Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 June 2014





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette


A look at Mt. Lavinia from a new perspective

Author: Mohan Raj Madawala
A Biso publication

Lovina, the latest tale written by Mohan Raj Madawala, in a way should be analysed in a cultural and anthropological point of view. Cultural anthropology consists of matters such as basic cultural scope of a particular group of people and the beliefs, practices, traditions, folk tales, hobbies, sexual and religious behaviour.

At the same time, ethnology, the science that speaks about the historical evolution of a certain ethnic group and the anthropological status that is capable of assembling such a group of personnel in a social construction is also a subcategory of anthropology.

Here it seems that the author has named his narrative by keeping in mind the present end of the relevant historical sequence. Lovina is a young woman who had been born to Pinchi, a Portuguese national Aponsuwa.

At the end she is depicted as the heroine of the story as well as a crucial and a revolutionary character, who even changes her name to “Lavinia” after falling in love with the British Governor Maitland.

However, Mohan is not defining his historical construction really as a traditional account of history. Even in his Maagam Soliya story, Mohan did not emphasise it as a historical narrative as he had only extracted the mere sap out from these ruins of lives that had lost their way in the dark unfathomable caves of history and made use of it as material to built his story.

This particular avenue of writing where the writer is permitted to breathe life into these human remains that can be found in many places in history that have been buried under the sand of time without any identity, is also profoundly described by Prof. Wimal Dissanayake in his series of articles titled “Literature and varieties of history”.

Social practices

Hence Mohan makes a creative commentary on the Hulawaali caste to which Lovina belongs, from the tragic tale of Punni, the great grandmother of Lovina's caste. Here it is evident that the author has explored deeply into the social practices of the Rodi clans and their authenticity.

For example, the points and issues raised by Mohan in his construction regarding the marriage traditions, family life and hobbies of the Rodi groups, is proved by the facts presented in the Rodiya chapter of M.D. Raghavan's The Ceylon book.

The dance item performed by the group of Hulawaalis including Lovina at the Governor's Mansion, is described in Mohan's book as something that does not belong to the genre of classical dance style. In The Ceylon, Raghavan describes the Rodi dance as “The swaying dance of the men and women”.


Raghavan also says that the Rodi teach their young ones the history of their ancestors.

The Rodiya has a percentage of literacy in keeping with his rich traditions and the literature few impart what they know, to the children'. That is how Punni becomes a traditional teacher to Lovina's mother Pinchi and Pinch's daughter Lovina.

In many places in Maagam Soliya and Lovina, a mystery that could not be placed alongside the reality is evident. In Maagam Soliya, a house is built with clay mixed with breast milk belonging to a woman with an enormous pair of breasts. In Lovina, Punni constantly plays with herself by jumping into a well in the vicinity. At the end she even comes of age in the well. These unbelievable depictions often exceed the generality of the theory of life and mock the rules of nature. But in his book Lanka janathawa (People of Ceylon) Dr. Nandadeva Wijesekera points out in the chapter titled “The sex life”, that most of the unnatural events of the folk society had taken place in the well.

An interesting fact brought forward by Dr. Nandadeva in his book is that although lustful feelings are generated in the mind of the village girls and children, there are no fair and justifiable opportunities for them to be engaged in such activities. Moreover, the young villagers did not even know what “lust” meant.

Hence the village girls are tempted to spend a lot of time at bathing places such as the river and the well. That is why Mohan exaggerates the long hours spent by Punni at the well.

When “lust” is socialised in an incorrect manner, others fall into trouble, That is how adultery is born. Crime is also an extension for the story. On the other hand, if men and women, who look at each other in a kind manner and mutually understand each others’ sexual cravings with respect, satisfies their needs without harming society, it does not constitute a crime. One should not be eager to look at it with a greedy and narrow traditionalistic point of view. And that is how the amorous relationships and sexual satisfaction found in Lovina can be analysed. Even if there is someone who looks at them with religious or philosophical outlook undoubtedly they might have behaved the same way.

Supernatural formula

The other important aspect of Mohan's creation is the supernatural formula he uses in his stories. One might even consider this as a chain of false and mysterious state of events.

While describing certain practices and events in his tales, Mohan does not show us their general timeframe. Phrases such as “she started this task when the boy was still a toddler” and “The trunk of this tree had worn out because of the constant rubbing of her body” are good examples for this pattern.

This is the sub-conscious rule on time found in our communal psyche. Henry Parker collected many folktales by travelling through numerous villages in Sri Lanka and he compiled them into three volumes titled Village folktales of Ceylon. In the appendix of the third volume of the series, he records some lively expressions of villagers. The story “concerning the royal prince and princess” starts like this....

“Once upon a time there was a king, a carpenter and washer....”

At one pint of this story a long time period is described as....

“When would this prince collapse with his flying machine?” Then the astrologer said,” it will crash into the sea after three years and three months from today....”

In the folktale the prince drives the flying machine and remains in the sky for tree years and three months. And the villagers at that time did not doubt it as they only required entertainment.

Mohan Raj uses this formula in his creation. One can see through not the direct structure but the innocent enjoyment, the timely thought and the rhythm of ancient life that lingers at the heart of Mohan Raj Madawala's grand tale.

The writer is a lecturer at the University of Peradeniya


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