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Posted on Friday, August 18 - 2006

I watch two elderly gentlemen in a sparring contest. The now famous state­ment "He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee" made about leg­endary boxer Mohammed Ali in Johnny Wakelins hit single in the 70's 'Black Superman' rings in my head. I continue to watch the two sixty something men, each dressed in a white padded skinny and traditional 'Diya Katchiya', as they size the other up; floating like butterflies. I wait for the sting...it comes...so sudden that it takes me by surprise. One throws a quick punch. The other gracefully avoids it and entangles his adversary's hand in a lock, wraps his other arm around the assailant's neck and wrestles him down to submission. The two men then get up and smile at me. I have just been witness to the oldest and probably the only form of authentic Sri Lankan martial art: Angampora.

The two men giving the demonstration are two old hands at the sport. They are master Karunapala, who runs a school for Angampora in Mirihana and Rienzie Wickremasinghe. They both have practised and taught this ancient art for over five decades, and are determined to ensure that it does not die out or is subject to distortion in anyway. Both also hold the title of 'Panikkirala', the highest grade in Angampora, equivalent to the black belt in karate. Where did this art originate? What are the fundamental principles its practi­tioners follow? What future does it have? With these questions in mind Sports Weekly inquired about the masters and practi­tioners of this ancient and elusive art. The findings amazed us.

Its History: The exact date of the origin of Angampora is not known. What is known however is that it dates back to the Anuradhapura era to the times of the ancient Sinhala kingdoms. In those days it was the fighting technique of the noblemen. Legend has it that the army that came under the command of Sapumal Kumaraya comprised fighters skilled in this martial art. Angampora continued with the Sinhala kings with the transition of the kingdoms towards the southwest of the country. However, with each new king emerged new gurus and as a result the pedigree of the gurus of Angampora got diluted...

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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

© by M. B. Dassanayake

Omens still predict both good and evil in Sinhalese society: Bathing on Sundays is said to spoil the bather’s appearance; bathing on Monday improves it; Tuesday - brings on disease, and Wednesday riches; Thursday - creates quarrels and if one bathes on Fridays his children will die; Saturday is deemed to be the most suitable day for bathing and is said to bring happiness. To face east or west while taking meals is supposed to bring good luck; money transactions held on full moon days bring ill luck.

Sinhalese – still a superstitious society : Ours is still a superstitious society and the commonest kind of superstitions prevailing among the Sinhalese are those which deal with omens, which they regard as prognostications, of both good and evil. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are classed as unlucky, but for journeys Thursdays are the best unless they happen to be astrologically unfavourable. The best omen for a person setting out on a journey is for him to meet anyone carrying a pot of water, milk or white flowers first. But it is unlucky to meet those with shaven heads or with their hair (konde ) loose, as a sign of mourning, or those with great physical defects or a woman carrying a pot or ‘chattie’. It is also considered unlucky for a person to stumble against something or to be interrogated as to his destination at the outset of the journey.

Tradition: Bathing on Sundays is said to spoil the bather’s appearance; bathing on Monday improves it; Tuesday - brings on disease, and Wednesday riches; Thursday - creates quarrels and if one bathes on Fridays his children will die; Saturday is deemed to be the most suitable day for bathing and is said to bring happiness. To face east or west while taking meals is supposed to bring good luck; money transactions held on full moon days bring ill luck. Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are bad for visiting, and July is considered to be an unlucky month for weddings just as May is in England. Talking of weddings, there is a strange ancient custom followed still in "bringing home the bride" - the bride is obliged to walk in front of her husband, always keeping in his sight; the traditional reason given for this is that once a bridegroom who had walked in front had had his bride carried off from behind him before he was aware of it, and the newly made husband is not very eager for history to repeat itself in his case at least...

Views : 1098

Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

by Ariyadasa Ratnasinghe

Even today the elephant has a prominent place in Buddhism unlike other animals. It is the only animal possessed of grace to carry the sacred reliquary containing the 'Danta-dhatu' (Tooth-relic) of the Buddha, in the annual Esala Perahera in Kandy. All Buddhist temples follow the same procedure in choosing an elephant to carry the relics in procession, as no major Buddhist procession is complete without at least a single elephant, ornately caparisoned to walk majestically through the streets. ‘The torn boughs trailing o'er the tusks aslant, The saplings reeling on the path he trod; Declare his might: our lord the elephant, Chief of the ways of God’. (Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936)

The life and habitat of the elephant are provocative of wonder and demand our reverence, since both its evolution and influence upon mankind have always been found to be most fascinating, bewitching, enchanting, charming and delightful. The interesting roles it has played in myths, legends, religion, history, folklore and war, notwithstanding its recent prominence in politics; its association with man and the services rendered to him from remote antiquity; the symbolic splendour of its colossal body, let alone flesh, to be balanced on bones; its place in circuses and menageries, in wildlife sanctuaries and zoological gardens and, above all, its graceful and majestic appearance have been well attested, expressed and documented in various works of art and literature down the ages. The elephant belongs to the animal order Proboscidea (possessed of a trunk) and to the sub-order of ungulates (hoofed digitigrade mammals). The two species of elephants now extinct are the mammoth (Elephas premiginius) and the mastodon (Elephas odontos). The two existing species are the Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus) and the African elephant (Elephas africanus)...

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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

Ganesh is the elephant-headed god, Ganesha (or Ganesh) is known (by various names in different parts of India and Sri Lanka and on different occasions) as the Remover of Obstacles, the god of domestic harmony and of success. He is the most beloved and revered of all the Hindu gods, and is always invoked first in any Hindu ceremony or festival. He is the son of Parvati (the wife of Shiva, the Destroyer, the most powerful of the Hindu trinity of principal gods). There are many stories about how Ganesha got his elephant head, and about his exploits and antics. He was created as an ordinary boy, but was decapitated in battle. Shiva's emissaries were sent into the forest and told to get the head of the first animal they found and to fit that head onto the boy's neck. They found a little elephant, and it worked!

Heroes of epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are immortalized and are still alive in the day-to-day existence of the common people. The gods of Hinduism are at once super-human and human and there is distinct feeling of warmth and familiarity towards them. Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, represents qualities such as honor, courage and valor and is held up as a model of manliness. His wife Sita is the prototypal Indian wife who is carried off by Ravana, the king of Lanka, while Rama and Sita are on exile. Sita's eventual rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Rama's faithful monkey-general Hanuman are all woven into this engrossing tale. Stories from this epic have been passed down orally from one generation to the next. Religious fairs, festivals and rituals have kept these legends alive, and there is never an occasion that does not offer an opportunity to retell the old stories. The stirring verses of the Mahabharata tell the story of the dynastic struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, who were close cousins. Lord Krishna plays a very important role in this Great Epic. He is a friend, philosopher and guide to Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, and he helps Arjuna overcome his hesitation to kill his close relatives in the battlefield...

Views : 1093


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