begins the tour of Museum galleries
of an agrarian
One of Vijaya's ministers named Anuradha established a village along
the present Malwatu Oya (then called 'Kolom Oya') and it was this
village, which later became Anuradhapura, the city of Anuradha,
capital of the first ever Sinhalese kingdom. Historical records
indicate that the Anuradhapura kingdom existed for about 1500 years
from 4th century B.C (Before Christ) to 11th century A.D (After
Christ - A.D).
other minor kingdoms were in existence at the time, formed as a
result of migrations to different parts of the country. There were
at least four such minor kingdoms - Mahagama in the South, Gokanna
(Trincomalee) in the East, Kalyani (Kelaniya) in the West and Nagadipa
(Jaffna) in the North.
Anuradhapura maintained its supremacy as the main kingdom, the country's
main ruler gained recognition and the period covering nearly 15
centuries came to be known as the 'Anuradhapura period'. The kingdom
was called 'Raja Rata' - the King's country.
the national museum, the section displaying the activities of the
Anuradhapura period is known as the 'Anuradhapura Gallery'. It is
divided into several sections and we shall visit each section and
learn about it.
Let us first learn about the establishment of Anuradhapura as a
city. King Pandukhabhaya founded the city in the 4th century B.C
and developed it with all its grandeur. It was surrounded by walls
consisting of gate villages, water supply and sanitation programmes,
cemeteries and scavengers, parks and quarters for visitors particularly
the traders. The king was all powerful. He had a set of officials
to assist him in the administration of the kingdom. 'Upa-raja' or
'Yuva-raja' - the sub-king was the second in command. It was normally
the king's brother who was appointed to this post.
- the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces was the most important
State official. The other key officials were the 'Nagara Guttika'
(Protector of the City), 'Bhaandagaarika' - the treasurer who managed
the finances, 'Ratika' - territorial magnates and 'Adyakas' - superintendents.
Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy and the huge tanks in
and around Anuradhapura, bear testimony to the importance placed
on agriculture. The dry cultivation, popularly known as slash and
burn cultivation practiced in the early periods, changed to wet
cultivation introduced by the Indo-Aryan immigrants. Paddy was cultivated
in the wet fields and soon rice became the staple diet of the people.
The use of the iron plough ('nagula') along with other implements
made of metal like mammoties ('udalu'), scythes ('ve/poro') adzes
('de keti') and axes ('poro') began with paddy cultivation.
was soon accepted as a highly respected vocation and the 'goviya'
became a much sought-after nobleman in the village. Gradually the
organization of the society and the evolution of the political institutions
came to be based on the agricultural economy.
people soon found that the dry zone forests were not so dense as
the wet zone and the clearance of forest for cultivation was much
easier. The land was also flat for the most part.
was cultivated in two seasons. One was the cultivation of patches
of cleared jungle depending on seasonal rainfall and the other was
the regularly worked fields depending on rain as well as irrigation.
Thus was evolved the system of 'Yala' and 'Maha' cultivation prevalent
to this day. Apart from rice, other crops such as pulses supplemented
people's diet. Among other crops were sugar cane, sesame, coconuts
and fruits. Spices were grown in the highlands. Cattle breeding
also went hand in hand with paddy cultivation both for field work
and to obtain milk and curd.
field work cattle was used to plough the fields prior to sowing
the paddy and after harvest they played a vital role in threshing
the paddy. Today tractors have taken their place in the paddy field
though in at least some of the rural areas, farmers prefer to continue
with the traditional system using the cattle. A separate vocabulary
developed in the different aspects of paddy cultivation and this
included the forms of addressing the cattle too.