the-south-asian.com January 2003
JANUARY 2003 Contents
Page 2 of 2
– Sri Lanka's symbol of harmony
The world at large assumed that the Sinhalese and the Tamils were killing each other on the streets. They could not envisage racial harmony amidst a war where a handful of people fought for a separate state.
Come April, and one finds a heartwarming chapter of two races who believe in harmonious living and celebration. The Sinhalese and the Tamils celebrate a common traditional New Year in the month of April, originally harvesting thanks giving. This marks the passage of the sun from Pisces to Aries. Traditional customs are observed on this day with merrymaking and fun and games and lavish hospitality.
Although there might be some slight variations in customs, the Sinhalese and the Tamils celebrate the same event and find amity in their beliefs.The real spirit of the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year is seen in the villages – as it is a festival focused on the harvest.
The New Year falls on the 13th or 14th day of April, preceded by at least two weeks of preparations, devoted to spring-cleaning, shopping and making varieties of delicious coconut-oil based sweetmeats. Children, excited at being on school vacation, are often the willing helpers, sprucing up the home for the eventful day. The Avuruddha is heralded by the constant lighting of fire crackers and the unmistakable call of the koel bird, popularly known as the koha which coos only once a year-at this time
The day prior to the Sinhala and Tamil
New year is one of anticipation. Migrants to cities, return to their
ancestral homes. The cooking is over, the hearth cleaned, fires
extinguished, with fresh pots and pans now awaiting the preparation of the
first meal of the new year. The ensuing period, astrologically prescribed is
a time for complete relaxation. All activities are suspended and a lull
ensues, as a nation waits for the dawning of the new year.
The clock-watching is now over. The next day or two will mark the most joyous period of the year; playing, eating, drinking, merry making and visiting relatives and loved ones. The fun and frolic continues until the oil anointing ceremony , the auspicious time which falls roughly about three days after the Avuruddha. An adult member of the family prepares a special herbal oil and anoints the family members, with blessings for a wonderful year to come. These are but a few instances that portray the inherent harmony and goodwill woven into Sri Lanka’s social fabric. Amazing as it may seem, Sri Lankans have never given up racial, religious and cultural tolerance, despite decades of terrorism and war. Serendipity, indeed!
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