The first day of the Tamil Month ‘Thai,’ which is now celebrated as Pongal, will be the official Tamil New Year Day. This announcement was made by the Tamil Nadu Governor during the customary address to the Tamil Nadu State Assembly recently in January 2008. Governor’s customary address speaks the mind of the ruling government. Till now the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai, which falls on April 13 or 14 had been celebrated as the Tamil New Year Day.
It is said that the government took this decision to change the date of the New Year after there was a consensus among the Tamil scholars.
Recalling the historical background of the decision, the Governor said that in 1922 over 500 scholars, led by Maraimalai Adigal, founder of the Thani Tamil Iyakkam (Pure Tamil Movement) met at Pachaiyappa’s college in Chennai and decided that Tamils needed a separate calendar in the name of Tamil savant Tiruvalluvar. They also determined that the birth year of Tiruvalluvar was 31 BC. This was accepted in 1971 by the then Tamil Nadu Government headed by M Karunanidhi.
Several scholars have agreed to the present change of date. An equal number of scholars have also objected to the change of date. It looks like that the decision to change the date will see some heated debates.
Update: The AIADMK government that came to power in 2011 cancelled the decision to officially observe Pongal as the New Year day.