For more details Please click  on       Ancient Srilankan Cusine

Shown below are extracts from Mahawansa,  Arthasastra, and books of Robert Knox and others. All these show that the Main food of soldiers was Rice, this was boiled with Condiments, Ghee etc, with what ever meat or fish that was available on the march. This was similar to the first meal of the Sinhalese, after eating this Vijeya and his 700 followers attacked Sirisavattu and slayed the Yakkha Chief[ Mahavansa ]. It may not be coincidence  that a  similar rations was given to the Sinhala Soldier recruited to the His Majesty’s  Ceylon Regiment[ Description of Ceylon – James Cordiner. .Incidentally,I have with me  a Bugle made of  Horn, with the copper band on which is inscribed ‘Sinhala Regiment 1815 ‘ presented by WO I Wijeratne of the SLEME.This Regt was Commanded by Lt Col Johnston Amerasekera of Mihirigama, the Great Great Grand Father of Late General Rajan Wijeratne.They division of Sinhala soldiers into different casts, their prejudice and habits did not permit od any regulations be adopted in respect of messing in barracks and hospitals as practised by the English.Each individual was left to procure and dress his own meal. This seldom consist of more than Dry Rice or Congee. This created diseases Flux, Berry- Berry and Ulcers etc. To remedy this evil they were issued in addition to Rice small proportions of Gheee, Garlic, Chillies, Tamarind and other cury stuff to each soldier for which a small sum was deducted from their pay.

It is interesting to note how the British fed the  the Generals[ Ahelapola -first Class] and Soldiers[ Second Class] who were banished to Mauritius on board the ship. The Governor had requested they be fed in the manner  they were accustomed to

Rice and Condiments from the Web.

The table of provisions issued to each of the Kandyan Prisoners on board the Ship to Mauritius
To each of the 1 st Class
1 seer of rice
1/8 seer ofghee
2 Coconuts
2 Comblemos
l/4 seer of Parippoo
l/4 seer of Moongoo
I/4 seer of yams
6 pieces of sweet potatoes
l/8 seer of salt
1/10 piece of gourd
1 /15 seer Mustard seed
1 salt fish I sort
4 lemons
20 leaves of betel
1 bundle of firewood
1 leaf of tobacco
12 arrecca nuts
1/4 pound of tamarind
1/15 pound of tumarick
1/15 pound of chillies
1/15 pound of onions
1/30 pound of coloowa seed (ulundu)
1/30 pound of Coriander seed
1/30 pound of pepper
1/30 pound of Cummin seed

To each of the 2nd Class
1 seer of rice
1 coconut
1 salt fish 2nd sort
10 loaves of Betel
½ leaf of tobacco
10 arrecanuts
1/4 seer of yams
4 pieces of sweet-potatoes
1/12 seer of salt
1/30 pound of chillies
1/30 pound of turmarick
1/12 pound of gorka
1/4 bundle of firewood

By the 17  Cent AD of Robert Knox, who adds green leaves , with Lemon and Salt and pepper, the famous Melluma [ A sort of a Salad of leaves] that many relish even today. Was this part of the meal of Sinhala soldier on the march, many types of edible leaves are available in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Lemons?.- wal narang?

A Modern Restaurant version of the Mellum, which  the soldier still eat in the field

A Modern Restaurant version of the Mellum, which the soldier still eat in the field. From the web sites.

King Dutugemunu’s [ 2 Cent BC] father King Kavantissa had an army of 11,110 soldiers equipped ,trained and ready for impending battles. He knew or planned his campaign which was a long drawn out in time and distance. Perhaps he had the  knowledge and experience of King Pandukabaya battles ,which had been recorded in the atthakatha books of the ancients from which the Mahavansa was extracted in the 6 Cent AD, was also available to him. He had to overcome the defenses over the Mahaveli Ganga  and then he had to travel route perhaps taken King Pandukabaya to get to Anuradhapura. Maintaining his soldiers and providing with food would have been one of his logistical tasks. I am leaving out the fodder for Elephant, Horses  and Pack animals and Bullocks too have been the task of the Camp Superintendent.

“The Soldiers march on their Belly”….

The first act of King Dutugemunu after taken control of Ruhuna was to entrust his brother King Tissa on an intensive food production programme and stock food at Dighvapi from where his advancing forces could easily be supplied from while he him self addressed this Problem in Mahagama Ruhuna and directed the work of harvest with the beat of the drum.[Ch XXIV verse 58].

Gamini Gunasekera ex-police writes

As regards Dutugemunu’s expedition path from Magama upwards, I recall that there are some villages in Middeniya Police area called Dara Dunu Yaaya and Bath Dunu Yaaya etc. At that time they said that D’s army passed through those villages and those villages supplied the fire wood and food to the King’s army. There is also further up in the Eastern province a water way by the name of Kenda Bivu Aara (later Tamilzed as Kanji Kuddicchi Aaru) meaning that was the place where the Army consumed poridge, while camping. It is quite possible that they chose to rest near a waterway.

This is perhaps the jargon used for the present Ration Points where dry and fresh rations are collected by troops on the march.

Soldier on the March- Ancient Armies

An projected impression of an Ancient Sinhala Soldier with his Weapons and possibly what Pack ,he carried for Food and Accommodation while Marching to battle..

The quantities  donated to Monks at monasteries are on inscription, The only book that gives more detail but the  food of the Aryan written specially for the region where the early Sinhalese came from and had close constant contact is written down posterity by Kautilliya in the Arthasastra. We can speculate that the Sinhalese  would have cultivated  the same tastes adapting  to the local food item and other resources available in the Island or perhaps blended with the local tastes.oldier 20 Cent

In the absence of  direct evidence of what the Soldiers eat and What the Officers eat during his campaign, an attempt is made here to  indirectly speculate what the rations of a soldier was from other sources available. These would tempt logistician in this field to correct and improve on these assumptions.


Major Johnstone An Expedition to Kandy in the year 1804 states

“ The provisions of the Kandyan are equally portable with his tent[A large leaf of a Talipot Tree]. Two or three coconuts, a few cakes made of the  grain I have just described, and a small quantity of rice, compose the whole of soldiers stock for a campaign. His other wants he is certain of being always able to supply”. This is said to be enough for fifteen days.

In 1803 James Cordiner “ Description Of Ceylon states Pg451- Extracts from Medical report troops serving in Ceylon.

“In addition of Rice now issued, furnish a small proportion of Ghee, Garlic, Chillies, Tamarind and other Curry stuff to each soldier, for which small  sum may be deducted from their pay,….’

1700 AD

“Robert Knox-a.How they eat.

a.How  the Soldiers attached to Royal Household

“But the Private soldiers take their turns of watching, and when they go, they carry all their provisions for the time of their stay with them upon their backs. These soldiers are not listed, but are by succession the son after the father. For which service they enjoy certain lands and  inheritances, which are instead of wages or pay. If they omit or neglect this duty, they lose or forfeit their inheritance ; of if they please to be released or discharged they may, by parting with their land .Then their commander placeth another in their room, but as long as the land lies void, he converts the profits to his own use. He who takes it afterwards gives a bribe to the commander who ,yet notwithstanding will not permit him to hold it ,above two or three Years, unless he renews his bribe”.

b.Eating Habits

And now we are mentioning eating, let us take a view of this people at their meals. Their Diet and ordinary fare Is but very means, as to our account. If they have but Rice and Salt in their house, they reckon they want for nothing. For with a few green leaves and the juice of a Lemon with Pepper, and Salt, they will make-a hearty meal. Beef here may not be eaten; it is abominable: Flesh and Fish is some what scarce. And that little of it they have, they had rather sell to get money to keep than eat it themselves: neither there any but outlandish men, that will buy any of them. If is they indeed do eat the fat and best of the Land. Nor is counted any shame or disgrace, to  be a niggard and sparing in diet; but rather a Credit even to the greatest of them, that they can fare hard and suffer hunger, which they say, Soldier ought to be able to endure.

Prices were fixed. to prevent disputes between the troops and local People coming I to sell; large hen 2 ½ Stivers, a small one l Stiver, a measure of butter 10 stivers, 40 betel-leaves was half a Stiver, 100 arecanut.1 Stiver,a measure of pepper 2 Stivers; of Saffron 4, of ” Singalese Ears” Sinhala Goraka or Canbogia] a flavor for curries], a coconut 1/2 duyts, a measure of oil 4 stivers, 2 eggs 1 1/2 duyts, a leaf of betel-tobacco ½ Stiver,3 or 1 leaves of smoking-tobacco 1 duyt.
About 10 am the headmen of the neighboring villages came in to submit requesting confirmation in their appointments , granted, but they were told that all firearms must be surrendered., that all their people must be set to clearing the roads, and that cattle must, be supplied daily payment, all of which they promised.
An extract of Dutch daily register on the march to Kandy via Kurunegala
The Spy sent to Wissenauwe[ Wisenawa Paddy Stores] and Ettampole[ Ettenpola Paddy stores] reports that at the latter are only 4 or 6 Gingals and a few muskets, at the former 60-70 with 6 or 7 Gingals suggested that these places could readily be- taken.
He discussed transport-difficulties the Bauert the nature of the country and the increasing slickness among the coolies. he instructed to send 300 smart and strong Moors from the Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast at 2 Rix-dollars per month plus One Rupee in lieu of 1 Parra of Rice. No delay to occur, even though , it is now harvest-time, and even if force is needed. ” In pressing them into service, prevent the native officials from extorting money from the rich for exemption”
To decrease transport, HE decided to give in lieu of Arrack[ ]to the Easterners, who-for most part part sell it secretly to the Europeans. Bauert to see whether the coolies, who get 30 lbs of rice a month, but usually sell it and manage with Coconuts and other Fruits, would not except instead a rupee a month, i.e. 30 Stivers.
IIe consulted Bauert regarding a, special gratuity- to compensate the troops for the lack of provisions such as suger, butter, tamarinds, etc (which could. not be transported), to be distributed after taking Kandia and the conclusion of an advantageous

c.How the great Men eat[ Senpatis – Mote-ralles etc

The great ones have always five or six sorts of food at one meal, and of them not above one or two at most of Flesh  or Fish, and of them more pottage than meat, after the Portugal fashion. The rest is only what growth out of the ground. The main substance with which they fill their bellies is Rice, the other things are but to give it a relish.

c.Discouraged from nourishing of Cattle

If these people Were not discouraged from rearing a nourishing of Cattle and Poultry, provisions might be far more plentiful. For here are many  Jackals, which catch their Hens; and some Tigers, that destroy their Cattle: but the  greatest of all is the King; whose endeavor is to keep them  and in want. For from them that have Hens Officers take them for the Kings use giving little or nothing for them; the like they do by Hogs, Goats none are suffered to keep, besides the King, except strangers.

RATIONS- as Laid down in Arthsastra -300 BC

The average food consumption can be deduced from rations prescribed for Aryan male for one meal in the Kautilyan state and society which was in close proximity from the area that Vijaya and  other came to the Island.


An Aryan male

One prastha of  Un-Husked Rice[ about a kilo ], one quarter prastha[ about a quarter litre ] Broth[ In Sri Lanka -the modern Kola kenda] or Gruel, one kuduba[ One sixteenth litre]  butter or oil. One quarter kuduba salt.

A recipe for a broth of rice a, Coconut cream. Called Kola Kenda

A recipe for a broth of rice a, Coconut cream. Called Kola Kenda. Note the number of local Green leave which abundant any where in Sri Lanka.

A non-Aryan male

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


Three-quarters of the ration for the corresponding male


Half the ration for the corresponding  male.

Attendent to Elephants were given a litre of boiled rice, a cupful of Oil, 160 grams of suger,800 grams of meat with salt.



Infantry men                     8 adhakas

Chiefs                                   7 adhakas

Queens and princes        6 adhakas

Kings                                     5 adhakas or 1 prastha of unbroken cleaned rice grains

Wide variety of commodities were used for cooking: different kinds of rice, other Cereals like wheat, barley and millets, a variety of beans and lentils, butter and ghee, vegetable oils from sesame and mustard. sugar, honey, treacle and molasses, vinegars, fruit juices from tamarind, lemon and pomegranate, milk and yoghurt, spices including pepper, ginger, coriander, cumin seed and anise, root vegetables other vegetables and fruit, fresh and dried meat and dried fish

The  quantities of other ingredients for cooking fresh meat are given as follows: for every kilo of meat, 50 grams of salt., 50 grams of sugar, 10 grams spices, One and a quarter kilo of yoghurt and a small quantity of oil. For dried meat, the above quantities were doubled and vegetables, one and a half times the above quantities were used

Kautilya even gives the amount of firewood required for cooking a prastha of rice as 25 palas .{2.19 26,27}


Ingredient for cooking

For 20 palas of fresh meat – Half a kuduba oil, one pala salt [35 grams], one pala sugar[35 grams], two dhranas [7 grams] spices and half a prastha yoghurt

For vegetables- One and half times above quantities

For dried meat – Double the above

Weights and Measures. All measurements wee done is the weight or Grain of Rice or Beans , hence it is very approximate.

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

4 Prasthas = 1 Adaka

4 Adakas = 1 drona[ 8-9 litres or 1 ¾ – 2 gals

Measures of Capacity:-

Here the standard was furnished by the Kudava, a vessel ,described as 3 Angulis long, 4 Angulis broad, and 1-1/2 Anguli deep, with acubical capacity of 13-1/2 cubical Angulis.[The width of the middle finger].

4 Kudavas    =1 Prastha,

4 Prasthas    = 1 Adhaka4 Adhakas   = 1 Drona,

4 Dronas      = 1 Khari or Bhara.

24 Angulis make 1 Hasta, cubit, which may be taken to be 18 or 19 inches.


The approximate estimate of the cost of these items

The annual lowest salary is said to be at the least be equivalent to the value of one Adaka[ four prasthas] of grain per day, enough for four meals. Very approximately this worked out to four litres of Rice or three to three and half  kilos of husked rice. Un-husked rice worked out to 1 ½ -2 Kilo per persons per day, along with the spice, ghee etc.

The minimum wage according to same source was 60 Silver Panas per year.

60 Silvers per year = 16 x 60 Copper Panas

Per day the value was = 18 x 60/ 360 = 3 Copper Panas , this may be approximate or estimated amount of money that could buy provisions meals for a family per day.

The  Soldier that got higher salaries [ 500 silver panas per year], a little less than 10 times that of the minimum wage, would have been able to purchase other items such as meat etc.


Rice and Condiments from the Web.

Rice and Condiments from the Web.

To re-cap what the Chronicle Mahavamsa states about the first meal that the Sinhalese had when they first landed in Sri Lanka, after sleeping the night the 700 attacked [ surprise dawn attack]Sirisavatthhu and defeated the Yakka king. Mahavamsa Chapter VII verse 24 onwards

“  When he[ Vijaya] said, ‘These men are hungry, she showed them rice and other(foods) and goods of every kind that had been in the ships of those traders whom she had devoured   [ The food or the Traders?].

(VIJAYA’s) men prepared the Rice and the Condiments, and when they had first set them before the prince they all ate of them. [ Not cooked by Kuveni- different tastes?]

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 maid, she approached the prince adorned with all the ornaments. At the foot of a tree she made a splendid bed, well covered around with a tent, and adorned with a canopy. And seeing this, the king’s son, looking forward to the time to come, to her to him as his spouse and lay (with her) blissfully on that bed; and all his men encamped around the tent. ”.

As the night went on he heard the sounds of music and singing, and asked the yakkhini, who was lying near him: ‘What means this noise?’ And the yakkhini: ‘I will bestow kingship on my lord and all the yakkhas must be slain, for (else) the yakkhas will slay me, for it was through me that men have taken up their dwelling (in Lanka).’

And she said to the prince: ‘Here there is a yakkha-city called Sirisavatthu; the daughter of the chief of the yakkhas who dwells in the city of Lanka has been brought hither, and her mother is to come. And for the wedding there is high festival, lasting seven days; therefore there is this noise, for a great multitude is gathered together. Even to-day do thou destroy the yakkhas, for afterwards it will no longer be possible.’

He replied: `How can I slay the yakkhas who are invisible?’ `Wheresoever they may be,’ she said, `I will utter cries, and where thou shalt hear that sound, strike! and by my magic power shall thy weapon fall upon their bodies.’

Since he listened to her and did even (as she said) he slew all the yakkhas, and when he had fought victoriously he himself put on the garments of the yakkha king and bestowed the other raiment on one and another of his followers.

When he had spent some days at that spot he went to Tambapanni. There VIJAYA founded the city of Tambapanni and dwelt there, together with the yakkhini, surrounded by his ministers.

When those who were commanded by VIJAYA landed from their ship, they-sat down wearied, resting their hands upon the ground and since their hands were reddened by touching the dust of the red earth that region and also the island were (named) Tambapanni. But the king Sihabähu, since he had slain the lion (was called) Sihala and, by reason of the ties between him and them, all those (followers of VIJAYA) were also (called) Sihala.

Rice and the Condiments      .

What addition or subtractions did the menu Rice and Condiment  that was cooked by the cooks amoung the 700 who came with the Vijaya an Aryan male.

One prastha of  Un-Husked Rice[Wee– about a kilo or ¾ Kg of dehusked –saal],

one quarter prastha[ about a quarter litre ] broth,

one kuduba[ One sixteenth litre]  butter or oil.

One quarter kuduba salt.

Usually soldiers were into unit, a ten unit a Battalion was commanded by an officer and ten of these made a division commanded by a Nayaka.

What did King Dutugemunu eat before setting out to battle as mentioned in the Tupavansa . A favourite Meal of King Dutugemunu ,which he offered to the Monks and which he, him self enjoyed eating, was Sour Kurakkan [ Millet] Kenda [Gruel].[ Mahavamsa Chap XXXII para 49]. Is there a Menu for this gruel, a thin liquid Food of Millet boiled in Coconut milk, how was it made sour, by Tamarind or any other local product.?.Before Battle how Dutgemunu acted.

A Kurakan Soup, perhaps a modification of Sour Kurakkan Gruel of King Dutugemunu's Cooks.

A Kurakan Soup, perhaps a modification of Sour Kurakkan Gruel of King Dutugemunu’s Cooks.

It is an interesting to note that Senpati Nandamitta purchased Venison for 3 kahapans for his consumption.[Sahasvathpaprakaya]



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