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 Post subject: Navandanna craftspeople of Nattarampotha
 Post Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:44 am 
Navandanna craftspeople of Nattarampotha

@ Weekend Standard
Saturday February 18, 2006
Written By: Karel Roberts Ratnaweera


In the crafts villages of Kandy, women work together with the men. When I visited the crafts village of Nattarampotha in Kandy a few years ago, everyone was happy. They had well-ordered houses from which emanated delicious cooking smells---it was nearing lunchtime---and all seemed well with the world. Tourists had come and bought several works of art and one supposes life couldn't have been better.

It is the women who mainly design the jewellery so exquisitely turned out by the men as they have been doing for many centuries.

There is a story that a woman came forward to offer her services to make the regalia of the new king when Mahalu Parakramabahu passed away. There was no one around to make the royal accoutrements so the woman and her five-year-old son offered to undertake the daunting task.

The British historian H.W. Codrington, in a paper presented to the Royal Asiatic Society in the last century, speaks of this woman who undertook a most important mission.

The visit to Nattarampotha was very special. You walked through the houses of these Navandanna craftspeople-on their invitation, of course---and that afforded you more than a glimpse of how they work together to produce what they have been producing for centuries-work that has survived the ravages of time and weather -work that constitutes the glorious culture of Sri Lanka's past, and indeed present, for these people are still continuing their traditional work begun thousands of years ago.

They are really royal people, one might say. In fact, Dutugemunu married a woman from the hills of Kotmale whose name was Ran Etana; only the women of the Navandanno caste are referred to as Etana by their 'inferiors,' so the chronicles say.

Their houses at the particular village we visited, Nattaranpotha, were full of their work, and they worked while we walked through admiring the already finished products. There were tourists who had come to buy, but the precious work was beyond our purses. The interior of the houses were mirrors of gold and silver, bronze and copper-works of art to be appreciated by the connoisseur as well as to be bought to adorn modern hotels and shops.

H.W. Codrington goes on in his erudite paper that painters, gold and silversmiths, workers in ivory, bronze and copper worked for the king exclusively and were divided into hereditary classes according to rank.

Codrington mentions that the community was divided into clans and these clans are still to be found in the country today, specialising in their particular trades as they used to do thousands of years ago. Codrington states that the woman of the caste are called Nachchire or Nachille.

There is also a story that a certain women goldsmith engraved the big toenail of the monarch while he slept, not disturbing him for a moment. She embellished the nail with jewels.

For making the monarch's regalia, mother and son were suitably honoured, the son bring granted an impressive title, he and his descendants going on to make the regalia for the Polonnaruwa kings.


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