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?