Tamil New Year / Chithirai 1 / Tamil Puthandu
New years bloom :
With the month of April already unfurled halfway, what will now begin is an auspicious epoch in the Hindu calendar. For several regions and communities across our beautifully diverse country, mid-April marks the bloom of a new year and subsequent festivities and celebrations. From West Bengal in the east to Kerala down south, different nooks and crannies of India come alive during this period with the promises of a rosy new beginning, in the way of regional festivals and customs centred around welcoming the first day of the new year.
What is Tamil New year :
One such festival almost knocking at our doors is the Tamil New Year. Also known as Puthandu, or Puthuvarusham, the Tamil New Year demarcates the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai or the beginning of the new year. As applicable for almost all the regions in India, the Tamil New Year celebration comprises of certain key customs, and practices, along with widespread festive fervour. And on that note, here's a round-up of all you need to know about Puthandu, or Tamil New Year 2020.
Tamil New Year Origin & Festival Significance
The Tamil calendar follows a traditional 60-year cycle, marked by 5 revolutions of Jupiter and 2 of Saturn, and with each year beginning with the month of Chithirai. The Tamil New Year follows the spring equinox, which usually translates to the 14th of April in the Gregorian calendar.
There are several mentions in Tamil literature about the significance of this day, ranging from Nakkirar in the 3rd century declaring the movement of the Sun from Aries throughout the eleven consecutive zodiac signs as occurring on this day, to the ancient Tamil grammar Tolkaapiyam separating the year into six distinct seasons, with this day marking the beginning of the season of Summer.
The day of Puthandu, or Tamil New Year festival has been cited as a crucial day by several inscriptional references and in pious Tamil scripts, and consequently, established as an immemorial celebration of the first day, of the first month, of the Tamil solar calendar.
While the Tamil New Year might be celebrated roughly on the 14th of April each year, preparations marking the arrival of the auspicious festival begin well in advance. Two of the most crucial elements of traditional Tamil New Year celebration are, thorough cleaning and decoration of the house, coupled with making food arrangements according to the principle of Arusuvai.
Tamil New Year Home Decoration
The day before the Puthandu festival is spent by most celebrants on cleaning the house in anticipation of a new beginning. Every surface and corner in the house is cleaned and dusted, and the overall space tidied according to festival standards. This thorough home cleaning on the eve of Tamil New Year is practised by Tamilians in accordance with the belief of discarding all old negativity in order to make space for something new. In addition to cleaning their house, Tamilians also participate in festival home decoration, including adorning the doorway with strings of mango leaves, and creating intricate Kolam (rangoli) designs with rice flour, at the threshold of the house.
Tamil New Year & Ritual Of Kanni
A pivotal custom in Tamil New Year celebration is the ritual of Kanni, which translates to "auspicious sight" in Tamil. Kanni is performed with the belief that it will bring happiness and prosperity in the new upcoming year, and involves the arrangement of a tray laden with three fruits (mango, banana, jackfruit), betel leaves, areca nuts, gold/silver jewellery, money and flowers, in order to appease Goddess Laxmi. As a part of the festival, Tamilians put up a big mirror in their Puja room and place the tray in front of it. This tray is arranged on the eve of Puthandu, and as the name suggests, needs to be looked at first thing on the morning of Tamil New Year day.
On The Day Of Puthandu
On the day of the Puthandu festival, Tamilians wake up early in the morning, and take a head-to-toe cleansing bath as a way of beginning the celebrations. A number of Tamilians also choose the festival day to indulge in a herbal bath such as one with Turmeric, although most modern members stick to a regular bath.
While it isn't a mandate, most Tamilian families don new clothes on the day of Puthandu festival. Just like the morning cleansing bath, wearing brand new apparel is a way to mark a new beginning. Thus, needless to say, the last few days of the year witness crowds of enthusiastic Tamilians flogging to stores, and shopping for clothes.
On the morning of the Puthandu festival, members of the family gather together to pray and give their offerings to their idols. The prayers include different aspects such as Aarathi and Saambrani, along with chanting, singing divine songs and ringing brass bells. Many Tamilians also visit temples to pray and convey their devotion on Tamil New Year.
The younger members and children of the family receive presents or money from the elders on the day of Puthandu. The Panchagam, a Hindu calendar and almanac, is read out loud by either the head priest or the eldest family member.
Tamil New Year Food Menu
The final crucial element in Tamil New Year celebration is a vegetarian feast enjoyed between close family and friends. The main star of this traditional feast is a special dish called Mangai-Pachadi, packed with an assortment of various flavours. This special Tamil New Year dish is made from sweet jaggery, astringent mustard, sour raw mango, bitter neem, and red chillies, and forms an important part of the Tamil New Year rituals. Other accompanying dishes include popular vegetarian Tamil delicacies such as Dhal Poli, and Veppam Poo Rasam. The melange of flavours in the traditional Tamil New Year dish of Mangai-Pachadi represents the diverse experiences awaiting you in the new year, most of which are neither entirely sweet nor bitter.
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