January 2003




JANUARY  2003 Contents


 Peace in South Asia
 - Is it attainable?
 Read what they have 
 to say:


 Swami Agnivesh &
 Rev Valson Thampu

 Ardeshir Cowasjee

 Lt. Gen Arjun Ray 

 Raju Narisetti

 Waheguru Pal Singh 



 Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
 - 50 years of sarod


 Secular symbols of
 Sri Lanka

 2002 Round-up

 Books 2002

 Sports 2002


 Raju Nasiretti

 Mahreen Khan

Real Issues

 Corruption vs. NGOs


 Letter from Pakistan


 'India in Slow Motion'
 - by Mark Tully

 Serialisation of  'Knock at every alien 
 door' - Joseph Harris



 South Asian Events in
 London &  Washington DC

 Editor's Note

 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in










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– Sri Lanka's symbol of harmony



Rajika Jayatilake

SL_girl_dancing.jpg (17560 bytes) SL-oil_ceremony.jpg (10358 bytes)
The Sinhalese and the Tamils celebrate a common traditional New Year in the month of April. L-R: Fun and frolic heralding the New Year; oil anointing ceremony blessing the loved ones at home.


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 SL-festive_sweets.jpg (7948 bytes) 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 new year approaches with a pre-determined time for preparing the ceremonial first meal. Dressed in the year's lucky colour, facing the auspicious direction, as fire crackers herald the New Year, housewives prepare a dish of Kiribath from rice out of the year's first harvest of rice. Kiribath or milk rice , is Sri Lanka's quintessential festive food; an unsweetened rice pudding cooked in cream of coconut and placed reverently at the head of the table, right next to an equally revered coconut oil lamp. The whole family sits down together for the first meal, soon after transacting some business, referred to traditionally as ganudenu, or the act of receiving and giving. The time now is at its most auspicious. Children are instructed to read their books and adults will do some symbolic work in elation to their occupation.

SL-oil_ceremony.jpg (10358 bytes)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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