An Indian New Year’s Day is an occasion when generations come together to give and receive blessings and best wishes. Children also look forward to this day as it brings gifts and money from the elders in the family.
Varusham in Tamizh means ‘year’ and pirappu is ‘birth’, the beginning of the New Year in the Tamizh calendar. The Tamil New Year follows the vernal equinox and the first day and month of the year invariably occurs on April 14th. The Tamil calendar is based on the solar cycle. It has a sixty years cycle and each year has twelve months. After the completion of sixty years, considered to be the “Hindu century”, the calendar begins anew with the first year. The Vakya or Tirukannitha Panchangam (the traditional Tamil almanac) is referred to as the almanac for all auspicious and celebratory days.
The month of Chithirai (April-May) is an auspicious one. Tamizh New Year’s day is celebrated with festivity and prayer. An important event on this day is the reading of the Panchankam or almanac in most temples and people visit it to hear what the year ahead will mean in terms of prosperity. The Tamizh New Year follows the vernal equinox and the first day and month of the year invariably occurs on April 13th or 14th.
The Tamil calendar is based on the solar cycle. It has a sixty years cycle and each year has twelve months. After the completion of sixty years, considered as the Hindu century, the calendar begins anew with the first year. Each year has a distinctive name. This new year is called JAYA!
The special meal cooked on this day has dishes reflecting six different tastes called shadruchi— sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
The Tamil Panchangam or Almanac
The month of Chithirai (April-May) is an auspicious one. Tamizh New Year’s day is celebrated with festivity and prayer. An important event on this day is the reading of the Panchangam or almanac in most temples and people visit it to hear what the year ahead will mean in terms of prosperity.
The Tamil Panchangam is a solar and sidereal Hindu calendar. Panchangam means five parts and it records five important features of any given day:
- Thidhi—the particular day in a fortnight after the New and Full Moon
- Naal –the star or asterism that the moon occupies
- Karanam—is half of the part of Tithi
- Nithya Yoga—an auspicious moment
- Vaara –day of the week
These features are derived from the position of the Sun and Moon. The Panchangam is used to find out these five basic characteristics, for finding the exact dates of festivals, fasts, dates to perform shraadh for ancestors and for finding auspicious dates for family functions. Astrologers use the panchangam to prepare horoscopes and predictions.
There are many Panchangams that are used as a reference by householders and astrologers.
The Vakya or Tirukannitha Panchangam is the traditional Tamil almanac.
The Madathu Panchangam is issued by Kanchi Kamokotti Peetham.
The Manonmani Vilasam Press has been publishing the Asal No.28, Pambu Panchangam from Kondithope in North Madras. It is available not only throughout Tamil Nadu but also in many countries where the Tamil speaking population can be found.
Srirangam Vakya Panchangam is the almanac used by Vaishnavaites. The Gowri Panchangam is also issued from Srirangam.
The daily calendar that is a tear-off almanac is found in many homes in the south. Each day’s astrological details and the festivals including famous temple events are given in detail. These calendars are issued as free giveaways by shops and newspapers on January 1st every year.
Vishu is an important festival for Keralaites and for people near the Kerala border. In many families, the Vishu kani is placed before the deities in the puja room. Seasonal varieties of fruits and vegetables with coins, silver and gold are arranged beautifully. People wake up in the morning and open their eyes to this bounty and hope that the year ahead will be as rich and fruitful. It is a kind of thanksgiving festival.
In homes feasts are cooked, the deity of the family is worshipped and elders bless the children wishing them health, prosperity and good times. The Day’s menu includes six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. The combinations of these essences have a tremendous impact on our digestion, absorption and metabolic rejuvenation that is so very important for well being according to Ayurveda.
It must be remembered that festivals in the Hindu calendar are related to religious concepts. It is not partying like Western celebrations. It is about going to temples and meeting family and elders to ask for their blessings for a productive year.