Sinhala-Tamil New Year ‘Vijaya’ Dawning this Week-End Is Harbinger of Hope

Text and Pix Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Sri Lankans are preparing to celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Aluth Avurudu (in Sinhala) or Puththaandu or Puthu Varusham (in Tamil) literally translates to ‘New Year’– the harbinger of spring.

Beautifully decorated traditional “Kumbam”

Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on 13 April at 11.58 pm according to the Vaakkiya Tamil Almanac, and at 1.29 am on 14 April according to the Thirukkanitha Tamil Almanac on Kaarthigai star of the fourth stage, according to Hindu priests and astrologers.

Traditionally placing a “pottu” or a red dot on the forehead

The first cash transaction called Kai Vishesham is made by the head of the family with the family members at an appointed auspicious time. According to Ragunatha Venkadesa Iyer, Editor of the Vaakkiya Tamil Almanac published in Kokkuvil, Jaffna, auspicious times for the first cash transaction or Kai Vishedam will be on 14 April from 8.11am – 9.52am, 10.04am – 12.03pm, 12.45pm – 2.10pm, 2.22pm – 4.41pm, and on 15 April from 9.14am – 9.48am and 10.09 am -11.58am.

New notes for the first cash transaction on New Year’s Eve

The auspicious colour for this year is white silk with a yellow or blue border.

Busy garland maker in Bambalapitty

Tamil New Year

The Tamil New Year is called Vijaya. This is the 27th year of the 60 year cycle of the Tamil Calendar. There are 12 astrologically- ordained houses, according to both Sinhalese and Tamil traditions. They are:~

Mesha Rashi /Meda Veedu
Vrushabha Rashi/ Idaba Veedu
Mithuna Rashi/ Mithuna Veedu
Kataka Raasi/ Kataka Veedu
Sinha Raasi/Singa Veedu
Kanya Raasi/Kanni Veedu
Thula Raasi/Thula Veedu
Vrushchika Raasi/Virutchika Veedu
Dhanu Raasi/Thanu Veedu
Makara Rashi/Makara Veedu
Kumbha Raas/Kumba Veedu
Meena Raasi/Meena Veedu

The Sun moves into the Mesha Raasi or Meda Veedu (Aries) from Meena Veedu (Pisces), which falls in mid April which is celebrated as the Sinhalal and Tamil New Year.

Lord Pillaiyaar made of turmeric powder

It’s the commencement of the Tamil month of Chiththirai. April is the month of revelry. It’s an auspicious month for Tamils and many feasts, fasts, festivals and family events are scheduled during the month of Chiththirai.

The New Year falls during the “Ilavenil Kaalam” in Tamil or spring time.

The arrival of spring is marked often by the chirping of birds, especially the Indian Koel, blooming of flowers, trees bearing fruit. The Sun travels from Pisces to Aries during this time. the Sun’s entire journey through 12 astrological signs takes 12 months. The whole journey through each house takes one year.

Houses and compounds are cleaned before the New Year and people take baths with Maruththu Neer (medicinal water made of various herbals), wear new clothes according to the year’s lucky colour to herald a New Year. People light fire crackers, prepare sweet rice and traditional sweetmeats and savouries and also enjoy special meals with family and friends.

Traditional sweetmeat and savoury maker for the festive season

Popular “vadai” or spicy doughnut adds flavour to the festival

The day before

The day before the New Year, Hindus queue up at temples to get Maruththu Neer (medicinal water) to anoint at the dawn of New Year. Maruththu Neer is made of arugu, vilvam, kondral, aal, arasu (bo tree leaves), mathulai (pomegranate) ,thamarai (lotus), thulasi (holy basil), kosalam, komayam, milk, king coconut, rose water, sukku (dried ginger), cardamom and nutmeg. These ingredients are boiled together for nearly an hour, and made as watery to be applied from head to toe.

“Maruththu Neer” being prepared

“Maruththu Neer” or herbal water to be applied

Astrologers say everyone should apply “Maruththu Neer” on the New Year’s Eve

The Sinhalese apply an herbal paste made out of various plant extracts, popularly known as Nanu for the astrologically- appointed day for bathing in the New Year.

A variety of decorations adorn both temples and houses on New Year’s Day.

“Thoranam” ~ traditional decoration for the festive season

Devotee at a Hindu temple on New Year’s Eve

People throng the temples to worship for the well-being of their families and to invoke blessings. Special meals are cooked and shared with relatives and friends on this auspicious day. Both Sinhalese and Hindus as a practice, make their first visit in a New Year, to a place of religious worship.

Seasonal shopping in Moratuwa

New clay pots for sale in Wellawatte

The Tamil calendar has a 60- year cycle according to Vaakkiya and Thirukkanitha Almanacs.

They are named as Prabhava, Vibhava, Sukla, Pramodhoodha, Prachorpaththi, Aangirasa, Srimukha, Bhava, Yuva, Thaadhu, Eesvara, Vehudhanya, Piramaathi, Vikrama, Visha, Chitirabaanu,Subaanu, Thaarana, Paarththipa, Viya, Sarvasithu, Sarvathaari, Virothi, Vikruthi, Kara, Nanthana, Vijaya, Jaya, Manmatha, Thunmuki,Hevilambi, Vilambi, Vikaari, Saarvari, Pilava,Subakiruthu, Sobakiruthu, Kurothi, Visuvaasuva, Paraapava, Pilavanga, Keelaka, Soumiya, Saathaarana,Virothikiruthu, Parithaapi, Piramaatheesa, Aanantha, Raatchasa, Nala, Pingala,Kaalayukthi, Siththaarththi, Rouththri,Thunmathi, Thunththupi, Ruthrothkaari, Rakthaatchi, Kurothana and Atsaya.

After the completion of 60- year cycle, the calendar starts from the beginning with the first year.

Betel leaves and nuts for sale

Similar celebrations

The Sinhalese celebrate their New Year on14 th April while following their religious rituals and traditions which are extremely similar to those of the Tamils. They wear new clothes, worship the elders, prepare traditional sweetmeats and milk rice using prescribed ingredients by astrologers, transact cash, anoint oil at the appointed auspicious time and partake in meals.

Wooden ladle for sale

“Rabana” players for the festivity

Women wear traditional clothes and play the “Rabana” during the festive time. Children and adults enjoy singing traditional folk songs and take part in several traditional sports that are associated with harvesting festivals. For both the Sinhalese and Hindus, New Year is about renewing tradition and celebrating togetherness, specially the family ties.

Jaffna’s popular “Vasanthan Kooththu” during the New Year celebrations

Fire crackers for the festive season

“Rabana” beating on New Year

Typical village set up

courtesy: PassionParade