by Anura Guruge
>> Sinhala New Year present too early
>> — Apr. 13, 2014.
>> Sinhala New Year: Background
>>— April 11, 2014.
>> Goodies cart — Apr. 9, 2014.
>> — Apr. 4, 2014.
>> 1st Sinhalese New Year
>> 2014 post — Mar. 21, 2014.
>> Google Doodle For Sri Lanka
>> Independence Day — Jan. 26, 2013.
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The Sinhala New Year in Sri Lanka is definitely a two-day bash — there is no denying it. I think a part of that is that per the astrologers, that rule the roost when it comes to this holiday, the sacrosanct auspicious times can fall anywhere between April 13 and April 14. So it is safe to always have both days blocked off as holidays.
I remember the Old Year well. That it was the Birthday of my adoptive maternal grandmother that brought me up, semi-straightened my limbs (that were horribly twisted at birth) and fixed my ‘glued together’ pee-pee (with coconut oil) so that I could pee-pee (given that, THANK GOD, we as a nation, culture and religion aren’t into the barbaric notion of circumcision) made it even more auspicious. She was quite a remarkable lady. She was the matriarch of a very powerful family in the early to mid-1960s in Ceylon. One of her sons, a doctor, was the Director of Health Services and the personal physician to political VIPs, another was the Municipal Commissioner [i.e., appointed Mayor] for Colombo (the capital). Three or four of her sons-in-law headed up or ran some of the other government ministries or department. So, she had unparalleled influence over a whole swath of civil power in Ceylon. It was a big family. She had nine children. So her birthday, on Old Year, kind of blended into the whole spectra of celebration and pell-mell, non-stop activity.
I remember the auspicious times well. The list that I refer to below is NOT the complete list — of that I am sure. I know that there used to be an auspicious time associated with STUDY! Part of the ultra-strict, ultra-rigid life I endured as a poor adopted kid was that I had to study, study, study and then study a lot more. So, this damn auspicious time for bloody study was yet another plague of my life — this time at New Year. I still remember one year. Must have been when I was around 8. I typically had to do 3 ‘topics’ at this damn auspicious time before I could go join the others at play. So this year I was asked what the square root of 100 was. In all the excitement and the desire to get the hell out I just, for the world of me, could not remember — let alone work it out. So I faced the consequences. I was 8 or thereabouts. I have never forgotten the square root of 100.
All the times stated below are local Sri Lankan times. Sri Lanka is at +5:30 GMT (UTC) — which means it is +9:30 U.S. eastern time right now. [So as I write this it is approaching 10 pm, Sunday, April 12 in Colombo.] Though the ignorant and publicity-seeking among the Sri Lankans (and there is, alas, a ton of them) love to denigrate this is yet ANOTHER of the beautiful, incisive and perceptive legacies the British bestowed on the Island — alongside CRICKET, a very British railway system, a damn fine education system (which has since, from what I can see has been bastardized) and of course, English. That ’30 minutes’ is SHEER genius. It means that the sunrise and sunset in Sri Lanka happens, more or less year round, at about 6 am and 6 pm. IF not for that ’30 minutes’ it would varied around 5:30 or 6:30 rather than around 6. Genius. To see why this ’30 minutes’ is so important go to Hawaii. Get up early. Head for a beach and wait for sunrise. IF you are from Ceylon you will be in for a shock. The British, pedantic as they should be, NAILED it.