CUSINE OF ANCIENT SRI LANKANS

FOOD IN ANCIENT SRI LANKA

This page is not completed as yet. Some  of the factors mentioned below is taken from the book ‘ Society of Medieval Ceylon’ by  Dr MB Ariyapala.1956.Contributions and suggestions are welcome from readers to complete this task.

Dr Deraniyagala drawing of how the ancient hunters and food gatherers cooked their meals is giving below

Balangoda Man- Sri Lanka

Balangoda Man- Sri Lanka

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Quartz implements used as cutters, scrappers at Ranchamadama.

Quartz implements used as cutters, scrappers at Jetavana Dagabo.

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A scene from a kitchen during the 1950’s – From book of Sybil Wettasinghe

Dr Raj Somadeva discovered an ancient House with a kitchen at Ranchamadama in Uda Walawe hillock , the charcoal off the cooking was C 14 dated to over 1000 BC. The utensils used by the lady of the house  for preperation [ Grinding, mixing and blending etc] of food was published by him is shown under. Remain of  Deer and Moose was also found during the excavations, which included fired pottery and beads, perhaps worn by the lady of the house. Small quartz cutters and scrapers were also found, these were used for preparation and eating of Food such as meat and fruits etc. Different types of Grinding stones found .

Pieces of Pottery was found at the above site, perhaps some of these were used for cooking and eating or drinking.

A coloured clay pottery found at Udawalave 1120 BC – Raj Somadeva.

The earliest mention of food in the Mahavamsa Chapter VII,    the circumstances  under which the first meal taken by the Sinhalese or what Vijaya[ 5 Cent BC] and his men as described under.

Yellow rice

Yellow Rice prepared in Ghee with saffron for colouring with Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon added, a favourite of the Sinhalese.

“Then was it clear to him: ‘This is surely a yakkhini, she knows my rank,’ and swiftly, uttering his name, he came at her drawing his bow. He caught the yakkhini in the noose about the neck, and seizing her hair with his left hand he lifted his sword in the right and cried: ‘Slave! give me back my men, or I slay thee!’ .Then tormented with fear the yakkhini prayed him for her life. ‘Spare my life, sir, I will give thee a kingdom and do thee a woman’s service and other services as thou wilt.’And that he might not be betrayed he made the yakkhini swear an oath, and so soon as the charge was laid on her, ‘Bring hither my men with all speed,’ she brought them to that place.When he said, ‘These men are hungry,’ she showed them rice and other (food) and goods of every kind that had been in the ships of those traders whom she had devoured. (VIJAYA’s) men prepared the rice and the condiments, and when they had first set them before the prince they all ate of them. When the yakkhini had taken the first portions (of the meal) that VIJAYA handed to her, she was well pleased, and assuming the lovely form of a sixteen year old maiden she approached the prince adorned with all the ornaments.

What was the first meal of the Sinhalese prepared  with Rice and Condiments. The condiments available to flavour food other than pepper and salt. There are many others mentioned in inscriptions and ancient text such as Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger etc. Perhaps a preparations such meal  as Dnutelbath or  Golden[ Yellow rice] now prepared with condiment with Ghee as shown above for fit for a Prince to eat. The Sinhalese still use these ingredients to varied menus for different occasions. The only clue is in the book Arthasastra of Kautilliya which gives the approximate rations that was normal for a person to eat, which mentions Rice and Spice. This section of the book 2.15 sections 42-49 is given below.

RATIONS

CIVILIANS

An Aryan male

One prastha of  rice, one quarter prastha broth, one kuduba  butter or oil. One quarter kuduba salt

A non-Arya male

One prastha of  rice . one-sixth prastha broth, half a kuduba oil, one quarter kuduba salt

Women

Three-quarters of the ration for the corresponding male

Children

half the ration for the corresponding  male

DEFENCE SERVICES

People

Infantry men                     8 adhakas

Chiefs                                   7 adhakas

Queens and princes        6 adhakas

Kings                                     5 adhakas or 1 prastha of unbroken cleaned rice grains

Ingredient for cooking

For 20 palas of fresh meat – Half a kuduba oil, one pala salt, one pala sugar, two dharanas spices and half a prasatha yoghurt

For vegetables– One and half times above quantities

For dried meat – Double the above.

The estimate for firewood for cooking a Prastha of Rice was 25 pala in weight.

10 dharanas  = 1 Pala  =1 ¼ Ozs  = 35 grams.

Fragment of a portable stove 1 Cent AD- German excavation team at Tissa. Similar model are still in use.

Fragment of a portable stove 1 Cent AD- German excavation team at Tissa. Similar model are still in use.

 MENU’S OF KINGS FROM ANCIENT TEXTS

The next important king was Pandukabaya, he met his future queen, when she was taking the Abula or rice meal to her father working the Paddy fields. This practice is still a parts of Sinhala  Villages life.

In Mahavamsa Chapter XIV Verse 55, the   food offered to Rev Mahinda and “His party was invited to the palace and when seated according to rank ,where the Kings him self served them with Rice Soup and with foods – hard and soft”.

At his  death bed it was read out to King Dutugemunu how he had  Rice food prepared with Honey, Lumps of Rice with Oil[ refer to the Tika in sinhalese- Assada], and Jala Cakes baked in butter and also the ordinary Rice. But the favourite was perhaps was Sour Millet Gruel which the King donated to 900 Bhikkhus on the Sumankuta Mountain [ Adma’s Peak] and the 500 at Kalyanika Vihare which then ate it him self.

In the Mahawansa[CV] Part II- Chap 38.95 relating to the period of King Datusena[ 516-526 AD], the King shared a meal of Roasted Corn with a charioteer and  Bikkhu who was consuming Bean soup with Chicken[ or flesh of birds].

Cooking Pots 2-4 Cent AD - German excavation Team at Tissa,Ruhuna.

Cooking Pots 2-4 Cent AD – German excavation Team at Tissa,Ruhuna.

During the period of Mahanaga( 622-625 AD) [ Culavamsa chap  41.73] the flesh of Iguana[ Thalagoya] and Hare along with Corn is mentioned.

During the reign of Dathopatissa II[703-712 AD], the bhikkshu at Mahapali Hall was offered Rice with Sour Milk, Milk Rice and Milk.

Milk Rice or Kiri Bath a favourite Meal of the Sinhalese.

Milk Rice or Kiri Bath a favourite Meal of the Sinhalese.

In CV 42.67, King Aggabodhi[712-727 AD] set up a stone canoe for the gift of rice to the Bhikkhus at Mahapali hall originally built by King Devanapiyatissa. This is 44 feet long .

A FEW MENU’S [VATORUS] ON ANCIENT ROCK INSCRIPTION

The inscriptions give us an idea of the menu of the earliest times in Ceylon. For example, the Tonigala  Rock-inscription of the fourth century A.D. mentions  that the expenses of two and a half hakadas of boiled rice, atarakaja, dishes taken with  atarakaja , a meal taken before noon and after the morning gruel, curd, honey, sweets, sesame, butter, salt, green herbs, and turmeric should be given at the refectory of the monastery ‘ (Epigraphia Zeylonica  3.4. page 178).It mentions that this was in the period of Great King Sirimekavanna Abaya[363-389 AD] the Son of Great King Mahasen[334-361 AD], who built the Jetvanarama Dagabo. It was customary for the priest to be served with the best available food, this record may indicate the type of food the rich person of the 4 Cent AD eat.

Drinking Bowl, excavated at Jetavanrama Dagabo. Perhap Gruel was offered to monks in similar bowls.

Drinking Bowl, excavated at Jetavanarama Dagabo. Perhaps the morning Gruel with Curd and Honey etc was offered to monks in similar bowls.

Dr S Paranavitana, commenting on this, says: ‘The record also enumerates the different kinds of provisions that had to be supplied for the feeding of the monks; and as it was customary to supply the monks with the richest available food, we can learn from this record the nature of the menu of a well-to-do person in Ceylon during the fourth century. It is noteworthy that among the different dishes enumerated, fish or meat does not find a place (ibid., p.177). One may question here whether the monks in this period were Vegetarians, and. whether they ceased to be so as time went on. That monks of the second century AC. partook of meat is however shown by the story of Prince Saliya in the Saddhramaanlkara, which states that a hunter prepared meat in five ways to be offered to a monk.

Treacle off the Kitul or Coconut Trees Sap is still stored in the age old packings.

FOOD FOR THE SICK IN HOSPITALS

The Medirigiriya pillar-inscription (tenth century) states the order that ‘dead goats and fowls‘ should be given to the hospital attached to the Vihara. It is observed in the comments on this inscription that animal food was allowed in Buddhist institutes under certain restrictions. The regulation refers to animals killed by accident. ( EZ 2. 1.page 27). The laymen position is not made clear in these references.

The plan of the remnants of the Hospital at Maedirigiriya

The plan of the remnants of the Hospital at Maedirigiriya

The immersion cylinder for oil, to cure certain ailments.There is another inscription only few sentences could be read, giving details of how the administration of hospital was conducted. Mentions the various officials and land allotted to this hospital which were the source of income for the running of the hospital.

The immersion cylinder for oil, to cure certain ailments.There is another inscription only few sentences could be read, giving details of how the administration of hospital was conducted. Mentions the various officials and land allotted to this hospital which were the source of income for the running of the hospital.

The two inscriptions from Eppavala give us some of the tenth century foods: ‘…. gave to the congregation  one yahala of. sasarapadi (a variety of paddy) paddy; two Palas of salt ; two Palas of pulse; one pala of undu (a species of flemingia), two akas of areca and betel; two akas of Saseme and chillies; and one padda of chunam ‘ (EZ 3.4 194). The tenth century Iripinniyava pillar-inscription refers to boiled or raw rice, and curdled milk or oil (EZ 1.5. 170). The menu of the   later centuries included fish and meat in addition to the dishes of the earlier centuries. The CV refers to the foods of the thirteenth century: ‘ They venerated them with heaps of aromatic rice . . . They venerated them with diverse kinds of fruit, such as bananas, jak, mangoes , and so forth, which were quite ripe, fragrant, lovely –in colour, perfectly sweet . . . provided the bhikkhu community carefully with food and drink, with-dishes solid and tender, with drinks that one sips and with those one drinks. (CV(Culavansa) 85. 36). The CV again refers to the same kinds of food: ‘ with dishes full of the finest rice prepared with sweet milk, with heaps of food composed of sweet –smelling  rice. . . with all hard and soft foods, and with all that can be drunk or sipped ‘

  • The Sanghadatta story in the Saddharmalanjara gives us the full menu of a meal that was offered to an officer who came from the king to a fishermen’s village, viz.: rice cooked, with rathal paddy, ghee and fowl (612).
  • It also states that if gruel was to be made out of one nali measure of rice it would suffice for two meals for five people, and if rice was cooked it was only sufficient for one meal People were also in the habit of taking rice for the morning meal breakfast.

    Offering bowl Jetvana Dagabo Monastery, ANURADHAPURA.

    Offering bowl Jetavana Dagabo Monastery, ANURADHAPURA.

  • A poor man’s meal was boiled rice with fish available in local rivers , streams etc. This was called Nimudu sale bath

Types of Sinhalese Food.

Vijeyabahu IV collected the following for an offering to Community of Bhikkhus

  1. Much Rice
  2. Diverse ingredients such as FishMeat and the rest
  3. Great loads of grain, sour and sweet milk, butter and so forth
  4. Also Honey, treacle, thickened sugar juice, raw sugar, lump sugar and the like.

which states’ that he offered Dishes full of the finest rice prepared with milk, with heaps of food composed of sweet smelling rice like to the Kelasa mountain, with all hard and soft foods and with all that can be drunk or sipped and other things. This  reference   approximates to the traditional four kinds of food, viz., CV 89. 44,[ Dr Ariyapala]

  1. Khhajja  -that can be bitten or Chewed ,
  2. Bhojja – that can be eaten, that is, hard and soft foods,
  3. Leyya – that can be licked,
  4.  Peyya – that can be drunk or sipped.

 

Cooking  & Preparations.

A good curry had to have the proper amount of salt and acid (lime), and a dish without salt was quite unpalatable.

Condiments

Many condiments were added to the curries to make them tasty as mentioned in the Pujavaliya , 4a7   as spices). The condiments or spices added were

  • Pepper (miris) (SdhRv 28);    Dr Raj Somadeva published an inscribed seal found at Akurugoda. The was iscribed in early sinhala script[100BC-100 AD] read  this as Atukurata, he divides this into two words Atta  and Kurava or Kuruha. He interprets thisn as the seal of the ” Spice Market Masters Department” or ” The Pepper Market Masters Department”. The letters are about a millimeter is sizeAtukurata
  • Cummin-seed (duru);

  • Mustard (aba) (ibid. );
  • Dried Ginger (siddhi inguru)IMG_0001
  • and long Pepper (vaga pul).

Cinnamon was another that Sri Lanka was famous for.

The other stuffs used in the preparation of curries were oil and coconut. Frying of curries is referred to (SdhRv ).

The condiments mentioned in inscription of late Anuradhapura Kings are

  • Tumeric – Two Kalandas of Gold[ the coin of the period] worth of Tumeric[ Kahayi] along with two Palas of raw rice had to be presented by the Lords ,the senior executive officers of the Monastery at Mihintale. This was during the period of King Sena II[853-887 AD].
  • Ginger or dried ginger.
  • Tamarind.An inscription of a Dealer in Tamarind, named Sala who must have enjoyed himself along with a prostitute named Tosa[ Delight] , donated a cave in early history of the Island at Sigiriya.[ S Paranavitane]

    An ancient inscription of a Prostitute.

    An ancient inscription of a Prostitute.

The Tempering of curries (duvapu, modern temparadu) is referred to. The dishes which are not thus tempered were considered to be of little taste, and the process is still widely used.

kirikanda gruel mixed with coconut milk (SdhRv- Saddhrama-Ratnavaliya 371- A 13 Cent Text);

Rice roasted and beaten (habala peti) (Sdhlk 6Sz);

Soup made of green gram (mudga supa) is mentioned in the VismSn (54).

We have no doubt that foods of all these varieties were known at the time, as is also shown by the foods mentioned :

  1. mess of unpolished Rice (nimuhdu sala bat) (SdhRv 868) ; rice  cooked-from hal and rat-hal, paddy (SdhRv 775, 338);
  2. rice from unboiled paddy (Kekulu sal) ;
  3. milk-rice mixed-with ghee, honey and jaggery (ibid. 124);
  4. sour-gruel (kadi, P, bilanga (SdhRv 559, Pjv 642) :
  5. Milk-rice.(kiribat) (ibid. 931);
  1. The SdhRv also refers to the fact that-burnt rice that stuck at the bottom of the cooking vessel (damukada) was eaten (ZZ6).
  2. The most frequent mention is of rice and other dishes which are not specified.
  3. Gruel with avulupat (sweetmeats) is also often mentioned.

The Cereals and Grains mentioned are

A Pillar inscription of the 9 Cent AD at Alutvava in Anuradhapuara District mentions the cultivation of various fields, the extent is given in Kiriya and Massa where Karar or Saffron, Sihal KararHamu Grain and Undu[PHASEOLUS INDICA] .

a.  Paddy, Rice was a staple food, many type of rice is mentioned, Sweet smelling rice,Rathal paddy, finest rice etc. Many types of rice had been cultivated. perhaps the Mahasala from grains been larger  than the black bean from Maghada was sowed in the Island, this is said to produce a fragrance when cooked.

b. Mum (green gram),

c. Tala (sesamum),

d. Undu (peas),

e. Barley,

f. Amu (Paspalum serobiculatum).

g. Green gram (mudga supa)

Vegetables

A few varieties of vegetable are also named:

a. kakiri (cucumber) ;

b. puhul (melon-gourd) ;

c. del (bread-fruit) ;

d. rat tampala,(Amaranthus cruentus);

e. tiyambara (kind of cucumber) ;

f. tibbatu(Solanum indicum) (Pjv 165);

g. labu (pumpkin-gourd) (SdhRv 391) ;

h. Vatakolu (Luffa acutangula ) (Sdhlk 391 ) ; and

i. alu puhul, (ash-pumpkin )(ibid 14).

j.  ma ata (a variety of bean) ;

k. lotus-roots (nelubu dalu, nelumbala) (ibid. 65,Pjv 85);

l.. katu-ala (a variety of bulb-root ,edible yam, Dioscorea pentaphylla) (ibid.4 v3);

m. Green herb( pala malu);

Processing Coconut- Sybil Wettasignhe

Coconut was an important corp from the early days and would have been a main ingredient used in cooking of foods. For many preparations the  kernal been used, the oils extracted from the milk of the kernal.  Honey was extracted from the milk.The coconut water used as a drink.

According to Dr Paranavitane in Inscription of Ceylon Volume II part I  page 32, he describes an inscription referring to a large number of Coconut Groves in an inscription during the period of King Mahadathika Mahanaga[7- 19 AD] at Mihintale. He states that Antrasamudra District was famous for Coconut [ Nadira- Neralu] Groves[ Araba]and that is the land between the two Oceans ,is perhaps the Kalpitiya area . He  also suggests that this is perhaps the Anarisimondus of the Ptolemy’s Map.

The inscription of Parakramabahu II[1225-1269 AD] at Bentota mentions various plantation of coconuts[ Pol], this shows the Western coast may have been a Coconut belt from the early days..

Flesh of hunted animals (dadamas)(ibid 569).

Many references to the hunting  and hunters of animals. There is archeological evidence that many animal flesh was eaten  after cooking. [ Gedige Anuradhapura]. The eating of animal is described in texts.

Henry Parker after examining the bones distributed through excavations at Tissamaharama, ascertains that the people lived largely upon Samber, deer or Elk cervus aristltelis , and bopnes are usually blackened, it may presumed that the meat was roasted.Other animals eaten was spotted deer, buffaloes which due to its large size of the teeth may have been the wild type, wild pig, large monkey of which the skull split in two, as though to extract the brains. The curry stones and numerous plates show rice was the staple food.

An inscription dated to the  period of King Batiya II[ 140-164 AD], a daughter of the Lord of Mahagama the capital of Ruhuna, South of the Island . She is Talata Laci and she donates her share of the flesh of Peacocks, Deer and Black Antelope to a Monastery of Hayada.IMG_0002

IMG_0001

The German excavation team found the remnants of a cooked rice pot intact from the 1 Cent AD, which will soon be https://sirimunasiha.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/img_00012.jpgpublished by them.

Fowl (ibid 207)(Pjv 376);

  1. Pork (uru mas) (ibid. 714, Pjv 88);
  2. Beef (gomas) (ibid 907, VismSn IV. 84);
  3. Rabbit [Pjv 88, Sdhlk 261) ;
  4. Venison (muva mas) (Pjv 95) ;The  Sahasavathuppakaranya an acient text states that during the reign of King Kavantissa[2nd  Cent BC  ] who ruled at Mahagama, Ruhuna the South  of the country, the Famous Warrior Nandimitta spent 03 kahapanas to purchace Venison.
  5. Pigeon (paravi) (ibid. 583);
  6. Snipe (vatu) (ibid.586, SdhRv 371);
  7. Pea-fowl (monara mas)

Eggs

  1. turtle eggs (Kasub biju) (SdhRv 813) ;
  2. fowls eggs (Kukulu biju) (ibid. 814) ;

 

Fish.

Both Sea and fresh water fish was eaten in ancient Srilanaka. There is evidence that fishing  was in inland water way was conducted in an organised manner and the a Tax imposed on fishing. An example of private ownership of canals and tanks where fish was harvested during the period of King Mahanaga of the 3 Cent AD is below.

Another example where fishing was banned in a Abaya -Vava or the now Basavak-kulama, which states that if the Mayor of the city fails to keep watch,  arrest and punish those who engage in fishing at this tank, the officer in charge of property of the  Mahavihare, shall impose a fine of 10 Hunas of Gold. This is equivalent to 50 Kalandas of Gold. This is the in Inscriptions of Ceylon Vol 5 Pt I as No 19 and identified as of Sena II[657-887 AD].

River-fish (kuda mas) (SdhRv 158) ;

  1. Red fish (remas) (ibid 253)
  2. Sheat fish (petiyo, Silurus pelorius) (ibid. 52il;
  3. Lula (Ophiocephalus striatus);
  4. Sumgo (variety of river-fish) ;
  5. Teli (Sea Mastacembelus, also Spiny eel,, see Deraniyagala, ibid., pp. 65, r3z, r33) (Sdhlk 5zg’);

Gan Teliya or Spiny Eel

  1. Anda, (SdhRv 47 eel,genus Anguilla,Deraniyagala, ibid., pp. 64, 65).

Ganga Anda or long finned Eel

Sweetmeats,

  1. pulub (assada, a sweetmeat made of flour, sometimes fried in ghee) (ibid. 474) ;
  2. kavum (rice-cake) (VismSn 82) ;
  3. pani kavum (rice-cake with honey or molasses) (SdhRv 285) ;
  4. kudu kavum (rice-cake or sweetmeat made of rice bran)-it is also mentioned that kudu kavum is made solely of rice bran and that no oil or flour is used with it (ibid. 90) ;
  5.  tala muruvata (gingelv oil cake) (ibid.228) ;
  6.  atirasa (a sweetmeat in the shape of a disc, made of flour)
  7. sundangiya (tala guli, sesamum mixed with sugar or honey and made into balls) (ibid. 414) ;
  8. kabalu (a variety of rice-cake) ;
  9. aggala,(flour fried and mixed with honey and then made into balls and again fried in oil) (ibid. 992);
  10. atsunu (rice flour mixed with honey (ibid. 992).
  11.  lalu, (a sweetmeat) (Sdhlk 411).

Most of these sweet- meats were made of rice flour. The rice is powdered and sifted, the   powder is then fried and used for making these various sweetmeats, which are made into various shapes, some fried in oil. Reference is made to lalu, made of green gram (mum) (SdhRv 371)

 

Sweetening Agent used.

King Mahaculi Mahatissa had worked 3 yaer in disguise at a suger Mill and was paid in Suger cubes. [ Mahavansa Chap XXXIV  Verse 5].Suger cane was cultivated along with rice. In additions honeywas obtained from the sap of Coconut and Kitul Trees.IMG

Some of the sweetening agents used by ancient Sri Lankan  as described Dr Ariyapala were

  1. Sarkara, (jaggery or candy) ;
  2.  uk sakuru (sugar-cane jaggery)
  3. and uk (sugar-cane) are also mentioned.
  4. honey-comb(mi)

Fruits.

King Amandagamini Abaya did plant Vine fruits and offered to the alms bowl a fruit called  Flesh lemon  or Puhul[ Chapter XXXV verse 6].

The fruits mentioned are:

a.  amba (mango of various varieties, such as mi amhba, a very sweet variety).The Mango Tree is mentioned { Mhv  XIV Verse 17]during the time of Devanampiyatissa in the questions asked by Rev Mahinda , and Mhv mentioned of a poisoned Mango sent to Prince Mahanaga brother of King Devanampiyatissa by his queen. A ripe  Mango fruit from a place called Pahan-Amba-malaka is described ,as excellent in colour, fragrance and taste and of large  size, the fruit that the King offered Rev Mahinda. Later this kernel was handed back to the King , who planted it.[ Chap XV verse ]

b. vala and varaka, (two varieties of ripe Jak fruit, soft and hard) (SdhRv 102) ;

c. damba (jambu, rose-apple) (ibid 102),King Sanghatissa was very fond of eating Jumbo fruits and he was poisoned through a fruit.{ Mhv XXXVI  Verse 70]

d, kehel (Plantain or Banana). Ati eta kehel  is a wild vareity  , seed remains  of this vareity was found in the pre-historic  cave  sites at Belilena Belandi Pelessa at Kitulgala[ Pre-history of Sri lanka- S Deraniyagala- 1992]. Ramba was the ancient name for this fruit, and cultivation of bananas is mentioned in the mahavanasa during the period of king Buddhadasa of the 4 Cent AD. The Local varieties still cultivated are Rathambala. Alukehel,Puvalu and Monthan. The other varieties were from other South Asian Countries.

e. beli {wood-apple}(ibid. 285).

.

Drinks.

Milk.

Cattle breeding was practised side by side with agriculture, there are stories relating to large herds in certain parts of the Island. The milk was used for extracting ghee with out which boiled  rice was not eaten.

The Sahasvathupprakaranya states that during the reign of King Sadatissa[137-119 BC] a married couple purchased a Cow for the price of eight kahapanas.

The Mhv  mentions Drinks that one sips .

MILK PRODUCTS AS FOOD

Animals husbandry. Milk products is mentioned in text and on inscriptions, products were Ghee and Butter .

Making Butter.

Making Butter.

 

Fruit Drinks

King been served with a drink Jeywana Dagabo Ayaka.3/4 Cent AD.

King been served with a drink Jetawana Dagabo Ayaka.3/4 Cent AD.

Some of the fruits were made into drinks, and eight kinds of drink (asta-vidha-pana) are referred to. The Sdhlk (124) has amba (Mango), Jambu (rose-apple), coca and maca , ata kehel and mas Kehel,, two varieties of plantain or banana, seedy and fleshy (see Sorata, Sri Sumangaia-Sabdakosaya); coca-derivation and meaning uncertain, the coconut or banana (P.T.S.Dic.) ; maca, plantain or banana (ibid.) madhu (honey), muddika (grape or vine) , saluka [edible root of the water Lily (P.T.S. Dic.), lotus-root, pharusaka, ( boraludamanu or ugurassa (sweet lovi-lovi, Flacourtio ramontchi)).*

In addition to these,

a. the juice of sugar- cane is also mentioned (SdhRv 930).

b. The water of the king- coconut, which is still a relished drink, is also referred to (ibid. 714);.

Two other sets of foods are: catu madhura, the four sweets or dainties and pas gorasa, the five products of the cow (SdhRv 167).

The four sweets consisted of ghee, butter, honey, and jaggery (Glossary to SdhRv p.28). The SdhRv mentions jaggery as one of the four (683).

PasgorasaCurd

Milk was used to extract Curd and other five milk products called pasgorasa which were in regular use.The Pjv (410) enumerates the pas gorasa-kiri (milk), di (P. dadhi, curd) ; yoda (moru, P. takka, whey or butter milk made by churning dadhi. P sappi, ghee) ; vendru (P. navanita, butter). The Vinaya Pitaka also mentions the same five, viz.-khiram,, dadhim, takkam, navanitam and sappim (ed. Oldenberg,1.244). The Vimanavatthu Atthakatha describes go rasa as the finest quality of taste (rasut-tamam) : rasuttamam gorasasappi adi (Paramatthadi pani,, P.T.S., Pt. IV, p. 147). Adulteration of milk was not unknown, and is shown by the VismSn (IV. 256).

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3 thoughts on “CUSINE OF ANCIENT SRI LANKANS

  1. Comprehensive. Just a remark. why should the meals be based on that of the rich. Considering that the
    Monks were ordinary farmers, the food would have been simple at least in the early periods. Two oruwas
    have been found in the monasteries, a long Buth oruwa and a shorter oruwa. The use of the longer one is known
    but that of the shorter or smaller, there is only speculation. Could have been for a Hathmaluwa !

  2. Most articles I’ve seen say that beef consumption was always forbidden among the Sinhalese; and when they say “always” I assume that they are referring to pre-Buddhist Sri Lanka as well. Is that true? If so, why did they not eat beef?

    • It is not forbidden as such, but taking into consideration the taken away of a life, combined with the inherited Hindhu reverence for a the cow, they looked down upon the Portuguese who started killing their cattle for food. Buddha preached about Nutrition and the requirements of the body.

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