The Ontikoppal Panchangam, another name for the Tamil calendar, which is a solar and sidereal Hindu astrological calendar, used in Tamil Nadu, parts of Pondicherry, and by the Tamilians based in parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. These calendars, like any other astrological calendars, are used for the prediction of various cultural and religious events and dates.
Ontikoppal Panchangam and its Fast Facts:
The Tamil New Year, which generally falls on either the 13th or the 14th of the month of April of the Gregorian year, is used as the first day of the Tamil calendar. This day is considered as a public holiday in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. This date is the same as the traditional day of New Year at places like Burma,Cambodia,Laos,Sri Lanka,Bangladesh,Nepal and Thailand. The Vikrama and the Shalivahana Saka eras are used here as well. A number of references have been made in the early Tamil literatures about this April new year.
The author of the Nedunalvaadai, Nakkirar, wrote in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha or Chitterai through the eleven successive Raashis or the zodiac signs. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest known Tamil grammar that has divided the year in six seasons, according to which Chitterai is known to be the start of the Ilavenil season or the summer season. Silappadikaaram of the eight century named the twelve raashis or zodiac signs which started from Mesha or Chitterai.
Adiyaarkunalaar, who was an early medieval commentator or also known as Urai-asiriyar, gave names to the twelve months of the Tamil Hindu calendar with a specific reference made to Chitterai raashi.
Subsequently, there were more inscriptions made which gave references in Pagan, Burma which dated back to the 11th century and in Sukhothai, Thailand which dated back to the fourteenth century to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were given the task of defining correctly the traditional astrological calendar beginning in the mid of the month of April. The days of the Ontikoppal Panchangam are based on the planetary bodies of the solar system, namely, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, in this same sequence.
The week for this calendar starts on the Sunday. For Tamilians, every day begins at sun rise. As per the Tamil calendar, a month comprises of number of days ranging from twenty nine and thirty two. One important point here remains that, the months as per the Sanskrit calendar start one month ahead of the months of the Tamil calendar. The reason for this being that the Tamil calendar is basically a solar calendar, while the Sanskrit calendar is a lunisolar calendar. The Tamil year comprises of six seasons, each lasting for a period of two months. The Tamil calendar is known to have a period cycle of sixty years.
The Ontikoppal Panchangam is extremely important in the life of Tamilians, as majority of their festivals are based on this calendar. Few of these festivals are the Tamil New Year also known as Puthandu, Thai Pongal, Deepavali, Panguni Uthiram, Thirukaarthigai, Aadiperukku, Navaratri etc.