Tamil Puthandu is known as Chithirai thirunal better known as Tamil New Year celebrated on the first day of Tamil calender Chitirai month by Tamils and popularly celebrated as Varusha Pirappu or Chithirai Kani. This Festival is celebrated by all the Tamils across world wide.
The Tamil New Year follows the spring equinox and generally falls on 14 April of the Gregorian year.
There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year. Nakkirar, Sangam period author of the Neṭunalvāṭai, wrote in the third century CE that the sun travels each year from Mesha/Chittiraai in mid-April through 11 successive signs of the zodiac
Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the third century CE refers to Mesha Raasi/Chittirai i.e. mid-April as the commencement of the year in the Puṟanāṉūṟu.
The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chittirai i.e. mid-April marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer.
The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs that correspond to the Tamil months starting with Mesha/Chitterai in mid-April. The Manimekalai alludes to this very same Hindu solar calendar as we know it today.
On Tamil Puthandu, People celebrate the festival with great joy and enthusiasm. On the eve of Tamil New year, A tray is arranged with three fruits (mango, banana and jackfruit), betel leaves, areca nuts, gold/silver jewellery, money, flowers and a mirror. This tray has to be viewed early in the morning soon after waking up. This ritual is known as ‘Kanni,’ The ritual of ‘Kanni brings happiness and prosperity in the new year.
The entrance of the house is decorated with elaborate Kolams or rangoli. The middle of Kolam is decorated with ‘Kuhtuvillakku’ which symbolizes a lamp.
People take an early morning bath and offer Pongal to Gods. People wear new clothes. They also visit temples to seek blessings of God.
The young family members and children receive gifts or money from elders on Puthandu. The head of the family reads Panchangam before the presence of all the family members on the day of Puthandu. 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
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.
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 wear new clothes and the best of delicacies are cooked in the Tamilian households.
There is also a vegetarian feast which includes an assortment of foods such as mangoes, neem leaves, Veppam Poo Rasam, Fried Appalam, Tamarind rice, chitra annam and coconut milk.
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.