In Sri Lanka rice is more than a food. It is the cornerstone of a civilization: a symbol of fertility that speaks to a hidden reality. Teaching us not only to plant tend and harvest, cultivation more particularly teaches us of cyclical time , the movement of the heavens and the interconnectedness of all that exists.
To cultivate our dry lands our kings harnessed the waters of the heavens that fell on our verdant hills and through ingenious engineering irrigated the lowlands creating bountiful harvests and stupendous wealth. Three key institutions: village, temple and cultivation were the economic foundations of this wealth.
Our forefathers fostered an understanding of nature that enjoined participation in her mystery in distinct opposition to the attempted manipulation of the anti-tradition. Ours is a culture of hurtlessness: ahimsa. Ours is a culture of consensus: samatta. Ours is a culute of folklore and ritual: performance theatre for the soul.
At the advent of the colonial period, the Portuguese arrived on the shore of an ancient nation that consisted of hundreds of thousands of small tank-based villages widely distributed throughout the island. The villages were governed by devakariya, rajakariya and pangukramaya.
Devakariya incorporates worship of all that is living through ritual, song, dance and theatre. Elaborate acts of self-immolation were practiced to appease the offended god or beg a harvest or two. All that exists partakes in everything that lives: fertility. This worship is the very basis and essence of Dhammadvipa where every tree, rock or seed represents the unseen King Mahasammatta.
To this King Mahasammatta each and every villager owes the obligation of Rajakariya, service to the King through service to the village. This obligation takes precedence over any and all perceived obligations to oneself. One must first fulfill one’s obligations to the village before one may turn to attend to one’s own needs.
Our traditions tell us that the god King Mahasamatta adjudicated over a dispute about the distribution of grain for a share of it. From this was born Pangukramaya: each according to his share according to his contribution.
Deeply integrated in the Mystery we spoke with spirits and danced with angels, through pal kavi, pathal kavi, paru kavi, nelum kavi and goyam kavi. Songs, chants and mantras that celebrate and rever plant, underground mining, rowing, picking flowers for pooja, and paddy cultivation.
Hiru deviyan ge naiyo We of the Sun
Sanda deviyan ge naiyo We of the Moon
Adi ape Muttu mitho Our forefathers
Eran handdan wadde gattho Yoked both of you
Ours was a sacred science incorporating the wisdom of experience and celebrating all that the mind can imagine:
Bambarun nathi lova, Mal no pipenne A beeless world will have no flowers
Malak no lath gasa, ne pala ganne A flowerless world bears no fruit
Gassuth maluth, nathi lova koiyvanne What kind of world does barrenness bring?
Meth karuna nathi katharak wane. A desert bereft of loving-kindness.
Sacred Science requires harmony on a base note for every traditional society. Sri Lanka’s ancient puranagama civilization is no different. All agricultural activity is centered on keeping and rediscovering the tradition. Increasing bio-diversity: life engendering life is a way of cultivating to ensure soil fertility and a healthy natural environment, maintaining balance and ensuring that every participant in the dream of Lanka gives back more than it receives.
Sri Lanka’s legendary chronicles count more than 2000 varieties of rice. Rices were cultivated for a number of reasons. Sometimes the land dictated the type of rice, sometime the use. Sometimes the season. Sometimes the need.
A traditional farmer will begin by ritual hanging of a coconut on a tree as an offering to the gods in to whose care he commends his harvest. Sacred science requires a harmonious insertion into the scheme of things and so the village veda or physician would advise on the proper timing of every act. Propitious times are selected for the Wap Magula using time honoured astronomical and astrological precepts. At this commencement celebration all the farmers in the village will begin to till their land. A high land is set aside in the middle of a paddy for the kamatha (threshing floor of the harvest) and the farm buffalo is tied there at night. The buffalo naturally fertilizes the surrounding paddy.
Kurulutuda-This rice seed is shaped like a bird’s bill. This brown small grained rice has a robust flavor and is especially recommended for the control of excessive cholesterol in the body.
Kaluheenati- literally means dark and thin. It is particularly recommended for lactating mothers.
Pachcha perumal-The Maroon Prince is a divine rice of Ancient Lanka, the colour is sacred to Lord Buddha and Murugan alike. It has been used for centuries in danaya(praying to gods for rain and to protect the crop).
Madatawalu-is cultivated in mud (wet climate), the rice is brown and highly nutritious and helps to reduce excessive sugar levels in the body.