Games people play during the New Year

13 April 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka is blessed with a number of traditional games which are played during the New Year holidays in the month of Bak (April). The significance of these games is that they are designed to suit and meet the needs of the peasantry whose objective is to achieve physical and mental comfort and consolation after hard and tedious work in agriculture and allied areas. As a tradition followed by the peasantry, from generation to generation, these games are played especially during the festive season – the apex being the ‘Nonagata’ (the period of time not belonging to any lunar mansion) or the inauspicious and unlucky time in between the Old Year and the New Year.   

 

Many games to choose from 


Chaturanga or Chess, Olinda Kreedawa or the game of liquorices, Pancakeliya or the game of cowries Neranchi, Galketeema or slinging stones, Gudu paneema, Kamba adeema –tug of war, Pora Pol gaseema- coconut match, Lanu paneema, Amba ata paneema- Mango hard kernel play, Gas kotu bandeema- running from tree to tree, Wala Kaju gaseema- Cashu nut game, Kotta poraya – cushion fight, Onchili padeema –riding on the swing, Eluwan kema- goat play and Ang adeema –pulling horns are some of the games traditionally played during the  festive season.   
Outdoor games such as Gudu paneema, Kamba adeema –tug of war, Pora Pol gaseema- coconut match,Lanu paneema, Amba ata paneema- Mango hard kernel play, Gas kotu bandeema- running from tree to tree, Wala Kaju gaseema- Cashew nut game,Kotta poraya – cushion fight, Onchili padeema –riding on the swing, Eluwan kema- goat play and Ang adeema –pulling horns are some of the outdoor games played by the village folk during the festive season.   

 

 

Games related to religious rites 


The game of liquorices, Pancakeliya or the game of cowries , Neranchi, Galketeema, Amba ata paneema, Kalagedi bindeema- breaking of pots, Muthu keliya –game of pearls, Sokari, Gudugaseema beating the Udakki or the drum which is small in the middle are examples of games connected with religious beliefs and rites. Most of these games are played to please Goddess Pattini. Playing on the swing is a game dedicated to the Sun god. The ups and down movements of the swing indicate the Sunrise and sunset respectively. 

 
Games with cowries

 


Game with cowries is an indoor game dedicated to Goddess Pattini especially among the people in the South. People in this part of the country start playing this game by the end of March and continue till Vesak with sessions sometimes stretching till Poson. This game has a long history. King Gajaba who brought 12,000 men from the Chola State in India also brought the anklet of Goddess Pattini, hence Pancakeliya’ is treated as a game associated with Goddess Pattini. ‘Panca’ is the Tamil term used for oysters or cowries. Tamil terms onru and rendru are used in this game to mean one and two respectively. Panca peta or the draft board is designed according to the Tamil tradition. There is evidence to the effect that the game is greatly influenced by the Tamil community. Men, women and children play this game. Peasants believe that the blessings of Goddess Pattini can be evoked by playing this game. Two sides should have an equal number of players. However, no one will be left out in the event an odd number of persons turn up to play. The additional person is assigned to a side and is referred to as ‘Hungi’. One member of the other side is given an extra chance to play on such occasions.    
 

 


Olinda Keliya

 

Another game of goddess Pattini is Olinda Keliya. Olinda or wild Liquorices seeds are used to play on a board which is called Olinda poruwa. There are two sets of holes where players can put the seeds into. According to evidence associated with the history of the game it had been popular among women. This was a game in which the princesses in the royal court featured. The boards used in the royal palaces and those used by nobles were decorated with wood carvings.  Olinda is also played as an outdoor game. Two sides are formed with well dressed girls and they indulge in a two way recital conversation. The leader of one side recites a line of a poem “Olinda thiyenne koi koidese” The others in the side repeat it. The leader of the opposite side replies. “Olinda thiyenne Bangalidese.”Others in her side repeat it. The game ends when the whole poem is completed.

   
Balancing of pebbles


Gal keteema –Balancing of pebbles- is yet another New Year game popular among females. Only six pebbles are required to play this game. After deciding the playing order the opener takes the pebbles in her palm and after throwing them up collects as much as possible on the other side of her palm. Then she should get as many pebbles as possible including the ones marked by others into her palm. The pebbles thus taken by her into her palm are those collected by her and the game continues. Kaju keliya is a game similar to gal keteema. In this game cashew nuts are used instead of pebbles.   


Another traditional game is Elu kotu or goat fencing. This is also called Eluwan kema- catching of goats. This game is connected with goatherds. It is an outdoor game played mainly by girls. They make an enclosure to prevent those outside from getting in. Those who are inside are imaginary goats and those who are outside are the goat catchers. Goat catchers recite a line of a verse asking whether they should jump over the fence. “Udin panindo” Those who are holding hands to make the fence reply “Thalla Kadeido” - Will you break your chin. Then she pleads- Vatee wandinnam yaluve denawada eluwa- If I kneel down and salute my friend will you give the goat?. Then those who are holding hands to make the fence reply “Koccara keewath yaluwe nodenemi eluwa- whatever you say or do you will not get the goat. The game comes to an end when outsiders break in.   


Beating of the drum

 

Veterans beat the drum with their hands, elbows and sometimes with their chins. While beating the drum they occasionally clap too. Songs are worded in keeping with their day to day lives


Beating the large drum is another form of recreation enjoyed especially by girls and elderly women during the New Year. There is a saying that there is no rest for the drum and the women’s hands during the New Year. All the women. young and old, sit round the large drums and hit them rhythmically and sing along to the beat. Veterans beat the drum with their hands, elbows and sometimes with their chins. While beating the drum they occasionally clap too. Songs are worded in keeping with their day to day lives.”Bolan podi nangi tikak hitapan, Bulath vita kanta tikak hitapan, Kandangodaganna tikak hitapan” Oh my dear young sister stay here a little while, wait a little to chew betel, wait to take the logs in” In another poem a parrot is summoned. “Udin udin wara pettappu bimin bimin wara pettappu”. Rhythmically the parrot is requested to come flying {udin} or walking (bimin). Meanwhile young men dance to the tune of the music making the scene melodramatic.   

 


 

Riding the swing

 

Riding on the swing is another way of spending the New Year season merrily. This is also a recreation popular among girls although males too partake in the events. This is a game dedicated to the Sun God. The ups and downs of the swing indicate the sunrise and the sunset. Well dressed girls get on to the swing hung on an overhead branch of a tree. One of them sits on the seat of the swing while another girl stands behind. Others give them a push which takes the players forwards and backwards while singing waran or quatrains. “Wawulan lesa karakena onchilla, apith padimu than ran onchilla ( let us also ride the golden swing which turns like a bat.   


Mewara Keliya


There is yet another game played by girls using an ornament worn by one of them. This is called the ‘Mewara Keliya’. More than five girls should participate to make the game successful. One of them hides her bangle in the sand and pretending that she has lost it questions the others whether they have found it.”Sarasadisi peti thora nelana kala walagiyado mage mewaraya”- I feel that I have lost my ornament while plucking Pethi thora. Others reply that they have not seen the ornament.”Nano numbapal numbe daruwanpal api dutuwe natha mewaraya”- Oh sister we have not found your ornament. At last the owner of the ornament hops to the music of the song and gets closer to the place where she has hidden the bangle and snatches it saying that she has recovered it.   


Playing a game with coconuts


Another New Year game played by young men is Porapol Gaseema- coconut match. This game is played by throwing husked coconuts held by each player until the coconut held by one player is broken.   


Pulling of horns 

 

 

Udupila is Palangi’s and Yatipila represents Kannagi. It is believed that when the Yatipila wins it is a good omen


Kubura Ampitiya Udugambawa and Yatigambawa appear to have been named after the game of Ang adeema. This game had been very popular in the past. When king Gajaba brought 12,000 people from Chola State in India the statue of Kannagi (Goddess Pattini) and that of her husband Palanga had also been brought. Hindus believe that these statues have divine power. When kannagi and Palanga were plucking flowers their hooked sticks got entangle and when they pulled the hooked sticks to either side Kannagi’s hooked stick was broken.   


In another story Palanga and Kannagi had cursed the Pandyan king and the country. As a result the country was set ablaze. People had started playing Ang Adeema in a bid to appease Kannagi.   


At the auspicious moment a six feet deep hole is dug in the ground and a log of Kekuna is erected turning the top corner of the log towards the ground. This log is called the Ang Kanuwa. An Areca flower is tied to it and is called “Wallimala.” Close to the Ang Kanuwa another log is erected which is known as “Buhukanuwa”Ang or horns are made of hard wood such as Karanda, Pihimbiya, Andara or Akiri. Players form to two teams which are known as the Udupila and Yatipila. Udupila is Palangi’s and Yatipila represents Kannagi. It is believed that when the Yatipila wins it is a good omen.   

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