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Centre for Eco-cultural Studies (CES)

Diyakapilla, Sigiriya
Sri Lanka






@ Centre for Eco-cultural Studies (CES) 2001

Cover photograph: The Sigiriya Sanctuary

Photographs: S.S.S. Jasinghe and K. S. Fernando

Cover Design: .S.S.S. Jasinghe

Centre for Eco-cultural Studies (CES)

Sri Lanka




The Sigiriya area is one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems that
provides economic, environmental and social benefits to the local
communities. The diverse habitats incorporated within this area are the
Tropical Dry-mixed Evergreen Forest type, dry grasslands, village forests,
home gardens and tank environments that harbour over 80% of the Dry Zone
vertebrate fauna -- the majority of which are considered to be nationally
threatened owing to the loss or modification of habitats; almost 60% of the
Dry Zone flora; and the invertebrate faunal group facing a direct threat from
the extensive use of agricultural pesticides and fungicides. The introduction
of national laws to protect endangered environments and cultural sites include
Sigiriya in its entirety as a designated Protected Area (PA) that yet, contains
several occupied traditional villages, including Diyakapilla and neighbouring
Kosgaha Ala. Among the designated Protected Areas are the World Heritage
Site of the Sigiriya royal palace complex and archaeological reserve; Sigiriya
wildlife sanctuary; and the Minneriya-Giritale Nature Reserve. Yet most of
these ecosystems continue to face the
threat of diverse increased human
activities that endanger the
environment and its associated wildlife
that could be prevented by adequate

Fig.1. Protected Area signage.



The corresponding lifeways of the traditional agricultural community of

Diyakapilla governed by agriculture, livestock management, hunting,
gathering and fishing among other subsistence practices have also
considerably influenced the environment. The site was selected owing to its
given location and potential to develop community-based natural resource
management that would assist in controlling the community’s present
dependence on the natural forest environment; to promote non-destructive
nature-based enterprises; and eco-cultural research envisaged for the
sustainability of the forest environs. The proposed project aims to focus on
comparative eco-cultural studies and initiate an appropriate methodology for
the sustainable use of natural resources by the local communities in the
Diyakapilla/Sigiriya area, with the strengthening of local communities
through skills development, providing incentives for development of
alternative income generation activities, etc. Preventing further village
expansion into wildlife Protected Areas and controlling the demand for
forestlands impose a legal, political, social and economic challenge to the
authorities concerned primarily due to
inadequate measures for collaboration and
effective community participation.

The baseline survey pertaining to the study

area is necessitated to comprehend the
present status of village lifeways that
concern PA management. The baseline
survey was carried out to obtain the
preliminary data required to develop a
strategy for a community-based
environmental and cultural resource
management model that provides active
local community participation in the Fig. 2. Map of Sri Lanka showing
management of Protected Areas. the study region.




Diyakapilla is situated approximately 3 km east of the nearest establishment

in Sigiriya within the Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary on the peripheries of the
archaeological reserve and World Heritage Site of the Sigiriya Royal complex
and the western boundary of the Minneriya-Giritale Nature Reserve.
Dambulla to the southwest of Diyakapilla is the nearest major town and
economic centre; and Habarana to the north as the hub, also serve as
important tourist destinations.

Fig. 3. Map of the study area of Diyakapilla.


The climate throughout the “Dry Zone” is largely influenced by the

convectional rainfall pattern that governs the agricultural calendar. The
principal rains are received annually from the northeast monsoon between
December and February, with brief inter-monsoonal periods from March-
April and October-November. The mean annual temperature falls within the
range of 25o and 27o C. The wind velocity of the region increases



dramatically and drops to a lower degree in October, while the south-westerly

winds that blow across Sigiriya area reach their peak in June and July.


The area belongs to the Highland Series dating back to the Pre-cambrian

Period. The rock types distributed in the area include magmatite gneiss,
quartzite or quartz and crystalline limestone. Monoliths such as Sigiriya,
Pidurangala and Mapagala dominate the landscape and are important for their
geological formation and cultural value. The dominant types of soil prevalent
in the area are Reddish-brown Earth and Low Humic Gley soil.

Fig. 4. The Sigiriya Rock monolith.


Water is evidently the most severely deficient resource in Diyakapilla for

drinking, bathing or sustained agricultural practices. The main natural
waterways of Migolla Ala and Kuda Ulpota flow across Diyakapilla on the



southern and northern sides respectively, and fall into the village tank of
Kosgaha Ala vava or Vannigamaya vava in Kosgaha Ala further east. The
majority of inhabitants presently use selected sites these waterways for
bathing in, with some sites reserved for drinking purposes. The initiative to
develop the existing waterways for sustained benefits is, however, evidently
minimal, with the exception of one spring well upstream on Migolla Ala that
has been conserved with thoughtful consideration to cleanliness and hygiene
and is often useful in the long dry period in August and September when most
water holes in the area dry out. The remaining sites and drinking water wells
are largely neglected through a lack of concern, despite the continued need for
potable water.

The few sources of available water fit for drinking and bathing are located
along in a few home gardens with approximately 8 m deep wells. These
wells are often shared by only the closest kin and neighbours, while the
remaining families depend on the few available perennial water sources in
Pihilla -- a site marked by the present construction of a causeway or in
Kosgaha Ala. As such, a well dug by the Mahaveli authorities is available for
use for the families of the owners of the compound in which it is located, and
is restricted for common
usage. Additionally, two
to three wells that are less
deep dry out during the
dry period and are thus
seasonally used or
neglected over an
indefinite period.

Fig.5. The village tank: Vannigamaya vava, also

known as Kosgaha Ala vava.



The only tube well installed in the Primary School yard is accessible to all
members of the community, except when it runs dry with an increased
demand for water, used for drinking and cooking.

The eastern sector of the village particularly lacks water owing to the
widespread dispersal of the subterranean limestone belt. A single well
contains drinking water with two more available for bathing at the lower end
of the hamlet and is shared by a number of families. A further two spring
wells are available for individual use on the south-eastern periphery. A
seasonal waterway along the route to Kosgaha Ala is also used for bathing,
while a common perennial stream is located further east in Pihilla.


The most widespread vegetation type in the Dry Zone is the Tropical Dry-
mixed Evergreen Forest ecosystem (Gunatilleke 1990; Andrews 1961;
Holmes 1956; Rosayro 1950). It has also been described as a Semi-deciduous
Forest ecosystem (Greller and Balasubramaniam 1990) and further nominated
as a Semi-evergreen Forest by Dittus (1977). The vegetation in the area
concerned is representative of the Dry Zone lowland vegetation widely
known as secondary forests. The abandonment of the great kingdoms and
tanks in the past coincides with the development of this forest type, in
addition to sustained chena practices (slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation)
in the area.

The dominant species in this forest ecosystem include Manilkara hexandra

(Palu), Drypetes sepiaria (Vira) Diospyros ebenum (Kaluvara), Chloroxylon
swietenia (Buruta), Berrya cordifolia (Halmilla), Vitex altissima (milla) and
Schleichera oleosa (Kon).



The vegetation along the waterways in moist conditions occurs with the moist
facies of the former general type. The most abundant species in this habitat
are Vitex leucoxylon (Nabada), Madhuka longifolia (Mi), Berrya cordifolia
(Halmilla) Diospyros malabarica (Timbiri), Hydnocarpus venenata (Makulu)
and Mitragyna parvifolia (Halamba) and Terminalia arjuna (Kumbuk). Since
these deciduous species are not all necessarily simultaneously leafless the
forest appears evergreen throughout the year. Species such as Manilkara
hexandra (Palu) and Diospyros ebenum (Kaluvara) are commonly evergreen
emergent, with species such as Mimusops elangi (Munamal) also occasionally
found (Rosayro 1958, Holmes 1956, Cramer (1993).

The ground vegetation in this forest ecosystem is relatively sparse and may be
observed in open areas and large forest gaps mostly induced by the felling of
trees. The undergrowth is floristically very poor and is mostly dominated by a
few grasses and annual herbs.

The Scrub Forest environment consists mainly of thorny and non-thorny

shrubs and a few
scattered trees. The
thorny shrubs found
are Dichrostrachys
cinera (Andara),
Ziziphus mauritiana
(Masan), Ziziphus
oenoplia (Eraminiya)
and Carissa spinarum
(Karamba) and
Lantana carmera
(Gandapana) to name a few. Fig. 6. CES researches on a floristic survey.



The dominant non-thorny shrub species are Eupatorium odoratum

(Podisinnomaran), Bauhinia tomentosa (Petan), Memecylon umbellatum
(Korakaha), Phyllanthus polyphyllus (Kuratiya), Croton laccifer (Kappetiya),
Glycosmis angustifolia (Bolpana) and Glycosmis pentaphylla (Dhodampana),
among others. This forest type is unique in appearance due to the presence of
scattered trees such as Pterospermum subrifolium (Velang), Bauhinia
racemosa (Maila), Vitex negundo (Nika) and Grewia damine (Dhamunu).


The fauna of the Sigiriya Sanctuary and its environs are characteristic of the
diverse species of Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Freshwater Fishes,
Insects, etc. that are common throughout the Dry Zone. The region supports
over 80% of the Dry Zone vertebrate fauna -- of which most are considered to
be nationally threatened owing to the loss or modification of habitats -- in
addition to almost over 60% of the Dry Zone flora. The invertebrate faunal
group consisting of Butterflies and Moths, Beetles and Spiders, among others
is another fascinating natural resource that
has not received due attention.

1.6.1 Mammals
Of the diverse species of fauna represented in
Sigiriya, approximately 40 species are
mammals. Of these, pride of place goes to the
majestic Elephant whose migratory route lies
across the study area. Sigiriya also provides
an ideal habitat for the four living non-human
primate species found in Sri Lanka. Squirrels Fig. 7. Slender Loris.



are another interesting group of mammals common in forested areas. The

Wild Boar, Porcupine and numerous species of Deer are also dominant in the
forests. Of particular interest are other nocturnal mammals such as the Civet
Cat and Otter who are rarely seen, although they may be observed during the
day after a careful search of the forest.

Table 1. Some selected mammals recorded in the area.

Flying fox (Pteropus giganteus), Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica), Malabar Bandicoot
(Bandicota indica), Palm Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), Giant Squirrel (Ratufa
macroura), Black-naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis), Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus), Grey
Langur (Trachypithecus entellus), Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (Semnopithecus vetulus),
Toque Monkey (Macaca sinica), Ring-tailed Civet (Viverricula indica), Grey mongoose
(Herpestes edwardsi), Black-tipped Mongoose (Herpestes smithii), Fishing Cat
(Prinonailurus viverrinus), Otter (Lutra lutra), Jackal (Carnis aures), Elephant (Elephas
maximus), Mouse Deer (Moschiola meminna), Spotted Deer (Axis axis), Sambhur (Cervus
unicolor), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntijak), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Indian Pangolin
(Manis crassicaudata).

1.6.2 Birds

The Sigiriya region contains over 170 species of migrant and resident birds.
Of these, approximately 50% are considered to be nationally threatened.
Numerous types of Babblers, Bulbuls, Barbets, Flycatchers, Eagles,
Parakeets, Pigeons, Owls and Woodpeckers are common as are Kingfishers,
Egrets, Herons, Cormorants and Storks that are found in tank environments.
Migrant birds such as the Forest Wagtail, Indian Pitta, Orange-headed Ground
Thrush and Blue Rock thrushes are the most attractive species found in the
area when winter sets in the Northern Hemisphere.



Table 2. Some selected birds recorded in the area.

Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea

leucorodia) White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), Barred Buttonquail
(Turnix suscitator), Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis
cheela), Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Tockus gingalensis), Malabar Pied Hornbill
(Anthracoceros coronatus), Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl (Gallus lafayettii), Spot-bellied Eagle
Owl (Bubo nipalensis), Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sunia), Blue-faced Malkoha (Rhopodytes
viridirostris), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halycon
capensis), Crimson-fronted Barbet (Megalaima rubricapilla), Coppersmith Barbet
(Megalaima haemacephala), Gold Leafbird (Chloropsis aurfrons), Flame Minivet
(Pericrocotus flammeus), White-browed Fantail (Rhipidura aureola), Racket-tailed Drongo
(Dicrurus paradiscus), Black-naped Flycatcher (Hypothymis azurea), Paradise Flycatcher
(Terpsiphone paradisi), Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina), Black-headed Yellow
Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus), Common tailorbird (Orthotomus sutrius), Large-billed
Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus magnirostris), Dark-fronted Babbler (Rhopocichla atriceps),
Brown-capped Babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillum).

1.6.3 Fishes

Over 45 species of freshwater fish have been recorded in the area and the
majority are tank-living species. Introduced fish food species are the most
dominant in tank environments. Numerous species of indigenous fish are found
in streams and rock pools and are less frequent in irrigated channels.



Table 3. Some selected freshwater fishes recorded in the area.

Sicarplet (Amblypharyngodon melettinus), Giant Danio (Danio malabaricus), Flying Barb

(Esomos themoicos), Red-side Barb (Puntius bimaculatus), Swamp Barb (Puntius chola),
Filamented Barb (Puntius filamantosas), Silver Barb (Puntius vittatus), Scarlet-banded
Barb (Puntius amphibius), Olive Barb (Puntius sarana), Blue Labuca (Chela laubuka),
Striped Rasbora (Rasbora daniconius), Stone Sucker (Garra ceylonensis), Common Spiny
Loach (Lepidocephalichthys thamalis), Striped Dwarf Catfish, (Mystus vittatus), Stinging
Catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis), Orange Chromide (Etroplus maculatus), Pearl Spot
(Etroplus suratensis), Tilapiya (Saratherodon mossambicus), Bar Eyed Goby
(Glossogobius guuris), Scribbled Goby (Awaous grammepomus), Brown Snakehead
(Channa gachua), Walking Catfish (Clarias brachysoma).

1.6.4 Amphibians

Of the amphibians recorded in Sri Lanka, over 15 species are distributed in

numerous habitats in the Sigiriya area including streams, tanks, mud flats,
paddy fields, home gardens and forested areas. The forest floor and canopy
also contain numerous species demanding further taxonomic studies.

Table 4. Some selected amphibians recorded in the area.

Common Toad (Bufo melanostictus), Ferguson’s Dwarf Toad (Bufo fergusonii), Red
Narrow-Mouthed Frog (Mycrohyla rubra), Ornate Narrow-mouthed Frog (Mycrohyla
ornata), Spotted Ramanella (Ramanella variegata), Common Bull Frog (Koloula
taprobanica), Balloon Frog (Uperodon systoma), Skipper Frog (Euphlyctis cyanophtyctis),
Six-toed Green-frog (Euphlyctis hexadactylus), Common Paddyfield Frog (Limnonectes
limnocharis), Common Wood-frog (Rana gracilis), Lanka Chunam Tree Frog (Polypedates



1.6.5 Reptiles

Diverse species of reptiles numbering over 75 have been recorded in the area
including Snakes, Geckos, Agamide Lizards and Skinks.

Table 5. Some common reptiles recorded in the area.

Common Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosus), Seba’s Bronze-back (Dendrolaphis tristis), Green
Whip Snake (Ahaetulla nasutus), Brown Speckled Whip Snake (Ahaetulla pulverulentus),
Flying Snake (Chysophelea ornata), Flying Snake (Chrysopelea taprobanica), Checkered
Keel-back (Xenochrophis asperrimus ), Buff-striped Keel-back (Amphiesma stolata), Cobra
(Naja naja), Russel’s Viper (Doboia russelli), Merrem's hump-nose Viper (Hypnale
hypnale), Green pit Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus), Garden Lizard (Calotes
versicolor), Earless Lizard (Otocriptis wiegmanni), Spotted Gecko (Hemidactylus
maculatus), Common House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), Crocodile Gecko
(Hemidactylus leschenaulti), Scaly Gecko (Hemidactylus triedrus), Devil Gecko (Ceckoella
yakhuna), Common Skink (Mabuya carinata) Spotted Skink (Mabuya macularia), Hard-
shelled Terrapin (Melanochelys trijuga), Soft-shelled Terrapin (Lissemys punctata), Star
tortoise (Geochelone elegans), Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis), Water Monitor
(Varanus salvator), Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris).

1.6.6 Insects

Of the 242 species of Butterflies distributed in Sri Lanka, over 60 species

may be observed in the area. Some of them are mostly common in open
areas, while others inhabit the more dense jungle thickets. A higher number
of Butterfly species may be observed during the seasonal migrations,
particularly during March and April.



Table 6. Common butterflies recorded in the area.

Common Cerulean (Jamides celeno), Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus), Common Tiger (Danaus
chrysippus), Glassy Tiger (Danaus aglea), Tree Nymph (Idea Lynceus), Indian Crow (Euploea
Core), Great Crow, (Euploea phaenareta), Common Leopard (Phalanta phalantha), Common
Sailor (Neptis hylas), Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus), Banded Peacock (Papilio crino),
Common Mormon (Papilio polytes), Crimson Rose (Atrophaneura hector), Common Rose
(Atrophaneura aristolochiae), Common Birdwing (Troides helena), Common Emigrant
(Catospsilia crocale), Lemmon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona), Common Jezebel (Delias
eucharis), Common Gull (Cepora nerissa), Common Grassy Yellow (Eurema hecabe), Common
Bushbrown (Mycalesis perseus), Common Eveningbrown (Melanitis leda).


The standard methods applied in socio-anthropological and faunal and

floristic research studies were employed in carrying out the present survey.
Questionnaires designed to meet the overall objectives of the proposed project
and those of the Institute (Centre for Eco-cultural Studies/CES) serve as the
preliminary method for retrieval of the demographic data. Direct and indirect
observations and local knowledge collected through formal and informal
discussions with the local community provide specific information pertaining
to folklore, traditions and present lifeways. The available standard “one inch
to one mile map” published by the Survey Department of Sri Lanka was also
used for a study of the area.


The few recognized studies hitherto carried out in the area incorporates
Diyakapilla within the overall archaeological landscape researched under the



Settlement Archaeology Project -- tersely dubbed ‘SARCP’ -- of the

Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology1 (vide Bandaranayake et al. 1990;
1994:9). The archaeological and ethnographic studies carried out under
SARCP since 1988 have served to provide evidence of diverse cultural
activities in the region dating back many millennia. The evidence relating to
past human activities in the study area are also substantiated by early
settlement indicators found in the vicinity of the present and old settlement
(Sinhala: purana gammadda) of Diyakapilla, Kosgaha Ala (since abandoned),
as well as east of Kiri Oya. These sites are marked by iron slag, brick and
pottery sites that have been recorded upon their discovery (vide Manjusri
1988: 24 September 1988; vide Manatunga 1990:79, 82).

Substantiated by these investigations, Diyakapilla is evidently one of several

recognized purana (traditional) villages in the Sigiriya region (vide
Manatunga 1990:77). Among the other recognized villages are the vestigial
Vadda hamlet of Gallinda (since abandoned2), Ilukvava, Kosgaha Ala and
Alakolavava (ibid.). The ethnoarchaeological component of SARCP has also
investigated the extant lifeways of the diverse settlements in the region in
relation to social practices and material culture, among other aspects to
provide greater visibility in interpreting the archaeological record (vide
Myrdal-Runebjer 1994:227).

Despite the cultural significance corroborated by these studies, they have,

however, had no direct effect on the existing structure or the lifeways of the
inhabitants. The present community has been ineffectually informed of the
archaeological significance of their traditional landscape, or measures for its
preservation and promotion to the world outside.

At the time of its investigation by the present researcher




The site of Diyakapilla is historically known as a place of Buddhist ritual and

worship involving the water-cutting ceremony associated with the 1600 year-
old history of the Sigiriya Kingdom -- a practice that is now obsolete, but
testified in name (pers. comm. A. G.3 Wijesinghe) A rock slab inscribed with
a figure of a peacock was evidently removed from the site believed to have
been a ceremonial site, by the Archaeology Department in recent years and
perhaps placed in the Museum in Kandy (pers. comm. A. G. Wijesinghe). The
remains of a forest monastery lying scattered in the forest surroundings
approximately 1/2 km east of the present settlement in the vicinity of Pihilla,
are among the few signs that bear testimony to past religious activities (vide
Manjusri 1988: 24 September 1988).

The recent history of the settlement documents the arrival of settlers from
Kalavava in Anuradhapura during the early 20th century as recalled by their
descendants, the extant older generation. The settlers were members of a
single family of cattle herders (Sinhala Pattikula; Enderan) whose herds had
caused considerable damage to the bund of the reservoir built in the reign of
King Dhatusena in 5th century A.D., thus leading the authorities to direct the
herders away from the tank. Tradition has it that they arrived in Sigiriya and
occupied the property safeguarded by the Archaeological Department that
again led to their ultimate shift to Diyakapilla (pers. comm. A. G. Wijesinghe;
pers. comm. A. G. Appurala).

Alut Gedara




5.1 Population and settlement layout

Diyakapilla is first mentioned by Lawrie (1990:170) in 1881 with a

population comprising 8 individuals and a century later with a population of
132 inhabitants as revealed in the SARCP investigations (vide
Wickremesekara 1990:162). The extant population approximates 147
inhabitants comprising 40 resident families largely composed of the
descendants of a small kin group bearing the names of Alut Gedara and
Senanayake Mudiyanselage (vide Wickremesekara 1990:162), with the
exception of one non-related family bearing the name of Ratnayake
Mudiyanselage. The notable absence of Gamagedara, a name corresponding
with other villages in the area as indicated in the SARCP investigations is
presently evident. Consequently, recognized social ties are commonly held
with a number of selected contiguous settlements of corresponding context in
conformance with the traditional Dry Zone settlement pattern representative
of others in the area, in addition to the prevailing custom of cross-cousin
marriage (Fernando 2001:9; vide Ievers 1899:89-90; vide Karunananda
1990:39; 1993:vii;). The tendency has been to contract marriages with the
cattle herder-agriculturists of the traditional settlement in Ilukvava (present
Mahasengama) and others of comparable caste in the environs at Kibissa and
Pollattava. Alternately, other settlements outside the area in Matale, Galevela,
Horivila (Senadhiriyagama) and Minneriya are also perceived
(Wickremesekara 1990:163, 165; pers. comm. A. G. Wijesinghe; pers. comm.

The first habitations in Diyakapilla pertaining to the family from Kalavava as

known to the present folk were located in the vicinity of Pihilla owing to the
availability of water at the site. This site was occupied until recently as
evident by traces of human settlement, with its last occupants shifting to the



present location in Diyakapilla. The dispersal of a segment of the community

to the presently abandoned settlement of Kosgaha Ala approximately 1.5 km
east and the present location in Diyakapilla was also subsequently seen. The
efforts of Vanniya and Gamaya of the second generation of settlers resulted
with the damming of the Kosgaha Ala stream to hold the waters of the
tributaries of the Kiri Oya to enable irrigated agriculture; and after whom the
tank has since been named Vannigamaya vava or Kosgaha Ala vava.

The settlement of Kosgaha Ala was abandoned in 1995 with the shift of the 7
resident families to the present location in Diyakapilla. The shift was
attributed to a combination of factors including the influence of social
pressures; an increase in damage to house and property by the wild elephant
population; and the impact of the wildlife Protected Area system on the
traditional lifeways of the inhabitants following the declaration of the
designated Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary, Minneriya-Giritale Nature Reserve,

Lying due west of the old settlements, the present settlement of Diyakapilla is
dispersed in an east-west orientation and extends over an area approximating
250 acres (2 km2) along
either side of the main gravel
road that continues towards
Minneriya along one track
and Kosgaha Ala and
Dikkanda Ala along another.
The historically recognized
old pilgrim route to
Minneriya also continues
past the main village road
from Kosgaha Ala and narrows Fig. 8. The abandoned hamlet in Kosgaha Ala.



into the depths of the forest. This track though less circuitous than the main
road is frequented by wild animals -- the elephant, leopard, bear and wild boar
-- by which it is now seldom used by these and other villagers journeying to
and from Minneriya. Composed of habitations each with its own compound of
1 to 2 acre home gardens and a Primary School, Diyakapilla is fringed by
seasonal chena fields.

The most typical structures built in the 2-3 acre home gardens are a dwelling
and a small toilet located outdoors. The three original dwellings occupied by
the second generation of siblings are located at the entrance to the present
settlement and are yet in occupation. A few residents have shifted to other
settlements in the greater region in Kandalama, Galevela and Kakirava among
other areas, while one family with house and property in Diyakapilla and
Dikkanda Ala have shifted to Kibissa recently.


Much of the surrounding landscape has been transformed over time from
intensive subsistence activities. Combined, the varied practices have had a
direct impact on the environment now managed under the Protected Area
system that aims to curb land-use within PAs. Resulting from past human
activities, the diverse habitats in the area surrounding Diyakapilla largely
correspond with those in the area comprising Dry-mixed Evergreen Forests,
dry grasslands, abandoned chena lands that have given way to scrublands,
home gardens, tank environments and perennial waterways. The hill ranges
contain relatively undisturbed forest cover that serve as the catchment from
which several streams in the area originate. For example, Yan Oya.

The subsistence practices of the majority of inhabitants continue to influence

the forest environment. As with the older generation, a few members of the



younger generation presently pursue and are committed toward their

agricultural practices with adequate foresight to sustain them in the future. The
majority are, however, evidently easily prone to external influences with slight
tendency toward long-term social or economic benefits. Alternative income
generation activities within the present framework are considerably minimal.
The majority of males have sought employment as casual workers of the
Cultural Triangle Sigiriya Project and tourist hotels in Sigiriya or similarly in
or outside the village setting. The females are similarly employed in casual
labour work necessitated in seasonal agricultural practices mostly outside
Diyakapilla or in small food catering establishments in Sigiriya New Town
and are mainly reliant on a daily wage.

6.1 Agricultural productions

6.1.1 Paddy and chena cultivation and home gardening

As in the past, the majority of inhabitants are principally sustained by

agriculture. Corresponding with the greater part of the Dry Zone, the lifeways
of the agricultural community of Diyakapilla are largely governed by the
seasonal agricultural calendar. Sedentary agriculture comprising irrigated rice
(Sinhala: Vi; Oryza sativa) cultivation and/or shifting cultivation are the
mainstay economies.

The chena fields are mostly located in proximity to the village boundaries.
Traditional chena practices are mostly obsolete having being curbed by
wildlife conservation policies. The present fields in Diyakapilla are scattered
in isolated parts of the village peripheries that are less frequented by the law
implementing authorities; or are located in proximity to the home gardens
nearer the forest cover. The chena fields are seasonally prepared during the



Maha season by independent or shared family groups. A few fields have been
transformed into farmlands that are cultivated year-round. Those with wells
that have been developed have been converted into agricultural fields with the
farming of cash crops as well.

The traditionally cultivated paddy fields on the eastern peripheries of the

village in Ikiri vela is said to have been abandoned about two decades ago
resulting from an insufficient acreage to sustain the population. Most of the
present paddy fields held are located in Kosgaha Ala and to a lesser extent in
Peikkulama and Dikkanda Ala. Combined, they are all located within the
wildlife “Protected Areas.” These and the fields held by a single family in
Peikkulama approximately 7 km away are located within the peripheries of
the Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary. The remaining fields in Dikkanda Ala some 3
km east of Kosgaha Ala are
located within the
peripheries of the Protected
Area in Minneriya-Giritale
Nature Reserve. These fields
were, as of now traditionally
cultivated with the waters of
the Dikkanda Ala vava that
principally irrigates the
Maha season’s crops. Fig. 9. A Tala chena field in Diyakapilla.

Further, cash crops may be grown in the fields nearer the settlement in
Kosgaha Ala during the less intensive Yala season of cultivation, depending
on the availability of water following the preceding season of cultivation.
Diverse other crops may also be grown in the fields under the Mahaveli
irrigation scheme. The grains cultivated in the seasonal chena cycle as with
the paddy and garden produce, are often sold independently and at random
when the need arises. The agricultural practices concerned are often carried



out with money or goods (tractors, water motors, water pipes,

insecticides/pesticides, etc.) borrowed on loan or credit. The traditional
method of ploughing with buffaloes is obsolete and is replaced by hand
tractors or larger tractors. At present, the only hand tractor in Diyakapilla is
owned by an individual household for use in their fields. In keeping with the
agricultural calendar to avoid delays and harm to crops, the other
agriculturists hire tractors from neighbouring settlements to work their own
fields. Essentially, the shared labour of the individual and/or extended family
is obtained, while labour from Diyakapilla or neighbouring villages may be
recruited if required when sowing, weeding or harvesting takes place.

Paddy, as with other

irrigated cash crops, such as
pumpkin are sometimes
carried out with the support
of a neighbouring
businessman or interested
persons from outside the
village, as many of the
present inhabitants are yet
unable to bear the entire
costs involved. The initia Fig. 10. Paddy fields in Kosgaha Ala.
expenses are thus taken care
of and a tractor provided to plough the fields and transport the harvest from
the paddy fields to the hamlet along the 1.5 km irregular track. Additional
assistance is provided in the harvesting process for a percentage of the share
as well, thus covering the cost of investment while retaining a profit.



Table 7. Grain and other dominant crops cultivated

Sinhala name English name Botanical name

Bada Iringu Maize; Indian corn Zeamays indentata

Aba Mustard Brassica sp.
Tala Gingelly Sesamum indicum
Kurakkan Finger Millet Eleusine coracana
Mung Green Gram Phaseolus aureus
Batu Brinjal Solanum surattense
Tibbatu Tibbatu Solanum indicum
Elabatu Elabatu Solanum xanthocarpum
Karavila Bitter gourd Mormordica charantia
Asamodagam Asamodagam Trachyspermum roxburghlanum
Kakiri Cucumber Cucumis sp.
Pipingnga Cucumber Cucumis sp.
Alu puhul Ash pumpkin Benincasa hispida
Vattakka Pumpkin Cucurbita sp.
Miris Chilli Capsicum sp.Var. acuminatum

The home gardens contain a selection of plant foods for home consumption
needs and for sale of vegetables, fruits, leaves, yams and woody plants.
Seasonal cash crops cultivated in agricultural fields provide an additional
means of income. The produce is often sold to independent collectors from
outside the hamlet for a minimal set price for re-sale to established markets at
neighbouring hotels or other establishments. The majority of home gardens
contain a few selected species of crops and woody plants.

Home gardening is also greatly dependent on water. The home gardens are
considerably neglected at present owing to the scarcity of perennial water or
difficulty in accessing the water that may be available. With the availability of
ground water, a well is sometimes dug at a suitable location for home
consumption needs.



The soil development methods introduced by agricultural experts previously

are evidently minimally applied. Certain crops introduced recently such as
cashew nut, teak, mango and lime, among others are the most favoured for
home garden mixed-cropping. Papaw and banana also bring considerable cash
and is cultivated by some residents.

Table 8. Fruits and edible leaves common in home gardens

Sinhala name English name Botanical name

Pēra Guava Psidium guajava
Pol Coconut Cocos nucifera
Väl dhodam Passion fruit Passiflora edulis
Dhehi Lime Citrus hystrix
Kesel Banana Musa sapientum
Amba Mango Mangifera indica
Beli Beli Aegle marmelos
Dhelum Pomegranate Punica granatum
Dhodam Orange (ambul; pani) Citrus aurantium; Citrus sinensis
Jäm Jam Muntingia calabura
Dhivül Wood-apple Limonia acidissima
Gaslabü Papaya Carica papaya
Anōda Sugar apple Annona squamosa
Katü anōda Soursop Annona muricata
Väli anōda Custard Apple Bullock heart Annona reticulata
Kos Jak Artocarpus heterophyllus
Ratakajü Ground nut Arachis hypogaea

6.2 Hunting, trapping and fishing

As in the past, these as with other forest-dwelling village communities

supplement their income with hunting, fishing and gathering of wild food



species including bees honey (vide Fernando 2001:6). Hunting and fishing
have a long history in the area dating back to the Mesolithic culture phase of the
Stone Age. Although these practices are curbed under the Protected Area
system and the hunting of large mammals has in particular decreased in recent
years, small game hunting prevails. The Black-naped Hare, Indian Porcupine,
Mouse Deer, Gray Langur), Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Hard-shelled
Terrapin, Soft-shelled Terrapin and the Indian Pangolin are some of the faunal
species commonly hunted for food. The Spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking Deer
and Wild Boar are also hunted though rarely, while the Jungle Fowl and
diverse pigeons are among the birds favoured.

The present mode of hunting in the greater region is mostly with three types of
firearms. The Paturam thuvakkuva (Cartridge-firing shotgun) of which two
such licensed guns are available in Diyakapilla. The Beheth thuvakkuva
(Muzzle-loader) is the most commonly used, while the Bandina thuvakkuva
(Self-triggered gun/Trap gun) is also found among a few families. Possession
of the two latter types is illegal and offenders will be liable for prosecution if
apprehended by the authorities. These types of firearms are thus mostly used
in areas that are least visited by the officials and are often kept hidden in the
chena or paddy fields or in the forest and are only obtained when necessary.

Traps are also used mostly in the environs of the chena or paddy fields. The
types of traps used in the past are now obsolete. The common types in use are
the Deadfall (Sinhala: habaka) -- a weighted trap, Noose (Sinhala: manda),
Pitfall with pit-spear (Sinhala: boruvala), Lati thibima (snaring with sticky
sap/glue). Fishing nets are also used for snaring small animals such as the
Black-naped Hare and birds, and are laid out along the fences in the
agricultural fields.



Fishing is a seasonal practice engaged in during the dry period in July-

October when the tank water subsides and a lull follows the Yala season of
agriculture. Fishing is mostly a leisure activity sought for home consumption
needs to add flavour to the
regular diet and provides an
additional source of income to
some families who sell their
produce locally. The most
common mode of fishing is
nets, while fishhooks are
limited to a few users. The
village tank in Kosgaha Ala is Fig. 11. Night fishing in Kosgaha Ala vava.
the most common site for tank
fishing and introduced fish species, such as Tilapiya (Saratherodon
mossambicus) are mostly sought. Rock pools such as Alle Vala are
infrequently used for angling owing to its more distant location.

Further, edible and non-edible herbs, fruits, fuelwood and honey from wild
bee colonies are also among the numerous wild produce commonly gathered
from the forest environs by these and other social groups.

6.3 Livestock management

Despite the community’s herding origins the efforts for livestock

management is considerably limited at present. 9 families are small-scale
herders, each with under thirty head of cattle compared with the larger, often
countless herds managed by the preceding generation (pers. comm. A. G.
Wijesinghe 2000). The influence of cattle herding in the area surrounding
Diyakapilla and Kosgaha Ala, extending into Dikkanda Ala in what is now



the designated Protected Area of Minneriya-Giritale Nature Reserve is

considerable, having been extensively used for grazing in the past. A rocky
outcrop shaded by scrub referred to as Karapitiya almost adjacent to the
present paddy fields in Dikkanda Ala vel yaya held the cattle in the past (pers.
comm. A. G. M. Jayathilaka 2000). At present, the cattle are usually left to
graze in pastures nearer the village around Boralu vala -- that serves as the
western boundary of the village -- Kadigaha Damana, Ikiri Vela as well as
around Pihilla, Manik Pitiya, Amuna Pitiya and Sohon Pitiya in the southern
and north-eastern quarters. Open cattle pens are constructed in proximity to
the permanent dwellings to house the animals at night for protection from
possible predators (particularly leopard), while the animals are released in the
mornings and allowed to graze till late afternoon. During the seasonal nightly
crop-watching period, however, the cattle and buffalo are left to graze in the
open in proximity to the agricultural fields and watch huts.

The only present economic use of cattle and buffaloes is their sale to the
Muslim traders from neighbouring settlements. The cattle raised with a
minimal of effort are not commonly reared for dairy products, despite the
existing potential for such an enterprise. The non-dairy cattle -- Batu harak (a
small variety) are mostly raised for meat with the sale of the live animal. The
milk of the cow is obtained for home consumption with minimal efforts to
increase production owing to a general lack of interest, work and other
commitments. Shifts in lifeways, laws for wildlife conservation and lands
curtailed for grazing as well as reduced numbers of cattle are further causes
for the lapse.

Additionally, a few families also rear the common domestic fowl. One family
in particular has developed an interest in poultry with a systematically
constructed a coop. The birds are often left to forage during the day in the
vicinity of the home gardens and cooped at night in small enclosures for
protection from predatory animals. The birds are, however, few in number



and are mostly reared for eggs, breeding or sale of the bird. Eggs in small
numbers are either consumed at home, sold locally and/or to traders.

6.4 Beekeeping

Beekeeping or apiculture as a commercial venture using systematic methods

of production is not common to Diyakapilla. The practice is restricted to two
or three families who
maintain colonies in their
home gardens in hollowed
logs, disused pots or the
traditional technique of
housing the colony in a
single-roomed box. Natural
bee colonies are, however,
abundant in the forest
surroundings. The honey of
the bee is mostly harvested
from the wild colonies
annually during the peak
season in May-August and Fig. 12. A wild bee colony.
to a lesser extent in February
and March. Over 500 to 600 bottles may be collected from the wild colonies
for sale to shops in Sigiriya or to chauffeur guides for a price ranging between
Rs.100/- to 125/- per large bottle. With systematic management, however, the
income earned from this venture would be adequate as with the potential for
beekeeping in these environs with the dominant vegetation type being
conducive to bees. Numerous floral species favoured by the common bee
(Apis indica) are widespread in and around Diyakapilla.




6.2.1 Mi oil extraction

The seeds of the Mi (Madhuka longifolia) tree are collected seasonally for
processing into oil. The oil is traditionally used for cooking and also serves as
a local remedy. The seeds collected by women and children in the dry period
prior to the Maha season’s intense agricultural season are left to dry and
stored in bags. The seeds are processed when the males who assist in the
tedious process of extracting the oil are less confined by agricultural activities
in May/June. The task is carried out outdoors and is often a communal
activity. A male often joined by the women, older children, or neighbouring
females engage in processing
the hard-shelled seeds.
Traditional methods of oil
extraction using a sack made
of woven pan (Ceyperus sp.)
are obsolescent and are
replaced by modern
receptacles such as plastic
fertiliser sacks.
Fig. 13. Extraction of Mi oil using a pressing-device.

The oil extracted is collected into half or one litre bottles in which they are
sold and/or kept for home usage. A half litre bottle is initially sold at
approximately Rs.50/- per bottle. The prices decrease to approximately Rs.
40/- when a larger supply of oil is available in the area in the months ahead
and vice versa.



6.2.2 Brick-making

The only type of building material

produced in the village is brick. Brick
making commences during the dry
period and is infrequently engaged in by
a few families. Bricks are mostly
produced for home consumption needs
and/or sold locally. The fuelwood for
firing the bricks are collected from the
surroundings for which selected
branches may also be felled. Fig. 14. Brick firing.

6.2.3 Traditional rush/reed products

The women engage in traditional mat weaving of mats or basketry using a

wild rush/reed plant species -- Pan (Ceyperus sp.) -- and the fronds of
coconut, tal, etc. The practice is, however, growing obsolescent. The raw
material is collected from several sites in Kosgaha Ala and the neighbourhood
of Peikkulama, Potana
and Pidurangala. The
weavers are mostly
skilled in weaving
sleeping mats, baskets
and shallow receptacles.
The products are
primarily woven for
household use and are
not commercially
produced, without colour or design. Fig. 15. Collection of Gallaha Pan.




The hamlet is one of several others in the area without an electricity supply.
The local residents are mostly reliant on kerosene oil for lighting. The
existing power lines extend only as far as Sigiriya Town, while a main power
line supplies electricity to the neighbouring tourist establishments and other
settlements. While an electricity supply to the village would provide direct
social and economic benefits -- enhance productivity and minimise the
existing human-elephant conflict rampant in the area -- the numerous attempts
made by the residents to obtain a supply have thus far been futile.

The most common mode of energy used in cooking is fuelwood. The required
supply including fallen branches or those from dead trees are collected from
the surrounding home gardens, chenas and forestlands. The dry period in
August is the most effective for storing a considerable supply for the months
ahead when the annual monsoon makes the task more difficult. Females in
particular often accompanied by one or more others engage in the practice of
collecting the required
fuelwood for the
individual households
and often cross the
village peripheries some
500 m and rarely over 1
km. A bundle of sticks
is also collected as a
frequent practice on the
way home from the
chena or paddy fields. Fig. 16. Firewood, a common resource found in
the surrounding forest.




8.1 The Road Network

The access route to Diyakapilla from Sigiriya via a 3 km gravel track
requires travelling through a forest thicket that is also frequented by the
wild elephant. The road surface is prone to erosion in monsoonal
weather particularly towards the village end. Further access from the
lower end of the village track is hampered by the limestone belt
dispersed in the area, and limits use to tractors. The road is left muddied
in wet weather towards the first open plains encountered in Ikiri Vela,
making travelling difficult along the track to Pihilla and Kosgaha Ala on
foot or by tractor and to herd the grazing cattle to and from the village.

Further lies the old pilgrim route to Minneriya now mostly re-grown
with vegetation through infrequent usage. The more circuitous road
approached from Sigiriya via Inamaluva or Dambulla is accessed, with
the current availability of public transport.

8.2 Transport
Public transport to the village has often been minimal and is one of the
major problems faced by the Diyakapilla community. Until the latter
half of Year 2000, the Secondary School students of Sigiriya Madya
Maha Vidyalaya have had little option but to travel 5 km to school daily
on foot or by bicycle. The elephant is often encountered by the residents
and students on their way to school, and being vulnerable to attack fear
often leads them back home or to seek assistance if they are in the
vicinity of the village. The efforts of the Principal of the Primary School
and resident teachers have led to the introduction of public transport to
Diyakapilla towards the end of Year 2000, with a school bus arranged to
transport the students to and from school. Its regularity is, however,
questionable with the bus often not reporting for duty for days.



Public transport along the tarred tract from Sigiriya to Habarana via
Mahasengama (Illukvava) and Gallinda is, however, lacking. A bus
service presently operates only as far as Mahasengama 3.2 km north of
Sigiriya, while the remaining 5.6 km route leading to Habarana is
neglected. Habarana, Minneriya, Polonnaruva, etc. to the north-east may
thus be accessed along the operative bus route from Sigiriya-Inamaluva
or Sigiriya-Dambulla, while the jungle route to Minneriya via
Diyakapilla is also infrequently accessed.

Bicycles are the most common mode of transport and are owned by the
majority of male residents. Additionally, two motorcycles are owned by
two families are the fastest mode of travel at present. The motorcycles
serve as the main mode of transport in an emergency whether day or at
night. Women mostly travel on foot or are doubled on bicycles.
Additionally, three-wheelers may be hired from Sigiriya Town.

8.3 Native Medicinal Cures and Other Medical Practices

A few male and female elders in the village are versed in traditional
native medicinal practices for the treatment of minor ailments. The local
residents are mostly versed in home remedies used in day-to-day
requirements. Additionally, assistance is sought from the God
Minneriya shrine in Diyakapilla which serves to counteract certain
physical and psychological problems that are encountered by the
residents of Diyakapilla as well as the numerous others living in the
greater area.

Western medical treatment is also resorted to as required, from the

nearest medical dispensary in Kibissa approximately 7 km away or from
the Dambulla Base Hospital 18 km away.



8.4 Education

8.4.1 Primary Schooling

The Primary School is the only public establishment that presently
exists in Diyakapilla. The Principal and two resident teachers are
responsible for the education provided for all the relevant subjects
included in the curricula from Grades One to Five, as well as for the
welfare of its twenty students. The school comprises a Principal’s office
and one building housing all five grades. Toilet facilities are at a
moderate level, while water is a scarce resource.

8.4.2 Secondary Schooling

There are no existing facilities for secondary school education in
Diyakapilla. The secondary school students are thus required to travel
approximately 5 km to the Sigiriya Madya Maha Vidyalaya – on foot,
bicycle or the recently introduced, but irregular school bus service –
situated beyond the main Sigiriya town on the Dambulla-Sigiriya route.
Education at a higher level than the Ordinary level examination has
often been lacking, with the exception of perhaps one or two of its
residents in the past (pers. comm. A.G. Gunadasa 2001).

8.5 Retail Stores

Diyakapilla does not have a retail store that sells even the basic
commodities. The only small store operating at present sells only
kerosene, sugar and a type of local cigarette – beedi – that is also sold
by one of the village elders at his house. All other requirements have to
be purchased at the nearest store in Sigiriya town or at the Sunday Fair
in Dambulla. Two stores that were previously in operation are
inoperative at present as they were evidently ineffectively managed,
with the goods taken for home consumption needs.



8.6 Community Meeting Place

The small community hall situated at the entrance to the hamlet serves
as the main centre for village gatherings and the monthly society
meetings held by the Funerary Welfare Organisation, the Farmer
Organisation and other society meetings.


The residents of Diyakapilla are largely incorporated within the overall

Buddhist farming community of the region. The ancient cave monastery
at Pidurangala serves as the principal temple of worship, while the
hamlet itself is devoid of a temple. The Chief Incumbent of the
Pidurangala Raja Maha Viharaya maintains religious affiliations with
the hamlet, in addition to the Incumbent of the new temple complex in
Sigiriya, with participation in the religious ceremonies held. The
centrally located Buddhist temple in Sigiriya Town was demolished in
the mid-1990’s and relocated to Sigiriya New Town under the
settlement relocation plan of the Central Cultural Fund’s Sigiriya
Cultural Triangle Project. Additionally, the community of Diyakapilla
customarily visit the Pidurangala shrine in veneration of the Hindu
pantheon of Gods influencing the Buddhist rituals, such as Vishnu and
Kataragama to make and fulfill vows.

The only vestige of a Buddhist place of ritual are as revealed above

located north-east of the present habitations, while the only present
place of worship is discerned in the makeshift altar for offering flowers
at the foot of the Bodhiya (Bo tree) in the school yard that also contains
a small shrine housing a Buddha image and an altar for flowers. The
Primary School staff is also committed toward extending their services
to organise the religious activities in the village in keeping with the



Buddhist calendar. The programmes conducted including observing sil

for children and parents, active Vesak and Poson pandol competitions
for children and annual pilgrimages to a site of worship, or cultural site
of significance.

Introduction of a Dhamma School (Daham Pasala) by the two resident

school teachers and the support of the Principal of the Primary School
and parents on Sundays serves to benefit the young on the practical
teachings of Buddhism.

The most intense beliefs lie in the worship of God Minneriya (the
incarnate of King Mahasena) [274-301 A.D.) for blessings and
protection (Sinhala: shanthi karma). The only religious establishment
that is popularly visited by numerous inhabitants from neighbouring and
other settlements is the God Minneriya devalaya or shrine, that is one of
two in the area. With the other located at the vestigial Vadda village in
Gallinda (vide Manatunga 1990: 75). Rituals at the God Minneriya
devalaya are customarily held twice weekly on the days considered
auspicious (Sinhala: kemmura), Wednesdays and Saturdays. Devotees
who habitually visit the shrine seek assistance in times of trouble for
which payments are made in cash or kind to the lay priest-medium
(Sinhala: Animitirala). The annual festivities in particular are held in
September under the patronage of the lay priest medium – a descendant
of the family from Kala Vava.

The traditional beliefs pertaining to cattle herding among the

community extends to the veneration of Maggara deviyo, whose
assistance is sought in a ritual ceremony that takes place prior to the
Sinhalese New Year (pers. comm.. A.G. Wijesinghe; pers. comm.. A.G.
Dayaratne). As the protector of cattle, the assistance of the deity is
sought to prevent the spread of epidemics among their cattle and



protection from possible predators, such as leopard. The neighbouring

settlements of Illukvava, Gallinda and Pidurangala are also believed to
adhere to this tradition.

The forest-based inhabitants of Diyakapilla as with other forest-dwellers

adhere to the practice of hanging a freshly broken sprig of leaves on a
branch with a prayer to God Minneriya, prior to entering a forest at a
given location. This rule is customarily adhered to prior to undertaking a
specific subsistence-related activity, whether hunting, gathering fishing
or when exploring the forest environs. This gesture symbolises a request
for protection from the guardian deity within whose forest domain the
forest communities live.

The extant community, particularly the older generation also believes in

the practice of Hadi Huniyam (witchcraft). It is commonly assumed that
a sudden economic or other setback such as an illness suffered by an
individual is due to the influence of a magical charm inflicted by one
who may not often be thought of favourably. This action would often
influence the mental makeup of the person it is directed toward as well
as his/her family. In such a situation, assistance is often sought from the
Animitirala to prevent or counteract the influence of the charm. A
further belief involves the practice of “kem krama” in day-to-day life,
for ailments and agricultural practices that are expected to bring
favourable results and to prevent misfortunes.



Diagram 1. Priority Demands for Forest Resources in


Chena fields
Grazing lands
Paddy fields
Mining and gravel extraction
Timber/hardwood species
Hunting, trapping
- Bees honey

- Edible herbs, leaves, fruits, tubers etc.

- Wild grasses (
- Medicinal herbs
- Fuelwood
Vine for cordage
Timber posts/poles

Demand for forest resources




Decisions concerning most village activities and the welfare of the

community are usually taken upon the advice or influence of the
Primary School Principal, resident teachers or the Grama Niladhari
(local State representatives). Additionally, the influence of the
Divisional Secretariat, the District Officer of the Agricultural
Department and the Department of the Wildlife Conservation
(DWLC) are essential in influencing the decisions made at the local
level, with concern to State legislation.

The centralised decision of a family, elder or nuclear family are

often respected and mostly adhered to. A higher level of respect for
elders is particularly common among the present generation and to
some extent, by the younger generation with respect to traditions.
The local Buddhist monks as well as the Animitirala of the village
shrine also influence certain decisions.



11.1 “Pubudu” Funerary Welfare Organisation

The Funerary Welfare Organisation is the most effective and
efficiently managed local organisation in Diyakapilla, at present. It
was established under the leadership of the Primary School teachers
and is now entirely managed by the appointed Committee
comprising the residents of Diyakapilla. Its primary objective is to
assist one another on the death of a community member. The
organisation also seeks to work towards the welfare of the
community, basic infrastructural development of the village such as



the maintenance of the road, community meeting place, etc. The

required funding is obtained from the membership fees and
donations received from interested external sources. A credit
programme amounting to Rs.1500/-, with an interest rate of 15% per
month has also been introduced for the benefit of its members.

11.2 “Isuru” Farmer Society

The Isuru Farmer Society was established with the direction of the
Agrarian Community Services Centre (Govi Jana Seva Kendraya)
of the Agricultural Department in Kibissa. The society serves to
provide the necessary services pertaining to the development of
agricultural practices in the respective villages in the surrounding
area, and is a decision-making body for collectively deciding which
crops and acreage may be cultivated in the agricultural fields
available. The main objective is to maintain the village tank in
Kosgaha Ala, upon which the irrigated agricultural practices in the
village are entirely dependent; to ensure other concerned services,
such as crop watching and effective distribution of irrigated waters,
among others.

11.3 Parents’ School Development Association

The Parents’ School Development Association was established with
the guidance of the resident teachers of the Primary School, to
provide the necessary supportive services to the School. The
Association ensures that the education of the children is in order, is
responsible for maintenance of the school property, the protective
fence, to tidy the surroundings and provide nutritional food and
beverage to the students in combined efforts extending to shrama
dhana programmes.



11.4 Samurdhi Group

The Samurdhi group was established with the direction and
influence of the Government Samurdhi aid programme for the
beneficiaries of the village. Its main objective is to maintain unity
among its recipients and to enhance collective decision-making and
the well-being of the community members.

11.5 Diyakapilla Environmental Development Committee (DEDC)

DEDC was initiated by the Centre for Eco-cultural Studies and is the
most recently established community organisation. Its primary aim
is to monitor and implement the activities proposed under the Eco-
cultural Resource Management Project. The Committee is composed
of the representatives of each of the village organisations and
selected representatives at the local level.


The responsible administrative concerns in the study area are the

Grama Niladhari of the Maillattava Division who serves as the
administering Government representative at the local level, the
Dambulla Divisional Secretariat operates at district level and the
administrative division of Matale District is responsible for its
overall jurisdiction. The Police Station in Kibissa serves as the
relevant law enforcement agency and the Department of Wildlife
Conservation (DWLC) Range Office recently established in
Ahalagala in proximity to Sigiriya Town, is the overall
administrative body concerned for managing the Sigiriya wildlife
sanctuary and Minneriya-Giritale Nature Reserve, with the Beat
Office located in Peikkulama.



The present land-use system falls under the management of DWLC,

owing to the geographic location of the wildlife “Protected Area”
system. Further, the Archaeology Department and Cultural Triangle
Project are the relevant institutes concerned with safeguarding the
cultural monuments and sites distributed in the area.


The main source for facilitating credit facilities in the village is the
Funerary Welfare Society that provides small loan schemes on
interest to all members, depending on the availability of funds.
Additionally, numerous banking facilities are available to the local
community. The major banks are located in Inamaluva (The Peoples’
Bank), Habarana or Dambulla which is the popularly visited place.
The bank that is most commonly accessed is, however, the Rural
Bank (Sinhala: Gramiya Bankuva) housed at the Govi Jana Seva
Kendraya in Kibissa, which provides adequate banking and credit
facilities. The Govi Jana Seva Kendraya also provides an effective
loan scheme amounting to Rs.100,000/- for members of the
Diyakapilla Farmer Organization for agriculture-related activities.
Further, the State-sponsored Samurdhi programme provides a
maximum of Rs.25,000/- to initiate or develop self-employment
activities for all Samurdhi recipients.




Major Issues Observed

Observations reveal that the Protected Areas comprising the Sigiriya

Wildlife Sanctuary, the Sigiriya World Heritage Site and
archaeological reserve are often prone to environmental hazards owing
to the unauthorized actions of the private hoteliers, Government
authorities and the local community:

14.1 Unplanned and ad hoc development activities

Commercial encroachment of land by the private sector, i. e. the tourist

hotel establishments. Encroachment of the property of the World
Heritage Site and the Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary with unauthorised
clearing of land that is in violation of the Fauna and Flora Protection
Ordinance, the Environment Act and the Archaeological Act.

14.2 Haphazard waste disposal

Garbage disposal:
The unauthorized disposal of garbage including non-biodegradable
plastic in secluded areas of the designated Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary
in proximity to Diyakapilla village has been a common practice of the
established tourist hotels. The effects of the illegal dumping grounds
have produced breeding grounds for the mosquito and led to increased
health hazards, while creating artificial feeding grounds for the wild
elephant population and intensifying the human-elephant conflict in
the area.



14.3 Pollution of aquatic environments

Further acts of violation of standing laws such as the illegal and
regular draining of sewage into the Sigiriya tank (Sinhala: vava)
environment by outside investors, such as the tourist hotels have led
to increased environmental and health hazards. It is important to
note that this artificial reservoir that once played a key role in the
hydraulics of Sigiriya Kingdom in 5th century AD, yet serves as a
vital resource to local communities and wildlife.

14.4 Mining and quarrying activities

Illegal quarrying of Duvannagala -- an archaeological site situated
within the designated Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary. Duvannagala is an
extensive rock outcrop that once stood as the third largest in
Sigiriya, until its recent exploitation by the authorities. Although
several Government bodies serve as the legal custodians of
Duvannagala, the site has faced excessive destruction from
quarrying of the site;
thus disregarding its
overall potential and
geological and
archaeological value
through extreme
neglect. Further, the
impact of the blasting
of Duvannagala on
the World Heritage
Site of Sigiriya Rock
and its famous
frescoes are also untold. Fig. 17. Quarrying of Duvannagala rock.



14.5 Extraction of Gravel

The excavation of gravel pits for the construction of roads is another
matter that requires immediate attention. A vast acreage of the
wildlife sanctuary has already been cleared of forest for the
expansion of extensive roadways at the cost of the unique forest
habitat vital to the Dry Zone fauna and flora, that provide alternative
means of support to the forest-dwelling people. These gravel pits
have now developed into regular unauthorized refuse dumping
grounds for the tourist hotels and also serve as breeding grounds for
mosquitoes, thus leading to increased health hazards.

14.6. Gemming
Non-residents with the support of some local residents have used
selected sites within the periphery of the wildlife sanctuary in the
vicinity of Diyakapilla, for the illegal mining of gems. The evidence
for gemming is corroborated by the considerably sized pits scattered in
the area.



14.7 Poaching
Wild game hunting -- now deemed poaching -- is still a continued
practice among a segment of this forest dwellers. Agriculture as the
economic mainstay is supplemented with hunting that brings better
and quicker returns. The wild game species mostly pursued is the
Sambhur – Sri Lanka’s largest species of deer – the spotted deer and
wild boar, for their meat. The demand is mostly from the
middleman/traders operating in Sigiriya, Kibissa, Ilukvava and
Pidurangala. The game flesh is usually transported via a jungle route;
or by main road during the early hourse of the day or in the late
evenings to avoid confrontation with the DWLC or Polive, being the
relevant authorities concerned. Prohibited by law, the offence is
punishable by a term in jail or fine, if apprehended.

14.8. The human-elephant conflict

Adverse effects of the human-elephant conflict prevail in the area
owing to numerous reasons. The geographical setting of Diyakapilla,
the continued agricultural practices that attract the large herbivore to
the cultivated fields that may result in excessive damage to lives and
property; the secondary forest cover and the surrounding plains that
maximize the conflict of interests for resources between the humans
and wild elephants;
and the water
resources also
frequented by the
wild elephant
during the dry
period, increase the
threat to both
humans and
Fig. 18. A victim of the prevailing conflict.



elephants. A preventive measure to minimize the conflict was the

establishment of the electric fence by the DWLC that extends from
Vavala and crosses the periphery of Diyakapilla and approaches the
Gallinda Kanda (range of hills). The electric fence has lacked
maintenance over the past several years and is presently inoperative.

14.9. Illicit felling of trees

The woodcraft industry was traditionally unknown in the Sigiriya
region. The art was introduced in recent years with the development of
the tourist industry from which arose the demand for it. The craftsmen
employed in woodcarving are thus mostly from the southern coastal
region such as Galle, while the local youth presently employed in the
several woodcraft shops in the area are learning the skill. The local
development of woodcraft
has thus promoted the
exploitation of valued
hardwood timber species
found in the area, though
protected by the law.
Certain members of the
local community engage
in harvesting the trees and
supplying the timber.
Fig. 19. Clearing of forests.


The existing tour programme entails a pre-arranged village tour conducted

for the benefit of the tourists eager to observe traditional village lifeways
accompanied by a local or foreign tour guide and or a hotel employee, as



well as a local associate from Diyakapilla who only serves as the porter or
helper and receives a service tip of approximately Rs. 150 or 200/=, in
addition to a picnic lunch for the effort or service provided. The tour
comprises a visit to the home of the local associate and/or a scenic tour of
the forest hamlet leading to the village tank further east in Kosgaha Äla.

The first tour entails a visit to a village dwelling usually that of the local
associate to display methods and uses of traditional lithic and other
implements common to a village setting -- the grinding stone (Sinhala:
miris gala), the quern for grinding kurakkhan), the wooden pestle and
mortar for pounding, displayed by the spouse and or uninvited guests or
neighbours. If time permits, the tour group is accompanied on a nature
hike to the old hamlet of Kosgaha Äla. A picnic lunch organised by the
hotel is set on the tank bund -- a place of scenic beauty with the presence
of aquatic and other wildlife --overlooking the agricultural fields.

organisation of
such visits
ought to be
encouraged for
the benefit of
the tourists
who wish to
experience the
Fig. 20. Tourists visiting the Diyakapilla Primary School.
culture and environmental setting of a forest hamlet of this nature and its
ecological aspects, as well as the local community. Visits that are not pre-
arranged often do not adhere to the local custom of remaining at the
entrance of the compound (Sinhala: kadulla) until permission for entry is
granted by the householder. Instead, the tendency is for the visiting tour



guide and tourists to enter the compound without prior permission from a
householder. These and the pre-arranged visits detailed above also result
in havoc, with the compound often filled to capacity with the presence of
uninvited neighbours who habitually commandeer the setting as well as
the householders and create an aura of unpleasantness contrary to
accustomed traditional lifeways. The householders concerned are usually
unable to prevent these unwelcome visits and are accustomed to accepting
them with submissiveness. A further problem encountered is the
harassment of tourists by a few village children opt to stay away from
school with the arrival of the visiting tour groups with the knowledge of
their parents, mostly encouraged by small handouts.


The uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources in the area has

intensified in recent years with the expansion of human settlements and a
corresponding increase in requirements. For example, large-scale
development projects and chemical-using agricultural practices, shorter
periods of fallow in chena cultivation, the illegal extraction of valued
timber species and unsystematic use of natural habitats for commercial
purposes are some visible changes (vide Jasinghe et al. 1999). Chena
practices and/or paddy cultivation as the principal means of support have
potential to develop for obtaining maximum profits. Present-day
restrictions on traditional chena practices are a recurrent problem owing to
the location of the chena lands within the wildlife Protected Area system,
causing considerable damage to the existing vegetation cover.

Consideration of the fundamental requirements of local/regional/global

bio-diversity conservation aims to ensure the protection and maintenance



of ecosystems and natural habitats; with maintenance and recovery of

viable populations of species in their natural surroundings. The need for
adequate measures within and outside “Protected Areas” to protect genes,
species, habitats and ecosystems is increasingly felt, while addressing the
human demands for the above resources, particularly for land. This
“ecosystem approach” constitutes the primary framework of the proposed
actions of the Eco-cultural Resource Management Project that intends to
assist in addressing issues identified in the National Biodiversity
Conservation Action Plan and Environmental Action Plan. Strengthening
the local community through the development of skills, providing
alternative income generation activities, as well as the eco-cultural
resource monitoring programme and habitat enrichment programme
proposed for restoration of the degraded environment would enable the
long-term use of local resources.

Primarily due to inadequate collaboration, the lack of an effective strategy

for community participation and communication; it is required that the
present status of the lifeways of the local communities are adequately
identified to initiate an appropriate methodology for the sustainable use of
natural resources by the traditional Dry Zone forest-dwelling community.
The opportune location of Diyakapilla within the wildlife Protected Area
with proximity to the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya and numerous other
ancient settlements and monastic sites testifies to the ample opportunities
available for the development of long-term economic and social benefits
that aim toward ultimate self-sufficiency. The area is also rich in
archaeological sites that are the valued property and heritage of all Sri
Lankans. These archaeological treasures are extensively distributed in the
area and include sites, monuments, ancient kingdoms, village habitations,
monastic complexes (stupas) rock art, Early Brahmi inscriptions and cave
complexes that date back to the prehistoric, protohistoric, Early and Middle
Historical Periods of the region’s prolonged history.



Providing non-destructive alternative means of livelihood to reduce the

dependency on the forest for economic necessities requires a collective
effort for the implementation of legal, economic and social polices. A
political will would thus be an ideal requirement for adopting effective
new strategies, with a model to obtain community involvement in
managing Protected Areas and a cognitive change of the official agencies
concerned, to prevent further commercial encroachment into wildlife,
cultural and other Protected Areas, as well as controlling the demand for
land within the Protected Area system.




1. Ashton, M., S. Gunatilleke, N. de Zoysa, M.D. Dassanayake, N.

Gunatilleke and S. Wijesundera. 1997. A Field Guide to the Common
Trees and Shrubs of Sri Lanka. Colombo: WHT Publications (Pvt.)

2. Bandaranayake, S. and M. Mogren. 1994. Further Studies in the

Settlement Archaeology of the Sigiriya-Dambulla Region. Colombo:

3. Fernando, K.S. 2001. Living Traditions: an introduction to the vestigial

Vadda group of Gallinda in Sigiriya. Centre for Eco-cultural Studies,
Diyakapilla, Sigiriya (CES). (A technical report).

4. Fernando, S and S.S.S. Jasinghe. 2000. World Heritage Site in Danger: A

Case Study from the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya. Centre for Eco-
cultural Studies, Diyakapilla, Sigiriya (CES).

5. Ievers, R. W. 1899. Manual of the NCP, Ceylon. George J. A. Skeen,

Colombo: Government Printer of Ceylon.

6. Jasinghe, S. S. S. 2000. Biodiversity of Sigiriya wildlife Sanctuary. Centre

for Eco-cultural Studies, Diyakapilla, Sigiriya (CES). (A technical report).

7. Jasinghe, S. S. S. and S. Maithripala. 1997. A Note on the Ecology of the

Eastern Precinct of Sigiriya Rampart. A monograph of the Postgraduate
Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR)-University of Kelaniya, Colombo.

8. Karunananda, U. 1990. Nuvarakalaviya. Kelaniya: Shiela Printing

Works. [In Sinhala.]



9. Karunananda, U. 1993: Tamankaduva. Kadavata: Abhaya Mudrana

Shilpiyo. [In Sinhala.]

10. Lawrie, A. C. An Extract From ‘A Gazetteer of the Central Province of

Ceylon’ Vol. 1 & 11. Colombo 1898 (reprint 1988). In S. Bandaranayake,
M. Mogren and S. Epitawatte (Eds.). The Settlement Archaeology of the
Sigiriya-Dambulla Region. Colombo: Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology
(PGIAR). Pp. 169-193.

11. Manjusri. M. 1988. Journal of the SAREC Project. [Unpublished.]

12. Manatunga, Anura. 1990. The Kiri Oya Valley. In S. Bandaranayake, M.

Mogren and S. Epitawatte (Eds.). The Settlement Archaeology of the
Sigiriya-Dambulla Region. Colombo: Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology
(PGIAR). Pp. 73-92.

13. Myrdal-Runebjer, Eva. 1994. Premodern Sigirya Region an Ethno-

archaeological perspective. In S. Bandaranayake and M. Mogren (Eds.).
Further Studies in the Settlement Archaeology of the Sigiriya-Dambulla
Region. Colombo: Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR). Pp. 241-

14. Myrdal-Runebjer, Eva. 1994. Food procurement: Labour Processes and

Environmental Setting. In S. Bandaranayake and M. Mogren (Eds.).
Further Studies in the Settlement Archaeology of the Sigiriya-Dambulla
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Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR). 161-166.




• Development of home gardens: The systematic development of

home gardens is proposed with the re-introduction of soil
conservation measures and mapping of home gardens.
• Establishment of a local market:
The organized sale of the village produce comprising the numerous
grains (paddy, kurakkhan/tala/mung/etc.), processed food (aggala/
tala/etc.), fruits (papaw/plantain/etc.) oil (Mi/kohomba), bees honey
and support the traditional rush/reed weaving industry that is
growing obsolescent, etc., that would serve to establish a self-
sustained market managed by the local community.

• The potential to promote a market for the local produce as a

finished product is considerable with the existing market being a
greater than-average number of visitors to the World Heritage Site
of Sigiriya. For example, the sale of mixed crops grown throughout
the agricultural cycle; of traditional sweets/dairy products that are
usually made/obtained for home consumption needs; and processed
foods (lime pickle, preserves, etc.); traditional rush/reed weaving.

The weaving of rush/reed products will be revived to encourage and

support the experienced weavers and others interested. The raw
materials that are not available in the immediate surroundings will
be obtained from Kosgaha Äla and neighbouring Pidurangala and
more distant Potana, until it can be grown in favourable areas such
as Ikirivela in Diyakapilla.



• Eco-cultural tourism programme

To initiate eco-cultural tourism programme to serve (forestall the
present tendencies) strengthen the local tourism industry with the
systematic training of a selected number of residents of Diyakapilla,
with others associated with the industry from a number of settlements
located within the Sigiriya wildlife sanctuary. The establishment of a
visitor centre will enable systematic management of the village tours for
the benefit of the local inhabitants as well as the tourists.



CES was established in January 1998 by a team of interdisciplinary researchers

whose aim was to create an institute for participatory eco-cultural development in
Sri Lanka through research, education, awareness and community development.
CES is registered as a non-governmental research institute concerned with issues
pertaining to the present eco-cultural status of Sri Lanka and advocates sustainable
measures to suit the local environment and cultures. Collaborative undertakings with
other eco-culture friendly institutes will create an extensive network to promote
awareness and foster eco-cultural development in Sri Lanka.

The majority of CES members are presently involved in various consultancy and
research-oriented activities for Government and Non-governmental concerns as well
as universities.


¾ To conduct eco-cultural studies

¾ To conduct eco-cultural education, awareness, and Training programmes
¾ To establish and maintain an interpretation centre
¾ To promote environment-friendly local industries to assist local communities
¾ To promote non-destructive nature-based local enterprises

Centre for Eco-cultural Studies (CES)

PO Box 03, Sigiriya,
Sri Lanka.


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