The Localist

Avurudu fun and games

Being from a multicultural country like Sri Lanka has its perks, one of which is being able to celebrate several New Years within a given calendar year. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year falls each year in April, usually on the 14th, with the day before also a public holiday, as the last day of the ‘old’ year must be celebrated! This April New Year (or Avurudu as it is known in Sinhalese) is a time of frenzy on the island. New Year shopping, preparing Avurudu food, lighting firecrackers, visiting relatives and following some of the New Year traditions such as overflowing a pot of milk or applying oil on your head at various auspicious times keep everyone busy.

My favourite part of Avurudu, however, has got to be the Avurudu Uthsava (New Year celebrations) held by various municipalities, hotels, schools, and groups throughout the month of April. The highlight of these events is definitely the Avurudu games and competitions. Here are just a few of my favourites.

1. Kotta Pora – Pillow fights!! Yes that’s right, for Avurudu we take the concept of pillow fight to a whole new level. Players have to balance themselves on a horizontal bar with one hand tied behind their backs as they use the other hand to try and knock their opponent off the bar with a pillow. Usually the bar is placed above some mattresses or in some cases even over water.

2. Greased Pole Climbing – Each player has to try and climb a pole covered in grease in an attempt to grab either a flag or a present tied to the top. Watching people slide down covered in grease is certainly a treat for onlookers!

3. Pol Gaame tharangaya – This is a ‘coconut-scraping’ contest where women sit in little benches that have a coconut scraper attached to its end. Get ready, set, go…and the race to finish scraping begins! Another coconut related competition is ‘coconut weaving’, where each participant is given a coconut branch and has to weave the leaves as quickly as possible.

4. Kana Mutti bindima – This Sri Lankan version of the Mexican piñata involves breaking clay pots filled with water that are hanging from a height while blindfolded. Other blindfolded games include ‘Eyeing the Elephant’ (a Sri Lankan version of pin the tail on the donkey) and feeding yoghurt to a partner while blindfolded.

5. Banis Kama (Eating Buns) – Yet another fun competition to watch and take part in is the bun eating contest. Buns are hung by string and participants have to kneel down with their hands tied behind their backs while trying to eat them as quickly as they can.

6. Tug of War – Yes, this old time favourite is also a popular Avurudu game enjoyed by adults and children alike!

7. The Spoon race – In this game (pictured at the top), you have to run with a spoon in your mouth that is balancing a lime or lemon. The first person to reach the finish line without dropping the lime/lemon wins. Simple! Or not, if you can neither run nor balance a lime on a spoon with your mouth like me. There is also the goni race where you get into a sack and run, and the ‘three legged race’ where two people run together with one leg of each person is tied together.

8. Avurudu Kumari pageant – This beauty contest to find the New Year princess involves dressing in traditional costumes and parading around in front of a panel of judges. Take note, the panel makes their final decision based on ‘five ancient markers’ of beauty known as the ‘pancha kalyana’. Beautiful complexion, figure, teeth, hair and youthful appearance are pre-requisites to bag this prize!





Images. Photo 2 by Thoughts of Paps. All other pictures by Dilesh Weerasuriya.


3 Responses to Avurudu fun and games

  1. […] the occasion could be made FAR more interesting if we issued a series of stamps featuring Avurudhu games for example. Or a series on the unique delicacies eaten especially at this time of the […]


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