Auckland, April 18, 2018
As you read this, Tamilians all over the world would have marked their New Year Day on April 14, although festivities in New Zealand and other countries will be held throughout the month to suit the convenience of the community.
Special Prayers were held at all Temples and Gurdwaras around the country, since April 14 also marked Baisakhi (or ‘Vaisakhi’), the Harvest Festival of the Punjabi and Sikh communities and ‘Vishu,’ a traditional observance of Keralites.
We have reports on Baisakhi elsewhere in this Special Report.
Singhalese of Sri Lanka also observed their New Year on April 14.
The same day is also celebrated by people of Assam, West Bengal, Manipur, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
People from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka observed their New Year Day as ‘Ugadi’ on March 18 this year.
Importance for Tamils
Tamil New Year is of immense significance for Tamil-speaking people of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry (formerly known as ‘Pondicherry’), Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, East Africa, Indian countries – in fact, throughout the world.
According to Vedic Astrology and Classic literature, there are 60 years which rotate, each corresponding to ‘Samvatsara,’ or Jovian Year (which related to Planet Jupiter). The Tamil New Year 2018-2019 is ‘Vilambi,’ the 32nd Samvatsara.
Those subscribing to Astrology believe that those born in Year Vilambi will be prosperous and extend that prosperity to those around them.
Known as ‘Puthandu’ or ‘Pudthuvarusham,’ the observance of Tamil New Year Day is set with the Solar Cycle of the Lunisolar Hindu Calendar as the first day of the Tamil Month of ‘Chithirai,’ known as ‘Chaitra’ in other languages.
It therefore almost always falls on or about 14 April every year on the Gregorian calendar.
In traditional homes, children are woken up to see ‘Kanni,’ (which Malayalis call, ‘Vishu Kanni,’) that such sightings (of gold, jewellery, leaves, nuts, fruits, vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconut) will bring prosperity throughout the year.
Floors near entrances to homes are decorated with ‘Kolam’ (Rangoli) while the main doors will feature strings of Mango leaves. The real meaning behind these was to keep away, insects and toxic materials, now accepted by modern science.
There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April New Year.
Nakkirar, Sangam period author of ‘Netunalvatai,’ wrote in the Third Century CE that the Sun travels from Mesha through 11 successive signs of the Zodiac.
Kudalur Kizhaar of the same period also refers to Mesha Rasi as the commencement of the year in the Purananuru.
‘Tolkaapiyam,’ the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chittirai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer.
‘Silappatikaram’ (An Eighth Century literary masterpiece) mentions the 12 Rasis or Zodiac signs starting with Mesha.
New Zealander Tamilians will mark the New Year on various days at various locations, especially in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.
In Auckland, culture and tradition will combine with modern-day youth to promote an evening of entertainment on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Organised by Muthtamil Sangam, the event, called, ‘Chithirai Vizha,’ will be held at Freeman’s Bay Community Hall, 52 Hepburn Street, Freeman’s Bay from 530 pm.
Sangam President Soundar Tirupathi said that the ‘Vizha’ (Festival) will bring together a cross-section of our communities.
“As well as performances by our people, the forthcoming event will be glorified by multicultural performances by various ethnic groups. Entry tickets, priced at $10 for adults, $5 for children between five and twelve years (children below five will be admitted free) are now available,” he said.
“The dawn of a New Year always brings with it new hopes for a new era, with people wishing for peace and harmony, higher levels of growth and prosperity and greater community amity and social cohesion. Such hopes are more pronounced in a multicultural country like New Zealand where people join in the festivities of various cultural groups, expressing their joy and solidarity,” Mr Soundhar added.