THE HINDU TEMPLE SOCIETY OF CANADA
Richmond Hill Ganeshaa Temple
Tamil New Year – தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு
By Kidambi Raj
Tamil Putthandu, better known as Tamil New Year, is the celebration of the first day of Tamil New Year.
It is celebrated either on April 13th or 14th depending on country or region. This day is the first day of the first month of the Solar calendar and is called Chittirai (April-May). Tamil New Year is celebrated in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Canada, USA, UK, Australia and lots of countries with Tamil population. On this day, Tamil people great each other by saying Putthandu Vazhtthukkal ( புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்) or Iniya Putthandu Naal Vaazhtthukkal (இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல் வாழ்த்துக்கள்).
The 60-year cycle: Based on Solar cycle, the Tamil Calendar has a 60-year cycle with each year comprising of 12 months and a specific name for each of the years. This cycle comes by 5 revolutions of Jupiter and 2 revolutions of Saturn. The relative position of Jupiter and Saturn in one year will be repeated after 60 years. This cycle of 60-years was essentially conceived for predicting the climate of a particular year, as the relative position of the two major planets, Jupiter and Saturn which are recognized for their impact on climate.This year is called VIKARI.
Various customs related to celebrating the Tamil New Year:
In Tamil Nadu (a southern state in India), people follow certain strict rituals with the belief that these rituals would ensure the well-being and prosperity of their families, year-round. One of traditions is to view Kanni (auspicious sight) at dawn with the hope that it would bring good luck. People start the day by watching some auspicious items, like gold, silver, jewelry, betel leaves, arecanut (pakku), fruits, vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts. Following that they take bath, wear fresh/new clothes and visit temple to pray for successful future.
In Sri Lanka, they observe the traditional New Year with the first financial transaction known as the “Kaivishesham”, where the elders gift money to youngsters as a token of good luck. The event is also observed with the first ploughing of the fields to prepare for the new agricultural season. The “punya kaalam” or auspicious time, when the sun reportedly shifts from Meena Rasi to Mesha Rasi. This is considered ideal to commence new ventures/activities on a favourable note. Sri Lankan Tamils begin the year with a herbal bath with “marunthu-neer” containing special ingredients good for health. In both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, to mark the New Year, they have festive food which includes “Mango Pacchadi”, some sweets, sour and bitter dish made of raw mangos, jiggery and fresh Neem flower (veppam poo), to signify the different aspects of life. It is interesting to note that the Tamils have the fresh neem flower item on the New Year day and Sugar cane for Pongal Day that comes towards the end of the year. The theory behind that being, starting the year with slightly bitter item and end (almost) the year with sweet.
In addition to the festive meal, Hindu homes are cleaned and the entrance to the homes are decorated with elaborate Kolams.
Tamil New Year Celebrations in Temples:
In temples, there will be special pujas are performed in every altar. The most important event on New Year’s Day other than the Pujas will be the reading of The Panchangam (Almanac). This done by the Chief Priest. He would read the Positions of the planet and their movement during the year and how it would impact various things in life and for people based on their astrological features.