Sinhala and Tamil New Year is the biggest celebration in Sri Lanka and this is a much-awaited time for Sri Lanka. It is called in Sinhala “Aluth Aurudda” and in Tamil “Puthandu”. It is also known as “Bak Maha Ulela”. Bak is the name for April month according to the Sinhala system of months of the year. This festival is celebrated by the Sinhalese mainly and Tamil peoples. It begins on April 13th and ends on April 14th. Sinhala and Tamil New Year is a folk festival and it belongs to the seasonal festival. April is a month when the hearts of Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil people fill with joy, satisfaction, and freshness.
These are public holidays in Sri Lanka. The general public has the day off, and all schools and businesses are closed. It remarks on the movement of the sun from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pieces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries). This movement is considered the dawn of the New Year.
The Nature in New Year Season
At this time, we can hear the sound of a special bird. That is cuckoo (koha or kovula in Sinhala). It remembers the coming of the New Year season. Female birds can be identified by the black color of their body and they have red eyes. Male birds are brown and white in their body and also have red eyes. And also, during this time, the Erabadu trees (Erythrina variegatea) are in full bloom, and everyone wishes for continuing peace and prosperity. The fruit trees like cashew, rambutan, durian, jackfruit, and mangoes are overflow with ripe fruits in April. Nature looks beautiful and the environment is also not so dry and not so wet and receives rain and sunshine in equal amounts.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year Rituals and Customs
Sri Lankan people worship and respect the sun and so, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year have been celebrated as a ritual to honor the Sun God, for hundreds of years. All the rituals are celebrated with a lot of firecrackers, and fireworks. However, the majority of people observe the holiday in accordance with a list of auspicious hours or a New Year Calendar established and approved by professional astrologers. These are the customs in the New Year celebration. They are based on the auspicious hours is as follows, according to the Avurudu Seettuwa (New Year Calendar).
Usually, the housewives start to clean and paint the houses, and also all unwanted items are thrown away at the beginning of April. Purchasing new clothes and preparing the sweets are the important things of the New Year.
- Taking the bath for the old year
- Bathing on the last day of the “old year,” which is April 12th, is the start of the New Year’s rituals. People take their final bath of the year as the sunsets. This is frequently infused with herbs and oils that purify the body, such as gingelly and mustard. On this evening, it’s also vital to look at the moon.
- Nonagathaya (Neutral Period)
- At this time, all the work is stopped, and engage religious activities. It is held between the end of the old year and the dawn of the new year. During this period Buddhists go to the temple and get blessings from the priests.
- The Dawn of the New Year
- The moving of the sun from the house of pieces to the house of Aries is considered the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. When the new year arrives, people celebrate by lighting firecrackers and playing loud drums in the garden. They welcome their loved ones and wish them a happy new year.
- Lightening the Hearth and Boiling of Milk
- The next ritual is lightening the hearth. The first thing that is done with boil the milk. Sri Lankans believe that boiling milk and letting it run out in all directions, especially in the lucky directions, will bring prosperity and good luck to the entire family in the coming year.
- Having the First Meal in the New Year
- Avurudu food table is the main sign of the Sinhala New Year. At this time, all the family members get together and enjoy the meals. And also lit the oil lamp at this time. There are so many foods prepared in the New Year, mainly milk rice and sweets like kevum, kokis, aluva. For these foods, Sri Lankans called “Aluth Aurudu Kewili Pewili”.
- Starting Works and Exchanging money
- The children offer a bundle of Beatles leaves as a form of respect to the adults. The adults also bless the children. It symbolizes the paying of gratitude. When they worship adults they give some money or gifts to them. It is the first transaction of the New Year. In ancient times, the transactions were done by the housewife who would put a new coin wrapped in a clean towel in the well and pull a pail of water from it. She would then fill a bottle with the water and save it aside for the following year when it would be replenished.
- Anointing the Oil
- This is conducted in homes and goes to the temple where the priest anoints the oil. Standing atop leaves, roots, and flowers, the family patriarch or temple chief anoints the oil while singing shloka or gatha.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year Foods
The New Year food table is another sign of the New Year. It is decorated mainly with milk rice, lunumiris, banana, and sweets like kevum, kokis, aluva, aasmi, athirasa. The main ingredient is rice flour. When the housewife prepares these foods, the other members also help them.
Games in Sinhala and Tamil New Year
Family gatherings and visits to other relatives are customary. Various traditional games are played in this season. They are put their eyes on the elephant, Olinda keliya, Pancha keliya, pillow fight, climbing the greasy pole, etc.
The game festival is a traditional item in Sinhala and Tamil New Year. There are so many contests at this festival. Pillow fight, Hitting the clay pot, Eating buns, Searching the hidden visitor, Selecting the new year prince and princess.
These are the details of the biggest festival in Sri Lanka.