Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 April 2009





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Writer’s Den/Arts

Extensive research on history of dentistry

Dr. Hilary W.M. Cooray, a leading general dental practitioner has compiled an excellent book on the history of dentistry in Sri Lanka. This is the first book on this subject and it has a wealth of information on the development of the dental profession in Sri Lanka. Dr. Cooray’s work deals with three main aspects, early practices in dental and oral health in Sri Lanka, development of dental education and dental practice and the various medical ordinances relevant to the dental profession.

History of dentistry
in Sri Lanka
Author: Dr. Hilary W.M. Cooray

These three aspects are of great importance to the student of history of dentistry. Though Dr. Cooray has dealt with these subjects in brief he has managed to include most of the relevant information in a succinct but readable style.

The author must have done extensive research in all these areas to be able to extract and sift the most important information and then compile all that into ninety odd pages.

In dealing with the early dental and oral health practices among Sri Lankans he brings in the relevant aspects of Ayurveda and its development in India. How Ayurveda influenced the evolution of the indigenous system of healthcare is described briefly. One would have expected the author to delve a little more deeply into the times of King Buddhadasa where the indigenous system could have been taken as a model for the rest of the world. Influence of Buddhism and Buddha’s own vinaya edict have been mentioned which gives credence to the author’s presentation.

Dr. Cooray has never failed to show the importance of the historical connection, the unfolding of history of the island and the parallel development of health consciousness. This I thought was the biggest achievement which demonstrates a streak of academic capacity. The building of a civilisation involving an inculcation of the vitality of water for life in general and health including oral health in particular is highlighted. Illustrations with photos of the water supply and sanitation that existed in the ancient capitals of the country adds value to the text. The importance of cleanliness, sanitation and water purification has been understood and put into practice as early as King Pandhukabaya’s time. He had 200 sanitary labourers in the city of Anuradhapura. Lord Buddha himself had advised on the importance of boiled water for drinking purposes.

The author attempts to analyse the influence of western cultures on the local scene particularly on the health practices. At the beginning the invading foreigners had kept their healing methods to themselves but gradually the foreigners had borrowed from the indigenous system and vice versa. These aspects have been dealt with quite adequately and in a simple style. These sections present a wealth of information about the history of foreign invasions as well.

Oral hygiene measures practised by the people had obviously been taught to them by the priests who had adopted them from the Vinaya Pitakaya which gives a lucid description of what could happen if teeth are not cleaned in the way prescribed therein. The substitute for tooth brushes used in those times are described in detail and are also well illustrated and the medicinal properties of these materials are discussed.

Author has included drawings of various instruments that may have been used for dental treatment. A little more research into this area would have revealed the methods used in dental treatment and particularly how these instruments were used. How these treatment methods evolved and developed in the island have been elucidated. The influence of Susrutha across the Palk Straits have been discussed.

The development of dental education in Sri Lanka is succinctly described and covers all aspects. The dental profession would be grateful to Dr. Cooray for publishing all these details. How education started in Buddhist temples and gradually developed into University level is described. Dr. Cooray mentions King Buddhadasa’s Saratha Sangrahaya’ as one of the earliest medical books compiled in Sri Lanka. Monks had taught the practice of medicine to selected students whereas lay physicians had passed their knowledge to their children.

This system of education had continued during the Portuguese and Dutch periods without much change.

Photographs of various legal documents and government notices pertaining to dental education would be of archival value. Dr. Cooray has endeavoured to bring out the fact that the profession from its humble beginnings had come a long way.

It had faced many a challenge and an obstacle which it had successfully faced and overcome. The present members of the profession could take courage from this and learn lessons and achieve further progress. Greatest achievement of the dental profession is the development of postgraduate training and education. The growth and development of its various specialities have been highlighted in this presentation.

Oral health is essential for general health not only for completeness sake but more importantly because oral diseases could have a causative effect on general diseases like heart disease, stroke etc. Dr. Cooray’s work is timely for this reason also and would be of interest not only to the dental surgeons but also to health administrators, health workers and historians. The Dental profession in this context has a greater role to play in providing better health to the community and it is heartening to note that senior members of the profession like Dr. Cooray are doing their best to ensure success of the profession....

Comprehensive biography of Khemadasa

Premasiri Khemadasa - Critical Biography Author : Eric Illayapparachchi Publisher : Fast Publishing (Pvt) Ltd,

At last, Sri Lanka has a comprehensive biography of a serious musician. The history of the Sri Lankan music is rewritten without a bias for any particular tradition. The volcanic movement of music broke with maestro Khemadasa has been recorded well in this fairly long biography. The style of a critical biography has been followed from beginning to end.

The book shows a remarkable variety of contemporary music having to do with Premasiri Khemadasa. Still a complex misunderstanding has grown up around the composer, as his life and work are not fitted to the cultural mould of some custodians of the local art scene today. Therefore, this biography written by Eric Illayapparachchi, the liberalist of his most famous opera, Agni is worth reading.

This book which grew out of familiarity with the festival of Khemadasa’s work provides a fascinating story of the maestro and his art.

Materials collected in this biography is a treasure to any art student. The first several chapters explore the young days of the musician who was born in the coastal village of Wadduwa. The roots of his concept of music and the musical culture led by him for five decades are explored in depth.

A long thoughtful reflection on how he developed as a full-fledged composer is very well recorded by this new historian of Sri Lankan music. The interesting passages of the local musical culture is worth reading. The image of Khemadasa was shaped by his film music, cantatas and operas and the book gives some non-standard unbiased perspectives on the most revered composer of the country.

Sukshama Arthika Vidyava

C.C. Hiella Arachchi’s latest book “Sukshama Arthika Vidyava” was launched at Dayawansa Jayakody Book Exhibition Hall, Colombo last week. The book is ideal for those sitting university examinations.

The book is published by Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers, Colombo 10.

Veedi Basina Siththaru

“Veedi Basina Siththaru” (Artists Treading the Streets) is an exhibition of oil paintings and batik creations of Sri Lankan young artists organised and sponsored by the Mohan Lal Grero Foundation will be held at Nugegoda Junction (facing the High Level Road) on April 18 and 19, 2009 from 8.00 am to 8.30 pm. The Mohan lal Grero Foundation had organised four arts exhibitions so far and this is the first street exhibition organised by them.

The internationally recognised artist and Lecturer of Art at the Mohan Lal Grero Foundation, Somarathna Gomes together with hundreds of his students will exhibit over seven hundred oil paintings and batik creations done by them at this exhibition.

The idea was mooted by the famous Educationist cum philanthropist and creator Guru of the Mohan Lal Foundation, Mohan Lal Grero. Entrance will be free.

There will be free lessons on Oil Painting conducted by the Foundation during this exhibition, and those who wish to get an introduction to oil painting could register their names at the entrance.


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