Chithirai the first month of the Tamizh year marking the beginning of a new Tamizh year, is usually from April 14 - May 14. This Tamizh year is called the Nandana varusham (நந்தன வருஷம்). This year the New Year has begun on April 13, today.
Chithirai is one of the hottest month in India. The beginning of the new year is celebrated with reading the almanac (panchangam), making the maangai pachadi (மாங்காய் பச்சடி) and veppampoo pachadi,(வேப்பம்பூ பச்சடி) signifying that life is full of different tastes like inippu (இனிப்பு), pulippu (புளிப்பு), kaaram (காரம்), karippu (கரிப்பு), thuvarppu (துவர்ப்பு) and kasappu (கசப்பு). Of course people do make other sweets like payasam today but the most important dishes are the maangai pachadi/veppampoo pachadi as it is mango season and one can see the neem tree full of fresh flowers. Neem tree is as good as the banana or coconut tree where all parts are useful only thing is we do not use the neem tree products for everyday cooking but the leaves and flowers are of great medicinal values.
Mango is part and parcel of summer and it is very difficult to find somebody who does not like mangoes, raw or ripe!
|photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/|
Vishu, (விஷு) celebrated as new year by the Keralites also usually falls on the same day as the Tamizh New year, but these two vary by a day some times. This year is one of those, Vishu being celebrated tomorrow and Tamizh New Year today. The Vishukkani (விஷுக்கனி) is very important in Kerala and this ritual is also followed in many Tamizh households including ours. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, rice, dal, is kept in a tray along with betel leaves, betel nuts and turmeric pieces. Also some gold jewels and rupee coins are kept along with this. The whole tray is kept in front of a mirror decorated with flowers and early morning as soon as one gets up, he has to look in the mirror, see himself and all the positive things displayed there. This mainly signifies the auspiciousness and usually the children are given the coins as gifts called Vishukkaineetam (விஷு கைநீட்டம்). For Keralites the yellow flower is also an integral part of the Vishukkani
One of the most important festivals of Chithirai is the Akshaya Thrithya (அக்ஷய திரிதியை), the third day after the Amavasya (new moon) Traditionally in many parts of India it is celebrated as birthday of Lord Parasurama. It is also said to be the day river Ganga flowed into the Earth. It is a very good day to begin any venture, but last 20 - 25 years, jewellers have named this day the best for buying gold and there is a great rush for the gold on this day. From what I have heard, it is considered to be good to gift gold on this day, but can anyone imagine giving gold free to anybody now?
This year Akshaya Thrithya is on 24 April
The hottest period of the year called Agni Nakshathram (அக்னி நக்ஷத்திரம்) or kathiri veyyil (கத்திரி வெய்யில்) begins in this month and ends in the Tamizh month of Vaikasi. This year Agni Nakshathram begins on 4th May and ends on 28th May. During this period abhishekams with water and cooling things like ilaneer are performed for the deities in the temples.
The full moon day of the month of Chithirai is called the Chitra Pouranami (சித்ரா பௌர்ணமி). This is celebrated as the birthday of Chitragupta who accounts all our good and bad deeds and reports to Yama, the God of death. Hence special prayers to Chitragupta on this day. This year Chitra pournami falls on 5th May.