Teaching Kandy's Heritage to Kandy's Children


Former Mayor Mrs Chandra Ranaraja's latest mission in life

Mrs Chandra RanarajaMrs Chandra RanarajaTrinity Chapel and its unique Kandyan roof and pillars (picture courtesy of Indika de Silva,  http://exploresrilanka.lk/2012/09/kandy-seeking-the-unseen/)Trinity Chapel and its unique Kandyan roof and pillars (picture courtesy of Indika de Silva, http://exploresrilanka.lk/2012/09/kandy-seeking-the-unseen/)Former Mayor (1990-91) (Deputy Mayor from 1979 to 1989) of Kandy Mrs Chandra Ranaraja, is at the forefront of a mission to make the Kandy people, especially the children, aware of the heritage that they have inherited as citizens of Kandy. To this end she heads several committees and works together with local government authorities, businesses, schools, eminent personalities of the community, and professionals to bring all perspectives and ideas together to ensure that Kandy continues to thrive in its rich history well into the future.

Kandy was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1987. But Kandy,  unlike the ancient city of Anuradhapura, is also a 'living' Heritage City. A 'living' heritage city has its citizens living in and actively using the buildings and sites that are declared heritage sites based on their historical and cultural significance. This living arrangement along with its many unique features brings with it an equally challenging set of problems with some battles between developers and conservationists.

Queen's Hotel, which was originally built as the Dullawe Walawwe  (picture courtesy of Indika de Silva,  http://exploresrilanka.lk/2012/09/kandy-seeking-the-unseen/)Queen's Hotel, which was originally built as the Dullawe Walawwe (picture courtesy of Indika de Silva, http://exploresrilanka.lk/2012/09/kandy-seeking-the-unseen/)The first step in getting people together to protect the heritage is to define what we mean by the term heritage. Heritage can be art, architecture, music, law, tradition, culture, technology and, more generally the way of life. It revolves around human beings and it is something we possess as a society, says Mrs Ranaraja. This, she believes, is the main message that needs to be transferred to the people of Kandy if they are to realize the importance of preserving a 'Heritage' site or building. For to destroy or neglect such sites would be to erase a part of our heritage, a part of who we are as society in Kandy.

The Heritage Advisory Committee set up in 1993 with the help of Professor J.M. Gunadasa and Dr A.S.M Naufer of Peradeniya University is a key tool that the Kandy citizens have to give voice to their concerns on the Heritage issue. The committee works along

with the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) to raise awareness, educate and help people realise the importance of maintaining Kandy as a World Heritage City.

School Heritage Club Associations
As we are aware sometime ago schools stopped teaching history and most importantly 'our history'. History was replaced with “social studies.” Mrs Ranaraja believes that the lack of understanding of history is  the root cause behind the lack of empathy towards the conservation of our heritage sites. For sure many have heard of the great battles between the Kandyan kings and Portuguese, Dutch and British invaders. But few are aware, in meaningful detail, of Kandy's social history that includes their culture, lifestyle, architecture, technology and so on. Mrs Ranaraja believes that learning the social history of Kandy will help us better preserve out heritage. In particular she wants the younger generation to have a better appreciation of

Kandy's social history.
With the above goal in mind School Heritage Clubs were established in more than sixteen leading schools  in Kandy. These clubs were each assigned a heritage site to research and prepare a project report to be submitted to the Heritage Advisory Committee. This has become an excellent method for students to learn more about their local history while cultivating important skills in research techniques, teamwork, leadership training and creativity. Archaeologist Viraj Niranjan Balasuriya provides the expertise and guides these clubs.

The Clubs have helped uncover many of the stories behind Kandy's heritage sites and buildings and this has helped to fill some of the gaps in the case to preserve these buildings. Some of the students from these Clubs have gone on to further pursue their interests in history and archaeology at University and outside of their school career.
Interesting findings

The School Clubs have uncovered some very interesting findings through their work. On a trip to Gonawatte, a pre-historic human settlement site, the girls from Hillwood managed to uncover some caves that were previously not known. The girls from Mahamaya delved deep into the history of the Queen's Hotel and noted that the Hotel was originally the 'Dullawe Walawwa' designed by Devendra Mulachariya on the orders of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. Since the British occupation, the Walawwa has undergone several architectural changes that made it quite different from the traditional Kandyan Walawwa. Similarly many historical buildings in Kandy have a mixture of cultural influences from the Kandyan Kingdom to the changes made by subsequent settlers in the area. It is interesting to note that many of the invaders and settlers did not completely destroy the cultural and architectural  attributes of their predecessors but chose to incorporate them into their own. A good example of this is the Christian missionary school Trinity College which used Kandyan artisans and art forms when building its chapel.

Next step
To many the first question is the financial aspect of preservation. Mrs Ranaraja along with her team and the KMC are working on various programs, which would help the owners of the buildings with professional advice and financial incentives to invest in preserving these buildings. To date quite a few buildings have been successfully renovated to their original forms and Mrs Ranaraja hopes that this would be an encouragement to all those people who are interested in heritage buildings. Furthermore it must be said the value of the building significantly rises once they are in better shape and hold their original authenticity.

Architecture captures identity of the time and the understanding of our heritage buildings tells the story of Kandy and its people over time. Culture is part community and part personal says Mrs Ranaraja. As the people of Kandy we have our own unique ties to the culture of Kandy while sharing a similar cultural fate. By preserving our heritage sites, she believes, we would be able to tell our own unique stories of Kandy to our children while they share the World Heritage City they would live in together.

Tuesday 13th of November 2018. Joomla Templates Free. The Kandy News Online Edition - CMS Implementation: Webvision Sri Lanka.