Friday, 27 December 2013 00:34
Text and pix by P.D. De Silva
Swayanjatha is an indigenous variety of red rice paddy endemic to Sri Lanka which has resurfaced and is being grown in the Sooriyawewa, Sevanagala and Thanamalwila areas. The name Swayanjatha in Sinhala means ‘born on its own’.
This is a sturdy plant which is more than 10 feet tall. Swayanjatha is grown on dry land as a chena cultivation and takes about six months to bear. Multiple crops are harvested by reaping only the inflorescence. It is resistant to most diseases and the unique shape of the grain with little spikes at the end is a deterrent to birds.
It can be easily threshed at home using a pestle and mortar. The small roundish grain takes more time to boil than normal rice and is said to be high in nutrients.
Jinadasa Dikmadugoda, a former Assistant Commissioner for Agriculture and author of many books on traditional methods of farming, said that there is a mention about Swayanjatha in the Agganna Sutta, which describes the beginning of our planet.
According to the Sutta, the first rice plants were without husk (Swayanjatha has a very soft husk removable with your fingers) and kernels. The earthly beings consumed the sweet tasting rice for a long time but some became greedy and lazy. They took more rice than they needed for one day’s meals. They started increasing the amount of rice they collected at a time in their greed and laziness.
At the inception it took only one day for a rice plant to grow and bear seed. But by the karmic power, the plant began to grow slower and slower and takes six months now! The rice grew in kernels and husks forcing the creatures to sow, nurse, harvest and cook before consuming, as at present.