Modi and Pallaniswami
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, in Chennai on Thursday | PTI Photo / PIB
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The crux of the issue is that the Tamil renaissance and Dravidian movements resented that Tamils’ life had started imbibing Vedic ideas.

On 23 August 2011, months after J. Jayalalithaa was elected for her third term as chief minister, her government passed a resolution in the Tamil Nadu assembly to change the ‘Tamil New Year’ to 14 April. It coincides with the first day of the Tamil month ‘Chithirai’, and many other communities across India celebrate their new year on the same date.

Jayalalithaa had stated then that the Tamil New Year was wrongly being celebrated on 14 January – the first day of the Tamil month ‘Thai’ – as legislated by the preceding Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in 2008.

Jayalalithaa overturned many DMK projects. But, the change of the new year date was significant. The debate for when the Tamil New Year should be celebrated goes into the core of the movement that laid the foundation for Dravidian political sub-nationalism and Tamil cultural renaissance.

In 1921, a group of Tamil scholars led by Maraimalai Adigal, one of the pioneers of the Tamil renaissance movement, declared that there was sufficient literary evidence in ancient Sangam-era texts such as Nattrinai, Ainkurunuru and Tholkappiayam to observe the new year at the start of the Tamil month of Thai. The Dravidian poet-writer Bharthidasan, through this song, admonished Tamils who were celebrating the new year in Chithirai month as those living in complete darkness.

“நித்திரையில் இருக்கும் தமிழா,

சித்திரை அல்ல உனக்குத் தமிழ்ப் புத்தாண்டு.”

The crux of the issue is that the Tamil renaissance and Dravidian movements resented that Tamils’ life had started imbibing Vedic ideas and the Tamil language had begun loaning Sanskrit words. The rise of non-Brahmin scholars like Maraimalai Adigal coinciding with that of Dravidian political stalwarts like Periyar EV Ramasamy created impetus to shear Tamil of external influences completely. The basis for the Chithirai new year was the 60-year cycle that was mentioned in the Vedas.

For instance, this new year is ‘Vilambi’ while the previous one was called ‘Heyvilambi’. Each of these years, ‘samvatsara’, with Sanskritic names is derived from a myth involving Lord Krishna and sage Narada, who is transformed into a woman and gives birth to 60 sons. Each son is then given the reins to rule the world for one year, and that year is derived from the name of the son.

The Tamil reformists found this myth too hard to swallow and decided to come up with a more rational basis for their calendar. The birth of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar was estimated to be in 31 BC and that was adopted as the official start of the Tamil calendar. The DMK-led government had officially notified this to be the first Tamil calendar year in 1972.

Successive AIADMK governments have not altered the Thiruvalluvar year calculation and the same is being followed to date.

However, there is debate among Tamils – depending on which side of the political fence you stand – as to whether they must go with Thai or Chithirai for the new year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi into this debate during his visit to Chennai a couple of days back. During his speech at the DefExpo, Modi wished Tamils a happy new year. By doing so, he has once again revealed how little he understands the complexities of Tamil Nadu and its deeply reformist socio-political legacy.

Thanks to the new archaeological evidences unravelled in Keezhadi, Alagankulam, Kodumanal and the perception of the antiquity of Tamil language validated with the help of advanced linguistic tools, there is a growing sentiment of Tamil neo-renaissance and Dravidian resurgence. In this context, one can expect the debate around the Thai new year vs the Chithirai new year to be renewed again.

Manuraj Shunmugasundram is an Advocate and Spokesperson, DMK.

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39 Comments Share Your Views

39 COMMENTS

  1. April 14th is the actual Tamil New Year. There is no way to argue or come up with irrational explanations to get around a cold hard fact by misquoting literature. The DMK are promoting false ideas that are meant to tear Tamilians apart. They have been the architects of years of abuse toward every man, woman, and child in TN by allowing violent “Christian” missionaries to operate in our borders. These atheists spread heterodox falsehoods about Hinduism in an attempt to destroy the fabric of India.

  2. It’s entirely appropriate for the Prime Minister of India to wish Tamils for the Tamil New Year on April 14. Thai Pongal in January was never ever our New Year. It’s a harvest festival with Sanskrit roots i.e. Makara Sankranti. The Tamil New Year was always in April. Manuraj, for heavens sake, please intelligently study Tamil culture before endorsing a nonsensical DMK political gimmick that had no buy-in from the majority of Tamils. Further, Tamil identity is not an Indian monopoly. We in Sri Lanka also have a say. Thank you PM Modi for wishing us on our New Year in April. Mikka Nandi.

  3. Imagine how it’d have looked had the PM not congratulated the people of Tamil Nadu on the day of their new year on a day decreed as such by the legislature of Tamil Nadu!

  4. There is no Dravidian or Aryan in this country
    One DNA who is claustrophobic in a toilet and shits outside
    If someone wants to remove that Stigma, please Don’t pounce on Him! ( H : Capital)

  5. Obviously, A hard-core Anti-Hindu and Anti-nationalist party DMK will rubbish everything that comes from PM whose only Agenda is India. Whereas divisive forces like DMK lossing the national importance lies, cheats and distracts people of taminadu. And there’s a platform like The Print…

  6. Tamilians are a set of jokers to think that they are different from the rest of our country and behave as if the are born from where they don’t Know. The entire DMK clan are atheists at worst and anti Hindu at best. The evidence they quote is all rubbish and do not stand a literary scrutiny.

  7. Let’s leave out Abrahamic myths which Dravidianism swallowed it like a girl after the sex session where the Gregorian myth is followed with greater enthusiasm. These new year beginning has certain celestial events and movement of sun. Sangam literature and the one precedes have no Dravidian imprints(there is a general misconception that Dravidian means Tamils) anywhere except symbols and inscriptions extensively corroborating deep Hindu cultural ethos.

  8. Mr. Mannuraj maybe an advocate but his logic is ill conceived. When he points out that PM Modi during his recent Defexpi wish people of Tamil Nadu happy new year. Modi lacked understanding of the complexities of the Ta.I’ll society!!!

    Mr. Mannuraj, a simple greeting is taken as political only by MODIS opposition such as your party. I lived for 25 years in TN and never had any of my friends dispute the date of celebration g New Year. Even this morning I exchanged greetings with my Tamil friends…

    So keep your political views of celebrating a day of happiness away from politics and don’t divide the Tamil society into Thai and Chitharai classes!

  9. Manuraj Shanmukhasundaram – Six Sanskrit words! What more can one say about the inanity of such efforts to purge external influences from any culture…

  10. This man must be out of his senses. The PM is the official legislative head of the country. Tamil New Year’s day is declared on April 14th by TN government. Then whats wrong in his official wishes to the people of TN?

  11. புத்தாண்டு பிறப்பு தை மாதமா அல்லது சித்திரையா என்பது முக்கியமில்லை. திராவிடக் கட்சிகளால் தமிழனின் தினசரி வாழ்வில் வசந்தம் வீசுகிறதா? வாழ்வாதரங்களில் வறுமை நீங்கி செழிப்பானார்களா? திராவிடக் கட்சிகளும் கட்சித் தலைவர்களும் அவர்களது குடும்பம் மட்டுமே வளம் அடைந்தார்கள்.மக்களுக்கு ஏமாற்றமே…

  12. There are so many issues facing Tamilnadu for the people to live a decent life. These political fellows under aegis Dravidian are using dividing tecniques just because people voted them to rule Tamilnadu un different periods. I wish to celebrate Chithirai as a tamil new year as our ancestors had done and wiuld nit submit to turn the clock back . The Hindu is wasting precious newsprint by publishing articles planting doubt in the minds of innocent public.

  13. Good article. I only wished இனிய சித்திரை திருநாள் வாழ்த்துக்கள் to my folks. Tamil researchers and schorls should keep wiritng in English and Tamil and take these message to every last person in tn.

  14. The whole of TN political scenario and social beliefs made to depend upon Dravidian ancestry and superiority seem to be born out of too much Chauvinism. Can’t we simply consider that we are all just human beings, related or separated long ago? TN politicians have made Tamils too much of chauvinists.

    • Dear Ravi,
      In a human’s life, every day is a new year day. Tomorrow morning if you get up, you are still alive and be happy. Celebrating any festival is left to the family. If it wants to celebrate 28th Feb as a New Year day, why not? Let it. Be happy. Don’t worry.

  15. The print writes as if they are absolute authority in each and every subject. From time immemorial the Tamil New Year has always been Chithirai. Some person with weird ideas did something in 2008 does not change the calendar.
    Why the print has to comment negatively for anything the PM does is a mystery. It is high time they rectify. Or we stop reading the print

  16. DMK lost power after changing Tamil new year and they will never return to power again with their cheap ideas. DMK doesn’t represent Tamil ideas. Today is tamizh putthandu and Jan 14 is pongal and the opinion of DMK spokesman is utter rubbish as usual.

  17. Who’s this DMK to say when is Tamil new year? It’s a very bad precedence they’ve set in changing tamil culture. Manuraj Shanmugasundaram beware of what you dare to say challenging a culture which is beyond your party’s age.

  18. This is useless and beyond any rationale. The archaeological sites mentioned herein don’t have any significance to change Tamil New year to Thai or Jan.14. We have astronomical and literary references to show that Chitthirai is the Tamil New year. DMK changed it all of a sudden to divert people’s attention and madam Jayalalithaa did well to strike it off as the first thing when she took over as the CM to the great cheers from the people of Tamil Nadu.

  19. It’s pure political nonsense and baseless. In fact Tamil as a language rooted very much in bhakti tradition and not Dravidian parties claim. People can’t be fooled by DK, DMK and in fact AIADMK which is another stream of the same

  20. Whatelse you can expect from DMK which always pledged interests of tamil people over their partys. To save himself from Sarkaria commission karuna gave away Kutch islands to srilanka. For the same case he allowed karnataka to build hemavathy dam across cauvery river. To safegaurd his daughter he remained mum while 1.5 million srilankan tamils. Sun tv was started on april 14th stating its tamil new years day and suddenly karuna changed it as he doesnt want hindus to called as tamilians. He wants brahmins to celebrate seperately and so he used this decisive plan. Tamils will celebrate new year on 14th April. No change in that.

  21. Leave this debate aside and let both useless, good for nothing DMK focus on several compelling issues on hand.

  22. Modi represents the RSS,which in turn represents the psyche of Hinduism priestly class’s dominance & has little place for Dravidians like Tamil s, Kannadigas & MALAYALEE s or their ethos

  23. It has been followed for thousands of years. What these dravidian idiots kow except to fool people. No dravidian leader is original Tamilian. EVR and Jayalalitha Kannadigas, Karunanidhi Telegu, MGR Malayali

  24. A Telugu born karumnanidhi, Telugu Stalin Telugu vaiko, telugu vijaykanth,Telugu ramdoss should not decide what’s right for tamils

  25. Nothing political in it. Other than your moronic leader deciding to arbitarily set Tamil New year to Thai maasam, no one else was following it. Kindly don’t attempt to impose your views by citing untrue facts. Tamil New year has been and will remain as the first day of chittirai regardless of what DMK or its leader wants it to be.

  26. No doubt, the Tamil civilization and culture is one of the ancient in the indian context. But all these new year blabla is the local manufacturing. The new dravidian Renaissance is a sweet dream. The fact is tamilians are more prone or inclined towards buakti culture. This is evident to anyone who visit tamilnadu during November-december months. The unending queue before each and every Temple show that tamilnadu is a land if religion and culture and not atheistic land of anarchy as some fringe organizations claim. The original Tami new year day was and will be on first day of chittirai month, the solar calendar. The DMK wanted to distort everything and this is one among them

  27. Hindu Tamils are clear. Atheists and non Hindu Tamil speaking are creating confusion. Year is a measure of time based on planetary position. Some Hindu follow lunar position based and the rest follow solar based system. Hindu Tamil follow solar based which is sun entry into the first zodiac. Even other followed the same before desert religious beliefs interfered. That’s why September October November December rhymes with saptham ashram navam dasam meaning seven eight nine and ten.

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