Feasts and festivals of Jaffna
Monday, 26 July 2010 00:00
By Srimal Fernando
Jaffna situated 450 km North of Colombo is a region rich in culture and history. Owning to the diversity of intra religious beliefs, Jaffna has numerous colourful and elaborate celebrations. The residents love to celebrate temple or church festivals annually. Nallur Kandasamy annual festival is one of the most magnificent annual spectacle scelebrated by the Hindu devotees in Jaffna. The twenty six day festival is a major event in the Hindu calendar that draws all sections of society for centuries cutting across religious and caste differences.
The festival commences with the sacred flag hoisting ceremony known as Kodi Yatram and will conclude with the water cutting ceremony known as Theertham. The festival starts six days after the arrival of the new moon towards the end of July every year. During the festive season barefoot devotees carrying offerings move lightly offering prayers with devotion at the Nallur temple premises situated on the outskirts of the town. From inside the Nallur temple premises comes the sharp sound of breaking coconuts as worshippers begin their devotion.
People throng to witness the extravagantly decorated chariot festival or temple cars known as “Ther” that parades on the twenty fourth day of the celebration. Hundreds of devotees perform ‘Angapirathshanam’ by rolling on hot sand behind the main chariot praising “Haro hara!” to the Deity.omen devotees carry pots with burning camphor to fulfil vows made during the year. On the outskirts of the temple it is a common site to see, rows and rows of temporary stalls selling variety of foods, aerated drinks, sundry goods such as toys, shiny coloured bangles and plastic ornaments. During the festive season the town markets and bazaars are full with exotic tropical fruits especially growing in the peninsular region. The event is made vivid and colourful by many dancers playing traditional instruments. ows are made and favours are sought by devotees who demonstrate their sincerity by performing Kavadi dances after piercing their bodies with hooks and spears. These acts of devotion cause no pain or harm to the faithful. Virtually Jaffna turns into a spiritual town during this ceremony. Several Hindu temples in the Jaffna Peninsula also celebrate festivals during this season .Vallipuram Hindu Vishnu temple situated at Nagar Kovil in Vadamarachchi is a colourful lively festival that draws thousands of devotees to this settlement. The festival reaches its crescendo as several devotees walk barefoot across a searing bed of red hot coal. Marathady Pilliyar temple and Suthumalai, Amman temple festival in Maviddapuram and Thondamannar are the other important Hindu glamorous cultural pageants held in Jaffna.
During these Hindu festivals in Manipay, Maviddapuram, and Thondamannar reverberating sounds of drums announcing the procession emerging from the temple, led by drummers and flag bearers, the ringing of bells and the thin strains of flute music combining with the throb of drums followed by devotees. Extravagantly decorated chariot festival is held annually at the Nagapushani Amman temple in the Nainativu Island. The drummers drum and kavadi dancers perform during the pulling of the “Ther” or chariot by the devotees during procession. In all festival planning, a feeling of family is sensed in the preparation of food on variety of traditional vegetarian dishes such as dosai, idli, vadai and curries that are served on to a banana leaf.
The annual church saint’s feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Navali was celebrated on grand scale on 29th June with nine days of novena and vespers run up to the feast . The flag hoisting of the church was held nine days prior to the feast. During the church feast season the devotees flocked in large numbers to invoke the blessings and thank for all the favours and protection received through the saints. The environment with soft sand and Palmyra palms around the church enables the pilgrims to spend more days to enjoy their stay with prayers and relaxation. On the night of vespers the village had a carnival atmosphere, with narrow streets being decorated with red and a yellow striped flags and colour-full lights. The Saint’s feast mass is offered with solemnity started at dusk and ending the final act of prayers delivered by the roman Catholic priest.It was the hope for peace that resonated throughout the high mass on the feast day. “The saints will always keep us safe; they will never let us down; they have always been with us; was with us and they will be with us forever,” was sung buy folk singers of the church . After the holy mass the statues of the saints was placed on a gaily decorated chariot and taken on procession on streets of Navali on the final day. The catholic devotees sung hymns “Veruththaam” in Tamil and reciting prayers. The feast of Saints Peter and Paul reaches a climax as hundreds flocked to worship. Ice cream and sweet vendors line up near the church to sell their products to the devotees. The feast brought an entertainment, myth and merry to the villages .There was a festive atmosphere in Navali which can find fulfillment in harmonious interaction. The saints church feast was an excuse for the villagers for the preparation of traditional sweetened and spicy mid day meals.
St. Anthony’s church feast of Kachchativu Island is another amazing Roman catholic feast that draws devotees from Jaffna and India . The two day church feast in the Kachchativu Island was held recently after lapse of several years. The Catholics of the area had built cadjan shelters for worshippers. They have placed the miraculous statue of Saint Anthony with devotion and piety. The feast draws thousands of pilgrims from surrounding areas to this Island shrine. Blessed Mary’s church feast of Kathirai in Sillalai, St.Mary’s Church Chinnakkadai, Jaffna, St. Anthony’s church Manipay, St James Church ,Vasavilan, The shrine of Our Lady of Good Voyage at Chaddy, situated in a village Velanai, in Kayts Island are some of the significant annually held roman catholic feast in Jaffna.
For the Muslims in Jaffna the months of August to September are fasting months. The twenty eight days of fasting by the Muslims ends with celebrating Id-Ul-Fitr known as Ramazan. Among the delicious dishes prepared on this occasion are buriyani and vattalappan.
There are large number of Buddhist devotees who travel to Jaffna during Vesak and Poson seasons. The worshipers observe pansil and offer prayers and tie a coin in clean white cloth at the Nagadeepa and the Jaffna town Buddhist temples. At night the temples are crowded with devotees bringing flowers and offerings . “Dansals” are set up by the roadside in front of the Buddhist temples where food and refreshments are given free to sightseers and to devotees . Paper lanterns of different shapes and sizes, and tiny clay lamps flicker throughout the Buddhist temples in Jaffna. A group of ladies & gents from the Sri Lankan Armed forces stationed in the peninsula sing Bhakthi Gee or Vesak devotional songs throughout the night. Welcomed by the hospitality of the smiling people and its remarkable history and unrivalled settings, no wonder Jaffna has always been a prime destination for sightseer passers and to devotees from all corners of the country.
Source Daily Mirror – http://www.dailymirror.lk/print/index.php/life/132-