Thursday, February 15, 2007

NATURE OF GREETINGS EXISTED IN SINGHALA VILLAGES

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.

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