KAUAI, HAWAII, December 31, 2012 (HPI): An article in the Daily Pioneer (here) published December 30 reads:
"Hindu groups and tantrik scholars in Tamil Nadu have questioned the propriety of midnight pujas and homams held in Government controlled temples in the State to usher in the New Year. Temples coming under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department (HR&CE) open the sanctum sanctorum for special pujas on the New Year eve. 'This is a new phenomenon incorporated into the system to ape the western culture. Midnight pujas are against the Hindu tradition and heritage. As per our tantric laws, it is a sin to perform mid-night pujas in temples. This will lead to major disasters for the country and hardship for the rulers,' Parappanangadi Unnikrishna Panicker, leading tantrik and vedic scholar told The Pioneer. He said pujas are to be performed only in the morning as well as in the dusk. 'We worship and pray during the sunrise to welcome the day and ensure the well being of the society. The phase Brhama Muhurtam, the period between early morning and the sun rise is the traditional puja time. It is against Indian tradition to welcome the midnight,' he said. But Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, the octogenarian scholar and head of Arsha Vidya Gurukal, is of the view that there is nothing wrong in pujas being performed at mid-night. 'Times are changing. All of us celebrate New Year eve and January 1 and one should not give much importance to the midnight pujas,' said the Swami."
Hindu Press International asked renowned Agamic scholar Dr. Sabharathanam of Chennai his considered opinion on the topic. He stated:
"The views expressed by Unnikrishna Panicker and the leader of the Hindu
Peoples Party (also quoted in the article) are baseless, beyond doubt. Swami Dayananda Sarasvati could have been a bit more specific. To celebrate the commencement of a New Year which occurs in various systems of time-cycle in Hindu Temples is not at all wrong. It is not violating the Agamic rules. Such celebration comes under the naimittika type of worship. Generally, there are three types of worship - nitya (daily), naimittika (occasional) and optional (kamya). Worship being done on important and auspicious occasions goes by the name naimittika. Since the temple worship is meant for the welfare of the whole world, there is nothing wrong in considering the beginning of Julian year as an important occasion. Even the midnight puja is not prohibited in the Agamas. In fact, it is well and good to perform the worship at midnight. What about Maha Sivaratri? Midnight worship is perfectly done on that occasion. It is included among the worship-system of six, seven and eight sessions."
"In fact, this puja at the midnight of 31st December enables the common people to direct their attention and works towards Divine aspects and Divinities, instead of wasting their time in clubs, parties, drinking, dancing and chasing. Instead of finding fault with such worship, they should have advised the people not to indulge in such activities which actually reflect the western culture."
"It was in the year 1917 that Sri Vallimalai Swami, a great Siddha, started the pati utsava(steps-festival) at Tirutthani, one of the six sacred places of Lord Skanda. In his time, people used to go to the residence of the British Masters on the eve of every New Year, bow down before them, offer some gifts and come back. This great Siddha advised the devotees: 'See, our Supreme Lord is Skanda only. Why are you going to the earthly masters on the midnight of 31st December? Turn your attention and go to the shrine of our Supreme Lord at Tirutthani on the eve of every julian New Year. Let us join together, go to Tiruttani, climb the steps one by one, singing one Tiruppugal song at each step. Reach the shrine at midnight and perform abhisheka and aradhana to Lord Skanda for the benefit of the world, be blessed by Him and distribute His blessings to all the people.' Taking his advice, about 1,000 devotees assembled to climb the steps (pati, in Tamil) and led by Vallimalai Swami, they climbed the steps of the hill, singing Tiruppugal song at each step and performed worship at the midnight. In the next year 1918, the number of devotees boosted dramatically up to one hundred thousand! This step-festival (pati utsava) is still continuing. Now, about five hundred thousands of devotees are taking part in this festival! The mission of the great Siddha is being perfectly fulfilled."
"Such should be the views of the modern leaders. They should think in wider