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What to do on Tamil New Year? - How to Observe Tamil Puthandu? - Chithirai 1 or Varsha Pirappu

Varusha Pirappu, the Tamil New Year day, observed in the month of Chithirai is observed or celebrated mainly by viewing ‘Kanni,’ reading or listening to Tamil Panchangam (New Year Predictions) and by eating the naivedya neem leaf pachadi. The list of what to do on Tamil New Year day varies from region to region and from community to community. Below is a brief idea on how to observe Tamil New Year.

Note - Kanni is optional as it is not followed by all Tamil Hindu communities.

Things Needed For Tamil New Year

  • New clothes for the family
  • New Year Panchangam
  • Neem leaves and Neem flowers
  • Usual fruits used for Pujas
  • Usual Flowers
  • For Kanni – viewing of auspicious things in the morning of New Year – Gold, silver, jewelry, mirror, new clothes, new calendar, bananas, arecanut, betel leaves, raw rice, coconuts, fruits, vegetables and other newly harvested farm products.

To Begin - What to do on Tamil New Year?

  • House is thoroughly cleaned and doors and windows are decorated with festoons – especially leaves of mango.
  • After bathing, the eldest female member in the family starts the Puja arrangement.
  • Kolam or Rangoli is drawn; the Vilakku kolam is the preferred one during the New Year.  This rice-flour kolam is an essential aspect of Tamil New Year.
  • If new clothes are distributed to family members, then it is arranged in front of the deity.
  • Neem leaf Pachadi is prepared. It is basically a mixture of jaggery, chillies, salt, neem leaf or flowers and tamarind. It symbolizes that life is a mixture of sweet and sour.
  • In places where Kanni is viewed, an elderly member guides others to the view the arrangement of auspicious things. This arrangement is usually done on the previous night.
  • In other places, all members wake up and take bath and receive new clothes.

The Puja - How to Observe Tamil Puthandu?

The most important puja on the day is the Panchanga Puja. Some people also perform the Navagraha Pooja.
  • Offer prayers to Vinayaka (Ganapati)
  • For Panchanga Puja, the latest Panchangam is placed in front of the deity in the Puja room.
  • It is then anointed with chandan (sandalwood paste), kumkum and turmeric paste.
  • Some flowers are placed on the panchanga.
  • A simple puja and aarti is performed for the deity.
  • The neem leaf pachadi is eaten on empty stomach.
  • People then wish friends and relatives – puthandu vazthukal.
After the Pooja, the Panchangam is read especially the predictions for the next year. People who do not perform the Panchangam puja perform a simple puja.

Some people prefer to listen to the Panchanga padanam held in temples.

Food Prepared on Tamil New Year

  • The menu for the day usually consists of food made from fresh vegetables. 
  • Green banana and jack fruit preparations are a must in many families.
  • Mangai Pachadi - a sweet and sour mango dish
  • Veppanbu Pachadi - neem flowers, tamarind, jaggery and sometimes with mangoes
  • Neer mor - spiced buttermilk
  • Panakam – a cooling drink made by dissolving jaggery in water with a dash of cardamom powder
  • Various types of ‘vadas’ which are fried savoury snacks,
  • Kosambari salad made with split green gram (moong dal)
  • Sweet includes any one or two variety of payasam.
  • Sweet ‘poli’ (made of flour stuffed with split chickpeas, jaggery and coconut)
Some families perform tharpanam (remembering the dead ancestors and other rituals) on the day.

Why Neem Leaves Are Eaten On Tamil New Year?

Man is subject to all kinds of hardships and misfortunes. To remind ourselves of this, we eat the bitter flowers of the neem on Ugadi - that is on the very first day of the year we accept the bitterness of life. During the Pongal ceremony, which is celebrated almost towards the close of the year, we have sugarcane to chew. If we have only sweetness in the beginning we may have to experience bitterness towards the end. We must not have any aversion for the bitter but welcome it as the medicine administered by Mother Nature or by dharma. If we do so, in due course, we will learn to regard any experience, even if it were unpleasant, as a sweet one. (As told by Sage of Kanchi).