The history of Sri Lanka is one of farming and agriculture, and nowhere is this more evident than in the verdant fields of paddy that cover enormous swathes of the island. With the country being blessed with plentiful water and nutritious soil, the lush fields prosper in Sri Lanka, earning it the name “the granary of the East” in olden times. The sway of life in our villages is dictated by the turn of the seasons and the planting, growing, and harvesting cycles of paddy, and is an echo of an era that has, in most other areas, been lost to the sands of time.
Time honored traditions and customs that relate to the cycles of cultivation and harvest remain preserved in the culture and lives of paddy farmers. Chief amongst them is the aluth sahal mangallaya, simply translated as the Festival of New Rice.
In most parts of Sri Lanka, rice is grown in two distinct seasons, maha and yala, governed by the monsoonal cycles to which the country is subject. Ancient Sri Lankans believed that the life-giving waters of the monsoon, the timing and intensity of which were utterly imperative to a successful harvest and the nutrients in the soil were gifted by the gods and goddesses that abound the mythos of Sri Lanka.
The very first portion of paddy from a successful harvest is always carefully stowed away by each farmer and come the next planting season, is cooked into a delicious meal and offered to the pantheon and Lord Buddha, as a gift, offering gratitude for a bountiful harvest and to invoke blessings for the coming season. Timely rains, fertile soil, and protection from wild animals and disease are prayed for and this festival is known as the aluth sahal mangallaya.
At Jetwing Kaduruketha, 31 farmer families cultivate the 50 acres of paddy fields that comprise the hotel premises. The festival, earnestly carried out at the hotel’s paddy fields, offers guests a unique perspective into the lives and culture of Sri Lankan paddy farmers and the opportunity to be a part of a tradition that transcends millennia.
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