Preparing for the season | Daily News

Preparing for the season

With the dawn of the Sinhala and Hindu New year, I am reminded of a small book written by one of my teachers, a long time ago, attached to the staff of Ananda College, Colombo. He, as I remember, was more than a mere teacher. He was quite interested in other matters such as folklore, religion and culture. He was also known as a Sinhala newspaper columnist cum theatre critic known by the name DB Kuruppu.

The book he brought out in 1975, after a number of years of research titled as ‘Bakmaha Ulela’ (The Festival of the month Bak or April). This perhaps is the only book available at the time, though there had been several learned articles published from time to time in several newspapers and periodicals. The work of my teacher, Kuruppu, explains the extra-dimensional senses linked to the festival of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year.

Indigenous calendar

At the outset is made to know several synonyms linked to the denoting of New Year or the ‘Aluth Avurudda’: Dolos Mahakata Yana Davasa or the day that dawns the lapse of 12 months is one term. In the indigenous calendar or the lita, the months are counted from Bak and proceeds on to Vesak, Poson, Esala, Nikini, Binara, Vap, Il and Unduvap.

Bak is the month of April is also denoted as the teacher cum researcher Kuruppu points out is the blissful month of the year that paves the way for the farmer to bring the bounty harvest from the cultivations done as the collective function.

The term ‘Bak’ also denotes Bhagya in Sanskrit, the meaning of which revolves around ‘wealth’ and ‘happiness’. Furthermore, the month marks most festivities that revolve round folk games both indoor as well as outdoor. The most memorable factor is that ‘Bakmaha Ulela’ is centred initially round the ancestral houses or maha gedara and then comes out to the field with other collective games such as elle and competitive games like running and dancing.

Full bloom

The term gama pibidena kale as the time when the village awakens has been used over the years by the scholar to denote the festive season in its full bloom. Quite a number of Sinhala verses have been composed on the subject.

Our researcher, Kuruppu, devotes one whole chapter on the subject area and concludes that there are similarities in most oriental countries. The season of Bak is also known as the season of healing, in the Ayurvedic terminology. This factor is illuminated by the term ‘Nakata’ or the auspicious time and sum are regarded as the cosmological source that gives spirit to all the auspicious times in the New Year. As such sun or Surya is the life-giving force for all humans.

He refers to an article of Mudliyar E A Abeysekara that had appeared in Davasa newspaper dated April 11, 1964, as the source of information. Prior to the day, as Kuruppu states, quite a number of discussions have ensued in order to bring about the official brand to the festival day as a desirous cultural significance. Venerable Amunugama Upassi Thera of the Malwatte Chapter too is regarded as one of the pioneers in this clamour for official recognition.

Most village temples are regarded as the knowledge-seeking sources for the average villager as regards the adherence of the auspicious times as laid down by the well-known astrologers according to Kuruppu, the researcher the most significant factor pertaining to the New Year meals (or the Avuruduhu Anubhava, is the vegetarianism element linked to it. He stressed the all-vegetable meal as hatmaluva or the seven dishes as prefaced by the lady of the house. Today, this remarkable factor is gradually fading away from certain village homes. Running to eighteen short chapters, the small book ‘Bakmaha Ulela’ as written by DB Kuruppu is a letting tribute for the New Year.

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