The smells of summer, a lull in the breeze, the scorching heat,...
Tamil New Year: That summer fantasy
Summers in South India are for juicy mangoes, the unrelenting blaze of the sun, the expectant prayers for those fleeting summer showers and of course the amazing variety of summer food that we all indulged in, ranging from tender coconut, mango milkshake, ice-cold lemon sodas, colourful ice-lollies, freshly seasoned pickles that have just begun to marinate, watery buttermilk to quench your thirst after being out in the blazing Sun. Summer food deserves a story by themselves but I must share one of my favourite rituals every summer which has to do with assisting ( secretly eating a hundred of them) my grandmother in adding spices, seasoning and marinating her maavadu. This ritual signals the welcoming of summer as the mango trees have begun bearing fruit. The transition from a tree that was filled with a million tiny yellow blossoms is now covered in tiny raw mangoes that are just begging to be picked. As someone who has grown up trying to steal as many of these before I got caught by an adult, I must say that nothing compares to stealing them from the tree without anyone noticing it, even if it’s your own tree.
Enough of my mango fetish, I’ll continue that story another day. For now, we have a very important summer festival to learn about that is celebrated widely by the beautiful people of Tamil Nadu and in all countries that are inhabited by the Tamil diaspora. Especially countries like Sri Lanka , Singapore, Malaysia, Reunion & Mauritius celebrate it extensively in the name of Puthandu which stands for New Year in the Tamil language. A new year in any custom begins the mark of new beginnings, a fresh start at life as we know it and this year especially it is these important customs and rituals that will renew our faith in the good after all the struggles and hardships we have all faced over the past year. The rituals include setting up the house beautifully to bring good vibes to the family and therein good tidings. The highlight of the celebration is the decoration of the house in pleasant summer flowers and the beautiful display of the Summer’s bounty in front of the preferred deity of the house. Ma-pala-vazhai or the three royalty of fruit, namely Mango, Jackfruit & Banana are ritually plated beautifully displayed as a sign of inviting abundance.
The most fun aspect of the Tamil Puthandu is the elaborate lunch spread or the unique Srilankan ritual of Kai-visesham which marks the first financial transaction of the year on this auspicious day. This last ritual is great for kids as they are gifted pocket money on this day by elders and are encouraged to pursue the habit of saving. Many a Tamil family believe this day to be extremely auspicious and commence new ventures on this day. The surprise element in all the festivities is the inclusion of veppampoo in the lunch spread as an extremely important aspect. This tiny flower which is bitter is made into a pachidi ( sauce/paste) and served with all the yummy goodness as a reminder for us all to take the good in life with a bit of bitterness as that will make us stronger. The goodness of veppampoo deserves a story of its own but that too is for another day. Right now, I urge you lovely people in the UK to make merry as we bring to you the Veppampoo Pachidi for the first time in the UK. Make the most of this unbelievable achievement as we’ve also managed to bring actual Veppampoo with all its natural medicinal properties exclusively to your homes in the UK. Truly make hay while the Sun shines, as we truly are in the peak of summer!