Tamils ignore government fiat, celebrate New Year

April 13th, 2008 - 6:51 pm ICT by admin  


Chennai, April 13 (IANS) Even as several major temples “obeyed” the diktat of the Tamil Nadu government and avoided special worship, the laity here celebrated Tamil New Year with usual gaiety Sunday. Just as the biggest Hindu Shiva temple in Mylapore area here allowed people to offer special prayers, the famed Vishnu shrine at Srirangam, 300 km south of Chennai and considered a “heaven on earth”, celebrated the occasion with pomp.

The Meenakshi Amman temple at Madurai, 400 km south of here, steered clear of controversy and avoided any special prayer.

The government early this year declared that from now on, Pongal, the harvest festival falling Jan 14, would herald the Tamil New Year.

It prohibited special prayers on the traditional Tamil New Year day in all government-controlled temples. It also banned the reading of the Tamil almanac on the traditional New Year day in shrines.

Hindus across the state, however, celebrated the occasion regardless of the government’s fiat. Festoons were seen everywhere and feasts were held at almost every home.

A leading Hindu priest explained why the masses ignored the wishes of the DMK government.

“The year is named ‘Sarvadhari’ after Lord Vishnu, in whom all Hindus believe and the term itself means ‘one who bears all burdens’,” said Shankara Shastri, a priest consulted by many leading business houses here.

“This is as per the Hindu calendar’s 60-year cycle that has been in vogue since the time of the Vedas, of which astrology and astronomy are essential parts. And it is not just the Tamils - several Indian subcultures have a New Year almost at the same time,” Shastri told IANS.

The opposition AIADMK had exhorted its workers to celebrate the occasion and “tell the government that the people do not care for orders against Indian culture and sentiment”.

Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) volunteers garlanded an icon of Mother India in Madurai and read the almanacs publicly to register their protest against the government.

“One does not know whether the people of Tamil Nadu will take a cue from the next New Year’s name ‘Virodhi’ and end up believing that the ruling DMK is their enemy, which is what the word means,” said political commentator and satirist Cho S. Ramaswamy.

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