Through the passage of time

By Damitha Hemachandra and Asma Edris (Daily Mirror) It is as old as Kandyan history or perhaps older. It was home to more than eight generations of Elapathas. Situated on the banks of the Walawe River, Elapatha Walauwa still stands as it is used to more than 400 years ago.A bumpy and rocky road took us to the Walauwa, which stands on high ground. Surrounded by ancient trees, the first glance of the Walauwa gives the impression of an ancient man surrounded by all his old companions.

However, time has changed his face. The once lime-smooth floor has been replaced with floor tiles.

The old verandah, which used to surround the whole house, is now restricted to the front with added bedrooms for the new generations to sleep in.

The dignity of the ancient Elapatha Walauwa still remains with its simple but elegant wood-worked door and window frames, its Sinhala ulu laid roof, its antiques, huge barns and shady courtyards.

The sitting area of the house has been altered over the years. “Most of the furniture is scattered around the many generations with few remaining at the Walauwa today,” the present owner of the Walauwa, Samudra Elapatha said.There remain some antique furniture with photographs of generations of Walauwa owners.

Many attractions remain in the courtyard and one of them is the huge barn with three parts to store different kinds of paddy.

The barn is made out of Jak wood and is smoked to keep the insects out. It stands on six stone pillars away from mice and rats. Thus, the paddy lasts long and in good condition. A ladder is used to reach the doors of the barn.

Another attraction is the old acid bath. It was imported to Sri Lanka nearly 250 years back containing acid for the budding rubber industry at that time. The container, which is made out of stone, is now used to nurture paddy seeds.

The old lamp collection adds light to the antique collection. An array of lamps used during various periods still hangs although unused. Many are made out of metal while the comparatively new ones are of glass.

Grindstones and pestles, which are abandoned in the courtyard, too are from various time periods.

The once over-taxed and massive pestles lie to rest in the shade today and only come to life during the harvest season. The pestle is designed to be used by three or four people at one time. They walked around the pestle singing folk songs ‘to make the work glide by’.

Farming and mining instruments were stored under the barn as it was the rainy season some lie scattered until their service is required.

Another interesting collection is the hansi putu, found almost everywhere in the Walauwa. These hansi putu have their own story to tell and one can see the evolution of their carpentry style by comparing one with the other.

The house itself is a showpiece of evolution as there have been many changes with time to which every lady of the house has added her own contribution.

The Elapatha Walauwa is ancient, full of secrets, surprises and stories of intrigue. It was standing when the country was governed by a king, when a coup was organised to oust the king, when the British took over. It has sheltered generations of Elapathas, famous and infamous, including the famous Elapatha Mudliyar. It saw so much and it heard so much and it could relate stories of love, fame and agony if its walls could speak. If only they could…