By Dr. Upali Pilapitiya
“Sinhala and Hindu New Year custom and traditions are mainly based on Ayurveda system of Medicine which has been developed on the Principles of Hindu Philosophy.
The New Year begins with the offerings to various gods. As a method of wading off evil spirits and misfortunes brought about by different planetary positions. By performing these rituals and pujas, mental tranquility, is achieved. Hope of success is implanted in the mind.
Ayurveda mentions a category of diseases called Daiva Bala Pravritta. In this category there are some kind of diseases which are engendered by forces beyond human control. These are considered to be caused due to providential dispensation or acts of gods.
According to traditional beliefs, some of the diseases included under this category are considered to be embodiments of curses, divine wrath or displeasure. Some of them are caused through mystic powers of charms and spells that are mentioned in Atharva Veda.
The customary bathing for the passing year is equally important facet. Herbal bath gives physical purification. When one takes a herbal bath over the entire body, anointed with gingelly oil or mustard oil that provides a soothing effect for the body. Herbal baths are prescribed in Vedas too.
For this year, water mixed with the Juice of Bo leves is recommended. Body massage and herbal bath promotes blood circulation, and it is considered the best method of maintaining positive health. Herbal baths are prescribed as a method of treatment in many nervous disorders and diseases of the muscles and joints.
Another salient feature of the New Year is to respect the elders and to strengthen relationships with neighbours. Usually, visiting relations and friends and exchanging presents, greeting them with a sheaf of betel is the order of the day. Betel play a vital part in the New Year particularly in Asian culture. Betel is considered a sacred herb with many medicinal values. Chewing of betel along with cloves, cardamoms and arecanut after a meal is considered the best way to strengthen the gums. A chew of betel cleans the mouth, and wades off bad breath.
The juice of betel leaves promotes digestion, kills organisms which are harmful to the body. The value of betel is also appreciated in Buddhist literature.
Building up confidence, love, friendship and hope among elders, relations and friends plays a great role in achieving mental, physical and social wellbeing.
Arrogance, hatred, sorrow, pangs of jealousy, cruelty are all considered as mental illnesses. Exchanging sheaves of betel and paying respect to elders brings about a new feeling of freshness.
The elders feel that they are accepted, wanted and venerated by their kith and kin. This warmth helps to a great deal to the elders in maintaining good health and vitality.
The nonekata is the transitional period in the planetary movement and considered to be inauspicious to start any propitious work. Therefore, this time is set apart for religious observances. Ayurveda envisages a method of treatment known as Daivavyapasharaya or spiritual therapy. This therapy involves the use of mantras or incantations such as Aushadhi or sacred herbs, Mani or precious gems, Mangala or propitiatory rites, including oblations, bali or offerings and homa or sacrifices, Niyama or vows, prayaschitta or cremonial pevitence, uparasa or fasts swastyayana or prostrations and pranipata – gamana or pilgrimages and so on.
Ayurveda explains that transitional period at different seasonal variations changes an imbalances in the body humours or forces namely Vata, Pita, Kapa. Therefore it is advised to have light food or complete fasting (Langana) during such periods. So that minimal fluctuation in the three Dosha will take place. Therefore during nonekata it is the custom to be aloof from all normal activities and to confine only to religious observances.
The food which is taken during Sinhala New Year has many nutritious values.
Sweet meat such as Mung Kevum, Konda Kavum made of brown rice, flour, Unduvel made of undu are indigenous sweets. All they have many food and nutritious values. Taking meals at an auspicious time with all family members sitting together is a noble, and healthy custom.
This happy get together should be adapted at all meals, and not confined to the New Year table alone.
Many indulge in unwanted arguments and talks while taking meals. The Avurudu custom, gives the signal to avoid such unhealthy manners.
Happy state of mind is very necessary for the proper digestion of food.
Ayurveda makes it clear that wholesome food taken at proper time in proper quantity will not digest properly if the person is in bad mental state, such as fear, sorrow or arrogance.
Therefore happy state at meals is ulmost importance in attaining healthy digestion.
Anointing of the head with Nanu (medicated shampoo) and oil is described in Ayurveda as a way of promoting health, specially massaging the scalp with oil and cleaning the head with medicated decoction known as Nanu. It promotes the growth of hair. It improves a sound sleep and balances the body humours. These rituals and New Year custom are healthy. Therefore they should be incorporated in our daily life for greater progress and prosperity.
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