PUTHANDU FESTIVAL – The Tamil New Year
Puthandu is Tamil New Year, which is the first day of the Hindu Solar Calendar, it falls on 14th April, annually. Popularly known as Puthandu, the Tamil New Year is celebrated with feasts in Hindu homes.
The entrances to the houses are decorated elaborately with kolams (design made with rice flower) and adorn the doorway with mango leaves.
A grand car festival is held at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam. The month of Chitthirai also witnesses the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi to Lord Sundereswarar.
A special dish called Mangai-pachadi is prepared from a variety of flavors, similar to pacchadi of new year foods of Ugadi and Vishu.
Puthandu is also popularly known as ‘Varusha Pirappu’ and is celebrated with different names in all parts of the country. In Kerala, it is observed as ‘Vishu,’ in Orissa as ‘Pana Sankranti,’ in West Bengal as ‘Pohela Boishakh,’ in Assam as ‘Bihu’ and in Punjab, this day is observed as ‘Vaisakhi.’
In Madurai, there are huge celebrations that take place in the Meenakshi Amman Temple with a vast exhibition known as the Chitterai Porutkaatchi that will be held with much enthusiasm and joy. The festivities attract huge crowds of people who flock together to Madurai from all its surrounding areas.
When is Puthandu celebrated?
It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Chithirai (the first month, according to Tamil Calendar). This day is celebrated with immense enthusiasm and zeal in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and SriLanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Reunion, Mauritius, and other countries within the Tamil Diaspora.
In Sri Lanka, Tamils observe the traditional new year in April with the first financial transaction known as the Kai-Vishesham.
Puthandu is supposedly the day when Lord Brahma (the Creator of the world, according to Hindu mythology), started creation.
Rituals during Puthandu
'Kanni' is a ritual where people look at a plate filled with raw mango, jack fruit, banana, silver or gold jewelry, areca nuts, money, betel leaves, flowers, and a mirror. This practice is said to bring happiness and prosperity in the following year.
People decorate their homes beautifully with ‘Kuthuvilakku’ in the center of kolams, signifying lamps that get rid of the darkness that prevails. New clothes are worn, and feasts with gourmet delicacies are prepared. People exchange new year greetings, and young members receive gifts and money from the elders.
Brahman Bhoj is also performed on this auspicious occasion. To seek the blessings of the lord, people visit temples where the head priest usually reads out the “Panchangam.”
Rituals like “Tharpanam” and others are also performed by some families to remember their ancestors on this day.