The new year in India is celebrated in different regions in different styles. The days of celebration also varies. Tamil New year is known as ‘Varusha Pirappu’ or ‘Puthandu’. It is celebrated on the first Tamil Month of Tamil calendar Chithirai.
‘Puthandu’ represents the Tamil New Year’s Day and it is celebrated in the Chithirai beginning, which is the first month as per the Tamil Calendar year. This is an auspicious occasion and mostly the Tamil New Year falls on 13th or 14th April based on the Gregorian calendar.
Tamil Nadu people also celebrate this day for their existence. It is believed that Lord Brahma, the creator started the creation of human beings and the universe on the New Year day. Hindu mythology believes that this day was the creation day of the world and it was initiated by Lord Brahma.
The ‘Panchangam’ begins from this day and is published at this time in April. This new almanac (panchangam) is read on this day as an important ritual. Traditionally, it is read by the family pundit, now by father or mother or the head of the nuclear family.
Varusha Pirappu in Tamil Nadu is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and the traditional gaiety is apparent all over. On this New Year day, the courtyards of the houses are decorated using colorful kolam (rangoli). There are special pujas conducted in temples. At the same time visiting temples, worshipping deities are important features of this celebration.
Tamil Nadu’s ‘Varusha Pirappu’ is all about feasting and merrymaking. The traditional feast includes poli, vadai, and payasam. As the New Year falls in April, it is the time for neem flowers and raw mangoes. This gives the reason for a special dish ‘Mango Pachchadi’ served in lunch. This Pachchadi is made using raw mango pieces, new jaggery, new tamarind, and neem flowers.
The bitterness of the neem, the sweetness of jaggery, the tamarind and mango taste is to signify the human life conflicting aspects, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and agony, success and failure. The scientific fact of taking raw mangoes and neem flowers is to cleanse the body from toxins. At the same time, this also marks the starting of the agricultural season and on this special day, the first tilling of land is done.
Puthandu rituals start with womenfolk getting up early in the morning and decorating their house entrances with colorful kollams. The kollam center is decorated with Kuthuvillaku, a lamp in the belief that it dispels darkness. Tamil Nadu customary is to visit temples and to seek divine blessings for the year ahead.
A very popular custom is ‘Kanni’ and it means the auspicious sight. People begin this beautiful Puthandu day after watching the ‘Kanni’ that is all the auspicious things such as silver and gold jewelry, betel leaves, flower, fruits, vegetables, coconuts, and raw rice.
All this is usually kept set ready before the night itself so that the New Year day morning the ‘Kanni’ is seen at first sight. It is done with a belief that the New Year offers a good start and ensures happiness and prosperity in the coming year. Following the Kanni is the bath and visiting the temple ritual. After the temple visit, reading the panchangam is done.
Tamil Nadu New Year Celebrations
The celebrations of Puthandu include the best festive food relating to the aspects of life. In fact, if children dislike the bitter taste of neem and disagree to eat, the parents or grandparents make them understand why it has to be included. Of course, in a way the children understand. The explanation includes the aspect of life and scientific reason.
Many people paint their house right before the New Year. People, neighbors, relatives, and friends exchange greetings shouting Puthandu Vazhtukal (new Year Wishes). With technological advancements, nowadays, emails, phone messages, greeting cards, WhatsApp, Facebook and so on get flooded with wishes for the New Year. Youngsters are very excited on this day as they receive gifts from elders.
The highlight of the New Year day is a Car Festival held near Kumbakonam at Tiruvadamarudur. The Tamil New Year is also celebrated with pomp and grandeur at Kanchipuram, Madurai, and Tiruchirapalli. This day is also celebrated in the Madurai temple in a grand manner as the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarar.
On the Puthandu eve, a tray with three fruits banana, mango, and jack-fruit is arranged. The tray is filled with silver and gold jewelry, betel leaves, areca nuts, money, mirror, and flowers. Some also fill it with vegetables and lots more. This tray is viewed soon after waking up, early in the morning. People get up from the bed and with eyes closed come near the tray or are escorted by early risers to the tray and they open their eyes viewing this full tray known as ‘Kanni’. This is followed by bathing and pooja. Sweet pongal, which is the special recipe of the day is offered to God.
In Madurai, a huge exhibition ‘Chithitai Porutkaatchi’ is held in the temple of Meenakshi Amman. The Sinhala, the Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka calls Tamil New Year as ‘Avurudda’ and it is a national holiday.
Rituals with Aluth Avurudda starts with taking a bath on the last day of the old year which is followed by viewing the moon at the night. With this, the drums beating and the bell pealing are accompanied and the temples announce the times for different rituals to be performed.
They offer betel to elders and parents as a custom signifying the act of gratitude. Children receive blessings and a sense of friendship and goodwill is seen. The uniqueness in Avurudda is that the New Year indicates the old year conclusion. Customary bathing is taken that is an herbal bath representing physical purification. It is done by anointing with gingelly oil as it has a soothing effect. Preparation of sweets such as asmi, aluva, aggala, kevum, kokis and atirasa is done three days before the New Year.
Meals too are taken at the auspicious time. Avurudu is rich in tradition and culture. They visit the temple, give alms to the poor and an important feature on this New Year day is to visit relatives and friends.
Overall, the festival is a combination of religious aspects and social aspects, time to strengthen family bonds and exhibit love and support for each other.