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Commencement of the History of Medicine & Healing in Sri Lanka Project

A dancer performing ‘Mahason Samayama’ during a ‘Sanni Yakuma’, a traditional healing rite of Sri Lanka - History of Medicine & Healing in Sri Lanka Project

History of Medicine & Healing in Sri Lanka, especially the cultural and the artistic aspect of the healing part was something that has always fascinated me, even as a child.
However, this idea came from one of my teachers.
The phone rang, and it was Prof. Saroj Jayasinghe!
‘Dinil, the 150th anniversary of the faculty is coming, How about doing a book about the faculty history?’

We went back and forth, and discussed the pros and cons, the value, the effort, and the audience; then we sat on it for a while and thought about it.
Finally, the idea metamorphosed into a different project with a much broader scope and the project that we currently call ‘History of Medicine & Healing in Sri Lanka’, was born.

 

Mihintale ancient hospital - Mihintale, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Mihintale ancient hospital – Mihintale, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

 

We decided to take a journey way back into history and go as far as we could. We wanted to generate pictorial adjuncts to accompany the narratives we unearth and produce a book that can work as a quick guide as well.

Our good friend Nalin, a well respected traditional doctor, a foremost expert on medicinal herbs in Sri Lanka and a historian, joined our little team as a contributor.
Deshan, a team member of ours who has a great interest in history and politics came in as the other contributor and completed our little core team.

So we sat down and planned, starting with the scope, the depth, the information architecture, and the intended audience.

We went and discussed our project with the renowned medical historian and pioneering respiratory physician Dr C G Uragoda, who was with us at the time.

C G Uragoda, Saroj Jayasinge and Dinil Abeygunawardane
Dr C G Uragoda, Prof Saroj Jayasinghe & Dr Dinil Abeygunawardane

 

We decided to address what we found under different sections, the legends, the folk medicine, the spiritual healing, and all types of medicine that were practised in Sri Lanka, from Hela Wedakama, Siddha and Unani and Ayurveda to Western Medicine.

This was an ambitious, exhaustive and expensive venture, we needed to raise funds to commence the project. So, I sent a few messages out to some of my friends, and a couple of others heard about the project and volunteered.
Within a couple of days, we had the necessary expenses for the commencement of the project.
Prof. Saroj Jayasinghe, Mr Saman Senadheera, Dr Iruka Kumarage, Dr Wasantha Wijenayake, Mr Chamminda and Mrs S P Welagedara and Dr Rushantha Premadasa readily came on board and assisted us with the necessary funding!

The planning had to be meticulous. We needed special permission to visit historical sites and photograph the artefacts in museums.
Mr Vijitha Nandakumara, the secretary to the Central Cultural Fund helped us by providing the necessary permissions. Ms Anusha Gokula helped us by liaising us with Mr Nandakumara.

The book was scheduled to be launched along with the accompanying photography exhibition on the 27th of March 2020 at the Harold Peiris Gallery of the Lionel Wendt Art Centre.
We had the press conference about the event on the 12th of March 2020.
As the book was about to hit the printing press, the first COVID lockdown came.

Over the next few months, I will tell you about the journey we took, and publish some behind the scene images while re-arranging the book.
Yes, sitting on something for a while, in this case, more than two years, changed how I interpret some of the things we have found, and I decided to include these in the text..

Stay tuned folks..

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