Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is bottled water any good?

Pressing the snooze button for the third time in a row, finally I got off the bed at 4 a.m. My heavy eyes begged for more sleep. I desperately wanted to call off the trip to Kandy. However, knowing the consequences of missing this, I pushed myself to the washroom. ‘Never play with your career’ Dad’s voice echoed in my head. Rushing through the packing, ironing and dressing, I was ready in the nick of time.
“Dad! Dad! We are late!” “Jana! I waited for almost half an hour now. You are the one who is late,” he replied.
“Oh never mind! Let us go now. Bye Amma! Bye Malli!” I rushed to the car. “Did you take the things you need?” Amma inquired and as usual, Dad worried himself about my financial status. I nodded and waved at Amma as the car approached the road.
“Oh! What made you late?” My workmates queried. “Dad got late to get ready,” I stuttered. “Can we please start the journey now?” the annoyance of a colleague stopped further inquiry. “Wait wait!” I interrupted. “I need to drink some water and go to the washroom,” I begged. “Hurry up then,” yelled the workmate in-charge of us.
I shoved my hand into the bag to take the bottle out, but my fingers hit bare leather. I stopped in surprise and started to rummage through all the pockets of my bag.

With a sickening thud, I realised my precious bottle of water was missing. For a moment, cursing me for being careless, I thought of the long day ahead without the bottle. “Oh! I have left my bottle of water,” I said. “Don’t worry, we’ll give you water,” a friend assured.
“But we cannot stop anywhere to buy a bottle,” I fretted for the bottle, ‘Drinking water to my heart’s content is impossible from another’s bottle!’ As the day passed all my thoughts revolved around the bottle.

It made me thirstier than any of the other days.
Lost in my thoughts, back in the bus, I heard someone calling the driver, “Prasanna, issaraha kohenhari navaththanna vathura bothalayak ganna (stop somewhere to buy a bottle of water),” the voice ordered. I sighed with a relief and grinned at my colleagues. “Thank you,” I murmured. “How can we be cruel to the damsel in distress?” voiced one of the workmates.

“Though we habitually drink bottled water, it is not a healthy choice, you know?” with another grin, I initiated a conversation. “Why?” they were inquisitive. “Those bottles are carcinogenic,” I reasoned. “Carcinogenic? What does that mean?” Someone inquired. “It can cause cancer. The water bottles available in the shops are PET bottles. These PET bottles contain a potentially carcinogenic element known as DEHA, which is a cancer-causing chemical agent,” I cautioned.

“Two years ago I interviewed a physician interested in this subject, Dr. Waruna Gunethilake. He said plastic could leak chemicals that can cause cancer and many more health risks.” Whispers filled the air, breaking the silence in the bus. Plastic bottles have become one of the essentials in our day-to-day life. It is easy to carry, readily available and affordable too. The astonishment on my workmates’ faces demonstrated their dependence on these bottles.

“Tests have shown that these chemicals can give rise to breast cancer and decrease sperm count. Most importantly when these plastic are put to hard use and exposed to high temperature, like microwaves, hot liquids, and direct sunlight, even refrigeration, chemicals leak.” They gazed at me with their startled eyes. “Repeated washing and rinsing can cause plastic molecules to break easily. They are micro-breaks, not visible to the naked eye. Thin bottles can leak more chemicals.” I explained the gravity of it. “So, what you say is not to use plastic water bottles from now?” “You can use, but make sure you dispose of them after the first use,” I advised.

The rest of the journey was a silent one. I assumed that thoughts about the use of plastic bottles kept them busy. Something worth mention is when you are buying a water bottle for everyday use, check the number underneath the bottle within a triangle with arrows - commonly known as the recycling symbol. If it says five, go for it.

According to Dr. Gunethilake, these types of plastic contain a coating inside the container, which prevents leaking chemicals. However, keep in mind that all plastics can leak chemicals under certain conditions. As a rule of thumb, do not subject even the most durable plastics to high temperatures and never drink water from bottles, kept in the vehicle on hot, sunny days. After all, health should come before convenience

Friday, September 17, 2010

Somawathie Chethiya

The Somawathie Chetiya, which is situated about 40 kilometres from Polonnaruwa, is once again attracting pilgrims from throughout the island. This venerated Buddhist site is said to enshrine the right canine Tooth Relic of the Buddha.

Ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka state that the very first Arahat of this country, Aritta Thera, visited the residence of Gods and brought back to Sri Lanka the Sacred Right Tooth of the Buddha.
It is believed to have been built long before the time of Dutugemunu and as such, is much older than the Ruwanweliseya, Mirisawetiya or Jetawanaramaya. It is believed to have been built during the reign of King Kavantissa - Dutugemunu's father who ruled Magama.

Legend has it that Kavantissa's sister Somawathie Devi, married to a prince named Abhaya, built a dragomanfor her husband in her name, in the second century BC. According to the Mahawamsa, the royal couple left Ruhuna and sought refuge in Raja Rata over a disagreement with King Dutugemunu who was also the nephew of Somawathie.
Queen Somawathie had a yearning to construct a stupa in honour of the Buddha. The King himself agreed to this idea with much enthusiasm.
Giri Abhaya had explored a possible site to construct this stupa. In the course of his survey, he came upon an area where Bhikkhus led by Arahat Mahinda resided. When the King suggested his idea to Arahat Mahinda, he gave his consent to the stupa-building project.

This location was known as Somapura. There were companion stupas named Kumbanacchaduwa (identified as the place where the Kadol elephant had died), Gal Amuna, Sangabodhigama and Vihara Surangala.

The pilgrim to this holy shrine today can see on one side of the dagoba, a trench-like opening revealing some five feet inside the present dagoba, wherein is the ancient brick masonry of the earlier dagoba.
As such, the present freshly painted white dagoba is an enlargement of an earlier one. Two kings have renovated the chetiya and visitors can view the section of the chetiya which reveals the three layers illustrating the three periods during which renovations were undertaken.

According to scholars, some Brahmin characters found at this site have been identified with the second century. Seven stone inscriptions detailing the history of the dagoba have been found in the area.

Some ancient pillars that have been destroyed
Separate inscriptions found here refer to the Rebavehera and Pajini Naka Araba Vihara, which are presumed to be the ancient names of this monument. According to the latter, it is believed that this vihara was constructed by Naka, the son of King Mahallaka Naga in the second century.

Like the road to Seruwila Dagoba, here too, the journey itself offers you a variety of thick jungle and swamp as well as their inhabitants, big and small. In fact, the dagoba is often visited at night by elephants. Sungawila is the last little town and border village from where you cross the Mahaveli to travel on some 13 kilometres of unsealed road that cuts through the Somawathie's strict natural reserve and wildlife sanctuary, and takes you through the jungle and marshy land to the great dagoba.

Because elephants encroach into the temple premises, an electric fence has been installed there. This fence is powered by solar electricity. Electricity is switched on in the evening from six onwards. The Somawathie Chetiya is very famous in recent history due to the miracles which took place in the temple. Some of the valuable ancient ruins found from this place have been kept at the Polonnaruwa Museum.

Pix: Janani

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vavuniya to Jaffna Railway Stations

Ticket counters for 1-2

Chavakachcheri Railway Station

Chunnakam Railway Station

Alimankada Railway Station

Elumathival Railway Station.

Inuwil Railway Station

Kankasanthurai Railway Station

Turn Table of the Kankasanthurai Railway Station

Kilinochchi Railway Station

Kodikaman Railway Station

Kokuwil Railway Station

Kondawil Railway Station

Mallakam Railway Station

Mankulam Railway Station

Maviththapuram Railway Station

Meesalai Railway Station

Myrasawil Railway Station

Murukkadi Railway Station

Murukkandi Railway Station

Navakkuli Bridge

Navakkuli Railway Station

Omanthai Railway Station

Pallai Railway Station

Paranthan Railway Station

Puliyankulam Railway Station

Punkulam Railway Station

Sankanthanai Sub Railway Station

Thellipalai Railway Station

Kachchathivu Railway Station

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What shampoo is good for you?

Grabbing a bottle of shampoo from the supermarket rack, I read its label ‘special feature: daily shine!’ Apparently, regular use of this shampoo might make my hair gorgeous like Katrina Kaif’s. Ooh! I am excited. I already imagine myself walking on the road with my beautiful and glossy hair. People will ask my secret. I would tell them that is because I eat a lot of fruits and hmm...What more should I say? …

“Hey” a voice interrupts my imagination and I look up dazedly to find one of my friends standing next to me. “Oh Hi! What are you doing here?” I casually inquired to hide my irritation over her disturbance. “What do you think I am doing here in a supermarket?”, She mocked at me.

I grinned girlishly and said, “I know. Here, I am buying a shampoo for my messy hair. Do you mind helping me?” Deciding to keep my mouth shut about the fact that I have tried almost all the shampoos on that rack, I gave an innocent smile.

She ran her fingers through my curls, and said, “Girl, you have dry hair! See your hair is dry, fragile and dull. I feel that it is rough. It breaks off easily too. Also, not forgetting your constant complaints of finding it difficult to manage, I inferred that,” she tried her best to sound like a serious professional, with matching facial expressions.

I knew it. That is exactly what I wanted to get rid of. I wanted her help to find a better shampoo, not to repeat what I knew. Irritated by her reply I looked at the rack again. “Any problems, miss?” She looked at me carefully with a funny smile. “No, nothing,” I stuttered. “Now, what do you think I should do? Should I apply half a bottle of oil on my scalp and bathe every day?” I sounded sarcastic, but I could not help it.

“No, silly,” she smirked. “When you are choosing the shampoo, choose according to your hair type. A shampoo that contains eggs or oils like coconut is good for your hair.

Avoid shampoos with alcohol as they dry out your hair more. Go for moisturising shampoo as they coat the strands and help to trap moisture inside.” That was exactly what I wanted. “Thank you,” I said. With another smile, she vanished behind the racks.
Again, I started my hunt for a shampoo, but this time with some knowledge about my requirement. I wondered how all eye-catching shampoo advertisements lure in many youngsters to try out all the shampoos available in the market. I, myself spent thousands of rupees on them. As a result, I spoiled my natural hair and now the volume of my hair is less. They say stress makes us lose more hair. Ironically, the status of my hair is the main reason I lose them. This is common among many. However, if you know what you are doing, obtaining that perfect healthy hair is easy provided you use the right shampoo. Let us give you some tips for that.

Shampoo-choosing tips

Firstly, when you select a shampoo, identify your hair type. Primarily, there are three different types: dry, normal and oily. Some people also have combined hair types, hair that changes between oily and dry according to the weather. In addition, you may have coloured or heat damaged hair too. With modern technology and marketing tactics, every hair type has a shampoo made specifically for it.

Oily hair

As my friend identified my dry hair by observing some signs, everyone’s hair shows some characteristics to suggest its type. Identifying oily hair is rather easy with its greasy looks and dullness. It attracts dirt easily wanting you to wash often. If you have any doubt, consult your hairdresser. As a rule of thumb, oily haired people should never use shampoo or conditioner intended for dry hair. Those will not remove the excess oil from your scalp and also it can cause other hair problems such as dandruff, split ends or frizzy hair.

Damaged hair

Shampoo manufacturers never neglect those with lovely colourful hairs. They have shampoos made specifically for them too. Due to the chemicals used when colouring, those hairs also fall under the category of damaged hair. Do not worry if your colour has begun to fade. There are magic shampoos to bring back the colour. Similarly, if you have straight hair, a shampoo that help repair the damage and add moisture will do the trick.

When it comes to hair, there are plenty of things to discuss. I must say, this is not the best guide available on this issue. Therefore, do research, ask your hairdresser, or read hair guides for more information. After all, it is about your hair. Lovely tresses give you that magical look, which grabs the attention of everybody. So, why not shed some sweat to earn it?

Friday, September 10, 2010

preserving our artifacts

Kuttam Pokuna(Before)
We are sure that you may have visited at least some of the archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. Most people have been to at least the more well-known places.

Kuttam Pokuna (After)
Have you ever been to places full of rubble? That may have been after these places were cleaned, tidied and restored by the Department of  Archaeology. 

This Department has taken a lot of trouble to restore many valuable sites in Sri Lanka, and by observing these places and the work they have carried out, we can get an idea of what these places would have looked like in the past. Have you ever thought how such a place may have looked when it was first discovered?

Girihandu Seya,Thiriyaya (Before)
Exploration Officer, Department of Archaeology, T.M.C. Bandara explained to the Junior Observer the service the Department has carried out to conserve our historical places and bring back a semblance of their original glory.

Girihandu Seya,Thiriyaya (After)
"These sites do not belong to the Department of Archaeology, they belong to the people living around them. 

We are just guardians who look after and care for them, for the benefit of future generations", Bandara said.
Most Sri Lankans are not aware of the important role of the Archaeology Department, and about the work it has carried out throughout the years. 

Haththicuchi Viharaya (Before)

Haththicuchi Viharaya (After)
According to Bandara, Sri Lanka has had a museum about 2,000 years ago, which has led archaeologists to believe that the island would have been the first country to have the concept of museums.
In this museum, the king of the day had preserved parts of the ship in which Sanghamitta Theri had arrived.
During the British rule, John Still, in his famous book 'Jungle Tide', had written: "There are artifacts in Polonnaruwa in a place full of tigers and bears. Because of the forest around, I missed my way everyday".

Polonnaruwa Vatadage (After)
Now, we realise what the fate of our precious artifacts would have been.

Facts and pix courtesy: Department of Archeology, Sri Lanka

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kolam, Another traditional drama

Kolam dance is a traditional dancing event popular among low country people. The speciality of this drama is that all actors wear masks that show the features of the relevant characters.
These masks are one aspect that attracts people to this drama. The characters of this comedy type of drama also attract people. Dramas similar to kolam can be seen not only in Sri Lanka, but all over the world.

The origin
The story about the origin of kolam differs slightly in various cities of Sri Lanka. But, generally, the story says that the first kolam drama was staged because the Queen of King Mahasammatha had a great desire to watch kolam.

To please her, the King had brought in actors from various countries. The Queen had been highly pleased to see the kolam drama which had been performed by these actors wearing masks.
According to old books, God Shakra had ordered God Vishva Karma to make the masks from sandalwood (sandun). After he had finished making the masks, he had written a book explaining how to stage a kolam drama, and had left them all in the King's garden.

The gardener, who had come across these things, had informed the king about them. The king had then ordered all his men to perform the kolam according to the instructions provided in the book. After seeing this drama, the Queen had been pleased, and kolam dramas had been included in the list of traditional dramas from then on.

The stage

This drama is staged in an outdoor area referred to as Thanayampola. This circular-shaped place will be outlined with ropes, while flower beds (mal yahana) will adorn its sides.
A place will also be arranged for the actors to change into their costumes. Since it is an outdoor stage, a cover known as 'ves attha' is provided to help the actors make a dramatic entrance. This cover can be described as the door of the stage and the actors hidden behind this, before arriving on the stage.
The masks that belong to the set of kolam are worn by the actors after the performance of a religious event called Madu Baseema.
This is held to avoid the troubles that may crop up as a result of donning the masks. This religious segment may have been influenced by the honour and respect the villagers had towards wearing these masks.
Musical instruments

Since kolam is popular among low country people, the main musical instrument used is the 'Yak Beraya'. (An article on the drums of Sri Lanka appeared in an earlier Heritage Splendour page.) In addition to this, a Vas danda or Horanava is also used.
The sequence of kolam dance
According to the area where a drama is staged and the scripts, the sequence of the actors entering the stage can differ. Some characters and the sequence of them entering the stage are common to all scripts.
The start of the kolam dance is marked by worshipping the triple gem and playing magul bera. Then the entire dancing troupe comes on stage and pay homage to the flower bed through a dance. Finally, all the actors come to the stage according to an order. Here are some of the characters in the drama:
Sabe Vidane: He comes on stage first, worships the Triple Gem and invites the gods. Then he sings the origin of kolam.Anabera Kolama: He brings the news of the arrival of the king and the queen to see kolam.
Hewa Kolama: They represent the king's army. They scare the audience, but also play comedy scenes.
Police Kolama: They depict police officers who control people using batons. Arachchi Kolama: He comes to make the Thanayampola under orders of the Mudliyar. Jasa Kolama: He comes with a load of cloth to cover the stage.
Lenchina: The beautiful wife of Jasaya, comes in search of her husband.
Last, the King and Queen come to the Thanayampola. Then the first part of the drama finishes and the second part starts. The Sanda Kinduru story, Gotaimbara story, Maname story and Village story are staged as full dramas afterwards.
Nowadays, this drama is staged solely for the purpose of fun and entertainment. But earlier, it had been staged as a religious event or for the benefit of pregnant women.