A year is a period of twelve months or 365 days and 366 days in a leap year. In Sinhalese the last day of the year ending is called Parana Avurudda and the first day of the dawning year is called AluthAvurudda. In other words these are the old year day and the New year day respectively. Plaintive cuckoo sings along while Sakura flowers in Japan and coral flowers in our country blossom to tell us that the national and cultural festive season is approaching. This is the most important national and cultural festival for Sinhala and Tamil communities. From time immemorial we have shared the pleasure and goodwill sans problems. However, during a long period of nearly three decades, till 2009, separatist Tiger rebels attempted to create an atmosphere of misunderstanding and hate, but that dark past is now over and a peaceful atmosphere exists. We can now enjoy the festive season. So let us get together irrespective of all differences to share the prospects of our success in bringing peace and harmony to our country.
Astrologically this is the transition of the Sun from the House of Mena (Pisces) to the House of Mesha (Aries) which is regarded as the dawn of the New Year. For us in Sri Lanka this is the most important national and cultural festival. We also make this an occasion for observing religious rites and rituals.
A few minutes before the end of the old year we go to the temple and observe religious rites and rituals and immediately after the dawn of the New Year we repeat these religious observances. Those who are unable to visit the temple observe these religious rites at home. We start the observances during the old year and continue with them during the Nonagata (inauspicious) period till the dawn dawn of the New Year. We call these observances ‘Devurudu Wandana’ which translates to worshiping during both years.
There is an interim period between the Old Year and the New Year. This period of time is called the ‘NonagataKalaya’ which is an unlucky period not belonging any lunar mansion. Since this is a time not suitable for an worthwhile task or activity, it is usually devoted to religious activities.
Apart from Devurudu Wandana there are various other customs and observations relating to the New Year festival. Some of them are observed before the dawn of the New Year, some others on New Year day and yet some others after the New Year day. Another category of functions relate to the ‘Nonagata’ period or the interim period.
The earliest and one of the most important customs is the distribution of the astrologer’s sheet or the chit in which auspicious times for various observations are indicated.
Today this information is disseminated through the media, but in the past this service was rendered by the village astrologer
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