Being an Island, there is something or somewhere to enjoy in Sri Lanka. Any nook and corner of this land are just unique! Yes, it is a unique experience to sunbathe, surf, and relax on the beautiful beaches all around the country. Moreover, when you travel into the island, you explore its graceful history, its ruins and ancient gigantic sculptures. The refreshing greenery in the highlands, natural wildlife, and the wonderful botanical gardens in the country makes you refreshed during your exploration of this beautiful treasure chest. Is that all for you to enjoy on this splendid island? Not at all! What about the festivals in Sri Lanka? Of course, they are second to none as well. Ad when talking with regard, the delight of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year can never be ignored. Thus, we thought of sharing with you its wonder through this read!
What is Aluth Avurudu or Sinhala and Tamil New Year?
Sinhala and Tamil New Year, or ‘Aluth Awurudu‘ is the main traditional celebration of Sinhala and Tamil ethnics of Sri Lanka. And indeed, it is one of those unique reasons for you to chose Sri Lanka as your next travel destination.
In fact,Sri Lanka is a country with many ethnicities such as Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, and Burger. Among them, the leading ethnic group of the country is Sinhalese and then the Tamil. Sinhalese and Tamil people celebrate Avurudu or the New year as their main festival. Thus, the new year is the biggest festival that the Sri Lankan people celebrate.
Sri Lanka is a country that is dependent on agriculture, especially in ancient times. Accordingly, the Sun is the primary source of the lives of ancient Sri Lankans. It should be why the Sinhalese call Sun ‘the God of Sun’ or ‘Hiru deviyan’. Thus, for ages, the Sri Lankan people worship and respect the Sun, and they counted the years based on the Sun’s journey too.
According to Astrology, the Sun’s journey starts from the Meena (Pisces) and continues for a year and ends at Mesha (Aries) in the Zodiac. Thus, Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka celebrate the transition period of ‘Pisces to Aries’ journey as the Sinhalese as the New Year. The same is the reason why they call Sinhala and Tamil New year, the festival of the Sun too.
When is Sinhala and Tamil New Year held?
Sinhala and Tamil people of Sri Lanka celebrate the festival of Sun on the 13th and 14th of April annually. Moreover, according to Sri Lankans, it is the season of prosperity. The villagers are just after completing their harvesting process, thus having earned money, and their stores are full by this time of the year. The month of April is when joy, contentment, and freshness overflow in the Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil people’s hearts.
So, why not? Let us have an insight about this beautiful festival of New year as follows.
Nature Prepares People to Celebrate Avurudu!
As mentioned earlier, the centre of this special celebration of the year is Sun. The Sun is a part of nature. Consequently, a lot of changes occur in the environment or nature during the Aluth Avurudu period, which is just amazing to observe!
The flowers start blooming, and the fruit trees overflow with ripe fruits in April. A tree called ‘Erabadu’ in which the flowers bloom in blood-red color, is one significant feature during the New year season. The fruits that can be seen very commonly are Cashew, Rambutan, jackfruit, and Mangoes. The environment looks very beautiful, and the interesting fact is that the poets in Sinhala literature compare this period of the year to a wedding season. The soil is not so dry and not so wet either. It is because April is a month in which Sri Lanka receives rain and sunshine both in a fairly equal amount.
Cuckoo Bird-The Messenger of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year
As ‘Erabadu’ flowers, there is another thing that symbolizes the Sinhala-Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka. It is the chirp of the cuckoo bird. Female Cuckoo birds are black in their bodies and have red eyes, whereas the male cuckoo birds have brown and white in color features with red eyes. However, the Sinhala- Tamil New year season is ideal for hearing the Cuckoo bird’s singing in Sri Lanka. An if you go to an area with trees and greenery in April, you can easily spot a cuckoo bird. You would see it sitting on a tree singing and suddenly flies off to another tree when you go closer.
In the Sri Lankan context, the Cuckoo bird is the one who announces the arrival of New year to people. It’s because this bird starts to tweet at the dawn of April. It is just like announcing to the people to get ready to celebrate the festival of togetherness and happiness!
Food Prepared for Sinhala and Tamil New Year
The Avurudu sweets are indeed of the other reasons why one must visit Sri Lanka during the New Year season! Sri Lankans call them ‘Aluth Avurudu Kewili Pewili’. And it is a must mention that most of these sweets are prepared using wet rice flour.
Thus, by the start of April, the females start preparing rice flour from the rice taken from their paddy fields. They take the raw rice, keep that to soak overnight and then make it flour. In the olden days, people in Sri Lanka ground the rice flour using huge mortars (Gal Wangedi). It was not an easy task to perform. They have to grind a large amount of rice until a delicate thin powder of flour to prepare the sweets. Thus, during this period, the people help each other with this task. The neighbors and the family members get together to give hands to the female of the house. And yes, that is why we say that the Sinhala and Tamil new year is a season of togetherness from the beginning!
Besides, let us get to know of some unique sweets people prepare for the Aluth Avurudu festival.
- Konda Kavum (Oil cake )
- Mung Kavum (a sweet made with green gram)
- Athiraha (a flat oil cake)
- Kokis (a delicious crunchy bite with thick coconut milk and rice flour)
- Aasmi (a super delicious sweet with a crescent-shaped mesh covered with Coconut trickle)
- Aluwa ( a sweet made of rice flour and coconut treacle)
As wet rice flour, Sri Lankan people use another ingredient to prepare these sweets, and it is coconut treacle. The rice flour and coconut treacle is a fantastic combination out of which most of these delicious sweets can be made. However, the villagers prepare all these sweetmeats prior to New year’s day and keep them safe to use on the special occasion.
Milk Rice-The Head of The Traditional Sweetmeat Table
Apart from the above sweets prepared beforehand, people prepare milk rice on the day of the celebration. They prepare it using boiled raw rice with salt and thick coconut milk. Then, they spread the milk rice as a cake on a steamed banana leaf. Spreading the milk rice on a banana leaf brings a natural aroma for the milk rice which is just amazingly delicious!!
After cooling down, they cut the milk rice cake into diamond-shaped pieces. They also prepare a spicy onion mix to have with the milk rice. This onion mix is the famous Sri Lankan ‘Lunu Miris‘ which they prepare by chopping onion, chili, salt, and lime in a mortar to have with the milk rice. Some would like to have it with sugar or honey too. Sri Lankans consider milk rice as a symbol of prosperity and celebration.
Almost all the hotels and most guest houses serve the Sinhala New Year’s Sweets during April; thus, if you visit Sri Lanka during the festival period, never miss tasting these fantastically delicious sweets!
Also, this is just a glimpse of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year sweet meats, or the ‘Awurudu keweili pewili‘. Feel free to read our article on ‘Cultural Food‘ for a better overview.
Other Preparations Before Sinhala and Tamil New Year
The cultural and traditional belief is that the Sinhala-Tamil New year is the milestone of freshness and joy. Thus, people get ready to welcome the new year by newly color-washing their homes, cleaning and tidying up the storage spaces, etc. People buy new clothes to wear on the day of celebration and buy gifts to offer to friends, family, and relatives. They also purchase new clay pots to boil milk at an auspicious time. During March and the beginning of April, the shops are usually crowded with people shopping for the new year celebration. Further, the people buy different kinds of firecrackers to light at the auspicious times and enjoy this season.
The New year in Sri Lanka is celebrated as per the astrological fact of the Sun moving from Pisces to Aries. Thus, every ritual of the new year is performed at a designated time as per astrology. Those are called the auspicious times. The time specified is the best for certain activities as per the Sinhala and Tamil people, and they thus, they believe that it is lucky to start each ritual at the very time.
All these auspicious times are prepared well in advance and printed on a paper which they call the ‘Neketh Litha‘, which means the list of auspicious times.
What are the Sinhala and Tamil New Year’s Traditions and Rituals?
The Sinhala-Tamil New year in Sri Lanka is an ideal time that showcases the ultimate beauty of Sri Lankan traditions and rituals. Sinhala and Tamil people in Sri Lanka perform several customs and rituals on New year’s day and even beforehand. One can never see those rituals in any other part of the world. Some of them are as follows.
Bathing for the gone year
There is a ritual of bathing in the name of the passing year. It is a ritual performed by Sinhala and Tamil people on the day before the New year’s date, the 13th of April. People consider it is a significant ritual to perform that symbolizes the washing off of all the illness, evil, and other sins from their lives which belong to the gone year.
‘Nonagathaya‘ is another ritual performed before the arrival of New year. According to the auspicious timetable, it is a period where there are no auspicious times. The Sri Lankan believe, according to astrology that, it is not suitable to do any work during this period as there are no auspicious times. Thus, people go to the temple and participate in religious observances during this time in order to avoid any evil occurrence, and get back home before the New year arrives.
The Arrival of the Sinhala- Tamil New Year
The new year’s exact arrival time is the first auspicious time of the celebration. When the new year arrives, people light firecrackers and play large drums in the garden to announce their joy. They greet their families, wishing a prosperous year ahead. The children worship adults, offering a bundle of Beatle leaves, and the adults bless the youngsters. It is also the time to exchange the gifts that they bought and kept ready.
Lighting the Hearth and Boiling of Milk- The Symbol of Prosperity
The next ritual in the Sinhala-Tamil new year is the lighting of the hearth at home. It is for the first time they light the hearth in the new year. Furthermore, people prepare a new hearth to cook in the new year using a new clay pot.
Thus, the first thing to do on the new hearth is boiling the milk pot. According to the tradition, Sri Lankans believe that the boiling of milk and letting it spill out from all directions or mainly to the lucky directions (North, South, West or East as designated in the Neketh Litha of the respective year) brings prosperity and good luck to the whole family in the new year.
Further, after boiling the milk, they prepare the milk rice for the consumption of all the people in the family, share with neighbors, and serve it at the new year table to the visitors who visit their homes in the new year.
Having The First Meal in the New Year
It is the next traditional ritual in the new year of Sri Lanka. According to the auspicious times, all the family members get together and enjoy the meals at the Avurudu meal table. This meal table is full with the sweetmeats that people prepared beforehand for the new year along with the milk rice which they made at the beginning of the new year. A bunch of bananas is something they do not miss keeping on the ‘Avurudu table‘.
Moreover, the New Year meal table has an oil lamp in the middle. In fact, Sri Lanka is an eastern country with a father-centered society. Thus, the traditional oil lamp’s first flame has to be lighted by the family’s head- usually the father. Then, he feeds the milk rice to all family members, and they all sit at the table and enjoy the New year’s sweets.
Furthermore, Sri Lankans also share this food with the neighbors, wishing them well in the new year. Hence, it is a period of sharing, joy, and freedom.
People also exchange money, symbolizing business and commerce to receive blessings and success in the new year.
Oil Anointment Ceremony
There is an auspicious time for the oil anointment ceremony as well. During the ceremony, the eldest of the family or the most senior monk of the village temple applies oil on the other people’s heads. It is a ritual to symbolise and wishing of good health to the people throughout the year ahead.
Leaving for Work
On the timetable of auspicious time, there is an auspicious time to leave for work too. Most people, especially the self-employed people, wait for this auspicious time to arrive, in order to leave home for work after the dawn of the New Year.
Usually, this time arrives two or three days after the 14th of April.
What are the Games Played in Sri Lanka for the Sinhala-Tamil New Year?
It is the best part of the Sinhala and Tamil new year!
There are several traditional games related to Avurudu day, which are fun-filled and exciting. All the people who celebrate the new year, especially the people in the villages, organize Avurudu game festivals. These are family-centered festivals where you can participate in the games, win gifts, and enjoy the fullest with friends and family.
Here are some fun-filled games organized at Awurudu game festivals.
- Selecting the Prince and the Princess of the New Year
- Hitting the Clay Pot
- Pancha Keliya
- Pillow Fight
- Placing the eye on the elephant
- Tug of War
- Climbing the Greecy Pole
Excited to know how wonderful these games are? Keep calm! The following briefs will let you know all about them!
Selecting of the Prince and the Princess of the New Year (Avurudu Kumara-Kumariya )
It is one of the primary contests of the Avurudu game festival. They select the most beautiful girl as the Princess and the most handsome boy as the Prince of the New year. The winners are crowned and offered valuable gifts too.
Hitting the Clay Pot (Kana Mutti Bideema)
The meaning of “Kana Mutti Bideema” is ‘blind man breaking the pot’.
In this game they take several clay pots and fill one pot with colored water or some paper strips. Then, they shuffle the clay pots and hand them along with a coir string. After that the coir string is tied on two trees from either side. The participants of the game should cover their eyes tightly and take a pole. Finally, they have to find the pot with water and break it with the pole in their hand. If they found the correct clay pot, they win.
It is a board game where they use oyster shells and a coconut shell to play on the game board. At least two people are needed to play this fascinating game.
Pillow Fight (Kotta-Pora)
It is a game between two persons sitting on a horizontal pole fixed on a stand above the ground. The participants are given a pillow each which they have to hold with only one hand. They have to keep their other hand behind them. The game is to fight with the opponent using the pillow and put him down. If you could put down the opponent, then you win.
Placing the Eye on the Elephant
They draw an elephant on a large board and place it against the wall. The participants have to cover their eyes and mark the eye of the elephant. It is a game for all ages.
Eating Buns (Banis Kema)
The buns are hanged on a string, and the participants of the game should eat and finish the bun without holding it. Even the small children can participate in this game, and the person who finishes first is the winner.
Tug of War-(Kamba Adeema)
Two groups participate in this game, and there is a rope in the middle of which a tug is tied. The groups have to pull the rope from either side and should take the tug to their side to win.
Climbing the Greasy Pole – (Lissana Gaha Nageema)
Each participant has to climb up a tall pole on around which they have applied some greasy substance. They need to climb without falling or slipping down and take the flag fixed on the top of the bar.
However, almost all these games portrait the unity and togetherness of people.
It is a pity to see that all these beautiful rituals and traditions fade away from society little by little. And the major reason behind this undesirable situation is the bustling lives of people, in the means of their jobs and education. However, it is a good move that the educational or different institutes of Sri Lanka and other societies and clubs organize the Awurudu game festivals yearly. It would contribute to carrying forward those precious rituals, and fun-filled games to the future generations of the country.
All in all, Sinhala and Tamil new year is a period of prosperity, joy, unity and fun!
So, if you chose to visit Sri Lanka in April, do not forget to watch a Sri Lankan family doing those rituals in the new year, and never miss watching a traditional Awurudu game festival as well! Watch the beautiful culture of Sri Lanka and enjoy the warmth of the unmatchable hospitality of Sri Lankan people at the New year meal table too! Happy and Safe Travelling!