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Monday, 12 April 2010

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Pora-pol and kavun and kokis

There was a rich spread of kavun, kokis and kiribath. The reverberating rhythm of the rabanas filled the air. One feels nostalgic for the charm of the village life of old and the mind naturally wanders to the village playing fields where simple amusements' and games give expression to this festive occasion - the Aluth Avuruddha.


Pillow fight in progress

What pleasures we derived in our childhood days from those unsophisticated traditional games that are all part of the New Year celebrations. There was Gudu and Elle - two very popular spun games that provided as much excitement as any game of cricket or rounders would.

Pora-pol gahima - or bowling of coconuts - was another exciting pastime and often played between two sections of the village where spectators and supporters were known to bet heavily. Ang-keliya or Hook Hugging was also a game where two sections of the village took part. The 'An' or 'hook' is made from strong timber and the game takes the form of tug-o-war causing much excitement and provoking cheers and jeers.

C'nut scraping - Coconut scraping contests were conducted for village women, Olinda keliya - an indoor game played on a hollow board with small red seeds of the olinda creeper - was an absorbing recreation and almost a monopoly of the women, Bola-keliya - a game played with marbles - was reserved for the little boys. No festival celebration was without a Marathon or an Obstacle race. Pillow fights were also popular and of course, climbing the greasy pole always provided the feverish climax.

Traditional games in the hoary past were known to have taken a more dramatic turn and found popular flavour with all strata of society.


Readying for the marathon

Cock-fighting - one of the earliest games of the world was one the greatest pastime in Sri Lanka and a favourite during the New Year festivities. Here people used to bet gold, silver, lands and even their spouses! Betting unprecedented proportions and as a result cock-fighting was banned.

Bull and Buffalo fights were also in vogue and the animals with sharpened horns were allowed to fight.

Jumbo fights - In medieval times even elephant fights were organized in specially constructed stockades. Here two elephants were brought into the enclosure. If they do not fight a gay female of the species is placed between them. Then overtaken by jealousy and sexual desire they begin fighting. An extreme form of the 'sporty' was the combat between two wild herds from different regions of the country. A vivid description of an elephant fight that took place in 1883 goes as follows: "They advance into the centre of the square and join in battle seizing each others trunks, striking with trunks and feet and beating with the heads and tusks - one of them became weaker and runs away only to be chased and attacked brutally by the other..."

Thank heavens that today's traditional games are a far cry from those blood curdling pastime and are much more pleasanter and enjoyable proposition.

But one factor we need guard against is the increasing dominance of 'imported' games and the likelihood of over traditional games sliding away completely from our sports firmament.

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