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Tamil New Year Celebration

Puthandu(Tamil: புத்தாண்டு), or better known as Tamil New Year, is the celebration of the first day of the Tamil new year in mid-April by Tamils in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India, and by the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius. People in the world greet each other on this day by saying Iniya Tamizh Puthaandu Nalvazhthukkal (இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்). The festive occasion is in keeping with the Hindu solar calendar.

Origin and Significance

The Tamil New Year follows the Nirayanam vernal equinox and generally falls on April 14 of the Gregorian year. April 14th marks the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and is a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. Tropical vernal equinox fall around 22 March, and adding 23 degrees of trepidation or oscillation to it, we get the Hindu sidereal or Nirayana Mesha Sankranti (Sun's transition into Nirayana Aries).

Hence, the Tamil calendar begins on the same date observed by most traditional calendars in India as in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura etc not to mention Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The 60-year cycle is ancient and is observed by most traditional calendars of India and China, and is related to 5 revolutions of Jupiter, or to 60-year orbit of Nakshatras (stars) as described in the Surya Siddhanta.

The traditional Tamil year is from April 14, 2010, Kaliyuga 5112. Vikrama and Shalivahana Saka eras are also used. There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year. Nakkirar, the author of the Nedunalvaadai mentions in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive Raasis or signs of the Zodiac. Koodaloor Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai as the commencement of the year in the Puranaanooru. The 8th century Silappadikaaram describes the 12 Raasis/zodiac signs starting with Mesha/Chitterai.The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as we know it today. [1].

Celebration

Tamil people celebrate Tamil new year on April 14. Every year in the month of Chitterai (the first month of the Tamil solar calendar in April), in the temple city of Madurai, the Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated in the Meenakshi Temple. A huge exhibition is held, called Chitterai Porutkaatchi. In some parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, it is called Chitterai Vishu. The day is marked with a feast in Tamil homes and entrances to the houses are decorated elaborately with kolams. In most parts of India, one can see neem trees blooming with their flowers and the first batch of mangoes hanging prominently. This day is celebrated by some communities with neem flowers and raw mangoes to symbolize growth and prosperity.

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 elders gift money to the unmarried young, particularly children as a token of good luck. The event is also observed with the 'arpudu' or the first ploughing of the ground to prepare for the new agricultural cycle. The 'punya-kaalam' or auspicious time when the sun reportedly shifts from Meena raasi to Mesha raasi is considered ideal to commence new activities on a favorable note. Sri Lankan Tamils begin the year with a herbal bath with 'maruthu-neer' with ingredients for good health. The game of 'por-thenkai' or coconut wars between youth is played in villages through the Tamil north of the island while cart races are also held [2]. 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

 

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