VILLAGE FARMING IN SRI LANKA
Manik Sandrasagra wrote in Govia.com: “Agriculture is not an occupation; it is a way of life, closely interwoven with other activities. Every stage in the cultivation cycle — from plowing and sowing, to weeding and harvesting — is accompanied by ceremonies involving song, music and dance. Kandyan dancing has its origins in the Kohomha Kankariya ritual, which is performed in the village after the harvest. [Source: Manik Sandrasagra, Govia.com]
“Puranagamas [villages] island-wide are linked by common cultural patterns based on food habits. Rice comes first. Just fifty years ago, Sri Lanka had more than 280 varieties of rice. For example, heenati rice was grown for lactating mothers. Kanni murunga, another variety, was grown for men going out to work in the fields. Suvandel was cultivated for its extraordinary fragrance. Monks who did not eat after noon were given a special variety grown over six to eight months called mawee, which possesses a high-protein content. Today, there are 10 to 15 varieties commonly cultivated [Source: Manik Sandrasagra, Govia.com]
The forests surrounding our villages were a great source of food and medicine. Foods such as bulu weera, jak, himbutu, wood apple and wild pear were some of the mouthwatering delicacies. As for medicines, every plant had its use. In the gardens around our homes we cultivate papaya, mango, banana, jackfruit, pepper and vegetables such as bean sprouts and green gram.
“As in all peasant societies, agriculture is very much a family affair. Every member of the village has specific duties. One drives marauding monkeys from the rice paddies; another looks after the cattle and water buffaloes. Some help their fathers in the fields, while others collect fire wood with their mothers. Yet others help with the cooking and milking of the cattle. Girls spend their time with their mothers and aunts helping with all the chores: the tending of the fields and the making of mats. Our mothers keep the hearth warm and this is the center of every home. Thus, in Sri Lankan homes the mother takes first place.
Where it was difficult to find water, people engaged do chena slash and burn cultivation. This happened particularly in the arid zone. The villager would clear a patch of jungle land by cutting down the trees and burning the branches. Grain would then be sowed and a variety of food crops grown. When the soil loses its fertility, they would move to another location and begin to clear the jungle land and begin all over again. The land is thus rotated as opposed to the rotation of crops. We have great respect for the forest and its functions; we do not want to alter that. By design, abandoned chenas gradually become analogous to the natural forest.
Sandrasagra wrote In the hills behind our village lies the jungle, which is unsuited for paddy cultivation. Here, kurakkan millet and other dry grains are grown in what are called chena lands. A chena is generally about one acre in size. Slash-and-burn methods clear the land, after which cultivation takes place. We abandon these chenas for 10 to 15 years after cultivation, permitting the forest to regenerate. For the most part chena farming is dying out because there is no place left to do it.
Water in a Sri Lankan Village
D. B. Kappagoda wrote: “The prosperity of a village depends on the availability of water for cultivation. This is especially so in Rajarata where paddy cultivation is the livelihood of the people. It is for this reason, our Sinhala rulers in the past developed an intricate system of irrigation with tanks and canals in order to be certain of a regular supply of water throughout the year. The storing of water during the rainy season became the main task of the kings. They went to the extent of enacting stringent laws to punish those who flouted the laws governing the distribution of water. Such was the importance attached to the conservation of water in ancient times. [Source: D. B. Kappagoda, CDN, Mid Week Mirror]
“Water was considered the lifeblood of the economy. Therefore Rajarata where the ancient cities stood, namely, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa came to be known as the tank civilization. The early British administrators too observed how the village economy was sustained by the tank or wewa. Therefore the construction, maintenance and distribution of water became the obligation of the people.
“With the dependence on the village tank, there emerged customs and rituals connected with it. The people began to invoke the blessings of the deity who looks after the supply of water. The practice of appeasing the deities in the form of a ritual can be observed in Wanni, where they worship 'Aiyanayaka deiyo' who presides over their well-being. Since the tank and paddy fields were closely linked, it is important to make a study of the paddy cultivation in order to understand the customs and rituals associated with it. The fields in the village fed by the water of the wewa are classified according to their proximity to the wewa. This is done by taking into account the quantity of water that it can supply.
Tanks (Wewas) and Sri Lankan Agriculture
Manik Sandrasagra wrote in Govia.com: “Agricultural activity requires plenty of water, and our ancestors were ingenious in their use of this precious substance. There were, in all, five different types of wewas. First, there was the forest wewa," which was dug in the jungle above the village. It was not for irrigation but rather for the purpose of providing water for the wild creatures that lived in the jungle. They in turn did not come down into the village in search of water or to interfere with our various agricultural activities. [Source: Manik Sandrasagra, Govia.com]
The second type was the 'mountain wewa'. This provided water for chena cultivation. The third kind was for erosion control and was called pota wetiya. Here the silt accumulated where it could be easily desilted. The fourth type was the 'storage wewa.' There were usually two of them. One was in use when the other was being maintained. They were connected to a large number of village wewas, which they fed and which in turn fed them when they overflowed. The village wewa" was the fifth type, and there was one for every puranagama.
Sir Edmund Leach, professor of anthropology at Cambridge University in England and a leading authority on irrigation agriculture, claims that in Sri Lanka large water tanks may have been the work of a centralized bureaucracy, hut that the small village tanks were maintained by the villagers themselves. What we today designate as a 'village" is often a product of urban planning and has hardly anything indigenous about it. Important as these communities are in ushering, us into the 'modern age," it is equally important to realize that our traditional village has a worthiness that can never be evaluated in material terms. Indeed, the spiritual principles that are operative in these traditional communities may be the only solution to a world fast being destroyed by materialism.
Ancient Farming Customs and Practices in Sri Lanka
Rohan Jayetilleke wrote in the Sunday Observer:The rituals and customs of any community are structured on the geography, climatic conditions and the modes of living of any given area. All rituals and customs of a village community are geared to peaceful coexistence and the continuity of each family unit. In the absence of any written laws and enactments the adherence to the rituals and customs was an implicit trust and any breach of trust resulted in the recalcitrant being either temporarily or permanently boycotted by the rest of the community, having adjudged the breach of custom adjudged by a village council called 'Rata Sabha'. [Source: Rohan Jayetilleke, Sunday Observer Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
“In view of the fact paddy cultivation was pivotal to the survival of the community, all activities connected with paddy cultivation were treated with the highest honour and respect. The causes for floods, droughts, epidemics, crop failures and sicknesses being not aware to the people, they condescended to accept them as a wrath of an unseen god or demon and made supplications to them to safeguard them against such calamities. These were plebian needs, that had to be found solutions to spontaneously and the cults of gods and demons (yakkha) came about. In the primitive communities of Veddas of Sri Lanka, these omnipresent and malevolent forces were reckoned as 'Yakkha' (Herein Yakkha is derived from the word root 'yaj' meaning fit for worship and not fearful monsters), namely, 'Ne Yaka' (departed relatives reborn as Yakkhas), 'Gale Yakkha', (yakkha of the mountains) Kande Yakkha (yakkha of the hills) and 'Ruk Yakkha' (yakkha resident of trees). The Veddas in their pursuit of games and in case of sicknesses had various rituals such as 'kiri koraha' (similar to kohomba kankariya).
“With the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the third century B.C. a centralized government was introduced with the king as the supreme supporter of Buddhism, these rituals too underwent a complete change in its conception. Buddhism being 'the Great Tradition'. The Buddha was placed at the apex of the hierarchy of gods and was identified as 'devatideva', god of gods. Thus all gods came to be functional under a warrant (varan) of the Buddha. Therefore, all rituals commenced with the worship of the Buddha and followed by ritual practices.
“In the matter of land holdings, the farmers (share croppers or 'pangukaraya') had fields among a vast tract of fields to commensurate with his requirements for subsistence from the harvest to another. Therefore, in tilling, harvesting and other agricultural activities they had to work in unison. In the village, there were weather beaten and well-seasoned and aged farmers who were well conversant with farming traditions and customs. One of them was referred to as 'Gama Rala' (Leader of the farmers).
“The farmers in rotation had to perform watching duties in the night to scare away animals intruding to the fields. These watch huts (pela) were set up on wooden poles about 10 feet in height so that the watchers could survey the entire track. These huts were set up two or three number along the frontier fields (issarawal). A fire was kept alight right through the night to scare away elephants. In case a farmer is unable to take his watching duty according to the roster he could exchange his turn of duty with another. If in any case a farmer wilfully failed to take up his turn of watch duty, the resultant destruction of the crop became his responsibility and had to be compensated by him. In case of a sickness or any other family problem, the farmer was exempted from watching duties and others performed his turn of duty.
“There was no application of artificial manures or chemicals to control pests and weeds. The manure was green leaves such as, keppettiya, titta, (wild sun flower) etc., and in order to control insects and pests certain vines and leaves of the forests were crushed and mixed with water and sprinkled on the water ways and the fields. The pungent and strong aroma and the tastes of these, convulsed the insects and they left. There was no exterminating.”
“Another method of controlling the insects was to have a long strip of fields at the two extremities of the field called, 'kurulupaluwa' which was not harvested but allowed to be fed on by the birds, so that the birds will be ever present and would pick up flying or crawling insects in the fields. Still another effective way of controlling insects was to prepare a good amount of milk rice and sprinkle them on the field prior to break of dawn and provide dried branches of trees (ipal) at convenient distances in the field for the birds to perch. The birds, while feeding of grains of milk rice, pick all insects too.”
Ancient Farming Rituals in Sri Lanka
Rohan Jayetilleke wrote in the Sunday Observer: Immediately after the rainy season, the farmers under the leadership of the gamarala would meet at the 'Ambalama'. Ambalamas were resting places for travellers built by the orders of the king, in a place where land was available for grazing of cattle and water, these being requirements of carters and other travellers for rest at mid-day or in the night. The hexagonal structured roof, with a minaret at the top indicated that it was under royal protection. These ambalamas were meeting places of farmer communities and others to resolve matters connected with farming. Having met they would decide whether to work the entire tract of fields or a part thereof depending on the availability of water. They would decide on an auspicious date and time, computed by 'Nekathirala' the astrologer. On the appointed date and time all the farmers would commence cleaning up waterways (elaweli) and he footpaths running (niyara) through the fields. Each farmer would attend to those sections adjacent to his field and finally including fences would have bene constructed encircling the entire trace in this cooperative manner. [Source: Rohan Jayetilleke, Sunday Observer Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
“Thereafter on an evening the gamarala would go to the bund of the tank (wewa) and tie a coin (panama) on a clean piece of white cloth and tie it to a branch of a banyan tree (nuga tree) and make a vow to the god. He would then fire a gun once, and release water into the fields from the sluice (sorowwa or bisokotuwa). This report of the gun is to communicate to all farmers, that water had been released and it is now time for them to commence tilling the fields.
“The second stage is turning the sod (Heema). The govirala, takes his herd of buffaloes and commences turning the sod and the others follow suit. The farmers cooperatively construct the common fence (poduweta or aniyamveta). Then seed paddy is kept in a clean place in a tub of water. This too is done at an auspicious time with the consent of all the farmers. During the period the seed paddy (bittarawee) is germinating, on a auspicious day and time the second tilling is done (dehiya). There is still another ritual to be followed known as 'Bittara Vadanawa), conducting seed paddy. Having made appropriate vows and supplications to gods by the gamarala, in a small place in the center of the field (liyaddaka) the seed paddy is sown, by the gamarala. Within three days after the 'bittara wedima' all the farmers should complete sowing the fields. In sowing, a strip of the field called 'Vagala' is left unsown to enable people and cattle to move to and fro and this strip is sowed on completion of the entire sowing of the rest of the fields.
“Additionally there were other rituals called 'kema' such as 'dodam kema' and 'mande kema'. After the harvesting is done, the ritual held is called, 'Kiri itirima'. All the share croppers (pangukarayo) having collected rice from parade to the bund of the tank (wewa) and set up hut under a banyan tree (kirigahak). Inside the hut a stage (messa) is set up and a white clean cloth is laid over it. On the 'messa' 100 betel leaves, and 100 arecanuts are kept. Thereafter in three separate pots the fresh rice is cooked along with coconut milk and the 'kiri bath' thus made is offered to the gods. Thereafter, the remaining kiri bath is shared among those present. Thus the entire village having worked in unison, gets about their daily chores with no friction but based on the Buddhist four sublime states of Loving kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), blissful joy (muditha) and equanimity (upekkah). In the chain of rituals the last one is the harvesting ritual. In the harvesting festival not only the farmers participated but the entire village. This was a thanksgiving ritual to the gods for ensuring a rich harvest.
Paddy Fields in Sri Lanka
D. B. Kappagoda wrote: The tract of paddy field — "Yaya" close to the wewa is called "Upaya pota" or "Mul pota". The second tract further out is known as "Harena pota" or "Perala pota". The third is named "Asvaddum pota". Each tract is further sub-divided into portions known as "Ihalabage" (upper division), "Medabage" (middle division), and "Pahalabage" (lower division).The crown land sold to farmers is called "Akkaraval". The extent of the land is measured by the extent of grain that is sowed such as "Amuna" , "Pela", "Kuruni" etc. It was customary to leave two strips of paddy fields at either end of each tract called "Kurulu paluwa" (birds loss) — an allowance of extra land as compensation for damage caused by birds. [Source: D. B. Kappagoda, CDN, Mid Week Mirror]
The two strips of land at each end next to the "Kurulu paluwa" are called "Ela pat" and they belong to the "gamarala" (village elder). The portions in the center "pota" are equally divided among the shareholders or the "Pangu karayas". The "gamarala" is the co-ordinator of the cultivation system in the village. He chooses the dates for the issue of water, clearing the jungle, repairing fences, ploughing, sowing, caretaking, harvesting and also invoking the blessings of the guardian deities.
In all these activities, the villagers act with mutual understanding and co-operation according to customary practices known as "Attam". Money is not paid for services. Instead each villager is obliged to work and in return gets the services of the others. The system of mutual help prevails even in the temples. When monks depend on monks living in other temples for religious ceremonies like pirith and pansukula, it then becomes obligatory on their part to participate.
Preparing the Paddy Fields in Sri Lanka
According to the Sunday Times: Self help is an important aspect in village life. People in the village help each other in their tasks whether it be preparing the fields, thatching the roof of the house, a wedding or any other occasion where labor is required. They don't accept money for the services. It's more for friendship and goodwill. They believe in helping each other in an hour of need. [Source: LLRH, Sunday Times, 2008]
In preparing the paddy field for sowing, the cultivator would select an auspicious day to start work and inform fellow villagers. The numbers would depend on the extent of the work involved. Invariably each will come with his own mammoty and the plough because each household has the necessary agricultural implements. Usually buffaloes are used for ploughing and even if they are not found in each household, a few can be collected from the neighbourhood.
There are several stages in the preparation of the paddy field. The first stage is to clear the field by removing the weeds, which grow when the field is allowed to rest after harvesting. During this stage, commonly called 'puran keteema', the clearing is first done by using the mammoty and then the plough drawn by the buffaloes is used. This is done to turn the sods of earth. After a few days, the earth is broken into smaller bits with the mammoty and feet. During this stage (`devana keteema') the mud is levelled with the feet and a flat board which is drawn from one end of the field to the other. Now the field is ready for sowing ('vepireema').
In certain areas, prior to the commencement of the work, it is customary to invoke the blessings of the deities. They also pray for rain and for a rich harvest. A small structure on four sticks is made at the corner of the field using 'gokkola'. Betel and flowers are kept and an oil lamp is lit. Those who help in the work are given tea and meals in the field itself. This is looked after by the females in the family led by the 'govirala's wife. Tea is brought in a 'kala gediya' (clay pot) and served with either a piece of jaggery or a spoonful of sugar served to the palm. By lunchtime they bring the 'ambula' — a tasty rice and curry meal served not on plates but on 'nelum kola' or 'kehel kola'. A betel chew follows.
Planting and Tending a Paddy Field in Sri Lanka
According to the Sunday Times: Traditionally, the farmer prepares his own seed paddy for sowing. A selected portion is generally kept aside for this purpose after each harvest. Today most of them buy the seed paddy from government stores. Seed paddy is chosen depending on the time it takes to mature. This depends on the availability of water, which again depends on whether the water is received through irrigation channels in which case there will be a regular flow, or whether the farmer is dependant on the rains. The farmer would thus select either 'vedimal vee' , which mature at the end of the full period or 'baala vee' which take lesser time to mature. Prior to sowing, the seed paddy is kept for two or three days in water until the seed begins to sprout.
Although paddy is generally known as the lazy man's crop because once sown, he doesn't have to worry much, in actual fact, there is a routine to follow. Sowing may take one of two forms. One is to sow the entire paddy field and once the plants come up, the gaps are filled by planting new ones. The other is to sow a portion of the field in a thick layer of plants and to remove them and plant in the entire field when they are a little big. The latter is being practised more now with the hope of getting a better yield. It enables an even spread of plants at regular intervals with adequate space to grow. Planting is done by females who flock in numbers to help. They form themselves into a single line and singing 'goyam kavi' to ease the burden of the task, start planting in rows.
Next comes weeding where again the females assist. The fields have to be protected by pests and although pesticides are used today, the traditional farmer would prefer to follow native practices used over the ages to protect the fields. Certain kinds of leaves are used to keep flies and other pests away. As the fields begin to mature and the golden sheaves begin to appear, the birds arrive, usually in numbers, to enjoy a good meal. It's quite an operation to chase them away. And when they are chased away from one field, they land in another. So it becomes a continuous operation of singing and shouting to scare the birds away.
Harvesting Rice in a Sri Lankan Village
According to the Sunday Times: Harvesting of paddy becomes a major event in the village taking the form of a celebration. A good harvest is always welcomed by the villagers who will then be assured of the staple diet till the next harvest. Then it becomes a cause for celebration. The community gathers as a whole to help each other in the harvesting, which is a major operation. [Source: LLRH, Sunday Times, 2008]
In order to ensure there is enough manpower to help each other, the harvesting dates are agreed upon by the farmers in the particular ‘kumburu yaaya’ (stretch of paddy land). This enables self-help amongst the villagers. Although tractors are used for harvesting today, there are still many areas in rural Sri Lanka where the traditional methods of harvesting are used. The farmers get to the field in batches and start cutting the ripe paddy corn using the sickle.
The cut paddy is brought to the ‘kamata’ in bundles. The paddy being bundled is called ‘kola bandinawa’ and is normally done by the females. These bundles are collected into a circular heap. Each heap is called the ‘kolaya’. Everybody is told to guard their tongues lest they utter words that should not be used on the threshing floor. There is a belief that using improper language would reduce the quantum of paddy. In certain parts, there is a special ‘govi bhasava’ that should be spoken.
Buffaloes are used to thresh the paddy. Several buffaloes led by a ‘muduna’ (leader) are used. Young boys join in taking the buffaloes round threshing. The process is called ‘kola medeema’ or ‘kola paegeema’. The buffaloes are addressed as ‘ambaruwo’. In some areas, particularly in the south, men do the threshing. They stand holding on to a pole horizontally laid across and use the feet to thresh the paddy.
While leading the buffaloes, the boys would keep talking to them loud to make them go round faster giving a tap on the back with the ‘kevita’ (stick). To ease the monotony, they would sing ‘kavi’ . They would also collect the ‘goma’ without allowing the dung to fall on the ground and spoil the paddy. In the ‘kamata’ language, the dung is called ‘gompas’.
Threshing and Winnowing Rice in a Sri Lankan Village
According to the Sunday Times: “The preparation of the ‘kamata’ — the threshing floor where the cut paddy is stored and threshed, is carefully done. The cleaning of the floor begins at an auspicious hour in the morning. The farmer would start by worshipping the deities and praying that the harvest would be a rich one. Cow dung (‘goma’) is applied after cleaning the ground. This is known as ‘kamata ambanava’. The customs connected with the threshing floor differ in different parts of the country. In the up-country, for example, elaborate rituals are performed. These include the planting of the trunk of a ‘puwak gaha’ — an arecanut tree in the middle with a ‘puwak mala’ at the top end. At the floor end of the pole, a hole is dug and several items, which are believed to be of magical value are deposited. In the low country, rigid customs are not followed though they too have their own rituals. [Source: LLRH, Sunday Times, 2008]
Winnowing is done by a person standing on a small structure prepared for the purpose. He climbs it and taking the paddy grains to the ‘kulla’ (winnowing fan) holds on to the wind for the paddy to be separated from the residue. After threshing, the ‘baeta’ (paddy grains) is collected and measured. This again is done with much respect.
The chief householder to whom the paddy field belongs, would worship all directions and start the proceedings. The first portion is kept aside to be given as alms to the Buddha and the deities. Another is separated for use as seed paddy in the next season. Measuring which would normally begin in the night would go on until the whole stock is over.
The ‘alut sahala mangallaya’ is a collective community act when the rice made out of the paddy gathered from the new crop is taken in procession to the temple and collected in a huge bowl. The biggest event is the ceremony held at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura when farmers in the Raja Rata take a portion of the rice to be offered to the sacred Bo tree. Before the rice is consumed, a dish of ‘kiri bath’ (milk rice) would be prepared in each household and a portion offered as ‘Buddha pooja’ — generally offered at the home ‘budu ge’ — and the balance is taken to the temple to be offered as ‘dane’ to the monks.
Nikan Ava: Polite, Resignation in a Sri Lankan Village
E.M.G. Edirisinghe wrote: Nikan Ava is a commonly used Sinhala phrase found rooted in our society, more particularly in the village. Etymologically, it means Na-Kamma — Ni-kam — Nikan = no work or without work. So "Nikan ava" means Na-Kamma — Ni-kam — Nikan = no work or without work. So "Nikan ava" means "came for no reason" or "came for no purpose", and more cogently " came as there is no other specific work". No English equivalent for this magnificent Sinhala idiom is possible to catch its meaning, mood and the cultural content. Our cultural format being basically different from that of the popular English, such a succinct expression is idiomatically difficult. It reflects the philosophy as well as the social structure of our indigenous life with a rich past. [Source: E.M.G. Edirisinghe]
"Nikan ava" is always uttered in answer to a blunt and open query like "why did you come?" or "what brought you here?" This query is never made on a highway or at another place where one doesn't feel at home. No person visits any home for no purpose or no reason. It could be either to seek a favour or in the spirit of perpetuating friendly relations. But, if questioned as to why one had come, rightly the answer would be ""Nikan ava".
Generally, the villagers are very cautious before revealing the purpose or the job for which they have come to a place. They first assess the situation at the host-home and measure up conviviality in the environment whether the one whom the visitor wants to meet is in an amiable frame of mind or there are others whom he does not want to hear about, what he will talk, request or complain of. Only on finding on overall assessment that the atmosphere is conducive to convey the purpose for which he came, he comes out with what he wants. By this time the host too is attuned to a mood to accommodate, reject or receive his request or complain.
In the meantime, as they become familiar with each other's moods and manners, the host is in the right frame of mind to assess and guess the guest's purpose of the visit. If he is unwilling or unable to accede, he immediately turn to caution an evasion. For instance, if he senses that he had come for a cash loan, his reaction would be to reveal his financial difficulties. On this communication, without hurting the feelings of the other, the transaction is complete. Getting the message in its right spirit, he leaves promising to come later with good relations between the two families continuing to remain unshaken. Then, there are other instance of someone, when asked "What are you doing?", replying "Nikan innawa" (I say doing nothing). This is entirely a different position from "Nikan ava". It means he is "without work" or "free of work".
Periods When There is No Work in a Sri Lankan Village
E.M.G. Edirisinghe wrote: “There are periods when the farmers are free of work (such as immediately after harvesting, sowing or weeding). On the other hand, sporadically employed but socially important segments like drummers, dancers, charmers etc. are also without work when they are not engaged for services. Thus all such utterances by the native villager are well-meaning and perfectly relevant to the rural background which sustains him. [Source: E.M.G. Edirisinghe]
So, it is this period of time without work that makes the villagers, everyone of them, to congregate or join hands at the temple ceremonies, weddings, funerals thovils etc. where everybody contributes their mite for the success of the event. Besides, when they are "free", they chat and laugh freely and heartily which greatly helps them to reduce the rate of crimes in the villages.
The things today, run in the opposite direction. Television, politics, alcoholism, consumerism and the war have devoured the rural culture and devalued the importance of moral content in life while leaping to materialism has caused ghastly, beastly crimes of unimaginable magnitude. "For the most mediocre native, Buddha's doctrine of cognition is a matter of course, but not so for the Westerner", so says Count Hermann Keeperling. However, it is no more so now. Viles of materialism had been supplanted upon their simple lifestyle and modest living. They are on a wild chase of various gods and deities to appeal for mundane comforts. They are in constant address to them for favours for redress on social and personal crimes. Gone are the days when they believed the gods above would protect the righteous one without any graft, craft or gift in the form of offering currency notes, trays of fruits and cheap garlands from sinful mortals.
Do our villagers rather subliminally happen to just be than doing? And, is "Nikan ava" a mere reflection of that mental disposition? The magnificent monuments standing to the glory of ancient Lanka speaks otherwise. How strong, intelligent and resourceful they were! Even when they were looking after a chena, riding a cart or harvesting a crop, instead of idling, they used to recite folk poems glorifying the virtues in life or explaining the difficulties of their job. But, they never condemned work itself.
Their simple and modest living was conditional and patterned by the middle-path expounded by the Buddha. Being unaccustomed to saving within the modern financial discipline, yet they are used to traditional forms of saving. Unlike in the West where the workers have to earn and save for the winter too, it's summer here everyday. Therefore the idea of saving here differs from that of the West.
The habit of savings among the Lankans exists in the form of investment in a large family, teaching the traditional professions of the parents, helping to bring up their grandchildren etc. In the West, most of the parents in their old-age, spend their time at homes-for-the-aged where in Sri Lanka, the tradition is that the children should look after them at home. For them, saving in the material sense is confined to saving the excess of the harvest because the fertility of soil and abundance of rain provide sufficiently to the people who till the land.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (srilanka.travel), Government of Sri Lanka (www.gov.lk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022