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Avurudu Sri Lanka New Year

Sri Lanka uses its own colander which is based on the sight of moon. The Sinhalese & Tamil New Year is called Aluth Avurudda, it is the begining of the new year in Sri Lanka. This is the major holiday season for the country although 2 days are officially announced as holidays but country some what shuts down for about 5 days. The Sinhala New Year basically coincides with the years and months of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia.

The same dates of the new year are celebrated in Tamil Nadu India, Thailand, Bengali New Year, Cambodian New Year, Lao New Year,Thingyan, in Myanmar and Oriya New Year festival in India.

According to Sinhalese astrology, New Year begins when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (the house of Aries) to Mesha Rashiya. It also marks the end of the harvest and spring.

The natural calendar - Basis of Sinhala year

The Sinhala year is adapted from Pali and Sanskirat calendar that is purely based on agriculture and religious festivals and weathers. Although in urban areas this calander has no meaning villages still refer to its months in their usual confersation for example wheat is harvested in Citta or Chaita. Following is the full calendar month names with Sinhala Pali & Sanskirat

Sinhala Sanskrit Pali Number of days Aprox period
Bak Caitra Citta 29 March–April
Vesak Vaisākha Visakha 30 April–May
Poson Jyaiṣṭha Jeṭṭha 29 [30] May–June
Æsala Āṣāḍha Āsāḷha 30 June–July
Nikini Śrāvaṇa Sāvaṇa 29 July–August
Binara Bhādrapada Poṭṭhapāda 30 August–September
Wap Āśvina Assayuja 29 September–October
Il Kārttika Kattikā 30 October–November
Undhuvap Mārgaśirṣa Māgasira 29 November–December
Dhuruthu Pauṣa Phussa 30 December–January
Navam Māgha Māgha 29 January–February
Mædhin Phālguna Phagguṇa 30 February–March

Traditions and customs

Historically Sinhala Aluth Avurudda was celebrated in the Kandyan Kingdom as a national festival under the patronage of the ancient kings. The day of Avurudu was fixed in keeping with the rituals. The astrologers used to worked out Nekath (auspicious times) to perform the traditional rituals for good luck, prosperity and happiness for the people and kingdom.

The morning of Avurudda brings about social customs and good behaviour of the Sinhala people. In past people being farmers, used to complete their major harvest "Maha" and the Avurudu was the time to give thanks. The customs and rituals portray the beliefs and thinking of the people whose life is centred around agriculture. Rituals connected with Aluth Avurudda commence with bathing on the last day of the old year (Parana Avurudda) and viewing the moon on the same night. In the village temple, the pealing of the bell accompanied with the beating of drums (Hewisi) make the people aware of the times to perform different rituals.

Children offer betel to parents to show gratitude AND PARENTS PRAY AND GIVE BLESSINGS

People visit the temple during the time of "Sanskranthi" the transitional believed to be non auspicious times (Nekath) for any other thing. It is also called "Nonagathe" since its time to pray and get blessings from the monks and god it is also called "Punniya Kale"

People put on new clothes (Avurudu Kumaraya) to signify that dawn of the New Year.

The begining of the year is seen by women as auspicious to commence their work at their homes. They start the work by facing to the specific direction light the stove/hearth to begin the preparation of traditional Kiribath. Before this they keep milk in a new terracota pot to boil so as that it spills over from all sides of the pot this symbolizes prosperity. They cook along with a curry called "Hath Maluwa" which has has seven different flavours. People also make several other sweat foods during this festive season.

During the days of the Kandyan Kingdom, the anointing of oils and Nanu (Herbal mixture) was done before taking the ceremonial bath. This was a feature during the new year, showing the patronage of the Kings. It was their special interest taken by them to look after the health of the people. The anointing ceremony was planned as a religious ceremony by the royal Nekath Mohottala, who would directly supervise it in accordance with his instructions. The royal physician prepares the oils as well as Nanu (herbal mixture) for applying on the head before taking a bath in the new year.

The applying of Nanu is done only on Wednesday because it is on that day "Nanumuraya" is performed at Sri Dalada Maligawa and also at four devales in Kandy. Nanumuraya is meant for bathing the deities in the far off devales. This is performed in the form of a symbolic manner to bathe the four guardian deities of Lanka. The preparation of oils and the herbal mixture are done by extracting the juices from herbal leaves, flowers and fruits (seeds). The oils and juices are poured into 1000 small clay pots and then taken on the day before the New Year to Nath Devale Hewisi Maduwa.

The officials from Sri Dalada Maligawa, three other devales, outstation devales, Raja Maha Viharas, and 65 royal listed places assemble at Natha Devala. The Kariyakorala of Sri Dalada Maligawa then distributes the oils and Nanu among those gathered who in turn take them in procession to their respective places of worship. These preparations are distributed among the people who use them on the day of the application of oil and Nanu anointing before bathing.

This practice continues to this day. The reason for the selection of Natha Devala was because of the belief that God Natha had curative power and hence Natha Devala was selected as the venue for the distribution of oils and Nanu.

Sinhala Aluth Avurudda cannot be classified as a religious festival. However customs and rituals associated with Aluth Avurudda have been fashioned according to Buddhist beliefs.

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