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Change of Tamil New Year from the First Day of Chithirai to First of Thai legal, says Tamil Nadu High Court

The present Tamil Nadu State Government had changed the Tamil New Year from the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai (mid-April) to first of Thai (mid-January) through legislation in the beginning of year 2008. This was challenged in the court and now the High Court has given its verdict that there is no unconstitutionality or illegality in changing the Tamil New Year to Thai first day, which is also the Pongal day.

The decision to change the New Year date by the state government is based on a decision made in 1922 when 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.

Giving its approval to the change of Tamil New Year day the court made the following observations –

..the State government had adopted Tiruvalluvar Era as the basis of its official calendar only after the advent of the Constitution. Earlier, the land of Tamils had seen adoption of Salivakhana Era, Hijiri Era, Christian Era and Sakha Era.

The petitioner had attacked the legislation on the ground that Tamils believed that Lord Brahma had created the world on the first of Chithirai. It was also submitted that the Tamil Hindu calendar with a cycle of 60 years followed ‘Nirayana’ vernal equinox.

To this, the Judge said it was “most unfortunate” that the petitioner had attempted to bring a religious flavour to the issue by claiming that the right to offer special worship in temples on the first day of Chithirai was an essential religious practice. “It should be proudly noted that Tamilians all over the world, irrespective of their religious affinity such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians and even non-believers celebrate the Tamil New Year without any discrimination or religious fervour,” he said.

The Judge pointed out that there was great debate regarding the origin of the 60-year-cycle and how it contained Sanskrit names for each year.

“This had not been explained by any scholar so far. Therefore the debate is inconclusive.” He suggested that the government consider appointing an expert committee to suggest and make changes in the cycle of 60 years of Tamil calendar. (The Hindu)