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Sunday, 25 September 2011

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Meemure, the new paradise for tourists



Lakkegala

Kamata

Ruppe

Paddy field
 


P.G. Lansa

New concrete road to Meemure

Punchi Banda


Lasantha Menike

The people of Meemure are carefree. They go about their work chaffing, chuckling and grumbling. No malice or hatred in their minds as they are a contented lot living on hard-earned rupees. Poverty has cast its spell on them.

Such is their precious lot. Surrounded by the virgin Knuckles, Meemure lies in the backwoods of Dumbara. Legend has it that prior to the advent of Vijaya, the first king in the island, Meemure had been the abode of the aborigines such as Yakkas. The South West and North East monsoons feed the luxuriant Dumbara valley generously. The satellite villages such as Kaikawela, Kumbukgolla, Dandenikumbura, Udagaldebokka, Alugallena, Vedilunuguhawa and Comet Pass encircle Meemure.

Legend has it that Ravana, the potentate abducted Sita to Totupolakanda in the Knuckles range of mountains leaving Lakay Gala as a prime land mark of his adventurous feat.

Nature has been kind, the Dumbara Valley with a salubrious climate typical for the spice cultivation. King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe and his queen while escaping the invading Britishers sought refuge in Meemure. The daub and wattle house known as Rajasinghe Walauwa where the king is said to have stayed is still fresh in the minds of the villagers. ‘Katupandure linda’, the bathing well surrounded by the thicket where Rajasinghe’s queens are believed to have bathed remains a relic of a bygone era.

Four Gravets, Uda Vannimana ruppe, Kadawata ruppe, Orthalahane ruppe and Kaluwagala Kosdande ruppe guard the entrance to Meemure.

One could access Meemure only after obtaining clearance from the village chieftain.

Jane Nona alias Lasanda Menike, the matriarch reminised: We were budding lasses then. While walking more than 15 kilometres we recited kavi to avoid drudgery and loneliness. We had our stopover at Loolwatte, prior to reaching the destination. Fear was uppermost supreme in our minds while traversing the thick jungle. Those affected with fatigue and exchaution were shoulder borne. Thavalankarayas (Caravans) carried the goods. Sadly they are no longer amongst us today. Lasanda Menike in her twilight years lives an easy-going life. Udapola Gedara Banda lives closer to the Rajasinghe Walauwa. He narrated his past in graphic detail.

Farming is the sole means of our subsistence. The chena cultivation with maize, brinjals, chillies and kurakkan is more profitable than paddy. Pepper has become the principal crop after the area was declared a government reservation. ‘We are now constrained to give up the traditional chena cultivation as it was found to be detrimental to nature since it would have reduced the region to a mere desert.

Punchi Banda’s reminicenses bring to bear as to how the village ‘Peace Officer’ or ‘Opisara Mahattaya’ in common parlance dispensed justice to the aggrieved parties.

He was also regarded as ‘local’ ombudsman, or ‘dukganna rala’. He was the good Samaritan to help the poor to tide over their difficulties, he said cheerfully.The new road to Meemure has changed its landscape and revolutionised the lives of its inhabitants, ‘no more thavalamas. Vans transport the village produce to the local market. The youth in the village have gone in search of greenerpastures.

The age-old values and morals are on the decline in this ancient village. Unity among the people has banished, Banda lamented. The benefits of the new ‘change’ have outweighed its disadvantages. Meemure has become the new paradise for tourists.

(Translated by K. D. Michael Kittanpahuwa)

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