Memories of Vadakaha Sudiya in 1955 eclipse
Partial - Solar eclipse
Anura C. Perera
Peering into the distant past perhaps one may recall nostalgic
memories of the full blown eclipse that cast its shadow on Ceylon on the
20th June 1955, almost 54 years ago. It left indelible memories in the
minds of many people who witnessed the event on that day. Sri Lanka then
was known as Ceylon before it became a Republic in 1972.
The eclipse brought about an apocalyptic scene never witnessed before
in the country. Some astrologers even predicted that a doomsday had
arrived finally. Some even feared for their lives and took refuge in
their homes while others dared to venture outside their homes with
tinted spectacles to take a glimpse at the eclipsed sun. The total
eclipse set off a flurry of activity among the natives with different
types of beliefs.
Some even resorted to several unorthodox ways of gaining mileage from
the total eclipse. Soothsayers and astrologers even predicted the
ill-effects of the eclipse. Some were even responsible for spreading
rumours for creating mischief in the country.
It was a bright morning like any other day on the day of the total
eclipse and we did not notice anything unusual about it. But the bright
sun was eventually enveloped in darkness due being shadowed by the moon.
It was a rare occurrence to many of us who were kids that time. We were
warned by our grandparents not to step outside the house as the fierce
rays of the sun would make us blind. With much trepidation we remained
indoors until that afternoon not knowing what was happening. Unlike
today we did not have talk shows on television to educate the public
about the eclipse. But the print media and Radio Ceylon at that time
gave much publicity to the eclipse.
Even at school students were warned not to view the eclipse with the
naked eye but to view it through a darkened glass to prevent damage
being caused to eyes as a precaution. Some even advocated to view the
whole process with a basin filled with water.
Nevertheless the eclipse remained for a few minutes and life came to
a standstill suddenly. As kids we were bemused by the occurrence. Even
the crows and birds that morning flew back to their nests when darkness
Many with nostalgic memories may still remember when women were
rushed to hospitals following the swallowing of "Wadakhaka," a
concoction made out of an indigenous recipe that made women vomit
furiously. The circumstances that led women to the drinking of 'Wadakaka'
was intriguing and hilarious. The perception was that dark complexioned
women who drank "Wadakaha" during the eclipse would become fairer
overnight. In fact it was a canard perpetrated by a local astrologer to
create mischief. However gullible women became victims of this ruse and
ended up at hospitals. Following the "Vadakaha" episode several
lyricists composed songs such as the famous "Buiwa Neda Vadhakaha
Sudhiya Lejje Wenda Harima kariya," that became a instant hit overnight
among the young and the old.
The renowned astrologer and the Consultant Editor of the Subasetha
Astrological newspaper Piyasena Rathuwithana remembers explicitly how
women in lorry loads were brought to the Nagoda hospital after consuming
"Wadakaha". "The women had a false notion of becoming fairer by
consuming "Wadakaha" during the eclipse of 1955. He said another partial
eclipse would occur on January 15 and be visible mainly over the
According to Astronomer Scientist Anura C. Perera of the British
Astronomy Societies, it will take several years for people to witness a
total eclipse over Sri Lanka. He said on January 15, people will be able
to witness a partial eclipse over Sri Lanka. They had witnessed a
similar eclipse that occurred on November 11, 1901, almost 109 years
The partial eclipse will have a silver ring around the sun that will
be most visible in Northern province of Jaffna. However he cautioned the
public not to view the partial eclipse with the naked eye. The sun's
powerful ultra violet rays could have a detrimental effect on the eye.
The partial eclipse can be viewed from a thoroughly darkened glass or by
using a welders mask. But at no stage should a sunglass be used to view
the partial eclipse, he cautioned the public.