Although there is no single true Hindu calendar, mostly, Hindu new year falls around late March to early April. Different regions of India, celebrate the new year on different dates. Southern states of Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra celebrate Ugadi / Gudi Padwa on the same day (typically around late-March and early-April). Other states of India – Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu celebrate their new year in mid-April.
The first day of the month of Chithirai, which usually spans from mid-April to mid-May. There are 12 months in the calendar and the days in each month varies between 29 and 32 with provision for leap-year corrections. Keeping in mind the fact that the food prepared on the new year’s day should include all the six tastes, veppampoo pachadi (Neem flower chutney) for bitter taste, raw mango sweet chutney for sweet and sour tastes are definitely made. The other 3 tastes of pungent, salty and astringent are usually found in an typical Indian meal. It is customary to eat all these dishes (irrespective of whether one likes it or not), and the underlying philosophy is that “everything that happens in life is multi-flavored and no single taste predominates” and we should accept them as is. (Note: I don’t know how true this is, but this is how my mom made us eat the bitter Neem chutney and now wiser with age, I tend to agree with her).
The month of chithirai has a lot of significance as it heralds the arrival of summer to South India and also the famous Chithirai Thiruvizha (Festival of Chithirai), celebrated in the historic Meenaskshi Amman Temple in Madurai. This is a 10-day festival and is a commemoration of the event of the Lord Azhagar (Lord Vishnu’s incarnation) visiting the city to give away his sister Goddess Meenakshi in marriage to Lord Sundereshwarar.
PUTHANDU NAL VAAZHTHUKKAL! (Tamil for: Happy New year!)