Avurudu is here again | Daily News

Avurudu is here again

Erabadu flowers. The sounds of a Koha in the distance. A feeling of a fresh spring is definitely in the air. It can mean only one thing - Avurudu is here again. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn tomorrow, signifying one of the most important national events in the country.

Avurudu or Puthandu (in Tamil) is primarily celebrated by Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus, but over the years it has transcended such man-made boundaries and become a national festival celebrated by all Sri Lankans. That is what Sri Lanka should be – a country where all live in harmony and take pride in each other’s cultural norms and traditions. Such ethnic and religious unity is the need of the hour, especially when political and other forces opposed to the peaceful co-existence of various communities are striving to ignite flames of hatred.

Above all, Avurudu celebrates our very close bond with Nature. It is a tribute to the Sun, whose movement from Meena (Pisces) to Mesha (Aries) is the very basis of the traditional New Year. The festival is based on the fact that Sun gives us life. Our food is literally made by the Sun through the process of photosynthesis, which is really the basis of all life on Earth. New Year traditions evolved as a result of farmers expressing their gratitude to the Sun and Nature for a bountiful harvest. In fact, the Sinhalese word “Bak” for April signifies “fortune”, being a derivative of the Sanskrit root word “Bhagya”.

Avurudu teaches us many lessons apart from bringing us closer to Nature. What other national festival unites an entire country to do certain activities at the same time? Some may disregard and even make fun of the Avurudu auspicious times, but they help make us more punctual and disciplined. While cooking and partaking meals in accordance with auspicious times is important, the foremost place in Avurudu traditions should go to Ganu Denu, which literally means Give and Take. That is sadly a factor missing from our lives for the most part, but Avurudu reminds us of the importance of compromise and the joy of sharing. Avurudu is a season for giving – as well as for forgiving.

It is a time where everyone in the family and neighbourhood gets together in a spirit of harmony and peaceful co-existence. Peace should begin at home - this is the lesson that Avurudu teaches us. The Avurudu table brings everyone together. This is a very important in a society where the tradition of family sit-down meals has disappeared for all intents and purposes. Today’s pressures to relentlessly pursue money and differing interest/work hours of family members mean that no one has the time to enjoy a sit-down meal over free-flowing conversation and plenty of laughter. At best, the whole family might have eyes glued to the TV while having dinner with no conversation at all. Family bonds have taken a severe beating due to modern lifestyles, but Avurudu reminds us that we should do better to keep families together.

The demands of commercialism have enveloped everyone in our families, including the children. Unlike in the days gone by, today’s children are pressured by parents, teachers and the wider society to study all the time in order do well at examinations at the expense of their playtime. However, Avurudu literally gives them a break from the tedium of studying and attending classes non-stop.

Avurudu also has a spiritual or religious element. The Punya Kalaya (“time for meritorious deeds”) is designed to let us pay homage to the temple or the Kovil to purify our souls. Thus the Avurudu brings to the fore the nexus between the village and the temple/place of worship. Many of the problems in our lives can be traced to the gulf between us and the places of worship – Avurudu gives us an opportunity to renew this bond.

Avurudu is a time for a fresh start in every sphere of life. From new clothes to a new coat of paint to new aspirations, it marks a deviation from the old routine and signals that life is ready to take on new challenges in the coming year. Avurudu gives us fresh hopes for a successful, bountiful year ahead. The first few months of this year have been challenging, mainly due to a prolonged drought that resulted in power cuts that lasted almost till the eve of Avurudu. Hopefully, the rains will come after Avurudu bringing hope to farmers and others.

Unfortunately, the message of Avurudu is at risk of getting lost in a sea of commercialism spread by vendors who urge people to spend relentlessly for New Year celebrations. Judging by newspaper and television advertisements, Avurudu has become one big shopping and entertainment season. Its core values have been swept aside. But this should not be the case. We should see through the commercial veneer into the very heart and soul of this national event. We must look beyond the new clothes and sweetmeats to grasp the true meaning of Avurudu, which is to bring happiness to our hearts and minds.


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