Tamil New Year: How the Tamils celebrate the New Year

By Nirmala Ragunathan

"We Hindus try to celebrate the new year by observing the procedures and rituals practised by our ancestors over the years.

This year (1996) is named ``Thathu'' in the Almanac dawns (``Varushapirappu'' - at 2.25 pm on April 13. The ``Vishu Punya Kalam'', auspicious period is from 10.25 am to 6.25 pm on the same day.

Homes are cleaned and got ready for the event on previous day. On the day, during the auspicious time ``Maruthu Neer'' - clean water boiled with various herbs, selected flowers and leaves, milk, saffron and other ingredients is made by the priests in temples. Maruthu Neer is applied on the heads of all family members whilst the placing ``Punku'' leaves on head and Fig leaves under the feet and bathe. Then new clothes are recommended according to the colours mentioned in the almanac to wear. This year's colours are shades of black or ash.

Giving thanks to the Sun God is observed by making ``Pongal''. A sweet rice made if possible with new raw red rice, jaggery, cashew nuts ghee and plums. The area in front of the house is cleaned and sprinkled with saffron water, and cowdung. A decorative design ``Kolam'' is put with raw white rice flour. The hearth is made a little distance away facing the East, and a new pot is used to cook the ``Pongal''. Lamps are lit by the housewife, and the head of the household will arrange the ``Mangala Kumbam''. A pot with five mango leaves and a coconut, joss sticks are lit, a tray of flowers, betel leaves, arecanuts, comb of bananas and the sweet rice are offered to the Sun God and Lord Ganesh to compete the pooja. A coconut is broken by the head of the household, and incense is shown.

In earlier times, people made a sambol ``Pachchadi'' with the flowers of Margosa, the sour mango, and the sweet jaggery. Sweet rice was eaten together with this sambol. The sambol was made to remind people of the fact that life has sorrows, troubles and happiness - a mixture of circumstances in life that one faces in the year ahead cannot be overlooked. This practice is hardly in use today.

The elders in the family bless the children, who worship them and seek their blessings and good wishes.

A visit to the temple is a must when New Year dawns. The Hindus always begin by worshipping and offering poojas to Lord Wina Vinayaga to have his blessing in the coming year for prosperity. The priests bless them too. Customarily alms should be offered to the poor.

During the auspicious time, the sweet rice is partaken by the family. Later the head of the family gives money, betel leaves, paddy and flowers - ``Kai Vishesham'' to the family members and wishes them good luck. The head of the family performs, ``Er Mangalam'' - during this time. This ploughing ceremony - being an agrarian community, is the traditional act on a new year day. However, today people observe this according to their occupations. A teacher would start a lesson, a trader starts a new account, a craftsman starts his craft and so on.

Visiting relatives and entertaining relatives and friends are also important duties of the New Year celebrations.

As a Hindu housewife I shall observe the rituals laid down by my ancestors in todays context to the best of my ability.

In this ``Thathu'' Hindu New Year, when I offer poojas to the Sun God and pray to Lord Vigneshwar, I will pray most sincerely and ardently to ask his blessings for Mother Lanka and all her children to live happily in peace, harmony, understanding and prosperity.

@ WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka -