Marianne in My Home - Sri Lanka
Extracts from the interview with Imalka, participating in the Marianne in My Home project. Read and listen to what she thinks about Marianne North’s recollections of Sri Lanka.
"I am Imalka and I am from Sri Lanka. My home town, it is not a big city, it is a village…
"She [Marianne North] sees the things the way she actually sees them, she just grabs it… she is sort of typical English lady and… if she knew the culture she would had been much softer… but she did not know… she is describing things she sees briefly… well, I may have to disagree with certain things she says…
"When English people came they wanted to have these tea plantations, they asked the native people the Sinhalese to work in the fields, on the tea plantations and Sinhalese they are known to be very proud and they did not want to work under English people because before that time we had our own king and we were used to take orders from that king… So they had to import workers from South India because they were willing to work… and in Kandy there are places where these Indian people still they are there, now they are nationalised, so when she [Marianne North] goes to the tea plantations and describes people mostly they would be those people, not native Sri Lankan people… and she said that one family there… they allowed their daughter to… well,
they poisoned their daughter… well, in Sri Lanka we don’t have that tradition… the main thing
is that most Sri Lankans were Buddhist at that time.
"She mentions that the original tooth [Buddha’s tooth] was taken from Sri Lanka to Burma and that it isan elephant’s tusk, not a real tooth… That would hurt Buddhists. It is the most holy kind of thing to us, it is a sacred city… even today when the president is elected he goes there to give his first speech… because whatever person comes should protect Buddhism…"
Marianne North on Sri Lanka
Extracts from Recollections of a Happy Life by Marianne North. Memories of travel to Sri Lanka.
"[In Kandy]... One day Mr. P took me to the temple and into its most holy chamber, in which the gold Dagoba or bell which covers Buddha’s famous tooth is kept, always surrounded by piles of yellow and white flowers and ever-burning lamps.
Marianne North in Sri Lanka
The original tooth was carried off from Kandy to Burmah many years ago, and is there still; but as both teeth were taken from an elephant, it did not matter much which elephant they came from...
"... on Thursday I was called out to see the housekeeper’s baby girl, a month old, which had been found dead in the morning. I went into the cottage, and found the mother rolling on the ground, throwing dust on her head, howling, and writhing like a serpent. The man cried, and put the little cold stiff body into my hands, while the elder children demanded “sugar plums”, as they always did at the sight of me.
"Soon after it was buried down by the river, and a lot of crackers were let off to drive away the evil one. (Like the Chinese, the Tamils thought more of him than of the good spirit).
"A hill clergyman came in to breakfast with me... He said very possibly those people had let the child die as it was only a girl, and they had three already, and would have to give them marriage portions. It was quite a usual custom to starve them to death slowly or poison them..."
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