Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese: අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka
Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese: අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is the new year of the Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka. It is a major anniversary celebrated by not only the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans. The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festival has close semblance to the Tamil New year and to a few other nationalities. It is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April.
According to Sinhalese astrology, New Year begins when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (the house of Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (the house of Aries). It also marks the end of the harvest and spring.
In month of Bak (represents prosperity) in the Sinhala calendar (or the month of April according to the gregorian calendar), when the sun moves (in an astrological sense) from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) in the celestial sphere; Sri Lankan people of Sri Lanka begin celebrating Sinhala New Year or Aluth Avurudu (in Sinhala). It marks the end of the harvest season and also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The good old traditional things are well respected in Sri Lanka.
Around the world including in England, the New Year begins on 31st night of December. However the Sri Lankans who live in those countries still celebrate Sinhalese New Year with great respect. However, unlike the celebration of the new Gregorian calendar year at midnight on December 31, the Sinhalese traditional New Year begins at a time determined by astrological calculations. Also unlike 31st night celebrations, where old year ends at midnight and new year begins immediately afterwards; the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart from one another (this span of time is usually 12 hours and 48 minutes, which starts when the sun, as a disk, starts to cross the astrological boundary between 'House of Pisces' and 'House of Aries' and ends when the crossing is complete. The halfway point is considered as the dawn of the New Year). This period is, referred to as the Nonagathe (or the 'neutral period' or 'Auspicious Time'). During this time Sri Lankans are, according to tradition, encouraged to refrain from material pursuits, and engage solely in either religious activities or traditional games.
Cultural rituals begin shortly after the beginning of the Sinhala New Year with the cleaning of the house and lighting of a coconut oil lamp. In some communities, women congregate to play upon the Raban (type of a drum) to announce the incipient change in the year. These kinds of celebrations are still given a prominent place in Buddhist temples in England where thousands of Sinhalese people get together to celebrate Sinhalese New Year. Again Tamil people celebrate the occasion in their Kovils and one such Kovil is there in Wimbledon. All the families as one carries out variety of rituals in exact timings of which are determined by astrological calculations - from lighting the fire to making the Kiribath (milk rice) to entering into the first business transaction and eating the first morsels. The rituals vary slightly based on the locale. However the core of the celebrations remains the same.
The approach of the each auspicious time for various rituvals is heralded by the unmistakable sign of very loud firecrackers. Although loud firecrackers are an environmental concern, and a safety hazard, especially for children, this remains an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.
Once the important rituals are done, the partying begins as families mingle in the streets, homes are thrown open and children are let out to play. The ubiquitous plantain is dished out alongside celebratory feasts of Kavum (small oil cake) and Kokis (crisp and light sweetmeat, originally from the Netherlands). However, the extent of outdoor activities depends largely on the neighbourhood. The suburban communities tend to have such social gatherings than urban or city dwellers.
Aluth Aurudu is an important national holiday for both the cultures of the Sinhalese people and the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The celebrations are given wide coverage and patronage from state owned media as well as private media.
The date upon which the Sinhala New Year occurred, while determined by astrological calculations, also tends to coincide with one of the paddy harvest seasons. For farming communities, the traditional New Year is a festival of harvest as well.
Once I had an interview with ITN TV studio about my scientific energy saving cooking and that day there was this Awurudu Kumari selections as well in the studio. They all dressed in the traditional way with Sari for the occasion.
A type of cuckoo bird, the Asian koha, has a strong association with the New Year celebrations in traditional literature around the festival cuckoo bird is also a sign of New Year. The mating season of the bird roughly coincides with the festival season. The mating call of the male is regarded as a heralding sign of the traditional New Year. This bird is known as the Koha (කොහා) in Sri Lanka by the Sinhala language. The melodious call Koo-ooo of the male bird is heard throughout Sri Lanka during the breeding season of the bird that roughly spans from March to August.
Foods in Sri Lanka can be hot or very mild or can be combination being very much a question of individual preference. Sri Lankan food is unique for their Culture. Many Sinhala food items are derived from Chena cultivation. Sri Lankan cuisine plays a vital role in the islanders’ life from the most auspicious Sinhala/ Hindu New Year to normal day-to-day practices. They make milk rice and special sweets with coconut milk, floor and Honey at cultural festivals. It is recognized as one of the sixty- four types of art, “Siu Seta kalawa”. The curries come in many verities of colours and flavours blended in Sri Lankan Hot Spices has a great ayurvedic value when used in curries.
Most of the Sri Lankans generally eat vegetables. With a large community of farmers the Rice and curry is the main food in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka curries are known for their fiery hot spicy flavours and coconut milk is very distinct feature of Sri Lankan cuisine that different regions of country specialize in different types of dishes. The specialty in Sri Lankan food is that same food is differently made in different regions. Dishes from the North region of Sri Lanka have distinct south Indian flavours.
Dishes from the South region of Sri Lanka can be Spicy, Hot or Mild. The meals of the southern region of Sri Lanka are known for their variety and fishing village though the coastal strip. Ambulthiyal a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges “Goraka” paste. Now these are available in bottled form even in England and Canadian supermarkets. This is a very popular dish of a fish steak of Balaya and Kelawalla in a sour curry sauce. Sri Lanka has a great selection of delicious fish. Best accompaniment if you want to bring down a few blocks of milk rice or a few hoppers and pittu as well.
Foods in Sri Lanka
Certain types of fish Balaya, Kelawalla are native to Southern seas. “Lunu dehi” (lime pickle) and jaadi (Pikled fish) are food items made from methods of preserving since they could dry them in sun during rainless days. Western region of Sri Lanka has foreign influence much more than other regions. Many items made using wheat flour always had made Sri Lankan dishes foreign. Since upper western coastal region is dry, fish is dried with salt as a preservative. This is called “Karawala” (dry fish). Even the Western countries have them in Asian shops as well as in supermarkets.
Lunches, dinners and desserts
Spices such as Cloves, Cardamoms, nutmeg and pepper are found in abundance throughout Kandy and Matale District in Central region of Sri Lanka. Eastern province constitutes three major ethnic groups. Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil, Chena cultivation and Game meat from nearby forests. Weather have influenced many food items. Staple diet of Sri Lanka is ‘Rice and curry’ the word ‘curry’ converting a multitude of dishes which are made according to different methods of cooking from Soups, meat, Sea food, Lentils, Vegetables, pol Sambols, Mallums to Achcharus. The desserts are also very traditional for example Curd and Treacle and Sweetmeats made from Rice flour and palm treacle, juggery along with various types of fruits are additions to the meal as the dessert. They get treacle from the Palm, Coconut trees, Kithul trees, Palmyra trees from which the treacle is made will vary accordingly. Sometimes kithul treacle and “Ruhunu Mee Kiri” or curd from down south taste totally different. Sri Lankans also like several sweetmeats like Kavum, kokis, Halape, Thalaguli and Wattalapam etc. Sri Lankans also like to have drinks like tea and coffee. Apart from that they have local whiskey called arrack then another drink called Ra made out of coconut flower and Kithul flower.
Rice is the staple food of the Sri Lankans. Almost every household in Sri Lanka takes rice and curry as its main meal. Meat, fish and vegetables are prepared as curries. I am sure Sri Lankans know exactly what they add to curries such as sliced onions, green chilies, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and saffron are used to add flavours. A basic rice and curry requires one fish (or beef or chicken) curry, two different vegetables, one portion of fried crispy stuff like ‘papadam’, a ‘mallum’ of chopped leaves and coconut, and a gravy or ‘ kiri hodda’ of spiced and cooked with coconut milk. Boiled potatoes well cooked on thick coconut milk is the basic recipe of this particular food item. Selected as one of the favourite curries among the local citizens, Potato curry can be accompanied with almost any main course and nutritious wise the curry itself stands on a stable stage.
Sri Lanka has lavishly aromatic and spicy cuisine. If you are visiting Sri Lanka you should try these popular Sri Lankan dishes.
This list includes following types of food:
Main meals such as Rice and Curry, Those, Pol Sambol (coconut sambol), Mallum – Gotukola sambal, Dhal or Lentil currry (Parippu Hodi), and Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour fish curry).
Dr Hector Perera