Preserving Avurudu traditions, a prime responsibility | Daily News

Preserving Avurudu traditions, a prime responsibility

When the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) in the celestial sphere, Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils together will begin celebrating their Aluth Avurudda and Puththandu.

The timing of the Sinhala and Tamil Aluth Avurudda coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festival has close semblance to the Tamil Aluth Avurudda, Thai New year, Bengali New Year, Cambodian New Year, Lao New Year, Thingyan in Myanmar and Odia New Year festival in India.

Sinhala celebration

The preparations are done weeks prior to the festival; homes are cleaned and all unwanted items are thrown away, making the setting clean and tidy to mark a new beginning. Sweetmeats are prepared and new clothes purchased. The traditional oil lamp is lit at the auspicious time.

The sound of firecrackers and the rhythm of ‘rabana’ signal the dawn of the ‘Aluth Avurudda’. As the Aluth Avurudda sets in, the hearth is lit by the lady of the house and the traditional pot of milk is boiled. Traditional Aluth Avurudu dish “kiribath” follows.

At the table, kiribath, bananas and many other delicacies become the centerpiece. Families sit around the table and share the kiribath, as the head of the family offers it to all members. After this, the oil lamp is lit and the feast commences.

Every ritual is performed at an auspicious time. After meals, children show respect to their elders by offering sheaves of betel and elders bless them. Plates of sweets and other delicacies are exchanged between neighbours.

After main rituals including oil-anointing are over, the celebrations move out into available open spaces where various traditional games and other activities begin.

Tamil celebration

The Hindus also celebrate the same Aluth Avurudda, commonly known as ‘Puththandu’, by observing the traditions and rituals practised by ancestors over the years. However, they are slightly different to those of the Sinhalese. The auspicious occasion of Puththandu is also popularly known as Varusha Pirappu or the birth of Aluth Avurudda.

People celebrate Puththandu by following specific traditions and rituals. On the day of the Avurudda, during the auspicious time, Maruthu Neer - clean water boiled with various herbs, selected flowers and leaves, milk, saffron and other ingredients are made by the priests in temples. They take bath with this “maruthu neer” by placing some water on the head.

After this event, new clothes are worn and once the Aluth Avurudda is born families assemble for prayer at their home. The prayer begins with lighting the traditional lamp (Kuthu Vilakku). Then the whole family heads to the temple for puja and prayers. The elders in the family bless the children, who worship them and seek their blessings and good wishes.

Benefits

Whether Sinhala or Tamil, the Aluth Avurudda is part of our country’s rich cultural heritage. It is full of customs and traditions.

Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become.

Avurudu traditions offer numerous benefits to our families, including but not limited to the fact that they:

Provide a source of identity. Avurudu traditions and rituals often tell a story about a family. On the macro level, Avurudu traditions can teach children where their family came from or give them insights into their cultural or religious history (e.g. worshipping parents and elders on Avurudda Day). On a more micro level, Avurudu traditions can serve as reminders of events that have shaped your family (e.g. every year the full family circle meets at grandfather’s residence). There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to a great culture.

Strengthen the family bond. Researchers have consistently found that families that engage in frequent Avurudu traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together. Avurudu traditions provide an all-too-rare chance for face-to-face interaction, help family members get to know and trust each other more intimately, and create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something unique and special.

Offer comfort and security. Avurudu traditions and rituals are the antidote to the harried feeling that comes from our fast-paced and ever-changing world. It’s comforting to have a few constants in your life. Avurudu traditions can thus be particularly effective during times of change and grief. Maybe you’ve moved your family to a new town and everything is new and strange for your children, but at least they know that every Avurudu Day, they meeting all their cousins and friends.

Teach values. One of the main purposes of rituals, whether religious or local, is to impart and reinforce values. The same goes with Avurudu traditions. Through visits to the temple during punya kalaya, through respecting elders and through participating in the traditional avurudu games, the preservation of social values is instilled.

Pass on cultural and religious heritage. Many Avurudu traditions have been passed down through multiple generations. Continuing them in your own family is a great way to teach your children about your family’s cultural and religious history, thus adding to their personal identity. If you’re having a hard time coming up with Avurudu traditions for your new family, your family history is a great place to mine for them.

Connect generations. In his book “The Secrets of Happy Families”, author Bruce Feiler argues that children who have a high level of grandparental involvement have fewer emotional and behavioural problems. Moreover, high grandparental involvement is also correlated with lower maternal stress and higher involvement from parents. Avurudu traditions are a great way to cultivate that valuable grandparental involvement.

Create lasting memories. A class teacher of a leading local school once described to the writer about a survey in which she asked 15-year-old children what they would remember most about their childhood. According to her, most of the children responded by talking about annual Avurudda traditions like Avurudu meals with family, Avurudu holiday get-togethers, and Avurudu games. Those positive childhood memories can help make a child a happier and more generous adult. Reflecting fondly on one’s past actually provides a myriad of positive benefits including counteracting loneliness, boosting generosity towards strangers, and staving off anxiety.

Preservation

We desperately need to preserve our Avurudu traditions. Part of the responsibility of having the chance to live at all, should we choose to look at it that way, is to be a part of the transmission of our particular family and our national traditions. In so doing, we honour past generations by passing on their rites and rituals to the next generation.

Since ceremonies outlive us, they make us feel part of that larger sense of things as we pass them down to our own children, and theirs. That is how we realize our immortality — not in living sense, but in being part of living traditions.

For thousands of years our ancestors, the inhabitants of this island built up a highly organized agrarian civilization based on the principles of harmonious co-existence with other races with non-violence, tolerance and peace.

The Aluth Avurudda demonstrates our national ethos with its characteristic emphasis of the renewal and reaffirmation of goodwill within families and among all other citizens of the country.

Suba Aluth Avuruddak Wewa: Puththandu Valththukkal: Wish you a prosperous New Year! 


 

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