A celebration of creation
By Esther Williams
With the arrival of the month of Chittirai in the Hindu calendar, Tamils all over the world celebrate New Year’s day that falls on April 14. Creator of the World Lord Brahma according to Hindu mythology began creation on this day.
Priest of the Vishnu Temple in Dehiwala, Sathya Narayana Kurukal talks about the day which is considered auspicious for new beginnings – new books of accounts, new businesses, etc. “We have made arrangements for a special pooja that will be performed at 5.01 a.m. within the temple premises, signifying the birth of the New Year,” he says.

In preparation for the important day, homes are cleaned and decorated with rangoli (floor designs with rice flour) and mango leaves. It is common for people to wake up early and commence the day with a ritual bath. Herbal water made from flowers, herbs and turmeric is either prepared at home or collected from the temple on New Year’s eve for this purpose.

People usually wear white clothes with a yellow border and adorn themselves with the pushparagam, a jewellery piece studded with a yellow sapphire, if available, before making their way to the temple.

Flowers, arecanut, betel leaves and coconuts are offered in worship. The prasadam or food that is blessed is distributed soon after and is taken home to be shared with family members and neighbours.

The Panchangam, the official astrological calendar of practising Hindus is also read on the occasion. The almanac forecasts celestial phenomena such as solar eclipses as well as more mundane occurrences. It involves understanding the Rasi phala or the impact of the signs of the zodiac on the individual. Astrologers consult the readings to set auspicious dates for weddings, corporate mergers and other important events. Predictions are often made that day by learned gurus.

Back home, Kai Vishesham or gifts are given by parents to their children and employers to their employees. 8.00 am is the auspicious time for this gesture this New Year’s Day according to Shakthi Sathya Narayana.

As for food, Maanga Pachadi or mango pickle (made of raw mangoes, jaggery and neem flowers) is the day’s speciality. Being sweet, sour and bitter, it signifies all the different aspects of life. Another favourite dish is the puliyodare, a rich rice preparation.

In the villages, people organises various races and competitions as it is a community celebration, irrespective of the religion you follow. Other may visit relatives or entertain friends in celebration. ‘Puthandu Vazthukal’ or Happy New Year!

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