“Sarvathaari”- dawns April 13th, 2008

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“Puththaandu” or “Puthu Varusham” literally translates New Year. The New Year is the harbinger of spring. Tamil and Sinhala New Year dawns on April 13th 2008 at 4.55 pm according to Vaakkiya Panchaangam, and at 6.29 pm according to Thirukanitha Panchaangam on Poosam Natchaththiram first stage. Vishu Punniya Kaalam or auspicious time is 12.55 pm to 8.55pm. Panchaangam is an almanac.

The auspicious colour for this year is red silk or red and green colour mixed silk. And the auspicious stone is gem or emerald. The New Year will be called “Sarvathaari”. This is the 22nd year of the 60 year cycle of the Tamil calendar. There are twelve astronomically ordained houses. They are:

1. Meda Veedu
2. Idaba Veedu
3. Mithuna Veedu
4. Kataka Veedu
5. Singa Veedu
6. Kanni Veedu
7. Thula Veedu
8. Virutchika Veedu
9. Thanu Veedu
10. Makara Veedu
11. Kumba Veedu
12. Meena Veedu

The Sun moves into the Meda Veedu (Aries) from Meena Veedu (Pisces), which falls in Mid April is celebrated as the Tamil New Year. It’s the commencement of the Tamil month Chiththirai . April is the month of reveal and revelry. It’s an auspicious month for the Tamils. Feasts, fasts, festivals and family events are scheduled during the month of “Chiththirai”.The New Year falls during the “Ilavenil Kaalam” or spring time for the Tamils. It’s also noted that, the birds begin to hum, flowers bloom and trees with fresh green leaves during the spring time. The Sun travels from Meda Veedu and stays in other houses respectively throughout twelve months. The whole journey through each house takes one year.

[Sarvathaari Celebration: Kurai Onrum Illai (No Regrets Have I) A Saxophone rendering of the Tamil composition of C. Rajagopalachari, by Kadri Gopalnath]

The Hindus clean the houses and compound before the New Year; have “Maruththu Neer” (made of various herbals) bath; dressed in new clothes according to the year’s lucky colour and welcome the New Year by lighting fire crackers and make sweet rice at home. Hindus queue up at temple to get “Maruththu Neer” (medicinal water) to anoint at the dawn of New Year. “Maruththu Neer” is made of “Arugu”, “Vilvam”, “Kondral”, “Aal”, “Arasu” (bo tree leaves), “Mathulai” (pomegranate) , “Thamarai” (lotus), “Thulasi”, “Kosalam”, “Komayam”, Milk, King Coconut, Rose water, “Sukku” (dried ginger), Cardamom, and Nutmeg. These ingredients are boiled together for few minutes and made as watery. Variety of decoration adorn the temples and houses on this day.

People throng the temples to worship for the wellbeing of their families. Special meals are cooked and shared with relatives and friends on this day. On an auspicious time first cash transaction called “Kai Vishesham” is made by the head of the family to the rest of the family. Auspicious time for money transaction is on April 14th from 12.26pm to 2.02pm.

The Tamil calendar has 60 year cycle according to “Vaakkiya Panchchaangam” and Thirukanitha Panchchaangam” (traditional Tami Almanacs). They are named as follows:

1. Prabhava
2. Vibhava
3. Sukla
4. Pramodhoodha
5. Prachorpaththi
6. Aangirasa
7. Srimukha
8. Bhava
9. Yuva
10. Thaadhu
11. Eesvara
12. Vehudhanya
13. Piramaathi
14. Vikrama
15. Visha
16. Chitirabaanu
18. Thaarana
19. Paarththipa
20. Viya
21. Sarvasithu
22. Sarvathaari
23. Virothi
24. Vikruthi
25. Kara
26. Nanthana
27. Vijaya
28. Jaya
29. Manmatha
30. Thunmuki
32. Vilambi
33. Vikaari
34. Saarvari
37. Sobakiruthu
38. Kurothi
39. Visuvaasuva
40. Paraapava
41. Pilavanga
42. Keelaka
43. Soumiya
44. Saathaarana
46. Parithaapi
47. Piramaatheesa
48. Aanantha
49. Raatchasa
50. Nala
51. Pingala
53. Siththaarththi
54. Rouththri
55. Thunmathi
56. Thunththupi
57. Ruthrothkaari
58. Rakthaatchi
59. Kurothana
60. Atsaya

After the completion of 60 year cycle, the calendar starts from the beginning with the first year.

The Sinhalese too celebrate their new year on April 13th 2008 with their traditions. They dress up in new clothes, worship the elders and transact cash and partake in meals. Women play the “Raban” during the festive time. Children and adults enjoy singing traditional folk songs and play traditional sports. It’s an occasion for celebration and fun.

A view of the Kopuram of Sammankodu Sri Kathirvelaiyutha Swamy temple in Bambalapitiya from Naattukottai Nagaraththaar New Kathiresan temple in Bambalapitty

Fire crackers and fruit stall in Bambalapitty

Thiruchelvam is making garlands in Bambalapityy. He is better known as Thiru among his customers

Maruththu Neer is being prepared at Naattukottai Nagaraththar New Kathiresan temple

Flower garlands reflect on the mirrors of a car parked on Galle Road in Bambalapitty

Fresh flower garlands adorn the temples and houses

Pillaiyar made of Saffron flour and kept in a shrine room of a Hindu house

Kumbam is set in the shrine room

Offerings of sweet rice, banana and vadai to the Sun

Betel and arecanut are considered holy by the Hindus

Offerings of Vadai

The first money transaction in the new year takes place at an auspicious time

Colourful festival of Sapparam at Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“Sapparam”- the colourful festival was held at Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Devasthanam on March 19th. This particular festival takes place in the night at temples. The “Sapparam” is a lighted vehicle for the conveyance of the idol.

The annual festival of Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Devasthanam began with hoisting of the “Nanthi” flag on March 12th 2008. Special poojas were held during the festival time. The temple was decorated with fresh flowers, mango leaves, and variety of “Kolam” designs.

All the idols were carried by men inside the temple, before the main idols of Sivakami Amman and Swarnasabeswarar were placed in Sapparam. The Sapparam was painted in gold, while lights were lit around it. It carried the main idol of Sivakami Amman and Swarnasabeswarar and pulled by the devotees. Men carried the other idols Pillaiyar, Murugan accompanied by Valli Ammai and Theivayanai Amman on their shoulders.

Devotees gathered at the temple in the morning and evening to participate in the special poojas and procession with the idols. Sapparam was held on the eighth day of the annual festival at night, after the animal pilgrimage. Sivakami Amman accompanied by Swarnasabeswarar, Pillaiyar, Murugan accompanied by Valli Ammai and Theivayanai Amman, and Sandeswarar were taken on a colourful procession on inner and outer routes of the temple.

[Slide Show of Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Sapparam]

“Navathaaniyam”- nine grains are grown during the festival in front of the Yakasaalai

Enchanting parade inside the temple

Side view of the sculptures of the Kopuram

Beautifully decorated Sivakami Amman Sametha Swarna Sabeswarar at Vasantha Mandapam, where special poojas are held during the festival

Devotees flocked to the temple

Daily worship in Hinduism usually takes place in three different places such as in the home, in a temple, and at a street side shrine

Pooja is performed by the chief priest Baklasunthara Kurukkal in front of the Yakasaalai

Pillaiyar is being carried by men

These temple torches are called “Theevatti”. They are being carried in front of the processin. “Theevatti” is made of cotton cloth dipped in coconut oil.

Murugan with Valli Ammai and Theivayanai Ammai are being carried by men

Sivakami Amman Sametha Swarnasabeswarar are in procession in a Sapparam

Full moon in Kochchikade

A female devotee is carrying a clay pot of burning camphor

Kannan Sharma offers Panchchararththi

Sapparam is being pulled by the devotees

Rajan Sharma accompanies the idols in the Sapparam

Sapparam takes place on the previous day of the chariot festival

In Pictures: Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar ‘Vettai Thiruvizha’ – Animal Pilgrimage

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

The annual festival of Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Devasthanam began with hoisting of the Nanthi flag on March 12th 2008 during the Tamil month of March (Panguni). The festival was held for ten days. Special poojas were held in the morning and afternoon during the festival. The temple was decorated with Kolam, thoranam and flower garlands.

Miruga Yaththirai or Vettai Thiruvizha (Animal Pilgrimage) was held on the 8th day of the festival- March 19th 2008 at dusk. Colourfully decorated brass idol was carried by a divine vehicle of horse, which was carried by men on their shoulders.

The place where the Vettai Thiruvizha has taken place on Kizhakku Veethi was decorated with white loincloth, fresh vegetables such as brinjals, long beans, ash plantains bitter gourd and snake gourd along with mango leaves and thoranam. Men taken the idol thrice around the place on their shoulders while a small pooja was performed at the venue by the chief priest of the temple. Thavil and Nathaswaram were played throughout the festival.

The chief priest of the temple Balasunthara Kurukkal slowly began to cut the coir, on which the fresh vegetables were hung. Devotees clasped hands, prayed and chanted “Arogara”. Later the vegetables were wrapped in the loincloth and placed on top of the divine vehicle horse and taken around the temple primises. The priest tied a piece of silk on the foot of the horse to mark the success of the Vettai Thiruvizha (Animal Pilgrimage). And Vermillion was placed on the forehead of the idol by the priest. At the end of the festival the devotees accompanied the idol back to the temple.

Front view of the Kopuram

Horse the divine vehicle for Vettai Thiruvizha (Animal Pilgrimage) waits outside the temple

Venue for the Vettai Thiruvizha

Idol is being brought out of the temple

Miruga Yaththirai or animal pilgrimage is held on the eighth day during the annual festival

Final touch is given before the procession begins

Beautifully decorated idol is kept in front of the temple

Miruga Yatthirai is a rare occasion to witness at the temples in Colombo

It is one of the most colourful festivals held at this temple

Panchararththi is offered before the procession

Devotees thronged the temple to witness the rare festival

Idol is taken on procession on the Vadakku veethi of the temple

Idol is being brought to the venue

Chief priest Balasunthara Kurukkal perfoms pooja at the site

Idol is carried by the divine vehicle horse, and the horse is carried by male devotees

Devotees arrive at the site

The idol is welcomed at the site

Hunting for the vegetables begins

Animal Pilgrimage is held to chase away the ill evils

Thavil and Nathaswaram added the enchanting rhythm to the festival

The idol is taken on parade around the venue

Devotees witnessing the festival

A piece of silk is being tied on the foot of the horse by the chief priest to mark the success of the festival

Flower petals are sprinkled and the idol is worshiped

The idol is being accompanied back to the temple by the devotees

Camphor is offered to the idol

Variety of Kolam designs were drawn throughout the temple this day

Heavy wooden horse was carried by men for several hours on their shoulders

Waiting for the final ritual

Rajan Sharma offers Panchchararththi straight to Moolasthaanam from outside the temple at the main entrance


Holi, Celebrating everlasting love, life and joy in colours

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Holi-the Festival of Colours, is one of the major festivals in India. It signifies the end of winter and welcoming the spring. People smear each other with coloured powder and splash with water. The colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi and Bilva and various other medicinal herbs. It is believed that, smearing with coloured powder has medicinal significance. People also believe that the bright colours represent energy, life and joy. It is originally known as “Holika”, an ancient festival of India. This is a festival that is as much a gateway to celebrate the arrival of spring as much as it is a way to celebrate the season of love.

Trees wrapped with cotton sarees

There are many legends given as reason for celebrating Holi. One among many stories is a story of everlasting love between Lord Krishna and Radha. Krishna, being the mischievous child of Yasotha, was a prankster and was also the creator of many legends for himself. He once asked his mother-why is Radha fair and he is dark in complexion. Mother Yasotha replied to him saying-If you are so much jealous of Radha’s colour then go and put dark colours on her and she will also turn dark like you . Lord Krishna went ahead and smeared colours on Radha. Since then each lover usually puts colour on his or her beloved to pay homage to Lord Krishna.

In the state of Tamil Nadu, people worship Lord Kaamathevan for his supreme sacrifice on the occasion of Holi. People know Holi by three different names-Kaman Pandigai, Kamavilas, and Kama Dahanam. People of Tamil Nadu have great faith in Lord Shiva and Lord Kaamathevan. The story is that, Lord Shiva went into deep meditation after the death of his consort-Sati. Due to Lord Shiva’s indifferent attitude, Gods became tensed and worried. And the daughter of the mountains- Goddess Parvathi started to meditate to get Lord Shiva as her husband.

The Gods sought help of Lord Kaamathevan in order to get Lord Shiva back to his original state. Kaamathevan is a God of Love. He was well aware of the repercussions of such act, but Lord Kaamathevan agreed to help. Lord Kaamathevan shot his powerful arrow on Lord Shiva, while he was meditating. Enraged Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Lord Kaamathevan into ashes. However the arrow had the desired effect and Lord Shiva agreed to marry Parvathi.

But Lord Kaamathevan’s wife- Rathi felt very sad, and she told her sad story to Lord Shiva and requested him to revive her husband-Lord Kaamathevan.

Lord Shiva listened to her story and agreed to her request.

In Tamil Nadu songs are sung on Holi day depicting Rathi’s extreme sorrow. People offer sandalwood to Lord Kaamathevan to ease the pain of burning. People also believe that, Lord Kaamathevan was revived on the day of Holi, and celebrate the festival in his name. It’s the celebrated season of love.

This is a colourful festival celebrated with much joy and fervour all over North India. White colour dresses are preferred to be worn on Holi day. Folk songs and dance are also important feature of the festival.

Holi festival will be celebrated on the 22nd of March this year.

A Holi celebration was held at the South Lawns of Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo on March 4th 2007:

It’s a joyful occasion for people of all ages

The spirit of Holi is colour

The colours recall the secret of life

Vibrant colours are smeared with love and laughter on loved ones

Rich and vibrant colours are used on this day

Holi comes alive with the colours of “Gulal” (cloured powder)

Kids love the festival

High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka Shri Alok Prasad is welcomed by the Press and Information Officer of High Commsion of India Nagma Malik to the festival

A festival-goer is trying to smear the Sunday Times photograpghr Manoj Ratnayake with colours

Spring is the season for rejuvenation, rebirth and rejoice

People used to prepare holi colours at home earlier by using flowers blossomed on Tesu tree

It’s the most colourful festival of Hindus

The festival is full of feelings and movements

Colours denote passionate pulse of life

Nobody escapes

Expatriate kids enjoying Holi

Sri Lanka’s former cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga at the festival

High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka Shri Alok Prasad and Deputy High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka Shri A. Manickam are seen enjoying the festival

Drenched in the ‘Holi’ spirit to the core, they spared none

A very exuberant festival, with dancing, singing, and throwing of paint

Spicy savoury for festival-goers

The riot of colours follows a revelry of colour play

A Bhangra dance programme by a ten-member Bhangra troupe led by Ms. Sukhvir Kaur from Punjab perfoming at Holi festival in Colombo

Water is splashed towards the end

Fast beat of Bhangra kept the floor dancing

Friends greet and smear each other

Performing Bhangra dancer from Punjab

Punjabi drummer performing at the festival

Festival-goers dance along with the Bhangra dancers

Holi is a joyous, fun filled festival

In Pictures: Kokkattichcholai Sivan Temple


by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Lord Shiva is the destroyer or transformer. He is viewed as the supreme deity in Hinduism. There are five famous Eashwarams-Sivan temples in Sri Lanka.

They are Thirukoneswaram in Trincomalee, Thiruketheeswaram in Mannar, Naguleswaram in Jaffna, Munneswaram in Chilaw, and in Batticaloa.

The temple in Kokkattichcholai is a “Thaanrhondreeswarar”. It means a Sivalingam ‘sprung up by itself’ and a temple was built later by the villagers in the vicinity over the course of time. The Sivalingam which sprung up by itself is called “Suyambulingam” as well. The Hindus believe that the Sivalingam is more than 10,000 years old. Devotees from various parts of the country travel to to the renowned Kokkattichcholai temple, during special holy days. They join devotees of lord Muruguan pilgrimaging to Kathirgamam during the season by foot, taking jungle paths, crossing rivers and mountains.

There is a legend surrounding the temple according to the villagers in Kokkattichcholai. In the time long past, Kokkattichcholai was a forest. Some hunters roaming Kokkattichcholai, saw honey on top of a Kokkatti tree. Being charmingly delighted to reap the honey, they began to cut the tree with axe; but the tree began to bleed. The hunters were terrified and realized the presence of a divine deity in the tree, and they left the place immediately. A woman came to the spot and dressed up the wound carefully. Afterwards a small Sivalingam budded from the wound of the tree.

The risen Sivalingam was discovered by a man who was sitting by the tree in penance.

A view of the “Kopuram”-at the entrance of a temple at noon

The most pinnacle of “Kodithambam”, where flag is hoisted during the annual festival.

“Kodithambam” is decorated with silk and straw

Residents want to live peacefully

“Moolasthaanam” of the temple

Thavil and Nathaswaram are being played during the main pooja

Devotees observe fast and gather at temple to pray before breaking the fast

Panchararththi is offered to the devotees

The chief priest blesses the devotees

These drums are called “Parai”, which are beaten at temples in Batticaloa district

School children visit the temple on special days

Divine vehicles are parked outside the temple. Men carry these vehicles, whcih carry the idols during the festivals

Many devotees travel to Kokkattichcholai from others parts of the country

The wooden chariot is more than 8,000 years old according to the villagers

Camphor is lit at the main entrance of the temple

Devotees squeeze coconut to make curries

Kavadi dancers at the temple

Sivasubramaniyam Somasundaram (79) visits Kokkattichcholai Thandrondreeswarar temple annually

Meal for the devotees is being prepared

Inner route of the temple is filled with sand

Another view of the “Kopuram” from inside the temple

Temple compound is decorated with trees and flags

Main entrance of the temple

A female devotee at the temple

Savoury shops during the festive time

Western route of the temple

Devotees take a rest under a Kokkatti tree

[Slide presentation of Kokkattichcholai Sivan Temple, Featuring Nadhaswaram by Karukurichi.P.Arunachalam ~ ‘Sabapathikku’]