The Tamil New Year/Puthandu also known as “Varusha Pirappu” is celebrated in Chitterai, which is the first month of Tamil calendar(April 12th 2012) and the name of the year is “Nandana”.
The panchangam (new almanac) is published at this time and begins from this day in April. The important ritual on this day is reading of new almanac. (Puthu Panchangam vaasiththal).Traditionally, this is done by the family pundit.
This festival is celebrated with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm all over Tamil Nadu. On the New Year the court yard of houses are decorated with colourful Kolam. Special pujas will be held in temples on the New Year. Visiting temples and worshipping deities are the most important features of the New Year celebration. Panchaga Padanam will be held in the Temples. According to the Hindu mythology, it is believed that on this day the Creation of the world was started by Lord Brahma.
Puthandu/ Tamil New Year is also a day of feasting. There will be a traditional feast with vadai, paayasam and poli. April is the season for raw mangoes and neem flowers. A special dish called”Mango pachchadi “is served for lunch. It is made of new jaggery, raw mango pieces and neem flowers and new tamarind. The neem, bitter in taste, and jaggery sweet and delicious, signify the two conflicting aspects of human life – joy and sorrow, success and failure, ecstasy and agony. The scientific fact is that neem flowers and raw mangoes cleanse the body of toxins. Puthandu also marks the beginning of the agricultural season in the region and the first tilling of land is done on this day.
Astronomical significance of the Tamil New Year
It is a well known fact that the Earth travels in an elliptical orbit around the Sun through 360 degrees and the time period for one such travel around the Sun is called a YEAR. The circumference of the eliptical path traced by the Earth having the Sun as the central point – is divided into twelve arcs, and the angular segments traced by each arc measuring 30 degress is called a House (Veedu in Tamil or Rasi in Sanskrit). The period of traversal of the Sun through each Veedu or Raasi is known as a Month. The names of these houses are as follows:
Kumba Veedu and Meena Veedu
The time the Sun enters the “Meda or Mesha Veedu” or Raasi was traditionally taken as the starting point of the New Year by the Tamils.
Malayalam New Year 2012 (Vishu)
In India, the Tamil New Year and Vishu are celebrated on the same day respectively in the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In some parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, it is also called Chithrai Vishu. Vishu is not traditionally celebrated as New Year in the Malayalam Calendar. In the Malayalam Calendar, the New Year starts on the first day of Chingam. However people in the Malabar area consider Vishu as the astrological New Year.
Vishu is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala. The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani. Vishukkani means sighting the most auspicious things at dawn on the Vishu day for luck throughout the year. Lord Krishna’s idol is decorated and new clothes, coins, gold ornaments, silver, fruits, vegetables, dhaanyam (cereals), konna flower, coconut, mirror, kumkum, Nilavilakku etc are placed in the puja room and people wake up to this sight on Vishu and seek the blessings of God.
Another famous ritual on Vishu is the Vishukkaineetam. Vishukkaineetam means gifting money by elders to the members of the household.
Chithirai Festival in Madurai
The two week long Chithirai Festival is one of the biggest celebrations in Madurai. It re-enacts the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Lord Vishnu’s sister).
Every year in the month of Chithrai, in the temple city of Madurai, the Chithrai Thiruvizha is celebrated. Thousands of devotees gather at Meenakshi Temple of Madurai to offer puja to their worshipping Goddess Chithirai Festival is a great opportunity to experience life in Madurai. It attracts crowds of people, who flock to Madurai from surrounding areas. The festival is celebrated with a great deal of excitement and hype -with the enthusiasm of a real wedding. A huge exhibition is also held, called Chithrai Porutkaatchi.