Thursday, April 14, 2011

It’s a Matter of Time and Heart Sinhala & Tamil Aluth Avurudu

Aluth Avurudu is perhaps one of the most important days of the year in Sri Lanka, when people all over the country and small communities all across the globe celebrate Sinhala & Tamil New Year. Festivities take place in every small village of the country.

In the fullness of the bak maha, (the month of April, the month of abundance and prosperity), the Prince of Peace Indradeva ( sun god) comes to earth bringing peace and happiness to mankind. Nature responds with abundance – flowers on every bush and vine, trees laden with ripening fruit. Plentiful harvest is the reward of hard work for the human kind. It is no wonder that it is a time of celebration.

This is also the time when the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) in the celestial sphere. Time, interpreted according to astrological charts   pertaining to and guiding the destiny of the country, plays an important role. It is the time when Sri Lankans   begin celebrating Aluth Avurudu  (in Sinhala) and Puththandu ( in Tamil). It is a time to honour the common destiny of the diverse people that call Sri Lanka home.

The ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year, occur several hours apart from one another. This period is referred to as the nona gathe (neutral period). During this time people are encouraged to refrain from material pursuits, and engage solely in religious activities and traditional games.

The emphasis on time using the astrological charts is an interesting phenomenon. There is a proper time for everything- to stop work, to start work, to cook food and to eat food, to bathe, to wash hair and to oil it, to visit family and friends and to play. Interestingly they are the routine, mundane tasks of everyday life.   Delving deeper beyond the superficiality of observing merely another tradition, the emphasis on time is an indicator of the importance placed on punctuality. Embedding it in astrology elevates time to the realms of divinity.

The new year is incomplete without the anointing of head with oil- hisa thel gema. Nanu (medicated  shampoo) and oil are important ingredients according to Ayurveda, the ancient medical practices, of promoting health.

It is clear that customs and rituals associated with the new year are those that promote, health, harmony and well-being. Goodwill, promoted through community activities of sports, religious activities and family time around rituals and customs, is the antidote for stress.  Family as the foundation of community is subtly emphasized in the leadership roles played by the mother and the father and the respect given to the elders and  affection shown to the children in the activities.

In the community the mutual exchanging of traditional food of kevum , kiribath and plantains is an opportunity to share good will and commit to harmonious living. Petty rivalries are forgiven and forgotten in the spirit of aluth avurudu.

The value of paying respect to elders is found underlying all aspects of New Year celebrations. The link between generations are strengthened by ganu denuexchanging of bulath (betal leaf), money and other gifts. Aluth Avurudu indeed is not mere ritual. It is an  enactment of meaningful living.

උදාවූ අලුත් අවුරුද්ද සාමය,සතුට පිරි සුභ අලුත් අවුරුද්දක් වේවා!...


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