Tamil New Year 2018

Tamil Puthandu (Tamil: தமிழ்புத்தாண்டு), also known as Puthuvarusham or Tamil New Year, is the first day of year on the Tamil calendar. The festival date is set with the solar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, as the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai. It therefore falls on 14 April 2018 on the Gregorian calendar. The same day is observed by Hindus elsewhere as the traditional new year, but is known by other names such as Vishu in Kerala, and Vaisakhi in central and north India.

On this day, Tamil people greet each other by saying "Puttantu valttukkal!" (புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்) or "Iniya puttantu nalvalttukkal!" (இனிய புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்), which is equivalent to "Happy new year". The day is observed as a family time. Households clean up the house, prepare a tray with fruits, flowers and auspicious items, light up the family Puja altar and visit their local temples. People wear new clothes and youngster go to elders to pay respects and seek their blessings, then the family sits down to a vegetarian feast.

Puthandu is also celebrated by Tamil outside Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, such as in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Reunion, Mauritius and other countries with Tamil Diaspora.

History of Tamil New Year:

The history of the Tamil New Year can be traced all the way back to the 3rd century. This is when the author of Nedunalvaadai, Nakkirar, described the sun moving through the eleven signs of the Zodiac on that day. He also attributed this day to the start of the New Year in the Purannanooru.

According to legend, this day is also the first day when Lord Indra visited the Earth to make sure that there was a peaceful harmony and a state of satisfaction among his people. Another legend stated that Lord Brahma created all of the universe on this day.

Origin and significance:

The Tamil New Year follows the spring equinox and generally falls on 14 April of the Gregorian year. The day celebrates the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and is a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. The same date is observed as the traditional new year in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan as well as in Nepal and Bangladesh. Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka also celebrate the same day as their new year, likely an influence of the shared culture between South and Southeast Asia in the 1st millennium CE.

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 from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive signs of the zodiac. Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the third century CE refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai 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 Chitterai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer. The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs starting with Mesha/Chitterai. The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as we know it today. Adiyarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar mentions the twelve months of the Tamil calendar with particular reference to Chitterai. There were subsequent inscriptional references in Pagan, Burma dated to the 11th century CE and in Sukhothai, Thailand dated to the 14th century CE to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were tasked with defining the traditional calendar that began in mid-April.

Celebration:

Tamil people celebrate Puthandu, also called Puthuvarusham, as the traditional New Year. This is the month of Chittirai, the first month of the Tamil solar calendar, and Puthandu typically falls on 14 April. In some parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, the festival is called Chittirai Vishu. On the eve of Puthandu, a tray arranged with three fruits (mango, banana and jack fruit), betel leaves and arecanut, gold/silver jewellery, coins/money, flowers and a mirror. This is similar to Vishu new year festival ceremonial tray in Kerala. According to the Tamil tradition, this festive tray is auspicious as the first sight upon waking on the new year day. The home entrances are decorated elaborately with colored rice powder and these designs are called kolams.

In the temple city of Madurai, the Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated in the Meenakshi Temple. A huge exhibition is held, called Chitterai Porutkaatchi. On the day of Tamil New Year, a big Car Festival is held at Tiruvidaimarudur near Kumbakonam. Festivals are also held at Tiruchirapalli, Kanchipuram and many other places.

Sri Lankan Tamils observe the traditional new year in April with the first financial transaction known as the 'Kai-vishesham' where youngsters go to elders paying their respect, and elders giving their blessings and gifting pocket money to them. The event is also observed with the 'arpudu' or the first ploughing of the ground to prepare for the new agricultural cycle. The game of 'por-thenkai' or coconut wars between youth is played in villages through the Tamil north and east of the island while cart races are also held. The festive Puthandu season in April is a time for family visits and the renewal of filial bonds. It coincides with the Sinhalese new year season.

Later in the day, families enjoy a feast. A special dish called Mangai-pachadi is prepared from a variety of flavors, similar to pacchadi of new year foods of Ugadi and Vishu. It is made from sweet jaggery, astringent mustard, sour raw mango, bitter neem, and red chilies. These complex dish is ritually tasted by Tamils, as similar multi-flavors are by Hindus elsewhere on the new year. Such traditional festive recipes, that combine different flavors, are a symbolic reminder that one must expect all flavors of experiences in the coming new year, that no event or episode is wholly sweet or bitter, experiences are transitory and ephemeral, and to make the most from them.

  

In Malaysia and Singapore, Tamils join Sikhs, Malayalees and Bengalis to celebrate the traditional new year in mid-April with leaders across the political spectrum wishing the ethnic Indian community for the new year. Special religious events are held in Hindu temples, in Tamil community centers and Gurdwaras. Cultural programs and media events also take place. Its a day of celebration for the Indian community.

Rituals:

People wake up early and women embellish the entrances to their homes by preparing beautiful kolam patterns, which are made with colored rice powder. Kuthuvillakku, which is a lamp, is placed in the center of the kolam. This is done in the belief that the Kuthuvillakku will chase away the darkness. People begin the day with kanni. This means auspicious sight and includes watching auspicious items such as betel leaves, vegetables, raw rice, gold and silver jewelery etc.

Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka:

The same day every year is also the new year in parts of Southeast Asia such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, likely an influence of their shared culture in the 1st millennium CE.

According to a 1957 publication by Gunasegaram, the new year celebrated in Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Champa (Vietnam) is the Tamil New Year with roots in the practices of Mohenjo-daro (Indus Valley Civilization). According to Nanacuriyan, this may be from the medieval era Tamil influence in Southeast Asia.

According to Jean Michaud and other scholars, the new year celebration traditions in Southeast Asian Massif have two roots. One is China, and this influence is found for example in Vietnam and southeastern China. These Sino-influenced communities celebrate the new year in the first or second lunar month after the winter solstice in December. The second group of people in the Massif celebrate the new year in mid April, much like most of India. This group consists of northeastern Indians, northeastern Myanmar, Tai speakers of Thailand, Laos, northern Vietnam and southern Yunnan. The festival is celebrated in the Massif in some ways unlike Puthandu. It is marked by an occasion to visit family and friends, splashing others with water (like Holi), drinking alcohol, as well as later wearing jewelry, new clothes and socializing.

Regional Names:

1."Aluth Avuruthu" in Sri Lanka.

2."Chol Chnam Thmey" in Cambodia.

3."Songkan / Pi Mai Lao" in Laos.

4."Songkran" in Thailand.

5."Thingyan" in Burma.


 
Home        Worship       Gallery      Travel        Slokas     Contact us