Puranagama Institutions

Thus have we heard


Six of the Puranagama (ancient village) traditions are still in existence today:

Kamatha (threshing floor)

Pela (watch hut)

Hena (bio-diversity)

Wewe (Tank or irrigation reservoir)

Dewale (Temple and Rock Monastery)

Rajakariya (Service to the king)

Kamatha - is both the threshing floor and the stage for ritual dramas enacted by villagers for the benefit of gods, relatives, yaksha-spirits and other classes of beings

They are cordially invited from their respective worlds to attend and enjoy the subtle humour and mystery surrounding the performance of age-old rituals intended to bring different lokas or worlds together into one magnificent celebration of life, fertility and creativity.

Pela - the tree-house or watch hut high above the ground where ingiya or sandha bhasa, the 'twilight language' of intention, is used to convey subtle shades of meanings. Often as risque as they are poetic, through double entendre they conjure a revealing image of forest life and the joys of existence. Human passion, love and intrigue are sung in ex tempore verse, superficially innocent and simple, to keep marauding animals away from the hena fields at night.

Hena - the practice of leaving to fallow under forest, plots of land which were cross- cropped in one year. This allowed the soil to regenerate through organic deposits from the trees. In modern times scientist have shown that bacterial and fungal counts are higher in such plots than in plots farmed over and over again. Shifting cultivation allows nature to reassert herself in all her diversity.

Wewa - the small tank culture of Lanka's dry zone was wide spread and over 20'000 such tanks exist to this day complete with their ancient canals and aqueducts. Traditions, rituals and customs treating water as common property are endemic to this culture. The pangu system of categorisation of fields and blocks under special land tenure arrangement, proportional water dividers and canal networks both at the yaya and the liyadda are some examples.

Dewale - the residence of the local divinity, was originally a rock or tree felt to be inhabited by an unseen power or presence that was, in effect, the un-crowned king or queen of the Puranagama village, dispensing justice and punishing transgressors. The unseen spirit of the locality was the impartial governor of a self-contained and complete world, an enchanted kingdom respected and appreciated best by the village elders who are the custodians of its living traditions to this day. Later, under Indian influence, divinities were installed in or invited to inhabit temples of wood and/or stone.

Rajakariya - 'Service to the King' was based not upon compulsion or economics but upon the common consensus that the momentary freedom' of the individual was subordinate to the community's collective welfare. Through rajakariya, the king and his ministers could construct monumental works for the common good-such as entire irrigation systems-and local communities could maintain the fertility and balance of whole ecosystems for the impartial benefit of all including generations to come.