The most important event of Tamil New Year's Day is the reading of `Panchangam'

Calendars vary based on solar and lunar phases. There has been a perceptible change in these calculations from the times of the early Egyptian calendar. For instance, `Before Christ' and `Anno Domini' proved to be an easy dividing line, instead of counting the years from the creation of the world.

The Muslim calendar counts back to the year of the Hijira, that of Romans from the period of founding of Rome. Just as Jewish, Roman or Gregorian, Chinese calendar, the Tamil calendar too has a special significance.

The most important event of Tamil New Year's Day is the reading of `Panchangam.' Vedic pandits and temple priests read out the panchangam early in the morning, preferably in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Called `Panchanga padanam,' the ritual is believed to invoke the blessings of the Almighty. There are different `Panchangams' Srirangam Panchangam; Suddha Tirukanitha Panchangam; Arcot Sri Seetharamaiyar Sarva Muhurtha Panchangam; 28th Number Panchangam; Pambu Panchangam; Sri Kanchi Sri Acharyar Madathu Panchangam; Tirunelveli Vakya Panchangam; Tirukoil Anushtana Vakya Panchangam so on and so forth. "Among them, the `Pambu Panchangam' is the much sought-after, while other categories cater to the needs of particular section of people or pujaris," say M. Mohan and R.V. Hariharan, stationery dealers in Tiruchi.

The first month in the Tamil almanac, `Chithirai,' marks the `Chithirai car' festivals at many temples. The celebration of the Tamil New Year is not complete with the `Pachchadi,' a mixture of jaggery, chillies, salt, neem flowers and tamarind, the rationale behind it indicating one's preparedness to experience sweetness and sourness in equal measure, and to be ready to accept both joyous and not-so-joyous events in life in a balanced approach.

According to Mallaji V. Ratna Sarma of Palur, before any formal Panchanga came into existence, Thithi (the phase of the moon) and Nakshatra (the position of the moon in the Zodiac) were profusely used. Only later, Vara (days) Yoga (days and stars combination) and Karana came into use. The Solar Year, Sarvajith, will be born at 12.29 hours on April 14, 2007, when the Sun enters the starting point of Aswini in the constellation Mesha (Aries).

Syed Muthahar Saqaf