From old to the young: Getting to know the country

Book Facts: "Yanna Rata Wate, Enna Ma Piye" - The Charm of Sri Lanka by Carmen Sinnethamby (translated into English by Buddhika Kurukularatne. Reviewed by Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa

Carmen Sinnethamby's book, "Let's go somewhere" has been rendered into Sinhala in a simple and readable style by Buddhika Kurukularatne, advocate and titled "Yanna Rata Wate, Enna Ma Piye". The very endearing and enticing title itself suggests the intention of the translator and also hints at the readership targeted by him-that is, the youthful readers of this country.

The original work in English is by an experienced teacher, and both she and the translator have no doubt understood the pulse of the intended readership and have succeeded in accomplishing a worthy mission. Today's literacy field recognizes a category of literature for the youth and even awards are offered at State Literary Festivals for such works. But what actually happens under that broad category is merely identifying a work of fiction, belonging to that class. The inclusion of poetical and academic works evidently has been lost sight of by the authorities. In such a background it is indeed gratifying to find works of this sort appearing in print.

The original book in English was meant to introduce interesting and picturesque places in Sri Lanka to two young children, a girl and a boy. This exploratory introduction surveys a wide and varied panorama of geographical and historical interest and also records the recollections in the field of folklore, popular belief and tradition. What has actually happened is that an erudite elder with wide and profound knowledge and rich in experience is imparting part of his vast knowledge to these children.

The exploration starts from Kataragama in south Sri Lanka, and passes on to important places of historical interest such as Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Mannar, Yapahuwa, Sigiriya and so on, to survey some significant places in Central Sri Lanka before moving on to the coastal belt in the north and the east, as well as Jaffna and also the hill country and Adam's Peak before returning to the familiar sights of Colombo.

Now let us observe how this pleasing picture of Sri Lanka has been woven into a charming fabric and presented to the Sinhala reader. Chapter One starts with a description of the two children enjoying a bath in the Menik ganga in the company of their parents. At this point the father recollects how he in his young days traversed the entire distance of twelve miles from Tissa to Kataragama and at the same time he outlines to the children the history of Kataragama and its mythological background.

This description in some instances depicts the situation that prevailed about 30 years ago. For example at that time, the shopping complex was sited in the square opposite the devale, whereas now all that has been shifted across the Menik ganga. With reference to such changes the translator has provided explanatory notes as well. The importance of this book is that sometimes it describes some of the lesser known places in Sri Lanka, for instance what is referred to as 'Kuveni's tomb' in the chapter on Wilpattu.

Whether this is actually Kuveni's tomb or whether it shows the ruins of an ancient monastery, however, is a disputed question. The book contains a description of what remains of an ancient port located between Palangaturai and Kollankanatta, and other places of interest connected with the story of Saliya and Asokamala such as Virandaya and Galbendiniyara known in folklore.

The above are only a few instances which point to the importance of Kurukularatne's contribution as depicted in this book. The writer indeed deserves our praise for bringing to light all this lesser known information about our own country. (The book, priced at Rs. 300 is available with the translator. Contact No. 0777 789858).

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