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Avurudu: Festival of Nature

The interim period between the transit from Mesha to Meena is termed ‘Nonagathe’ because there is no auspicious time. The villagers use this time to visit temples and other places of worship and perform religious activities.
by S B Karalliyadda

(April 14, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sinhala and Hindu New Year is a festival devoted to the observance of rituals connected with the worship of the Son God. The ancient Egyptians and Zoroastrians believed that the sun was the origin of all living beings and worshiped the sun. Even our ancestors believed in the creation of all living things by the four elements of Apo, Thejo, Vayo and Patavi.

Our ancient system of Ayurveda was based on this belief. The ancient system of education too believed in these four elements. Apo represented water or the liquid state. Theo was the state of heat, energy of fire. Vayo represented the air to the gaseous state while Patavi was the solid or earth state. We worship, observe and perform the rituals connected to these ‘states’ knowingly or unknowingly throughout generations for the past thousands of king Saka. Today we are is Saka era 1933. The Saka ancestors ruled in India with the fall of Maurya dynasty of King Dharmasoka.

The Saka dynasty became independent rulers for nearly four hundred and fifty years until 220 AD.

The influence of this dynasty was left in Sri Lanka when our astrologers adopted the Saka dynasty for their astrological readings. Saka era was used by our kings to date their inscriptions on the grants made to temples.

In astrology the sun is supposed to travel along the ecliptic. The ecliptic of the sun from Mesha to Meena is supposed to be in April between 12 to 14. The date on which this occurs is observed as the Hindu and Sinhala New Year. This year it is on April 14.

Rites and rituals

From the rites and rituals observed on this day it clearly shows that these customs are associated with the four elements mentioned earlier. Our first custom is to deal with Apo or water. It has become a custom among us to draw a bucket of water from the well. We introduce some flowers and mix the well water before we draw a bucket of water from the well. The water so obtained is kept in the house in a receptacle unit the next new year day. The ancient villager worshipped water before using it. .

The second ritual was with Thejo which is heat energy or fire. The fire is kindled in a new hearth improvised for the purpose at an auspicious time indicated by the astrologer.

The housewife will light a brass oil lamp and take it round the house as well as inside the house and keep it in the shrine room until the wicks are burnt.

The transaction with Vayo or air was a ritual that was observed for ages. The area around the house is cleared to get fresh air. Even the house itself is colour washed preparatory to the new year festival.

The Indus make a Swasthika or a Chakara in the compound using various grains such as rice, dhal, mustard, kurakkan, etc. the transaction with Patvai or the earth is done with the planting of a tree, or cutting the earth in the premises if there is no space for tree planting. All these rituals are performed with utmost respect and care so that the ancient villager faced little or no damage caused by nature due to floods, gales, tsunami, wild fire, etc.

Mother nature too prepares for the new year by the flowering of trees, bearing fruits, the Cuckoo bird announces the approach of the new year. Migratory birds add colour to our fauna and flora. This is the month that the farmer collects his grains and fill the barn. The houses are colour washed and kept clean. The villagers adorn themselves with new clothes.

The interim period between the transit from Mesha to Meena is termed ‘Nonagathe’ because there is no auspicious time. The villagers use this time to visit temples and other places of worship and perform religious activities.

Traditional sweet meats such as Kevum, Kokis, Aggala, Aluva, etc are exchanged between neighbours. Indoor games are played by women, while men engage in other outdoor traditional games. The New Year festival is the start of other festivals associated with the Sinahla New Year festival. This is followed by Wesak which is celebrated by the Buddhists world over

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