Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Science Behind Tamil Calendar

This article is written in such way so that those with no prior knowledge in astronomy understands it. There are actually more information which have been left out as it could confuse the readers.

Click the link below to read the previous article relevant to this topic:
http://sharmalanthevar.blogspot.com/2013/03/tamil-new-year-date.html



The Tamil people follow the Sidereal Solar Calendar. A sidereal year is the time it takes for Earth to orbit the Sun with respect to Zodiacs and also the time the Sun takes to return to the same position with respect to these Zodiacs. The Zodiacs are actually a set of fixed stars in the sky. 

The imaginary black circle around the Sun is known as the Ecliptic. Although Earth orbits the Sun in red circle, it does not follow a horizontal line. The Earth is actually tilted by 23.5 degrees. 

The points where the Earth's orbit touches the Ecliptic is known as Equinox. There are two Equinox. 

The first Equinox is known as the Spring Equinox. The last Equinox is known as the Autumnal Equinox. 

Presently, Spring Equinox happens around 20 March each year. This is the moment which the Telugu people celebrate as Ugadhi festival as per their Tropical Solar Calendar. 

Since the Earth rotates while orbiting the Sun and there is also its own wobbling, there will be a slow down. Because of this, there will be a slight shift in the Spring Equinox each year. This causes the arrival of seasons to fall back by 1 day once every 71.6 years. 

The position of the Zodiacs are permanent and this is an important reason to follow the Sidereal Solar Calendar. The first Zodiac is Aries and this Zodiac is located after the first equinox.

The entry of Earth into Aries is what we Tamils celebrate as Puthandu (New Year). It usually happens around April 14. 

There are some Tamil scholars who claim that Nacchinaarkiniyar, in his commentary to Tholkaappiyam says that Tamil New Year started in mid August (Aavani) and ended in mid July (Aadi). So they disagree with it starting in mid April (Chithirai).

What they don't realise is, there are many calendar cycles in India and each has a difference purpose. 

The year mentioned by Nacchinaarkiniyar actually refers to a spiritual year meant for the learning of Vedas. It is not the same as the ordinary material year which we follow.

This is the same concept which we can see in modern day companies having a separate financial year which does not begin on January 1. Some companies start their financial year in March instead of January 1. That does not mean the actual year begins in March.

Our Tamil ancestors did not blindly invent the Sidereal Solar Calendar. This is actually a very accurate calendar. It is not based on the birth of any religious Prophet. It is not based on any historical event. It is not a mere coincidence. 

It is based on the science of astronomy. This is the truth behind our calendar system which we have been following for many centuries. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Movie Review - Komban (2015)


(SPOILER ALERT!)

I watched the much anticipated "controversial" Tamil movie, Komban, few hours ago.  Unlike what some caste based group like Puthiya Tamilagam  tried portraying, there is actually nothing controversial about this movie.

Prior to its release in Tamil Nadu, Dr.Krishnasamy of the Pallar caste dominated Puthiya Tamilagam, filed a petition in the court seeking to ban this movie. Dr.Krishnasamy claimed that this movie will cause caste clashes to happen. 

However, after watching this movie, I can boldly say that the protest is not based on any truth. It is clear that the protest was probably motivated by personal hatred. It was the same Dr.Krishnasamy who protested more than a decade ago and caused Kamal Hassan's Sandiyar to be renamed as Virumandi.

There was also a protest by a lawyer named Mr.J.Anthony Livingston. He claimed that the movie insults the Nadar community. However, this is not true as there is no reference to the Nadars in the movie. Furthermore, actor Sarathkumar who is also the president of the Nadigar Sangam, has spoken against the protest. Sarathkumar is also from the Nadar community.

For a start, let me just frankly clarify to all that Komban is about the Mukkulathor community of Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) district. It has the similar social atmosphere of Thevar Magan and Paruthi Veeran. This can be easily understood when one watches the movie although there is no mention of any caste name in their script. 

Furthermore, the names of the regions mentioned as Vellanadu, Semmanadu and Aappanadu; the kinship terminologies  such as Aiyah, Chinnaiyah, Mathani; names like Muthaiyah, Niraikulathan, Kombayyan, Doraipandi; worship of Karupusamy; use of weapons like Valari; phrases like "Vecha kudumi, adicha mottai" and "Kadichittu vaadanu sonna, kavvittu varanom, athanda unmaiyana Mara-payyen"; blowing of the conch and absence of Brahmin priest in the wedding scene just adds to the Mukkulathor-ism in the movie.

So it is not a secret that Komban has a caste flavor in it. Should this be a movie shot in Coimbatore and emphasizes on local culture, then it will be based on the local Vellala  Gounder caste. Karthi's other recent movie, Madras, is based on the political aspirations of the Parayar community.

This is not something bad at all as the movie makers only intend to create the right social atmosphere for their story line. Most importantly, it did not insult any particular caste. 

There may be caste flavor in such movies, but there is no casteism in a bad light. So why should we even protest about it? As viewers, we should have the maturity to accept it. This is not a culture shock for us Tamils.

Komban is based on the life of the people in three divisions of Ramnad named Vellanadu, Semmanadu and Aappanadu. These Nadus are usually old divisions of the kingdom which once existed. There are several Nadus like this in Tamil Nadu especially in the south.

Karthi plays the role of Kombayya Pandian. A no-nonsense, carefree butcher from Aappanadu. Tambi Ramiah acts as his maternal uncle, Rajakili. Kovai Sarala as Karthi's mother. Rajkiran as his father in law, Muthaiah, from Semmanadu. Lakshmi Menon as Pazhani, his wife; Karunas as Muniandi, his elder cousin; and Veluchamy Ramamoorthy (Mathayanaikootam) as his Chinnaiah named Doraipandi.

There is a power struggle in the local panchayat of these three Nadus. This is where the villain Kundan plays an important role. He, his sons, son-in-law and henchmen are the local mafia. They decide on the entire panchayat system and kills anyone who questions their authority.

Our hero Komban has a rough start with Muthaiah. He disrespects his father in law and during an argument, even hits him. Komban then realizes his mistake, promises his wife that he will tone down his temperament and work for the better. Things then get better between Komban and Muthaiah.

Fate some how adds a twist and causes Komban to cross swords with Kundan and his gang. The movie is then all about how Komban overcomes Kundan and saves his family especially his father in law from being killed by Kundan.

Like all other good Tamil movies, the hero defeats the villain and saves his family.

Komban is basically the more decent version of Paruthi Veeran with a happy ending. 

The presence of Thambi Ramaiah and Kovai Sarala in the movie brings in humor. Karunas, though a comedian, played a serious role. Rajkiran was as usual superb in his fatherly role. Lakshmi Menon too did well as a typical yet confident village girl. Can't think of anyone else to act in her role. Veluchamy who acted as Veera Thevar in Mathayanaikootam did well in this movie. However, he played a lesser serious and more joyful role.

If you are someone who does not like excessive fight scenes, then this movie is not for you. There will be a fight scene probably once almost every 15 minutes right from the start till the end of the movie. However, this is something which I expected.

As what one of my friends said "Namba padam, appadithaan irukom"

Other than that, the movie also emphasized on the importance of clan ties, family responsibilities, the importance of patience, and putting aside ego to seek forgiveness. The last reminded me of Kamal's message in Virumandi.

The entire movie was shot in villages in Ramanathapuram district except for one song which was shot in a village nearby Chennai. Sceneries were fine and suited the village theme.

I will say that GV Prakash did fairly good for the music and songs. My favourite is Kambikara Vetti.

Overall, I was entertained by this movie and will surely recommend others to watch it. I will give it a 3.7 out of 5.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Earlobe Stretching - Forgotten Culture of Tamil People



My father's eldest sister, Pichaiammal of Sivagangai district, Tamil Nadu. She was born in the 1930s and is probably among the last of the few Tamil women (Maravar) who have stretched earlobes. 

Culture changes according to time. Up to the previous generation, it was normal for Tamil women to practice earlobe stretching. 

Usually, a girl will be given a pair of heavy pair of earrings by her parents just before her wedding. The heavy pair of earrings displays their wealth. 

Some of these earrings weighs around 16 gram. These earrings are quite heavy and over the time, the weight stretches the earlobes. It is considered as a mark of beauty. Some also believe that the longer it stretches, the longer her life will be.


A scene from Angkor Wat that shows two group of people involved in cock fighting. The ones on the left have stretched earlobes. 
Source: http://www.oldworldwandering.com/
The earrings used by the Tamil women to stretch their earlobes are known as Thandatti and Pambadam. The word Pambadam comes from the Tamil word for serpent, Pambu. The Pambadam is shaped like a Cobra's hood.

Cobra is known as Naga in India. The Naga worship was very popular in ancient Tamil Nadu and also in other parts of ancient India. Today, Naga worship has been absorbed into mainstream Hinduism. 


Naga worship as part of Hinduism
Source: www.hinduwebsite.com

The ancient Naga worshippers were known as Nagar in Tamil language. Usually in English, we just call them as the Nagas. The Nagas were once spread all over the Indian subcontinent. 

Pambadam is probably a leftover of this ancient Naga culture. 

Apart from the Tamil people, earlobe stretching was also practised by other communities such as the Kenyah tribe of Borneo and the Masai tribe of Africa. 

We are not sure if they were part of the ancient Naga culture. Like the Tamils, these tribes also stretch their earlobes for the same purpose of beautifying themselves. 

Please take a look at the pictures below which I found in the internet. 

Reference:
Earring: Ornamental Identity and Beauty in India
by Waltraud Ganguly

Snake Earrings of India: Their social, religious and sumbolical context
by Waltraud Ganguly




A pair of Thandatti
http://www.saffronart.com/

A pair of  Pambadam
Source: http://www.saffronart.com/

Tamil woman with stretched earlobes
Source: http://m5.i.pbase.com/o2/75/648575/1/140360075.ss6OnPZc.Pambadam.jpg
Tamil woman with stretched earlobes
Source: http://m9.i.pbase.com/o1/75/648575/1/139707189.U9CcoU22.5xPambadamSnakeearringsinTamilNadu.JPG

Masai woman with stretched earlobes
Source: lavera-photo-stories.com

Masai woman with stretched earlobes
Source: dpreview.com
Kenyah woman with stretched earlobes
Source: Ardi Sayuti @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/adventure-borneo/3662246879/