The first day of the Chittirai month of the Tamil Calendar is celebrated as the Tamil New Year also known as Puthandu or Varsha Pirappu. The auspicious day ushers in a new beginning. This year, it will be celebrated on April 14.
New Year is all about being hopeful of a better living. People look forward to a pleasant ride in the journey called life. Hence Tamil people begin the day by looking at the Kani to move forward in their journey.
What is Kani?
A Kani is a symbol of prosperity. It symbolises things that people need for their well-being and it includes food, clothing and other essentials.
Here's how it is assembled
A rangoli made of rice flour is made on the floor. Then a tray full of whole fruits and vegetables - bananas, mangoes, jackfruit, cucumber, pumpkin, flowers, coins, gold /silver jewellery and new clothes are kept on it. A mirror is kept vertically behind the tray so that the reflection of the ingredients is clearly visible. The Kani is usually assembled on the eve of the New Year so that the first thing people can do on the following day is to view the contents of the tray clearly from the mirror reflection.
Here's how the celebrations begin
A day prior to the New Year, people clean their homes and keep it tidy.
After viewing the Kani in the morning of the New Year day, people take bath and wear new clothes. The women of the house decorate the entrance of their house with Kolam (rangoli) and use torans made of mango leaves for the main door.
Then they light a lamp, incense and garland the idols/photos of the Gods and Goddesses and offer their prayers.
After seeking blessings from the Gods, they prepare pacchadi – the most important preparation for the occasion, sweets and other special recipes.
And then they head to a temple for an auspicious beginning.
The significance of the Pacchadi
The Pacchadi or chutney prepared with grated raw mango, tamarind pulp, jaggery, chilli, neem flowers and salt is consumed as the main prasad. It inspires people to embrace life and its varied offerings. Life witnesses a variety of emotions - happiness, sorrow, agony, grief, ecstasy, embarrassment etc. The ingredients used in the Pacchadi remind us that life is not a bed of roses and it has even thorns in its kitty. The real essence of life lies in embracing it with its harshness.
After visiting a temple, relatives, friends, well-wishers and neighbours greet each other Puttandu Nal Vazthukkal and exchange sweets and delicacies.