Every year there are two Vishus and two Ayanaas. The two Vishus are Chaitra Vishu and Tula Vishu. On these two days, the duration of the day and the night is equal, i.e., exactly 12 hours in the day and 12 hours in the night. The two Ayanaas are Makaraayana and Katakaayana. The former is the day in the year when the night is the longest, the difference between the duration of the day and that of the night being about 40 minutes. The latter is the day in the year when the day is longest. The maximum difference between the duration of the day and that of the night increases as we go further north. These four days, the two Vishus and the two Ayanaas, are considered very auspicious. Devoted persons perform tarpanam तर्पणं) to their deceased ancestors on those days. It is also considered meritorious to bathe in holy rivers and to give charity on these occasions.
There was a time when Chaitra Vishu and Tula Vishu corresponded to the days on which the Sun enters the zodiacal signs of Aries (Mesha) and Libra (Tula) respectively. Similarly, Makaraayana and Katakaayana corresponded to the days on which the Sun enters the signs of Capricorn (Makaram) and Cancer (Katakam) respectively. But due to changes that come about in the planetary motions in the course of thousands of years, these four events now occur about 22 days earlier than on the dates given in Panchangams, though we continue to observe these days according to the original calculation. Astronomically, Uttaraayana commences today (December 22, 1958), and that accounts for the observance of Makaraayana today by the Mutt, though the popular observance falls only on January 14.
All of you are aware of the movement to familiarize children with Tiruppavai and Tiruvembavai. The present trends in education and social life make one apprehensive whether the future generation of children will be able to imbibe the religious traditions of this land. Atheistic propaganda has already begun to poison young minds. If the seed of devotion is sown in the mind of a child, it is bound to germinate one day or other. That is the reason why propagandists of political and other ideologies try to catch hold of students, though professing outwardly that students should not take part in politics and other movements.
There are special occasions when children belonging to other religions are provided with opportunities to think of God and to repeat His name, like Christmas for Christians. Such dedicated occasions must be provided for Hindu children also, for enabling them to think of God and to prayerfully repeat His name. But it now looks as if our children will grow up without any knowledge of our religion. Therefore, it is necessary, at the appropriate stage in their scholastic career, that these children should be familiarized with devotional works so that the seed of bhakti may be firmly embedded in their hearts. For this purpose, what better works can we think of than Tiruppavai, Tiruvembavai and Tiruppalliyezhuchi.
I will, therefore, suggest that we should place in the hands of each boy and girl, studying in the fourth or fifth standard, a book containing all these three devotional songs, Tiruppavai, contains 30 songs, and both Tiruvembavai and Tiruppalliyezhuchi together contain 30 songs. The distribution of the book should be done just before the commencement of the Maargazhi மார்கழி month (December-January). Each boy or girl can be given the option of memorizing either Tiruppavai, or both Tiruvembavai and Tiruppalliyezhuchi or all the three. A recitation competition can be arranged during the Maargazhi month, and silver or gold coins (காசு) bearing the imprint of Sri Ambikai, distributed to all those who recite the songs without faltering. Special prizes can be instituted for those who recite the songs musically, and for those who are able to explain their meaning. The annual expenditure involved in printing the books containing these songs and the cost of the prizes can be worked out for each area, and land endowments capable of bringing in an income sufficient to meet the estimated expenditure may be invited from the public. The present is an opportune moment for obtaining such land gifts, as far-reaching land reforms fixing ceilings on individual holdings are in the offing. Those who have lands can endow property for this noble cause and earn the grace of God.