Today is the start of the New Year, celebrated as “Puththaandu” by the Tamilians, “Baisakhi” by the Punjabis, “Vishu” by the Keralites and “Nabo Borsho” by the Bengalis.
Tamil Puthandu: Tamilians celebrate this day as the dawn of the month Chithirai which is the first month of the Tamil Calendar. The home is decorated with Kolam (White colour Rangoli) and mango leaves. In many parts of Tamil Nadu, grand festivals like chariot festivals are organised around this date. The food usually involves Payasam (Kheer) and Vada which is traditional in festive meals of Tamil Nadu along with a dish made of Mango and dried neem flowers to signify the sweet and bitter flavours of life.
Kerala Vishu: Vishu is also celebrated today by the Keralites. In Kerala it is considered a festival of lights and fireworks. The hallmark feature of this festival is the “Vishukani” – A platter of articles signifying prosperity like Beetel leaves, nuts, coconut, fruits, money, flowers etc are arranged the previous night. It is supposed to be the first thing you open your eyes to in the morning, ensuring prosperity for the entire year. People dress up in new clothes and there is a tradition of elders giving money to the younger ones, known as “Vishu Kaineetam”. The neem flower also features in the Vishu Sadya (feast) of the day in the form of Neem flower rasam. Mango dishes are also a prominent feature on the menu.
Punjabi Baisakhi: The Punjabis celebrate Baisakhi today. Besides the celebration of harvest, this day is also the day the 10th Guru Gobind Singh organized the order of the Khalsa- the brotherhood of saint soldiers organized to fight the tyranny and oppression against the Mughals in 1699.”Langar” or special community food is prepared on festivals like Baisakhi and shared by all. This vegetarian food is specially prepared in the Gurudwaras. It was instituted as a custom to abolish hunger and serve the community.
Nabo Borsho: Nabo Borsho or Poila Boishakh is celebrated as the beginning of the Bengali Calendar. People dress up in new clothes and the day begins traditionally with singing and processions. It is also considered an auspicious time for weddings. Many new business activities also commence on this date. Interestingly, left over rice with Hilsa fish is the hallmark of the New Year menu. Many other delicacies like fish, chana dal and sweets are also prepared.