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Sinhala and Tamil New Year
Published Date: 14/04/2018 (Saturday)

Kumari

This is so apparent in a village setting.  Kumari remembers distinctly seeing the yellow stalks of paddy harvested and piled in the kamatha; the paddy threshed by a team of buffaloes and the seed measured for division between landlord and cultivator.


 The measured paddy grain was stored in gunny sacks to be carried to Kumari’s maternal grandparents’ home and to the cultivator’s home. The andé type of paddy cultivation was followed: our fields cultivated by village farmers and the harvest shared between owner and cultivator; equally at the beginning, until in the mid 1950s the Paddy Lands Act was passed decreeing that the farmer gets 2/3rd of the harvested paddy.
The paddy was stored; the straw bundled and used for replenishing the roofs of houses and also stacked for cattle for the rainy season. Kiributh made of the new seed would be offered to the Dalada Maligawa and to the nearest temple


Celebrations


The village was where New Year was really and truly celebrated.
A swing was strung on a strong branch of the mango tree in the garden and red jambus were a-plenty. This woman realizes now that following rituals and customs is so important; passed down from generation to generation and kept alive. They are part and parcel of culture and display the uniqueness of each ethnic group. They add to the richness of peoples’ heritage.


Once harvesting was complete and New Year drawing ever nearer, it would be time for cleaning one’s house – colour washing of walls, mostly with a plain lime (hunu) solution or replenishing them with fresh mud daub. Many house floors, even parts of the mahagedera, were covered in cow dung, so women would squat and cover the floors with fresh dung mixed with water; no squeamishness exhibited at all. New clothes were frantically sewn; no ready-mades then, except for the boys and men.


Rest and recreation


After all this came, time for rest and recreation.
The men would stop their early morning walk to the paddy fields dressed in loin cloths and carrying mammoties across their shoulders. They would chat longer in the boutique, drink more tea and of course imbibe toddy or the richer arrack. Games were played, often with bets placed. Women would get out their panchabella boards and olindakelana wooden blocks. 

The air would ring with the koha’s cry beaten down by the raban players.
The New Year in April is most definitely a ceremony of thanksgiving and offer of gratitude. The importance given the fact of the sun moving from one planet ‘house’ to another during this auspicious time is an admission of the significance of the sun in man’s life. And so being ritualistic is an act of visibly acknowledging gratitude to the sun for shining down on men and their fields, helping their crops grow to maturity and produce grain that ripened.


The gratitude is extended to those who gave actual life to beings, hence the visits to parents and offering betel and presents and bowing to them. And thus the other significance of New Year being a family event, drawing members together, strengthening ties of unity and very importantly, the significance of religion in one’s life. Temples are visited during the nonagathe period as it is a punyakalaya, and also after the first meal is had.  


It is a new beginning after the intervening period of non activity - nonagathe  period. The lighting of the hearth heralds a new beginning and food to be prepared for sustenance. There is also the veda alleema- work at the beginning of the new period. Children would read a text book and girls sew a few stitches. Women would symbolically pound paddy – just a few strokes with the mortar but to demonstrate household duties would resume.


And so the many dimensional, true significances of this our Sinhala and Tamil New Year,

Source: Ceylon Today

 

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