Varsha Pirappu: Tamil New Year

Varsha Pirappu, the New Year in Tamil Nadu, is observed on the first day of Tamil month Chithirai. Chitirai (April - May) is the first month in the Tamil Calendar. Tamilians also refer the New Year as Puthandu Vazthukal meaning ‘Happy New Year.’ In 2015, the date of Tamil New Year is April 14.

It must be noted here that the ruling DMK government had recently suggested that Pongal, which is observed in January, should be celebrated as the Tamil New Year. Debates are taking place on this suggestion. It is hard for any government to thrust the date of a celebration, especially Hindu festivals which depend on independent calendar. And today Tamil speaking people are spread across the world, especially in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa. So it will not be possible to for the Tamil Nadu government to unilaterally declare Pongal as the New Year day. Hope the issue will be solved amicably by scholars.

Varsha Pirappu begins with viewing of ‘Kanni’ – auspicious things. Legend has it that viewing auspicious items on this day will bring good fortune throughout the year. Auspicious objects include gold and silver jewelry, mirror, new calendar, bananas, areca nuts, betel leaves, raw rice, coconuts, fruits, vegetables and other newly harvested items.

Women draw beautiful Kolams or Rangoli on the day with elaborate geometric designs. The doorways are decorated with festoons, especially made of mango leaves. The traditional lamp – kuthu vilakku – is lit for prayers and is accompanied by a Poorna Kumbha.

One of the most important events on the day for many is the listening to the Tamil Panchangam, which contains the predictions of the coming year.

A special food prepared on the New Year day is the Neem flower pachchadi and Mango pachchadi. It is a dish made of raw mangoes and jaggery or Neem flower or leaves and jaggery. The dish has a sweet and bitter taste and symbolically suggests on the New Year that life is a mixture of sweet and bitter experiences.

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