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 Post subject: Traditions of Sri Lanka - by C. G. Uragoda — 319 pages
 Post Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 9:45 pm 
Traditions of Sri Lanka - a selection with a scientific background

by C. G. Uragoda — 319 pages

Several Sri Lankan traditions scientifically validated

Dr. C. G. Uragoda has become the most prolific writer in the medical profession in recent times. He is a busy Consultant Chest Physician, a medical professional with varied interests such as medical editing, medical history, research, active participation in numerous professional bodies and wildlife. Yet he has found the time to author three well researched books in little over a decade. The first two books namely "History of Medicine in Sri Lanka" and "Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka" were very well received and widely commended. His latest work "Traditions of Sri Lanka - a selection with a scientific background" is focused on several and varied topics, but is deceptively simple and truly enjoyable to read. This is because Uragoda has a gift for excellent writing. His choice of phrase and vocabulary makes it so, so pleasant to read what he writes. He matches extraordinary content with flawless and simple writing. What adds to its laudability is that, this is a doctor writing a non medical book. Of the 25 chapters, the only one with a medical backdrop is "Snippets of medical interest". The others cover a wide range of traditions which are elucidated on a scientific basis. The varied compass of the chapter headings is revealing of the breadth of coverage by the author. The chapters include, time and tide; where elephants go to die; iron and steel; tannins; and butterflies, Adam’s Peak and all female broods.

Dr. Uragoda makes several interesting scientific deductions for certain Sri Lankan traditions and traditional beliefs. To spotlight a few he explains:

• why balaya fish (skipjack) is considered a "heaty" food. This is because skipjack contains the highest amount of histamine recorded for any food in the world. This finding is interestingly the result of the research of the author and Prof. S. R. Kottegoda.

• how decorating Hindu temples and homes with entire plantain or banana trees during festivals has some significance. The plants act as air-purifiers with the living leaves taking in some of the carbon dioxide that is generated by the crowds that gather and then giving out oxygen - not unlike indoor plants. Plantain leaves in the entire uprooted plant are viable for several days and are large in size, making them appropiate for this purpose

• that branding of cattle was done since early times in a painful and cruel manner using a red-hot iron. However, in the 19th Century in the Badulla district, more humane branding came into vogue with the use of the juice of a plant. This plant has now been shown to cause an irritant dermatitis, which results in a permanent scar.

• why Bishop Heber wrote the immortal lines "What though the spicy breezes blow shoft over Ceylon’s isle."

It was a practice for crafty sailors when they were approaching Sri Lanka, to sprinkle the railings of their ships with concentrated cinnamon oil and this gave rise to the "spicy breezes"

Uragoda has justifiably earned the reputation of carefully studying the data and then only presenting his authoritative view and interpretation.

This is a well-produced book, cloth bound, with a hard cover, an easy to read style and in large print. There are also a wide ranging bibliography and an extensive index.

Overall, "Traditions of Sri Lanka" is a highly commendable production. It will provide informative and enjoyable reading for any Sri Lankan and any person with an interest in Sri Lanka. It is an invaluable addition to any library.

Dr. Dennis J. Aloysius

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 Post Posted: Sat May 07, 2005 2:11 pm 
It would be nice if publisher details are also included in reviews.

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