Sheaf of Betel; බුලත් අත
At no other time of the year is there such a demand for betel as at the Sinhala and Hindu New Year time. Betel is a must at New Year, for it is an essential item in the observance of an important custom.
At New Year, when families get together at the parental home, children pay their respects to parents, grandparents and any other elders staying with them, by offering a sheaf of betel. Nephews and nieces on their New Year visits, will bring along sheaves of betel to greet and pay their respects to uncles and aunts. Employees will visit their employers and offer them the bulath atha - the sheaf of betel. Forty leaves make up a bulath atha but this number is rarely adhered today.
It doesn't really matter if the sheaf has only 20 leaves or even less. What is important is the act of offering the betel, and it should be given with both hands, with the stems towards the receiver. The giver then falls at the feet of the receiver or bends his/her knees and pays his/her obeisance.
The receiver - parent, grandparent or master - will give a gift in cash wrapped in a betel leaf. Little children look forward to receiving a shining new coin wrapped in a betel leaf. The offering of betel is also a symbolic gesture, of saying sorry and asking to be forgiven for any wrongs committed during the past year. When there is some displeasure between two persons or families, the younger person will visit the older one and greet him/her with a sheaf of betel. The elder accepts it and it is a sign that all ill-feelings have been erased and past wrongs forgiven and will be forgotten. It is not only at New Year that we offer betel to elders as a mark of respect.
When schools re-open after the April (New Year) holidays, children in rural schools and some urban schools too take a sheaf of betel to give their teachers. Some offer betel to the principal and class-teacher at the beginning of the school-year. But this happens in almost every school on Teacher's Day - October 5. Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant, they all offer the betel. Offering a sheaf of betel is also a form of greeting. Special guests at prize-givings, ceremonial openings of buildings and inaugurations of new projects are greeted with a sheaf of betel. In days gone by, it was a patient's custom to offer the physician - the Veda Mahaththaya - a sheaf of betel, before consulting him. This was a way of respectfully asking him for medical help.
In the traditional society, physicians did not accept money. Healing the sick was a social service expected of the physician. But gradually, as society changed and money was needed for day-to-day living, patients began to offer cash - the maximum being five rupees in those early days - placed in the sheaf of betel.
Even a quid of betel - bulath vita - is Rs. 10." Offering betel was also an invitation. A householder will offer a sheaf of betel to the Head Bhikkhu - Viharadhipathi - to invite him to a bana or pirith ceremony. Again it is customary to offer a bulath wattiya - a wicker tray - of betel to the monks thus assembled, requesting them to begin the chanting. We do the same to the Bhikkhu who has come to deliver a bana sermon. A kinsman is invited to a family wedding by offering a tray of betel. The kinsman by taking a leaf, accepts the invitation. No leaf has so important a place among our customs and traditions as this humble leaf. The betel leaf is used to decorate the pirith mandapa.
The bride and bridegroom offer betel - as a mark of respect - to parents, aunts, uncles and other elders.
It is an important part of the poruwa ceremony." Betel-growing is confined to home gardens and small farms and certain districts.Gampaha and Wariyapola in the Kurunegala district are betel-producing areas. Today, it is a very profitable cultivation as there is a good demand for our betel in Pakistan. - Internet