(Last Updated on : 15/07/2015)
Puthandu or better known as Tamil New Year
is the celebration of the first day of the Tamil New
Year in mid-April by Tamils in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
in India, in Sri Lanka and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore, Reunion and Mauritius.
Puthandu is celebrated on this day; Tamil people greet each other by saying "Puthandu Vazthukal" or "Iniya Tamizh Puthandu Nalvaazhthukkal. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Hindu solar calendar.
The Tamil New Year or Puthandu follows the Nirayanam vernal equinox and generally falls on 14th April of the Gregorian year. On 14th April marks the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and is a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. The tropical vernal equinox falls around 22 March, and adding 23 degrees of trepidation or oscillation to it, we get the Hindu sidereal transition or Nirayana Mesha Sankranti (the Sun's transition into Nirayana Aries).
Hence, the Tamil calendar begins on the same date observed by most traditional calendars in India as in Assam
, West Bengal
etc. not to mention Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The 60-year cycle is ancient and is observed by most traditional calendars of India and China, and is related to 5 revolutions of Jupiter, or to 60-year orbit of Nakshatras
(stars) as described in the Surya Siddhanta.
The 60 year cycle comes by 5 revolutions of Jupiter and 2 revolutions of Saturn. The relative position of Jupiter and Saturn in one particular year will be repeated after 60 years. The 60 year cycle was essentially conceived for predicting the climate of a particular year, as the relative position of the two major planets, Jupiter and Saturn, is recognized for its impact on climate.
The traditional Tamil year starts on 14 April 2015, Kaliyuga 5117. Vikrama and Shalivahana Saka eras are also used. There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year.
Nakkirar, the author of the Nedunalvaadai wrote in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive Raasis or signs of the zodiac. Kudalur Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi-Chitterai as the commencement of the year in the Puranaanooru. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chitterai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer. The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs starting with Mesha-Chitterai.
The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as it is known today. Adiyarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar mentions the 12 months of the Tamil calendar with particular reference to Chitterai. There were subsequent inscriptional references in Pagan, Burma dated to the 11th century CE and in Sukhothai, Thailand dated to the 14th century CE to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were tasked with defining the traditional calendar that began in mid-April.
Tamil people celebrate Tamil New Year on 14th April. This is the month of Chitterai, the first month of the Tamil solar calendar. On the eve of Puthandu, a tray arranged with three fruits (mango
and jack fruit), betel leaves and arecanut, gold-silver jewellery, coins/money, flowers and a mirror is placed. This is to be viewed upon waking in the morning. In the temple city of Madurai
, the Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated in the Meenakshi Temple
. A huge exhibition is held, called Chitterai Porutkaatchi. In some parts of Southern Tamil Nadu, it is called Chittirai Vishu. The day is marked with a feast in Tamil homes and entrances to the houses are decorated elaborately with kolams. In most parts of India, one can see neem trees blooming with their flowers and the first batch of mangoes hanging prominently. This day is celebrated by some communities with neem flowers and raw mangoes to symbolize growth and prosperity.