Aluth Avurudu - the Harvest Festival
Around the beginning of April, the people of Sri Lanka have their ears pricked. By and by as they listen intently they hear the mating call of the cuckoo bird and then rejoice - not because the Cuckoo bird is getting some but because this call signals the coming of Avurudu (New year) and the beginning of a week long holiday from the daily drudge. New year comes around every year (as it normally would) and falls on the 13th and 14th of April and as with all new year's around the world it is celebrated with food, drink and family time.
There are several traditions, rituals, and rites observed during the two days, all done to a specific Nekatha (auspice). Food is not cooked during or until a specific time and ritual such as regarding elders with betel leaves, and making your first transactions for the New Year happens to at a specific time - Sri Lankans as it turns out are timely and patient. Once the religious rites have been observed it is time for celebrations as the entire family, decked out in new clothes, visit their neighbours and relatives. People working away from home use this as an opportunity to catch up with old friends over drink of Arrack or Toddy - this specific ritual may last way into the night.
Traditional Aluth Avurudu games are held, such as climbing a greased pole, or Kotta Pora - an immensely enjoyable sport that requires two men to sit facing each other straddled on a pole, and then proceed to pummel each other with pillows until one falls off. You will also hear the Raban (drum) being played by the womenfolk - the drum made of wood and stretched animal skin is gently heated over a fire as the tune is played. Once the games have ended it is time to go home for a meal and enjoying a good drinking session, which sometimes lasts for days as each new person joining the party brings something to drink.
All fun and games aside - Aluth Avurudu is a revered ancient harvest festival that was reinterpreted with the coming of Buddhism to Lanka in the 3rd Century BC. The month it is held on is called Bak and is recognised as the month of prosperity. The Sinhalese Calendar, and consequently the festival, is determined through an astrological system - The festival happens when the Sun (Ravi) moves from the House is Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the house of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) and signals the end of the harvest - during this time the sun is Directly above the Island.
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