The annual ritual of greeting on the new year
How many new years do we have?
By Ram Gopal Ratnam
Most of our festivals are lunar based and are located in lunar calendar. The earth’s movement around the Sun is not cognizable for a common man. We can infer the same by observing the climatic changes. We can merely know it is winter or summer or rainy season. All these are solar phenomenons. It is a matter for the scientists or the Astro mathematicians who computes the Panchang. The solar calendar can be called a scientist’s calendar. Festivals are common man’s domain.
There was one GU Pope in Tamil Nadu in the 15th century. He was a European Christian pastor. He learnt Tamil and interpreted, rather misinterpreted the Tamil literature and sowed the seeds of separatism. Karunanidhi and other Tamil ‘scholars’ quote him for all their separatist ideologies. The British, under the chairmanship of Macaulay, layed the trap (and it is a well laid trap) and all our leaders, administrators, teachers and other ‘intellectuals’ have innocently, ignorantly, foolishly or wilfully fallen in the trap.
EVERY year we witness a ritual of the political leaders right from the Prime Minister down to city Mayor wishing the people for a happy new year. The Tamils for a Tamil new year, the Bengalis for a Bengali new year, the Malayalies for a Malayali new year, the Assamese for an Assami new year. and believe me, all fall on the same day. Simple logic tells me that if it is new year for so many regions, it has to be a single, common new year and not different new years. Yet, thanks to Goebbels, this falsehood has percolated down and now newspapers, teachers, temples and social organisations have joined senseless chorus. The effect? A common Tamilian has started to believe that it is Tamil’s new year. Now, it has gone beyond mere belief. He firmly knows that it is Tamil’s new year. Is it so? Is it Tamil new year or a Bengali new year or an Assami new year or would you call January 1st as American new year, British new year, French new year, Australian new year? No. It is just Christian new year and is the new year wherever the Christians live.
What is a new year day? It is the first day of a calendar. There are many calendars, the Christian or Gregorian calendar, the Muslim calendar, the Chinese calendar, etc. Basically, there are two types of calendars, the solar and the lunar. The solar one is based on the Earth’s rotation around the Sun and the lunar is based on the Moon’s rotation around the Earth. These two calendars are different as these have different basis for calculation. The Christian calendar is solar and the Muslim one is lunar and we, the Hindus have both. This so-called ‘Tamil’ new year is a Hindu solar calendar and the other one, which is ignorantly called Telugu new year by all the ‘great’ leaders in Tamil Nadu and a Marathi new year by the same catagory of leaders in the North, is actually Hindu lunar calendar.
Let me elaborate. Why do you need a calendar? To know your festivals. When is the Christmas? December 25th. Where did you find it? In the Christian calendar of course. You can not find it in the Muslim calendar. This year it is on the 13th of the month called Moharram. Next year, it will fall in the month of Julhej. It will be a different month every year. Can you locate the Deepavali day in the Christian calendar? You can not? It may fall in October or November. It was in October last year and this year it will be in November. You have to refer to the lunar calendar to know the Deepavali date. It falls on Ashwin Amavasya day.
Which are the festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu? The same as those celebrated in other parts of our nation. The Deepavali, Vijayadashami, Navaratri, Ramnavami, Skanda Sasti, Gokulashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Maha Shivaratri, Vaikuntha Ekadashi, Shravan Poornima, etc. etc. I challange you to locate any of these festival days in the so-called ‘Tamil’ calendar. You can not, because this calendar is solar based and all these festivals fall on lunar days like Sashti, Ashtami, Navami, Amavasya, Poornima. How sad that a community has a calendar of its own, but all its major festivals have to be located from the calendar of a different community, the Telugu calendar in this instance?
It is not Tamil calendar or Telugu calendar. It is a Hindu solar calendar and a Hindu lunar calendar. Most of our festivals are lunar based and are located in lunar calendar. The Earth’s movement around the Sun is not cognizable for a common man. We can infer the same by observing the climatic changes. We can merely know it is winter or summer or rainy season. All these are solar phenomenons. It is a matter for the scientist or the Astro mathematician who computes the Panchang. The solar calendar can be called a scientist’s calendar. Festivals are common man’s domain. You need a more ‘user-friendly’ calendar. The lunar movement is visible. Even a lay man can observe and understand the lunar movement. You have to just observe the sky and do some simple calculations and you can arrive at the festival days. So, you can call this common man’s calendar.
Both are Hindu calendars. Both are referred to and used in all parts of our nation. All the major festivals are to be found in the lunar calendar, except Makara Sankranti. This is an important festival for all Hindus and is found in the solar calendar. The ‘Kumbh’, Uttarayana and Dakshinayana Punya Kala, and monthly Pitru Tarpanam on every Sankranti day (Sankranti is the 1st of a solar month and makara sankranti is the 1st of the month called Makara.) are the other special days in the solar calendar. These are special not only to the Tamils, but to all the Hindus, throughout the length and breadth of Bharat. Is not Makara Sankranti an important festival for the Marathis? How is it that they do not have it in their calendar and have to reach out to the ‘Tamil calendar’ for finding it? It is neither Marathi calendar nor Tamil calendar, but just lunar and solar calendars.
Our formal education system does not teach these subjects which help us to know who we are. Long after Independance in 1947, we continue to churn out Mc’Caulay-putras from our schools. In my school days, Avani Avittam fell in the month of Aadi. Aavani Avittam is Shravan Poornima and Aavani and Aadi are names of fourth and fifth solar months. How can Aavani Avittam fall in the month of Aadi? It is like celebrating October revolution in November or Good Friday falling on a Thursday. This simple question arose in my childish mind and I used to ask many of my teachers, the social leaders in Tamil community. Unfortunately, none were able to give me a convincing answer. I had three options before me. I could have concluded that our ancestors were ignorant. I could have ignored and forgotten the question and concentrated on more practical things like career building, money making, etc. I could have pondered over the question spending restless moments till I found an answer. I chose the third option and was awestruck by the genius of our ancestors. The western mind wants to standardise everything. Uni-sex clothing, Uniform (American) breakfasts, uniform way of worship, uniform structures. It can not comprehend variety. It is not mature enough to appreciate more complex things. It wants to simplify everything. Many of our own English-educated are in the same mind frame. Nature is full of variety and is very complex. It requires a more mature mind and higher intelligence to understand, even appreciate complexities.
Our nation has nourished variety in every walk of life. We have so many ways of wearing our Dhoti and saree. (I’ve found 28 ways of wearing a saree in Tamil Nadu.) We have so many languages and dialects. Recipes? We do not have an Indian food. These words south Indian food and north Indian food are misnomers. There is no Tamil food either. The food system varies from community to community and region to region within Tamil Nadu and is very different from food in Andhra or Kerala or Karnataka. The same is the case in Maharashtra. The Warhadi is different from Konkani, which is again different from Khandeshi. That which is known as south Indian food is more a Tamil Brahmin food type. This vast variety flourishing in Bharat was exploited by the British, to drive a wedge, sorry, drive many wedges in the Hindu community. There was one GU Pope in Tamil Nadu in the 15th century. He was a European Christian Pastor. He learnt Tamil and interpreted, rather misinterpreted the Tamil literature and sowed the seeds of separatism. Karunanidhi and other Tamil ‘scholars’ quote him for all their separatist ideologies. The British, under the chairmanship of Macaulay, layed the trap (and it is a well laid trap) and all our leaders, administrators, teachers and other ‘intellectuals’ have innocently, ignorantly, foolishly or wilfully fallen in the trap. There is a Panchtantra story of a monkey fooling a crocodile wanting to kill and devour it, by saying that it has removed its heart and left the same in the tree. Now, it seems, all our intellectuals have removed and thrown their brains and thinking capacity and have decided never to use it again.
Let me conclude by narrating an encounter with a school principal. Shri Narayanan is MGR’s brother-in-law and runs many schools and colleges in and around Chennai. His daughter, Smt Latha Rajendran was the principal of Janaki Ramachandran School in Chennai in the eighties. She is double MA, MPhil, and PhD. I used to go to these schools once a week to teach ‘patriotism’, as they called it. On one occassion, I was invited to be the chief guest in their annual social gathering. There was the usual tamasha of filmy dances and filmy dialogues. There was one group dance with Bharat Mata, holding the tricolour, in the centre and girls and boys in pairs dancing around Bharat Mata. The Principal turned to me and proudly said, “We also instill patriotism through such programmes”. “Who are these pairs dancing around Bharat Mata?” I asked her. “You don’t know. I can’t believe it. The third pair is a Marathi pair. That one is a Bengali pair. This a Manipuri, the next a Punjabi. These are all pairs from various parts of Bharat and the message is “We are One”. said the principal. “The last pair on this side and the last one on that side. Which state do they belong to?” I asked her innocently. “That is a Muslim pair and this a Christian pair”, she replied. One was dressed in lungi and purdah and the other in coat-suit and skirt. “So you are teaching the Muslim and Christian students in your school that they are not Tamils, but Muslims or Christians. Are you teaching patriotism or separatism?”, I asked her. You should have been there to see her face and know the intensity of shock she got. She was so much disturbed that she came out of the pandal. She was dumb-struck for a few moments and then she said, “I have gone to so many institutions and got so many degrees. I have been the Principal here since last eighteen years. I have always heard the same thing everywhere and have been talking the same thing to students all these years. Now, this was the first time I have heard something different. I feel I have done injustice to thousands of my students all these years.” She was so much disturbed that she went on talking, no, blabbering for the next half an hour.
The incident is not connected to calendar issue, but reveals the trapped mind set. So, what do you intend to do when someone accosts you with ‘Happy Tamil New Year’ wish next time?
(The writer can be contacted at 133, Nagmani, Abhyankar Nagar, Nagpur-440 010 and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org)