Sinhala and Hindu New Year | Sunday Observer

Sinhala and Hindu New Year

Auspicious times for the New Year

* Dawn of the New Year - Avurudu Udawa - April 14 at 2.09 p.m.
* Religious activities - Punya Kalaya - April 14 at 7.45 a.m. - 8.33 p.m.
* Preparing meals - Aahara Piseema - April 14 at 2.42 p.m. clad in yellow and red mix (bronze) facing East.
* Partaking of meals - Aahara Anubawaya, starting work - Weda Alleema and Transactions - Ganu Denu kirima - April 14 at 3.54 p.m. clad in yellow and red mix (bronze) facing East.
* Anointing oil - Hisa Thel Gaama - April 17 at 7.40 a.m. clad in green facing East.
*Going to work - Rekee Raksha - April 18 at 4.52 a.m. clad in green facing East.


The call of the Koha, the blossoming red Erabudu flowers and ripening golden paddy all tell us that the much awaited Sinhala and Hindu New Year is close at hand. There are many rituals and traditions associated with the New Year and the old year too. Before the old year and New Year traditions other rituals are performed. The harvest is brought home and the first rice is offered to the Buddha and the deities. This is called the Aluth Sahal Mangallya. The houses are cleaned, painted and repaired and sweetmeats such as Kavum and Kokis are made. The pan of oil to fry the sweetmeats has to be kept on the fire at a Nekath (auspicious time ).

Parana Avuruddu Charithra (old year rituals)

Bathing and seeing the new moon for the old year are rituals that people follow on the old year’s day. Kunu Muttha Pidima is another important ritual. The dirt in the house is collected in an old kulla (winnowing fan) and thrown away in to a forested area or shrubland by the housewife. She also tells Kunumuththa that the year’s dirt is in his care now and returns home. On the return home she must wash herself before entering the house and tells the family that she has done the Kunumuttha pideema.

Nonagathe (Neutral Period)

The Nongathe or Punya Kalaya is considered inauspicious for any activity. This is the period between the ending of the Old Year and the dawn of the New Year. According to astrologers this timespan is usually 12 hours and 48 minutes. Nonagathe starts when the Sun starts to cross from the House of Pisces to the House of Aries and ends when the crossing (transition) is over. The New Year dawns half way through this crossing Sankranthi.

All work must stop before the Nonagathe starts and the hearths must be doused. No activity takes place during this time and there are no nekath times during the Nonagathe. No food or drink is taken. People perform meritorious deeds going to the temple and this is the reason for this time to be called the Punya Kalaya too. The Punya Kalaya ends with the lighting of the hearth (Lipa gini melaweema).

Ahara Anubhawaya (first meal at the Avuruddhu)

This too is done at an auspicious time and usually the Head of the household (Gruha Mulikaya) will feed a mouthful of kiribath to the family members first. In some households especially in the villages everyone will sit on mats and will be served food on banana or lotus leaves.

Kiribath, a hath maluwa (a curry made of seven vegetables), achcharu (pickle) kavum, kokis, aasmi, aluwa and other sweetmeats will be served during this first meal.

Lipagini melaweema (Lighting the hearth)

This is the first activity of the New Year and is heralded by the lighting of crackers and the pealing of temple bells. The lighting of the hearth is done at a Nekath (auspicious time) as declared by the astrologers. All are dressed in new clothes in the auspicious colour. A new hearth is prepared beforehand and the housewife will light the fire facing the auspicious direction and boil coconut or dairy milk in a new clay pot. The milk must boil over to bring prosperity in the New Year.

Then the Kiribath (milk rice ) is made. Certain ingredients such as jaggery and ghee will be mixed with the rice and cooked. These other ingredients vary from year to year and are chosen to increase prosperity or good luck.

Linda samaga Ganu denu kirima (Transaction at the well)

The housewife will take a pot to the well or water body from which they get drinking water. She will toss a copper coin, a piece of coal and a few saman pichcha mal into the well and then draw a pot of water. This has to be done in silence.

Weda Allima saha Ganudenukirima (Starting work and exchanging money)

There is a Nekatha for starting work in the New Year. A farmer will go the fields and do some work and likewise others will do something linked to their jobs. Children will read and housewives will do something around the house or cook a meal.

Wedihitiyan Namadima (Paying obeisance to elders)

The younger ones will offer a sheaf of betel to their elders, worship them and get their blessings. The priests in the temple too will be offered betel and worshipped by devotees.

The Ganudenu kirima or exchange of money is done according to a Nekatha too. The money will be wrapped in a betel leaf and the Head of the household will give it to the others including children. At times, a person considered to be lucky is invited to do the Ganudenu. All banks will be open at this time for people to conduct Ganudenu.

Avuruddu kreeda and Ne gam yaama (Time to play and visit)

Onchilli pedima (swinging), Panchi keliya, raban gesima (beating the rabana) are among the many Avuruddu kreeda to be indulged in. People visit relatives and friends at this time bearing sweetmeats and gifts.

Hisa Thel Gama (Anointing Oil )

Anointing oil falls after the New Year celebrations. The oil or Nanu has to be made with leaves and herbs prescribed for that year. They vary from year to year. The head of the household will anoint the others while chanting gathas (stanzas) and shlokas. Some people go to the temple for this ceremony and the Chief Incumbent will anoint them. Elephants too are anointed with oil and it is done for the tusker at the Sri Dalada Maligawa and the elephants at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage too are anointed.

Collecting Maruthuneer

The traditional Pooja Making pongal with boiled milk Kavisesham


The Hindu New Year is celebrated at the same time as the Sinhala New Year. People wish each other Puthandu vazthukal (Happy New Year) and observe traditional rites and visit friends and relatives.

Collecting Maruthuneer


Puththandu or New Year for the Hindus starts with the preparation of Maruthuneer.

Maruthuneer is a special preparation made by the priests in the Kovil. Speciai herbs are boiled in clean water along with saffron, milk, flowers, leaves and other ingredients. People collect the water from the Kovils and apply it on their heads before the traditional, ceremonial bath.


Houses are cleaned, saffron water and cow dung sprinkled in front of the houses and decorations including Kolam are done. New clothes in the auspicious colour for that particular year are sewn or bought and worn for Puththandu.


Making Pongal with boiled milk

Milk is boiled at a special time during the Sun’s transition from the House of Pisces ( Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya).The milk thus boiled is used to make Pongal. Pongal is a special, sweet rice made with rice, mung (green gram) jaggery, raisins and cadjunuts. A new hearth is made to cook the Pongal.

The traditional Pooja

In a special pooja, the pongal, mango leaves, flowers and bananas are offered to God Ganesh and the other deities as a thanksgiving and to seek blessings for the coming year. Traditionally, the kumbam, a silver pot with a coconut placed on top and mango leaves at the side is placed in the prayer room by the housewife.


Visiting the Kovil

People visit the Kovil to receive blessings in the New Year.

Kai visesham

This is a ceremony where elders gift children money at an auspicious time. The money is kept till the next New Year and is supposed to bring good luck to the Children.