TAMIL NEW YEAR
The Tamil New Year day usually falls on the 13th or the 14th of the month of April, in the Gregorian Calendar. The Tamil solar year begins on the first day of the first month of the calendar, Chithirai, and hence this day is also called “Chithirai Thirunaal” and also “Puthaandu”, which is a concoction of the words “puthu” meaning “new”, and “aandu” meaning “year”.
In 2017, the Tamil New Year is celebrated on Friday, the 14th of April in India, US and other countries as well. This year, Vishu is also celebrated on Friday, April 14th.
On this day, like any other festival, people celebrate with feasts and prayers to the Almightly to have a great start. They greet each other, saying “Iniya Puthaandu Vaazhthukal”, meaning “happiness-filled new year wishes”.
On this day, there is no specific neivedhyam that is prepared, but universally, all families have a great feast to celebrate the day. The menu usually consists of the following:
- Paruppu Vadai
- Pongal Chaatham
- Jaggery to have with Pongal Chaatham
- Coconut bits to have with Pongal Chaatham
- Sambar or Mor Kuttaan (or Mor Kozhambu) or Pulisheri
- Pachadi or Kichadi
- Chitrannam Lemon Rice
- Curd rice or just plain white rice and yogurt
There is no specific menu to be followed except that payasam and vadais should be prepared as they are usually prepared on any auspicious day. Apart from that, most Palakkad Iyer families and families hailing from Tirunelveli districts, etc prepare the Pongal Chaatham and serve with jaggery and coconut bits, like they do so on the day of Pongal.
There is no specific ceremony to be conducted as this is a day for celebration with good food and good friends and family in complete harmony. There is no traditional way to be followed here, as it is just the celebration of a new year in the calendar. But usually, the following is to be done:
- Every member of the household should take a nice oil bath.
- Kolams should be put outside the house, and in front of the God’s place.
- God’s place can be decorated.
- Prayers should be offered to the God, asking for forgiveness for misdeeds done so far, and seeking blessings for all good things to come in the new year, and the new year be filled with happiness, love, prosperity and peace.
- Neivedhyams should be prepared and offered to the God.
- Do the dhoopa-dheep archanai for the God with camphor (karpooram).
- Do namaskarams to the God and the elders of the household.
- Serve the prasadams.
- Enjoy the day with loved ones.
Most often, Vishu falls on the day following the Tamil New Year’s day, and so, in that case, you should prepare the Vishukanni on the night of Tamil New Year’s day, to keep things ready for Vishu.
Vishu is a festival celebrated in Kerala and some parts of Karnataka, like Udipi. It is mainly observed by Malayalis and Palakkad Tamilians as the significance of the festival relates to Kerala’s own, little Krishnan Unni. Vishu falls on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam, which basically marks the beginning of spring, the season filled with blossoming flowers and fruits.
In 2017, Vishu falls on Friday, the 14th of April in the United States, India and all other countries as well.
Most often, Vishu falls on the day after the Tamil New Year’s day, but sometimes, it may also coincide with the Tamil New Year’s or perhaps even a day earlier.
On this day, people see the Vishukani as the first thing in the morning. Vishukani is the arrangement of gold, coins, rice, dal, fruits, flowers like “Konnapoo” (Cassia fistula) etc. along with a mirror decorated with gold ornaments and a Krishna idol also decorated in a grand manner. This arrangement is prepared on the previous night, near the God’s place at homes, and then is viewed in the morning to signify an auspicious start of the New Year with lot of gold and prosperity and mainly, the God’s blessings, and hence the decorated Krishna idol. Also, people take the blessings of the elders in the household, and the elders gift money to the youngsters, called “Vishu kaineetam”.
On Vishu, people burst firecrackers in Kerala, and visit the Guruvayoor temple and other Krishna temples to have a glimpse of their favorite Krishnan Unni. This temple viewing on Vishu is called, “Vishu Kaazhcha”.
Importance and Story
Vishu is one of the most important festivals of Malayalis and Palakkad Iyers after Onam. There is a very interesting story behind this day, specifically, the story relates to as to why the Konnapoo is kept in the Vishu Kani.
Once, there was a poor little boy playing all by himself, feeling lonely that he has no playmate. His mother kept telling him, that if no one played with him, Kannan Unni, little Krishna, will come and play with him. Innocent as he was, not knowing who Krishnan Unni was, the little boy called for Kannan Unni and another little boy named Kannan Unni would come and play with him all day. One day, when the two boys were playing, they accidentally removed Kannan’s anklet and it got thrown up into the Konna Maram (Konna tree) and got stuck in its branches, out of the reach of the boys. The next day, the Namboodhiri in the temple noticed that the anklet in the Krishna Vigraham (Idol) in the temple was missing. Everyone went searching for the anklet, and they finally found it on the Konna Maram. When they inquired about the anklet being in the tree, a few told them about the little boys playing near the tree, and so the temple authorities questioned the boy and thinking he stole it from the temple, they tied him to the Konna tree. On the next day, being Vishu, when they came and saw the boy tied to the tree, they saw that the Konna tree, which had never ever flowered before, now bore beautiful yellow flowers. So, until the day Krishna’s anklet fell on the tree, the Konna tree never bloomed flowers, and thus, the flowers resembled the bells (kinkini) of the anklets. And thus, everyone, including the little boy, realized that it was the Lord Krishna himself, disguised as a little boy who played with the poor boy. Since the konna tree flowers bloomed for the first time on Vishu, these flowers are kept int he Vishukani as is it is auspicious for Lord Krishna, as they resembled the bells in his anklets.
On this day, a grand feast is prepared, similar to that prepared on Onam. It is usually the same dishes as they would prepare for an Onam Sadhya, however, the following lists the usual items prepared.
- Payasam – Chakka Pradaman or Pal Ada Pradaman or Nendrapazham Pradaman
- Kootu or Kootu Curry
- Poduthuval or Thoran
- Pachadi and Kichadi
- Aviyal or Olan
- Rasam – optional
- Manga Curry (Raw Mango Pickle)
- Banana Chips
The following should be done on the night that is before Vishu. These are things that are usually done, and the rest, is all upto you as you can do whatever you want for the Lord out of your love and devotion for Him. No compulsions or mandatory requirements. Whatever you can afford to do, you can do. After all, it is the same Lord Krishna who had just Avil (flattened rice flakes) and Vellam ( jaggery)! So it is all up to your capability and creativity, most importantly, your Bhakti (devotion).
- Spread rice in a big plate or big uruli (traditionally done in a big uruli).
- Place a yellow squash (Indian yellow cucumber) in the centre of the plate.
- Keep little tour dal (split pigeon peas) in a small bowl.
- Keep currency coins, gold coins and silver coins in another small bowl.
- Place the two small bowls over the rice, together at one end of the yellow squash.
- Arrange different fruits like banana, mangoes, oranges, melons, apples, pears, lemons etc. in a decorative manner around the yellow squash. (As many yellow colored fruits as possible.)
- Halve a coconut and keep the two halves on either side.
- Place the konna flowers or any yellow colored flowers either in a bowl or place them decoratively on the plate.
- Place a mirror, big enough to see the reflection of the fruits and coins, near the small bowls of tur dal and coins, outside the plate, rather, behind the plate.
- You can also place the flowers decoratively on either side of the mirror.
- Also place a thamboolam on the plate – 2 betel leaves, 2 betel nuts and sandalwood paste (chandanam) in a small container and vermillion powder (kumkum) in another small container.
- Decorate the mirror with gold chains and necklaces.
- Decorate the yellow squash with a gold chain or necklace as well.
- Place a neatly folded vastram (usually, the ivory colored Kerala mundu).
- Place a lamp near the plate, and keep the sandal paste and vermillion marks (chandana-kumkumam) on the the lamp. Pour oil in the lamp and place the wick.
Note: Take heed to always prepare the wick by twisting two wick threads together. Always, two wicks are twisted together to form one, to symbolize the unity of the man and woman of the household. It is inauspicious to light a single wick.
- Place a decorated Krishna idol near the mirror, such that, the Krishna can be seen first.
Note: If you do not have a Krishna idol, you can also place a photo or picture of Krishna. If not, that is also fine, provided you keep the vishukanni near the God’s place. Just make sure your eyes first fall on the God before seeing the vishukanni, as that is the intention of placing the Krishna idol. You can decorate the idol and the place where you are keeping the Kani, however you want.
The following should be done on the morning on Vishu:
- Wake up early morning around 4 am.
- As soon as you wake up, go to the place where you have kept the vishu kani.
- First thing you see should be the feet of the God.
- Light the lamp.
- Keep the chandana kumkumam on your forehead.
- View all the things kept in the plate through the mirror, praying for prosperity.
(This is done to symbolize that the hope is for everything to double; i.e. prosperity.)
- Touch the gold coins and touch your eyes (closed).
(This is done because gold is considered to be Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu.)
- Do namaskarams.
The above is done by the eldest woman member in the house. Once she finishes, she wakes up the other members, and guides them with their eyes closed, to the Vishukani, and then they follow the same. Thus, the first thing that they see is the God.
After the Vishukani is seen, the daily routine can be continued:
- Take hair bath.
- Draw kolam outside the house and at the God’s place.
- Prepare neivedhyams.
- Offer prayers and do pooja.
- Offer neivedhyam.
- Do archanai.
- Do namaskarams.
- Serve the prasadams.
Also, on this day, the elders gift the youngsters in the family with money, when the youngsters take their blessings.
HAPPY TAMIL NEW YEAR AND HAPPY VISHU TO ALL OF YOU!!! MAY LORD KRISHNA SHOWER HIS BLESSINGS ON ALL OF US AND FILL OUR LIVES WITH HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY!