by Dr. K. Thilagawathi
The birth of Tamil New Year, Saarvari, will occur at 10.04 p.m. on Monday 13.04.2020. This New Year comes to us in a constrained situation. Is this meant to give some special message to us? Only God knows.
We, as Hindus, are accustomed to the practice of being present in the Temple as the New Year is born, before visiting our kin and kith to mutually convey our greetings and have a ‘good day drink’ (some still adhere to this practice); but this year we have to do our earnest New Year prayer at home, and carry on with other related activities.
This unique situation we are facing is not limited to us but encompasses the entire world. The COVID-19 Coronavirus seems to have a ‘mystical’ power, which has brought a rather sudden but substantial change to our lives. It has confined us to our homes and made us forget about our commitments in all aspects of life, like education, work, games, shopping and so forth.
The virus has made us turn back our clocks and start appreciating the simple way of life and our traditional customs, habits and food choices. Likewise, we shall recollect our traditional way of welcoming our Tamil New Year.
First, let us spring clean our house. All family members under the roof can join in cleaning the house together – as it was during our granny’s time. If we are able to obtain ingredients for ‘palahaarams’ we could make some to welcome the New Year; but if we do not have the ingredients that is alright. If we do not have new clothes, we could choose to wear the ones that best matches the colour of the year – off white/cream for this year. On the eve of the New Year, let us pick out flowers from our garden to decorate our altar, if available. As we are able to step outside for limited hours, we may try to obtain mango leaves from within our neighbourhood. However, we must bear in mind that the greatest importance lies in thoroughly cleaning our house and offering our prayers; beautifying the house is secondary. Given our situation, we should make do with whatever flowers we have for prayers; thoobam (incense), theebam (light) and water are important; and we have the ponggal to offer God.
NEW YEAR AT HOME
On the 13th of April the Vishu Punniya kaalam is between 6.04 p.m. and 2.04 a.m. (14.04.2020). During the Vishu Punniya kaalam we can organize our altar and have it ready for prayers. We can also make some sweet rice for our prayers in this time. During the period of the Punniya Kaalam, we should have our bath with the Maruttu Neer (if available) and wear traditional clothes; when all the family members have bathed and are ready, it is ideal for everyone to pray together; this habit was a daily feature in those days. Unfortunately, our present lifestyle is not very conducive for perpetuating this healthy habit.
Having prayers at the exact time of birth of the New Year is suggested here, following the tradition of Sri Kandaswamy Temple. However, many Temples conduct their special New Year poojaa in the morning that follows the birth of the New Year – that is, if the New Year begins during the night hours.
Having done the prayers at night, what do we do the next morning? Sri Kandaswamy Temple offers sweet ponggal to the sun in the morning, after the morning poojaa, since our special New Year prayers would have been performed at night – at the exact time of birth of the New Year. If we find it difficult to make the ponggal outside the house, we can cook it in our kitchen while mindfully praying that our life should be as sweet as the ponggal throughout the year.
WHEN MAKING PONGGAL
Before getting down with preparations for making the New Year ponggal, it is useful to look at some guidelines given by the Ragunatha Iyer Panjaanggam. Here is the translation (with some necessary adaptations for better understanding) of what it says:
“The next day, which is the first day of Chitthirai in the year of Saarvari, Tuesday (14.04.2020), as soon as you wake up early in the morning, think of the Lord you worship, reflect on the things you have done and those that you have to do, to notice if they are in line with the teachings of our moral and religious literature. Then look at any of these auspicious objects: mirror, theebam, niraikudam, your right palm, the feet of mother/father/teacher, the forms of deities, the Thirumurai books, flowers such as the lotus, fruits, turmeric, sandal paste, beetle leaves – areca nut. After that, fulfill your daily routine, and proceed to do the ceremonial making of the sweet rice as an offering to the sun; this will be followed by prayer (prayer is generally done both at the place where the ponggal is done and at the prayer room). Once our prayers are done, we may proceed to enjoy the ponggal, cook the ‘banana leaf’ meal and do any kind and good deed you are able to do – whether it is helping the needy or even feeding a stray animal – and spend the day happily.”
REFLECT ON YOURSELF
Whether or not we are able to perform the ceremonious aspects to the fullest, let us try our best and welcome the New Year by beseeching God’s blessings and guidance throughout the year so that we better our thoughts, words, and actions, and lead a life filled with humanity, goodwill and mutual respect. Since we will have quite some free time this year, we could spend more time chanting mantras of our choice and meditating for the wellbeing of the entire world.
A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS SAARVARI NEW YEAR TO ALL FROM SRI KANDASWAMY TEMPLE, BRICKFIELDS, KUALA LUMPUR.
INBAMEH SOOZHA ELLORUM VAAZHA
MAY THE KIND LORD BLESS US AND GUIDE US ALONG HIS GRACEFUL PATH!
Kanthan Paatham Kanavillum Thunai Seiyum.