Friday, November 23, 2007

Kiri Amma Dana

When I arrived home at midnight after another hectic day on 20th November, frantic preparations were under way in the kitchen and the newly put up firewood kitchen outside the main house on my farm in Godagama.Firewood kitchen put up during the day will kept till it falls down! so I can continue to cook with firewood as the price of a shell gas cylinder has now jumped to Rs 1313. People who know about the gas cylinder cooking will be amazed when I say my last one lasted 5 months, when my sisters house hold uses more than two a month. Anyway it goes to show how rarely I cook or more correctly proof of how rarely I actually eat. I am now down to my target weight of 154lbs I was brought up on labs so I dont know how many kilos that is, but more to the point I am at my lowest weight in over 20 years.

I digress!! the preparations were for the Kiri Amma dana ( almsgiving ) Those cooking were Menika, Caroline, Anula, Seetha and Nadeesha.I was so tired, my room is opposite the kitchen, I fell asleep while the all night cooking was going on, and was woken up at 4.30am on Wednesday to partake in the proceedings.

This dana is given for all sorts of reasons like warding off evil spirits and driving out curses and runs of bad luck etc. My cattle herd has had numerous problems for a few years, and we had a dana last year too. This dana was held for blessing our cattle herd and wishing we will have a prosperous enterprise with a good milk yeild. In the last month we lost our oldest cow, the grand mother of my herd, one of my staff who broought it claims it was over 30 years of age and he went with my father to bring it from some place. Most of my herd are her grand kids and great grand kids. We artificially inseminate all the females with sperm provided by the government vet who always claims it is from the best stock from New Zealand, but I have my doubts bearing in mind the lousy milk production!

Anyway I lost a calf the other day, a day another new calf was born. To cut a long story short, we reserve two coconut trees for this event.We don't sell the coconuts from this tree and instead dry the coconuts and get oil from it to light the lamps for the dana and to make all the food preparations. I was told that after the dana we may sell the coconuts once again. What a relief as I am having a bad time with very few coconuts on the trees at this time of year and the coconut prices in Sri Lanka reflecting this shortage at a high of 35 to 40 rupees for our large ones.

All the food for the dana was made from my produce, except for the sugar and cashews used in some of the rasa kavili, the kiriya I think it was. The kiri bath or milk rice was my rosa kekulu samba grown by me in Polonnaruwa, the kavum was with my rice flour and my coconut oil.The ambul kehel was also mine.

Once all the food preparation is made all very fresh, they are ready to receive the kiri ammas. I dont know what it takes to be a kiri amma, but I will find out and let you know next time. I think you have to be a mother of a certain age and have your credits at the temple!! to make you worthy of conducting such a ceremony and partaking in it.

Amila went in the cab and picked them up at around 4.30 as all this ceremony is performed before sun up.It was all performed in my dining room, cleared of all the furniture.

The pictures above will show the stages. There were seven ladies all dressed in white cloth in a fashion of taking sill at the temple on poya days.First they are seated in a row along the wall on mats. Then a large banana leaf is placed in front of them and the various items of food are laid on the banana leaf by the ladies who cooked the meal.There was the kiri bath, then the kiriya, then the kavum and finally the kehel. All this can be seen in the photos.Then a parcel wrapped in a brown paper bag was put in it was a washing soap and a body soap. Also panduru (offering) of 2/- coin was also placed on the leaf. Then the coconut oil lamps are lit and all the staff of the farm and me included, kneel on a mat and the pirith chanting takes place for a while. All the pirith is chanted by memory and it seemed all of them knew their lines. This went on for at least half hour.

Then once that is over, they get up and are given a pahan thira dippd in coconut oil, which is then lit, which they hold and pray for all good things to remain and all bad things to be extiguished and then in a flash put the flame out into a bowl of water.

After that the head who performed the main ceremony, blesses us with coconut oil rubbed on to our foreheads and the proceedings conclude with all the food and items given wrapped into a bag and given them to take home, just as dawn breaks.

It was interesting that this was on Wednesday morning and on Thursday my father had arranged for a cow to be brought from up country namely Hatton, which was a 18 bottler that immediately doubled my milk yield.

Sadly as he always puts the cart before the horse, I have to find double the food to feed this animal at a time I am finding difficulty feeding the existing ones.My plan was to tackle my herd as the final of my development plan as the building needs to be extensively renovated, and my father oblivious to the practical side of taking care of animals is now demanding that all the unproductive ones are disposed of at any cost to make way for the productive one.This like bringing the airconditioner before the electricity is connected and then expecting it to cool the room immediately.

I still had not found an external market for all my existing milk, so finding the market for this extra will be an added issue to contend with, when my immediate problem is how to meet payroll on Sunday 25th November which is pay day and tomorrow Saturday, a poya day holiday. Saturday is a day I depend on for the best income for the week from the farm shop which under normal circumstances would have given enough to meet the current shortfall reqd. for the payroll.

So this is this week's excitement.Actually I spent the whole day Thursday, visiting a tea and rubber estate in the Ratnapura district that is making compost, to partially substitute high cost chemical fertizer in the tea plantations, and Friday was spent selling my King Coconuts, where demand was less than expected owing to tomorrow poya holiday when all the shops I sell to are closed.


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