Sinhala and Tamil New Year

The dulcet tones of the ‘koha’ (Asian koel) pierces the early morning quiet, signifying the arrival of the ‘New Year’. Celebrated by Sinhalese and Tamils alike, the festival marks the end of the harvest season. Individuals old and young and observers of other religions come together from all parts of the island in commemoration of the eagerly awaited festival.

The weeks leading up to the event will see preparations for the festival being carried out. Houses are cleaned and a host of traditional delectables whipped up and stored. The Tamils purify the entrance of their home with saffron water and adorn the floor with vibrant ‘kolams’ (a drawing of curved loops made out of rice flour).

Unlike the universally celebrated ‘New Year’ on December 31st, the ‘Sinhala and Tamil New Year’ comprises of an approximately 12-hour gap between the ending of the old year and the initiation of the new. Termed as the ‘nonagathaya’ or the ‘neutral period’, this time is deemed inauspicious and thus all worldly pursuits are halted and religious activities observed.

The day of the ‘Sinhala and Tamil New Year’ is a promise of excitement, unity and faith. Clad in the customary attire of ‘redda hetta’ (cloth and jacket), women beat drums in time to the beat of signature music or sung verses. Rituals for prosperity and good luck are performed such as the lighting of the oil lamp and the boiling of milk in a pot until it overflows. Betal leaves are respectfully offered to parents and the elderly for blessings.

Forming an integral and much awaited feature of the event, traditional games will see the old and young participating with much gusto. Some of the popular activities include ‘kotta pora’ (pillow fighting done on top of an elevated pole), ‘aliyata aha thabeema’ (a blindfolded participant marks the eye of an elephant drawn on a board), ‘kanaa mutti bindeema’ (breaking a pot which is filled with water whilst blindfolded), ‘kamba adeema’ (a tug-of-war) and ‘’lissana gaha nageema’ (climbing a greasy pole).

An additional highlight one looks forward to is the array of traditional refreshments the likes of ‘kavum’ (a delicacy made of rice flour and either coconut palm sap or juggery), ‘kokis’ (a deep fried treat), ‘kiribath’ (a dish made from rice and milk), ‘aluva’ (a local treat made out of rice flour, milk and treacle) and ‘aasmi’ (a white or ash coloured delectable which takes the form of a diamond shape), to name a few.

Visits are made to the respective place of worship in order to receive blessings. Family and friends are entertained and gifts are exchanged, in the spirit of the ‘New Year’.

Interesting Facts

  • The ‘Old Year’ and ‘New Year’ is commonly referred to by the Sri Lankan terms ‘Parana Avuruddha’ and ‘Aluth Avuruddha’
  • On ‘Parana Avuruddha’ the observers’ heads are anointed with auspicious oils in the case of Sinhalese and herbal mixtures in the case of Tamils, prior to bathing
  • The ‘Koha’ plays a crucial role in sounding the arrival of the ‘New Year’ due to the event taking place at the same time as its mating season. Thus, the ‘New Year’ is indicated by the call of the male ‘Koha’
Title image by: Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau

Date and Time

Apr 13, 2018
Apr 14, 2018


Multiple Locations


Cultural and Religious

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