Tamil New Year, also traditionally known as Tamil Puthandu, is the first day of the year on the Tamil calendar. The festival date is set according to the solar cycle of the Hindu calendar. Since the festival marks the first day in the first month of the Tamil calendar, Chithirai, it is celebrated as Puthandu. According to the Gregorian calendar, this auspicious day falls on 13th or 14th April. Tamil New Year 2020 will be celebrated on 14th April.
While Tamilians celebrate their New Year day, the Hindu community celebrates this day as Vaisakhi or Baisakhi.
Not only is the festival widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu, but also by Tamilians in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Mauritius, where religious members reside. Tamilians all over the world celebrate Varusha Pirappu with fervor and devotion.
From an astrological point of view, this day is quite significant as it is the day when the Sun moves into Aries. For finding out how this has an effect on Rasi Palan, astrologers are consulted.
Customs and Rituals of the Festival
Commemorated as a day for family time, members spend the day cleaning the house together. Home entrances are decorated elaborately with colored rice powder, called kolams. The main door is also decorated with Mango and Neem leaves. A tray filled with fruits (mainly mango, banana, and jack fruit) and flowers is offered at the local temples. People wear new clothes, and as part of tradition, children visit elder members of the family to take blessings, and even a little pocket money.
A scrumptious vegetarian feast is prepared on the day of Puthuvarusham. A special dish is mangai-pachadi, which is made using raw mango, sweet jaggery, red chillies, neem leaves and astringent mustard. This dish has so many explosive flavours as it symbolises the different ‘flavourful’ experiences that we experience in life- some sweet, some bitter, and some ‘salty’! It serves as a reminder to embrace the ephemeral experiences by learning to make the most of them. Tamil delicacies also prepared for the festival include Payasam, Puran poli, Manga Pachadi, Veppam Poo Pachadi, Paruppu Vada and many more. The festival is celebrated with Neem flowers and raw mangoes as they are believed to symbolise growth and prosperity.
In the temple city of Tamil Nadu, Madurai, devotees specially visit the Meenakshi Temple to celebrate the festival. A huge exhibition, called Chitterai Porutkaatchi, is also held as part of the celebrations.
The festival is also observed as ‘arpudu’, on which the first ploughing of the ground to prepare for the new agricultural cycle is done. People in Tamil Nadu also host a game of coconut wars and cart races as part of the festivities.
There is another popular ritual associated with the festival of Puthandu. This custom, known as ‘kanni’, meaning the ‘auspicious sight is followed by many people. According to the ritual, the day of the festival is started by ‘watching’ auspicious things like gold and silver jewelry, betel leaves, nuts, fruits and vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts. People take a bath and visit the temple after the ritual.
Tamilians believe that this symbolizes a good start to New Year, and will ensure prosperity and happiness in the coming year.