My 2-part article justifying the start of Tamil New Year in Chithirai, published in www.tamilhindu.com can be read in these links.
Dear Mr.Chief Minister,
I was taken aback with both joy and anxiety on reading about your speech
on the occasion of the inauguration of Chennai Sangamam.
because my belief that the Sanatana Dharma of this land can never be vitiated,
has been vindicated in what you have said
because of the mix up of the tenets,
if your proposal to make Thai as the start of the New Year, were to be introduced.
The Joy part
While saluting your knowledge of literature and your desire to adhere to what poets (pulavar) have said,
I wish to look into the cultural aspects embedded in the literature.
'Gyaayiru potrudum' (praise unto the Sun) is not just one prayer that has been mentioned in Silapadikaaram.
There is also glorification of Narayana in Aaichiyar Kuravai.
If we accept Gyaayiru potrudum as the prayer,
because it has been said so by Ilangovadigal,
then we will have to accept 'Narayana' also as the god,
though Adigal, left to himself would like to glorify Arugan, the god of his Jain belief.
Infact what he has done by this prayer on the sun
is to place on record the then existent and
the continued to be existing practice from times of yore
of the worship of the sun,
the life-giver of this world and its inhabitants.
If we trace the origins of this worship,
it goes farther into past, into the vedic period.
The early Vediks worshiped the Sun.
A temple on Sun and his 2 consorts,
supposed to have been built 2000 years ago
still exists in Kashmir (in dilapidated condition),
a land that derived its present name from rishi Kashyapa.
Among the thirty two vidyas of worship or meditation on the Brahman (the Infinite god)
mentioned by the Upanishads,
the worship of the sun is known as 'Madhu vidya'.
The sun is worshiped as the giver of life and also as an embodiment of god.
By acknowledging this 'gyaayiru potrudum' prayer,
I am overjoyed to see that you are acknowledging
the vedic worship of the Sun
and meditation by means of Madhu vidya!
My joy found no bounds to hear you say,
that you recite the similar prayer while doing the Yoga.
But I wish that you stick to your swadharma of non-worship,
by not practicing this at all!
Or if you want to practice yoga for the sake of health,
I expect you to say the precise sloka meant for it.
Because in that case it wont be a worship,
but a mere exercise of your mind and body for the sake of better health.
Let me explain how.
Let me quote an incident or experiment on Agnihotra by German scientists.
You must be remembering the terrible holocaust of death by poisonous gas
that happened in Bhopal in the year 1982.
Fleeing people were falling like insects hit by the poisonous gas.
But two families could not move out as there were old people who could not run.
They stayed back but started doing Agnihotra Homa which they used to do,
as they didn't know what else to do.
But to the surprise of the world, they were unharmed in the midst of the holocaust!
On coming to know of this incident, scientists from all over the world poured in and
conducted experiments and found out that Agnihotra is the effective tool against air pollution.
The intriguing part of the homa is a two line mantra.
The mantra extols sun god and prajapathi in the morning homa and
agni and prajapati in the evening homa.
The scientists substituted the sanskrit mantras with many languages of the world - both forgotten and living,
and even used verses having the meaning of the mantra
to investigate how / what actually brings out the effect of the homa.
Needless to say that the mantra in sanskrit only succeeded in bringing out the desired effect.
This means the mantra, as it has been handed down to us is very much necessary to bring out the exact result.
Similarly whatever mantra is recommended for a specific yoga,
it must be used as such to bring out the exact result.
In fact I am very happy to have a yoga-savvy chief minister,
who even at this age of 84 is sincerely doing yoga.
But I am constrained to say that
only that mantra which goes along with the physical activity of yoga
will give the optimum effect in terms of health
whereas any variation of it will not.
More importantly, by converting it into its meaning,
you have only changed it into a form of worship!
Your guru did not mind the change from Sanskrit to Tamil because he must be aware,
that by reciting the meaning you are anyway not deviating from
the very purpose of yoga
which is a kind of worship of the inner god in ourself.
Let me come to the anxiety part.
You have profusely acknowledged the greatness of gyaayiru potrudum.
What kind of gyyayiru or sun is praised generally?
The sun in its grandeur, the sun at its best and the sun at its exaltation.
This happens in the month of chitthirai
when the start of new year coincides with the sun in its glorious high.
My anxiety is because you have ignored this aspect.
Even as per Tamil culture, based on the five-divisioned land called ThiNai,
the months coming after Pongal namely Thai, Maasi and Panguni are not the periods of glory to sun.
They signify foggy season and a season of rest after harvest.
The Tamil lands, particularly the mountainous tracts (kurinji), and the desert tracts (paalai ) experience
periods of low activity
and people in other three lands used to retire to a period of relaxation.
The real fillip to activity happens only with the onset of spring
which coincides with the month of chithirai when the new year is celebrated.
Only from this month onwards,
activities in agriculture and celebrations are seen all around.
My anxiety is because this factor of heralding of the spring is overlooked.
You have said that the poets (pulavar) have said that the Tamil new year must start on the first day of Thai.
While I am ignorant of any Tamil poet of yore having said this,
I am aware of poets, particularly the Siddhas (one among them Idai-k kaatu chitthar)
who have written poems for each year of the sixty year cycle of the sun
which starts on the first day of chittirai.
Can we ever forget the festivities in the river lands of Vaigai or Kaveri during this month?
My anxiety is because the continuing festivities will not be there after Pongal,
though it is happy time for prospective brides and bridegrooms
and spending time for families (having enough money after harvest) to spend on marriages.
Dear chief Minister,
even if you were to argue that Thai is the best time for starting the year,
I can not help wondering how it is so for the Tamil culture as it is for vedic culture.
It is the first day of Uttarayana or the northern sojourn of the sun,
when, in real cosmic terms,
the earth, in its revolution around the sun turns
its direction and moves towards the centre of our Milky way galaxy.
This movement is of importance to vediks and astrologers.
This also makes me anxious how our Chief Minister can subscribe to a Vedic calender.
If we still think that Thai must be made the first month of the year,
then we must change the calender itself.
This means we will be doing away with an age old practice of using Solar calender.
The Tamils may agree to it, since the proposal has come from you, dear Chief Minister.
But can all the Tamils follow it?
There are muslims and christians who are also Tamils.
They are not going to use this calender.
Also a muslim calender or a christian calender can not be changed
by a government head or a political head or even a religious head.
So this means the Tamil calender that is in use today
is a Hindu calender, not a Tamil calender or Telugu calender or call whatever.
Then why tamper with this calender, when your interest is to serve Tamils?
It makes me tremendously anxious whether my beloved Chief Minister
has mistaken the Hindu calender for a Tamil calender which is yet to be designed!
If a change is desired, then there must be
some rationale or justification for changing this calender.
In fact the existing solar calender itself is a sound one, supported by rational facts.
The rationale in cosmic terms.
The calender used by Tamils is based on sun's movements and was not prepared just like that.
The Tamil new year's day is the day when the sun enters the first degree of Aries which is repeated every year.
In cosmic terms, this day marks the point of intersection of the sun's path around the zodiac with the celestial equator.
This is aclled "Meshaayana".
This point has been taken as a point of reference from olden days.
Though this point moves backward,
(It has been observed and proved mathematically
that each year at the time when the Sun reaches this point of Aries,
the position of the earth in reference to some fixed stars moves back nearly 50.3 seconds farther west
than the earth was at the same point in the previous year
and this movement is calculated to be 1 degree every 72 solar years),
for purposes of uniformity, we have been deducing the difference and making corrections regularly,
known as Ayanamsa.
The last time the intersection coincided exactly at 0 degree of Aries was in the year 285 AD.
Earlier the intersection happened at 0 degrees of Leo (Magha star)
which is found mentioned in a hymn in Yujur veda,
giving scope for us to calculate the time the hymn was written
(more than 8000 years ago from the present date)
proving how ancient our culture has been.
Any attempt must therefore be aimed at correcting the discrepancies in calculations,
and not making changes at will in a system that is based on sound logic.
In the past, kings have played a role in calender making,
by engaging experts for making corrections.
Today no kings are there.
But experts are there everywhere and they have been bringing out the necessary changes.
I am obliged to quote in this context, dear Chief Minister,
a kuraL from Amaicchu (637)
"seyarkai arindha-k- kadaitthum vulagatthu
iyarkai arindhu seyal"
Even if one acts in accordance with the texts in which he is well- versed,
he is supposed to know and act as per the way it is done in practice.
We have been advised by Parimelazhagar (commentator on KuraL)
that if it is told by texts that something is needed which in reality is not needed,
then we have to give it up.
On the other hand,
we have to adopt the one which is necessary,
even if it is not mentioned in the texts.
Changing the New year to Thai has no reason, relevance or rationale by any reckoning.
The day already has been given a unique place in the Tamil society, in having been declared as Pongal,
while it is celebrated as Makar-shankarathi in the rest of India,
as the day of entry of the sun into the constellation of Capricon.
Makar shakaranthi, or pongal or call what ever you may, there is some cosmic significance.
But culture is about mundane affairs.
Let Pongal be the celebration of harvest,
and let Tamil New year's day mark the beginning of a new Solar year.
Dear Chief Minister,
I therefore request you to give a re-thinking and give up your proposal.
Instead you may constitute a committee of experts to bring out the significance of Tamil culture,
which is found to be based on rational thinking in terms of Nature and cosmos.