Kurakkan: Why was disliked by the Kandyan nobility?


By Durand Appuhamy

I do relish any food items made of kurakkan or finger millet. Does anyone know the real reasons why the Kandyan aristocracy did not like food made out of Kurakkan? Punchibandara Dolapihilla in his book "In the last days of Sri Wickramarajasingha" describes the contempt shown to this rustic food by Rammalaka Nilame before the King himself. Here’s what happened as described by Dolapihilla:

The king with the help of Arrawwawala Maha Nilame had sown Kurakkan in a patch of land somewhere not far from the palace in Pata-Dumbara. It had been harvested by his queens and their noble friends. The king ordered Maha Mudiyanse to serve Kurakkan lunch to the assembled court one day. The assembled nobles considered that Kurakkan lunch an insult to the throne and nobility. For some reason it was considered humiliating to partake of Kurakkan food by the Kandyan nobility. They could not leave the assembly to avoid taking this lunch without causing grave disrespect to the king. So they had to stay and partake of the food they disdained at home.

The Maha Mudiyanse and his helpers started distributing the parcels wrapped in plantain leaf (Gotu Kurakkan) to each courtier who received it with feigned respect. Suddenly everything came to a stop even as his stretched out hand held out a parcel. The intended receiver Rammalaka Nilamay blurted out "Is Your Lordship gone blind that you cannot see my difficulty?" His hands were as far back as either hand could go. To all appearances he was making frantic efforts to bring them forward without much success. After a few puzzled minutes the King asked, "Is Rammalaka Nilamay in the throes of some malady?" At this the stubborn hands came forward. He held them folded above his head and addressed the King thus:

"Deiyo Buduwanta, Your servant cannot understand what has gone wrong with these two hands of mine. As obedient in war to bring down the enemies of Maha Wasala, as in peace to make paddy fields productive, they refuse to obey today. It would appear they object to let Kurakkan roti feed the stomach from where their strength is derived". The king was taken by surprise and asked him, "Has Rammalaka Nilamay never tasted Kurakkan?" His insinuating reply was: "Lord, ever since the day your balu getta knew the taste of rice has my mother been obliged to dress such food in her kitchen. Nor does she permit her children to touch what slaves cook".

The king did hide his displeasure at the disguised insult and directed that the refused parcel be laid aside and the rest distributed. The protester lost his lunch parcel and was lucky to have not lost his life! The guests did no more than taste the food. Nor was the king able to do justice to his lunch. The servitors who trooped in to remove the plantain leaves that served for plates had to bear away almost all the Kurakkan cooked in the palace that morning. Thus, ended the Kurakkan lunch at the palace and became the talk of the town for days to come.

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