Last month, BRISLA joined the local Harrow community to celebrate the Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. It was a beautiful day that was enjoyed by all who where lucky enough to be a part of the celebrations, and our President and Chairman, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, was honoured to be there and represent BRISLA on behalf of all our members.
History of Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year
The Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year is based around the solar cycle and generally falls on the 14th of April, when Sri Lankans celebrate the first day of the traditional Tamil and Sinhalese year. This is a time of festivity for Sri Lankans all over the world, who gather together with family and friends to give thanks and rejoice in the coming of a new year. Moreover, it is believed that the celebration brings prosperity for the year ahead, so gifts and money are often exchanged between family members to bless them with good luck.
Hence, wherever they may be in the world, the New Year is a time when Sri Lankans, British Sri Lankans and many other people of diverse origins and ethnicities join together in a spirit of peace and happiness to mark the passing of the seasons.
Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year’s Celebrations in Harrow
The Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations in Harrow really are a spectacular sight to behold! Originally begun in 1991 to give students from the Sri Saddhatissa Saturday School somewhere to showcase their talents on Bak Maha Ulela, this event has gone from strength to strength and is now an amazing day of traditional Sri Lankan dress, dancing, singing, games and food for the British Sri Lankan population of Harrow and the surrounding areas.
And this year was no exception, as April 2017 saw the Harrow Leisure Centre and Byron Recreation Ground host the 27th consecutive Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year’s celebrations. This year’s Kingsbury Bak Maha Ulela, held annually since 1991 by the Sri Lanka Education Cultural and Welfare Foundation, witnessed a happy gathering of over 1500 people of all ethnicities and nationalities come together to take part in the ceremony, performances and enjoyment of the day.
Beginning at 10:00 am and continuing throughout the day until 11:00 pm at night, this larger-than-life festival was embellished with cultural performances, dancing, singing, traditional sports and various games throughout the event, so there really was something for everyone. Much to the credit of everyone involved in the organisation of this annual event, it has long held the reputation of being the best Sri Lankan New Year’s celebration outside of Sri Lanka, and having had the honour of attending we can see why! From the top to the bottom, all those involved with these celebrations go to incredible lengths to make sure everything is authentic and carried out to a phenomenally high standard.
A Colourful Display
One of the highlights of the day was the students from the Sri Saddhatissa Saturday School, who were given expert training by Professor Mudiiyanse Dissanayake, who had made the trip to London all the way from the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Sri Lanka, especially to choreograph this event. But Professor Dissanayake wasn’t the only treasure of this performance; a whole host of talented individuals worked tirelessly to make this dance display a highlight for all those who watched. Special recognition in particular should go to Mr and Mrs Atthanayake and Ms Olu Suraweera, who assisted with the spectacular dancing, and Ms Anju Dabare and Mr Geeth Senadeera, who helped with the vocal training. Another stand-out feature were the costumes, which were created especially for the day from gorgeous materials by skilled seamstresses, and put on a dazzling display of show and colour.
A group of highly regarded guests, including our very own Chairman and President, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, were present for the opening ceremony and lighting of the oil lamp, which took place on a beautifully crafted structure, handmade by Mr Jayaratne Bandara. Guests were also treated to tea with delicious Sri Lankan delicacies and witnessed the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Mr Sugeeshwara Gunaratna hoisting the Sri Lankan national Flag, whilst accompanied by the Sri Saddhatissa School choir singing the national anthem.
With singing and dancing going on well into the night, this year’s New Year celebrations really were a joyous occasion, and were much loved by all involved.
Join The Celebrations
As we can attest, this wonderful yearly gathering is a truly excellent way of coming together with your community, family and friends, and celebrating the history and heritage we all share, wherever you hail from. If you haven’t attended before then we heartily recommend that you make a note in your diary for next year; we’ll certainly see you there.
We at the British Sri Lankan Association (BRISLA) were honoured to be a part of the Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, and hope to be involved for many years to come. We feel that supporting these events and the Sri Lankan communities in the UK are important for creating a society that is both prosperous and fair, both here and in Sri Lanka, for the mutual benefit of all of us.
Encouraging friendly relationships between communities is crucial to our mission statement, therefore all are welcome to join BRISLA, and to come and enjoy the various social, religious, sporting, and cultural activities that we help to organise each year. If you would like to find out more about our organisation, have any questions or are interested in becoming a member than please take a look at our website or use the contact form to get in touch.