ANOTHER New Year has dawned. According to astrological beliefs, the transition of the sun from Meena (Pisces) to Mesha (Aries), marks the beginning of a new year. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year, celebrated every April in Sri Lanka and many other countries in the region, is a major event on our cultural calendar.
In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year has become a national event, without being confined to Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus per se. Sri Lanka`s very multi-ethnic nature means that Avurudu transcends all man-made boundaries, enveloping all communities and religious groups in its joys.
This New Year has dawned in a week that has exemplified this very multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of Sri Lanka. The week started with Holy Prophet`s Birthday, which our Muslim brethren celebrated along with their counterparts worldwide.
Bak Poya fell yesterday, the Day Prior to Sinhala and Tamil New Year. It was a happy coincidence in a way, as both Buddhists and Hindus engage in religious observances during the nonagatha period.
Today, New Year Day, Christians in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are observing Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On the 16th, they will be celebrating Easter Sunday which marks his resurrection. Thus it is a week that brings together all ethnic and religious groups in the country.
Such ethnic and religious unity is the need of the hour, especially when forces opposed to the peaceful co-existence of various communities are working overtime to ignite the flames of hatred. Amity is the only path to peace, which our Nation so critically needs at this juncture.
The Government has set in motion a viable programme for peace, in consultation with other political parties. It will be participating in the second round of Geneva ceasefire talks soon. This is just one of the significant steps taken by the Government in the quest for peace.
Peace is very much a matter of the heart. And peace should begin at home. This is the lesson that Avurudu teaches us. It is a time for forgetting all past disputes. It is a time for giving and for forgiving. It is a time for recalling and re-engaging in cultural traditions that we have nearly forgotten.
There are those who scoff at auspicious times, but they teach us the value of punctuality. This should not be confined to the New Year Nekaths but rather continued throughout the year. Respecting elders is another moral value that comes to the fore during the Avurudu season.
At a time when elders are neglected sometimes by their children, who prefer to keep mothers and fathers in elders` homes, Avurudu reminds us of the importance of respecting them. Elders impart wisdom to the younger generation and guide them on the correct path in a world where moral values have been swept away by a torrent of unbridled commercialism.
In fact, commercialism has crept into all national and religious festivals. Judging by newspaper and television advertisements, Avurudu has become one big shopping and entertainment season. Its core values have been swept aside. But this should not be the case. We should see through the commercial veneer into the very heart and soul of these national events.
National events call for soul-searching on a national scale. This is a time to reflect collectively on why and where we have gone wrong and on how we could put things right. Avurudu is not only an ideal opportunity for peace and reconciliation at home and in the village, but also in the country as a whole. That is one New Year resolution that we could all be firmly determined to turn into reality.