Thursday, April 14, 2005

Are we Tamils unimaginative?

Tamil New Years wishes to all!!!!

Sending out an email to my Malayali friends wishing them on teh occasion of Vishu got me thinking.. Are we Tamilians unimaginative, or rather, were our forefathers unimginative? Most Indian states (and hence langauges) have special word for their New Year - Malayalis have their Vishu, Andhrites and Kannadigas have Ugadhi, Maharashtrians their Gudi Padwa? In Tamil it is plain - "Tamil Putthandu" that translates as Tamil New Year - nothing special or fancy!!!

I think our forefathers got it right - spot on! For them, as it must be to us (but is not), it was just another day - and all it did signify was the repetition of a counting system. The tradition of looking at the mirror first thing in the morning, eating the sweet/sour/bitter chutney are all traditions so full of symbolism that they had to be invented later - similar to the New Year's eve/day celebrations the world over celebrating the birth of a new year in the Georgian calendar.

Each year, in the Tamil calender, has a name (the year dawned is called Parthiba) and the names also follow a 60 year cycle ( or 5 Jupiter years). If you went through all year names in your life - you celebrate your Sashiabthapoorthi!!!! Thus, rather than have the year as a constant (not changing with time) or monotonic (constantly increasing), the Tamil calendar made the years cyclic. The Tamil calendar stops there - unlike the mayan calendar that has 394 year cycles. Mayans were afraid of starting over, or in other words they were afraid of zero (as starting over meant you started at nothing) and did not want to face the unkown danger of starting a new calendar cycle. The Tamils on the other hand, celebrated the starting of a new calendar cycle with their Sashiapthapoorthi!

What a difference understanding nothing makes!!!!

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