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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 13, 2018
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Sinhala New Year Rituals – Celebrating 'Avurudu' in Sri Lanka

Transition of the sun from Pisces to Aries marks the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka. An age old harvest festival it's by far the largest and most glamorous festival in the country

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Auspicious Times

Sinhala and Tamil New Year is celebrated on the 14th of April. Auspicious times for various rituals take place from the 13th of April. All acts in relation to celebrating the New Year are conducted according to these favourable times. There are auspicious times as well as times denoted as 'punya kalaya' or inauspicious times when no activities take place; at this time even the hearth is left unlit. Astrologers track the sun's movements and issue a calendar of specific times for engaging in various acts. Here are a few examples; last bath for the old year on April 13th, the dawn of the new year, the lighting of the hearth for the new year, preparation of meals, money transactions, anointing the head with oil and leaving for work. Each act is conducted at the specified time, facing the stipulated direction for best luck.

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Rituals Prior to New Year – Cleaning the House

Cleaning the house is a huge ritual that takes place before the dawn of the New Year. Every nook and corner is cleaned, dusted, mopped and in most cases, the premises are given a new coat of paint. Floors are polished and kitchens are scrubbed clean to accommodate cooking for the New Year. It's basically a concept of 'out with the old – in with the new' as unwanted stuff is thrown and the house is prepared for new beginnings.

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Preparation of Sweet Meats

If you are lucky enough to be in Sri Lanka over the New Year chances are you will be feasting on the delicious traditional sweet meats on offer. Kavum, kokis, asme, kiribath are some of the delights to adorn the tables for the auspicious meal. And as delicacies such as kavum etc. take time and skill to prepare most homes will hire out a skilled 'cook woman' who will set up a makeshift hearth of firewood and proceed to turn out the delightful sweetmeats before the New Year dawns. Cooking the sweetmeats are done in advance as they can be kept and take hours to prepare. Mind you although they are called sweet 'meats' there is no meat in any of the items; most contain rice flour, sweet jaggery and loads of honey. Consider staying at a nature resort; Sri Lanka has plenty of these and places like Dambulla part of the cultural triangle offer retreats surrounded by paddy fields and charming villages which one can visit to get a gist of traditional New Year celebrations.

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Dawn of the New Year

The dawn of the New Year at the auspicious time is heralded in with the lighting of crackers and sounds of drums. Drum beats are more common in villages than the city and if you are sitting across a paddy field like those that surround Kalundewa Retreat, the sound of drums and good cheer will waft across the golden fields as villagers welcome the sun gods transition to a new house. Greetings of 'Suba Aluth Avuruddak' will be echoed amongst all as families become busy sitting down for meals and exchanging gifts.

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Avurudu Games

Once the first meal is done and elders are worshipped and given due respect villagers will engage in Avurudu Kreeda or games. There are many traditional games that are a treat to observe such as climbing a greased pole, pillow fights while balancing on the trunk of a coconut palm and many others. Seeking accommodation at a village style retreat will prove to be quite a treat at this time of the year.

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