Monday, April 14, 2014

Celebrating Tamil Puthandu

Today is Tamil Puthandu - which is Tamil New Year's Day. Over the weekend we were invited to celebrate it at a friend's house and we had such a nice time!

This was my first time celebrating Tamil Puthandu so it was extra special. In we walked to the party, and the whole crowd was Tamilians and there were several Tamilians there from Hyderabad. After nearly 6 years of living in Vancouver (which is 99.9% Sikh Punjabi), I felt like, "Aha! We've finally found our Tamilians!" It was so great for husband-ji, and I - hearing him speaking his native tongue with fellow Hyderabadi's. Finally....after six years here....we have found our Tamil community! It was a really nice feeling.

We got all dressed up in our outfits that husband-ji had recently brought from India. The dress code said it was informal, so I wore one of my fancy Salwar Kameez in a bright orange color - a celebratory color to welcome in the New Year. We arrived at the party, and of course I was underdressed. All the ladies (in traditional South Indian wifey style) were wearing gorgeous, elaborate silk sarees and huge chunks of gold and diamond nose rings. How typical! So next time....I need to remember....that "informal" means a six yard silk saree.....and "formal" means a nine yard silk saree! (LOL!)

The party started with everyone seated, as the Vishnu Sahasranaman was performed. First, everyone chanted "Ommmmm", and then they took out their booklets with the Vishnu chants. I think it was at least 20+ pages! The best part of it was watching my daughter see the pooja. When everyone started with the "Om", Maya went totally silent (yay!) It was quite beautiful, really....the way everyone chanted together. It was a lovely spiritual experience and it really made me think of the year before us. It made me feel hopeful for this year, and it made me feel thankful that my dad is healing. Hearing the Sahasranaman was like a breath of fresh air - the sense of calm that I felt was wonderful.

(Vishnu Sahasranaman by M.S. Subbulakshmi)

Of course, I remember the Vishnu Sahasranaman from my inlaws house in Hyderabad, where my MIL used to play it every day at sunrise and sunset. This is to wake the God up (at sunrise) and put him to rest (at sunset). You honour him by performing the Sahasranaman so that he blesses you, and so that he is with you.

What is Vishnu Sahasranaman? Vishnu Sahasranaman literally means "the thousand names of Vishnu" and it is said to be one of the most sacred chants. In Hinduism, we believe in reincarnation - therefore every God has many different forms, or "avatars". The thousand names of Vishnu are all of his reincarnations - husband-ji's name, Madhava, is also one of them.

(Vishnu - img via)

Since we are Iyengars (Vishnu worshippers) this is our most commonly used prayer. We chant to Vishnu to call on him, to be blessed by him, to reach a level of peace and prosperity. For Iyengars, Vishnu is the supreme being. 

After the Sahasranaman was over, we ate a big meal of Tamarind rice, Vada, Aloo capsicum, Green beans and coconut curry, Kootu, Sambhar and Rasam. For dessert there were delicious ladoo's. 

While we were celebrating Tamil Puthandu with the thirty Tamilians in Vancouver....across town, Vaisakhi was being celebrated with 100,000+ Punjabi's!

Happy Tamil Puthandu , Happy Vaisakhi & belated Happy Ugadi, dear readers!


Did you guys celebrate this past weekend? Did you witness any festivities?



  1. Alex,

    Happy Tamil Puthandu to each of you! All of you look so beautiful in your new clothes. The orange salwar kameez looks gorgeous on you Alex. Husband-Ji looks handsome in his new kurta and Maya looks beautiful in her new salwar kameez. You all look great, no blue jeans for you guys.

    It is good to learn about Vishnu Sahasranaman and how worship is done. The puja seems like it was spiritually cleansing and there is joy in your heart. Interesting facts about Lord Vishnu and all of his names, thanks for sharing this.

    It is refreshing for Husband-ji to be able to speak to those Tamilians who speak his native language. I am sure this made you feel like home.

    Blessing for the rest of the week.


    1. Thanks Melissa! You always have the nicest messages :)
      Happy Puthandu!
      Yes, no jeans for us, I have never even worn jeans so being an Indian wifey suits me well :D
      This time I really got to know the pooja well, it was really nice.
      It felt like we were in Hyderabad itself!

  2. Happy Tamil Puthandu to you!! It is also Pohela Boishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year. We celebrated with the Bangladeshi Association of Students and Scholars here. One interesting thing I found out is that Bangladesh celebrates it this year on the 14th and India on the 15th! :) But we celebrated on the 13th - the auspicious day when the hall was free :) All the ladies were dressed in sarees - mostly red, but some orange and pink as well. We ate different kinds of bhorta (which are blended dishes, mostly vegetables but can be made with nonveg too) and shutki (a dried fish dish that is actually really tasty though some people say it's smelly) and in typical Bengali fashion, a huge spread of mishti (sweets) :) We otherwise sat around, chatted, and sang folk songs. It was a wonderful day!

    1. Yes I heard it was also Bengali New Year and I thought of you! So many festivals on one day!
      So nice that you have a community of Bengali's there where you live. I love getting together on holidays, the food sounds amazing. Hey, if I ever come to WA, we're going out for Shukti! :)

  3. Happy Tamil Puthandu. Looks like so many people celebrated new year on the same day as it was Nepali New Year too. You look absolutely beautiful in your outfit. Great to see that you are enjoying his culture :)

    1. Happy Nepali new year!!!!!
      There are not enough Indian dresses in the world to satisfy my taste! I plan on wearing them all summer when it gets hot! :D

  4. மாதவ உன்னாலே தமிழின் கனடாலயும் ஜெயச்சிடான்

    i have been following this blog for sometime , your story is like a fairy tale
    ,its the dream of every kid growing up in the Indian middle class to settle down in countries like Canada ,to be honest this is not just for ourselves ,it is to make our family financially better and to offer better lives for our family especially the kids & that one person who matters the most ,the soul mate , i am glad you've achieved it Maddy

    Happy Tamil New Year Day

    1. Happy Puthandu! Thank you for such a kind and sweet message :)

  5. மாதவ உன்னலே தமிழன் கனடலயும் ஜெயச்சிடான்

    hi , i have been following this blog for sometime now , i am really happy for you , yours is like a fairy tale love story,spreading across two continents

    my best wishes for you and your family
    Happy Tamil New Year Day

  6. @Alexandra

    Happy new year to you and family. This new year is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of India from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South to Punjab in the North and West Bengal and Assam in the East. We celebrate the same festivals, believe in the same religion, but think differently of each other creating artificial barriers.

    BTW have you listened to Shiva chants. Here are a few faboulous shiva chants

    1. Happy Bengali New Year, I heard it was on the same day!
      I have heard the second one before, but not the others. LOVE the dancing in the third video, thanks for sharing!

    2. @Alexandra

      The third video depicts an episode from the Hindu epic Ramayana. Oh, BTW have you read Ramayana and Mahabharata. These are great epics to learn about the culture and civilization of India.

      Once it so happened that Ravana, the great Shiva devotee, desired to bring Lord Shiva with him to Lanka. he was the said to be be the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva. In his arrogance, he tried to lift Mt. Kailash the home of Lord Shiva. Shiva smiled and pressed the mountain with his toe. The pressure was so immense that Ravana's hand got trapped under the mountain. He cried loudly in pain, his crying shook the entire universe. He, then and there, composed his finest creation "Shiv Tandav Shotram" praising the glory of Lord Shiva. Shiva, having been pleased with his devotion appreared before him and gave him the name "RAVAN" (one who cried loudly in Sanskrit). Before that he was called DASANAN (one with ten heads). Shiva also granted him his sword Chandrahasa (Moon sword) and told him as long as the sword stays with Ravana he is invincible. It is said that when Rama stepped into Lanka, the sword went back to Lord Shiva. Ravana knew that his end was near but since he wanted salvation at the hands of Lord Vishnu, he fought with him. The third video shows the incident of ravana lifting Mt. Kailash. There are many such interesting and wonderful stories in Indian mythology. The moral of the story is don't mess with god. I did not bore you, did I??

    3. @anonymous - not boring at all! I love those stories!
      I attempted to read the Mahabharata in college but then my courses were getting too heavy. Can you give some recommended reading?

    4. @Alexandra

      This is why Mahabhata is not kept in Hindu households. It is believed to create domestic discord. Too violent.

  7. Love the cute, new, little family photo!! I love the bright orange salwar kameez! I have yet to venture into pretty Indian garb, but I hope to one day have the confidence to wear something out to dinner or to hang out with my boyfriend's family. That first step is intimidating!

    1. Thank you! It's my new favorite photo - total selfie!
      Don't worry, you will be a natural in it! Everyone looks great in Indian clothes! Stand tall and proud! And they are so comfortable ;)

  8. வாழ்த்துக்கள் .

  9. Happy Tamil Puthandu! I have not heard of this celebration before, so thanks for sharing with us. Looking Gorgeous in Indian attire :-)

  10. @Alexandra

    I found an easier version of the two epics

    Some 25 years ago when the ramayan was made into TV serial streets were deserted, train schedules were changed and people did poojas before sitting before the TV sets. Such was the divine craze for the epics. The same thing happened when Mahabharata was made into a TV serial:-

    Ravana was one amazing creature. His mother was demon and his father was brahmin. He got physical strength from his mother and intelligence from his father. His maternal grandfather wanted a grand son to defeat the gods. So, he got his daugher married to Rishi Vishrava. Ravan emerged from this combination.

    There are interesting stories about Ravan's ten heads"

    1. His father having been impressed by his intelligence, named him DASANAN, one with intelligence of ten men.

    2 He acquired so much knowlege that one head was not enough, he grew ten heads.

    3. The ten heads represented all that was wrong in Ravan, lust, arrogance etc.

    4. The most intesting story is that Ravan's father gifted him a pearl necklace of nine pearls. When Ravan wore that necklace, the pearls reflected a projection of his face, giving a impression of ten heads. Ancient optical illusion I suppose.

    Opps, I told you another story.

    1. I saw a few of those serials when I was staying in India. The costumes were pretty funny. I'm going to show some to Maya, I'm sure she will be fascinated by them!
      I love the symbolism in these stories, I find it to be very artistic.


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