Popular Pastimes

The Malays also made a small but important contribution to Sinhalese society by way of pastimes. One such is the rabana, a large circular drum played by women during the Sinhala New Year to the accompaniment of songs known as raban pada. This item has its origins in the Malay rebana, especially the type known as rebana ubi. The Malay term itself seems to derive from the Arabic rabbana ‘Our Lord’, which figures prominently in Islamic devotional music sung to the accompaniment of the drum.

The popular pastime of kite flying also seems to have been introduced by the Malays. The Sinhala term for ‘kite’ sarungalayaseems to be connected to the Sundanese sarenkol ‘a small tubed bamboo, crooked at every joint, diverging at some angle from the preceding one’ or sarang ‘cross laths of split bamboo’, it being understood that bamboo is ideal for making kite frames. This is supported by an observation made by Louis Nell in his Explanatory List of Portuguese Words adopted by the Sinhalese published in The Orientalist over a century ago. He refers to the word gaviam meaning sparrow hawk applied by the Sinhalese of his day to hawk-shaped paper kites for flying, some with an Aeolian contrivance in a vibrating thin ribband of bamboo reed stretched to a bow and emitting a strong sound in a high wind. This, he says, used to be prepared by the Malay population.

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