Thiruvalluvar birth anniversary celebrations: Time to correct historical wrong - I
by Sami Thiagarajan & B R Gauthaman on 19 Dec 2014 10 Comments

BJP Member of Parliament Tarun Vijay has been advocating pan-India recognition for the Tamil language. Greatly influenced by Thirukkural, considered a “Universal Veda” on Humanity, he spoke about the greatness of Sage Thiruvalluvar and his monumental work Thirukkural in Parliament and urged that the birth anniversary of the sage be celebrated nationwide. The demand was immediately welcomed by members cutting across political lines and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said the government would officially announce the celebration of the divine poet’s birth anniversary. 


At the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, it was decided to celebrate Thiruvalluvar’s birth anniversary across the country by holding seminars and symposiums highlighting the great Tamil savant’s contribution. Tarun Vijay also evinced interest in the great poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharatiyar by approaching the union government to make the poet’s house in Varanasi a national heritage monument. Smriti Irani said the government would also celebrate the birth anniversary of Bharatiyar.


While expressing our thanks and appreciations to Tarun Vijay and Smriti Irani from the bottom of our hearts, we would like to draw the attention of the Union Government to the existence of an anomaly - a historical blunder - behind the celebration of Thiruvalluvar’s birth anniversary, which needs to be corrected immediately. With this in mind, we submit this Research Paper urging the Central Government to kindly take it up with the State Government and do the needful at the earliest, so that the Indian people in general and Tamils in particular all over the world can celebrate the divine poet’s birth anniversary on the correct and most appropriate day.  


Monumental Blunder by Karunanidhi Government   


The Tamil Nadu government has been celebrating Thiruvalluvar’s birth anniversary for more than three decades. But in 1971, the Karunanidhi-led DMK government declared January 15 (second day of Tamil month ‘Thai’) as the birth day of the divine poet on the basis of “Resolutions” passed by a Conference of Tamil Scholars led by Maraimalai Adigal alias Swami Vedachalam in 1921. 


As the Dravidian Movement was inimical to the usage of traditional Tamil Years, which have a 60-year cycle, Karunanidhi pushed in a system of “Thiruvalluvar Year” in the guise of bringing “continuity”. Quoting Maraimalai Adigal’s conclusive research that Thiruvalluvar was born in 31 BC, Karunanidhi declared that Thiruvalluvar’s birth year would be officially considered as Tamil Year.


However, for his own reasons, Karunanidhi conveniently forgot to take the day (Anusham star of Vaikaasi month) specifically mentioned by Maraimalai Adigal as the birth day of Sage Thiruvalluvar. Without citing any evidence, he declared Thai-1 (first day of Tamil month ‘Thai’) as birth day of Thiruvalluvar, and later, again for his own reasons, changed it to Thai-2 (second day of Thai). Due to the prevailing political climate then and also for the sake of having continuity in accounting the years, the people of Tamil Nadu including scholars, remained silent over the declaration by the DMK government.


In 2008, the then Karunanidhi government, again for its own reasons, declared the first day of Thai (Thai-1) as “Tamil New Year Day”. Here again, he mentioned the “resolutions” passed in the same “1921 Conference” led by Maraimalai Adigal alias Swami Vedachalam. It must be noted that Karunanidhi did not mention the day and month when the said conference was held in 1921.     


When we delved deep into the archives, we found no such conference was held in 1921! Hence, we created awareness among the public through various media houses and also filed a writ petition against the Karunanidhi government’s declaration of Thai-1 as Tamil New Year. While the proceedings were going on in the Madras High Court, the AIADMK government led by Jayalalitha changed the Tamil New Year back to the traditional Chithirai-1 (first day of Tamil month Chithirai) to the great relief of the Tamil community.  


Conference held by Thiruvalluvar Day Forum


As we researched various evidences in the archives, we found many details with regards to a Conference of Hundreds of Great Tamil Scholars held on 18-19 May, 1935 at Pachayapas College under the aegis of the Thiruvalluvar Day Forum (Thiruvalluvar Thirunal Kazhakam), in Chennai.


This conference, led by Maraimalai Adigal, was attended by many eminent scholars such as K Namachivaya Mudaliyar, V Kalyanasuntharanar, TP Meenakshi Sundaram, Koteeswara Mudaliyar, S Sachidanandam Pillai, B Dawood Shah, ET Rajeswari Ammal, P Kannappa Mudaliyar, T Sengalvarayan, Siva Arunagiri Mudaliyar, M Balasubramania Mudaliyar, Siva Muthukumarasami Mudaliyar, T Sengalvaraya Pillai, Kaazhi Siva Kannusami Pillai, RS Sambasiva Sharma, V Subbaiya Pillai, TP Gopalaratnam, MV Venugopal Pillai, Ninrai Thangavelu Mudaliyar, Minister in Madras Presidency S Muthaiya Mudaliyar, Deivanayakam Pillai, S Vaiyapuri Pillai and A Balakrishna Pillai, et al. More than a thousand persons attended the conference.             


In his presidential address, Maraimalai Adigal mentioned that he had arrived at the conclusion that the birth day of Thiruvalluvar was the day on which Anusham star falls in the Tamil month of Vaikaasi. This conclusion was based on the Tamil, indeed Bharatiya tradition, of celebrating anniversaries based on Nakshatra and Thithi (star and day). It could not be a coincidence that May 18, 1935, the day the Conference was inaugurated, was also Vaikaasi Anusham!


During the conference proceedings, Maraimalai Adigal never forced the delegates to accept his conclusion. The Conference never mentioned Thiruvalluvar’s birth year as a benchmark for ‘continuity’. The conference didn’t pass any resolution at all – as claimed by Karunanidhi. In fact, Karunanidhi for his own reasons had misled the people by saying that the Conference was held in 1921, when it was actually held in 1935. The Conference had a nine-point agenda and neither “Tamil New Year” nor “Continuity of Years” figured among them. The main purpose was to celebrate Vaikaasi-Anusham as the birth anniversary of Thiruvalluvar every year and feeding the poor people through annadanam on that day.


Authentic evidences for Vaikaasi-Anusham


We feel that both the Central and State Governments must utilize this God given opportunity to correct the historical wrong committed by the Karunanidhi regime. The doubts and uncertainties over the birth anniversary of Sage Thiruvalluvar must be cleared and settled once and for all. We have collated the following authentic evidences, apart from the above mentioned conference.


-        Marai. Thirunavukkarasu, son of Maraimalai Adigal, who wrote his father’s biography, mentions that he had accompanied his father on a trip to Sri Lanka in 1921 and that his father had addressed a seminar on the first day of Thai in Jaffna. Thus, Karunanidhi’s claim falls to pieces. Moreover, Karunanidhi, himself being a Tamil scholar, could not have missed this biography, leave alone the other evidences of the said Conference.


-        Following the 1935 Conference, Thiruvalluvar Day Forum celebrated the divine poet’s birth anniversary on the day of Vaikaasi-Anusham under the presidentship of Sri UV Swaminatha Iyer in 1936.


-        Francis Whyte Ellis, a civil servant in Madras Presidency during the British period, was a scholar of Tamil and Sanskrit. He documented that Thiruvalluvar was a divine poet and that his birth anniversary was celebrated in the Thiruvalluvar Temple in Mylapore.


-        Scholar Thiruthanikai Saravana Perumal Iyer had published Thirukkural in 1837, wherein he noted a proclamation made by the British government announcing Vaikaasi-Anusham as the birth day of Thiruvalluvar.


-        The Thiruvalluvar Temple in Mylapore has been celebrating Thiruvalluvar’s birth anniversary every year, right from the beginning to till date, on Vaikaasi-Anusham. Scholar and epigraphist S Ramachandran opines that the Temple must have been built during the 13th century. He says he has seen the original sculpture of Thiruvalluvar, which was unearthed from inside the temple complex in 1974, when the then Karunanidhi government arranged for the renovation of the temple. He added that the sculpture could not be consecrated as it was slightly damaged.  Even today, the old Iluppai tree is there inside the temple, as a remembrance of his place of birth. The hut which was beside the tree was replaced by the temple in which is ensconced a replica of the sage. Maraimalai Adigal made a mention of this fact.


-        Periyar EV Ramasami Naicker, who is adored by Dravidian politicians including Karunanidhi as Thanthai (father), has also documented Vaikaasi-Anusham as the birth day of Thiruvalluvar.


-        CN Annadurai, former Chief Minister and founder of DMK, had once led the celebration of Thiruvalluvar Day on Vaikaasi-Anusham at Seven Wells area in Chennai.


-        Pandit KP Ratnam, a great Tamil scholar from Colombo, founded the Tamil Marai Kazhakam (Tamil Vedic Forum) and through it spread the message worldwide that Thiruvalluvar’s birth anniversary must be celebrated on the auspicious day of Vaikaasi-Anusham. Tamil scholars across the world accepted his message and followed it in letter and spirit.


-        On Vaikaasi Anusham on 2 June 1966, during the Congress regime, the then President Dr S Radhakrishnan unveiled the statue of Thiruvalluvar in Mylapore in the presence of the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Bhaktavatsalam and the then Mayor of Chennai Mr Minor Moses. Bhaktavatsalam also declared Vaikaasi-Anusham as a holiday to mark the birth anniversary of the sage.


-        We have also, via an RTI application, obtained information from the HR&CE Department of Tamil Nadu government confirming that the Thiruvalluvar Temple in Mylapore, which is under its administration, has been celebrating Vaikaasi-Anusham as the birth day of Thiruvalluvar.


Therefore, the mistake committed by the then Tamil Nadu government must be undone. The present Central and State Governments should put this opportunity to good use.


(To be continued…)

Professor Sami Thiagarajan is President of the Dravidian Intellectual Forum, Chennai; BR Gauthaman is Director of the Vedic Science Research Center, Chennai

Translation: R Sudarshan & BR Haran   

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