The month of Chittrai (April - May) is a very signifcant time of festivities in Tamil Nadu.As per the Gregorian Calendar,the Tamilian New Year Day "Puthandu" is celebrated on April 13 or 14 every year.It is a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri. Lanka. In this month one can see the Neem trees booming and mangoes start hanging on the branches.
There are several references in earlyTamil literature to the April new year.Nakkirar,the author of the As per the records,n the 3rd century it is mentioned that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive signs of the Zodiac.
Whereas,Koodaloor Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai as the begining of the year in the Puranaanooru.Silappadikaaram,fromthe 8th century describes the 12 zodiac signs starting with Mesha / Chitterai.
As per the legend, Lord Brahma started creation of the universe on this day.People greet each other "Puthandu Vazthukal" which means Happy New Year.It is also believed that on this day, Goddess Meenakshi got married to Lord Sundareswarar.This auspicious day is also popular as Varusha Pirappuv.
Pothandu is the New Year day,which is a festive time for all Tamilians,celebrated on 14th April,in the month of Chittarai.On this day the Tamilians from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry in India and Sri Lanka,Malaysia, Singapore,Mauritius and Reunion Island from abroad greet each other by saying - "Iniya Tamizh Puthaandu Nalvazhthukkal,ie the best wishes of the New Year.
Some communities celebrate this day with neem flowers and raw mangoes to symbolize growth and prosperity.A huge exhibition is held,called Chitterai Porutkaatchi,which is called Chitterai Vishu,in some parts of Tamil Nadu.
The day is marked with a feast.Food item is the main focus on this day. 'Maanga Pachadi' is the main attraction and dish of the festival. It is a dish made of raw mangoes, jaggery, neem flowers, salt, sour and bitter.
This mixture of ingradients is symbolic of various colors of life.It signifies that the life has to face good and bad and also,everything from success to defeat. At the time of New Year festivities, a grand Car Festival also takes place at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam.
In Sri Lanka,the Tamilians observe the traditional new year in April with the first financial transaction known as the 'Kai-Vishesham', when the elders gift money to the unmarried youngsters, as a token of good luck.
The Puthandu season is a ideal time for the family visits and refreshing the relations. It coincides with the Sinhalese new year season.
On this day the houses are decorated with kolams (Rangolis) and Tamilians take clean bath, wear new clothes and visit the temples to pray for success,prosperity and well being of the family life. After this, Panchangam (almanac) is read.
The most popular tradition is to view a "Kanni" at early morning time, with a hope to bring good luck. People start the day by watching some auspicious items like gold, silver jewelery, betel leaves, nuts, fruits,vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts.On this day people are engrossed in merrymaking, feasting and they exchange gifts with each other.
In Sri Lanka, the year begins with a herbal bath with 'Maruthu-Neer' for good health.The game of 'Por-Thenkai' or coconut wars between youth is played in villages through the Tamil north and east of the island while cart races are also held.
The event is also observed with the first ploughing of the ground to prepare for the new agricultural cycle,which is called "Arpudu".The 'Punya-Kaalam',is the auspicious time since the sun transits from Meena rashi to Mesha rashi.This is considered to be the most favourable time to begin new activities.
There is a big controversy regarding the celebration day of the Tamil New Year.The Governer of Tamil Nadu had declared that the Tamil New Year should be celebrated on the first day of Thai month ie January 14th and it should coincide with the festival of Pongal.
Many of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada continue to observe the new year in mid-April month.However,the state government in Tamil Nadu introduced the celebration of the April new year with a new term called "Chithirai Tirunal" (the festival of Chithirai).