Of Kiribath, Kavum and Kokis
The dawn of the New Year is synonymous with the preparation of
kiribath. Even though there are varieties of kiribath, such as Mun
kiribath, made by adding green gram Imbul Kiribath which has its centre
filled with coconut and jaggery, the kiribath prepared in the New Year
is often made only with coconut milk.
The next most important food on the New Year table is the Kavum. As
Prof. J.B Dissanayaka mentions in his book, the “Sinhalaya”, even though
the Sinhalese may not be adapt at many things in their lives they will
surpass any other race when it comes to eating Kavum.
The history of Kavum is believed to go back to very old times. Kevum
is mentioned in ancient texts like the Ummagga Jatakaya, Saddharma
Ratnawaliya and Pujawaliya.
Of the several varieties of kavum, such as Naran kavum, thala kavum,
undu kavum, mun kavum, seeni kavum and atiraha the most popular and also
perhaps the most difficult to make is the konda kavum. The woman who can
make the “konda” perfect on her kavum is looked at with envy by those
who fail in their attempts to form the perfect nob on the tip of their
Asmi too, which comes in the form of a half moon from afar but on
closer inspection reveals string hoppers intricately woven together and
dipped in honey, is another essential sweet on the New Year table.
“The importance attached to food cannot be forgotten.” wrote the late
Prfoessor Nandasena Ratnapala in an Essay Socio-anthropological
significance of `Avurudu’. “It should be shared by everyone. No one who
comes to the house is allowed to depart without a meal. Even animals are
fed, as they too are considered a part of the family.”
The food often consists of milk, milk-rice and other grains and
fruits. The use of such items, I believe, are dictated by reasons of
health. The ritualistic offerings made to Hindu gods and the Buddha
consists of such items only. Could it be that the insight into our
individual and community health prompted our ancestors to choose such
items of food for the New Year?”
Ayurveda physicians believe this is true. The food which is taken
during the Sinhala New Year has many nutritious values as sweetmeats
like Mung Kevum are made of the flour of brown rice, and Unduvel is made
of undu all of which have nutritious values.
All in all, be it kiribath, golden brown konda kevum, intricately
designed kokis, juicy asmi or aluwa that melt in your mouth, what
matters the most in the New Year is that you share them with your family
and friends, strengthening the bonds of love, ensuring the year ahead
will see you happy and healthy.