Aurudu - Sri Lankan New Year

Trip Start Mar 03, 2008
Trip End Jun 02, 2008

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Goyambokka Goyanbokka is about 3km out of Tangalle on the Matara road.  The Chalets were closing completely for the New Year week because the owner was going away.  I was away for most of the week anyway, but for the couple of nights I was in the Tangalle area, I went to stay in Goyambokka where another volunteer Mark has been staying and it was also his last weekend in SL.   I was possibly going to go away for a couple of days but the transport grinds to a halt over the New Year period and I would possibly have got stuck along the coast and wouldn't have got back to Netolpitya for the celebration on Sunday.  Goyambokka has a lovely little beach which is good for body boarding.  I stayed at the Butterfly Cabanas and we learnt how to play Carram which is a SL board game where you flick draught pieces into pockets by knocking them off each other kind of like you are playing pool - quite tricky, but was getting the hang of it.  
Aurudu (New Year) Preparation I went on Friday morning to do my New Years shopping.  We took a Sri Lankan guy with us that we know to keep us right on what to buy for people.  Everybody tends to exchange clothes as gifts, a sarong for the guys, a sari or jazzy top for ladies and a clothing set for kids and I wanted to buy for Sena and his family because I was going to spend New Year there and then go with them to visit relatives for a few days.  I decided to break the mould and get toys for the kids and got a sarong for Sena and a fancy top for Mallika.   The clothes shops in Tangalle were totally packed out with everyone buying their gifts.  All along the street on the main entrance point to Tangalle there were little stalls set up selling clay pots - for preparing the milk for Kiri Bath (coconut-milk rice) and fire crackers.  This is the first thing that every Sri Lankan eats when it is the auspicious time on New Year (astrologically determined time when the New Year is celebrated).  It is a symbol of life and fertility and the Buddha is said to have got energy from eating kiri bath and achieve nirvana.   It is believed that everyone has to purchase and use a new pot religiously each year for the preparation because it would not be good luck for the new year ahead to use an old pot - everything is a new start.  A Sri Lankan was telling me that their mother has passed away a couple of months earlier. When somebody passes away in your family then you abstain from celebrating the new year that year, so when everybody else in the country are carrying out the new year rituals and family celebrations, you do nothing out of respect.
Auruda Celebration I went out to Netolpitya at around 6 on Sunday evening.  Sri Lankan's very much believe in astrology and all the auspicious times to do different rituals are determined in this way.  This is used on an everyday basis to determine times for going places, as well as matching up people for marriage and to determine the order of events and times for things to happen at New Year. If these times are not adhered to then it would be considered very bad luck.  The actual time for New Year is determined by a leading government astrologer (because I did ask how everyone would know what is the actual definite time to adhere to)  This is broadcasted by television on the Sunday morning so that everyone is clear and aware of when this time is and they prepare and organise things accordingly.  This year from 12.24 everyone had to fast until the auspicious time (New Year bells) which was at about 20.08.  It was quite difficult for me to get transport out to Sena's at 6pm because during fasting time everyone stops and either goes to temple or quietly spend time indoors with family.  When I got to Sena's house, they had already lit the hearth and the pot of milk was on.  Just after 8 we all gathered at the table facing a South direction and Sena lit an oil lamp. At exactly 8 minutes past you could hear fire crackers going off everywhere and we ate our kiri bath with chilli paste.  After eating, Sena carried out money transactions with all the members of the family by giving us 105RS on a leaf and carrying out a blessing.  This ensures good money fortune for the year ahead. 
Siyambulanduwa On Monday I went with Sena's and his family to visit his mother's house and siblings up in Siyamulanduwa which is near Moneragala, about 5 hours North East of Tangalle. It is a very bad road once you get up to the bottom of the hill country so although the distance is not far, it takes a long time.  The days following New Year are spent visiting friends and relatives, exchanging gifts and eating lots.  Where they live is quite a rural area so I knew that English was going to be limited and so would mod cons.  Sena has 8 brothers and sisters and they all have kids so it was quite overwhelming to start with when we first arrived because they were really excited about meeting the foreigner but because they couldn't really speak to me so was quite full on with lots of giggling and loud Sinhala chattering. After they had got over the initial arrival, things calmed down a bit and I felt a lot more comfortable with the situation.  I spent a lot of time playing with the children and although a large part of all the ladies was taken up with preparing the next meal for everyone, there were a lot of playing family games which was really fun and nice to see because you could tell everyone was really enjoying themselves. The games were all really simple but fun like marbles, musical chairs, eye of the elephant (which was similar to pin the tail on the donkey but was draw the eye on the elephant), tug-o-war, musical hat (you had to stand in a circle and pass a hat from one head to the next and if the hat was on your head when the music stopped you were out).  We also played cricket and badminton.  We would have variations of rice and curry for breakfast lunch and dinner and in between lots of sweet coconut tray bakes and various sweet pastries.  It reminded a lot of what it was like in Britain years ago before computers and fancy gadgets/toys.  It was really nice to see everyone having such a fun time in such a simple way as a big family.  Fire crackers and rockets are let off left right and centre by some very young kids and their parents stand watching and laughing as they light them in a haphazard way and they fire into the air at a dodgy angle!!   The water that is used for drinking and washing is rain water taken from a well that has a mosquito mesh over it.  There are no flush toilets and when I saw the shower facility at Sena's mother - a shower head in the middle of the garden with no curtain around it I was a bit concerned about how I could manoeuvre things.   They all got washed under their sarongs in full view, but when they asked me if I wanted to use the enclosed shower facility at Sena's sisters, 2 doors up the road, I jumped at the chance!  On Thursday morning we headed back to Tangalle and although it was a lovely experience, I think I am all New Yeared out!
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Butterfly Cabanas
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