India being a land of diversity is made of numerous states and each and every state has their own rich cultural heritage and traditions, which make this country and its innumerable celebrations so very interesting.
Puthandu or Tamil New Year is the celebration of the New Year observed by the people in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India. Tamils in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Singapore too observe this day with fanfare and enthusiasm.
This very auspicious occasion is also known as Varusha Pirappu. It is generally believed that on this auspicious day, Lord Brahma started his creations, thus the day is considered to be exceptionally holy.
- Date of the Puthandu
Following the Vernal Equinox or the Mesha Sankranti, this date should have been nearer March, but is now celebrated somewhere in the traditional Hindu month of Chaitra or April according to the Gregorian calendar. It is generally observed on the 14th of April according to the Gregorian calendar and is a public holiday in Tamil Nadu. Thus traditionally the Tamil New year starts on the 14th of April, which is the Kali Yuga 5118.
- Celebration of the Puthandu
Puthandu is the New Year for the Tamil observed in the month of Chitterai, which is also the first month of the Tamil Solar calendar. On the last day of the last year, which is on the eve of Puthandu, all Tamilian household prepare a tray. This tray is laden with three kinds of fruits – mango, banana and jackfruit, areca nuts and couple of betel leaves, gold or silver jewellery, a mirror, some cash or money , rice, coconuts and flowers are kept. This is to be viewed the first thing in the morning. This tradition is called the kanni, which loosely translates into auspicious sight. People believe that an auspicious sight will lead the year to be auspicious and fulfilling. Post the Kanni, people have a cleansing bath and throng to the temples to seek divine blessings.
The houses are all decorated with beautiful and colorful kolams. In the center of the Kolams is a lamp called the kuthuvillakku. This lamp is lit because it is firmly believed that it is that the loght of this lamp will dispel all darkness.
Another highlight of the Puthandu is the reading of the Panchangam or the almanac. This is a traditional activity where people all sit together along with the most elderly person who reads out from the almanac about the ensuing year.
- Celebrations in Tamil Nadu
In the temple city of Madurai the month long celebration called the Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated. It is the longest celebration in the world and goes on for a month. The first 15 days is dedicated to the Goddess Meenakshi and the rest 15 days is for Alagar, who is worshipped in a form of Lord Vishnu. Huge exhibitions and fairs are held called Chitterai Porutkaatchi, which in the southern part of Tamil Nadu is called is called the Chittirai Vishu.
To celebrate this auspicious New Year, people all wear new clothes and the best of delicacies are cooked in the Tamilian households. The highlight of the festivity is the consumption of the Maanga Pachadi. This is an unique preparation made out of Jaggery, raw mangoes and Neem flowers. It is a taste which is bitter sweet and sour all in one, representing the various aspects of life and how it should be met and taken with equal equanimity.
In the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange pleasantries of the New Year and wish each other with Puthandu Vazthukal which means Happy New Year.
A huge and grand car festival is held on this day at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam. Numerous festivals are also observed in places like Tiruchirapalli, Kanchipuram etc.
- Celebrations at other places
In Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Tamils observe this day with the first financial dealing of the day called Kai-vishesham. It is a tradition where the elders give some money to the youngsters as a mark of blessings. They also take a herbal bath called the maruthu-neer’ and observe arpudu, or the first ploughing of the field in order to prepare for a good harvest. The Sri Lankan Tamils observe and follow the time of Punya Kalam to start all auspicious work. In Malaysia and Singapore also this day is marked with prayers, festivities and a lot of fanfare.
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