A drive down a country lane in Sri Lanka is sure to take you past a delightful feature with a long history in Sri Lanka: the living fence. Not only does it serve as a boundary marker and offer security and privacy,but it also adds to the beauty of the landscape.
It can very well be said that the history of religion is the history of man. The majority of history's great monuments are religious in nature. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Sri Lanka.
Under its Sanskrit name, ‘Lanka', the Island figures prominently in the epic poem the Ramayana, written in the 5th to 4th century BCE, probably by the Indian sage Valmiki. Although the initial setting for the poem is the capital of the Kosala Kingdom in North India, the story's main concern is an invasion of Lanka by Rama, a prince of the kingdom, in search of his wife, Sita.
Sitawaka only gained prominence for a relatively short period and was raided five times. Ruled by just two kings – both of whom were quite remarkable – it was, nevertheless, a most significant kingdom
On one side of the peninsula is the Indian Ocean, while on the other side is the Puttalam Lagoon, calmer waters inhabited by tiny islets that are ideal sites for camping. Here the pattern of wind determines the changing seasons and the livelihood of many of its residents, as well as its topographical appearance.
Near to the relatively dry and hot zone and yet, transported to a different clime, so far away. And nearing Wewalwatte, as a silent drizzle starts to fall followed by a roaring downpour that suddenly halts to let a short spell of sunshine break through; and when this cycle is repeated throughout the day, you wonder whether a different set of weather gods reign over this unique spot of Amazonia found on Sri Lankan earth.
The third kingdom of Sri Lanka, established in Dambadeniya by Vijayabahu III (1232-1236 CE) in 13 CE was short lived, a little over four decades, with only two successive kings serving the kingdom while struggling to regain control of the country. What caused the shift to Dambadeniya was the arrival of Magha of Kalinga, whose scant regard for the Sangha and the Sacred Relic hastened the exodus to the safer confines of the ‘rock kingdom'.
In the fourth Century BC a Greek physician, Ctesias, first wrote about "little people" who inhabited the Island then known as Taprobane. Their identity appeared to be solved in 400AD when Bishop Palladius described the Veddahs, an aboriginal tribe, racially-mixed remnants of which exist today.
But in 1886, British civil servant Hugh Nevill reported in his journal the Taprobanian that he had gathered fragments of information concerning the Nittaewo. These challenged the Veddah theory. The Nittaewo were a race of pygmies that inhabited the almost inaccessible mountains of the Leanama region in the southeast corner of the island, and extended from Bagura to the Kataragama hills. Similar creatures were said to be found at Tamankaduwa near Polonnaruwa, as well as in the forests around Pomparippu and Tantrimalai on the northwest coast.
My gurulettuwa never fails to attract admiration. It sits at the far end of the table, a short distance from the electric mixer and other electronic household items, its red terracotta body beautifully decorated with lotus flowers and slender neck topped with a clay cover - a swan among ducklings.
In the grand timeline of colonialism in Old Ceylon, the interlopers birthed many archetypal wonders. Despite having been living as pawns of a power game instigated by commercial interest, rivalry between rulers prompted groundwork that led to ambitious developments. Phenomenal architectural expeditions took place while the mantle of power shifted from ruler to ruler. The country was recognised as the focal point in the main trade route that connected the world. The fertile soil that yielded crops screamed prosperity. Ceylon soon became the pinnacle of economic potential and for this very reason sparked a fierce battle for power. Fortresses were built in every accessible corner as a defence system to fight the anti-colonial struggles and other foreign invaders. After several decades of independence, today, the colonial legacy still lives on in many forms; from the cup of tea we are renowned for to many buildings, sites and infrastructure that we still use.
"Wewa" is an ingenious masterpiece, which was hitherto unknown to other parts of the world, except the Island of Sri Lanka. It was a unique ‘water conservation system', consisting of a diverse network of over 30,000 Wewu/Wewu (plural of Wewa), which were spread across 15,000 miles of dry land.