Like the distanttolling of a bell, many memories came to
my mind after reading the illuminating article 'If this A4 route
could talk' (about Kanchanakudah), by Lt. Col. A. S. Amarasekera
that appeared in The Sunday Times of November 10.
took me back to the time when I worked in the Gal Oya Development
Board in the Gal Oya Project, as a village officer from 1955-70.
The first King
to rule over ancient Lanka was Vijaya (543 B. C.). Though Vijaya
married Kuveni, a daughter of a Yakka chieftain, he subsequently
deserted her and their two children - a son and a daughter.
married a princess from South India and they had children. Hence
a successor to the throne came from South India - namely Panduvasu
Deva (504 B.C.-474 B. C.) His consort - Kasyindevi / Subaddhakaani
had seven brothers. Six of them were each given a kingdom for their
governorship, named after them.
In this way,
Prince Anuradha founded Anuradhagama (Anuradhapura), Prince Rama
settled in Ramagama, Prince Rohana settled down in Rohana (present
Ruhuna Rata), Prince Uruwela founded a settlement in Uruwela (also
in existence today, supposed to be near the mouth of Malwatu Oya
(Anuradhapura) and finally Prince Dighasu sought Dighhaya currently
the Digamadulla region, nestling in the vast Gal Oya region partly
in Uva and partly in the Eastern Province.
this was the first multi-purpose irrigation-settlement project,
when the Gal Oya river was dammed. Its vast expanse of water was
named the Senanayake Samudra - as it was the brainchild of the first
Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, the late D. S. Senanayake.
had been the seat of a glorious civilisation. On the hill ranges
overlooking this green valley are found a vast complex of dagabas,
rock cave hermitages, Brahmi inscriptions and palaces.
Among the well
known ones are Govindahela (Westminster)and Rajagala, Wadinagala.
The Gal Oya Project had in the course of jungle clearing operations,
unearthed a mass of such historical and archaeological sites.
Of the hallowed
spots visited by Lord Buddha, Dighau was one of them. Here stands
the remains of this dagaba named as Dighavapi built by Prince Saddhatissa
(of 2nd Century B. C.), to commemorate the occasion of the visit
of Lord Buddha.
In my first
book, Souvenirs of a Forgotten Heritage, there is one chapter on
the historical and archaeological values of Kanchanakudah. I had
visited this archaeological site in May 1970 and there was a tank
being built there then. Its Officer in Charge - the Technical Assistant
was my good friend Sivarasa.
To quote from
"In places off the beaten track, there have been brought to
light vestiges of ancient sites replete with many archaeological
finds which were actually released from the jungle fastness after
the exploitation of the river and jungle resources in this peaceful
valley of Gal Oya.
time of the Gal Oya Board's jurisdiction over the entirety of this
region of ancient Dighamadulla, its area of authority extended towards
the Eastern coast as far as Pottuvil.
days of yore, when our ancient kings built tanks for prosperity
of the country there was a great famine in this area, so much so
that there was not even a grain of rice to prepare a bowl of kanji
So one patriotic
king had built a tank at a certain spot which came to be known as
Kanjikudi Ara (meaning the tank that gave them Kanji). In search
of this ancient site, we set out one day along the Kalmunai-Pottuvil
At the 118th
milepost or the 10th mile from Akkaraipattu, we turned inland and
deviated along a gravel road which led to Rufus Kulam.
Even to this
day, you could see the gypsy colony where dotted on the open space
stand their crude huts built on four frail poles with roofs of talipot
leaves. This well known gypsy colony of Rufus Kulam was founded
by a kind hearted Catholic Priest called Father Cook whom they still
recall with fond gratitude as their saviour.
of restoring this ancient Kanjikudi Ara devolved on the River Valleys
Development Board. At the time I visited this historic spot somewhere
in 1970, the restoration of this tank was still in its nascent stage.
The virgin jungle was yet there, choked in the imprisoned waters.
It had a picturesque and awe-inspiring scenic background.
Far, far away
loomed the gaunt profiles of the famous landmarks of the jungle
draped rock tower of Govinda Hela (Westminster Abbey Rock). The
tank was profuse with aquatic birds like Pelicans, Cormorants and
on the left flank was built at two intersections of rock boulders.
On that left flank of the bund towered a huge rock sheet in the
shape of an elephant's back, rising to a height of 150 feet.
This rock boulder
sheltered eight tiny rock caves. Some of these rock caves were naturally
scooped out ones, while the others were in the form of rock cavities.
and breadths varied from 3-5ft. and 2-3ft., respectively. On this
journey too, I was accompanied by Mr. Samel who was adept at reading
ancient inscriptions. In one of the medium-sized rock cavities,
there were some Brahmi inscriptions.
tiny cave was a tunnel-like narrow passage which tapered gradually
towards the extremity. In this cave, drip ledges were cut and in
all the other rock caves, a subterranean spring had been gushing
from crevices. Thereby gorges were created at its corners.
a few yards away from these rock caves and submerged by the tank
was a huge boulder of rock about 50 feet high, at the base of which
was another cave - the largest of all the rock cavity caves. The
breadth of this cave was 30 ft.
Below the drip
ledges were finely preserved inscriptions which Samel deciphered
easily in the ancient language itself. It was with great difficulty
that we copied the inscriptions, as the cave was partly under water
and access was impossible.
All the inscriptions
were etched out from left to right. A few yards away from this spot
stood a small ancient dagaba in ruins.
way back, we came across another curious find. From the 12th milepost,
before you come to the sylvan and lonely village of Komariya at
a place called Sangaman Kandiya, we came upon a submerged treasure
of an ancient heritage which had gone into oblivion, unknown, unheard
A rock hill
about 150 feet in height stood before us. From the base of this
rock, there were neatly and artistically carved steps which terminated
at the summit of the rock itself. At this time, I was accompanied
by some of my surveyor friends, Marasinghe, and Iqbal, who had their
camps close to this spot.
the rock with the help of these steps of old. When counting the
steps, there were 115 of them. I still remember how Iqbal climbed
the steps and outran us and was perched on its summit, waving at
us like a dwarf. On the top of this rock there was a dagaba in ruins
covered with shrub jungle. This place and several places I had seen
deplorable to say, had been desecrated by treasure hunters as the
dagaba here too was dug out.
It is a pity,
though the law is there to bring these culprits to book, little
is done to curb these nefarious activities. Unscrupulous persons
plunder such sacred sites to take treasures which are believed to
be found there.
from there the rock sloped down into an abyss of rock boulders which
sheltered an ancient rock pool. Steps hewn out on this rock slab
led to this ancient sheet of water. Here and there on the rock were
carved out square shaped depressions.
the pond on a higher elevation was a small rock cave hermitage formed
by a boulder of rock resting on another having drip ledges, but
no inscriptions were found."
Many of the
archaeological sites alluded to in the Lt. Col.'s article, like
Magulmaha Viharya, Mudhudu Maha Viharaya, Lahugala, Pottuvil, Sangamankanda
and Komariya are also mentioned in my book. The ancient Sinhala
name of Komariya, appears to be Gomariyage.
a Britisher who had passed though Komariya in 1800 had said it was
almost deserted save a sandy road, wild animals, elephants, leopards,
deer and sambhur.
I left the
Gal Oya Valley in 1970, on transfer to the Uda Walawe project. Since
then, I have not been back.
There are a
few more archaeological sites which had been LTTE camps in the past.
is Pulukunawa (on the Maha-Oya-Ampara road, off Bakki Ella, where
there had been priceless treasures unearthed in the early 1960s
under the vigilant eye of the famed Archaeological Commissioner,
the late Senerath Paranavitana. There was a restored Ashanghara,
a dagaba and tank and other archaeological artifacts which I believe
are no more.
An STF camp
is established there. Valuable archaeological sites like Kanchanakudah,
Sangamankanda and Pulukunawa should be restored once peace and amity
come back to these regions.
art of dying peacefully
the prognosis is bleak, fighting back is sometimes the worst thing
to do. Jane Feinmann on how to go gently into that good night.
we look to doctors to keep us alive for as long as possible, but
when the moment comes when no more can be done, we assume that priorities
that doctors will know instinctively when to halt painful treatments
and concentrate on comfort and pain relief. Above all, like the
heroine of a Hollywood weepie, we expect to be given an accurate
answer to the question: How long have I got, doc? Then, armed with
an accurate schedule, we'll have time to confront our mortality
- to say our final farewells, make arrangements for the kids and
decide when, if ever, it's appropriate to say, 'I'm sorry'.
But a recent
conference at King's College, London - part of 'The Art of Dying',
an innovative year-long programme involving historians, philosophers
and social scientists as well as artistes and film-makers - drew
attention to the fact that most deaths don't happen this way. The
course of the long, degenerative diseases that normally precede
death today remains hugely uncertain and there is growing concern
that the failure of both the medical profession and the public to
address this uncertainty contributes to 'bad deaths'. Doctors who
specialise in terminal illnesses are divided over the best way to
deal with the problem.
looked at demands for medicine to take steps to improve the accuracy
of prognosis. Recent research shows that the main problem is not
that doctors give up too quickly but that they are over-optimistic.
With cancer, doctors averagely predict that the terminally ill will
live more than five times longer than they do. For heart failure,
it's even worse.
Half of the
patients who die of the disease within three days had been told
that they had six months left. Even physicians working in palliative
medicine are able to predict accurately in fewer than half their
says academic Nicholas Christakis, is that the terminally ill 'seek
noxious chemotherapy rather than good palliative care, or reassure
loved ones that it is not yet time to visit, only to lapse into
a coma before having a chance to say goodbye'.
have to happen, says Christakis, who has identified the pressures
that skew doctors' judgment. 'Doctors avoid prognostication because
they don't want to deal with its unpleasant aspects or to think
about the limits of their ability to change the future.'
the risk of withholding potentially lifesaving treatment or hurting
patients by thrusting unwanted information at them, doctors develop
'ritualised optimism', the 'when in doubt, suspect recovery and
act accordingly' approach. It's an approach that involves recourse
to superstition, to the fear that destroying hope or the 'will to
live', can in turn bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy, says
recent book, Death Foretold ( University of Chicago Press), makes
the case for the profession sharpening up its act on prognosis,
improving education and clinical confidence. Above all, he says,
doctors need to 'stop viewing the death of their patients as a personal
or professional failure and in changing their thinking, they might
realise that there is much that patients can hope for even when
death is inevitable'.
experts, however, the main problem is not so much that doctors fail
to produce an accurate prognosis but that they fail to confront
the uncertainty. A study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last
month revealed that the majority of people with heart failure die
without even being told they have a terminal illness. The BMJ condemned
as 'appalling and disturbing' the fact that this large, mainly elderly
group of people suffers 'pain, confusion, anxiety and depression'
in a 'gradual decline, punctuated by episodes of acute deterioration
to sudden, usually unexpected death'. Yet it acknowledges that the
difficulty of predicting the 'illness trajectory' of heart failure
'creates uncertainty that can virtually paralyse doctors'.
pervades even cancer care, where the illness trajectory is much
easier to predict. Specialists withhold a known prognosis from two
out of three patients, research shows. And experts warn that people
with terminal cancer are too often persuaded to 'have expensive
chemotherapy because of the exciting challenge of battling the disease
even when there is little hope of success'.
says Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Professor of Palliative Medicine
at University of Wales, is that: 'There are huge risks in delivering
a bad prognosis, not least the risk that by being labelled as 'dying',
patients will be denied useful life-prolonging treatment.'
can do, she says, is acknowledge to patients that there is uncertainty.
'That opens up the possibility of an honest, sometimes heart-searching
discussion between doctor and patient about the future, about whether
they want to be resuscitated, what kind of follow-up care they want
for their children, even how they want to be dressed for their funeral.
It's an emotionally-charged subject for both sides but it can be
very rewarding and it doesn't require an accurate date of death.'
In other words,
as Nicholas Christakis puts it, 'people would benefit from having
their doctors focus on the hope of a good death'.
In this country,
the voluntary and charitable sector is making a useful contribution
to this end, not least in its insistence that people working with
the dying require training to come to terms with their own fears
around death and that they need to develop the art of listening
to, rather than managing, the dying person. Rosetta Life places
trained artistes in hospices to work with patients and explore their
'story' and find an appropriate art form to express it - whether
it is digital art, poetry, photography or, even in one case, an
opera. 'For many people facing a terminal illness, the discovery
of their creative potential offers them a chance to find a voice,
to rediscover themselves at the very moment they may feel they are
lost,' says artistic director Lucinda Jarrett.
artist husband, Akbar, who died of cancer at a London hospice last
September, started working with the charity when his energy was
at an all-time low. 'It's so easy to become institutionalised in
a hospital, to focus only on the next meal, the next blood-pressure
reading. Rosetta Life brought something quite different into our
he had peripheral neuropathy and could hardly move his hands, Akbar
started to paint with bright, vibrant colours, painting red and
the Befriending Network, places trained volunteers with the terminally
ill, helping people to face up to what is happening to them; while
The Natural Death Centre stresses the self-help approach, providing
detailed guidance on living wills, death plans and advance funeral
But such projects
are inevitably limited. Real change is needed and the profile of
terminal care must be raised.
The Art of
Dying at King's College has just that aim in mind. 'If we're going
to provide truly humane care for the dying alongside good curative
services, if we're going to offer choice to die at home if that's
what people want, we need more research, better guidelines and better
funding,' says Irene Higginson, Professor of Palliative Care at
King's College, London, one of the organisers of the event. For
that to happen, the medical profession as well as the public need
to focus on what constitutes a good life before death and how it
can be achieved.'
sambol and pompelmoose
concise guide to the Anglo-Sri Lankan lexicon by Richard Boyle -
Continuing the fruits, vegetables and culinary items associated
with Sri Lanka included in the second edition of the Oxford English
(?). "[Sinhalese.] A spicy Indonesian dish."
is deficient in not associating the term solely with Sri Lanka.
The first reference
given in the OED2 - but clearly not the earliest - is from the Housewife
(February 28, 1962): "Learn to make a pol sambol." The
only other quotation is from the Ceylon Daily Mirror (October 4,
1971): "Miss Munasinghe had consumed a meal consisting of .
. . pol sambol with maldive fish."
the Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book (1929) mentions many types of
sambol, but not pol sambol. The earliest example I have found of
the generic sambol in English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka
is by Bennett (1842:351): "Sambols, a sort of olla of chopped
cucumber, onion, bilimbi, chillies, lime juice, and pepper, as an
accompaniment to rice and curries, both at European and native tables."
pampelmouse (1696). Sinhala jambola. "[A name which arose in
the Dutch Indies in the 17th century, and is given by early writers
as the Dutch name of the fruit ... The fruit is not native to India,
but was introduced from Java to Ceylon under its Dutch name.] The
large fruit of Citrus decumana, a native of Java and Malaysia, now
established in many tropical countries, called also Shaddock."
This tree now bears the scientific name Citrus grandis. The fruit
is better known in Sri Lankan English as pommelo.
reference with relevance to Sri Lanka given in the dictionary is
by Edward Ives from A Voyage from England to India (1773:468): "Chaddock
... there are plenty of them at Ceylon and other places, and they
commonly are called pumple or pimple-noses."
earliest reference from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka,
which is not included in the dictionary, is by Percival (1803:313-4):
"The shaddock, or pumpelmose often grows to the size of a man's
head. In shape it resembles the orange, and is covered with a coat
of the same texture, although much softer and thicker. The pulp
also resembles that of the orange, only the juicy fibres are proportionately
larger." Another such reference, also not included, is by Cordiner
(1807:220): "The pumpelmose, altogether, is one of the
best and most refreshing of eastern fruits. It consists of several
species, larger and smaller, some of which are red, and others white,
in the inside. The smallest of all, which is red, is accounted the
most delicate. In the heart of one of the larger species, after
the fruit is opened, another entire pumplemose is found, of the
size of an orange, but without an outer coat, like an egg before
it acquires its hard shell. The pumplemose of the West Indies is
called by the name of shaddock, from the captain who first carried
There is a
corresponding entry in H-J2 in which it is stated that the pompelmoose
is "sold in London as the Forbidden fruit." There is also
a separate entry for shaddock.
"[Sinhalese.] The preserved pulp of the fruit of the palmyra
palm, used as food."
The OED2 notes
that the earliest reference to the word is in Simmonds' Dictionary
of Trade (1858). However, it is Tennent (1859:II.975) who
provides the first reference from English literature pertaining
to Sri Lanka: "The natives eat it, occasionally raw, more frequently
roasted; but the prevailing practice is to extract it by pressure,
and convert it into poonatoo, by drying it in squares in the sun;
after which it is preserved in the smoke of their houses, and used
in various forms, either for cakes, soup, or curry."
A later reference
is by Constance Gordon Cumming from Two Happy Years in Ceylon (1892:414):
"This root is known as kelingu and the dried fruit is punatu."
"Sri Lanka, a snack."
There are two
references, the earliest of which is taken from an advert in Housewife
(February 25, 1962): "Order your . . . Short Eats . . . Cakes
& Pastries from Grosvenor Caterers." The second is from
the issue of the Times Weekender (October 3, 1971): "She wanted
to go to a creamery and after looking at short-eats on display,
ordered a special bun."
term dates back further than 1962. The earliest reference I have
found, but certainly not the earliest, is from the Ceylon Daily
News Cookery Book (1929:336): "The term short-eats was
originally used to describe the dainty sandwiches, dry cheese or
other savoury biscuits, potato chips, and miniature sausages accompanying
the drinks at sherry or cocktail parties.
of these savoury morsels was such, however, that very soon their
scope was extended, until now the term is so widely used that it
includes every known variety of savoury appetiser, while new kinds
are constantly being introduced by inventive hostesses."