Unawatuna, Romancing Rumassala, One and Future Myth. (Part 1)

Unawatuna, Romancing Rumassala,
One and Future Myth. (Part 1)

"I say that a myth is a story, which has a particular energy, mythi resonance. I always say that a myth is a tear in the fabric of reality, through which all of this spiritual energy pours"
Jay Parini (1948) [American Writer and Novelist]

The cultural profile of humans, is emphatically enriched and enlivened by myths, legends, fairy tales, folk lore and creations of that ilk. Each nation, each country and even each clan and tribe, may have its own store, trove or pool of legends and myths.

We, in Sri Lanka, though inhabiting a tiny island citadel, possess a stupendous hoard of treasured legends and myths, that stem from a vast variety of sources. Many are spiritual, religious and cultural in origin. Some are associated with folk life.

But, of all those, the most far reaching and perpetually challenging legend, we have inherited, is, of course, that of Rumassala, popularly linked with the great Indian Epic "Ramayana" attributed to sage Valmiki.

Rumassala dates back to a hoary past, that pre-dates our formal history, by several ages.

Surprisingly substantiating my claim that Rumassala is a "Once and future myth", India released a news item, just a couple of days ago. According to this, The Indian Railway will launch a special tourist train from Ayodhya to Colombo, on the "Ramayana Circuit", covering the locations associated with the Hindu Epic. I would be particularly happy, if the tour planners could include Rumassala, in Unawatuna, in their Sri Lanka Leg of the tour, as this site is profoundly intertwined with the Rama Tale,

It must be quite clearly recognised, that a legend or myth is not necessarily formal or authentic history. Nevertheless, a legend may, at times derive from a stray trace of history. Over the ages, mount Rumassala at Unawatuna, has proved to be the primary core andfocal point, around which a vast array of myths and legends have steadily accumulated.

The Rumassala escarpment, has as its base, a rocky formation, which according to geologists, is about a million years old.

Rumassala Escarpment stretches eastwards, from Dewata Beach (about 2 miles to the South of Galle) to taper off at Yaddehimulla, where the WellaDevala shrine stands, at the end of the promotory. Over the centuries, a lush green forest grew, providing an alluring cover, to the mass of rock, at the base. The abruptly rising mount seems an uncharacteristic geological formation, when compared with the undulating plain surrounding it. This gave rise to the speculation, that the mount of Rumassala, was a feature, "introduced" from outside.

Fragment from the sun

A recent writer, decided that this was a "fragment", that fell from the sun. Fragments do not fall on planets from the sun. What is quite likely is, this is an asteroid or a piece of comet-material, that came from the Oort cloud, at the edge of the solar system. The Oort cloud consists of planetary debris. Occasionally, a stray object may get dislodged from the Oort cloud, pulled by solar gravitation. Such a fragment is quite likely to have fallen on earth, forming the mount.

But, the ancient mass mind discovered a legendary explanation, to solve the mystery of Mount Rumassala. They adapted an episode from the Epic Ramayana, to unravel the mystery of the origin of Rumassala.

We will look at this legend briefly. In the course of the battle between the forces of Rama of India and those of Ravana of Lanka an nemy arrow wounded Prince Luxman, Prince Rama's brother. The chief physician of Rama's Army, examined the wounded prince and made a pronouncement. "I can restore Luxman to complete health, if four herbs are brought swiftly from the Himalayayas" Hanuman the monkey god undertook the urgent mission. When he reached the Himalayas, Hanuman's memory left him. He could not recollect the name of the prescribed herbs. He broke off the segment of the Himalayas, where the herbs grew. He presented the Himalayan fragment to the chief physician. After the chief physician extracted the essential herbs, Hanuman threw away the Himalayan chunk.

And, this Himalayan fragment fell to earth at Unawatuna, forming the legendary Rumassala.

In order to add further weight to this legendary origin, mass wisdom created a popular etymological meaning to the village name Unawatuna. They said it is derived from "Onna Vatuna" (there, it fell). "Onna Vatuna", according to that interpretation, ended up as Unawatuna. This, far-fetched folk etymology, is entirely wrong. In reality "Unawatuna" implies "Oona pattana" (The Minor Harbour). It was Unapatuna at first. Later it turned into the current Unawatuna. I am quite keen to put this right, especially, because, Unawatuna is t the village of my birth.

Some tend to believe that Rumassala signifies "the Beautiful Hill" (Rumath Sala). There is a foreign name to this hill "Buona Vista" endowed either by the Portuguese or the Dutch, I believe. It can be interpreted as the Beautiful View.

There is yet another far out, interpretation. According to that, the name implies "Rama-issu-gala". To establish this view, he says, Ravana had confined Sita to a cave.

The entrance had been blocked with a heavy slab of stone...

To be continued to next part...
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