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Puthandu, also known as Puthuvarudam, or Tamil New Year, is the first day of the year according to the Tamil calendar. It is celebrated by Tamil people throughout the world, and it is observed as a public holiday in both the Indian State of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It is a time for visiting family and paying respects to elders, visiting temples, cleaning houses and wearing fine new clothes, and feasting.
The day before Puthandu, a tray is arranged with an assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables such as mangoes and jackfruit, betel leaves, nuts, and rice, along with flowers, jewellery, coins, and a mirror. These things are representative of health and nourishment, wealth and prosperity, and it is considered auspicious for this arrangement to be the first thing one lays one’s eyes on when waking on the first day of the new year.
On Puthandu, the floors at the entrances of houses are decorated with complex and elaborate rangoli-like designs made of rice flour known as kolams.
There is a tradition surrounding the first financial transaction of the year on Puthandu called Kai-vishesham, when children visit elders to pay their respects and are gifted with pocket money for good luck.
Food is an integral part of the festivities, and the day finishes with a family feast. Many delicacies are prepared and shared, including idli, rasam, sambar, and pongal. There is a special, complex dish which is classic Puthandu fare: Mangi-pachadi, whivh contains sweet jaggery, sour raw mango, spicy red chilli, and bitter neem leaves. These wildly contrasting flavour elements represent the experiences in store for the coming year, and to eat this pachadi is to acknowledge that a full life is made up of bitter and sweet moments.
Puthandu begins on the first day of the solar cycle of the Hindu calendar and thus shares a date with other regional new year celebrations such as the Assamese Rongali Bihu, and the Malayali Vishu.
Puthandu takes place on the first day of the month of Chithirai, in the solar cycle of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. It falls on or around the 14th of April each year in the Gregorian calendar.