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The honey trap of Kali Amma Syrup



The Health Minister trying out the much talked about indigenous syrup with healing powers

It is not the upcoming solar eclipse on December 14, which will not be seen here, that has brought any new interest, but the major solar eclipse on June 1955 that is now remembered by many;  especially with the “Bivva Neda Vadakaha Sudiya” baila beat and the tale of “Emali Paney” being revived in the minds of many from this honey trap of Covid cure. . 

Those who take special delight in drinking the new “Kali Amma Corona Paniya” (Divine Corona Healing Honey or Vasangatha Suva Paniya), must be having their own songs and dances, as Covid-19 spreads worldwide and we have a syrup to save our people from this global disaster. This is the height of indigenous syrup era, which has nothing to do with any vaccines developed elsewhere in the world, be it in the US, the UK, Russia or China. We are in the Hela Suvaya era, which may soon take us more than 2000 years ahead from the rest of the world.

With many questions about the healing of treatment qualifications or experience of the Kovil player who has produced the new Kali Amma Paniya, we are now in a situation where none other than the “Reverse” tablet Wimal Weerawansa asks whether anyone questioned about the qualifications or experience of Sir Isaac Newton, when that apple fell on his head, and brought him the knowledge of gravity. He knows nothing about Sir Isaac being a mathematician, physicist, astronomer and author and was the Professor of Mathematics of the University of Cambridge. That is the Weerawansa Reverse. The emerging worry is that we are fast moving to an era when education is not a matter of any importance, if one has the political push with claims of divine or spiritual support. It is the rise of the Reverse Era.

This stuff of Weerawansa Reverse thinking will soon take us to a position when the next great indigenous knowledge on Pleasure, Profit and Power will come from someone who was stunned by the fall of coconut on one’s head; from the tree he or she will be under. It will be the Great Kali Amma Pol Vidyava of the indigenous Hela Urumaya.

The current thinking of politics and governance is that when the Covid-19 keeps spreading in the country, with more than 500 each day and rising deaths, too, there is the need to move away from any Western or scientific thinking, and get to the Rajavasala Kavata Keliya. It is the rise of  a wholly  indigenous strategy in thinking and action.  

We had the pots thrown to rivers, and an offer to be sent out to the sea to save this country from this Covid disaster. That was the stuff of a Minister of Health, and not of any diety.  We are now faced with a hugely rising cost of living, increasing protests by those locked up in huge urban flat dwellings, a barrage of meaningless gazettes, whole inability to have price control of essentials, and then prison protests leading to many deaths and destruction. This is certainly the time for divine intervention, to bring new meaning to Pohottuva Politics, the core of which is the rapid ending of legal cases, a huge expansion of the judiciary, and the rising release of remandees, moving soon to convicts.

Anyone who thinks the Kali Amma Syrup or Suva Peniya has no political attachments to it, should look  at how it was dispensed in Parliament. We have certainly moved away from the time that the Speaker was brought under physical threat, chairs were broken, chilli powder thrown, the text book on Parliamentary Rights and Privilege and a Bible, too, were thrown. What do we have today … the special privilege of the Speaker and several other MPs, taking deep and delightful sips of the Suva Paniya. Was the spirit of Kali Amma quickly seeping into their systems to ensure prevention from any Covid-19 infection, and give them more strength to carry on with their hoodlum behaviour in the   House of Representatives? The question that arises is who do they represent, the people or the deities with Kali Amma power?

The realities in Sri Lanka today is that we are fast moving to the day and age of indigenous spirituals, and rapidly away from modern scientific thinking. We are well into the Age of Kali Amma and Natha Deviyo, keeping alive our great traditions of deity worship. Just think of the number of times that our politicians have gone to devales to smash coconuts to bring political disaster to their enemies or critics. Keep thinking of the gifts that the Kovil Guras receive, especially when elections get closer. An island which is known to be Buddhist, following the teachings of the Buddha, that was based on rationality, we now have increasing numbers of those who wear the yellow robe, with commitment to irrational thinking, and also support the Kali Amma Syrup to cure Covid-19.

There is certainly no hope or promise of an escape from this Rajavasala Kavata Keliya. Those who scoff at the beliefs and religious traditions of those who believe in a deity, are bigger and more active followers and players in the worship of indigenous deities. As Covid spreads, they will await the divine syrup, want more and more doses of this Vasangatha Suva Paniya — this pandemic cure that will soon have a global demand. 

I will raise my glass with the usual tot of good spirits that I gladly enjoy. But, let’s say cheers to all – from politicians, crooks and catchers, who will soon be raising their glasses of the Kali Amma Suvaya. The rise of indigenous political spirituality. Hoi, Hoi, Hoi.  



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Strong on vocals



The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.



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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year



Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.



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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations



Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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