Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Is Tamil’s calendar out of sync with the calendars followed in the rest of India?

Given below is an article from Organiser.org on how 'mind-set' or 'scripted mind' becomes the cause for many mis- interpretations in such a way that the core theme gets lost in due course. In the process the author has lamented that Tamils have deviated from adopting the lunar calendar which is actually the Hindu calendar followed by the rest of India. He thinks that there is nothing called Tamil's New Year or Tamil's calendar because what the Tamils follow are the festivals of the lunar calendar. Without realizing it the Tamils think that they are following a calendar 'exclusive' to themselves which in due course became an object for manipulation and was twisted by political bigwigs.

There are some factual errors in the understanding of Tamil's calendar. The otherwise well written article needs to be read by all and that is why I am reproducing it here with a note on what exactly is this issue about Tamil's calendar.

The calendar followed by Tamils is a combination of Solar and Lunar calendars. You may call it as Luni-Solar calendar or Soli-Lunar calendar. The solar calendar is the basis for computing Deva years (calendar of Gods) and the lunar calendar is the basis for identifying auspicious time for prayers to the Gods. In addition we take into consideration the stars, (nakshthra mana / sidereal day ) and savanna mana (terrestrial day which begins with sun rise everyday) Even in the lunar calendar followed in the rest of India the star and terrestrial reckoning are part of deciding the important times. So a day of importance, say, a day of festival or vratham (austerity) are decided on solar, lunar, nakshathra and savanna considerations.

In deciding auspicious timings (muhurthas), both solar and lunar systems play an useful role. In other words, they are fused and used in unison in Soli-Lunar calendar. This has more practical benefits. For instance, the adhik masa of Lunar system is not suitable for auspicious events. But this kind of an issue is absent in Solar calendar. In effect we find that auspicious timings occurring in the solar month that corresponds to the adhik masa. According to muhurtha astrology, one can conduct a function in adhik masa or in an inauspicious lunar month if the solar month running at that time is auspicious. So astrologically speaking, the combined Luni-solar is useful and is accepted.

For instance in grahaarambha (starting construction) and grahapravesa (entry into newly built house), a combined calendar is used. Only 4 (corner / ubhaya rasi month) months are inauspicious in a solar year, whereas there is restriction on more months in lunar calendar. Adhering to them restricts the number of good muhurthas. So it is advised by sages to combine both lunar and solar months. Even if the lunar month is unfavorable, one can accept a muhurtha if the solar month is favorable. Particularly in deciding the month (maasa) for an auspicious event, solar month is acceptable.

For austerities and vrathams, the lunar thithis are relevant. Lunar calendar itself is based on Pithru's cycle. So Thithi -based austerities are decided on the basis of Lunar thithis.

For festivals and auspicious events, the star also must be considered. In that case, the solar month is given precedence. Only in the case of birthdays of Rama and Krishna we follow thithis – as they are times for vratham also. Otherwise auspicious events such as temple festivals, mundane festivals, marriages etc are decided on the basis of stars.

Therefore we can not say that Tamil's calendar is out of sync with other calendars. The Luni-solar calendar of Tamils is far utilitarian than an exclusive lunar -calendar -based system.

It is said by almost all astrological texts on selection of an auspicious time that you can not get a day that fulfills all the requisites of a good muhurtha. Such days will be less than 5 in a year. So the best way is to choose a day having more positives and less negatives than to harp on all-positives day. Combined Luni-Solar calendar helps in identifying such days.

On Tamil New Year day falling on the first day of Chithirai, it must be said that it was the right time. The Chathur Maha yugas started when sun entered 0 degree Aries. At that time moon joined the sun and the other planets (nodes excepting) were also close to the sun. That marks the birth of man kind and yugas. That was the original lagna of the world. That point determines the events of the world. That is why it is considered as the New Year.

In subsequent rounds, moon did not join the sun at the entry point of Aries (Chitthirai). That led to the development of 5-year Yuga (Pancha varshathmaka yuga). The adhik masa is part of this yuga to carry out the correction so that the sun and the moon join together at Aries. This also shows that primary importance was given to Sun's entry in deciding the New Year.

Related posts:-

Rama Navami – why celebrate Rama's birthday on thithi and not on birth star?



- jayasree




Open Forum

The annual ritual of greeting on the new year
How many new years do we have?

By Ram Gopal Ratnam

EVERY year we witness a ritual of the political leaders right from the Prime Minister down to city Mayor wishing the people for a happy new year. The Tamils for a Tamil new year, the Bengalis for a Bengali new year, the Malayalies for a Malayali new year, the Assamese for an Assami new year. and believe me, all fall on the same day. Simple logic tells me that if it is new year for so many regions, it has to be a single, common new year and not different new years. Yet, thanks to Goebbels, this falsehood has percolated down and now newspapers, teachers, temples and social organisations have joined senseless chorus. The effect? A common Tamilian has started to believe that it is Tamil's new year. Now, it has gone beyond mere belief. He firmly knows that it is Tamil's new year. Is it so? Is it Tamil new year or a Bengali new year or an Assami new year or would you call January 1st as American new year, British new year, French new year, Australian new year? No. It is just Christian new year and is the new year wherever the Christians live.

What is a new year day? It is the first day of a calendar. There are many calendars, the Christian or Gregorian calendar, the Muslim calendar, the Chinese calendar, etc. Basically, there are two types of calendars, the solar and the lunar. The solar one is based on the Earth's rotation around the Sun and the lunar is based on the Moon's rotation around the Earth. These two calendars are different as these have different basis for calculation. The Christian calendar is solar and the Muslim one is lunar and we, the Hindus have both. This so-called 'Tamil' new year is a Hindu solar calendar and the other one, which is ignorantly called Telugu new year by all the 'great' leaders in Tamil Nadu and a Marathi new year by the same catagory of leaders in the North, is actually Hindu lunar calendar.

Let me elaborate. Why do you need a calendar? To know your festivals. When is the Christmas? December 25th. Where did you find it? In the Christian calendar of course. You can not find it in the Muslim calendar. This year it is on the 13th of the month called Moharram. Next year, it will fall in the month of Julhej. It will be a different month every year. Can you locate the Deepavali day in the Christian calendar? You can not? It may fall in October or November. It was in October last year and this year it will be in November. You have to refer to the lunar calendar to know the Deepavali date. It falls on Ashwin Amavasya day.

Which are the festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu? The same as those celebrated in other parts of our nation. The Deepavali, Vijayadashami, Navaratri, Ramnavami, Skanda Sasti, Gokulashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Maha Shivaratri, Vaikuntha Ekadashi, Shravan Poornima, etc. etc. I challange you to locate any of these festival days in the so-called 'Tamil' calendar. You can not, because this calendar is solar based and all these festivals fall on lunar days like Sashti, Ashtami, Navami, Amavasya, Poornima. How sad that a community has a calendar of its own, but all its major festivals have to be located from the calendar of a different community, the Telugu calendar in this instance?

It is not Tamil calendar or Telugu calendar. It is a Hindu solar calendar and a Hindu lunar calendar. Most of our festivals are lunar based and are located in lunar calendar. The Earth's movement around the Sun is not cognizable for a common man. We can infer the same by observing the climatic changes. We can merely know it is winter or summer or rainy season. All these are solar phenomenons. It is a matter for the scientist or the Astro mathematician who computes the Panchang. The solar calendar can be called a scientist's calendar. Festivals are common man's domain. You need a more 'user-friendly' calendar. The lunar movement is visible. Even a lay man can observe and understand the lunar movement. You have to just observe the sky and do some simple calculations and you can arrive at the festival days. So, you can call this common man's calendar.

Both are Hindu calendars. Both are referred to and used in all parts of our nation. All the major festivals are to be found in the lunar calendar, except Makara Sankranti. This is an important festival for all Hindus and is found in the solar calendar. The 'Kumbh', Uttarayana and Dakshinayana Punya Kala, and monthly Pitru Tarpanam on every Sankranti day (Sankranti is the 1st of a solar month and makara sankranti is the 1st of the month called Makara.) are the other special days in the solar calendar. These are special not only to the Tamils, but to all the Hindus, throughout the length and breadth of Bharat. Is not Makara Sankranti an important festival for the Marathis? How is it that they do not have it in their calendar and have to reach out to the 'Tamil calendar' for finding it? It is neither Marathi calendar nor Tamil calendar, but just lunar and solar calendars.

Our formal education system does not teach these subjects which help us to know who we are. Long after Independance in 1947, we continue to churn out Mc'Caulay-putras from our schools. In my school days, Avani Avittam fell in the month of Aadi. Aavani Avittam is Shravan Poornima and Aavani and Aadi are names of fourth and fifth solar months. How can Aavani Avittam fall in the month of Aadi? It is like celebrating October revolution in November or Good Friday falling on a Thursday. This simple question arose in my childish mind and I used to ask many of my teachers, the social leaders in Tamil community. Unfortunately, none were able to give me a convincing answer. I had three options before me. I could have concluded that our ancestors were ignorant. I could have ignored and forgotten the question and concentrated on more practical things like career building, money making, etc. I could have pondered over the question spending restless moments till I found an answer. I chose the third option and was awestruck by the genius of our ancestors. The western mind wants to standardise everything. Uni-sex clothing, Uniform (American) breakfasts, uniform way of worship, uniform structures. It can not comprehend variety. It is not mature enough to appreciate more complex things. It wants to simplify everything. Many of our own English-educated are in the same mind frame. Nature is full of variety and is very complex. It requires a more mature mind and higher intelligence to understand, even appreciate complexities.

Our nation has nourished variety in every walk of life. We have so many ways of wearing our Dhoti and saree. (I've found 28 ways of wearing a saree in Tamil Nadu.) We have so many languages and dialects. Recipes? We do not have an Indian food. These words south Indian food and north Indian food are misnomers. There is no Tamil food either. The food system varies from community to community and region to region within Tamil Nadu and is very different from food in Andhra or Kerala or Karnataka. The same is the case in Maharashtra. The Warhadi is different from Konkani, which is again different from Khandeshi. That which is known as south Indian food is more a Tamil Brahmin food type. This vast variety flourishing in Bharat was exploited by the British, to drive a wedge, sorry, drive many wedges in the Hindu community.

There was one GU Pope in Tamil Nadu in the 15th century. He was a European Christian Pastor. He learnt Tamil and interpreted, rather misinterpreted the Tamil literature and sowed the seeds of separatism. Karunanidhi and other Tamil 'scholars' quote him for all their separatist ideologies. The British, under the chairmanship of Macaulay, laid the trap (and it is a well laid trap) and all our leaders, administrators, teachers and other 'intellectuals' have innocently, ignorantly, foolishly or willfully fallen in the trap. There is a Panchtantra story of a monkey fooling a crocodile wanting to kill and devour it, by saying that it has removed its heart and left the same in the tree. Now, it seems, all our intellectuals have removed and thrown their brains and thinking capacity and have decided never to use it again.

Let me conclude by narrating an encounter with a school principal. Shri Narayanan is MGR's brother-in-law and runs many schools and colleges in and around Chennai. His daughter, Smt Latha Rajendran was the principal of Janaki Ramachandran School in Chennai in the eighties. She is double MA, MPhil, and PhD. I used to go to these schools once a week to teach 'patriotism', as they called it.

On one occasion, I was invited to be the chief guest in their annual social gathering. There was the usual tamasha of filmy dances and filmy dialogues. There was one group dance with Bharat Mata, holding the tricolour, in the centre and girls and boys in pairs dancing around Bharat Mata. The Principal turned to me and proudly said, "We also instill patriotism through such programmes". "Who are these pairs dancing around Bharat Mata?" I asked her. "You don't know. I can't believe it. The third pair is a Marathi pair. That one is a Bengali pair. This a Manipuri, the next a Punjabi. These are all pairs from various parts of Bharat and the message is "We are One". said the principal. "The last pair on this side and the last one on that side. Which state do they belong to?" I asked her innocently. "That is a Muslim pair and this a Christian pair", she replied. One was dressed in lungi and purdah and the other in coat-suit and skirt.

"So you are teaching the Muslim and Christian students in your school that they are not Tamils, but Muslims or Christians. Are you teaching patriotism or separatism?", I asked her.

You should have been there to see her face and know the intensity of shock she got. She was so much disturbed that she came out of the pandal. She was dumb-struck for a few moments and then she said, "I have gone to so many institutions and got so many degrees. I have been the Principal here since last eighteen years. I have always heard the same thing everywhere and have been talking the same thing to students all these years. Now, this was the first time I have heard something different. I feel I have done injustice to thousands of my students all these years." She was so much disturbed that she went on talking, no, blabbering for the next half an hour.

The incident is not connected to calendar issue, but reveals the trapped mind set. So, what do you intend to do when someone accosts you with 'Happy Tamil New Year' wish next time?

(The writer can be contacted at 133, Nagmani, Abhyankar Nagar, Nagpur-440 010 and his e-mail address is akhila1961@gmail.com)


skm said...

Jayashree Madam,

Have you send the author any reply. If not please do so. It seems to me that he is not aware of the points you are talking about.

He just looks at the calendar in only 1 aspect as it is a lunar calendar.

Thanks & Regards

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks Mr skm.
I have forwarded this post to the e- mail ID given in that article.

Vinodh said...

Jayasre mam,

nice write up. I was confused until few months earlier about the dual calendars. then after some reading, found Tamil calendar is rather simple and it is more devised towards suiting astrology. May be to get the sense of the calendar followed, guys should know little about tithis, stars, planets etc. Thanks for your deep analyzed articles.


Bruno said...


Can you please answer the questions raised in http://vediceye.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-post_09.html

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Welcome Dr Bruno,

What are your questions? Why don't you ask here? If I know the answers I will tell.

dagalti said...

The Organiser article link seems to be broken.I understand that in the later part of the blogpost you have presented it.If so, then I understand the author is expressing a confusion I too have.

To restate, (kindly excuse a 101 level question)
The first month is Chithrai (and full moon falls around Chithirai) but why is this month called Vaisakh/Baisakh/Vesak everywhere else? Why are we alone 'off' by a month?

Your last line explanation is:
/In subsequent rounds, moon did not join the sun at the entry point of Aries (Chitthirai). That led to the development of 5-year Yuga (Pancha varshathmaka yuga). The adhik masa is part of this yuga to carry out the correction so that the sun and the moon join together at Aries. This also shows that primary importance was given to Sun's entry in deciding the New Year./
Thank You. I am not sure I fully understand the nuance but I understand a process of conscious correction of one month causes the difference.

Do we know roughly the time period over which the deviation occurred?And, if our correction, is more accurate how come it is called Vaisakha (or it is pronunciation variants) everywhere in SE Asia, Sri Lanka, or for that matter even in Kannada/Telugu (if I'm not wrong).

Would be much obliged if you could point to anything you have written on this subject earlier?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ dagalti,
Alert: beware of a long reply.

//The Organiser article link seems to be broken. I understand that in the later part of the blogpost you have presented it. If so, then I understand the author is expressing a confusion I too have.//

May be it was broken. I have reproduced that article at the end.

//The first month is Chithrai (and full moon falls around Chithirai) but why is this month called Vaisakh/Baisakh/Vesak everywhere else? Why are we alone 'off' by a month?//
We may have to check the local traditions in those places where Vaishakha is the 1st month. In the overall perspective of the fundamentals, I can say as follows:

There was a time (3,300 years ago) the vernal equinox coincided with Krittika 1st pada at the end of Aries (27th degree of Aries). There is textual evidence for treating this as Vishu. The solar and lunar conjunction happening at the end of Aries heralded the New Year in both solar and lunar calendar. The Full moon happening after this conjunction was at Vishakha star. So Vaishaka became the first month of the year. Today this point had moved backward, but some regions may have retained the old tradition of following the name.

With precession happening after that date, the last stop was made at Aries zero degree as New Year in Solar calendar. The day after conjunction of the sun and the moon (amavasya) before zero degree Aries became the New Year (Yugadi) in lunar calendar. After this conjunction the Full Moon occurs at Citra, therefore Caitra month became the first month.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

//Your last line explanation is:
/In subsequent rounds, moon did not join the sun at the entry point of Aries (Chitthirai). That led to the development of 5-year Yuga (Pancha varshathmaka yuga). The adhik masa is part of this yuga to carry out the correction so that the sun and the moon join together at Aries. This also shows that primary importance was given to Sun's entry in deciding the New Year./
Thank You. I am not sure I fully understand the nuance but I understand a process of conscious correction of one month causes the difference.//

Yes. This was necessary for keeping up time for religious purposes. We (entire Vedic society) follow 4-fold enumeration of time, Solar, lunar, sidereal, sAvana (sunrise to sunrise). The day of a Vrat must align with all the four, but the runaway lunar month confuses us at times. To give an example Gokulashtami is a vrat to be done on Krishna Ashtami in Shravana month when the Sun will be in Leo. In the upcoming year Sarvari, Gokulashtami is not going to align with sun in Leo. By the month of Shravana there is going to be an excess of 27 lunar days which means Sun would not have moved to Leo when Krishna Ashtami occurs in Shravana month.

There are two ways to deal with this. Either you align Krishna Ashtami with the sun in Leo (because that is anyway Shravana month in solar reckoning) in which case you skip lunar Shravana but will be having the vrat in lunar Bhadrapada month. Or continue with the sequence and have the vrat in lunar Shravana though it does not fulfil all the parameters of time. Wait till there is complete accumulation of a lunar month, then disregard it (as adhika masa) and after that continue with the regular course which will have better alignment with the Sun in the next one and a half years (the drift will be apparent in the last one year of the 2 – ½ cycle). Some people in India have chosen this second route. In Tamilnadu we stick to the first course on the rationale, that come whatever be the lunar month, what is important is the phase of the moon and the tithi. That must align with the sun. So those who follow this rationale are going to celebrate Gokulashtami on Sep 10th when the Sun is Leo, whereas those who follow the other route are going to celebrate it on Aug 11th

Here again another rationale works. A vrat must strictly follow the lunar cycle. This is not so for celebration. Those who fast and do a vrat must follow the lunar cycle (2nd option) and those who don’t, follow the 1st option. These are all formalised by now. Lack of knowledge of them gives an appearance that there is something wrong. Most writers have no knowledge of the basics in these topics.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

//Do we know roughly the time period over which the deviation occurred? //

The earliest reference to 5 year Yuga (having adhika masa correction) is with reference to Rishi Dirghatamas, son of Mamata. There is a verse that he became old even in his tenth Yuga. This a clear reference to 5 year yuga. He had looked old between 45 to 50 years of age. The antiquity of Dirhatamas can be gauged from the fact that his sons Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra founded countries in those names. On the maternal side these sons come after Anu, son of Yayati.

In my analysis this has come into being at or around 9000 years before present. That was the upper limit when the civilization in North India began and spread by entry through the then Dvaraka into river Sarasvati from the Arabian sea habitat in extended west coast of peninsular India.

Before that solar calendar was very much in vogue within the habitats in coastal areas of Tamil nadu and Kerala and other regions that were above the sea level in Indian ocean. I can say with confidence that the first ever calendar was solar and devised by people occupying regions around the equator. The week day we follow today is based on Hora (http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.com/2013/05/is-vedic-astrology-derived-from-greek_13.html) and the naming is possible only near equator where the day and night are equal.

The observation of moon and conception of lunar months must have coexisted then. That was the time before Holocene which matches with the RV verses on Ribhus. The hint comes from the rest taken by the Ribhus for 12 days at the house of Agohya at the end of which the Goat (Aries) awakens them by declaring the hound (dog / Sirius). This matches with the lunar month of 30 tithis which complete 12 months, 12 days before the solar year ends.

This makes me think that initially the 12 lunar months were accounted, leaving out the last 12 days of the solar year. They (Ribhus) are said to sleep for those 12 days but not beyond the start of Aries. With the helical rising of Dog (Sirius) in morning sky, the arrival of new solar year was observed. Ribhus wake up and start their work.

At that time there were only 3 chalices of 3 divisions. Later the fourth was added when the Devas sent Agni, says RV verses. I can see this as the 3 parts of the 3 divisions of the zodiac. 3 x 3 = 9 sign zodiac was there initially with each known as earthy, windy and watery. Now we have 4 parts of the 3 divisions (Fiery, earthy, windy and watery). You have to count them from Aries onwards in the order of the 4 parts. The 4th part of Agni (fiery) could have been added after Holocene started when the sun started moving northward as it is now.

By this current knowledge of mine, I would say that Ribhus were the first idea of the zodiacal division aligned with lunar months. There was not much heat then and the extra 12 lunar days accumulated were left idle (sleeping). Once Sirius was sighted in the morning in east, the year began – both solar and lunar (Rbhus).

// And, if our correction, is more accurate how come it is called Vaisakha (or it is pronunciation variants) everywhere in SE Asia, Sri Lanka, or for that matter even in Kannada/Telugu (if I'm not wrong).//

By spread of people. The last time Vaishaka was the first month was about 3000 years ago. That marks the last dispersal of a common people in different places. It is like time froze and the same old memories perpetuated into tradition.

dagalti said...

Thank You so much for your detailed response Ma'am.
While I can't claim to have fully grasped all details, this significantly clarifies for me the reason for the difference.
I see the link to Vedic-Greek astrology is a series of posts. I shall endeavour to read them.

Jayasree Saranathan said...


Few days ago had a discussion in this link on the Monkey fresco which I identified as vanara sena building the setu bund. Given some links from my series in the comments there. Perhaps you may start with those links before going through the series which I think goes upto 21 blogs.