WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka
The social etiquette of the Kandyans
(Source: Lanka Chronicle) When a woman is confined, the females in the neighbourhood should visit the child and its mother. If the new-born baby is not handed over to the female visitors to take in their arms, it is a breach of etiquette. They would certainly be offended were the custom omitted. When the relatives living at a distance come to know of the birth of the child, they come one by one with a presentation box or basket, full of sweetmeats, plantains, &c. To them also the baby should be handed. On such occasions too it is, usual to give presents to the child by those who love it.
The expenses at childbirth, puberty ceremony, wedding celebrations, and funeral rites, are limited. At every one of these occasions the dhoby (washerman) is benefited most; but even he is prohibited from asking anything more than the fixed amount. A request for more than the amount is never granted. Though it is not usual to give wedding presents to relatives, every one invited, whether male or female, is bound to give presents to a girl at the ceremony of her coming of age. If one cannot afford to give a present, it is customary not to attend the festival.
When a kinsman is seen approaching the house, some one should go forward a step or two to welcome him, and having conducted him to the house, should offer him a seat.
If he is not closely related, it is against etiquette for the visitor to take a seat without being asked to do so. When a low-caste man comes into a house he should remain standing until he is given a mat or a kolomba (the lowest kind of stool, roughly made out of a piece of log) to sit upon. And it is also against the rules of etiquette to delay in giving him a kolomba or a mat.
When relatives meet together and sit at meals at a festival it is wrong to begin to eat, although food is served in full, without permission from the company. One should not ask for rice, or for certain curries, whilst feasting. It is the work of those who wait to watch carefully and to supply the wants, whether rice or other things.
Whilst feasting only the respected members of the company may speak, and it is unbecoming to say anything disagreeable. Water should be served round before calling for the repast. Without doing this, it is very wrong to invite the guests, saying in a homely style. " Api itin bat kamu" "Now let us eat rice," as is usual in the household on other days.
Dignified language, (like '' Adukku sappayam vemu," "Let us partake of there past.'' must be used respectfully to the assembly. It is wrong to use such colloquial terms as waren ("come"), diyan ("give"), palayan ("go"), either to a superior or to an equal in an assembly. Such terms as ayubowan ("good sir "), yahapat venta (" please draw nigh "), lebemda (" please give it"), awasara ("may I ")* are suitable. While partaking of food the individuals composing the assembly should be spoken to as respectfully as possible. Whilst in company it is uncivil to get up and walk away after meals before others. One should wait without washing, his hand, even if he has finished before others, till they also finish eating. On all important occasions the ladies should be fled first. It is also becoming to feed the pingo-bearers who have accompanied the guest beforehand in an outhouse. When they are served with water, the chief among them should be served first. Even if one should attempt to serve the wrong person, whether among gentle or common folk, by mistake, it should not be allowed by others, but the proper person should be pointed out.
Should a kinsman call at a house even on a day of no special importance, he must be welcomed by going forward as aforesaid, questioned about his "pleasures and sorrows," and meals prepared as soon as possible. It is against etiquette to ask such questions as "Are you hungry ?" "Should any thing be prepared '' " &c. After serving him with food, &c., he should be questioned concerning his visit, and when he gets ready to go away, one or every one of the inmates should follow him some distance. It is customary to go as far as the stile, if not further, in following the visitor.
Strangers should also be treated respectfully, though not to the same degree. When a worthy man comes into the house he is saluted. This is done by bringing the palms in contact in front of the face and making a bow. This is the national greeting among the Kandyans. It is the usual way of greeting, as hand-shaking is among the English. If one is saluted by another at a gathering or when alone, whether with or without the offer of betel, the salutation must be returned. If it is not so returned, it is against etiquette. When one offers forty betel leaves (two sets) to a headman or a nilame, the giver must first cut the stalks of the leaves, and then approaching, place them with f slight bow in the receiver's stretched out hand, with the stalk end towards him. Saluting should follow this. It is against custom to break these rules and hand over betel in an assembly If a present is to be given for a favour" it must also be placed on betel so given.
Soon after meals every one must be offered a quid of betel. This is done by placing the betel leaves, chopped arecanuts, chunam, catechu, niyadandu, tobacco, and spices (cloves, &c.), neatly on a kind of tray (of metal or wood. sometimes highly ornamented), which is passed round so that even one may select according to his taste. Three different trays must be got ready: the one for the ladies' chamber should either be handed to, or placed near, the chief lady of the company; the other should be placed near the chief man of the gentlemen s' party; and the third handed over to the head servant for distribution among them.
If a wedding party is coming to a house, a messenger should be sent in advance. When the party has come within a calls distance of the house, it should stop and fire a gun once or twice. This will, be answered by the inmates of the house when they are ready to receive the party. After this the party should be welcomed by those of the house coming forward, led into the house, and well attended to. The routine of entertainment has already been described.
When a death occurs in a village, the other villagers on hearing the news should go to the house and condole with that household. If one has an aversion to go to a house where there is a dead body, he should go at any rate as far as the stile, speak to the head of the house, and condole with him.
Assistance should be rendered towards the cremation, or the interment, of the corpse. If one has anything necessary for the funeral, it is customary to give it free of charge. As soon as the ceremony is over, all wash their heads (applying limes, &c., either green or boiled), bathe well, and go to their several houses; after which each neighbour brings a covered basket of rice to the mourning house and returns home.
Thus there is no need of kindling a fire in the house of mourning for a day or two. Some postpone bringing the rice until the second day, and some even to the third. After this the relatives at a distance begin to visit the mourning family day after day with baskets of rice. It is an inviolable custom to pay a visit to such a bereaved household, even if there be slight enmity. In the case of serious disease also the neighbours come and lend assistance in various ways. They go in search of physicians, fetch drugs, and so forth. Such assistance is not rendered only when there exists downright hatred.
When a low-caste man meets one of 'a high caste or approaches his house, he should make a bow and salutation in the manner already described. He who is saluted in this way should acknowledge it simultaneously, with a very slight salutation of the same kind.
When a householder has collected a number of men from the village for some work or other, he should treat them with due respect. If it is field work, the plan of the work and the method of executing it should be explained to the most respectable one of the company. Then he, addressing the others, will say: "Kinsmen, it is fitting for us to do this gentleman's work to the best of our ability. Therefore please do (such and such work)'' Sometimes he uses such expressions as this: "Do not Rave anything "undone, lest there be aught to our shame after we have finished the work and gone." In entertaining these people, by serving them with rice and betel, none of the rules of etiquette that are observed at a wedding feast should be violated. When they are about to begin to work, no one should start it, who is not fit to do so. On such occasions the juniors must watch the procedure of the elders, and follow them accordingly. It is a custom at an assembly to follow the elders in every act done. If there is an arrangement for a dance or anything of that sort to be performed before an assembly, permission to begin must first be obtained from the head person in the company. If the teacher of the performer happens to be present, the pupil should hand over his udekkiya (a small hand drum shaped like an hour glass), or any other instrument of music on which he plays, to his tutor, salute him, and get permission from him also. The dance then begins. It is wrong to attempt either to dance or play a tune without this preliminary ceremony.
Soon after the harvest is over, alms should first be consecrated to Buddhist priests with the rice prepared from the new paddy. Next, new rice should be prepared, with special curries, for feeding parents, either by inviting them to one's own house or by taking the food to them. The day on which the new rice is cooked is also observed as an occasion of festivity on a smaller scale.
Nearly all visit their relatives with " pingo loads" when the Sinhalese New Year is drawing nigh. In this way when a kinsman pays a visit to a house with one or two pingo loads, he should be welcomed with affection in the aforesaid manner, and entertained with food and drink according to the means of the person visited. It is against custom to return the baskets empty in which confectionery was brought.
When they are returned, either rice and curry, or other sweetmeats and kiri-bat (rice boiled with milk of the coconut) must be put into them. Sometimes, if there is no way of getting them so replenished, the baskets are not returned when asked for, but are kept back with the words " We will send them later." This means " A return visit will be paid in a few days with baskets felled with confectionery." If this is not done it is below the standard of due etiquette. If a son, or a daughter, or a son-in-law, or a younger brother, or some such one. visits his elders with a child and with a pingo load, it is customary to give presents to the child. These presents sometimes consist of money and sometimes of clothing and ornaments. (@Lanka Chronicle)
WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka