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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - V.ThangaveluTamil New Year - Response to those few who oppose Thai first

Selected Writings V.Thangavelu, Canada
President Thamil Creative Writers Association, Canada

Tamil New Year -  Response to those few who oppose Thai first

17 April 2008

"Way back in 1921 Thamil scholars like Maraimalai Adikal, Naavalar Somasundera Bharathiar, Prof. Parithimaakalaignar (Prof. Surya Narayana Shastri) K.Subramaniapillai, Thiru V.Kalyanasundera Mudaliyar, Saivite scholar Sachchithanadapillai, Navalar Na.Mu. Venkatasamy, K.R.P.Visvanatham and scores of others met at Pachchayappan College and resolved to make Thai first Thamil New year instead of Chiththirai...The change of the Thamil New Year has not altered or modified the Panchangam or Thamil Almanac as some foolishly think or argue... "

[see also Sanmugam Sabesan  - சித்திரையில் தமிழ்ப் புத்தாண்டா? ]

Opposition has been voiced by a small number of individuals against the change in the birth of Thamil New Year. They claim the change is against tradition and borders on blasphemy. Such people are superficial and na�ve in many ways.

The opposition can be seen as an ad hominem argument � you cannot fault an argument, so you fault the person advancing it. In this instance Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi. He is reviled by pseudo Hindu bigots like Thuglak Cho, Ramagopalan, Ela Ganesan (BJP) Ms Jayalalithaa (ADMK MLAs voted for the bill) and few others as anti-Hindu.

Velupillai Pirabaharan Hoisting Tamil Eelam FlagStrangely, the editor of the TamilNet website also joined the anti-nationalist forces to whip up frenzy against the change - thus making a mockery of the decision of the de facto state of Thamil Eelam that endorsed Thai first as the Thamil New Year.

The Thamil Nadu government gave legal status to the observation of Thai first (January 14th) as the beginning of Thamil New Year which will be called Thiruvalluvar Aandu.

In an unprecedented act of solidarity, the bill was unanimously passed by the TN State legislature.

The accusation that the TN government has arbitrarily and suddenly made the change in regard to the New Year is not supported by facts... Thamils need a continuous year count.  They need to discard foreign culture and beliefs imposed on them under the guise of religion.

Maraimalai AdikalWay back in 1921 Thamil scholars like Maraimalai Adikal, Naavalar Somasundera Bharathiar, Prof. Parithimaakalaignar (Prof. Surya Narayana Shastri) K.Subramaniapillai, Thiru V.Kalyanasundera Mudaliyar, Saivite scholar Sachchithanadapillai, Naavalar Na.Mu. Venkatasamy, K.R.P.Visvanatham and scores of others met at Pachchayappan College and resolved to make Thai first Thamil New year instead of Chiththirai..

In order to have a continuous year count the birth day of Thiruvalluvar was taken as falling on Thai (Suravam) first. This was given effect by the TN government in 1971 in official calendars, from 1972 in gazettes and from 1981 in all departments. Later it was extended to non-governmental departments as well.

In the Indian civil calendar, the initial epoch is the Saka Era, a traditional era of Indian chronology that is said to have begun with King Salivahana's accession to the throne and is also the reference for most astronomical works in Sanskrit literature written after 500 AD. In the Saka calendar, the year 2002 AD is 1925.

The other popular epoch is the Vikram era that is believed to have begun with the coronation of King Vikramaditya. The year 2002 AD corresponds to 2060 in this system.

The Calendar Reform Committee set up India�s present day national calendar in 1957. It is a lunisolar calendar, which has leap years coinciding with the leap years of the Gregorian calendar. The months in the calendar have been named after the conventional Indian months. This calendar came into effect  with the Saka Era in Chaitra 1, 1879 (March 22, 1957).

Although we don�t have direct evidence of Thiruvalluvar�s  birth day, this day has been chosen with reference to available (indirect data) from Sangam and post-Sangam Thamil literature.

The opposition to the change in the Thamil New Year from Chiththirai to Thai mostly emanates due to a lack of proper understanding of astronomy. Added is the natural tendency to resist change.

The Earth has three types of motions: motion around its axis, motion around the Sun, and motion of its axis due to wobbling of Earth. The Earth rotates around its axis in 24 hours, which causes day and night. In the Northern Hemisphere we see that all but one of the stars and planets rise in the east and set in the west. The one star that does not rise or set is the polar star (Dhruv Nadchchathiram or Polaris), which is located directly above the Earth's North Pole. The Earth�s axis is tilted from perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic by 23.45�.  It is this tilting that causes the four seasons of the year - spring, summer, autumn (fall) and winter. Since the axis is tilted, different parts of the globe are oriented towards the Sun at different times of the year.
The seasonal changes have nothing to do with stars or planets as widely believed by Astrologers and Almanac casters.

The second type of motion is the rotation of the Earth around the Sun in 365 days to complete one revolution in an elliptical orbit.  Using modern instruments for  exact  observations of the universe, the Earth takes 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and  9.50 seconds to complete one revolution with respect to the stars (sidereal year). With respect to the orbit, it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45.50 seconds to complete one revolution (tropical year). The difference in time is 20 minutes and 24.00 seconds as follows:

Solar year,









Sidereal year,




















This difference is caused by the third type of motion of Earth, the wobbling of its axis, which astronomers call processional movement (precession of equinoxes) of the pole or axis of the Earth.

The ancient Thamils lived in close touch with nature. Astronomy and astrology very much influenced their lives. With regard to the year, the Thamils started it with the Vernal Equinox. Astronomers have determined the Sun transiting Aries at 0 degree as  the Vernal Equinox, that is the day when the Sun rose exactly in the east, coincided. This was about the year 285AD. With the lapse of centuries, the New Year falls now, about three weeks after the Vernal Equinox. The Hindu solar year is sidereal, and since it is in excess of the tropical year by 20 minutes and 24.00  seconds, it does not keep step with the seasons. The seasons fall back one and half days for every hundred years or one day every 71.6 years.

It is not correct to say that Chiththirai has always been the beginning of Thamil New Year. Nachchinarkiniyar who wrote a commentary to Tholkaappiyam says Thamil New Year started in August (Aavani) and ended in July (Aadi). This demonstrates the fact that Aeries (Medam) is not the start of the reference point in the Zodiac during Tholkappiyar�s time.  

The Thamils/Hindus divided the year into "Uttarayanam" the first six months after the winter solstice and "Dhadshanyam" the second six months after the summer solstice. The former was considered health-giving, bright period for man and animals for during that period the days became longer and longer. Thus "Uttarayanam" was celebrated by Thaipongal and Paddippongal (the cattle festival). Most of the temple festivals in the Thamil country were also fixed for this bright period. The beginning of the "Dhadshanayam" was marked by "Adipirapoo" (July 1- Hindu calendar). These six months were considered not a very bright period for men and animals because the days became shorter and shorter.

One of the major drawbacks in counting Chiththirai is that it is not a continuous year. Its cycle consists of 60 years. This cycle of years is useless to record historical events. And their (so are some of the months) names are not Thamil. They are in  Sanskrit. The mythological story attached to the birth of the years is extremely vulgar and obscene.  

A close look at the six seasons given in Thamil literature  reveals that they are out of sync with the actual seasons  experienced at the equator.

Ilavenil Kaalam : mild sunny period : Chithirai, Vahasi - Thingal
(mid April to mid June)

Muthuvenil Kaalam : intense sunny period : Aani, Aadi - Thingal
(mid June to mid August)

Kaar Kaalam : cloudy rainy Period : Aavani, Purataasi - Thingal
(mid August to mid October)

Kuthir Kaalam - cold period : Iyppassi, Kaarthihai - Thingal
(mid October to mid December)

Munpani Kaalam - early misty period (evening dew): Maarkali, Thai � Thingal
(mid December to mid February)

Pinpani Kaalam - late misty period (morning dew): Maasi, Panguni � Thingal
(mid February to mid April)

Definitely mid June to mid-August is not the rainy season in Northeast of Ceylon or Thamil Nadu.  They are in fact hot and humid months. The rainy season is from October to November (Iyppasi to Kaarthikai) and not from mid August to mid October.

The coolest months are December - January (Maarkali - Thai).

It is in January (Thai) the farmer harvests the first sheaves of a harvest. They are ground and  mixed with old rice and used for Pongal. The actual harvest season does not take place in January. It takes place in February and March. This is due to the change in seasons due to precession.

January 14th too has astronomical significance, in that, the Sun (Earth) commences its Northerly transit.

In fact there are four transits of significance by the Sun in its journey from south to north and north to south. They are -

Spring Equinox � March 20/21
Summer Solstice � June 21
Autumnal Equinox � September  22
Winter Solstice � December  21/22

Equinoxes are days in which day and night are of equal duration. The two yearly equinoxes occur when the Sun crosses the celestial equator.
The solstices are days when the Sun reaches its farthest Northern and Southern declinations. The winter solstice occurs on December 21 or 22 and marks the beginning of winter (this is the shortest day of the year). The summer solstice occurs on June 21 and marks the beginning of summer (this is the longest day of the year).

The above is true only in regard to the Northern hemisphere. It will be the exact opposite to  those living in the Southern hemisphere. When it is summer in the Northern hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern hemisphere. So in regard to spring and autumn.

As already mentioned, the arrivals of the seasons have been changing at the rate of 1 degree per 71.6 years. Westerners found spring coming earlier (March 10) than the Julian calendar showed viz March 21. To adjust the extra days Pope Gregory ordered the deletion of 10 days i.e.  October 5th was followed up with October 15th. The Gregorian calendar still has a few seconds difference. But the calendar can hold good fairly accurately for the next 1000 years.

Due to the precession of the equinoxes, the Sun will be at the 1st degree of Libra at the spring equinox in 11,232 years. Those who think that almanacs and calendars are cast in iron should mark their calendars.  The zodiac of the two systems (Tropical and Sidereal)  will be exactly opposite one another. Ayanamsha will be 180 degrees 0 minutes.. It would be interesting to those who oppose Thamil New Year shifted to Thai first to incarnate at that time just to join in the debate.

In Vedic or Sidereal astrology the calculation of the Sun passing through the 1st degree of Aries is marked by the Sun actually passing through the observable fixed stars making up the constellation Aries and has nothing to do with the seasons. Because of the precession of equinoxes at a rate of 50.26 seconds per year, .difference between the tropical zodiac and sidereal zodiac increases  every  10 years by  8 minutes 22  arc seconds.

The Thamil/Hindu calendar has gone awry and no correction was made for precession of equinoxes. This is the reason why the real seasons are not synchronizing with months mentioned above.  Poet Subramanian Bharathiyar has pointed out this discrepancy in one of his essays.

Those who claim that Chiththirai New Year ushers in Spring  (Venil) have to re-think. It really falls on March 21st. A good 24 days earlier. So are all the Hindu auspices festival and ceremonial days.

The "wobble" and the precession of the equinoxes were known to the Ancient Egyptians, although the first official "discovery" of it was made by an Ancient Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, who was born sometime around 190 B.C. It was noted that the Sun was in a slightly earlier position at the time of the Spring Equinox each year (as measured against the fixed stars). Because the movement slips backwards (Westwards) through the zodiac, it is called precession (as opposed to a forward-movement which would be called progression).

Now 1� every 71.6 years doesn't sound like too much, but it certainly adds up over 2,000 years or so, and this is where we get into the different Zodiac systems.

The determination of Thai first as Thamil New Year is now a fait accompali. One cannot unscramble a scrambled egg. History is heavily stacked against intellectually discreditable individuals for they  live  in the past.

The change of  Thamil New Year  has not altered or modified the Panchangam or Thamil Almanac as some foolishly think or argue. What has changed is the reference point (in a circle any point could be considered the reference point) in the Zodiac. Instead of Aeries 0 degree being considered the birth of Thamil New Year, the reference point has been shifted to Makaram 0 degree the birth of Thamil New Year.

There is reference in Thamil Sangam literature to the celebration of Thai Neeradal, but there is absolutely no reference to Chiththirai New Year in ancient literature.

The shifting of Thamil New Year from Chiththirai first to Thai first is a mile stone in the history of Thamils.


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