Gaveshaka begins the tour of Museum galleries
Beginnings of an agrarian economy thrives
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).

Several 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.

Since 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.

In 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.

'Senapati' - 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.

Agriculture 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.

The 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.

Paddy 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.

In 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.

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