Subha Aluth Avuruddhak!
This national festival has many aspects to it, the main being that it is a thanksgiving for harvests gathered and an essential time of rest and recuperation for farmers in a basically agricultural country, after the Maha crop of paddy has been harvested; aluthsahal alms given and grain stored and sheaves of straw stacked. Perhaps the idea when the weather was predictable and monsoons came on time was that this season was compulsorily a time of doing nothing much except roofing one’s house with new straw and generally tending to homesteads until the rains came to get paddy fields ready for the next season of growing.
Thus spring cleaning. In village homes then, walls were daubed anew with mud and whitewashed, and floors freshly cow dunged Money would be available after the harvest so new clothes were bought, as also pots and pans and kitchen utensils. Better meals could be partaken of hence a period of making sweets and having kiributh and more sumptuous rice and curry.
The farmer having time to spare, his thoughts would probably go to his original home and now aged parents, so with the help of his wife he would go visit his and her relatives. I remember the andé cultivator bringing a kurini pettiya of rice and curry wrapped in banana leaf or sweets like kavun, aluwa, unduwel to our Kandy home. This was well before New Year to announce harvesting would soon be on. We visited Grandmother in her village mahagedera; and later to my eldest sister’s in an almost-village.
The village was where Avurudhu was really celebrated with swings swung on sturdy branches; the jambu trees red with fruit, the village resounding to raban beats and children cheering as matches were played on the stubble filled paddy fields or a ferris wheel of sorts was kept turning in the kamatha. Women would have time to play indoor games while men gathered in the village boutique to play their games with packs of cards and tumblers of toddy or arrack.
Most significant custom
To me the most meaningful custom of all Avurudhu customs is visiting parents and relatives and offering them obeisance and gifts. This custom mercifully is retained and followed diligently, hence the almost empty streets of Colombo during these few days. It is a custom of expressing gratitude.
Aluth Avurudhu in the village saw our knees quite raw since families were large then and we had to go down very low to every uncle and aunt and their spouses. This good habit is still with us. I have a sweetheart of a great grand niece bowing to her Muththa very adorably. No gift is expected, it’s doing as advised by her Amma. Family ties are renewed at this season. Children abroad use the ‘carriers’ who operate now delivering boxes of avurudhu rasa kevili or a stupendous cake. Avurudhu time is checked and whatever the clock shows over there, the greetings come over the telephone or skyped right on the auspicious minute.
But preceding giving during the nekath times is ‘business transaction’. The Bank of Ceylon particularly accommodates this ritual. Family members may be continuing the ritual, symbolically.
Extended family vacations
Time was when I obliged my husband and went away on extended family vacations during this season, until I realised it was important to at least follow some of the customs like lighting the hearth and eating the first meal at the auspicious time in our own home. It was wonderful gathering together at a festive meal with a pahana lit with cloth wicks, but no amount of coaxing would induce the elder son to do what he disdainfully labelled as bowing and scraping – no going down on his knees even to his father. With nest emptying coming to pass, the joy of family togetherness was, as it often happens, disrupted. The elder son migrated during the second JVP uprising in 1989 and the second had to be hurriedly sent overseas to university. They opt to live in their adopted country. I am alone now but appreciative of all I have enjoyed these long years.
I heard the koha two weeks ago. There is no likelihood of seeing red eramudu blossoms, but a tree in a deserted neighbouring plot of land has sent some branches our way with jambus in plenty. Squirrels at day time and bats at night have a fine go at the fruit. And on the 14th, the telephone will ring continuously with greetings, often augmented by the wish that yours truly would be floating in milk and honey!
Wish you all the same float and a really subha aluth avuruddhak!