16th January 2000
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Unfolding scenes of a lost era

" After a slow and toilsome journey to an elevation of more than 6000 feet, a sight is obtained of the plain of Nuera-ellia. The first visit of Europeans to this lofty plateau was made by some English officers, who, in 1826, penetrated so far in pursuit of elephants. Struck with its freshness and beauty, they reported their discovery to the Governor, and Sir Edward Barnes, alive to its importance as a sanitary retreat for the troops, took possession of it instantly, and commenced the building of barracks, and of a bungalow for his own accommodation. He directed the formation of a road; and within two years Neura-ellia was opened (in 1829) as a convalescent station."

That's how Sir Emerson Tennent (Colonial Secretary and renowned author of 'Ceylon' - 1859) described how Nuwara Eliya was born. Once the city was built, Captain O'Brien, Assistant Surveyor General made an on the spot sketch of how Nuwara Eliya looked from the road leading to Badulla. It was among 15 sketches he did, illustrative of Tennent's work. 

These were published in a book titled 'Views in Ceylon' (1864) and a copy (in a rather decayed state) is in the National Museum.

Twelve of these rare sketches appear in this year's Sri Lanka Telecom calendar on the theme 'The Legacy of the Future'. It is a collector's item which gives a glimpse of 19th Century Ceylon, conceptualised and designed by The Design Master. Each picture (one a month) carries an abridged version of Tennent's description of each place retaining the old grammar, uncommon words, the style and flavour of his original work.

In an introductory note, SLT states that the sketches teach us a lesson on how important it is to conserve and protect the environment, which is nature itself with its bountiful concern. "For the artist with a penchant for spectacular views, Sri Lanka is a source of eternal inspiration with its rustic simplicity of village, monumental grandeur of ancient temples, Buddha statues and castles, unsurpassed beauty of flora, fauna and waterfalls, and much more." The calendar unfolds the country's magnetic beauty as seen through the eyes of an accomplished artist.

It opens with a group of palms at the entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens, 'Paradinia' which Tennent describes as "unsurpassed in beauty and grandeur and includes nearly all those indigenous to the island - the towering talipot, the palmyra, the slender areca, and the kitool, with its formidable thorny congener, the Caryota horrida, and numerous others less remarkable." 

Two scenes of Kandy are included. One shows the town of Kandy "on the banks of a miniature lake, overhung on all sides by hills, which command charming views of the city, with all its temples and monuments below. In the lake, a tiny island is covered by a picturesque building, now a powder magazine but in former times a harem of the king." 

The other is a scene of the Maligawa which houses "the dalada, the most remarkable object at Kandy, asserted to be the sacred tooth of Buddha, which for so many centuries has commanded the unreasoning homage of millions of devotees."

The calendar takes you through the hill country, the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa down to Galle.

- Ranat

Singhalese, Singalese or Sinhalese

A taste of Sinhala-2

By Prof. J.B. Disanayaka
English dictionaries published during the last two decades have two entries for the main national language spoken in Sri Lanka: Singhalese with a 'g' and Sinhalese without a 'g'. In fact, certain English dictionaries also carry 'Singalese' without the 'h'.

A recent dictionary, Longman's Dictionary of English Language and Culture, published in 1992, for example, has both entries but the main entry is under 'Sinhalese' (without the 'g') which is gaining ground even in the English press in Sri Lanka.

This entry, as a noun, is described as carrying two meanings: (1) one of the peoples of Sri Lanka; and (2) a language of Sri Lanka. It says its adjectival form is also Sinhalese. The word 'Sinhala' does not occur in this Dictionary at all.

The word 'Sinhalese', being an English word, follows the patterns of English word formation. It is formed by the addition of the English suffix - ese to the base Sinhala. This English suffix also occurs in words such as Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese.

However, in this series of articles, 'Sinhala' will refer to the language spoken and written by the Sinhalese. Sinhala has its own script evolved from the ancient Indian script known as Brahmi, which was introduced to the island in the third century before Christ.

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