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Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Oman

Festival of Spring and Harvest

There is much significance to the Sinhala New Year and their traditional activities. In Oman, the annual Sinhala Tamil New Year was held with much fanfare at the Muscat Club Grounds in Al Wadi Al Kabir recently. Four main Sri Lankan ethnic communities namely Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher took part in the festivities organised by the Sri Lankan Community Social Club (SLCSC). The event attracted over 3,000 Sri Lankans and other nationalities in total. Young men and women wearing sarong (men) and osari (women) lent a colourful touch to the event. From pot breaking, balloon blasting, pillow fights, fashion contest, Sri Lankan savouries, and traditional drumming — the festival saw it all. As a gesture of peace between the communities, ‘Prashasthi songs’ and ‘Fusion dances’ were introduced with the event participants joining in.

— Tracing Sinhala history —
In actual terms, Sinhala is a festival of spring and harvest. It is celebrated when the sun transits from constellation of Pisces to Aries.
Back in Sri Lanka, after dawn of the New Year called Aluth Avurudda, the first task of the year is lighting the hearth at an auspicious time and boiling milk.
People used to prepare the traditional milk rice (Kiri Bath) from the harvest obtained from their paddy fields. Through these rituals, people believe that there will not be any food shortage in their houses throughout the year.
All family members, as customary, assist the housewife (mother) in performing the task in a perfect manner. In the preparation of milk rice, the directions and advices given in Astrology were followed to the last detail.
This is followed by worshipping the parents and vesting the relatives and friends of different races. This is done with the traditional beating of the tom-tom drum called Rabana.
According to Sri Lankan custom, people are not confined to eating milk rice. The Avurudu table is also comprised of a number of traditional sweets. Among the prominent delicacies are Konda Kevum, Kokis, Asmee, Mun Kevum and Athirasa.
Once the Avurudu table is prepared in accordance with the rituals, the food items are consumed by the family members.
The breadwinner or father of the family feeds his wife and children, adhering to astrological directions. This is followed by the spouses mutually exchanging money called Ganu-denu using beetle leaves.
However, in some areas this ritual is different and family members invite elite of the village to open the Avurudu table and do monetary transactions or Ganu-denu.
The whole objective of the ritual is managing the year with good harvest and income, without any economic hardships.
The afternoon session saw a plethora of traditional games such as ‘weaving of the cadjans’, ‘singing of folk songs’, ‘scrapping of coconuts’, ‘climbing the slippery pole’, ‘blind feeding’, ‘pillow fighting’ and ‘tug-of-war’ were held.
The children had an equally fun time with games such as ‘duck race’, ‘rabbit jump’, ‘lime and spoon’, ‘sack race’, ‘wheel barrow race’, ‘three-legged race’, ‘balloon blasting’, ‘finding the hidden stranger’ and ‘fancy dress competition’ with a large number of schoolchildren taking part in various games.


— The Oman celebration —
The celebration in Oman is reminiscent of the practices in Sri Lanka. Other than sharing meals, tiny tots participated in ‘tracing the lucky child’ game.
Pot breaking with blindfold, kanamutti bindima, was one of the most sought after game. The largest number of participants were noted on the final pot being smashed.
Another much awaited programme was a fashion contest of Sri Lankan ladies in traditional costume to choose the Avurudu Kumari where the participants were judged on five main qualities called the Pancha Kalyani which were Kesha (hair), Dantha (teeth), Chavi (skin), Mansha (figure), Vayas (age).
Renowned stage and tele-drama artists from Sri Lanka namely Kumara Thirimadura, Gihan Fernando and Mihira Sirithilake kept the crowd entertained throughout the celebration.
Students from Sri Lankan School Muscat also performed local and traditional dances consisting of folklore, up country and low country performances.
The event ended with a raffle draw and a musical show performed by Sri Lankan Musical Group called ‘The Extreme’.
P G Sarath Lalsiri, Honorary President, SLCSC believes that maintaining cordial relationships and unity among one another is important to promote homely, friendly environment.
He also stressed the importance of such cultural events saying that events like this shows Sri Lanka’s unity and traditions in a foreign land in addition to strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
Mohammed Hafeez Marikkar, Vice President SLCSC, says the national festival symbolizes unity among multi ethnic and multi religious groups in Sri Lanka.
Former Assistant Secretary, SLCSC 2013-2014, Dilani Cassim, said the Sinhala and New Year events have been long running cultural events of the club.
She added that the event was very successful and that noticeably, everyone enjoyed immensely. She also said that this was the biggest event they have organized for the calendar year.
M K Pathmanaathan, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Sultanate, was the chief guest and led the inauguration of the event while Mohammed Shafeequl Islam Bhulyan, Honorary President of the Bangladesh Social Club, was the guest of honour along with other prominent members.

15th May 2016

Oman Observer