Shepparton’s Sri Lankan community celebrated the Sinhalese New Year this month with traditional rituals, a spread of food and games. The traditional Sri Lankan New Year falls in the month of April every year, and is the main cultural event celebrated by Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus.
Goulburn Valley Sri Lankan Association president Mohan Jay Premaratne said he was “really pleased” the Sri Lankan community could celebrate the new year together after COVID-19 pandemic disruptions in 2020. “I think it was a very successful event and I would thank each and every one who made this event possible,” he said. The day started with a minute’s silence to remember the victims of the Easter attack in Colombo, Sri Lanka, two years ago that injured more than 500 people and killed 269.
The traditional oil lamp was then lit, a custom of opening Sri Lankan functions. Known as Pahana in Sinhalese and Vilakku in Tamil, the flickering flame is not only a source of light but also considered to be a source of life.
Ethnic Council of Shepparton strategic engagement coordinator Sam Atukorala said the Sri Lankan New Year marked the transition of the sun and the end of the harvest season. “Though the Shepparton Sri Lankan community live thousands of miles away from their motherland, they strongly believe their cultural values and traditions should be passed on to the next generation of their children,” he said.
“Sri Lankans consider the new year is a time for new thoughts, new beginnings and time for forgiving and appreciation.” Children visit their ancestral homes to offer gifts to their parents and worship them, while parents and grandparents give blessings to their children to start the new year.
Following the lighting of the flame, milk was boiled as a symbol of prosperity, the putting away of hatred and anger and new beginnings, and a Rabana drum was played by the women. A feast and array of traditional sweets was then presented, followed by traditional games for children and adults.
“The youngest kids were dressed in traditional outfits to represent new year prince and princess,’” Mr Atukorala said. “It was refreshing to see the enthusiastic participation of not only the Sri Lankans but also many other communities in the new year games.”