The Tamil and Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Tamizh Puthandu (Tamil: தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு) in Tamil Nadu and among the Indian worldwide Tamil diaspora, and as Sinhala Aluth Avurudda (Sinhala: සිංහල අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is a major anniversary celebrated by the Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
The festival date is set with the solar cycle of the Hindu calendar, as the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai. It, therefore, falls on or about 14 April every year on the Gregorian calendar. The same day is observed by Hindus elsewhere as the traditional new year but is known by other names such as Vishu in Kerala, and Vaisakhi or Baisakhi in central and northern India.
The Sinhalese New Year / Sinhala Aluth Avurudda has a close semblance to the Tamil New year / Tamizh Puthandu and is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April and traditionally begins at the sighting of the new moon.
On January 29, 2008, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Government of Tamil Nadu enacted the Tamil Nadu New Year Declaration Bill 2008 which declared that the Tamil new year should be celebrated on the first day of Tamil month of Thai (14th January) to coincide with the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal. However, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada continued to observe the new year in mid-April.
The law enacted by the DMK-led Government of Tamil Nadu was met with resistance by the majority of Tamils in the state and elsewhere. It was also challenged in court, questioned by Hindu priests and many Tamil scholars around the world. Many in Tamil Nadu ignored the DMK government legislation and continued the celebration of the traditional Puthandu new year festival in mid-April.
The then opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) in Tamil Nadu subsequently condemned the decision of the DMK Government in that state and urged their supporters to continue celebrating the traditional date in mid-April.
In an effort to placate popular sentiments the DMK-led government renamed Tamil Puthandu as “Chithirai Tirunal” (the festival of the Tamil month of Chithirai). It maintained April 14 as a public holiday purportedly to commemorate late Dr B.R Ambedkar, who was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution even though all the television channels in Tamil Nadu continued to telecast festive “Chithirai Tirunal Special Programs” on April 14, 2010.
In April 2010, the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, which has an ethnic Tamil majority, wished and greeted the public for the Tamil new year 2010.
Subsequently, on August 23, 2011, an AIADMK majority-led government rescinded this law legislated by the DMK majority-led government by a separate act of legislation in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.