years before Asoka, he argued.
This dating, done on the Porunthal paddy sent to the U.S. laboratory by Dr. Rajan, took the antiquity of the grave belonging to the early historic age to 490 BCE, he said. It held great significance for Tamil Nadu's history, he added. This was the first time an AMS dating was done for a grave in Tamil Nadu.
There are two major divergent views on the date of Tamil-Brahmi.
While scholars such as Iravatham Mahadevan and Y. Subbarayalu hold the view that Tamil-Brahmi was introduced in Tamil Nadu after 3rd century BCE and it is, therefore, post-Asokan, some others including K.V. Ramesh, retired Director of Epigraphy, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), consider it pre-Asokan.
According to Dr. Rajan, the AMS dating of the Porunthal paddy grains has the following implications: the context of the Tamil-Brahmi goes back to 490 BCE and it is, therefore, pre-Asokan; Tamil Nadu's ancient history can be pushed back to 5th century BCE and it was contemporary to mahajanapadas (kingdoms) such as Avanti, Kosala, Magadha and so on; paddy cultivation goes back to 5th century BCE; and it establishes that the megalithic graves introduced in the Iron Age continued into the early historic times.
When contacted, Mr. Mahadevan, a leading authority on the Tamil-Brahmi and Indus scripts, and Dr. Subbarayalu, Head, Department of Indology, French Institute of Pondicherry, said it was difficult to reach a conclusion on the basis of one single scientific dating.
Mr. Mahadevan described the dating as "interesting" but said "multiple carbon-dates are needed" for confirmation. "If there are several such cases, history has to be re-written because up to now, the scientifically proved earliest date is from Tissamaharama in southern Sri Lanka, where a Tamil-Brahmi script is dated to 200 BCE." If there is scientific evidence that the paddy is dated to 490 BCE, "we have to sit up and take notice, and wait for confirmation," Mr. Mahadevan said.
The Asokan-Brahmi is dated to 250 BCE. Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, Emperor Asoka's grandfather, had stated that the people of Chandragupta Maurya's kingdom did not know how to write and that they depended on memory. Besides, there is no inscription of the pre-Asoka period available. Mr. Mahadevan said: "Supposing a large number of carbon-datings are available from various sites, which will take us to the period of the Mauryas and even the Nandas, we can consider. But to push [the date of the origin of the Tamil-Brahmi script] a couple of centuries earlier with a single carbon-dating is not acceptable because chances of contamination and error are there."
Dr. Subbarayalu also argued that on the basis of one single scientific dating, it was difficult to reach the conclusion that Tamil-Brahmi was pre-Asokan. There should be more evidence to prove that Tamil-Brahmi was earlier to the time of Asoka, in whose time was available the earliest Brahmi script in north India.
Mr. Mahadevan's conclusion that Tamil-Brahmi is post-Asokan and it had its advent from about the middle of the third century BCE is based on "concrete archaeological as well as palaeographical grounds" and this date is as yet the most reasonable one, in spite of minor points of difference on his dating of individual inscriptions, said Dr. Subbarayalu.
The date of the Tamil-Brahmi script found at Porunthal, on palaeographic basis, could be put only in the first century BCE/CE and "cannot be pushed back to such an early date [490 BCE]." The three letters "va-y-ra" found on the ring-stands were developed and belonged to the second stage of Mr. Mahadevan's dating of Tamil-Brahmi. "It is premature to revise the Tamil-Brahmi dating on the basis of a single carbon date, which is governed by complicated statistical probabilities," Dr. Subbarayalu said. The word "vayra" is an adapted name from the Prakrit or Sanskrit "vajra" and it is difficult to explain convincingly the generally dominant Prakrit element in Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions found on rock and pot-sherds if Tamil-Brahmi is indigenous and pre-Asokan and transported from south India to north India, he says.
On the other hand, Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Emeritus Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, called the Porunthal Tamil-Brahmi script "an epoch-making discovery in the archaeology of Tamil Nadu" and said there "is no doubt" that Tamil-Brahmi belonged to the pre-Asokan period. In two of his books — "An Oxford Companion to Indian Archaeology" and "India, an Archaeological History" — he had written that the evolution of Tamil-Brahmi should go back to circa 500 BCE.
He refuted the theory that Tamil-Brahmi was post-Asokan.
Dr. Ramesh, who retired as the ASI's Joint Director-General in 1993, said the Porunthal scientific dating strengthened the argument that Tamil-Brahmi was pre-Asokan. He dismissed the assessment that Tamil-Brahmi was post-Asokan as "the argument of people who say that there cannot be pre-Asokan inscriptions." "How can you question the scientific dating given by an American laboratory?" Dr. Ramesh said the Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions found at Mankulam, near Madurai, were pre-Asokan. [The Mankulam inscriptions are the earliest Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and they are dated to second century BCE]. "The consonants in the Mankulam inscriptions do not have vowel value attached to them. They are pre-Asokan and the script is more rudimentary than the Asokan-Brahmi," he claimed.
The date given by the American laboratory was "a wonderful result," said M.R. Raghava Varier, former Professor, Department of History, Calicut University, "because the earliest date given so far to a south Indian site was 300 BCE." The archaeological sites of Uraiyur in Tamil Nadu and Arikkamedu in Puducherry fell within the time-limit of 300 BCE and Arikkamedu belonged to a later period than Uraiyur. While the [pre-Asokan] date given to a Tamil-Brahmi inscription found at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka "has not been proved convincingly," there was "a convincing date" at Porunthal and it was based on a scientific dating system, said Professor Varier, who was the honorary Editor of Kerala Archaeological Series. Its importance lay in the fact that while the Asokan-Brahmi began in the 3rd century BCE, the Porunthal script could be dated to 5th century BCE, he says. "But we cannot argue that Brahmi was invented by the southern people. That is a different issue."
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Even since revolution erupted in Egypt, we have been talking about the need for a revolution in India too. It was based on the perception that a collective will of the people must be expressed in strong terms so that the way this country is being run must be changed for better. This urge found an outlet in Annaji's fast. There will be 2 types of talks on whether Annaji's fast really made any breakthrough or not. On my part I have the following views to share.
At the outset a fast brings into my mind 2 concepts of Vedic wisdom. One is the Vaisavanara and the other is an explanation from Chandhogya Upanishad on what happens when one does not eat for 16 days but only survive on water.
Vaisvanara is an Agni which digests the food we eat. Generally the Vedic hymns consider Agni as a cleanser and a remover of sins. It is because Agni shines. Knowledge is born when darkness of ignorance is chased by the light shed by Agni. But the Vaisvanara Agni itself is considered as Knowledge or the Brahman which keeps the beings alive. This Agni is present in all living beings as the Fire of Digestion. We eat to satisfy Vaisvanara. The first offering of food goes to this Vaisvanara. It is to satisfy Vaisvanara, we offer food to others. Thus goes the description about Vaisvanara.
When one denies food to himself, he is denying food to Vaisvanara. Even if there is denial of food, the body starts giving food to Vaisvanara by metabolizing the stored food in tissues and proteins and fats. Thus even if a person denies food to himself, he can not deny this food to Vaisvanara, the Brahman. When the denial is done for a selfless cause, the Vaisvanara keeps awake and knows not to hurt the person. That is why a Gandhi or Anna who have been habitual deniers of food to this Vaisvanara for selfless causes have always withstood many days of fasting.
The 2nd concept is explained by Uddhalaka Aruni to his son ShwetaKetu in Chandogya Upanishad. Prana is sustained by water. To test this Aruni tells Shwetaketu to forego food and subsist only on water. But there is a time limit for this. At the most a person can subsist on water alone for 15 days only. On the 16th day, Aruni asks Shwetaketu to chant Vedic manthras. Shwetaketu could not recall the manthras. Aruni explains the reason for this. He says that the Purusha (Athman) has 16 kalas that help him to perform. Each day one kala diminishes with the denial of food to oneself. On the 16th day, the person is left with only one kala which is not enough for recalling or remembering anything. This means if a person goes without food for 16 days, he will lose his consciousness. He will faint or collapse. This happens with a person who has a very regimented life style and a high level of inner strength. Annaji comes under this category. He had been telling that he would withstand the fast for 2 weeks. This is the maximum limit as per Aruni's version also. I could not help connecting this view of the Upanishad with the way Annaji withstood the fast. With this background knowledge, I would say that it is mischievous on the part of rumor mongers to say that the secret of his energy even after 12 days of fasting is that he had taken glucose water or water mixed with electrolytes.
The way the Prana shakthi is kept alert to tide over the crisis that is caused to the body by denial of food makes the fast a spiritual weapon and not a weapon of blackmail. Fasting is there in other religions too, but in Hinduism it is a weapon that helps for inner journey and also for outer good. Denial of food to oneself amounts to a kind of denial that acts as a punishment to others who err.
In my own life, I have some vague images of my mother whom I lost at a very young age, resorting to this self denial to drive home a message to me, her child. She was inspired by Gandhian values and used to read out stories on Gandhian Ethos from the Tamil weekly 'Kalki' while feeding me. She was a strict disciplinarian that once when I made some mischief, she did not take food as a punishment to me! Until I realized my mistake and sought pardon from God by praying to Him in the Puja room in our house, she did not relent. By this she meant that I am answerable to God and for whatever wrong I do, she as one who nurtured me would have to bear the punishment. In reality, what she underwent became a punishment to me.
Thinking on these lines, what Anna did was not blackmail. It was a punishment for those responsible for making him fast. Their inner consciousness must have been nagging them all along that they would be responsible for whatever is happening to Anna due to his fast.
But in this Age of Kali, an additional dimension is needed to be present for the wrong doers to relent. It is the calculation of loss that makes them relent.
In the present episode of fast against corruption what had worked in the mind of the Congress managers are the political losses to be accrued. But they always make their strategies BJP- centic. As long as BJP was dilly dallying on the support to Anna's fast and the finer points Jan Lokpal Bill, the Congress was not bothered about Annaji. But when the BJP went ahead with complete support to Anna, the Congress wants to take out the air from the BJP camp. Today we even heard a Congress leader telling that their handling of Anna's fast shows that they are the ones who care for fighting corruption!!
Corruption is going to be an issue in the next election and the party that catches up with the imagination of the vast middle class and the Youth will have an advantage in the hustings – and not those who make their strategy to counter the other's strategy. The latter category betrays lack of sincerity and commitment to cause. It is time the BJP senses the pulse of the nation and its youth who constitute the majority of voters and take advantage of the upcoming Surya Dasa of the party's horoscope.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
A big thanks to Ms Jayalalithaa for restoring Tamil New Year in Chiththirai. (or) Who is a Tamilian?
I have written enough on the non-sustainability of that claim in many articles in this blogspot. Above all that I want to say only one thing here. The Tamil New Year is essentially a religious festival of the Tamils which is Hindu in essence. Hinduism has been the religion of the Tamils from times of yore. The Sangam assemblage that any Tamilian takes pride of, was initiated and headed by Lord Shiva. Any composition of Sangam text was dedicated to Lords Shiva, Goddess Saraswathy etc. Such being the background culture of the Tamils, I dare to say that only those who continue to stick to Hinduism can be considered as Tamils,
A Tamil is not a Tamil by virtue of having the ability to speak Tamil or for being born to parents who speak Tamil. But a Tamil is one who considers this land as his, the rivers as his and the Deities who are associated with this land and rivers as his. He may move to any other land, but only as long as he considers the deities of this land as his and follows the worship of these deities and the festivals of these deities, can he be considered as a Tamil. None others who worship other deities can claim themselves as Tamils because just by speaking Tamil, one can not to be considered as Tamils, By this Christians and Muslims who speak Tamil can not be considered as Tamils, just because they speak Tamil. Even we speak English but that does not make us English people, for the simple reason that we do not follow English culture. Similarly let not all those Christians, Muslims and Atheists who do not follow the core principle of deity- culture of the ancient Tamils be not considered as Tamils.
They know this pretty well, that is why they are trying to subvert the Hindu basis of Tamil Culture in all possible ways of which the attempt to change the New Year to Thai was one. For all those who may find this view of mine as unacceptable, I want to draw attention to what Shahi Imam told yesterday on Anna Hazare movement. He called upon the muslims of this country not to support Anna's movement. Because they can not accept this land as their God. They can not call this land as their Mother or Goddess. Similarly the Christian organizations have opposed Anna's movement. For these 2 communities, their Gods lie outside India. They can not accept the Gods of this land. The same logic holds good in the case of who a Tamil is.
A Tamil is one who swears allegiance to the numerous Hindu Gods of this land.Any one taking glory on Tamil's literary past and culture can not accept alien Gods imported from outside. Let all those who have allegiance to outside Gods, call themselves as Christians and Muslims who can speak Tamil but not as Tamils who are Christians and Muslims.
In the context I also wish to sound a warning to all those who have defied the Hindu culture of Tamils and taken refuge in alien religions, that defiance of Gods of Tamil land would only land them in trouble as those deities which were once worshiped by their Hindu ancestors are now neglected by them after they have embraced alien religions. That would afflict their off-springs from the 3rd generation onwards.
They want to claim yourselves as Tamils and not want to give up the language. Giving up a language would not do any harm. But giving up the deity of the land would do. More important than the language is the deity that guarded this land. By giving up these deities / by ignoring them, they have no right to claim any connection to Tamil lands and its basic culture which is Hindu.
To cite just one text, Silapapdhikaram, the favourite book of the atheistic Karunanidhi is full of Hindu Gods, description of worship of those Gods, Hindu customs of which one full chapter was dedicated to the marriage of Kanangi and Kovalan which was done as a Brahma Vivaha and numerous narrations on Karma theory and many characters coming to know of the past birth happenings etc. This Karma theory is the very core of the Hindu Concept. Even the decision of the Cheran King to found a temple for Kanangi was made after a discussion with his wife on concept of Godhood of Hinduism.
The entire story of Kannagi was narrated to the author by Kannagi Herself according to this text. Before concluding Kannagi in Deity form (after consecration) delivers an advice to the author which is full of Hindu Thought. She begins by calling people to know what is God and search for God in order to get a better understanding. The last advice is to do good karma in order to get a better rebirth! These two certainly can have no resonance with the Christians and Muslims. Any one shifting to these 2 religions, automatically forfeit their connection to Tamil culture and therefore to Tamil language. But these people and atheists do not accept this. That is why they are causing trouble to True Tamils by meddling with their customs and culture.
(Given below is the full text of Kannagi's advice to Ilango in the last chapter of Silappadhikaram)
”தெய்வம் தெளிமின் தெளிந்தோர்ப் பேணுமின்
பொய்யுரை அஞ்சுமின் புறஞ்சொல் போற்றுமின்
ஊனூண் துறமின் உயிர்க்கொலை நீங்குமின்
தானம் செய்ம்மின் தவம்பல தாங்குமின்.
செய்ந்நன்றி கொல்லன்மின் தீநட் பிகழ்மின்
பொய்க்கரி போகன்மின் பொருண்மொழி நீங்கன்மின்
அறவோர் அவைக்களம் அகலாது அணுகுமின்
பிறவோர் அவைக்களம் பிழைத்துப் பெயர்மின்
பிறர்மனை அஞ்சுமின் பிழையுயிர் ஓம்புமின்
அறமனை காமின் அல்லவை கடிமின்
கள்ளும் களவும் காமமும் பொய்யும்
வெள்ளைக் கோட்டியும் விரகினில் ஒழிமின்
இளமையும் செல்வமும் யாக்கையும் நிலையா
உளநாள் வரையாது ஒல்லுவ தொழியாது.
செல்லும் தேஎத்துக் குறுதுணை தேடுமின்
மல்லல்மா ஞாலத்து வாழ்வீர் ஈங்கென்”
NT Bureau | Tue, 23 Aug, 2011,01:50 PM
In a significant move, the Tamilnadu Assembly today passed a Bill shifting back the Tamil New Year to the original month of Chithirai (mid-April), laying to rest the previous DMK government's out of the blue declaration of changing the age-old practice to mid-January.
The Bill tabled in the House by Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister S P Shanmuganathan said that members of the public, archealogical experts, pundits, astronomy exponents and others have expressed the opinion that the DMK goverment's 2008 decision to shift the Tamil New Year was against the practice of centuries.
'They requested the government to revert the Tamil New Year to the month of Chithirai,' the Bill said and added that there are a lot of practical difficulties among the people to celebrate Pongal as the Tamil New year Day.
'Hence it has been decided to declare once again the first day of Chithirai as the Tamil New Year day,' the Bill said.
When the Bill was tabled, CPI(M) MLA A Soundararajan and CPI legislator Guasekaran said that they opposed the Bill and requested the Speaker to send it to the Standing Committee.
Later, the Bill was taken up for discussion through a resolution brought by Finance Minister and Leader of the House O Panneerselvam and was passed as Law.
The Tamilnadu government in 2008 decided to declare the first day of the Tamil month Thai as the Tamil New Year Day.
According to the previous regime, the decision was taken in view of the 'consensus' amongst Tamil scholars that the first of Thai is the first day of the Tamil year.
'Till now, the people celebrated 14 April (the first of Chithirai, an auspicious month for conducting marriages) as Tamil New Year Day.
Now those who celebrate Pongal as the festival of Tamils can celebrate it as Tamil New Year Day also with redoubled joy', the erstwhile government said.
Former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, while inaugurating the Chennai Sangamam, a 'controversial' cultural extravaganza, had announced that Thai 1 would henceforth be celebrated as Tamil New Year Day along with Pongal, the festival of harvest.
Why Anna's middle class has disdain for Parliament
The poorer sections are more with Anna since he understands their hurt and loss and frozen anger at the government's minions and their daily dacoity at their expense.PTI
PROFESSOR OF FINANCE
INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENTBANGALORE
The tripod constructed by Jawaharlal Nehru consisted of socialism, secularism and parliamentary supremacy.
The socialism part went with Narasimha Rao, even though the word is still in our constitution, which declares us to be a socialist republic. Every elected representative is forced to swear by it, exposing us to total hypocrisy in running our polity.
The day the law was amended to deny alimony to Shah Bano, the edifice of secularism, too, developed a crack. In a society which considers everything, including trees and animals, sacred, the notion of "secularism" was anyway a bit stretched. It came down fully with the Ayodhya agitation. However, our constitution includes secularism in its preface. The word was inserted into the constitution during the emergency, and was not a part of the original statute.
The third leg of the Nehruvian tripod, the primacy of Parliament in making laws, was treated with an enormous amount of respect, even reverence. Members of state assemblies and Parliament were called law-makers even though a good number among them do not know what kind of laws they make. The disconnect between our burgeoning middle classes and the so-called law-makers has been widening in leaps and bounds in recent decades.
A great fault line has been developing for a while, and this hasn't been noticed by blind political experts. Today there is a huge trust deficit with the political class. In the early sixties, during the conflict with China, this author has seen women giving away their gold ornaments when leaders went around in jeeps to collect money for defence. Today, women will probably run inside their homes if they see a jeep with politicians asking for donations.
The Nehruvian middle class was essentially a public sector one: they tended to work in government, or in companies owned by government: HMT, Bhel, LIC, State Bank of India. Every engineer and accountant in the 1950s and 1960s aspired to work for these companies, and prepared massively for the stiff entrance tests.
The public sector middle class of those decades was often aligned with Left unions. They sought the creation of more government entities and agitated for enhanced pay. They waved flags when Indira Gandhi nationalised banks. The middle classes shouted Inquilab Zindabad in processions those days. Bengal led this class, and so did Kerala.
This middle class influenced and infiltrated all aspects of Indian life, including the arts, cinema, literature, books and history. They selected their "intellectuals" and "academic leaders". The government was criticised, but only for being less leftist. They captured the Planning Commissions and hundreds of other academies. They were essentially government-subsidised revolutionaries. The pinnacle of their achievement was the creation of the Jawaharlal Nehru University – appropriately named – where "lal salaam" and "inquilab" could be paraded as serious academic research in social sciences.
It is not that the masses are dumb, but the law-makers are deaf. They talk about the supremacy of Parliament when the third leg of the Nehruvian tripod is about to collapse.
There was significant dissent even in such places, but largely between the extreme Left and the moderate Left.
But the 1980s and, especially the 1990s, were different periods. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a major marker on the side of ideology. Narasimha Rao understood history better than many historians. The economy opened up and a new middle class based on the service economy came in being. The share of the service sector moved to above 60 percent and its growth dictated the growth of the overall economy. Information technology (IT) became the new beacon for the middle class. Let's call them the software (SW) middle class.
Even though IT still forms a small part of our service economy, the fact is it has replaced the public sector middle class. The red flag changed colour, with a tinge of saffron. Its aspirations are different. It includes not just the employed white collar worker; it also contains a huge mass of the self-employed. Their numbers could be upwards of 20 crore – 200 million.
The disconnect between this middle class and the elected representatives is very large, particularly at the local level. For instance, in Bangalore or Mumbai, corporators have no connect with them, whether in terms of language, dress or idiom. Most corporators are road contractors or hooch traders or lottery barons and the middle class is alienated from them.
As for Parliament, who can deny that it has many members charged with criminal activities? The criticism that has been hurled against this new software middle class, which is largely with Anna Hazare, is that it does not fully understand our parliamentary system. Our Parliament is supreme and Anna is not an elected person, it is said.
Sure, but even Manmohan Singh is not an elected person. He hasn't even been freely elected by the Congress Parliamentary Party. The Congress constitution was amended in May 2004 to give Sonia Gandhi the right to choose the party's PM, and she chose Manmohan Singh. The National Advisory Council is not an elected body but it formulates laws which are accepted by the government.
Seen against this backdrop, the issue of being elected is treated as a joke by the middle class. The social contract of this middle class with a parliament that is supreme is over. It is time our parliamentarians — both ruling and opposition — realise this.
There is no point in asking why tribals and the poor are not at Ramlila Maidan. They simply can't afford to be there, or they will lose their daily earnings.
But it is more than likely that the poor are with Anna because corruption affects the corporations and the richer sections less. They can afford to pay bribes — and pass on the costs to their customers or employers. Corruption, for them, is thus just an irritating expense.
For my flower vendor in Bangalore, though, a bribe is a hurtful expense. It can be as much as Rs 30 on a Rs 300 turnover. Arm-chair Leftists who do not understand much about the real India go on arguing about how big business is with Anna. Maybe so. But the poorer sections are more with him since he understands their hurt and loss and frozen anger at the government's minions and their daily dacoity at their expense.
It is not that the masses are dumb, but the law-makers are deaf. They talk about the supremacy of Parliament when the third leg of the Nehruvian tripod is about to collapse. Are we in a position to deal with this? Are we going to mouth age-old slogans of the public sector middle classes of the 1960s or the new software middle classes? Is it possible to bring Parliament and other elected bodies in sync with the aspirations of the new middle classes?
Despite all the exhortations of Lenin and Mao, it is the middle class which leads change in our country – whether it was our independence struggle or the struggle against the emergency. If Parliament becomes irrelevant then it is a huge challenge for us to rework our institutions. That should be the focus now instead of the inane talk about how Parliament is supreme or the constitution is supreme or the people are supreme.
Maybe, the time has come to ask ourselves whether the current parliamentary system has outlived its purpose.