The Tamil New Year Is Steeped In Tradition, Learn More About It

Tamil New Year is almost upon us, and if you're curious about what it's all about, here's what you need to know.

Published On Apr 12, 2023 | Updated On Feb 23, 2024

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The southern state of Tamil Nadu is renowned for its vibrant cultural heritage. Puthandu, commonly known as Tamil New Year, is one of the most significant holidays observed here. According to the Tamil calendar, the event ushers in a new year, and Tamils all over the world rejoice and celebrate it with great fervour. We will tell you everything you need to know about Puthandu, its importance, and the different ceremonies connected with it in this article.

Puthandu, commonly known as the Tamil New Year, is observed on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai, which falls on April 14 every year. Tamil's phrase "Puthandu" literally translates to new year. The event, which is observed with tremendous fervour and passion throughout Tamil Nadu, is regarded as an auspicious day for fresh beginnings.

Not just in Tamil Nadu but also in other regions of India and Sri Lanka, Puthandu is a celebrated and joyous holiday. Outside of India, Tamils also enthusiastically observe the event. Families get together during Puthandu to rejoice and exchange traditional foods.

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Puthandu's relationship with the harvest season explains its significance. The event is a method to express gratitude to the gods for a bountiful harvest and to make requests for a successful crop the following year. The celebration also heralds the arrival of spring, a time when nature comes to life with fresh blossoms and leaves. The idea behind the new year is that it heralds happiness, prosperity, and new chances.

The festivities for Puthandu begin on April 13, a day before the festival itself. Tamilians clean their homes on this day and decorate them with kolam (rangoli) patterns and mango leaves. As a representation of the various experiences in life, they also produce a special dish called 'varusha pirappu mangai pachadi' which is a mango pachadi that combines sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy flavours. It serves as a reminder that there will be joyful and sad moments in life, and that one should learn to embrace and value them all.

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Mythologically it is believed that Brahma created the world on Puthandu. The day brings with it new hopes and dreams. Tamilians get up early and take a bath on the day of Puthandu. They then travel to the temple and pray to the gods there for the coming year to be blessed and prosperous. With relatives and friends, they further exchange pleasantries and treats. The "Kanni," also known as the first sight, is one of the festival's most significant rituals. It involves arranging a tray of lucky objects, such as betel leaves, turmeric, and gold coins, and the first glimpse of the tray is thought to portend the rest of the year.


The "Panchanga Patanam," in which the Tamil calendar is read aloud and the upcoming year's events are foretold, is another significant component of Puthandu. This custom has persisted for many years and is regarded as a crucial element of the event.

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Puthandu is a time for participating in these rites as well as enjoying traditional Tamil food. The feast on Puthandu however is not limited to mango pachadi. Vepambu rasam which is neem flower rasam, vazhakkai or raw banana curry, poli, and payasam are some of the other delicacies enjoyed on the Tamil New Year. Along with visiting one other's homes, people also share sweets and savoury foods to represent the spirit of cohesion and harmony.
In the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple and Thiruvarur Thiyagarajar Temple, chariot festivals are organised on Puthandu. The one at Thiyagarajar Temple is in fact the largest in Asia. Thousands of devotees attend these festivals every year. 

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Puthandu has more to it than only festivities and ceremonies; it also has a deeper meaning. It is a moment for introspection and self-reflection. It's a chance to think back on the previous year, absorb lessons from our missteps, and go forward with a fresh outlook. Puthandu serves as a reminder to maintain our roots, value our traditions, and work towards a better future.
This year, soak in the vibrant South Indian Tamillian culture by celebrating Puthandu and appreciating all the various aspects this festival has.


Photo: Shutterstock

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