Sinhala and Tamil new year

Infobox Holiday
holiday_name=Sinhala and Tamil new year
official_name=Sinhala:Aluth Awurudu/Tamil:
English name=Sinhala and Tamil new year
observed by=Sinhalese/ Hindus
date=A nakshatra date in the month of Bak (by the Shalivahana era)
observances=Games, prayer
type=Sinhala festival/Hindu festival/Public holidays in Sri Lanka
significance= The observed movement of the sun from "Meena Rashiya" (House of Pisces to the "Mesha Rashiya" (House of Aries)
date2006=April 13
date2007=April 14
date2008=April 13
date2009=December 21
date2010=
In April (the month of Bak), when the sun moves from the "Meena Rashiya" (House of Pisces) to the "Mesha Rashiya" (House of Aries) in the celestial sphere; Sri Lankans begin celebrating their New Year or "Aluth Avurudhu" (in Sinhala) and "Puththandu" (in Tamil). It marks the end of the harvest season and also coincides with one of 2 instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. On the day of celebrations, the sun is directly above Koggala (where a sun devale can be found). A new year of the Saka era begins with each festival.

However, unlike the Western celebration of the new year at midnight on December 31st, the Sri Lankan New Year begins at a time determined by astrological signs. Also unlike western traditions; the ending of the "old year", and the beginning of the "new year" occur several hours apart from one another (this span is determined by astrology as well) - this period is, aptly enough, referred to as the "nona gathe" (neutral period). During this time Sri Lankans are, according to custom, encouraged to refrain from material pursuits, and engage solely in religious activities and traditional games.

The date upon which the Sri Lankan New Year occurred, while determined by astrological signs, also tends to coincide with the end of the harvest season - for this reason, many farming communities celebrate the new year while gathering fruits that have fallen from their trees.

Cultural rituals begin shortly after the beginning of the "new year" with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp. In some communities, women congregate to play upon on the raban (drum) to warn others of the incipient change in the year.

Families indulge in a variety of rituals which are carefully determined by astrological calculations - from lighting the fire to making the "kiribath", (milk rice) to entering into the first business transaction and eating the first morsels.

Once these are done, the partying really begins as families mingle in the streets, homes are thrown open and children are let out to play. The ubiquitous plantain is dished out alongside celebratory feasts of kaung (small oil cake) and kokis (crisp and light sweetmeat, originally from the Netherlands).

"Aurudu" has become an important national holiday for both the cultures of the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindu Sri Lankans, and is unique as such, as it is not celebrated "in the same manner" elsewhere in the world (some countries do celebrate a similar festival on the same date or a near date) .

History

The mythological conception of a `Aluth Avuruddha' is that the Prince of Peace called "Indradeva" descends upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness. He comes in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first dips, like a returning space capsule plunges, breaking earth's gravity, into a `kiri' or sea of milk.

The actual history of the New Year goes back to primitive period in Sri Lankan history. Various beliefs, perhaps those associated with fertility, gave birth to many rituals, customs and ceremonies connected with the New Year. The advent of Buddhism in the third century BC led to a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in the Buddhistic light. The majority of the people in the country were Buddhists, and as such, it is that the Buddhist outlook was predominant in transforming the New Year rites to what they are now.

Hinduism, on the other hand, existed side by side with Buddhism, in medieval times. New Year practices interpreted in the Hinduistic way developed among the Hindus. Buddhism and Hinduism were historically connected with each other. Their philosophies were running along parallel dimensions, except for certain ultimate truths concerning the self, the way to achieve emancipation and the nature of a creative god and nirvana (which Buddhism denies). There was no serious contradiction in New Year rituals that are found among the Buddhists and Hindus.

Rituals - Customs

Bathing for passing year

The customary bathing for the passing year is equally important facet. Herbal bath gives physical purification. When one takes a herbal bath over the entire body, anointed with gingelly oil or mustard oil that provides a soothing effect for the body. Herbal baths are prescribed in Vedas too.

For this year, water mixed with the Juice of Bo leves is recommended. Body massage and herbal bath promotes blood circulation, and it is considered the best method of maintaining positive health. Herbal baths are prescribed as a method of treatment in many nervous disorders and diseases of the muscles and joints.

Promote family bonds

Another salient feature of the New Year is to respect the elders and to strengthen relationships with neighbours. Usually, visiting relations and friends and exchanging presents, greeting them with a sheaf of betel is the order of the day. Betel is considered a sacred herb with many medicinal values. Chewing of betel along with cloves, cardamoms and arecanut after a meal is considered the best way to strengthen the gums. A chew of betel cleans the mouth, and wades off bad breath. The juice of betel leaves promotes digestion, kills organisms which are harmful to the body. The value of betel is also appreciated in Buddhist literature. Building up confidence, love, friendship and hope among elders, relations and friends plays a great role in achieving mental, physical and social wellbeing. Arrogance, hatred, sorrow, pangs of jealousy, cruelty are all considered as mental illnesses. Exchanging sheaves of betel and paying respect to elders brings about a new feeling of freshness.

The elders feel that they are accepted, wanted and venerated by their kith and kin. This warmth helps to a great deal to the elders in maintaining good health and vitality.

Nonagatha

The nonagatha is the transitional period in the planetary movement and considered to be inauspicious to start any propitious work. Therefore, this time is set apart for religious observances. Ayurveda envisages a method of treatment known as "Daivavyapasharaya" or spiritual therapy. This therapy involves the use of" mantras" or incantations such as "Aushadhi" or sacred herbs, "Mani" or precious gems, "Mangala" or propitiatory rites, including oblations, bali or offerings and homa or sacrifices, "Niyama" or vows, "prayaschitta" or cremonial pevitence, uparasa or fasts swastyayana or prostrations and "pranipata" - "gamana" or pilgrimages and so on.

Ayurveda explains that transitional period at different seasonal variations changes an imbalances in the body humours or forces namely "Vata, Pita, Kapa". Therefore it is advised to have light food or complete fasting (Langana) during such periods. So that minimal fluctuation in the three Dosha will take place. Therefore during nonekata it is the custom to be aloof from all normal activities and to confine only to religious observances.

Food value

The food which is taken during Sinhala New Year has many nutritious values. Sweet meat such as Mung Kevum, Konda Kavum made of brown rice, flour, Unduvel made of undu are indigenous sweets. All they have many food and nutritious values. Taking meals at an auspicious time with all family members sitting together is a noble, and healthy custom. This happy get together should be adapted at all meals, and not confined to the New Year table alone. Many indulge in unwanted arguments and talks while taking meals. The Avurudu custom, gives the signal to avoid such unhealthy manners. Happy state of mind is very necessary for the proper digestion of food. Ayurveda makes it clear that wholesome food taken at proper time in proper quantity will not digest properly if the person is in bad mental state, such as fear, sorrow or arrogance. Therefore happy state at meals is ulmost importance in attaining healthy digestion.

Complement of New Year

Anointing of the head with "Nanu" (medicated shampoo) and oil is described in Ayurveda as a way of promoting health, specially massaging the scalp with oil and cleaning the head with medicated decoction known as "Nanu". It promotes the growth of hair. It improves a sound sleep and balances the body humours. These rituals and New Year custom are healthy. Therefore they should be incorporated in our daily life for greater progress and prosperity.

ee also

* Thai New Year
* Indian Astrology


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