A Non-Tamil’s Guide To Celebrating Puthandu


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If you have a score of Tamil friends, do not forget to wish them “Puthandu Vazthukal” For those uninitiated, it is the Tamil equivalent of Happy New Year! Tamil New Year day is known as Puthandu. The first day of the year is celebrated with much joy and gusto in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India. Apart from that Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka, as well as Tamils in Malaysia, Singapore, Réunion and Mauritius celebrate the day with fervor.

Tamil people celebrate Tamil New Year on 14 April. The first month of the Tamil solar calendar is known as chitterai.

Traditions

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On the eve of Puthandu, every Tamil family arranges a tray with three seasonal fruits (mango,banana, and jack fruit), betel leaves, areca nut, gold/silver jewellery, coins/cash, flowers and a mirror. They denote health, wealth and prosperity. Upon waking in the morning of a new year, every member of a Tamil family views this arrangement and feels inspired.

Chitterai Thiruvizha

In many places, Tamils begin the New Year by worshiping the deity. For example – , the Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated in the Meenakshi Temple in the temple city of Madurai.

Chitterai Porutkaatchi

A huge exhibition is also held, and it is called Chitterai Porutkaatchi. In different parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, it is also known as Chittirai Vishu. The day is marked with a feast in Tamil homes and entrances to the houses are decorated elaborately with kolams. Some also use neem flowers and raw mangoes to decorate the house and see it as a symbol of growth and prosperity.

Kai-vishesham(1)

Sri Lankan Tamils also observe the traditional New Year in April. On this day, a ritual known as Kai-vishesham takes place, in which the elders bestow cash upon the unmarried youth as a token of good luck. Arpudu or the first tilling of the ground also marks the commencement of new agricultural cycle. People begin the New Year with herbal bath for good health. The youth takes part in games such as ‘por-thenkai’ or coconut wars and cart races. Families visit each other to renew the familial bond.

In Malaysia and Singapore, Tamils join Sikhs, Malayalees and Bengalis to celebrate the traditional New Year in mid-April. Several religious events take place along with cultural events.

How can you celebrate puthandu being a non-Tamil?

Kanjivaram

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If you want to celebrate the Indian solar calendar new year in Tamil traditions or are invited to a Tamil household on this auspicious occasion, you should dress appropriately. Men can stick to any authentic Indian ethnic wear. However, during summer months, Kurta pajama or dhoti kurta is the ideal dress. the Ladies will look gorgeous in traditional Kanchipuram sarees. If you are young opt for light hues and opt for darker shades if you are older. Wear elaborate necklace sets and bangles.  Also do not forget to adorn your hair in mogra garlands. Young women can wear a saree or ghagra choli in traditional Tamil style. Young boys would look fabulous in kurta pajama or western wear.

Respect the Tamil traditions and offer your respect to the elders. In case there are children in the house, give them a cash gift, it is considered as a token of good luck.

So, celebrate this New Year the Tamil way by taking part in Puthandu and have a gala time.

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