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Rescuing Sri Lankan history: Reflections on the past



By Uditha Devapriya

In his influential essay “The People of the Lion”, R. A. L. H. Gunawardana argues for a national historiography, devoid of Western ideology. He does not refute or call for the doing away of such ideology altogether, but suggests rather that it has intruded on studies of group identities to such an extent that the history we think we unearth is very different to the history that may actually have prevailed.

Thus, by imputing terms like “race” (a term originating in 16th century Europe) and “Aryan” (which gained prominence with attempts by Orientalist scholars to draw parallels between Indo-Lankan and European languages), we are, as he points out, “presenting a view of the past moulded by contemporary ideology.” If this is the case, which I personally think it must be, then what is the history we have and the history we must talk of?

What we know, from the inscriptions, the chronicles, and the reconstructed narratives, is that Sri Lankan society was never really rooted in the concept of race as it is today. Group ideology was determined by tribes that migrated from other societies. The first hunter-gatherers lacked iron implements, which is how they came to be assimilated by Indo-Aryan Iron Age settlers. While these hunter-gatherers are said to have approximated to Veddhas, the later Iron Age settlers are said to have approximated to Sinhala people.

The question of whether hunter-gatherers formed an agricultural group is debated: the Valahassa Jatakaya, for instance, tells us of she-yakkas devouring food from wrecked ships and enslaving, if not tormenting, the sailors aboard them, while the Mahavamsa relates an episode of Vijaya coming across these ships after his encounter with Kuveni. Fa-Hsien was, as K. M. de Silva observes, not being very helpful in these matters when he wrote that the country had been originally inhabited by yaksas and nagas who traded with merchants, simply because human settlements predated both those clans.

Such narratives divided not just scholars, but also littérateurs: Martin Wickramasinghe in Sinhala Sahithyaye Nageema argued that the existence of such ships showed the absence of an advanced pre-Vijayan agricultural society, while the pioneers of the Hela Havula stated that Kuveni having engaged herself with a spinning wheel at the time of Vijaya’s entrance showed that society had been advanced prior to Indo-Aryan colonisation.

The issue is that these texts were occupied more with idealising a religious or dynastic sect than with presenting a view of life as it was lived. If they presented such a view, which they occasionally did, they did so in a hazy, amorphous way. This requires us to turn to hard evidence, etched in stone and recorded for posterity.

The Brahmi inscriptions form arguably the most concrete evidence we have for the civilisation which developed, grew, and flourished after the Indo-Aryan migration. These inscriptions come to us from very early on, and they were made by the upper classes of their time. We have Yaksha, Naga, Vedic, and Puranic inscriptions, and they allude to the status of their authors, their families, and their occupations.

The Puranic inscriptions tell us of pre-Buddhist religious cults which revolved around the Mother Goddess, Vishnu, and Siva, a point that lends credence to G. P. Malalasekara’s view that Vijaya was tolerant of all faiths. Evidence from the inscriptions of Jain and Tamil settlements, as well as settlements by, inter alia, Kabojas (Kashmiris), Moriyas (Mauryas), and Baratas (merchants, or nobles according to Paranavitana) tells us that we were a multiracial country, at least in terms of “contemporary ideology.”

But these clans were so disparate that they found it hard to develop a cohesive identity. They identified themselves by a totem: Moriyas with the peacock, Lambakannas the hare, Kulingas the shrike, and Tarachchas the hyena. This continued into the evolution of group identities later, as evidenced by the use of the lion and the tiger: the former became the standard of the “Sinhala” people, whereas the latter was adopted by the Nayakkar kings of Kandy who ruled over those same “Sinhala” people.

Not surprisingly, in medieval Sri Lankan society the ideology of the ruling class became the identity of the State. What this meant was that there was no overriding racial consciousness of the sort we discern today, so much so that, for instance, when Dutugemunu went to war we had, not Sinhalas fighting Tamils, but one dynasty battling another.

“Sinhala Buddhism”

was probably not rooted in society the way it is now, and if it was, the needs of the sasana would have been considered more important than ethno-nationalist considerations: the author of the Mahavamsa, after all, has Dutugemunu say he’s fighting “not for the joy of sovereignty”, but for the preservation of the Order.

The vague position Buddhism occupied at this juncture can be gleaned from the fact that it was accorded a foremost status even by invading forces, at least in the case of Elara; the Mahavamsa valorises him as a just ruler, tainted only by his “false beliefs.” In contrast, after the 10th century we see a heightening of anti-Buddhist and anti-Jain sentiment among South Indian invaders, which in turn produces a backlash on Sri Lankan soil.

In an otherwise eloquent essay on the subject (“Buddhism, Identity, and Conflict”), H. L. Seneviratne contends that Sri Lankan society was never the ekeeya rajya it is touted as by ultra-nationalists. He is theoretically correct, yet there is an important caveat that must be inserted: that the Westphalian notion of sovereignty was alien to the rulers of the land and thus not totally applicable, at least not to the extent it is today.

To be sure, “particularism” persisted in Anuradhapura, and the absence of a proper central administration in Polonnaruwa contributed to the disintegration of the rajya, denuding it of any ekeeya pretensions. Yet, at the same time, group consciousness permeated society even at the level of a divided State. That is why regional polities tended to band together in the face of military incursions from India, and why the absorption of those polities into a central State in Polonnaruwa under Parakramabahu I deprived the Sinhala kingdom of a viable base from which it could strategise counter-campaigns against such incursions.

In the aftermath of Kalinga Magha’s military campaigns during the Polonnaruwa era, we see a strengthening of a local Buddhist identity in response to the threat of fragmentation of the State, ekeeya or otherwise. It was a classic case of hostility by an invading force giving rise to a group identity on the invaded terrain. Nissanka Malla’s decree that only a Buddhist could rule the land hence must be seen in the light of Magha’s later campaigns of destruction. The fact that this “Buddhist king” himself is said to have originated from the Kalinga line speaks volumes about the amorphous nature of group identity formation.

To be sure, there was opposition to an ethnic Other occupying the throne, but we must understand that it was never the kind of opposition ultra-nationalists project towards the prospect of an ethnic Other presiding over Sri Lanka today.

When Bhuvanekabahu VI faced an uprising in the south, for instance, it was later painted as an uprising against a ruler of Malayali blood; this did not stop chroniclers from celebrating him for his conquest of Jaffna. The case of Waththimi Kumaraya is also significant: while the records are unclear, what we have is an account of a Muslim pretender being killed by a group of nobles, only to be venerated later by Muslims and Buddhists – the latter of whom worship him as Gale Bandara Deviyo. The level of ignorance displayed by ultra-nationalists to such subtle nuances of history surfaced years ago when, after I noted that Gale Bandara Deviyo may have had Muslim origins, a young lad of 19 protested his origins and suggested to me that, because he was non-Buddhist, he should not be venerated!

We see such ambiguities in the Kandyan era as well. However, despite Gunawardana’s assertion that uprisings by the aristocracy against rulers were a common occurrence even prior to the advent of Nayakkar rule, we must admit that such uprisings became more and more common after the installation of the Nayakkar line on the throne.

The contrast between the Ingirisihatana and the Vadigahatana must be considered in this light: the former celebrated Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe for his victory over the British in 1803, while the latter was written by Kavisundara Mudali, a confidante of Eheliyapola Adikaram who was antagonistic towards the king, following the annexation of 1815.

If that sounds strange, consider that the writers of historical chronicles have always, since the time of the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa, tilted in favour of one group over another. That is why we see a great deal of Dutugemunu, and so little of Mahasen, who Mahanama Thera seems to have mentioned, if at all, for his efforts at developing the irrigation system of the land. Curious as such paradoxes may be, they survived well into the British era, when the continuation of the Mahavamsa depicted the British as heroic, even though the author, Yagirala Pannananda, received no proper backing from the State.

In any case, it’s one of the biggest ironies of history that the Vadigahatana and the Kirala Sandeshaya called out on the wickedness of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe by identifying himself with an ethnic Other, when the Nayakkar line had been chosen after the death of Vira Parakrama Narendrasinghe to head the country because there had been no Sinhalese of kshatriya blood (a sine qua non of kinship in the post-Nissanka Malla era) available; certain nobles had wanted Unamboowe, but he was not “pure”.

It is also ironic that each and every anti-British uprising after 1815 required a Nayakkar pretender; the exception, after which no Nayakkars reclaimed the fight, was 1848. Such facets have long been forgotten by those who insert contemporary ideology into the past: perhaps the most grievous error we can commit, not just to history, but to our history. To rescue that history thus requires a radical re-evaluation of our past.

The writer can be reached at

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If you have a heart, say no to tobacco!



BY Dr. Gotabhya Ranasinghe
Consultant in General & Interventional Cardiology, NHSL

Tobacco harms practically all of the body’s organs and is a key risk factor for heart disease!

Smoking can impact all aspects of the cardiovascular system, including the heart, blood, and blood vessels. I know from my experience over the years that about 25% of the patients who seek treatment from me for heart conditions smoke.

Is there a strong link between smoking and heart disease?

Of course, there is! Smoking definitely contributes to heart disease. The majority of smokers experience heart attacks.

Some claim that the only people at risk for heart attacks or strokes are those who are classified as heavy smokers. Although this is the case, did you know that smoking even one or two cigarettes a day might result in heart attacks?

Young smokers are on the rise, which unfortunately brings more cardiac patients between the ages of 20 and 25 to the cardiology unit.

Why is tobacco poison for your heart?

The harmful mix of more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, including nicotine and carbon monoxide, can interfere with vital bodily functions when inhaled.

When you breathe, your lungs absorb oxygen and pass it on to your heart, which then pumps this oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body through the blood arteries. However, when the blood that is circulated to the rest of the body picks up the toxins in cigarette smoke when you breathe it in, your heart and blood arteries are harmed by these substances, which could result in cardiovascular diseases.

What does cigarette smoke do to your heart?

Atherosclerosis (Building up of cholesterol deposits in the coronary artery)

Endothelium dysfunction leads to atherosclerosis. The inner layer of coronary arteries or the arterial wall of the heart both function improperly and contribute to artery constriction when you smoke cigarettes. As a

result, the endothelium-cell barrier that separates the arteries is breached, allowing cholesterol plaque to build up. It’s crucial to realize that smoking increases the risk of endothelial dysfunction in even those who have normal cholesterol levels.

Heart Attacks

The plaque accumulated in the arteries can burst as a result of continued smoking or other factors like emotional stress or strenuous exercises. Heart attacks occur when these plaque rupture and turn into clots.

Coronary artery spasm

Did you know you can experience a spasm immediately after a puff of smoke?

A brief tightening or constriction of the muscles in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the heart is referred to as a coronary artery spasm. Part of the heart’s blood flow can be impeded or reduced by a spasm. A prolonged spasm can cause chest pain and possibly a heart attack.

People who usually experience coronary artery spasms don’t have typical heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. However, they are frequent smokers.


An erratic or irregular heartbeat is known as an arrhythmia. The scarring of the heart muscle caused by smoking can cause a fast or irregular heartbeat.Additionally, nicotine can cause arrhythmia by speeding up the heart rate.

One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking!

Did you know the positive impacts start to show as soon as you stop smoking?

After 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate begins to slow down.

In just 12 hours after quitting, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal, allowing more oxygen to reach your heart and other vital organs.

12 to 24 hours after you stop smoking, blood pressure levels return to normal.

Your risk of developing coronary heart disease decreases by 50% after one year of no smoking.

So let us resolve to protect and improve heart health by saying no to tobacco!

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Religious cauldron being stirred; filthy rich in abjectly poor country



What a ho ha over a silly standup comedian’s stupid remarks about Prince Siddhartha. I have never watched this Natasha Edirisuriya’s supposedly comic acts on YouTube or whatever and did not bother to access derogatory remarks she supposedly introduced to a comedy act of hers that has brought down remand imprisonment on her up until June 6. Speaking with a person who has his ear to the ground and to the gossip grape wine, I was told her being remanded was not for what she said but for trying to escape consequences by flying overseas – to Dubai, we presume, the haven now of drug kingpins, money launderers, escapees from SL law, loose gabs, and all other dregs of society.

Of course, derogatory remarks on any religion or for that matter on any religious leader have to be taboo and contraveners reprimanded publicly and perhaps imposed fines. However, imprisonment according to Cassandra is too severe.

Just consider how the Buddha treated persons who insulted him or brought false accusations against him including the most obnoxious and totally improbable accusation of fatherhood. Did he even protest, leave along proclaim his innocence. Did he permit a member of the Sangha to refute the accusations? Not at all! He said aloud he did not accept the accusations and insults. Then he asked where the accusations would go to? Back to sender/speaker/accuser. That was all he said.

Thus, any person or persons, or even all following a religion which is maligned should ignore what was said. Let it go back and reside with the sayer/maligner. Of course, the law and its enforcers must spring to action and do the needful according to the law of the land.

One wonders why this sudden spurt of insults arrowed to Buddhism. Of course, the aim is to denigrate the religion of the majority in the land. Also perhaps with ulterior motives that you and Cass do not even imagine. In The Island of Wednesday May 31, MP Dilan Perera of Nidahas Janatha Sabawa (difficult to keep pace with birth of new political parties combining the same words like nidahas and janatha to coin new names) accused Jerome Fernando and Natasha E as “actors in a drama orchestrated by the government to distract people from the real issues faced by the masses.”

We, the public, cannot simply pooh pooh this out of hand. But is there a deeper, subtler aim embedded in the loose talk of Jerome and his followers? Do we not still shudder and shake with fear and sympathy when we remember Easter Sunday 2019 with its radical Muslim aim of causing chaos? It is said and believed that the Muslim radicals wanted not only to disrupt Christian prayer services on a holy day but deliver a blow to tourism by bombing hotels.

Then their expectation was a backlash from the Sinhalese which they hoped to crush by beheading approaching Sinhala avenging attackers with swords they had made and stacked. This is not Cass’ imagination running riot but what a Catholic Priest told us when we visited the Katuwapitiya Church a couple of weeks after the dastardly bombing.

It is believed and has been proclaimed there was a manipulating group led by one demented person who egged the disasters on with the double-edged evil aim of disrupting the land and then promising future security if … Hence, we cannot be so naïve as to believe that Jerome and Natasha were merely careless speakers. Who knows what ulterior moves were dictated to by power-mad black persons and made to brew in the national cauldron of discontent? Easiest was to bring to the boil religious conflict, since the races seem to be co-living harmoniously, mostly after the example of amity set before the land and internationally of Sri Lankans of all races, religions, social statuses and ages being able to unite during the Aragalaya.

We have already suffered more than our fair share of religious conflict. The LTTE exploded a vehicle laden with bombs opposite the Dalada Maligawa; shot at the Sacred Bo Tree, massacred a busload of mostly very young Buddhist monks in Aranthalawa. This was on June 2, 1987, particularly pertinent today. They killed Muslims at prayer in a mosque in Katankudy after ethnically cleansing Jaffna and adjoining areas of Muslim populations.

The Sinhalese, led by ultra-nationalists and drunken goons ravaged Tamils in 1983 and then off and on conflicted with Muslims. Hence the need to nip all and every religious conflict in the bud; no preachers/ Buddhist monks/overzealous lay persons, or comedians and media persons to be allowed to malign religions and in the name of religion cause conflict, least of all conflagration.

Comes to mind the worst case of religious intolerance, hate, revenge and unthinkable cruelty. Cass means here the prolonged fatwa declared against Salman Rushdie (1947-), British American novelist of Indian origin who had a ransom set aside for his life declared by the then leader of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, soon after Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses was published in 1988. The British government diligently ensured his safety by hiding him in various places. After nearly two decades of tight security around him, he ventured to the US on an invited visit. He settled down in New York, believing he was now safe from the fatwa and mad men. It was not to be. In New York on stage to deliver a lecture in 2022, Rushdie was set upon by a lone assailant who stabbed him in the eye, blinding him in that eye and necessitating his wearing an eye band. What on earth was his crime? Writing a fictitious story to succeed many he had written and won prizes for like the Booker.

Religious fanaticism must never be permitted to raise its devilish head wherever, whenever.

Farmer’s fabulously rich son

Often quoted is the phrase coined by the Tourist Board, Cass believes, to describe Sri Lanka. Land like no other. It was completely complementary and justified when it was first used. We were an almost unique island where every prospect pleased, particularly its smiling, easy going people and the wonderful terrain of the land with varying altitudes, climates and fauna and flora.

Then with the decline of the country engineered and wrought by evil, self-gratifying politicians, their sidekicks and dishonest bureaucrats, disparities became stark. Sri Lanka is now in the very dumps: bankrupt, its social, economic and sustainability fabric in shreds and people suffering immensely. But since it is a land like no other with a different connotation, only certain of its population suffer and undergo deprivation and hardship. Others live grand even now and have money stashed high in–house and overseas in banks, businesses and dubious off shore dealings. Some lack the few rupees needed to travel in a bus but most political bods drive around in luxury cars; infants cry for milk and children for a scrap of bread or handful of rice. Plain tea is drunk by many to quell pangs of hunger while the corrupt VIPs quaff champaign and probably have exotic foods flown over from gourmet venues.

And most of those who drive luxury cars, eat and drink exotically and live the GOOD life, did not inherit wealth, nor earn it legitimately. Young men who had not a push bike to ride or Rs 25 to go on a school trip to Sigiriya are now fabulously wealthy. Cass does not want to list how they demonstrate immense wealth possession now.

One case in the news is Chaminda Sirisena, who seems to be very, very wealthy, wearing a ring that is valued at Rs 10 million, and then losing it to cause severe damnation to its stealer. Goodness! Cass cannot even imagine such a ring. Well, he lost it and 5,000 US $ and Rs 100,000. The suspect is his personal security guard. Having never heard of this brother of the ex Prez and he not being the paddy multimillionaire owning hotels, Cass googled. Here is short reply, “Chaminda Sirisena. Owner Success Lanka Innovative Company, Sri Lanka, 36 followers, 36 connections. (The last two bits of info completely incomprehensible and no desire at all to verify). He sure is comparable to Virgin Airways Branson and other top global entrepreneurs to become so wealthy being a son of a man who served in WWII and was given a small acreage to cultivate paddy in Polonnaruwa. When his brother Maitripala became Prez of Sri Lanka it was with pride the comparison was brought in to the American President who moved from log cabin to the White House.

Hence isn’t our beloved, now degraded Sri Lanka, a land like no other with Midases around?

We now have another maybe thief to worry about. No further news of the poor mother whose life was quashed for the sake of a gold ring, leaving three children motherless and probably destitute. When we were young, we were told very early on that if we lost anything it was more our fault; we were careless and placed temptation to less fortunate persons. The Tamil woman who died after being in remand was such a one who needed extra protection from temptation. To Cass her employer is more to blame for the probable theft and for the tragedy that followed.

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Snakes of Sri Lanka



By Ifham Nizam

Snake bites are a serious public health issue in Sri Lanka. It has been estimated that nearly 80,000 snake bites occur here every year.Due to fear and poor knowledge, hundreds of thousands of snakes, mostly non-venomous ones, are killed by humans each year.The state spends more than USD 10 million a year on treating snake bite patients.

According to health sector statistics between 30,000 and 40,000 snake bite patients receive treatment in hospitals annually, says Dr. Anjana Silva, who is Professor in Medical Parasitology, Head/ Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University.

To date, 93 land and 15 sea snake species have been recorded from Sri Lanka. While all 15 sea snakes are venomous, only 20% of the land snakes are venomous or potentially venomous.

The term, ‘venomous snakes’ does not mean they cause a threat to human lives every time they cause a bite. The snakes of highest medical importance are the venomous ones which are common or widespread and cause numerous snakebites, resulting in severe envenoming, disability or death,” says Dr. Silva who is also Adjunct Senior Research Fellow – Monash Venom Group,Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University and Research Associate- South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya.

Only five snakes could be considered to be of the highest medical importance in Sri Lanka: Russell’s viper, Indian krait, Sri Lankan cobra, Merrem’s hump-nosed viper and Saw-scaled viper. All but Merrem’s hump-nosed vipers are covered by Indian Polyvalent antivenom, the only treatment available for snake bites in Sri Lanka.

There are another five snake species with secondary medical importance, which are venomous snakes and capable of causing morbidity, disability or death, but the bites are less frequent due to various reasons (Sri Lankan krait, Highland Hump-nosed viper, Lowland hump-nosed pit viper, Green-pit viper and Beaked sea snake)

The snakes of highest medical importance in Sri Lanka are as follows:

  1. Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) (Sinhala: Thith Polanga/ Tamil: Kannadi viriyan)

Medically the most important snake in Sri Lanka. It is found throughout South Asia. It is responsible for about 30% of snake bites in Sri Lanka and also about 70% of deaths due to snake bites in Sri Lanka.

Some 2-5% bites by Russell’s viper are fatal. Widely distributed throughout the country up to the elevations of 1,500m from sea level. Highly abundant in paddy fields and farmlands but also found in dry zone forests and scrub lands. Bites occur more during the beginning and end of the farming seasons in dry zone. It can grow up to 1.3m in length. Most bites are reported during day time.

Over 85% of the bites are at the level of or below the ankle. It is a very aggressive snake when provoked. Spontaneous bleeding due to abnormalities in blood clotting and kidney failure have life-threatening effects.

Dr. Anjana Silva

  1. The Sri Lankan Russell’s vipers cause mild paralysis as well, which is not life threatening. Indian Polyvalent antivenom covers Russell’s viper envenoming. Deaths could be due to severe internal bleeding and acute renal failure.
  2. Indian Krait (Bungarus caeruleus) (Sinhala: Thel Karawala/ Maga Maruwa; Tamil: Yettadi virian/ Karuwelan Pambu)

It is distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is found across the lowland semi-arid, dry and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka. Almost absent in the wet zone. Usually, a non-offensive snake during the daytime; however, it could be aggressive at night.

Common kraits slither into human settlements at night looking for prey. People who sleep on the ground are prone to their bites.

Most common krait bites do occur at night. Bites are more common during the months of September to December when the north-east monsoon is active. Most hospital admissions of krait bites follow rainfall, even following a shower after several days or months without rain.

Since most bites do occur while the victim is asleep, the site of bite could be in any part of the body.

As bite sites have minimal or no effects, it would be difficult to find an exact bite site in some patients. Bite site usually is painless and without any swelling. Causes paralysis in body muscles which can rapidly lead to life threatening respiratory paralysis (breathing difficulty).

  1. Sri Lankan Cobra (Naja polyoccelata; Naja naja) Sinhala: Nagaya; Tami: Nalla pambu

Sri Lankan cobra is an endemic species in Sri Lanka. It is common in lowland (<1200m a.s.l), close to human settlements. Cobras are found on plantations and in home gardens, forests, grasslands and paddy fields. It is the only snake with a distinct hood in Sri Lanka.

Hood has a spectacle marking on the dorsal side and has two black spots and the neck usually has three black bands on the ventral side. When alarmed, cobras raise the hood and produce a loud hiss.

Cobra bites could occur below the knee. They are very painful and lead to severe swelling and tissue death around the affected place. Rapidly progressing paralysis could result from bites, sometimes leading to life-threatening respiratory paralysis (breathing difficulty). Deaths could also be due to cardiac arrest due to the venom effects.

  1. Merrem’s hump-nosed viper (Hypnale hypnale) Sinhala: Polon Thelissa/ Kunakatuwa; Tamil: Kopi viriyan.

Small pit-vipers grow up to 50cm in length. Head is flat and triangular with a pointed and raised snout. They are usually found coiled, they keep the heads at an angle of 45 degrees. Merrem’s Hump-nosed viper (Hypnale hypnale) is the medically most important Hump-nosed viper as it leads to 35-45% of all snake bites in Sri Lanka.

Merrem’s Hump-nosed vipers are very common in home gardens and on plantations and grasslands. Bites often happen during various activities in home gardens and also during farming activities in farmlands in both dry and wet zones. Hands and feet (below the ankle) are mostly bitten. Bites can often lead to local swelling and pain and at times, severe tissue death around the bite site may need surgical removal of dead tissue or even amputations. Rarely, patients could develop mild blood clotting abnormalities and acute kidney failure. Although rare, deaths are reported due to hypnale bites.

  1. Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus), Sinhala: Weli Polanga; Tamil: Surutai Viriyan

This species is widely distributed in South Asia. However, in Sri Lanka, it is restricted to dry coastal regions such as Mannar, Puttalam, Jaffna peninsula and Batticaloa. In Sri Lanka, this snake grows upto 40-50cm. It is a nocturnal snake which is fond of sand dunes close to the beach. It could be found under logs and stones during daytime. Bites are common during January and February.

It is a very aggressive snake. A distinct, white colour ‘bird foot shape’ mark or a ‘diamond shape’ mark could be seen over the head. When alarmed, it makes a hissing sound by rubbing the body scales. Although this snake causes frequent severe envenoming and deaths in other countries, its bites are relatively less severe in Sri Lanka. Bites could lead to mild to moderate swelling and pain on the affected place and blood clotting abnormalities and haemorrhage and rarely it could lead to kidney failure.



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