2019 Apr 11
Most Lankans across the isle look forward to the festive spirit, prosperity, and good cheer that the month of April brings. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year or the Aluth Avurudu, is celebrated on the 14th of April every year, marking the dawn of the New Year and the end of the harvest season and spring.
Since the olden days, the festive season has been marked by a number of different customs, but traditional Avurudu games have always been welcomed with high spirits.
Here are some Avurudu games, some of which are lesser known, played in the spirit of strengthening the community, which is what Avurudu is all about.
1. Olinda Keliya
A popular board game usually played by two people, both of whom sit on opposite sides of a wooden board (known as Olinda Kolombuwa or Olinda Poruwa) with about nine holes in it filled with four Olinda seeds each. The game is played by shifting the seeds from one hole to another, while onlookers cheer on. One has to collect the seeds found in the hole immediately. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.
The most interesting aspect to the game is the beautiful shiny red and black Olinda seeds – known in English as Crab’s Eye. The seeds were used to measure gold in ancient times. They belong to an indigenous creeper plant that can be found in abundance in villages.
2. Porakeliya/ Porapol Gaseema
A lesser known Avurudu game played in two teams (Udu pila and Yati pila) separated by a line drawn in sand on the ground. A player from the Udu pila hurls a coconut at his opponent on the other team. The opponent has to counter-strike by hurling another coconut in that direction. The game continues until all the coconuts of the entire team crack.
The use of coconut in this game is symbolic. Coconut is a traditional symbol of prosperity and the hurling of coconuts by the two teams were conventionally considered a ritual for Goddess Pattini – a guardian deity revered by Buddhists and Hindus.
A game of hook tugging that has also become lesser known over the years. Similar to Porakeliya, this is a religious ritual for Goddess Pattini. The game requires two teams, one of which represents Goddess Pattini and the other her spouse or another male deity. Both teams approach the other in the Angpitiya (tugging field) with a buffalo horn attached to each other. The teams tug at each other until the horn breaks. The team whose horn breaks first loses.
4. Kanaa Alleema
A game that requires running about in an open, demarcated circular area. One player is chosen out of the lot, is blindfolded, and expected to run about and catch the other players, whilst ensuring that he/she stays within the circle. If any of the players run out of the circle, they lose. If the blindfolded player runs out of the circle, he/she is taken back in. The last person who remains without being caught wins the game.
5. Lissana Gaha Nageema
One of the most popular Avurudu games at present. A timber pole with grease applied on the surface which is generally 10 meters long is fixed on the ground with a flag attached at the top. Players take turns trying to climb the slippery pole. The first person to reach the top and grab the flag wins.
6. Kotta Pora
A laughter-inducing game known to all Lankans. A local equivalent to a ‘pillow-fight’, two players balance themselves on a horizontal bar with one hand tied behind their back. The players try to knock each other off the stand by using one hand to strike the opponent with a pillow.
7. Kanaamutti Bindeema
A row of clay pots with water or sand are hung several feet off the ground. One of the pots contains a special item (most often, coloured water) that differs from the rest. Each player is then blindfolded and given a bamboo pole. They take turns trying to strike the pot. The player who hits the pot with the special item wins.
The simplicity, laughter and high spirits garnered by onlookers and players alike are what makes Avurudu games so special! Don’t forget to join the merriment this holiday season. It’s time to revive these older traditions and revel in the newest.