Puthandu or Tamil New Year’s Day is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Chitterai. As per the Gregorian calendar, Puthandu will be celebrated in year 2020 on the 14th of April. Tamil New Year’s Day is mainly celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore, among others.
As per the tradition and Tamil solar calendar, if the Sankranti happens after sunrise and before sunset, the day is considered as the New Year’s Day. If the Sankranti occurs after sunset, the next day is celebrated as Puthandu.
What are the customs and traditions being followed in Tamil New Year?
Just before the day of Puthandu, women decorate the house with Kolam to welcome prosperity and joy. Cleaning the house on the day before or on Puthandu and setting up a tray filled with fruits, flowers, and other items that are considered auspicious are a common practice. People take herbal baths to cleanse themselves to start afresh on New Year’s Day. Turmeric baths are common among women.
People dress up in traditional attire, greet each other and offer prayers in local temples. Aarti rituals and lighting the “saambrani” forms an integral part of the ritual. Divine songs and traditional instruments are played in households to observe the occasion. Pongal, a special rice dish, is offered to the Gods.
Car festival is held at Tiruvidaimarudur while other events are organized at Tiruchirapalli and Kanchipuram, among other places. Families enjoy a special feast together that consists of a special dish called “Mangai-pachadi”. The dish is quite like that of “Pacchadi”, which is a common sweet delicacy prepared during Ugadi and Vishu. It’s a mixture of different ingredients, including jaggery, sour raw mango, astringent mustard, bitter neem, and red chilies. As per the Tamil tradition, it’s believed that these flavors reflect the various facets of life and champions the fact that one must be prepared to face all types of situations, whether bitter or sweet, with calmness. A variety of vegetarian dishes are also prepared on this day.
Another integral part of the custom is reading “Panchangam”. The reading is usually done by the oldest member of the family.