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Ponggal and tamil new year

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Ponggal and tamil new year

  1. 1. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013 Ponggal and Tamil New Year By Mukilan MurugasanPonggal festival is celebrated on the first day of Thai 1 in Thiruvalluvar Year. Since theadvent of agriculture, the Ponggal festival has been spread over four days from the last dayof Tamil month Margazhi to first three days of Tamil month Thai as Bhogi, GrandPonggal, Ponggal for farm animals and Ponggal for off-springs or for greeting one another.The Thiruvalluvar Year starts on the Grand Ponggal day (Thai 1 st). Thiruvalluvar Year isregarded as the Tamil calendar2.Tamils celebrate Ponggal festival with great enthusiasm. On the eve of Ponggal, houses arecleaned and washed. At the entrance of the house, sugar cane plants are kept with mangoand coconut leaves hanging. The front portion of the house is well scrubbed and cleanedfor designing a Kolam with rice powder. Greeting cards and invitations are also sent totheir nearest and dearest ones. A variety of cakes and sweets are made to be distributedamong friends and relatives.On the Ponggal day, early in the morning, in a spot where the bright sun light falls usuallyin the court-yard is chosen for the performance of cooking ponggal3. A new pot is kept on atemporary brick stove. The new fire burns under a pot of pure milk with rice. When theboiling of sweet milk and rice spills, they loudly voice Ponggalo Ponggal!, PonggaloPonggal!.1 Tamil month ‘Thai’ is the first month and ‘Margazhi’ the last month of Thiruvalluvar Year (Tamil Calendar).2 Mu. Manivellian; International Conference on Thai 1 st Day the Tamil New Year; Malaysian Movement for TamilCulture; Kuala Lumpur; 2001; p1803 Rice cooked in clay pot, sweetened with milk, sugar, raisins and cashew nut. 1/12
  2. 2. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013Ponggal festival is a much sung and honored festival in the Tamil Literature -Purananooru. In the Purananooru, under the chapter on the life history of Pidangkotraan,the celebration of Ponggal festival by the farmers in South India is described in detail.According to Tamil scholars, Ponggal festival is not mentioned anywhere in the religiousbooks and therefore it is a festival for Tamils.In 1921, the Thiruvalluvar Tamil New Year Convention was held at Pachaiappan College,Chennai under the patronage of Maraimalai Adigalar, a highly respected Tamil scholar.About 500 Tamil scholars took part in this convention. The following declaration wasmade in the convention: “Under the name of great Saint Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil Calendar should be followed and further, it should be taken as the birth of a new beginning (Tamil New Year commences in the month of Thai) and Saint Thiruvalluvar’s era is 31 B.C.”4The Taminadu government had accepted and implemented the above decision in 1971 inall government transactions5.1n 1935, Thanthai Periyar organized the Tiruchi Tamil Convention. The convention waspresided by Naavalar Somasundra Bharathiyar. Many highly regarded Tamil scholars inTamilnadu such as Maraimalai Adigalar, Tamil Thendral Thiru Vi.Ka, Tamil Kavalar K.Subramaniam Pillai and Tamilvel P.T. Rajan attended the convention.4 V. Vembian; International Conference on Thai 1st Day the Tamil New Year; Malaysian Movement for Tamil Culture;Kuala Lumpur; 2001; p1805 Universal Declaration of Thai First Day, As Tamil New Year, Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia; 6 January 2001 2/12
  3. 3. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013A strong debate ensued among the participants as to whether Ponggal is a religious festivalor non-religious festival. Maraimalai Adigalar stood up and explained that Ponggal is anon-religious festival. It is not mentioned anywhere in the Vedas, Puranas, Ithihaasas orany other religious books. Since, the festival is not mentioned in any religious books, it istherefore cannot be considered as a religious festival. On the other hand, it is sung in the2,500 years old Tamil literature Purananooru.Thanthai Periyar immediately accepted his explanation and declared that Ponggal is not areligious festival but a festival for the Tamils. The other scholars immediately ralliedbehind Thanthai Periyar and Maraimalai Adigalar6.It is only after this convention; Ponggal started gaining prominence among the Tamils inTamilnadu and Malaya. The entire Tamil scholars who decided the Tamil New Year reliedon Thanthai Periyar to propagate it.As a result of the above conventions coupled with declarations made thereafter and thehistorical significance attached to Ponggal festival, the first day of Thai is considered as thebeginning of Tamil New Year and is celebrated as Ponggal Tamil New Year.In Malaysia, Ponggal is celebrated by self-respect associations only after 1946. Prior tothat, Ponggal was celebrated by Tamils at their home within their family. In an interviewfor the International Conference on Thai 1st Day the Tamil New Year, held in Kuala6 Ka.Pa.Samy; International Conference on Thai 1st Day the Tamil New Year; Malaysian Movement for Tamil Culture; Kuala Lumpur; 2001; pp166-167 3/12
  4. 4. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013Lumpur on 6 January 2001, the former President of Malaysian Dravidian Association,Ka.Pa.Samy, said that none of the self-respect associations in Malaya celebrated anytraditional celebrations of the Tamils before 1946. All the various self-respect associationssuch as Tamil Sirthirutha Sangam, Tamilar Sangam, Suyamariyathai Iyakkam and,Suyamariyathai Sangam merged to form All Malaya Dravidian Association (Agila MalayaDravidar Kazhagam) in 1946. This move was initiated by Ayaru from Ipoh, Pallikondanfrom Banting, Velayutham, A.C. Suppiah, M. Maniarasu and Mu.Su. Maniam. All MalayaDravidian Association decided to celebrate 3 celebrations namely, Celebration for ThanthaiPeriyar, Celebration for Thiruvalluvar and Bharathithaasan and Ponggal. It was alsoresolved that Ponggal festival to be celebrated by all branches of All Malaya DravidianAssociation at their respective area. The Singapore Dravidian Association also accepted theresolution and began to celebrate it. Events such as art and literature contest for children,cultural shows and recital of Thirukural were included in the celebrations. This gave anopportunity for the All Malaya Dravidian Association to explain the uniqueness andspecialties of Ponggal festival to the masses. They were also made aware that Ponggalfestival is a celebration without religious, sastra, caste and, astrological connotations. In1952, Ponggal was celebrated in a grand scale at Batang Berjuntai, Kulim and Penang.Today, Ponggal has been given a religious connotation. Astrology has also seeped in,thereby stipulating auspicious time and bad time to celebrate it. The name Ponggal hasbeen changed to Magara Sangkraanthi. In Indian astrology, the word Magaram denotesmonth and Sangkraanthi denotes Sun. Ponggal is celebrated at the time when the sun risesin the East as stipulated in the astrology. For the last ten years, Radio Televisyen 4/12
  5. 5. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013Malaysia’s (RTM) Indian radio station Minnal FM and Singapore’s radio and televisionstation for Indians, Oli 96.8 and Vasantham Central, respectively are seen announcing theauspicious time to celebrate Ponggal. The auspicious time usually falls around noon.Therefore, Hindus in Malaysia and Tamilnadu are seen celebrating Ponggal towards nooninstead of early morning when the sun rises. It is also celebrated in temples as a religiousfestival with all religious rituals.However, while the Catholic churches celebrate the same occasion as a cultural event, theMalaysian Dravidian Association, Malaysian Movement for Tamil Culture, MalaysianTamil Neri Kazhagam and several other associations dedicated in promoting Tamillanguage and culture and self-respect are celebrating it as Tamil New Year.Despite all the conventions, decisions, declarations made thereafter and its implementationsby the Tamilnadu government, there is still confusion among Malaysian and Indian Tamilson the Tamil New Year. The Tamil scholars, self-respecters, individuals and organizationsfor promoting Tamil culture, art and literature have accepted Ponggal festival or 1 st Thai asthe Tamil New Year. On the other hand, religionists and certain media are advocating andpromoting the Chitirai New Year which falls in April as the Tamil New Year.The month Chitirai is the first month in the Hindu calendar. The Hindu calendar is a periodof 60 years in cyclic form from Prabava to Atchaya. It was introduced in Tamilnadu byNorthern Indian king, King Salivahana in 78 A.D. 5/12
  6. 6. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013According to the puranaa, Narathar had sexual intercourse with Lord Krishna. As a resultof the intercourse, 60 children were born. Each year of the 60 years cycle of Hinducalendar is named after these children.Tamil scholars despise Chitirai New Year, as the origin of 60 years is derogatory to Tamilculture and heritage and it is not pertinent to wisdom and scientific thinking. Since theyears are in 60 years cyclic form, it makes it impossible to count the years. Further, thenames of the 60 years are not Tamil words to justify it as Tamil New Year.The reason for the above confusion is due to two reasons. Firstly, although the decisions of1921 convention were accepted and implemented by the Tamilnadu government, it did nothowever, gazette it. This gave the religionist and higher caste Tamils an opportunity toignore the decisions. Secondly, religionist especially the Brahmins and higher caste Tamilshave always shown opposition to Periyar’s ideology. They were unable to contain Periyar’spropaganda against caste and discriminating practices. As the print and electronic media isowned or controlled by them, they actively promote Chitirai New Year as Tamil New Yearto show their protest against Periyar. Further, they know very well that the Tamilnadugovernment will not be able to take action against them, as it did not gazette the decisions.In Malaysia, private owned Tamil radio station, THR Raaga and Tamil daily, MalaysiaNanban are promoting Ponggal festival as the Tamil New Year. Malaysia Nanban’s chiefeditor, the late Athi Kumanan were seen giving detailed explanations in his editorial as towhy 1st Thai is the Tamil New Year. Government owned Tamil radio station; Minnal FM 6/12
  7. 7. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013and Tamil daily, Tamil Nesan are in a state of confusion. They sometimes promote 1 st Thaias Ponggal festival and sometimes as Tamil New Year and the other as Chitirai New Yearor Tamil New Year. Both Singapore’s print and electronic media are promoting ChitiraiNew Year as Tamil New Year.Tamils all over the world today are seen divided on the issue of Tamil New Year. Toovercome the confusion and to set things right, self-respecters and Tamil scholarsthroughout the world have been urging the state government of Tamilnadu for many yearsto make a formal announcement that 1st of Thai as the Tamil New Year. However, allefforts were futile despite Tamilnadu is being ruled by Dravidian parties since 1967 with itsChief Ministers and ministers being disciples of Thanthai Periyar (except for former ChiefMinister, Jayalalitha).Re.Su. Muthiah, the President of Malaysian Dravidian Association, elaborated that, theDravida Munnetra Kazhagam came to power in 1967 with its president C.N. Annadurai asthe Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. After the demise of C.N. Annadurai in 1969, Tamilnaduwas ruled by either Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or All India Anna Dravida MunnetraKazahagam. The problem here lies with Mu. Karunanidhi, who replaced C.N. Annadurai in1969. He being the disciple of both Thanthai Periyar and C.N. Annadurai, an orator, Tamilscholar and a self-respecter himself, has been reluctant to gazette the decisions of the 1921convention. The main reason for his reluctance is his fear that his party, DravidaMunnetra Kazhagam may lose the votes of the Brahmins and upper caste Tamils. This 7/12
  8. 8. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013clearly indicates that the Brahmins and the upper caste Tamils still dictate terms in theTamilnadu politics despite the ruling party being a Dravidian party.Ironically, Mu. Karunanidhi wrote in Murasoli, a Tamil daily owned by him on 30 January1995 the following: “The government of Tamilnadu accepted that the Thiruvalluvar year starts on the first day of Thai and implemented it in 1971. 1st Thai is not only a festival for Tamils but it is also the beginning of Tamil New Year. We should come forward to follow the Tamil year which is Thiruvalluvar year.”The Malaysian Dravidian Association, Malaysian Movement for Tamil Culture, Tamil NeriKazhagam organized the International Conference on Thai 1st Day the Tamil New Year.Tamil scholars, poets and academicians from all over the world gathered in Kuala Lumpuron 6 January 2001 for this conference. A universal declaration that the first day of Thaishall be the Tamil New Year was made in this conference and it was sent to the UnitedNations. It was signed by the presidents of Malaysian Dravidian Association, MalaysianMovement for Tamil Culture and Tamil Neri Kazhagam.In the 1950’s, there was another confusion with regards to Ponggal festival. G.Sarangapany and his friends conceived and decided on the idea of celebrating TamilarThirunaal (Tamil Festival). They decided to celebrate it either on Ponggal or on thefollowing days. The main objective of this celebration is to unite all Tamils in Malaya 8/12
  9. 9. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013under the banner of language, irrespective of their caste and religion. The first TamilarThirunaal was celebrated in Perlis on January 1951. The following year it was celebrated inSingapore. G. Sarangapany makes it a point to invite speakers, linguists and, poets withself-respect and reformist ideas from Tamilnadu to propagate Thanthai Periyar’sideologies. As Ponggal celebration by self-respect associations, events such as art andliterature contest for children, cultural shows and, recital of Thirukural were included in thecelebrations.According to Arivananthan, in the 1950’s, Ponggal greeting newsletters carrying poemsand stories by self-respecters from Tamilnadu were circulated in Malaya. Membersbelonging to Dravidian associations in Malaya were widely circulating it locally. As G.Sarangapany declared that Tamilar Thirunaal should be celebrated on Ponggal day, certainsection of the Tamils perceived that Tamilar Thirunaal and Ponggal as same7. Soon,Tamils in Malaya divided into two groups with one group claiming Ponggal is TamilarThirunaal and the other claiming that they are two different celebrations.However, veteran journalist and former chief editor of Tamil Nesan, V. Vivekananthangave a totally different explanation on the events leading to the confusion. According tohim, G. Sarangapany who was responsible for spreading the Tamilar Thirunaal to Malayaand Singapore wrote in Tamil Murasu on 13 January 1952, that the most suitable day tocelebrate Tamilar Tirunaal is on 1st Thai which is also Ponggal. It is a very special day.However, in the later years, he started propagating that Ponggal is a religious festival and7 M. Arivananthan; First Tamilvel G. Sarangapany Conference Souvenir Magazine: University Kebangsaan Malaysia; Bangi; 2000; pp89-90 9/12
  10. 10. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013Tamilar Thirunaal is not. Therefore, they are two different festivals. Even in his home, hisfamily applies religious marks on the pot before cooking ponggal. He even went to theextent of saying that Tamilar Thirunaal is a new festival altogether. The reason is, as formany centuries the Hindus have been celebrating Ponggal as Magara Sangkraanthi and asa religious festival. As a result, G. Sarangapany found it increasingly difficult to attract thenon-Hindus, especially the Chiristians and Muslims to accept Tamilar Thirunaal.V. Vivekananthan even wrote an editorial condemning G. Sarangapany on the above. In1960, V. Vivekananthan, together with Tamil Nesan’s K.S. Arun and Kanagasundramwrote a lengthy article against G. Sarangapany saying that Ponggal is Tamilar Thirunaal.Even R. Vetrivel of Munnetram, a Tamil daily started by G. Sarangapany, criticized himseverely on numerous occasions.Despite all the criticisms, G. Sarangapany, went all out to propagate that Tamilar Thirunalis not related to Ponggal in Tamil Murasu.V. Vivekananthan admits that, Tamilar Thirunaal did receive a lot of support from theyouths. It did create a love for their mother-tongue and culture. Those who promotePonggal on the other hand were not as enthusiastic and dedicated as G. Sarangapany8. As a result of the above split, the celebration of Tamilar Thirunaal slowly faded and in the1990’s there were almost no celebration at all. However, after the First Tamilvel G.8 V. Vivekananthan; International Conference on Thai 1st Day the Tamil New Year; Malaysian Movement for Tamil Culture; Kuala Lumpur; 2001; pp191-195 10/12
  11. 11. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013Sarangapany Conference organized by the History Department of University KebangsaanMalaysia in August 2000, G. Sarangapany’s supporters began to celebrate TamilarThirunaal on Ponggal day on a large scale. However, to date they have neither agreed norrefused to acknowledge Tamilar Thirunaal and Ponggal as same.ConclusionThe community leaders, politicians, academicians, religionists and media of the Tamilcommunity must first take some effort to learn about their culture. They must first learn todifferentiate culture and religion. Tamil scholars have made ample research on the originsof Ponggal and have proven that it is not a religious festival but a Tamil festival and alsothe beginning of a new Tamil year. Those who oppose should conduct their own research,and if they don’t agree, than they must produce evidence to support their claim.Those who claim that Chitirai New Year as Tamil New Year, are well aware of the storybehind it. However, they choose to remain steadfast in their claim. In Malaysia, it hasbecome a norm to call the Indians and Tamils as Hindus. For example, during Deepavali itis common to hear “Wishing all Indians a Happy Deepavali”. It should be, “Wishing allHindus a Happy Deepavali”. This mistake is not only done by wishers from other racesbut also by Indians. Common sense will tell us that the Indians and Tamils belong tovarious religions and ideologies. There are Tamils who are Christians, Muslims, Hindus,Bahais, atheists and free thinkers. Therefore, Chitirai New Year which is linked toNaarathar and Lord Krishna definitely cannot be a Tamil New Year. 11/12
  12. 12. Ponggal and Tamil New Year 1/23/2013As it is, the Tamil community prefers foreign language, culture and lifestyle. Unless, theabove situation is rectified, the next generation will be pushed to further confusion andeventually it will be without an identity.Community leaders, politicians, academicians, religionists and the media have anobligation to instill a sense of pride and self-respect into the future generation. They shouldstop creating confusions and instead be more responsible in promoting the culture, traditionand the Tamil language for the sake of future generation. As an old Red Indian saying goes,“We did not inherit the present from our grandfather, but we borrowed it from ourchildren”. 12/12
  • CharnnetteKrishnanNaidu

    Dec. 21, 2015

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