Kanchanakudah memories
By Gamini Punchihewa
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.

This article 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.

Vijaya later 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.

Come 1950, 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.

Dighamadulla 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 my book:
"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.

"At the 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.

During the 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 (rice porridge).

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 road.

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.

"The task 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 Snake Darters.

"The bund 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.

The heights 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.

"The first 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.

"Lying 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.

"On our 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 and unsung.

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.

We climbed 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.

"Finally, 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.

Lying opposite 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.

William Orr, 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.

Among them 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.

The art of dying peacefully
When the prognosis is bleak, fighting back is sometimes the worst thing to do. Jane Feinmann on how to go gently into that good night.

Of course, 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 will change.

We believe 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.

The conference 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 cases.

The result, 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'.

This doesn't 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.'

Faced with 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 Christakis.

Christakis' 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'.

For British 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'.

This uncertainty 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'.

The problem, 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.'

What doctors 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.

Sally Mijit's 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 lives.'

Even though he had peripheral neuropathy and could hardly move his hands, Akbar started to paint with bright, vibrant colours, painting red and yellow flames.

Another organisation, 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 wishes.

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.'
(Observer Magazine)

Pol sambol and pompelmoose
The concise guide to the Anglo-Sri Lankan lexicon by Richard Boyle - Part xx
Continuing the fruits, vegetables and culinary items associated with Sri Lanka included in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED2).

Pol sambol (?). "[Sinhalese.] A spicy Indonesian dish."

This definition 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."

Curiously, 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."

Pompelmoose, 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.

The earliest 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."

However, the 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[1983]: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 it thither."

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.

Punatoo (1858). "[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[1977]: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[1901]:414): "This root is known as kelingu and the dried fruit is punatu."

Short-eat (?). "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."

Clearly the 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[1964]: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.

"The popularity 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."

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