“Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said the harvest festival Pongal, which falls on the first day of Tamil month 'Thai', would be soon made the official Tamil New Year Day.” This was the interesting bit of a news item in The Hindu last week. He said about 500 Tamil scholars had deliberated and arrived at the decision to change the Tamil New Year from the first day of 'Chithirai' month to the first day of 'Thai'.
Now after all these hundreds of years, someone has realised that it is appropriate to start the New Year on the first day of thai maasam. Is there any benefit? If so, to whom? Who cares! What does it matter if all these years the month of Chithirai, starting mid April, has been the first month in the Thamizh calendar! Is accuracy in marking years so important? Isn’t it more important to pamper and massage the ego of the Thamizh masses who can get hysterical in their passion for Thamizh and Thamizh culture? They have recently managed to get the Supreme Court to change its stand on abolishing the jallikkattu, the traditional and cruel bull fight, which can harm both the bull and the man who fights to tame it.
And how do we go about changing the year? Do we lop off the first three months of the next year? Or merely add them to the existing year so there are 15 months this year?
And when the next Government takes over, it may choose to declare the month of Deepavali as the first month of the year, since that is celebrated in a grander manner.
Personally I feel that celebrating Pongal, which is fundamentally a thanksgiving harvest festival, is totally irrelevant in an urban context. Nobody owns a cent of agricultural land, or has even seen a cow – let alone own one. Children in cities think milk comes out of packets, not having seen any cows. Sure, it is significant to the agriculturist, and so let it remain just that, a harvest festival. And not be converted to New Year.