Thursday, February 15, 2007


Acceptance and rejection are concepts common in the animal world. The patient performance of this act differentiates man from the rest of the animals. Acts of the nature of greetings, respects etc are seen in all human societies. There are multitudes of these traditional acts in villages. They have found roots in our heritage by inheritance. They have enabled the cohesion of everyone in a village by friendliness . Preserved to date, methods of greetings in our villages have facilitated maintenance of professions, greetings , improvement of sociability and recognition of individuals. Sounds, voices, words, gestures are acts which are entailed in greetings. When a person was met in our villages, these acts were performed. When some one was met, they were greeted with AYUBOWANDA ( Please have a long life) . He was smiled upon. However, if the person who was met deserved rejection, spitting was done with a high voice to diplay denial. With a dejected face, looking at another direction in opposite of the face of the unpleasant person was another method of displaying contempt. On the other hand if the person was pleasant and deserves greetings, the question was asked “ Where are you going in the udanekke( morning) Ginimaddahane( mid day), Hendekore ( evening). If the person deserves more respect than the self, obviously, as a mark of respect, turban or the loin cloth or the towel on the shoulder is taken off and held in the hand. Though it has been erroneously interpreted as a sign of fear, this was an act of displaying friendliness or sociability. Being scared was demonstrated by getting themselves off the roads and bowing their heads in veneration . Greetings with two palms facing each other is a common act of greetings today. However, it was performed for members of the elitists in our villages. This has been certified in verses of the MALYAHN KOLMUR

Etha epita deepankara mula sita budu bawatama devinova lakka
Metha kapata budwenda patahgen thapase niveradi sil rekka
Buth nerthayen rangamadalata gos watakara deviyo mura rekka
Natha deva mtahu buduwana swamita kavikiyanda venda behe dekka

In recitation of deva varuna ( description of quality of gods), permission was sought having played udekki( a kind of drum) whereas Kolmura reciters greeted to the flower seat by bowing their heads. In exorcising bad omens, while reciting verses, patient was greeted with wiping of the patient from head to toe by theNON BURNING end of the lighted candle( this is called pandama which is made up of several layers of clothes and the end is made wet with coconut oil) , sprig of flowers or sprig of fresh leaves. Simultaneously. The reciter greets with collected palms saying “Awada Ayubowewa”. In some cases , two virgins or adolescent males or virtuous two grand mothers sat on either side of the patient to greet the patient by wiping the body .

An invitation to any good act would be performed by handing a sheaf of betel and explaining the deed in villages. Any person who steps on to another person’s house was greeted by the house owner having stepped out his house and gone forward to meet the visitor. Spreading the mat on the veranda displayed his willingness to accept the visitor. On his exit, accompanying him to the gate was another means of greeting. If the visitor is unacceptable, it is conveyed by having taken the mat which was spread on the veranda or leaned against the wall to the inside of the house. Another way of greeting those who come to a house is by giving them a jug of water or casket of betel and other ingredients for chewing.

Kids have been trained to get up when an elder steps into the house. When a pleasant person comes, as gesture of his acceptance, mats are cleaned by shaking however much they are in clean states, wiping dusts off chairs and benches by a clean piece of cloth in a way visible to the visitor. Covering seating by a white piece of linen is called PIRUWATA DEMIMA . Prelates are made to travel upon white sheets of linen. In alms giving, they are enabled to walk on white spreads from the gate to the door and then their feet are washed and water is wiped off. Prelates are seated on an elevated seat. The same procedure had been adopted for VIPs in a village. Having those who deserved veneration seated on elevated seating while those who venerate remaining in lower levels was yet another way of greeting by our people. When elders talk not disturbing them, being disciplined while going in between them were courteous manners. Seeking permission when comes to a place or leaving the place is explained by this verse of paddy harvesting.

Ehenam vigahata godata yamalla ( Then quickly get off the field)
Ethi hetiyata mada soda ganila ( Get mud cleaned as things are available)
Inata andina salu pili enda palla ( Get dressed with dresses for waist – refers to sarong-lungi)
Awasara genumen pitawa yamalla ( Having sought permission get off the field)

There were manners related to having head gears and footwear. While entering a place of veneration, headgears and foot wears are removed. When making an invitation, it was done with both hands with head being covered by a towel. .Sheaf of betel is accepted in the same manner as well.

In our villages there were several ways of veneration. In the upright position veneration of the lord Buddha and gods with palms facing each other and having them placed on the forehead was called DOHOTH MUDUN DI WEDIMA. Veneration in lying position with forehead, hands, elbows, knees, ventral surface of the feet contacting the earth is called Danda Namaskar. Veneration of parents and elders is done by touching the head on the feet of the elders. Some paint oil on the feet of elder .When children excel , their hands are massaged with cooked hot kevum( a kind of oil cake) . Feet of parents are also massaged. In front of prelates ,sheets of linen are spread before worshiping. Some do kiss feet at this moment.

In a funeral, casket containing the corpse is entered into the makeshift crematorium and people travel around the crematorium thrice towards the south.. Sometimes this is done with the coffin with the body being carried out by the pall bearers. This is yet another way of venerating the expired person.

When a visitor makes a visit, immediately he is offered water, allowed to sit down and asked about how he is doing before inquiring the reason why he made the visit. There are reciprocal gestures to greetings. When some on greets, head of the person who greets is touched and told “May the Buddha’s or god’s grace upon you my son/daughter and the parents blessings “ When some one who from an other village stayed overnight returns , he is offered foodstuffs , fruits or vegetables at home. This is a gesture to consolidate the friendliness.

In traditional games acquired from generations to generations like angam fights, manners were strictly adhered to. Placing hands upon the shoulders, touching the chest with chest , showing points were some of those gestures. Bowing head, raising hands, exercises with legs were also greeting methods. In stage shows , worshiping earth, performances with hands and legs also are means of greetings.

Lighting lamps also is an act of veneration( greeting) .In both auspicious and inauspicious , this would be performed by villagers. Having selected the location, moment and time, this act was performed. Fur and eight angle worshiping, worshiping after remembering parents and teachers when drugs are ingested had also been among ways and means of greetings/venerations which have been preserved in our villages. It is the belief of the author that the adoption of these greeting methods which were used for a better society then helps betterment of the society today.

This article was written by A P B Illangasinghe of Maminiyawa of Sri Lanka to Meewitha supplement of the Divaina Newspaper on 04.02.2007.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


The earliest memories of New Zealand goes back to my very early days and it was synonymous with multitude of brands of milk imported from NZ .Stretched up to the horizon, stunningly beautiful, green pastoral lands with grazing cows depicted on these television advertisements were the images that were created whenever the name “ New Zealand “ was uttered to me in my early years.
The bond with NZ was further strengthened by watching touring Black Caps with legendary names like HADLEES. My next stage of introduction to NZ was via my college which had a very rich and strong rugby and cricket tradition from British colonial era . We were demonstrated videos of ALL BLACKS matches just before the college’s annual Rugby encounter against Trinity College. Then the weird tribal dance ( HAKA) performed by ABs was a unique Kiwi cultural marker that was attractive and prompted us as kids to watch and play rugby matches, sometimes foolishly imitating HAKA. But, never in my life did I dream at that stage that I would be able to join the prestigious Otago University as an academic.
It all started, just after my doctoral thesis, when I wanted to complete an overseas appointment to fulfil a requirement of the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine in Colombo before being board certified as a medical specialist in Public Health. It may seem bizarre that a medical person was attached to the pharmacy school. The simple explanation is that my research interests were in PHARMACOEPIDEMIOLOGY and I simply wanted to bridge these two disciplines Thus, I ended up being attached to the Department of preventive and social medicine while working with Dr Pauline Norris as my overseas supervisor.
Dunedin was also not a new place for me; physically I had not visited the place before though. As a cricket and rugby fanatic, Carisbrook Oval in Dunedin was synonymous with Lords or Twickenham for that matter. So, subconsciously, I was elated that I was going to a place which was known to me in some ways than any other location. Later, it was proved to be the correct decision as my stay in the Pharmacy School and overall in the UNI was thoroughly enjoyable. It was so potent that I am sure with the passage of time, those nostalgic memories will keep me down to a certain extent.
The first semester flew really quickly as I was immersed in a dual load of work from both schools. Visiting the University pharmacy with Petty Napier to familiarise with Good Pharmacy Practice in NZ was pretty useful for me as it was one of those areas that I researched in SL. In hind sight , it was a pleasurable experience in comparison to what I encountered in pharmacy inspections for my doctoral thesis. Petty was jovial. So were the other staff. There were more inquiries on my native land than my inquiries about Pharmacy Practice in NZ. However, Petty took me through the legislation and procedures in a nutshell which enabled me to grasp late bombardments of information that I was exposed to when I started my appointment with MEDSAFE on drug regulatory activities.
Simultaneously, I stepped on to a controversial domain i.e DTCA in NZ with Dr Norris as a part of my research. We researched in to medicines advertising in NZTV and their health related claims and compliance with NZ regulations. Our findings will soon be published. But , quite interestingly, as a result of prolonged, exposure to TV in the analysis of data , I started watching countless numbers of soaps, reality shows like NZ and American Idol which, back home, I would have found hard to entail in my favourite list due to lack of time. Definitely, it seems like an occupational hazard for an academic who hardly finds any time even for high quality programmes of information, entertainment and education under normal circumstances. However, It was really interesting and richly rewarding working with people like Vickey, Stuart, Pauline etc in the Pharmacy Practice Research group .
During my stay, I was able to be a part of the New Zealand Pharmacovigillance centre .The experience that I gathered will be enormously useful for my routine work as the monitoring of Adverse Effects of drugs and vaccines is currently being carried out by the Unit I am attached to in Sri Lanka. Additionally, I worked with Denise Martins, the Southern Medicines Control officer of the MEDSAFE. It is with a deep sense of elation that I mention that these professionals went out of their way to accommodate all my requests related to their respective disciplines
In hindsight, I was really privileged to be a staff member of both the Medical School and Pharmacy School. It gives me a kind of satisfactory feeling that I was able to bridge two different academia and disciplines. The wealth of knowledge that I gathered was enormous. More than the benefits, I would be glad to contemplate on relationships and rapport I built with countless numbers of academics and non academics of diverse backgrounds in both schools. It is worth remembering the excellent time that I had with all those wonderful people. Those wonderful memorable, colourful and enjoyable brief stay that I had with all those wonderful people will linger eternally in my mind. Dunedin and Otago university is more like a second home to me now. Just before concluding this account ,let me remind that Dr Norris instructed me not to miss one other thing which I pen here lest I should forget.
Dunedin offered me the opportunity to meet the Sri Lankan test cricketers when they were down here in the summer. The rapport went to such an extent that these demi god like figures hardly contactable in SL, accepted our invitation for a dinner. It was also a novel experience in terms of behaving with superstars like Murali and Sanath. In Dunedin, I met one of my all time sports heroes, Jeff Wilson the Black caps and terrific ALL BLACKS winger. It was memorable too as Jeff was also from the South and one of the graduates of Otago University.
All these wonderful experiences sum up one thing: My stay in Dunedin and more precisely, at the Pharmacy school could not have been more terrific than this. I take all these wonderful memories with me and let me conclude this with a quotation from the Lord Buddha in Pali ;
Piyehi Vippa Yogo Dukko
Which literally means “separation from the loved ones is always a cause for sorrow”.
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