Families usher in Tamil New Year

Steeped in tradition: Devotees gathering for prayers during the Tamil New Year at Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Temple in Shah Alam, Selangor. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Electrical engineer M. Karmughillaan never thought much about the Tamil Puthandu (New Year) up until now.

Karmughillaan, 29, who is celebrating his first Tamil New Year after getting married to wife S. Maiytiniy, also 29, said when he was single and carefree, he left all the preparations to his parents.

“Now, being married made me realise the responsibilities involved and the significance of the celebrations. I was excited about shopping for new clothes, cleaning the house and putting up decorations for this auspicious day,” he said after Tamil New Year prayers at his parents’ house in Batu Maung yesterday.

He said preparations started about a week ago with him and his wife helping his parents and sisters to clean the house.

He and Maiytiniy shopped for traditional clothes such as the vesti, kurta and saree for themselves, his parents and parents-in-law about a week ago.

“We also received new sets of traditional clothing from my parents and parents-in-law,” he said.

Maiytiniy, a senior legal and human resources executive, said although she missed celebrating with her parents this year, she was happy to get the chance to help her mother-in-law prepare the traditional South Indian vegetarian thali (a set meal consisting of small portions of vegetables) lunch with her sisters-in-law.

“Besides the thali, my mother-in-law made Indian sweets and on my part, I did the halwa using the recipe my mother had taught me,” she said.

Maiytiniy said she and her sisters-in-law, M. Livanyah Priya, 32, and M. Shivagaaminiy, 27, each cooked a dish or two so that her mother-in-law would not be burdened with preparing eight to nine types of vegetarian dishes for the thali.

Karmughillaan’s father, businessman SV Manimaran, 58, said this year, his daughter M. Deenadayalani and her husband B. Rubindren, both 31 who live in Teluk Kumbar, came over to celebrate the Tamil New Year.

Happy together: Family members enjoying a Tamil New Year vegetarian thali served by Manimaran (standing, right) and Vairam (right) in Batu Maung, Penang. — KT GOH/The StarHappy together: Family members enjoying a Tamil New Year vegetarian thali served by Manimaran (standing, right) and Vairam (right) in Batu Maung, Penang. — KT GOH/The Star

He said besides the religious significance, the Tamil New Year was a time for families to come together and for the young ones to seek the blessings of their elders.

“After cleaning the house, we use thirtham (holy water) from the nearby temple to sprinkle around the house and the puja altar to cleanse on the morning of the new year.

“Usually, mango tree leaves are strung across the entrance to the house to usher in blessings, good health, well-being as well as abundant goodness.

“We decorate the altar with flowers, fruits and auspicious items such as turmeric, betel nut, betel leaf and salt,” he explained.

Manimaran said after donning new clothes, his family joined in the prayers followed by the children seeking blessings from him and his wife before sitting down for the vegetarian feast.

“The food... would first be offered to God to be blessed before we partake in it,” he explained.

His wife, A. Vairam Kaliammah, 54, said for almost every Tamil New Year since she got married 33 years ago, she had been preparing a special pachadi (fresh pickle) dish using mango, jackfruit, banana, pepper, chilli, velam (unrefined brown sugar), vepam (dried neem) flower and lime, which was a family recipe.

“This dish is significant as it contains all the different flavours like spiciness, sweetness, sour and even bitterness, just like what we go through in life,” she said.

Vairam, who woke up at 4am to prepare the dishes, said that this year she cooked sambar (dhall curry) using five types of vegetables, karakolumbu (spicy curry) with three types of vegetables, rasam, moru (yogurt), mango chutney, fried long beans, tofu sambal, vadai and payasam (sweet porridge) for the thali feast.

She had made sweets such as ghee balls and kadalai parpu urundai (sweet chana dhall balls).

Tamil Puthandu is the first day of the year on the Tamil calendar and traditionally celebrated as a festival by Tamil worldwide.

The festival date is set with the solar cycle of the solar Hindu calendar as the first day of the Tamil month Chittirai and falls on or about April 14 annually.

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