Plus - Letters to the editor

Women have come to the fore – at last

There was a time when the state clerical services, the civil service, banking services, the mercantile service, and the police and armed services were exclusively for males. Either the females did not wish to join such services, or the authorities did not favour female recruitment.

In those days, most Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Malay parents did not send their daughters out to work but rather groomed them to be good and efficient housewives. Some parents allowed their daughters to serve as teachers, nurses, and telephone operators.

With a change in social attitudes and changes in family income needs, women are increasingly entering the universities and qualifying as doctors, engineers, accountants and lawyers, and joining other professions.

Parents have changed their perceptions regarding their daughters and their future. The young women also want an independent life and a personal income, and not to be a burden on their parents.

Amor Patriae [Patriotism]

Kandy Lake round needs a total overhaul

The Kandy authorities responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the Kandy Lake Round should realize that there is an urgent need to carry out repairs and install proper lighting to make the road safe and pleasant for locals and the ever-increasing number of tourists coming to Kandy.

At present, it is not pleasant, safe or healthy to walk round the lake, especially after nightfall. The pavement slabs are uneven and dangerous to walk on. The lake round is inadequately illuminated, and some areas are in total darkness. There have been instances of necklace-grabbing and other criminal activities at night. Many women avoid the lake round after dusk.

Those visiting Kandy want to pay homage to the Maligawa and take a walk round the lake, at least halfway, to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the cool breezes blowing off the lake.

Unlike the Maligawa side, the opposite side of the lake is in total darkness at night. During the day the road is congested with traffic, some belching black smoke. One wonders how such vehicles pass tests for road worthiness. There are four schools by the lake and thousands of children walk along the lake morning and afternoon. They too are exposed to the noxious gases given off by these vehicles.

Kandy Lake faces the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa), a world heritage site revered by Buddhists all over the world. Between 1810 and 1812, King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe converted a paddy field into the lake by building a dam across a brook to catch water flowing into the Mahaveli river.

The island he built in the middle of the lake and the bathing facility for the royal household still stand. We should preserve his gift to the nation so that future generations too can enjoy and admire his initiative.
The Irrigation Department is supposed to maintain the lake. Even though some work has been done to strengthen the bunds and improve the water quality, there is no regular clearing of dirt and debris and other material discarded by careless passers-by. When the water level goes down, you see layers of dead leaves deposited over a long period.

The number of fish in the lake is a test of the quality of the water. More needs to be done. Polythene bags, bottles and dead leaves should be removed periodically. The police should check vehicles that belch out dirty smoke in order to make the lake round safe and environmentally friendly.

A road-building programme is underway in Kandy, and by next year there should be a solution to the traffic problem. For years, Kandy has been one of the most congested cities in Sri Lanka. Kandy is the hill capital of Sri Lanka, and the Dalada Maligawa and the lake are important historical sites and landmarks. Soon there will an airstrip and more people will visit the city.

It is up to the authorities and all of us to make Kandy a clean, tidy and safe city – a place tourists will urge their friends and relatives back home to visit.

The time has come for a complete and comprehensive overhaul of the lake round.

J. W. Sevasiri, Kandy

It’s time we revived the ancient fraternal ties between Lanka and South India

Two very interesting features in your paper (Sunday Times PLUS, March 11, 2012) refer to visits to South India. One story was about the Samadibuddha statue sponsored by two eminent Sri Lankans, and the other was about the last King of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. The first referred to a visit to Chennai to meet the master sculptors, and the other referred to a visit to Vellore to see the tomb of Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe, the last King of Kandy.

All this brings to mind the visits I made some years ago to Vellore to visit the tomb, and the Vellore museum, which displayed a local artist’s representation of the late King and his Queen.
Having seen the original paintings at the Queen’s Hotel in Kandy and the Colombo Museum, I promised the curator of the Vellore museum to send an authentic copy of the paintings of the King and Queen. To my great dismay, I found out, after writing to the Colombo Museum, that no such paintings were available.

I was referring to an original painting by William Daniell, RA, which was at the Colombo Museum (see H. W. Codrington’s Short History of Ceylon). The painting of the Queen which graced the Queen’s Hotel in Kandy had mysteriously disappeared.

My other visit was to Kanchipuram (Kanchi), the ancient capital of the Pallava Kings, with whom Lanka had close ties. Kanchipuram is now famous for its silk sarees. It is said that the Buddha visited Kanchi and that Emperor Asoka built a stupa there to commemorate the visit.

The city of Kanchi was at this time Buddhist, as described by Hiuen Tsang. Anyone writing about Buddhism in the Tamil land should refer to two great ancient classics in the Tamil language: Silappadikaram and Manimekalai. These are Tamil language GCE O/Level texts in Sri Lanka. The first was written by a Jain ascetic, Ilango Adigal, and the other by a Buddhist poet, Sittalai Sattanar.

The great Sinhala poet Kumaradasa, author of the Janakiharana, lived in Kanchi and wrote his Maha Kavya there. Other greats who lived in Kanchi were Buddhagosa, Dinnaga Bodhidharma, Dharmapala, Vajirabodhi, and Anuruddha. All had close connections with Lanka.

The four kings of the Malabar dynasty (who succeeded the last Sinhala King, Narendra Sinha, and whose queen was from Malabar), though not born Buddhists, gave a huge boost to Buddhism, with help from Myanmar and Siam (Thailand).

Kirti Sri, the greatest of them, was a zealous Buddhist and a scholar. He was responsible for setting up the Siam Nikaya, with the assistance of the then Sangaraja Welivita Sri Saranakara. This king had the Mahavamsa chronicle continued from Parakramabahu to his own time.

It is said that Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe tried to reduce the power and privileges of the chiefs and thus reduce the burden on the people. The beautiful Kandy Lake is attributed to him. The name Malabar Street has been changed. The great Kirti Sri has been forgotten by an ungrateful population. A revival of the ancient fraternal ties between Lanka and South India is long overdue.

Interested reader Via e mail

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