WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka
Harvesting time in the village
Harvesting of paddy becomes a major event in the village taking the form of a celebration. A good harvest is always welcomed by the villagers who will then be assured of the staple diet till the next harvest. Then it becomes a cause for celebration. The community gathers as a whole to help each other in the harvesting, which is a major operation.
In order to ensure there is enough manpower to help each other, the harvesting dates are agreed upon by the farmers in the particular ‘kumburu yaaya’ (stretch of paddy land). This enables self-help amongst the villagers. Although tractors are used for harvesting today, there are still many areas in rural Sri Lanka where the traditional methods of harvesting are used. The farmers get to the field in batches and start cutting the ripe paddy corn using the sickle.
The preparation of the ‘kamata’ - the threshing floor where the cut paddy is stored and threshed, is carefully done. The cleaning of the floor begins at an auspicious hour in the morning.
The farmer would start by worshipping the deities and praying that the harvest would be a rich one. Cow dung (‘goma’) is applied after cleaning the ground. This is known as ‘kamata ambanava’. The customs connected with the threshing floor differ in different parts of the country. In the up-country, for example, elaborate rituals are performed.
These include the planting of the trunk of a ‘puwak gaha’ - an arecanut tree in the middle with a ‘puwak mala’ at the top end. At the floor end of the pole, a hole is dug and several items, which are believed to be of magical value are deposited. In the low country, rigid customs are not followed though they too have their own rituals.
The cut paddy is brought to the ‘kamata’ in bundles. The paddy being bundled is called ‘kola bandinawa’ and is normally done by the females. These bundles are collected into a circular heap. Each heap is called the ‘kolaya’. Everybody is told to guard their tongues lest they utter words that should not be used on the threshing floor. There is a belief that using improper language would reduce the quantum of paddy. In certain parts, there is a special ‘govi bhasava’ that should be spoken.
Buffaloes are used to thresh the paddy. Several buffaloes led by a ‘muduna’ (leader) are used. Young boys join in taking the buffaloes round threshing. The process is called ‘kola medeema’ or ‘kola paegeema’. The buffaloes are addressed as ‘ambaruwo’. In some areas, particularly in the south, men do the threshing. They stand holding on to a pole horizontally laid across and use the feet to thresh the paddy.
While leading the buffaloes, the boys would keep talking to them loud to make them go round faster giving a tap on the back with the ‘kevita’ (stick). To ease the monotony, they would sing ‘kavi’ . They would also collect the ‘goma’ without allowing the dung to fall on the ground and spoil the paddy. In the ‘kamata’ language, the dung is called ‘gompas’.
Winnowing is done by a person standing on a small structure prepared for the purpose.
He climbs it and taking the paddy grains to the ‘kulla’ (winnowing fan) holds on to the wind for the paddy to be separated from the residue. After threshing, the ‘baeta’ (paddy grains) is collected and measured. This again is done with much respect.
The chief householder to whom the paddy field belongs, would worship all directions and start the proceedings. The first portion is kept aside to be given as alms to the Buddha and the deities. Another is separated for use as seed paddy in the next season. Measuring which would normally begin in the night would go on until the whole stock is over.
The ‘alut sahala mangallaya’ is a collective community act when the rice made out of the paddy gathered from the new crop is taken in procession to the temple and collected in a huge bowl.
The biggest event is the ceremony held at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura when farmers in the Raja Rata take a portion of the rice to be offered to the sacred Bo tree. Before the rice is consumed, a dish of ‘kiri bath’ (milk rice) would be prepared in each household and a portion offered as ‘buddha pooja’ - generally offered at the home ‘budu ge’ - and the balance is taken to the temple to be offered as ‘dane’ to the monks. (@Sunday Times)
WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka