Tamil Nadu

Perspective of the minorities vary over Pongal as Tamil New Year Day

While certain mainstream parties are indulging in a debate on the basis of speculation that the DMK Government may declare Pongal festival (January 14, Thai 1) as Tamil New Year Day, minority religious scholars and political leaders have largely stayed off the issue.

Speaking to The Hindu, Prof. M.H. Jawahirullah, president, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, said that there was no Islamic perspective in the debate over the date of Tamil New Year.

“Whether Tamil New Year should be celebrated in the month of Thai or Chithirai, there is no Islamic perspective about it. In fact, we don’t even celebrate Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar, as the New Year. However, from a Tamil cultural perspective, it is a welcome move to have a festival that is not tied to any one religion,” said Mr. Jawahirullah.

Another senior Muslim political leader, who preferred anonymity, agreed there was no ‘Islamic perspective’ on the issue over Tamil New Year’s Day, but said that there was no point in changing traditions.

[During the DMK regime of 2006-11, the Tamil New Year was changed from Chithirai 1 to Thai 1. The subsequent Jayalalithaa Government had reversed the decision.]

Asked if Pongal could be seen as a product of ‘Tamil language and culture’, devoid of any religious past, Stalin Rajangam, who writes about Dalit history and Buddhism, contends no festival can have a ‘linguistic’ past. According to him, the discourse surrounding Pongal that it is a festival of ‘Tamils’ has only been around for a 100 years.

“All festivals are connected to religions and religious traditions and are not based on a ‘linguistic community.’ And also, every linguistic community can have many cultures within it. So, if Pongal is a festival that has been celebrated for long, it is likely that it has a religious past,” he said. “The Tamil scholars and intellectuals must investigate whether Pongal has a Buddhist and Jain religious tradition attached to it. It is unlikely that it has a ‘Hindu’ past,” he claimed. “However, I have no problem if it is celebrated as Tamil New Year,” he said.

Catholic priest Father Jegath Casper Raj said: “The recent teachings of the Church, and especially of the recent Pope, consider all of creation as God’s own expression of Love. From that perspective, celebrating Pongal will not be at odds with Christian point of view. There is a tradition, at least among Catholics and Protestants, in Tamil Nadu, of celebrating Pongal festival since the 80s,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 8:25:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/perspective-of-the-minorities-vary-over-pongal-as-tamil-new-year-day/article37832713.ece

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