The ‘neketha’ or the auspicious time plays a pivotal role in the lives of almost all Sri Lankans from birth to their final exit. So much so that, for some people, their life story begins at an auspicious time, with the parents seeking an astrologer’s help to discover a ‘good time’ to bring their bundle of joy to this world. And, in Sri Lanka the doctors dutifully heed such requests.
Thus, the recent open disagreement among the astrologers on the Avurudu Neketh seettuwa, raised many an eyebrow and triggered panic among those who are over enthusiastic about such traditions, especially, those who pin their hopes on strictly observing the auspicious times and wish the planetary transition will usher in a new beginning.
The Sinhala Hindu New Year is one of the most important calendar events in Sri Lanka and of late, it has been as much commercialized as the Christmas celebrations in the island.
Ven.Pathegama Gnanissara thera, an erudite scholar says, this confusion was created by one or two astrologers who are hankering after media limelight and selfish gains.
“They are not driven by good intentions. It is the publicity they are after,” the Ven.Thera said, when the Sunday Observer inquired about the ongoing tussle between some astrologers over the New Year date and the doubts created in the minds of the people, as a result.
A prominent astrologer has claimed that the auspicious times released by the 31 member state panel are faulty and need to be reviewed.
Cultural Minister, S.B.Navinna holding a press conference recently vouched that he had already consulted the most experienced to clear any doubts over the Neketh seettuwa.
Ven.Gnanissara thera said, “these astrologers might be trying to get more people attracted to their private business, there isn’t any other explanation for what they have done.”
During the good old days, the New Year auspicious times (Neketh Seettuwa) was prepared at the temple under the supervision of Buddhist monks.
When the English colonial rulers took over the country, a system was evolved to register births, deaths and marriage. Thereafter, the preparation of the ‘Neketh seettuwa’, too became the responsibility of the sitting Government. This is how a traditional practice became a duty vested with the state.
Now, it is prepared by a panel of senior astrologers with the Cultural Department. “They are well versed with the subject. And, in my view, this conflict of opinion is among a few who are trying to get mileage out of the situation,” the thera opined.
The Ven. Gnanissara Thera said, auspicious times are neither connected to any unseen forces nor is it linked to one’s own merits or demerits. They are mere traditions which enrich and symbolize our culture. “It is wrong to say, the Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations are confined to a particular race, class, religion or a community, in the country.
These are Sri Lankan traditions. It is important that every family observes these traditions during ‘Avurudu’ and contribute to pass it on to the next generation. “
The Ven.Thera also criticized the irresponsible media for trying to ruin the New Year euphoria among the people, highlighting such trivial issues.
“Any person with a basic knowledge on astrology can calculate these auspicious times, it is like prescribing medicine for a common cold. You don’t need any specialized knowledge for that, therefore, to say the state panel has made a mistake in their calculations is ridiculous.”
“The media must stop giving space for self proclaimed heroes and creating issues over non-issues,” the Ven.Thera said, stressing the need to create a more responsible media culture through regulation.
The Cultural Minister handed over the ‘Neketh seettuwa’ according to tradition to President Maithripala Sirisena at his official residence last Tuesday, two days ahead of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations.