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 Post subject: Rajakariya
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 3:14 pm 
Rajakariya

@ LL/24Sep2006

Compulsory service known as rajakariya was prevalent in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ever since the monarchy was established in the Anuradhapura period. It was a service done free for the king. In other words the king forced the people to work for him without payment. Each person has to work 40 days each year to this principle.

Rajakariya was used in the construction of the huge irrigation tanks. Certain services were based on caste. By the time of the Kandyan era, the people were very unhappy with this system. The building of the Kandy lake and the pattirippuwa (octagonal tower) around 1806 A.D, were done using forced labour. They added greatly to the beauty of the Kandy town. But the people felt they were done at the cost of much suffering to them and increased the unpopularity of the king.

Temple lands were exempted from this service. By the 17th and 18th centuries, rajakariya was used for public works such as the construction of roads, bridges and tanks. During the British administration, they too used the system to their advantage.

They made it more efficient and more profitable. However, certain officials viewed it as obnoxious to British principles of justice. Ultimately rajakariya was abolished on September 28, 1932 during Governor Sir Robert Wilmot Horton's time.


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 Post Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 9:25 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 9:24 pm
Posts: 2
The word 'rajakariya' is one which is not properly translated into English and is misused as well. It is in fact difficult to give a correct translation to this word because it does not exist! On a similar account, the word 'wewa' can't be translated into English.. .. Tank or reservoir are the nearest words coined around with many limitations in the context of the traditional meaning of the word 'wewa'.

Yes.. rajakariya may sound like 'forced' labour for some but it is not! This depends on how one interprets this word according to their own understanding, situation and aims. People in the past did all wewa maintenance work including katti kepeem (tank desiltation) and repair of breaches using rajakariya. The clear example of the impact of abolition of rajakariya is in the state of affairs of village wewa as in now! Do we continue to find different meanings (such as forced, or compulsory etc.) and interpretations for a good and benefical practice that had lived centuries without proposing a solution?

Other issue is that British abolished rajakariya because they couldn't understand why it was used and its relevance according to the background of these people. One should have actually investigated into this matter thoroughly in the context of indigenous wewa before a decision is made to abolish. It is catastrophic to have done away with rajakariya without a thorough understanding of its role in the context of village wewa. This is precisely what the British have done!! They quickly abolished without proposing a sustainable solution! I put the blame not very much on British for they couldn't understand the actual meaning but many of our own countrymen who have not found a solution for the problem of village wewa maintenance and undertaking repairs even at present.

Coming back to the issue that people didn't like rajakariya the way Rohan puts it, I'd like to comment as follows: When rajakariya was officially abolished, people in different parts of the country continued to practice it because they (people) felt that rajakariya is the life blood for their livelihood! The fact that continuation of a practice the British government has abolished is considered a serious 'offence'. Yet people practised makes us understand the vital importance of rajakariya for the livelihood of local people as they felt it! One needs to interpret the role and meaning of a pure indigenous practice in its own local context. Sad to say that we have yet not done this 58 years after the independence! Guaranteed we would never do this!!

Last, let me mention another practice of vital importance to proper functioning of village wewa system which has been done away without proposing an effective local solution. This is the abolition of the Gansabhawa. We have yet not proposed an alternative and effective solution for this institution. The result is clear from the utter sad state of affairs of village wewa!!

For reader information, I've to do my doctoral research physically lived with small wewa system for five years! That is how I understood the functioning and livelihood focus of our indigenous wewa system. There may be several other issues that I still do not understand! Sorry to say some of the present day villagers do not understand the wewa, the different components and its role as there has been serious lapses in knowledge transfer with the demise of elderly people and the destruction of the socialization process!!


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