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Village Life: Living in harmony with few wants
Just as folk tales taught simple lessons, the rural folk were simple people leading an uncomplicated life. They had few wants. Theirs was not a complicated life. Most of them were paddy cultivators. They needed water for the paddy fields when the plants start growing. Normally a village would have a small tank from which they got water. Otherwise they had to depend on rainwater. When the rains failed, the crops failed. If there was a tank in the village, rainwater got collected and the villagers could use it for cultivation.
Where it was difficult to find water, people would do chena cultivation. This happened particularly in the arid zone. The villager would clear a patch of jungle land by cutting down the trees and burning the branches. Grain would then be sowed and a variety of food crops grown. When the soil loses its fertility, they would move to another location and begin to clear the jungle land and begin all over again. The land is thus rotated as opposed to the rotation of crops.
A hut is built at a central spot and the head of the family spends the night in the hut scaring the wild animals away, particularly when the plants begin to bear.
Water is the most essential thing in the village. Each household has a well dug in the garden. Sometimes there would be a common well used for both bathing and taking water for drinking purpose. Usually the womenfolk bathe in the well while men prefer to take a dip in a nearby stream. The well became the meeting place for women where village gossip is discussed.
Access to the village is either by footpaths or cart tracks. Often these are through jungle where the wild animals roam in search of food. The villager is not scared of them. He considers them as part of their life and follows a policy of live and let live. Sometimes he would hunt a deer or a hare for flesh but on the whole, he leaves the animals alone. He would sense if a wild animal is blocking his path or is in the vicinity. Then he would avoid the animal by taking a different route or wait a while till the animal moved away.
The houses were built in the natural setting. They were simple homes. Following traditional practice, they were wattle and daub (warichchi saha mati) wall houses thatched with cadjan or illuk grass. Clay is used for the floor. Cow dung is generally applied as a top layer.
There would be a front door to enter the house. In front is an open verandah where there would be a bed. Visitors usually sit on the bed, which is used by the male to sleep at night. The wife and children sleep on mats inside the house.
The kitchen with an open hearth (lipa) is built separately behind the house. A reed platform (atuva) is hung over the hearth at a height of four to five feet. In addition to pots and pans, paddy and other grains and dry fish are kept on it. The well-to-do villager would build a paddy barn ('bissa') outside the house where paddy is stored after the harvesting.
As the family grew and the older children got married, each would be given a block of land to build a house. Usually it's the sons who lived close to the parents having got married and brought the wives either from the same village itself or a nearby village. The sons would continue to help the parents in tilling the land or preparing the paddy fields. Married daughters would shift to the husband's home.
In a village, one's kith and kin live in close proximity within a 'hoo handa' (the distance when someone hooting can be heard). Thus a 'gammana' would appear with common facilities being built up.
The 'vedarala' (physician) is an important personality with the villagers depending on him to cure their illnesses. It's only if he is unable to cure that the patient would be taken first to a government dispensary a few miles away or to the hospital which may be quite far away.
The 'kattadiya' (exorcist) also has a role to play just as the 'sastrakaraya' (astrologer) whose main job would be to prepare horoscopes for the newborns according to the astrological readings. He will also indicate the auspicious times for numerous activities ranging from the first meal being given to an infant to starting to build a house or preparing the land to cultivate.
Then there are the 'kammalkaraya' (blacksmith) and the 'vadurala' (carpenter). They both come in handy to get things turned out for their agricultural work and also household use. They all form an integral part of the village society. (@ Sunday Times)
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