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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Festivals in Tamil Nadu - Tamil New Year

Puthandu or Tamil New Year falls in the month of Chittirai (April) as per the Indian almanac. It is celebrated by Tamilians all over the world which is supposedly the day when Lord Brahman started creation. Tamil New year is also known as Varusha Pirappu. 'Varusham' is the Tamil word for 'year' and 'Pirappu' can be translated as 'birth' or 'beginning'. Puthandu or Varusha Pirappu is significant as it is believed to be indicative of how the rest of the year will be. Therefore, people only entertain positive thoughts and engage in meaningful activities on this day.

The excitement begins a two weeks before the New Year. Families go shopping for new clothes. Homes are thoroughly cleansed and even repainted. Mothers and grandmothers make plenty of sweet and savory snacks in preparation for the big celebrations when relatives and friends visit.

Each family will begin their Tamil New Year celebrations with the lighting of the Kuttu Villaku (traditional oil lamp) which is placed next to the Niraikudam (a brass container filled to the brim with holy water, decorated with mango leaves and where a husked coconut is placed on the mouth of the pot) in the family altar. Prayers are offered to the Gods after which elders make their gifts of money to all members of the family. The day also starts with the viewing of auspicious things including gold and silver jewellery, betel leaves, nuts, fruits, flowers, raw rice and coconut which are placed in the family altar or prayer room.

People welcome the New Year with kolams, colourful floor art decorations at the entrance of their homes. Festoons of mango leaves or flowers are hung at the doorway. A lavish feast is organized in which pulses and cereals form part of the main menu. Another important dish served during Puthandu is maanga pachadi (a dish made of raw mangoes, jaggery and neem flowers)

Relatives and friends make their rounds of visits to homes passing on wishes of a prosperous and healthy, year with warm greetings of Puthaandu Vaalthukal (Happy New Year)!


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