What is Sinhala New Year?

Lankarama Buddhist Institute
398 Giano Ave
CA 91744
Lankarama Buddhist Institute celebrated the New Year event with the participation of many devotees and friends on the beautiful evening April 16, 2017. The event was attended by Maha Sangha members presided by the abbot venerable Aluthnuwara Sumanatissa Nayaka Thero and the gathering included different communities representing Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Myanmar. The traditional Sinhala & Hindu New Year is celebrated in Sri Lanka in the month of April to mark the astrological transition from Pisces to Aries completing the full circle. The inbetween time is considered neutral (nonagata) and the folks used to go to their local temples to get the blessing to ward off any evil effects of the planetary signs. In fact, the same festival is celebrated in different manners in most of the South and South East Asian countries. 

The editor of this article has some vivid memories of his childhood with regard to the Sinhala & Hindu New Year in Sri Lanka. It is festival season and all Sri Lankan schools and many other government offices are closed on the New Year Days allowing children, parents, family members, relatives and friends to colorwash their homes, buy new clothes and prepare traditional desserts. Kids have the best time with so much fun with new clothes and folk games which are very traditional. Firing crackers is how we communicate with the community about various auspicious times to start different New Year functions. Cuckoo Bird's awesome singing and the captivating Erabadu flowers are some of the signs that the nature uses to remind the dawn of the New Year. 

Some of the most meaningful practices during this season is the families visiting their temples to respect the Sangha to be blessed and then visiting their relatives and friends with gifts and traditional sweets. New Year is used as a very refreshing time to start new with no enmities with others. The family members, relatives and friends forgive each other of all their past mistakes and differences and seeing the traditional bowing to the parents, elder siblings, senior relatives etc. is a remarkable reflection of the rich cultural and religious upbringing. Everyone in the family helps clean the house and parents are given the highest priority and respect during this time. All traditional but funloving practices to kickstart their New Year with new clothes, new sweets, family gathering, games etc. reflect the New Year of its indispensable part of people's life and a rich cultural heritage that they belong to. 

This awesome cultural and traditional practices occur in many different parts of India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia as well. South East Asian countries call it Songkran or traditional water festival which is almost similar to the colorful Holi festival in India. 

It is so wonderful to see the immigrant population trying to preserve their age-old tradition in tact even if they are in small number away from their motherland. Here in USA, we can witness the amalgamation of all the cultures in the world thanks to the dedicated elders and the clergy of the respective communities. The Sri Lankan community does celebrate their cultural and religious events such as Independence Day in February, New Year in April, Vesak in May, Poson in June, Vassana Program in August, Kathina in November and many other national events mostly with their local Buddhist temples, non-profit organizations or their respective Sri Lankan Embassies, High Commissions or Consular Offices. This is a wonderful practice to expose their own cultural heritage for the benefit of their children who were not born in Sri Lanka and also for their own spiritual and religious upbringing. This is surely the case with many other immigrants from different parts of the world. USA is one mini-world in that sense reflecting a great unity in diversity along with a vast cultural treasure ideally existing in harmony and peaceful manner. 

Some of the images covering the New Year - 2017 celebration at Lankarama Buddhist Institute:

More photos of Lankarama Buddhist Institute can be accessed in Dhamma USA Facebook Page. Video clips of the event and some other events of the Institute are available in Dhamma US YouTube Channel.


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