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Let New Year usher in everlasting peace and eternal prosperity

Amidst the divisive strains that have emerged in the political life of our people recently the Sinhala and Tamil New Year reminds us a forgotten message. In fact, this New Year emphasises the underlying oneness of our society.

It reflects the homogeneity of thought and tradition that binds those born in our soil whether they live in North or in South. A common mood of festivity of goodwill and of generosity, the nearness of their astrological timings, the parallels in ritualistic observances, all confirms deeply rooted historical associations.


Hindu women decorate the floor with kolam

These bonds show themselves large enough to establish a common allegiance, a common identity with the land of their birth.

This New Year which is universally observed generally includes rites and ceremonies that are the expression of mortification, purgation, invigoration and jubilation over life's renewal. Furthermore, renewals mark the course of life in nature and in human existence.

The survival of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year through long periods of colonialism and Westernization testifies to the strength of natural characters in this country. It establishes the depth and durability of an indigenous culture. It bears witness to the long traditions that grew out of Lanka's own ancient civilization.

Chittirai

"Pudhu Varudam" or New Year which marks the Hindu solar New Year beginning on the first of the Tamil month of Chittirai. New Year is indeed an auspicious occasion for the Hindus. In Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos too, this day is celebrated as the New Year.

Further, from time immemorial the Hindus have considered the transition of the sun as an auspicious event, for the sun is the presiding deity of the planetary system and the entry from pisces, the last house in the Zodiac to Aries, the first house is significant marking the beginning of the New Year.

The Hindu Alamanac known as the "Panchaangam" substantiated by astronomical calculations gives us the exact time of the dawn of the New Year.

In fact, the month of April also marks the birth of Spring. Even in the Sangam classics there are references to the joyous activities of spring. The great epics "Silappadikaram" gives a vivid description of Indira Vizha.

The Lord Indira referred to in Silappadikaram and associated with festival of this nature. Lord Indira is considered to be a God or protection and in view of these favourable factors, the Hindus have counted upon "Siththirai" (April) as the first month of the Year.

Herbal water

On the New Year day, the Hindus, particularly the women get up early in the morning and annrint themselves, apply a Maruthu Neer (Herbal water) obtained usually from Kovils and have a bath during Punni Kalam (auspicious time). They wear new clothes and go to temples for worship.

In temples, the bells ring loudly heralding the birth of the New Year. The cuckoo peals the dawn of the melodious birth of Spring with many tunes.

The gentle dawn breeze embraces everyone and instils a sense of new hope and confidence.

In the homes, milk rice is cooked with jaggery and offered to the sun or the Gods. The poor are treated with lavish meals. The workers, relatives and neighbours join in merry-making. The first handling of money is done at the auspicious time.

This is called "Kaiveshesham" and is always received from good hearted people. It is also considered to be a lucky transaction and one looks forward to an Year of plenty and prosperity.

To the young, particularly the children, it is a day of sport and fun. They enjoy themselves wearing new clothes and lighting of crackers.

The youth enjoy themselves with "Porthenkai" (crushing of coconuts). This sport is said to have come to the Tamil Nadu from Greece when there was brisk Greece-Roman trade.

The young girls engage themselves in games like swinging etc. In the evening dance and music recitals are organised in the principal villages and towns. Indeed, this New Year festival is significant to one and all since everyone is endeavouring to bring about peace, ethnic harmony and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Of the many festivals observed indifferent parts of the Hindu World New Year has been one in which all the people in every village or town to whatever class of society they belong await with great eagerness. The arrival of New Year fills are with great happiness. Goodwill, happiness and a sense of expectancy fills the air and the hearts of the Hindus and Buddhists.

Observation

In fact, New Year is observed with great reverence, devotion, a sense of duty and loving kindness towards all, stimulating society, enlivening the nation and fostering national consciousness.

Indeed, New Year is a festival of freedom, peace, unity and compassion crystallised in the last hymn on unity in the Indian spiritual text the Rig Veda:- "Let your aim be one and single, let your heart be joined in one, the mind at rest in unison at peace with all, so you may be".

Hence on this great and glorious occasion of New Year, our paramount duty is to resist disintegration by strengthening the forces of integration.

Let us not forget that Sri Lanka has a vision and mission.

It should set an example to men everywhere to eschew violence and hatred and to tread the path of peace, love and compassion.

Sri Lanka which was described by great men as "Pearl of the Indian Ocean", "the paradise isle of the East", "the island in the sun" is passing through the more critical and crucial period in history. As such, the need of the hour is profound and abiding love for the country and greater sacrifice for the sake of our children, the future generation.

Peace and prosperity

As we commit ourselves to the ceremonies of cleaning and renewal, caring and sharing and usher in New Year, may our ethnic problem be sorted out so that we may work towards building a society where everlasting peace, and eternal prosperity prevail in our lovely island "Sri Lanka".

On this New Year day let me conclude with the soul stirring words of the great Poet Rabindranath Tagore - "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreamy desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action; Into that Heaven of Freedom, my Father, let my country awake".

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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