Colombo: The Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations on Friday brought the capital city of Colombo to a standstill with businesses being shut and the migrant workers from rural outbacks returning home to join in the festivities.
The new year is observed by the Sinhala Buddhist community which forms 74 percent of the island`s population and Tamil Hindu community. According to the astrological charts, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns this evening at 7:20 pm, local time.
Roads which usually feature heavy traffic could only see kids playing cricket or lighting crackers in the revelry. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa travels to his village in the rural southern Hambantota district to spend time with his family in the village. The first family`s new year rituals are nationally televised.
Even the non Buddhist Sinhala and non Hindu Tamils are not excluded in the celebrations. The new year is the movement of the sun at the end of the harvesting season from Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries).
The rituals have a striking resemblance to those observed in some parts of India.
The features of the celebration are cultural rituals which begin with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp. The rituals are strictly astrological time specified acts from the traditional lighting of the fire to preparation of `Kiribath` (milk rice).
The partaking of meals on the appointed astrological time is followed by `Ganudenu` or entering the first business transaction.
This is usually exchanging of coins and currency notes wrapped in betel leaves. Even the time to leave for work is on a nekath or the astrologically best time.
Each of the auspicious times for rituals is marked by bursting of fire crackers. This year all auspicious times have fallen in the night which some sections of the astrologers’ community have described as odd.
Cultural Affairs Minister TB Ekanayake defended criticism pointing to his experts panel of astrologers who he said could not have erred.