Different parts of the world celebrate New Year in a different way, in some countries; the time of celebration also differs. New Year in Sinhalese or Sri Lanka, popularly called Aluth Avurudhu, is observed on the 13th and 14th of April every year.
It is a solar festival that begins as the Sun enters to the zodiac of Aries or Mesha. Interestingly this celebration takes place at the spring and mother Nature showers all her blessings to the Sinhalese during the period, signifying the beginning of the New and the end of the old.
A number of customs and traditional beliefs are associated with the New year celebrations in the country. The Sinhalese are influenced by astrological faiths and perform several religious practices during this time. In villages, several women gather and play drums to announce the advent of the New Year.
The customs begin with Nonagathe that starts few hours before the New Year rolls in and you are supposed to perform the rituals with a pure mind. People visit to temples, donate food and clothes to the poor and pray for a prosperous year ahead. Traditionally, people take the Holy Bath before the sun sets on the last day, with the herbal mixture called “Nanu” replacing the soap. They believe that this purifies their bodies as well as the soul and they are able to welcome the New Year with an auspicious mind.
Many Sinhalese clean their houses before the New year comes just to wash away the evils of the previous year. after completion, the holy Saffron water is sprinkled in the house for purification. “Kolam” or special decorative designs are drawn with white rice flour or coconut for auspicious reasons. Among the other customs people light fires, and prepare the traditional milk rice for family members. Milk is considered to be auspicious for them and brings prosperity if spills over the pot.
The housewives cook traditional meals like hath maluwa or a curry with 7 different flavors. Several sweets are prepared for the entire family. the head of the household prepares the traditional pot with 5 mango leaves and one coconut, popularly known as the “mangalam kumbam”. All the members of the family have lunch together to celebrate the arrival of the New year. they eat the traditional food like small oil cakes called kaung or crispy light sweetmeats called the kokis.
The young members touch the feet of the elders to seek blessings. They also offer betel to the elders to show their gratitude and respect towards them. some local Srilankans play games called “Guddu” with friends and family members as a part of the tradition of bringing good luck. It is considered to be the best time to start off with a new business as well as wedding ceremonies. People also follow the tradition of gifting clothes to the loved ones as a token of love and affection. These customs seem to have glued the people belonging to the Sinhalese community together promoting harmony and brotherhood.
Sinhala and Tamil New YearView(s):
Happy Sinhala and Tamil
New Year, dear readers of the Funday Times!
This week we’ll be taking a look at some of the rituals and traditions that make this time of year a special one in Sri Lanka.
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year or Avurudu as it is known in Sinhala, is an important national holiday for both the Sinhala Buddhists and the Tamil Hindu communities of Sri Lanka. It is a holiday unique to this island, and brings with it a season of holidays and happy festivities.
We know that Sri Lankans begin celebrating ‘Aluth Avurudu’ or ‘Puththandu’ as it is known to the Tamil community in the month of April, when the Sun makes the move from Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries).
The festival celebrates the reaping of the harvest. After the Maha harvest, the farmers celebrate the occasion giving thanks, making this one of the festivals that is rooted in the agricultural calendar and the customs of those who live off the land.
In the period before Avurudu, families clean up and renovate their homes.
In villages, the floor, if not cemented, is given a fresh application of cow dung mixed with earth.
Something that sets Avurudu apart from New Year celebrations in January is that both the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new year are marked separately. Astrologers reveal the auspicious moment one ends and the other begins, but in the middle is a neutral period or nonagathe. In this phase, people avoid work and devote themselves to religious activities.
In Tamil homes during the auspicious time, Maruthu Neer – clean water boiled with various herbs, selected flowers and leaves, milk, saffron and other ingredients are made by the priests in temples. This sacred liquid is then used to anoint the heads of all the members of the family, who must only bathe after it is applied. Many families buy new clothes in the colours recommended by the astrologers. A sweet rice is made if possible with new raw red rice, jaggery, cashew nuts, ghee and plums.
On Avurudu day, children offer betel to their parents and elders as a symbol of their gratitude, while elders reciprocate with blessings and good wishes. Everyone partakes of the Avurudu feast with its traditional sweets and snacks such as kevum and kokis. Relationships with community are strengthened, relations and friends come to visit and exchange presents.
Kids love the games played during Avurudu. Famous national games are olindakeliya, eluvankeliya, mevarasellama, rabanupatha, buhukeliya, muttigesilla, muthukeliya, onchilivaram and meesellama. Every year across the country, people choose their Avurudu Kumaraya and Kumari. The boy and the girl arrive dressed in clothes that symbolise the dawn of the New Year.
For those doing the cooking at home, astrologers share an auspicious time at which the hearth must be lit to prepare kiribath (milkrice). To invoke blessings, the milk is poured into a new earthen pot and allowed to boil over, symbolising prosperity. The first meal of Avurudu must also be taken at an auspicious time.
In Tamil homes the house is scrupulously cleaned and sprinkled with saffron water. Intricate, traditional decorations known as ‘Kolam’ are created at the entry to the house with raw white rice flour. A new pot is used to cook the delicious rice treat known as pongal. Lamps are lit and the head of the household arranges the Mangala Kumbam. Tamil families traditionally visit the temple. Offerings are made to the Sun God and Lord Ganesh. These colourful platters usually include a pot with five mango leaves and a coconut, lit incense sticks, a tray of flowers, betel leaves, arecanuts, a bunch of bananas and the sweet rice. A coconut is broken by the head of the household and incense is burnt. Like in Sinhala homes, the elders in the family bless the children, who worship them and seek their blessings and good wishes. Families and friends visit during the day to spread the cheer around.