Posted on April 10th, 2010

By Shelton Gunaratne © 2010

  In Sri Lanka, the Aluth Avurudda arrives Wednesday (14 April) exactly at 6.58 a.m., according to astrologers.  Sri Lanka is in the same time zone as India, where different ethnic groups are already celebrating the same New Year under different names. Converting to Central Daylight Time, the Aluth Avurudda in the Midwest arrives Tuesday (13 April) at 8.28 p.m.

 Going eastwards, the New Year would arrive later depending on the longitudinal position of a country: at 7.58 a.m. in Myanmar, at 8.28 a.m. in Thailand, western Indonesia, and Vietnam; 9.28 a.m. in Malaysia and Singapore; and 11.28 a.m. in Sydney, eastern Australia. In countries west of the Indian subcontinent, the New Year has already arrived.

The significant auspicious times associated with the 2010 Aluth Avurudda are listed below in Sri Lanka time (with CDT equivalent time in parentheses. Sri Lankans living in the U.S. Midwest will find this list useful if they want to adhere to authentic New Year practices:

  • Punyakala starts six hours and 24 minutes before the dawn of New Year and ends six hours and 24 minutes after the dawn of New Year. So the nonagathe in Sri Lanka starts at 12:34 a.m., 14 April (=2.04 p.m., CDT, 13 April) and ends at 1:22 p.m., 14 April (=2.52 a.m., CDT, 14 April).  The first portion of the Punyakala is allocated for religious rituals and the second part is for traditions (e.g. preparing meals. starting transactions, etc.
  • The Aluth Avurudda begins at 6.58 a.m., 14 April (=8.28 p.m., CDT, April 13)
  • The auspicious time for preparing the New Year’s auspicious food of kiribath with ghee and undu seeds is 7.01 a.m., 14 April (= 8.31 p.m., CDT, 13 April) keeping in mind the year’s auspicious direction (north) and the year’s auspicious color for clothing (light green)
  • The auspicious time for starting work, transacting business and eating the first meal is 9.07 a.m., 14 April (=10.37 p.m., CDT, 13 April).
  • Keep in mind the nonagathe (neutral period), the astrological time-gap between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Devote this period for spiritual activities and avoid any material pursuits

 The New Year provides the occasion to forget and forgive. Younger members of the family kneel before the older members to ask for forgiveness and blessings.  For both children and adults, the New Year’s Day is for play and enjoying the best of traditional foods.

 The New Year marks the time that the sun famously left the constellation of Pisces to enter the zone of Aries thereby signaling the onset of another year. It is this event, the vernal equinox associated with spring, that most of South and Southeast Asians””‚predominantly Hindus and Buddhists””‚celebrate this week, with an array of names and different customs that can boggle one’s mind.

 In India, different ethnic groups have shaped the New Year to suit their own customs and needs. Thus the Sri Lankan Aluth  Avurudda turns out to be Puthandu or Varusha Pirappu in Tamilnadu; Mahabishuba Sankranti (incorporating Hanuman Jayanthi) in Orissa; Vishu in Kerala; Pohela Boishakh in Bengal; and Rongali Bihu in Assam.

 However, not all Hindus celebrate the New Year on the same day in mid-April. Some celebrate different dates in March or April based on the lunar calendar: Yugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka; Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra; Bestu Varas in Gujarat, which follows the Vikram lunar calendar, Navreh in Kashmir; and Cheti Chand of the Sindhis who celebrate their New Year one day after Yugadi and Gudi Padwa. (See table below)

 Because of the Buddhist cultural connections, Southeast Asians in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, all of whom use the lunar calendar to coincide with the vernal equinox, also celebrate their New Year in mid-April. For them, the dawn of the New Year (noted for their unique water festivals) could happen on any of three days from April 13 to 15.

 The New Year that East Asians celebrate always precedes that of South Asia.  The Chinese New Year””‚just as the Korean Seollal, the Mongolian Tsagaan Sar, the Vietnamese Tet, and the Tibetan and Bhutanese Losar“”‚occurs between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 on the second new moon after the winter solstice in accordance with the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. And the celebrations go on for 15 days.

Diverse Names and Dates for New Year in Asia

Where Who What they call the New Year When Why
Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhists Aluth Avurudda April 13/14 Sun moves from Pisces to Aries
  Tamil Hindus Puthandu April 13/14 End of harvest season
India Tamil Hindus Puthandu/Varusha Pirappu April 13/14 Day 1 of Chitirai in Hindu calendar
  Assamese Rongali/Bohag Bihu April 13/14 Day 1 of Hindu solar calendar
  Bengalis, including Bangladeshis Pohela Boishakh April 14/15 Day 1 of Hindu  solar calendar
  Andhras, Karnatakans Yugadi March/April Day 1 of Chaitra in Saka lunar calendar
  Maharastrans Gudi Padwa March/April Day 1 of Chaitra in Saka lunar calendar
  Keralans Vishu April 13/14 Day 1 of Medam in Hindu solar calendar
  Manipuris Sajibu Cheiraoba April 13/14 Day 1 of chahi in Hindu solar calendar
  Kashmiris Navreh March/April Day 1 of lunar new year
  Oriya Mahabishuba Sankranti April 13/14 Day 1 of Hindu solar calendar
  Gujaratis Bestu Varas March/April Day 1 of  Vikram lunar calendar
  Sindhis Cheti Chand March/April Day after Yugadi/Gudi Padwa
  Himachals/Punjabis Chaitti & Basoa/ Vaisakhi April 13/14 Chaitra/Baisak month begins
Malaysia Tamil Hindus Puthandu April 13/14  
Singapore Tamil Hindus Puthandu April 13/14  
Thailand Thais Songkan April 13-15 Marks the week-long water festival
Cambodia khemers Chaul Chnam Thmey April 13-15 Marks the week-long water festival
Laos Lao Bpee Mai April 13-15 Marks the week-long water festival
Myanmar Burmese Thingyan April 13-15 Marks the week-long water festival
China Chinese, including diaspora Chinese New Year Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 First day of Chinese lunar calendar
Vietnam Vietnamese Tet First day of Vietnamese lunar calendar
Korea Koreans Seollal First day of Korean lunar calendar
Mongolia Mongolians Tsagaan Sar First day of Mongolian lunar calendar
Bhutan/Tibet Bhutanese and Tibetans Losar First day of  lunar calendar
Islamic countries Muslims Islamic New Year Migrates throughout seasons First day of Muharram, first month
Nepal Buddhist/Hindu Navavarsha April (Wk. 2) First day of Baisakh month
Compiled by Shelton Gunaratne©2010      


(The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus at Minnesota State University Moorhead.)


  1. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    Thank you for the details related to the oldest known annual festival that has a greater historical significance as a formalised version of the age-old tradition of celebrating the harvest/hunt. The details of auspicious times were calculated using Manu years until recently by traditional experts living in our village giving an interesting insight to the beginning, and hope that they still continue with the same tradition. We do celebrate the New Year exactly at the same time with our relatives in Lanka. I do not think that we should change the time to local conditions for natives of Lanka living outside the country. For regular visitors to Lanka, the significance of geo-spatial factors affecting life remain relevant only at the time of birth that sets the base states of life. As well, when celebrating the New Year together with relatives in Lanka, it gives a feeling that we are with our people than alone.

  2. M.S.MUdali Says:

    This is a happay event celebrated by the people of the region for thousands of years and readers have to know the “common-ness” between different language groups and countries. I wish all Lankaweb readers and contributors a Happy New year” in advance!

  3. Sita Perera Says:

    I agree with both Priyantha and Maha Mudali

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