|Saturday, 5 April 2003|
Visiting Meemure : A village of serene and pristine beauty
by Florence Wickramage
The last King of Mahanuwara, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe despatched his two daughters for safety to a little remote village before enemies captured him.
This village is refreshingly beautiful Meemure, nestling at the foothills of the Lakegala Peak of the Dumbara range of hills. According to legend the two princesses committed suicide on hearing of the King's capture and the royal jewellery which they wore is said to be in the possession of traditional families in the village.
Another legend says that Meemure belonged to a veddah named 'Benduruwa' which was taken away from him by King Vimaladharma and handed over to Herath Hamy whose descendants are believed to be still living in the village.
Driving through the Knuckles range on a gravel road we arrived at a spot from where continuous range of stone ridges were seen lining the sideways of the road. These stone ridges signified that we were entering the Meemure village, lying in a valley amidst the Vamarapuagala, Uda Vannimana and Palle-Vannimana and Lakegala peaks - the village I had heard so much of and longed to visit.
An aura of serenity pervaded this quaint little village, the life-style and its traditional values zealously guarded by its elders from the 'pollution' of rapid technological developments. Acres and acres of green paddyfields stretching endlessly, dotted here and there with patches of arecanut trees or reed-bushes; cattle grazing peacefully in home-gardens; the boundaries of houses and lands demarcated by stone-ridges with stones piled neatly one on top of the other; wooden fences leading to large home-gardens with rock stones as steps to the houses and the Karambaganga Ela gently flowing by marking one boundary of Meemure.
This is my first impression of this environment-friendly peaceful village of Meemure boasting of a history dating to the period of Ravana and long before the advent of Prince Vijaya to Lankapura.
The village is self-sufficient and does not depend on the outside world for sustenance. A native of the village and teacher of Kaikawela Madya Maha Vidyalaya Gamini Abeyratne said that there are 125 families in the Gramasevaka Wasama and paddy cultivation is their livelihood. There are 3 schools in the village - over 200-year-old Meemure Primary School, over 50-year-old Kaikawela Madya Maha Vidyalaya and the Kumbukgolla school which is about 6 years old.
The village had produced several professionals including government servants. There is a 60-year-old uninhabited ancient temple and an ancient Bo-tree in the village. Elders in the village spoke of how politicians introduced some of the village people to Cardamom cultivation in the Knuckles range.
With the declaration of the Knuckles as a Forest Reserve cardamom cultivation in the area is being discouraged. Villagers said they loved the forest and would co-operate if alternate, economically viable livelihoods were provided. An elder, Kiribanda said that even paddy cultivation was affected due to the lack of varieties of paddy they cultivated earlier which only needed carbonic fertiliser but yielded bountiful harvests. With the introduction of weedicides and pesticides and new kinds of fertiliser, the soil is affected. In addition to paddy cultivation the villagers engage themselves in chena cultivations and other kinds of plantations.
M. D. Seneviratne (38) said people were experiencing financial difficulties as a result of fertiliser being expensive. With regard to other types of income generation methods such as tourist potentials being introduced, Seneviratne said that the villagers would unanimously oppose unplanned developments into their village since they wanted to preserve the existing unpolluted traditions and cultures in the community which they had treasured for generations. There were 30 to 40 graduates in the village still unemployed.
A visit to the Uda Walawwe an ancient traditional Kandyan-style built house including a `Meda Midula'was a remarkable experience. Stocks of paddy were stored in one corner of the house. Lasanda Manike (80) said that the house was over 100 years old with the roof covered with local traditional tiles.
The road leading to Meemure village was earlier a footpath. Now it has been widened, untarred and motorable - though rugged in certain places. Meemure's community is simple and unsophisticated village-folk.
While taking leave of a group of elders we were chatting with seated on a range of rocks under the spreading Bo-tree, we wished them well with hopes that whatever development projects were introduced, they would meet with the villagers' expectations of protecting their traditional values while at the same time preserving the serenity and pristine beauty of Meemure. Personally for me, this visit is an unforgettable and an exhilarating experience.
(The journalists' visit to Meemure village was organised by the IUCN Sri Lanka Country office).
Produced by Lake House