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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2588

Under the shadow of Lakegala

By Sudath Gunasekara

Prologue

‘Ananda, Even the wind that blows from Kapilawattu brings me pleasure’ (Gautama The Buddha 6th century BC.)

‘Janani Janma Bhūmischa- Swargādapi gariiyashi’
(The Mother and the place of your birth are even more precious
than the heaven) An ancient saying.

‘God gave all earth to all men to live
But since mans heart is small
Ordained for each, one spot shall prove
Beloved over all
Each to his choice and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground, in a fair ground
Yea, Sussex by the sea.
Rudyard Kipling (1885-1936)

So rejoiced the great men. It was not only a mundane poet, a product of the Victorian romanticism in mediaeval England but even the All Enlightened One, Gautama the Buddha, who had attained Buddha-hood after discarding all worldly things as mean, vulgar, base and mundane also made such endearing reference to the nostalgic fragrance that comes from the place of his birth. It is partly this nostalgia and partly the eternal attachment and the bondage, which has been common to all human beings down the ages, both mundane and supra-mundane and partly my love towards my own native village that nursed me in its warm bosom for ten long years in my childhood that prompted me to pen these few lines on Meemure, the place of my ‘birth’ and the spot that is closest and dearest to my heart on this earth.

It is said that even on the day of the Great Renunciation Prince Siddharta turned back and had a last look at Kapilavattu as he watched the city gradually disappearing behind him and made the above comment to Ananda. Such are the dimensions and the depth of human bondage attached to ones place of birth. As for me, my attachment and love to my native village and its totality including its mountains commanded by breathtaking Lake gala, the queen among them, forests and glades, streams and paddy fields transcends even death.

The other reason, which inspired me in this mission, is the sociological and ethnographic value one might uncover through these pages in the days to come. As a person brought up in this environment, I thought it my duty to the environment and its people to have them recorded for the serene joy and benefit of posterity, lest they are permanently buried under the sand of time. Meemure is the village where all my childhood dreams have found their genesis. Next to my mother and my father it was these surroundings, which nursed me in my younger days and molded my future dreams.

I scribe below some of the thoughts that came to my tender mind as a small boy in my child hood days as I was playing around in our home courtyard. These thoughts may perhaps have shaped my imagination and have had a tremendous impact too on my future destiny.

Ere I was three years and nothing more old
I longed for wings to fly over the roof of our house like a bird
When I was five and one year old
I wanted to fly like an aero- plane over the clouds

My little eyes gazed at the mighty Lakegala peak,
behind my ancestral house
Day in and day out, I thought of mountain peaks
When others were walking down the village stream
In search of its origin, I wanted to trail upstream

Beyond the horizons seen from our compound
I always imagined a new world, much wider and abound
Why these villagers walk up and down the village hills
When the town folk easily move about on wheels

Behind these vague thoughts that baffled my little mind
The spirit of my mother and father, always stood alight
Until at last, I was propelled out of that world blind
In to a higher and brighter world, none would have ever thought.

The following attempt is a journey down the memory lane where I try to recapitulate some of my past memories and commit them to writing, as they existed in this village between the years 1942 and 1960. Beside my own experience, I owe a great debt to my father and few elders who are already dead and gone, to what I write here. I left this beautiful village when I was barely ten years of age. The first stop in my long and arduous sojourn that ensued was Poddalgoda- my mother’s native home where I was actually born on the 24th Tuesday of October 1938.

In these early years of my compulsory separation from home I visited the village for every school vacation. My mother’s death on the 2nd day of July 1950 and the new developments that took place at home made it less attractive for me to go home. It became an annual event after I got employed in 1962 having passed out from the University. My father’s death in 1983 August made my visits to the village even less frequent. So much so today I have become almost a stranger among my own people. What a sad experience one can encounter within his lifetime. The nature of my employment that led to my forced detachment from my ancestral home and the involvement with my own family were the reasons that kept me out of the warmth of my village, which, so dearly nursed me for the first ten years in my life and laid the foundation for my longevity and good health. All villages that send out their sons in search of new horizons, I think, possibly would end up with the same fate.

Although my perishable body is detached from this environment, my memory still lingers along the narrow footpaths that wind across the paddy fields crisscrossing the village stream, Dimbigolle Oya, although it is only a trickling rivulet for most part of the year, that gives life to the people and the environment in this village. The village paddy fields where we used to play all our games in our younger days still beckon us to indulge in such games. A game of Chakgudu or Lunupaniima or the village swing that hangs from a branch of a Mee tree in the middle of the paddy field where both young boys and girls play in the month of Vesak, I can still remember. The village stream and the family spout located at the corner of our paddy field that purified my little and naked body and soothed my heart still bring me sweet memories. The past memories of the cooing of Alukobeiyyas (Ash doves), evening humming of bees, a distant andahera or a pelkavi that were symbolic of the rural setting, the brisk walking of farmers and house wives who begin their morning work, still linger in my mind. My routine morning walk from home to the village school along the footpath ascending and descending now and then and winding through the paddy fields and Medagammedda where the foot path is buttressed by the unique stone walls with other memorable land marks like the Bo-maluwa, Gal-edanda and the Meegahamula handiya and the a common spectacle of older folk and children alike, basking in the morning sun or by the side of a bon fire in the early morning hours of January and February are still indelibly engraved in my mind.

A desperate yelling of a barking deer frightened by a charging leopard on the prowl or a cry of a pack of hungry jackals in the evening, the frightening howl of a lonely jackal, or an ominous screaming of an Ulama (a devil bird) in the night (all of which were considered by the villagers as evil omen of death and destruction) or a sound of a diya holmana or diyadongaraya (water ghost) as they call it in this village, that breaks the deep stillness of the midnight, awe inspiring mew of a hungry leopard on the distant hills in the night, the ear piercing but the clarion morning calling of a jungle fowl, the silvery waterfalls that decorates the steep hills around the village in the month of Ill , the lush green paddy fields stretching on either sides of the winding village stream, the seen of a hēna in the month of Navam adoring the highlands above the gangoda, the temple bell that tolls three times a day, hush whisperings of the Bo leaves of the village Bo tree, the aromatic fragrance of the Āra mal (Mee flowers) in the month of Vesak, the sweet smell and the aroma of village fruits like Wela, Waraka, Pera, Himbutu, Mora and Dan, the delicious food my mother cooked like kekulu bath and polosmelluma tempered in Mii tel with Aba (mustard) and of cause always blended with maternal love and above all the haunting colossal profile of Lakegala, rising behind our ancestral home, the megalith that must have been there for billions of years unchanged in that position, takes me back to those wonderful days of my childhood days that makes me enormously nostalgic. I want my readers to open their eyes to the beauty; the grandeur and the glory around this nature's wonder that is Meemure in this bacdrop
I must confess that some of the customs and manners described in this book are not found in the same form today. But I seek consolation in the fact that the essence and the spirit of that uncorrupted native traditions are still alive in this village.

I have no doubt that information such as given in this memoir will inspire many a men and women to go back to their rich heritage before it is too late to do so. Such accounts will provide a source of valuable information for the social scientist and also will become a source of inspiration for posterity. Although I do not claim this account to fall in to any particular category of social science or scholastic achievement, I do hope this will remain a valuable description of a medieval Kandyan village with its unique medieval Sinhala way of life, which social scientists call culture that was preserved and continued in to the twenty first century. It might also take you on a fascinating journey of self-discovering, back to your own past memories as most of you have come from similar village backgrounds.

- Asian Tribune -

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