The Tamil calendar is a sidereal Hindu calendar used by the Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It is also used in Puducherry, and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu farmers greatly refer to this. It is used today for cultural, religious and agricultural events, with the Gregorian calendar largely used for official purposes both within and outside India. The Tamil calendar is based on the classical Hindu solar calendar also used in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Odisha, Rajasthan and Punjab This shows Hindus were well versed about planetary movements.
There are several festivals based on the Tamil calendar. The Tamil New Year follows the nirayanam vernal equinox[page needed] and generally falls on 14 April of the Gregorian year. 14 April marks the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and is a public holiday in the state of Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka and Mauritius. Tropical vernal equinox fall around 22 March, and by adding 23 degrees of trepidation (oscillation) to it, we get the Hindu sidereal or Nirayana Mesha Sankranti (Sun's transition into nirayana Aries). Hence, the Tamil calendar begins on the same date in April which is observed by most traditional calendars of the rest of India – Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Odisha, Manipur, Punjab etc. This also coincides with the traditional new year in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand.
The calendar follows a 60-year cycle which is also very ancient and is observed by most traditional calendars of India and China. According to popular belief it is related to 5 revolutions of Jupiter around the Sun, and also to 60-year orbit of Nakshatras (stars) as mentioned in Surya Siddhanta.
There are several references in early Tamil literature to the new year. Nakkirar, Sangam period author of the Neṭunalvāṭai, wrote in the third century CE that the Sun travels each year from Mesha/Chitterai in mid-April through 11 successive signs of the zodiac. Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the third century CE refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai i.e. mid-April as the commencement of the year in the Puṟanāṉūṟu. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar text that divides the year into six seasons where Chitterai i.e. mid-April marks the start of the Ilavenil season or Summer. The 5th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs that correspond to the Tamil months starting with Mesha/Chitterai in mid-April. The Manimekalai alludes to this very same Hindu solar calendar as we know it today Adiyarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar mentions the twelve months of the Tamil calendar with particular reference to Chitterai i.e. mid-April. There were subsequent inscriptional references in Pagan, Burma dated to the 11th century CE and in Sukhothai, Thailand dated to the 14th century CE to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were tasked with defining the traditional calendar that began in mid-April.
|in Tamil||Transliteration||In Sanskrit||Lord or Planet||Gregorian Calendar equivalent|
The number of days in a month varies between 29 and 32. These are the months of the Tamil Calendar.
|In Tamil||Transliteration||Sanskrit Name *||Gregorian Calendar equivalent|
|சித்திரை||Cittirai||Chaitra||mid-April to mid-May|
|வைகாசி||Vaikāsi||Vaisākha||mid-May to mid-June|
|ஆனி||Āni||Jyaishtha||mid-June to mid-July|
|ஆடி||Ādi||Āshāḍha||mid-July to mid-August|
|ஆவணி||Āvaṇi||Shrāvaṇa||mid-August to mid-September|
|புரட்டாசி||Puraṭṭāsi||Bhādrapada/Prauṣṭhapada||mid-September to mid-October|
|ஐப்பசி||Aippasi||Ashwina/Ashvayuja||mid-October to mid-November|
|கார்த்திகை||Kārttikai||Kārttika||mid-November to mid-December|
|மார்கழி||Mārkazhi||Mārgaṣīrṣa||mid-December to mid-January|
|தை||Tai||Pausha/Taiṣya||mid-January to mid-February|
|மாசி||Māsi||Māgha||mid-February to mid-March|
|பங்குனி||Paṅkuni||Phalguna||mid-March to mid-April|
The Tamil year, in keeping with the old Indic calendar, is divided into six seasons, each of which lasts two months:
|Season in Tamil||Transliteration||English Translation||Season in Sanskrit||Season in English||Tamil Months||Gregorian Months|
|இளவேனில்||ila-venil||Light warmth||Vasanta||Spring||chithirai, vaigāsi||Mid Apr – Mid Jun|
|முதுவேனில்||mutu-venil||Harsh warmth||Grishma||Summer||āni, ādi||Mid Jun – Mid Aug|
|கார்||kaar||Dark clouds, Rain||Varsha||Monsoon||āvani, puratāci||Mid Aug – Mid Oct|
|குளிர்||kulir||Chill / Cold||Sharada||Autumn||aippasi, kārthigai||Mid Oct – Mid Dec|
|முன்பனி||mun-pani||Early mist / dew||Hemanta||Winter||mārkazhi, tai||Mid Dec – Mid Feb|
|பின்பனி||pin-pani||Late mist / dew||Sishira||Prevernal||māsi, panguni||Mid Feb – Mid Apr|
The 60-year cycle is common to both North and South Indian traditional calendars, with the same name and sequence of years. Its earliest reference is to be found in Surya Siddhanta, which Varahamihirar (550 CE) believed to be the most accurate of the then current theories of astronomy. However, in the Surya Siddhantic list, the first year was Vijaya and not Prabhava as currently used. There are some parallels in this sexagenary cycle with the Chinese calendar. The Surya Siddhanta and other Indian classical texts on astronomy has been claimed to have had some influence on the Chinese calendar although it merits attention that the sexagenary cycle in China is itself very old.
After the completion of sixty years, the calendar starts a new with the first year. This corresponds to the Hindu "century." The Vakya or Tirukannitha Panchangam (the traditional Tamil almanac) outlines this sequence. It is related to the position of the planets in the sky with respect to earth. It means that the two major planets Sani/Saturn (which takes 30 years to complete one cycle round the sun) and the Viyazhan/Jupiter (which takes 12 years to complete one cycle round the Sun) comes to the same position after 60 years.
The following list presents the current 60-year cycle of the Sanskrit calendar in Tamil:
|No.||Name||Name (English)||Gregorian Year||No.||Name||Name (English)||Gregorian Year|
The months of the Tamil Calendar have great significance and are deeply rooted in the faith of the Tamil Hindus. Some months are considered very auspicious while a few are considered inauspicious as well. Tamil months start and end based on the Sun's shift from one Rasi to the other but the names of the months are based on the star on the start of Pournami in that month. The name of the month is some times the name of the star itself. (e.g. Chithrai is always the star on the Pournami of the Chithirai month).
Some of the celebrations for each month are listed below. Dates in parentheses are not exact and usually vary by a day or two. Underneath (or beside) the months of the Hindu calendar are their Gregorian counterparts.
|சித்திரை – Chithirai||14 April – 13 May||Star on the Pournami: Chithirai. Chitra Pournami & Varusha pirappu are the most important festivals in this month. Famous Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. 14 April is the Tamil New Year.|
|வைகாசி – Vaikaasi||14 May – 14 June||Star on the Pournami: Visaagam. Vaikaasi Visaakam is the most important day in this month.This month is most favorable month of Lord Subramainya (Murga Kadavul). Thirumangalam[Madurai] Shri Pathrakali Mariamman Temple 13day Vaigasi Festival starts at Sunday followed by vaigasi ammavasai[new moon day].|
|ஆனி – Aani||15 June – 15 July||Star on the Pournami: Anusham. Aani Thirumanjanam or Aani Uttaram for Lord Nataraja is the most famous day in this month.|
|ஆடி – Aadi||16 July – 16 August||Star on the Pournami: Pooraadam (or) Uthiraadam. A most important month for women. The most auspicious days are Fridays and Tuesdays in this month, these are called Aadi Velli and Aadi Chevvai and the Aadi Amavasya. Aadi Pooram is also a special day.18th day of adi is the most important day for the farmers (delta region) they prepare paddy seedlings.during this month "kanchi varthal" is famous in amman temples|
|ஆவணி – Aavani||17 August – 16 September||Star on the Pournami: Thiruvonam. An important month with many rituals. Brahmins change their sacred thread on Aavani Avittam. Each Sunday of the month is dedicated to prayers – Aavani Gnayiru.vinayaka chaturthi ,the festival of lord ganesha is held in this month|
|புரட்டாசி – Purattaasi||17 September – 16 October||Star on the Pournami: Poorattathi (or) Uthirattathi. An important month for Vaishnavas. Purattaasi Sani(Saturday) is an auspicious day for Lord Vishnu. Navarathri & Vijayadhashami or Ayuda Pooja is celebrated to invoke Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.|
|ஐப்பசி – Aippasi||17 October – 15 November||Star on the Pournami: Ashwini. The monsoons typically start over Tamil Nadu in this month. Hence the saying, "Aippasi Mazhai, adai mazhai" – meaning "Aippasi rains are persistent rains".
Also Annaabishekam for Lord Shiva is very famous in this month. The most famous Hindu festival "Deepavali" is celebrated in this month. The Fridays of this month – Aipassi velli – are dedicated to religious observance.
|கார்த்திகை – Karthikai||16 November – 15 December||Star on the Pournami: Karthikai. Another auspicious celebration for Shiva devotees is Thirukaarthigai. The Krithikaa Pournami is the special day of the full moon in the month of Kaarthikai, and the star is Krithikaa.
Each Monday of this month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Every Monday is called "Somavaaram" when 108 or 1008 sangabhishekam are offered to Lord Shiva and Lord Muruga.
|மார்கழி – Maargazhi||16 December – 13 January||Star on the Pournami: Mrigasheersham. This is another special month in the Tamil Calendar. Temples open earlier in the mornings and Devotees throng the temples early for puja and prasadam – the offering made to the deity which is later distributed to the devotees. Arudra Darisanam (Thiruvaadirai star in Tamil) is the most auspicious day in this month. The offering made to Lord Siva is the Thiruvaadirai Kali – a sweet boiled pudding. Mukkodi Ekathesi is called "Paramapadha vaasal Thirappu" for Lord Vishnu. The Tiruvembaavai and Thirupaavai fast takes place in this month.|
|தை – Thai||14 January – 12 February||Star on the Pournami: Poosam. Pongal, which is the Tamil harvest festival, is celebrated on the first day of this month. Thaipusam is also a special day for Murugan devotees, who carry Kavadi to one of the Aarupadaiveedu (Literally meaning "six abodes").|
|மாசி – Maasi||13 February – 13 March||Star on the Pournami: Magam. Maasi Magam is the special day of which comes in this Month. Shivaratri is an important festival widely celebrated by Hindus in this month.|
|பங்குனி – Panguni||14 March – 13 April||Star on the Pournami: Uththiram. Panguni Uthiram, the last month of the year, is a famous festival and special to Murugan and Siva devotees.|
- The Hindus developed a system of calendrics that encapsulates vast periods of time. For computing the age of the earth and various geological and other epochs, as well as the age of mankind, they still employ a Tamil calendar derived from ancient astronomical data, known as the Tirukkanida Panchanga
- The 10th Tamil month, called Thai, falls in mid-January each year. It is celebrated with much enthusiasm within the Tamil Community all over the world. Thai is marked by gifts of new clothing for family members and prayers to God for prosperity in the coming year. Thai and the fifth month Aavani are considered very auspicious for marriage and most marriages occur during these months.
- The fourth month Aadi is a busy month for most people including priests as there will be major temple festivities throughout the month, so most weddings do not often fall in this month. Aadi is the month of preparation for the next crop cycle by farmers. Therefore, farming communities avoid major events like weddings in this month. Those members of the Tamil community who don't actively contribute/participate in farming take advantage by having important functions like wedding in this month. For example, the business community prefers this month for weddings. Aadi is usually the worst month for business, although when businesses recently initiated Aadi discounts, this situation has changed significantly. Each Friday of this month is set aside for prayer and worship.
- Aadi is portrayed as an inauspicious month for union of newlyweds because conceiving in this month might often result in child delivery around April–May, the hottest months in Tamil Nadu (Agni natchathiram – ['pinezhu'] the last 7 days of Chithirai and ['munezhu'] the first 7 days of Vaigasi). 'Aadi' is also the windiest month in Tamil Nadu, and hence the phrase 'Aadi kaatru ammiyai nagatrum' (literally, 'the strong winds in the month of Aadi can even move a stone grinder')
- Purattaasi is when most of the non-vegetarian Tamil people fast from meat for a month. Each Saturday of this month is set apart to venerate the planet Saturn.
- Deepavali, is celebrated on the new moon day, in the seventh month Aipasi. The month of Aipasi is usually characterised by the North-East Monsoon in Tamil Nadu, which has given birth to a phrase, Aipasi adai mazhai meaning the "Non-stop downpour".
- Maargazhi falls in winter in Tamil Nadu, and is an auspicious month. The month is considered sacred. During the holy month of Maargazhi, houses are decorated with colorful and elaborate kolams. These are drawn on the threshold to welcome guests and divine beings to bless their houses with prosperity and happiness. The Shaivite fast of Thiru-vembaavai and the Vaishnava fast of Thiru-paavai are also observed in this month.
- The total number of days in a Tamil Calendar is an average 365 days. The Vakiya Panchangam is employed for both sacred and civil calculations. The Trikanitha Panchangam is employed for astrological calculations.
The Tamil Calendar is important in the life of Tamil-speaking people and most Festivals of Tamil Nadu are based on it. Some Festivals include
- Tamil New Year (also called Puthandu) in mid-April,
- Thai Pongal,
- Panguni Uthiram,
One day was even dedicated to a celebration of the Tamil alphabet and was called "ezhuthu naal'.
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- G.H. Luce, Old Burma – Early Pagan, Locust Valley, New York, p. 68, and A.B. Griswold, 'Towards a History of Sukhodaya Art, Bangkok 1967, pages 12–32
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