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 Post subject: Konda Kavun, Naran Kavun, Thala Kavun, Undu Kavun
 Post Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 4:32 pm 
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Konda Kavun, Naran Kavun, Thala Kavun, Undu Kavun

@ ST - 1996 / 10 Oct 2009 (RH)

Any special occasion in a Sinhala home is incomplete without a table laden with these mouth watering sweetmeats. Kiribath and Kavum are two essential food items for any occasion. The New Year is especially associated with these traditional, often identified as 'national' food items. Since the new year is a symbol of fertility, kiribath takes precedence over all other items. Kiribath as its name implies is a simple food prepared with milk and rice. There are of course, varieties of kiribath especially Mun kiribath, where green gram is added and the delicious Imbul Kiribath with its centre filled with coconut and jaggery. The name 'Imbul' is because it is made in the shape of an Imbul fruit. Sweetmeats like the Kavum for instance, have a long history, dating back to the days of our kings .

The most interesting historical data surrounding Avurudu sweetmeats is centred on the popular kavum which is a very old sweet. In the good old days kavum was associated so closely with the Sinhalese that often people would fondly say that wherever there was a Sinhalese the kavum was certainly to be there as well.

Prof. J.B. Dissanayaka in his book on folklore writes that even though the 'Sinhalaya' proves himself incapable of doing other things, he will certainly admit that he is good at eating. This fact has been expressed humourously in a popular Sinhala saying: 'Sinhalaya modaya, kavum kanna yodaya' which means that the Sinhalaya is a fool but a giant or a real champion at eating kavum.

Kavum dates back to very old times and even our classical texts bear evidence to this fact. Some of the Jataka stories, like the Ummagga Jatakaya and literature such as Saddharma Ratnawaliya and Pujawaliya narrate how kavum was enjoyed even by our ancestors.

There are several varieties of kavum. Among them the konda kavum is very popular. Naran kavum, thala kavum, undu kavum, mun kavum, seeni kavum and atiraha are also prepared during the Avurudu season. Naran kavum as the name implies is the size of a naran fruit and the centre is filled with pol peni. Hendi kavum is another variety. Hendi means spoon and here the dough is not taken bit by bit in the hand and made into a ball, but a spoon is used to make the kavum. Thus the name hendi kavum. Achchu kavum, more popular in the areas of the upcountry is a type of murukku.

In the villages superstitious beliefs surround the process of kavum preparation. It has been in village oral tradition for centuries that the first kavum is the 'konduru kavum'. Kondurawa is an insect that is drawn to a place where kavum is being made. The village lasses hang the first kavum up for the insects, so that the rest will be spared. The last kavum made is 'diya kavum'.

Diya means water. Accordingly the last part of the dough is considered tasteless and thus the last kavum is said to taste like water. Women also believe that they must refrain from talking when the first kavum is being made. If they talk the results may be unfruitful.

Asmi is also a traditional sweetmeat in the shape of'string hoppers dipped in treacle. According to Prof. Disanayaka the name Asmi was not only used to describe the sweet but also applied to a similar white nest built by wasps.

Aggala was often taken by villagers when they went on long pilgrimages to Sri Pada. Aggala is a sweet that can be preserved easily and thus people prepared aggala as it could be kept for long periods. Today it is also served as an Avurudu delicacy.

In certain areas of the Southern Province there is a revival of folk dance. Processions are organised and the villagers, some dancing, visit temples. The procession is accompanied by a cart decorated to depict the solar eclipse, the Prince of New Year the planets and the stars. A colourful feature is the large number of sweetmeats hung all around the cart. Kavum, kokis, atiraha are strung up in their numbers and the onlookers can simply pluck them from the cart . The poor are also treated to these delicacies from the cart. 'Although kokis had become synonymous with the Sinhala New Year, Prof. Dissanayaka says that the name came probably from the Dutch during their long stay in Ceylon. Thus the name kokis is believed to have been derived from Dutch 'Koekje' which in English is 'cookie'.


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