Thursday, April 15, 2010

How many New Year's?

Just two days ago I was wished by some faculty and staff members a happy Tamil and Malayalam New Year. WHAT!? This is the new year!? What's going on here? Let me review the situation briefly.

January 14, Pongal = Tamil New Year. It's the only Hindu Holiday on the Solar Calendar. There were many big celebrations here and lots of very nice Kolam on the ground. Brilliant stuff. I'm told this holiday has a different name in North India, but still represents the new year. In fact, I think it sort of goes along with the Republic Day (January 26) which is the day of drafting India's constitution. I figure that in some way marks a new year. It wouldn't surprise me if the two are tied together somehow. But as it is, January 14 is the New Year holiday, and January 26 is NOT a new year holiday.

March 16-25 Some New Year's celebration which lasts ten days. I know that this is the new year because Yvonne and I were in Kerala during this time. The music started every morning at 5:00 AM and went all the way until 1:00 AM. It was the most annoying thing ever. It's not that they were playing music so much, but that it was so loud. We were on the 4th floor of a hotel which was near a temple. Through our closed windows the temple's music was louder than the television. I could even hear it in the bathroom. Give me a break! I was ready to go cut the wire to the speaker in the middle of the night! I may have also made it known how much I hate the way Indian women sing. It's god awful. High pitched squealing, basically. OH MY MANY MANY MANY GODS! If this is pleasing to you, will you please send me another god with good taste?
Pardon that interuption... Anyway, there can be no doubt, that was a new year celebration. I asked many people why the music was so loud and the response was, it is a big holiday, new year. Which still didn't answer the question of "WHY THE HELL IS THIS SO ANNOYING FOR 20 HOURS A DAY!?" But it did reinforce the idea that it was indeed a new year celebration...

April 14, Happy Tamil and Malayalam new year? Wait a minute, um what? Excuse me, did you say "new year?" I'm not quite sure I'm hearing this correctly. I don't see any sign of celebration, no new year's signs, nothing of the sort. But yet, we get an institutional holiday because it's the NEW YEAR? Someone help me out here! New year was a month ago, or wait, was it three months ago? I'm now more confused than ever.

My only good guess is that Hinduism is actually the NEWEST religion on the block and their calendar is in the year 27000 because they celebrate the new year ever 6-8 weeks.
I guess when there are only two seasons, a)hot and b)hell then you gotta find some time to celebrate something...

As it is, I'm terribly, terribly confused as to how this calendar works now.


  1. Clark, India is fascinating, hey?
    I can shed light on a few points you bought out.
    Each state, esp. in South India has different Hindu calendars, so each state does have a 'new year on a different day' in the Western Calendar. It gets more confusing because-
    in Tamil Nadu-
    The Tamil Hindu calendar starts with the month Chittrai which is actually in April (about April 14/15) but a few years ago, Tamil Gov't thought they should politicise Tamil New Year and wanted to combine holidays I guess, not really sure why, but then made Pongal (Jan 14/15) coincide with Tamil New Year. Jan 14/15 begins Tamil month Thai 1. But Thai month (Or Thai Masaum/Madam) is not the beginning officially of the Tamil calendar year. I still don't know why they did that. In any case, Tamil New Year is still celebrated by the PEOPLE on April 14/15 and is a family celebration. Few will celebrate it on Jan 14/15 though gov't tells them too! Ask around and see what other thoughts you get on this!

    Regarding Vishu or "Malayalam/Kerala New Year" Vishu (This year April 15, but many years April 14) starts the Malayalam HIndu calendar year- month is called - Medam month in Malayalam. Interestingly, I still have yet to figure this out! Medam month is NOT the first month in the HIndu Kerala Calendar but Chingam is which falls in July-August, so some people celebrate new year in Kerala during that time, but it's not really a public celebration. Incidently, this year would be 1185 (not 2010) in the Kerala Hindu Calendar.
    Far as the week long celebration you found yourself in, I have no idea! Love to learn more- though this year on March 16 was Ugadi- this is the new year for the Telugu Hindu Calendar (or Andhra Pradesh), Ugadi means 'new age'.

    if you're interested in this, I wrote more about it on my blog-
    Kerala Hindu Calendar Tutorial
    Brief into/comparison of Hindu North Indian/Tamil/Kerala calendars here

  2. Well, that certainly helps clear up things! Thanks!