“The Best Physician is also a Philosopher”
Galen of Pergamon (c.129 – 216 AD )
An institution, a learned society and a body of practitioners, the Ceylon College of Physicians stands at the apex of medical learning and practice in Sri Lanka. For over half a century, the College has fulfilled an integral role in medical education and the maintenance of professional standards. As an institution, it has played a valuable part in the building of our nation. As a scholar, a historian and a Sri Lankan, it is a privilege and an honour to address its 52nd assembly.
In a thought provoking conclusion to the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Volume, Dr Panduka Karunanayake, President Elect for 2017, explores new horizons. In an increasingly technological age, he underlines the great need to master the human and social aspects of healing. A profession that truly cares for its patients in every sense of the word, must seek to understand and shape the future. This demands that the physician not only advise patients but that he guide society. If as Dr. Karunanayake suggests, the physician is to shape the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his environment.
This was a philosophy which was articulated by one of the fathers of western medicine Aelius Galenus better known as Galen of Pergamon. The most celebrated medical authority of the Roman empire, Galen was one of the greatest physicians and surgeons of the ancient world. He has authored more books still in existence than any other ancient Greek. With the exception of Aristotle and Plato, he ranks as one most influential intellectuals in the classical west.
Born into the intellectual and social elite, Galen was son of a wealthy architect with scholarly interests and he received an excellent education. He travelled and studied widely, spending several years at Alexandria in Egypt, the greatest medical centre of the age. Returning home he spent four years tending a troupe of gladiators, eventually become the personal physician to a succession of Roman emperors.
Described by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius as “First among doctors and unique among philosophers,” Galen strongly believed that science and medicine must be practised in the context of human desires and needs. For him, medicine was an interdisciplinary field where science, ethics and the arts were all interwoven He saw himself as both a physician and a philosopher and believed that the study of philosophy would make for a better scientist, hence his short treatise The Best Physician is also a Philosopher.
In an eerie evocation of a contemporary dilemma Galen attacks the medical culture of his day which
“…encourages people to value wealth over virtue. For, “it is impossible to pursue financial gain at the same time as training oneself in so great an art as medicine; someone who is really enthusiastic about one of these aims, money or medicine, will inevitably despise the other.”
Galen advocated the study of arts and letters as an essential component of scientific study. In another work An Exhortation to Study the Arts, he warns against specialized isolation and lists several arts which he categorizes as divine gifts because they are useful to life. Alongside natural science and medicine, he also lists poetry, music, and philosophy. This underlines his belief that physicians must be specialists who were not only technically competent but also humane and morally responsible. According to Galen, proper, precise scientific inquiry was indeed ‘useful for life’. However, it could not be accomplished by scientists who were not properly trained in the other arts, because they would not then possess the humanity, the sensitivity, to do that science properly.
There does not appear to be a great distance between Galen’s creed and the requirements of contemporary medicine. A modern day physician like a philosopher is trained to think, to inquire and to ask questions. It is perhaps one of the foundations of his long and rigorous education. A good physician, like a good philosopher is always asking questions. It is by asking the best possible questions that he can make conclusions and diagnose.
A real philosopher is always open to question. This is even more the case with medicine. The danger is that answers shut down questions. Therefore the physician must always be open to question. As it is a question of wellbeing, of life and death, these questions are always shifting, changing with the time and the moment. If as a physician one must come to a conclusion, one can only do that by becoming a philosopher. To do that the physician must be able to listen, to observe, to think and to question. He must have time and make time. Time to listen, time to ponder, time to think, to analyze and evaluate.
It is a dilemma which still lies at the core of modern medicine. In an age where the internet and artificial intelligence have made vast inroads into the credibility of the physician, what makes him special is that although modern technology can make diagnoses, it cannot take a judgement call. That judgement call still rests on the human element, the physician’s understanding of the social context- on factors such as belief, culture, environment, sustainability and cost. This will determine the success of the cure. As Dr. Karunanayake foresees, if the physician is to play a role in the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his setting.
The history of medicine reveals that physicians have occupied a special role in many parts of the world. Classical scholars have always regarded the ancient Greeks as the fathers of western medicine. However recent research suggests that the ancient Egyptians practised medicine long before the Greeks. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Egyptian surgical treatise dating from 1600 BC suggests that medical practice was well established in Egypt 1,000 years before Hippocrates. This documents 48 injuries which were described, diagnosed and treated rationally through observation and examination. It is thought to be a copy of a much earlier work dating from the 3rd millenium BC by the Egyptian polymath Imhotep. Chief Minister to the pharaoh, a priest, a sage and an architect, over the ages Imhotep was gradually glorified and became a god of healing.
His counterpart in the Greek world was Asklepios, the son of Apollo. The legend goes that Asclepius become so skilled that Zeus, the king of the gods, feared that he might render men immortal. To prevent this Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt and over time like Imhotep, he too became a God. His shrine at the sanctuary of Epidaurus became known as the Asklepieion and it grew into the most important centre of healing in the Greek world. The legacy of Asklepios looms large in the Greek tradition of healing. Hippocrates formal name was Hippocrates Asclepiades, “the “descendant of Asclepios.” Galen too, we are told was not destined to become a physician and only took up medicine after the God Asklepios appeared to his father in a dream.
In Ayurveda, the system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India, the pre- eminent figures are Sushruta and Charuka. Sushruta is thought to have lived near Varanisi during the 6th-7th century BC. Regarded as the father of Indian medicine, he was the main author of the Sushruta Samhita, one of the most important surviving ancient treatises on medicine. The other medical text to have survived from ancient India, the Charaka Samhita, was authored by Charaka, who is thought to have practised throughout the Punjab between the 2nd -3rd century BC.
One of the oldest medical systems in the world is traditional Chinese medicine. This tradition has produced many leading figures. In the 5th century BC Bian Que (Pien Ch’iao) was the first to rely primarily on pulse and physical examination for the diagnosis of disease. He was followed by Hua Tuo (Yuanhua) the greatest surgeon in Chinese history. In 2nd century AD he became the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery.
Throughout the ancient world the practice of medicine was associated with learning and skill, over time it become a divine gift. The physician was the incarnation of Imhotep, Asklepios, Hippocrates, Galen; he was a god, a seer, a sage, a skilled and deeply learned practitioner, a guide and a philosopher. Only in Sri Lanka however, was the physician a king.
The place of the physician in Sri Lanka’s society is documented in the island’s great historical chronicle, the Mahavamsa. Compiled in Pali by Buddhist monks, the Mahāvaṃsa and its successor, the Cūlavaṃsa, charts the history of Lanka from the 5th century BC to the 18th century AD. It is a remarkably accurate record, of seminal value for the history of India and Sri Lanka.
King Buddhadasa reigned between 341 – 370 AD. The Culavamsa recounts how he diagnosed, treated and cured patients from all walks of life. The chronicle devotes several whole sections to the practice and establishment of medicine and documents at least seven detailed case studies. This suggests that the physician had a very special place in this society and that his story was as important as the great warriors, builders, saints and the monks who shaped the history of Lanka. Each of these case studies tells us different things. Each concerns a different situation and elicits a deeply and carefully thought out remedy, based on reasoned analysis and evaluation.
In one case, it tells of how a man drinking water swallowed the eggs of a watersnake. The egg gradually grew into a snake. As it grew sucked at the man’s intestines, torturing the victim with pain. The man sought out the king, who questioned him. When he described the pain and related what had happened the king realized that a reptile must have formed inside the man. However as the reptile was lodged deep inside the intestines, the king refrained from cutting it out.
Instead he made the man fast for a week, starving the reptile within him. He then had the patient, bathed and rubbed with oil. This calmed and soothed him and he eventually fell asleep. The king knew that when he was asleep that his mouth would open. He tied a piece of meat to a string and dangled it over his mouth. Lured by the smell and driven by hunger, the watersnake reached for the meat. The king however, held the string fast and drew on it, gradually pulling the reptile out.
Another case concerned a Bhikku or Buddhist priest, the most venerated member of society. The bhikku had gone begging for alms and was given milk which had worms in it. The worms grew and fed on his bowels, causing agonizing pain. The king then asked leading questions. At what meal did the pain arise? What kind of meal was it and what was the nature of the pain? When the bhikku told him that it was a meal that he took with milk, the king recognized the symptoms.
Taking the blood from a horse, he gave it to the monk to drink. He then waited until he had drunk it all. Then he told him that was horse’s blood. The reaction was what he had anticipated. On hearing that he had drunk the blood of a horse, the monk vomited, spitting out the blood. The worms which had caused him such pain, came up with the blood.
Compassion and feeling made up an essential part of the King’s healing skills. There is a deep feeling for life in all its forms. This applied even to the most dangerous animals. Galen had concluded that even dumb animals are not entirely devoid of reason. In Buddhadasa’s most wellknown case, the king cobra, one of Sri Lanka’s most venomous reptiles, becomes a willing patient. As the king passed by, the cobra turned over onto his back to expose his underbelly so that the king could see the tumour growing on it. After observing the growth, the king reasoned with the reptile. Although he understood its pain, he dared not touch it. Understanding the king’s dilemma, the snake stuck his whole neck into anthill so that he could not hurt the king. Whilst the cobra was immobilized, the king slit open his belly, removed the diseased growth and applied a healing remedy.
This episode suggest a high level of surgical skill. It is underlined by another. A young man had drunk water which was full of frog’s eggs. Through his nostrils an egg had penetrated into his skull and evolved into a frog. As the monsoon approached the frog became more and more agitated, causing unbearable headaches. In this case the king appears to have resorted to immediate surgery. Performing a complicated and dangerous operation, he split the skull and removed the frog and then put the parts of the skull back together.
Ancient Indic society was dominated by caste and social taboos. Despite this and ignoring own his royal status, Buddhadasa cut across every social barrier and boundary to serve the suffering. In Indian society the lowest and most menial of tasks were performed by the Caṇḍālas, outcastes who worked as sweepers and scavengers. A Candala woman who had already had seven children, became pregnant for the eighth time. This time however, her unborn child was facing the wrong way in the womb. When Buddhadasa learned that this, he intervened to save the woman’s life. In the ancient world, birth and reproduction were the preserve of women and midwives. Socially this is a unique case. It is also a complex gynecological procedure.
The understanding of the human mind is an integral part of the physician’s craft. More often than not it holds the key to the patient’s condition and his recovery. In ancient times leprosy was a common condition. Lepers were shunned and regarded with horror and leprosy deemed a curse of the Gods.
The king noticed a leper, who upon seeing him, became enraged, striking the ground with his staff. In a previous birth the king had been the leper’s slave, it maddened him to see him riding his elephant and all he wanted to do was to kill him. Learning of this, Buddhadasa set his mind to winning him over. He sent one of his men to befriend the leper and share his anger. Pretending that he too was against the king, he invited the leper to stay at his house and help him destroy his enemy. The leper was bathed, fed and given beautiful clothes and a comfortable bed to sleep. One day, when he had become happy, contented and calm, Buddhadasa’s man served him food and drink, saying, “This is the gift from the king.” At first the leper refused and then refused again. Finally he accepted. Reaching out to the most diseased and most deeply troubled member of his community, the king was able to heal his mind. It is a clear demonstration of the power of empathy, feeling for and feeling with. It is from empathy that re assurance comes. So much of healing is in the mind. If the physician can take the time and make the effort, he has the power to do great good.
All these cases make one point. The physician truly cares and feels for all his patients, no matter who they are or where they are from. In his posthumous work Galen and Galenism (2002) the Spanish historian and Physician, Luis García Ballester (1936-2000) quotes Galen as saying: “In order to diagnose, one must observe and reason.” This is the dictum which King Buddhadasa embodies. He observes closely, listens carefully and questions keenly, making every attempt to form a picture of the condition. It is then he makes his diagnosis and decides on course of action. A demonstration of the power of the mind, sustained thought and inquiry, it is characterized by understanding and feeling.
The Cūlavaṃsa praises King Buddhadasa as a “Mine of Virtue and a Sea of jewels.” This perception is based on the king’s understanding of the human and social aspects of healing, his ability to care and feel. It is probably this tradition which lies at the roots of the well known Sri Lankan saying “If you cannot be a king, become a healer.”
This is the challenge which western science and learning faces in one of the world’s oldest living cultures. This context demands that the physician be conscious of the rhythms of a society, whose needs, values and way of life are often quite distinct from western norms and practices, often very much older. If as an invited guest, I can make one suggestion, it is that Sri Lanka’s physicians begin to study their past. For it is through comparative traditions that we learn deeply about ourselves.
If he is to truly guide as well as “Cure, Relieve And Comfort,” the Physician must also strive be a Philosopher.
He must not only ask the best possible questions, most of all like King Buddhadasa, he must care, be concerned and compassionate. For that he must have time.
TITLE; SINHARAJA/ APRIL 4
Confessions of a global gypsy
Providing hospitality to Prince Philip
by Dr. Chandana
(Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc.
Consulting, Canada Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
Today, instead of chronologically narrating another episode of the story of my career, I will write about a customer I met and provided hospitality services twice, in the UK in 1984 and in Jamaica in 1998. Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was born nearly 100 years ago (on 10 June 1921) in Greece into Greek and Danish royal families. He had a non-English, but a rich continental European mix – German, Greek, Danish, Hungarian, French, Swiss, Bohemian, Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, Belgian, and Dutch. His family was exiled from Greece when he was an infant. After being educated in France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK), he joined the British Royal Navy as an officer in 1939. He became a British subject in 1947, changed his family name to Mountbatten and married Princess Elizabeth, who became the Queen of the United Kingdom in 1952. Having made a British Prince in 1957, and over the years many other titles and honours were bestowed to him, but I will refer to him as Prince Philip, who was unique in that he was the longest-lived male member ever in the British royal family.
Two VIP visitors from UK
From 1995 to 1998 I was the General Manager of the largest hotel in the capital city of Jamaica – Kingston. Le Meridien Jamaica Pegasus Hotel (Pegasus) was operated by the largest British hotel company at that time – Forte PLC, and I represented that company in Jamaica. Along with two sister hotels – Guyana Pegasus Hotel and Pegasus Reef Hotel in Sri Lanka, Jamaica Pegasus was planned and developed in late 1960s and early 1970s by British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC (now British Airways) and Trust House Forte (later Forte PLC). Because of the hotel’s British connections, we had a large percentage of British travellers coming to Kingston staying at the Pegasus. Thirty rooms of the Pegasus were booked on back-to-back basis for the crews of British Airways over many years. The English cricket team stayed at the Pegasus, during all their matches played in Jamaica.
The British High Commissioner in Jamaica at that time had become a friend of mine. One day in early 1998, while attending a private party at my apartment at the Pegasus with his wife, the High Commissioner gave me heads up about two separate visits by two VIPs from the UK – Former (1990-1997) Prime Minister John Major (now Sir John) and Prince Philip. I lived in the UK when John Major became the surprise successor of Margret Thatcher in 1990, after the famous cabinet revolt. I was glued to the TV every evening in my London home, wondering how a person with such humble beginnings became the most powerful person in the UK. I became an admirer of John Major, and was excited about the opportunity to meet and greet him. On the other hand, having read and heard about Prince Philip’s greatest legacy (apart from his marathon marriage to Elizabeth II) – a lifetime of controversial, cringeworthy and sometimes outright appalling comments or insensitive jokes, I was not an admirer of Prince Philip. However, I was happy that he would be staying at the Pegasus for two days.
Arrival in Jamaica
Prince Philip arrived at the Pegasus in the evening of 23rd March 1998. He was accompanied by the British High Commissioner and a male travelling companion, who had a variety of roles such as Secretary, Butler and Valet. Given his reputation, my expectations were not high. However, I was pleasantly surprised about the jovial mood and politeness of Prince Philip that evening. He looked fit and athletic, and did not look 76, which was his age at that time. For someone who just arrived in the Caribbean after a cross-Atlantic flight, he appeared to be fresh. His suite and the adjoining room for his Secretary were on the 15th floor furthest from the elevators. While walking towards his suite he told me jokingly, “Hotels forget that I am an old man when they always allocate me a suite which requires the longest walk from the lift.” When I apologised, he said: “That is alright, I need the exercise.”
Chat about the past
The next day, during his breakfast at the suite, I met Prince Philip again. I checked how his first night at the Pegasus was, and he was happy with all arrangements. He looked well rested. We chatted briefly about the weather and his previous visits to Jamaica, as well as about his stay with Queen Elizabeth at Guyana Pegasus Hotel a few years ago and visits to Sri Lanka. Then I walked with him, on his way out to a meeting scheduled at the British High Commission. While walking he surprised me by asking: “have we met before?” Assuming that this is his dry sense of humour he is famous for, I replied, “Yes, Your Royal Highness, we met last evening.” He laughed and said, “No, no, I mean before, years ago. I remember your face and your afro hair style.” I then said, “I served you once at the Dorchester Hotel, but that was 14 years ago, when I was a Banquet Waiter, I cannot imagine you remembering all Waiters who served you at numerous royal banquets, Sir.” Prince Philip looked straight at my eyes for a few seconds and said, “I think that I remember you from the Dorchester.”
A royal banquet at the Dorchester, London in 1984
When I was a graduate student at the University of Surrey, UK in 1983 and 1984, to make sufficient money to pay the rent, I worked at the Dorchester in Park Lane, London, as a part-time Banquet Waiter. Although it was the best hotel in the UK at that time, most Waiters who served in banquets were part-time employees. Traditionally most royal banquets in London were held at the Buckingham Palace or at a historic hotel with long-standing connections with royalty that have led to it sometimes being referred to as an annexe to the Buckingham Palace – The Claridge’s in Mayfair, London. In early 1984, after many efforts by the top management team, the Dorchester secured a prestigious booking for the first royal banquet ever to be held at the Dorchester, since its opening in 1931.
As this banquet would enhance the image of the Dorchester, the management decided to re-train the full banquet service team of full-time and part-time employees. It was a two week fully-paid special training. We were told by the Banquet Manager that the five waiters who perform the best in the practical test and the exam at the end of the special training session, will be given the opportunity of serving the 27 VIPs who would sit at the head table. These VIPs included the Queen and Prince Philip, King of Bahrain, The Lord Chancellor of the UK and the Prime Minister of the UK (Margret Thatcher). Thanks to my practical training I received by German and Swiss food and beverage service experts at the Ceylon Hotel School in the early 1970s, I managed to do well at this training session and become one of the best five waiters. I was chosen to serve the Queen and Prince Philip and the King of Bahrain at the royal banquet held on 12th April 1984. I was one of the two non-white waiters among a service brigade of 50 who worked at that royal banquet. Perhaps that may be a reason for Prince Philip to remember me after 14 long years.
A fundraiser private dinner in Kingston in 1998
In 1998, the Chairman of the Pegasus Board and the individual shareholder with the largest percentage of shares, was Mr. John Issa. He was also the Chairman of his family-owned resort chain – SuperClubs. Mr. Issa’s family were the pioneers of tourism in Jamaica for a few generations. His wife, son and twin daughters were all well-qualified and held senior positions within the family business. I was very close to the Issa family. Towards the end of 1997, Mr. Issa had a chat with me and said that he and his family will need two suites at the Pegasus for six months, as their beautiful house in a posh area of Kingston will be fully renovated to host an important event. As their house was already well-appointed and well-maintained, to me it sounded strange, but I did not ask too many questions from the Chairman of the Board.
A few days before the visit of Prince Philip to Jamaica, the Issa family returned to their upgraded house. At that point Mr. Issa informed me that his family would be hosting Prince Philip for a private dinner in their house, the day after Prince Philip’s arrival. As it was a fundraiser event the invitees for the dinner were rich and famous Jamaicans. Mr. Issa disliked wearing the tie and jacket and therefore, the dress code was informal. A six-course menu with matching wines were planned. Pegasus was asked to look after some of the logistics, while SuperClubs looked after catering.
The event was a success in terms of quality, satisfaction and fundraising. It was like musical chairs, when those invitees who sat next to and in front of Prince Philip, were rotated from course to course. After the event was over, jokingly I asked Mr. Issa: “Would there be an opportunity for me to address you as SIR JOHN in the near future?” He laughed and said: “Chandi, I need to do much more than one fundraiser to earn a title such as that”. I think that I read Mr. Issa’s mind, correctly.
The next morning, I handled Prince Philip’s departure from Pegasus. When he saw me at his suite, he asked, “You, again?” By then I have gotten used to his dry sense of humour. I think that he joked often with an intention to put people at ease, but at times was misunderstood as being sarcastic. After a firm hand shake and exchange of smiles, I said goodbye and bon voyage to Prince Philip.
Years later when I watched four seasons of the award-winning Netflix series ‘The Crown’ with my wife, I realized how complex and at times, difficult it was for him to play a supportive ceremonial role for 69 years from the time his wife became the Queen of the UK and the Commonwealth in 1952. He was fully dedicated to the institution and had a deep sense of duty, perhaps stemmed from his naval officer training and distinguished military career. He was a reliable husband for 73 long years.
Prince Philip served as a patron, president, or member of over 780 organisations, and his key legacy will be his work as the Chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement program for young people aged 14 to 24 founded by Prince Philip in the UK in 1956 and expanded to 144 nations, over the decades. He was a good man. “Goodnight Sweet Prince!”
ODEL Launches its vivacious Summer Collection
The longing for a place or a face, is something we have all experienced in the past year. Yet the tides have turned, and as life gets slowly back to normal, the ODEL Summer collection, “Wish you were here” celebrates those cherished throwbacks to good times; The love, the laughter and having it all back again. With a range of stylishly comfortable silhouettes, accessories, shoes and bags, the collection welcomes the dawn of a new year, while looking back at those wonderful days with fondness.
Inspired by all things island, ODEL’s Summer collection lives up to its theme of ‘Wish You Were Here’. And indeed, you most certainly will wish you were at ODEL, not just once but everyday this season as ODEL introduces a range of delightful products which are a veritable burst of island blooms and colors that will get you right into a mood of Summer fun and frolic as well as traditional Avurudu celebrations.
You can shop ODEL with complete ease of mind, with a host of bank offers as well as special promotions, to make your Avurudu all the more festive. What’s more, this season you can shop till you drop at ODEL, from 10 AM all the way to 10 PM!
“This season, vibrant blooms will come in to play across ladies’, men’s as well as kids’ categories. The collection comprises of a stunning selection of silhouettes in joyful, celebratory hues such as Red, Orange as well as Green which is the designated auspicious color of Avurudu this year. Sri Lanka being the tropical paradise that it is, we have kept the fabric light and breathable with the perfect blend of cottons and linens, which are well suited to our climate” said Desiree Karunaratne, Group Director Marketing of Softlogic Group.
The overall direction for this Summer’s collection is ‘comfort first’. In the ladies’ line up, you will see cascading shapes with layers and fluidity. Staples such as floral summer dresses, shorts, tropical co-ord sets, palazzo pants, crop tops and cover ups are making a comeback. Wide-leg trousers made for comfort, floaty dresses that could take you from an intimate festive gathering to a tropical get away far from Colombo, paper bag shorts pairable with those breezy tops with billowy sleeves or even a cute little crop top are all must- haves that will soon become your summer favorites.
For LUV Sri Lanka, the ‘Blossoms of Avurudu’ collection capture the essence of this festive period and portrays the beauty and magic that is created by the myriad of flowers that blossom across the island during this time with emphasis being placed on this year’s Avurudu colors which are green, white and blue. Conveyed via water colours by our team of designers, everything you see has been drawn from scratch. We have given special attention to the flowers that are synonymous with the culture and traditions of Sri Lankans, namely Erabadu, Asala, Nilmanel, Saman Pitchcha , Katurolu, Kadupul, Binara and Sapu.
The Men’s collection too revolves primarily around comfort, with tropical shirts, shorts, ombre- tie dye T shirts and crisp white tailored staples included in the collection. With a range of printed, casual shirts that can be paired with a casual short for a day by the pool, or a Chino from our wide collection for an evening out, the ODEL Men’s collection is versatile and interchangeable, working for a whole range of different looks. Not forgetting the wildly popular tie dye tee range by WYOS and Liberation, and the beloved formal range by Davidoff and Fellini, the ODEL Men’s department is fully equipped for all your festive shopping needs.
Kid’s Summer collection for both boys and girls, is affectionately labeled ‘Fruitloops’ this season as it’s a celebration of tropical fruits and their burst of vivacious colors. Boysenbear brings ever so cozy casual looks for little boys while Pinkabelle comes through with summer dresses, rompers and comfy shorts that your little princess will want to live in during these hot summer days.
ODEL Home, in keeping with the theme of vibrant colors and light-as-air textures, presents a range of home essentials for this festive season. Beautiful, vibrantly hued mosaic vases, modern ceramic vases in uncommon shapes and sizes, floral cushion covers in colorful linens and cottons, and a range of color coordinated bath room accessory sets, bath mats and towels, that will complete your home, while a unique collection of clay table wear, vintage brass oil lamps, batik cushion covers and table runners will make your Avurudu table the cynosure of all!
As for Backstage, resplendent dazzles are the order of the day! In order to coordinate and complement the bright and gleaming hues of Avurudu, Backstage will feature a range of jewelry that is intricate, exotic, colourful, dazzling and one of a kind.
Last but by no means least; Delight has an array of traditional Avurudu sweet treat hampers that are guaranteed to satisfy the gourmand in you with a stunning assortment of all-time favourites and some new ones too.
Sri Lanka’s leading Department store, ODEL certainly has it all for the entire family, so head over down to your favourite store for all your family’s needs this Avurudhu – ODEL has it all!
ODEL PLC is a fully owned subsidiary of Softlogic Holdings PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s largest diversified conglomerates with leading market positions in growing economic sectors in Retail, Healthcare, ICT, Automobiles, Leisure, and Financial Services. Softlogic holds authorised distributorships for key global power brands and employs over 11,000 employees at its offices in Sri Lanka and Australia today.
Banana: the everyday super fruit
by Randima Attygalle
Be it visiting loved ones for the new year or on any other occasion, taking a comb of bananas along is a time-honoured practice among Lankans. We are not alone in our love for this delectable fruit relished over centuries by mankind and herbivorous animals alike. One of the most widely grown fruit crops in the world, banana occupies a top place in the fresh fruit trade, second only to orange. Banana (Musa spp.) is native to South Asia and Western Pacific Region. The wild ancestors of cultivated banana Musa acuminate Colla and Musa balbisiana Colla are distributed in South and South East Asian countries including Sri Lanka.
The earliest written reference to bananas in Sri Lankan history goes back to about 341 A.D. the time of King Buddhadasa who is reputed to have been a skilled physician. The king had recorded in his Sarartha Sangragaha, the medicinal values of various parts of the banana plant. There is also evidence that the prehistoric inhabitants of the island, over 12,000 years ago had eaten wild bananas. The seed remains of ati-eta kesel which had been found in a carbonized state in the stone-age cave sites of Batadombalena in the Ratnapura District prove the long existence of banana in Sri Lanka.
“Botanically known to be a kind of berry, banana is the only fruit crop equally recognized as a fruit and a vegetable. Although ‘bananas’ and ‘plantains’ are commonly used to name the fruit, there is a distinction between them. The two major types of edible banana cultivars in the country are classified into banana and plantain each with different morphological characters and uses. “While banana is considered to be the ‘dessert’ type, plantains are the cooking type,” explains Dr. Kalyani Ketipearachchi, former Principal Scientist (Fruit Agronomy), Fruits Crops Research and Development Station of the Department of Agriculture in Gannoruwa, Peradeniya. Today what is known as ‘ornamental banana species’ have also found a place in home gardens, she adds.
While almost 1,000 varieties of bananas are found across the world, there are around 50 varieties locally found, says Dr. Ketipearachchi. Other than a few varieties introduced scientifically through international research projects such as Ambun types, Cavendish type, recommended varieties of Kandula and
Pulathisi, almost all the others are indigenous to the country, she adds.
Sri Lankan bananas are found in three main groups: the Mysore, the Kolikuttu and the Cavendish. Ambul and seeni bananas are of Mysore group. Kolikuttu, suwendel, puwalu and rath kehel belong to the Kolikuttu group, while embun, anamalu, nethrampalam and bim-kesel belong to the Cavendish group. While all these are popular dessert bananas, alu-kesel or ash plantain is a cooking variety. Among the cooking types are Kithala, Mondan, Etamuru, and Marathamana which are however not as common as alu-kesel. Nethrampalam, she says, is the most expensive local variety. “This is not commonly available as it is not yet cultivated on a large scale. Nethrapalam is believed to help improve eyesight and contains aphrodisiac qualities. Bimkesel or Navkesel is also a Cavendish type known as Sri Lankan Cavendish. The tree is of dwarf size and its fruit bunch almost touches the ground.
Bananas are a popular fruit crop ensuring high economic returns throughout the year. “This is the fruit’s biggest attraction, as it could be grown across the country even at very high elevations unlike other seasonal fruits such as rambutan or mango. Moreover, banana can be harvested in shorter periods, bearing fruit in about ten months,” notes Dr. Ketipearachchi. The economic life span of a tree is about four years.
Nearly 50,000 hectares of land are under banana in Sri Lanka – that’s about 54% of the total fruit cultivation extent, according to the Department of Agriculture. It is also our highest export fruit crop. According to the Export Development Board’s numbers, Cavendish has a high demand in the international market and ambul and rath kesel are also exported in small quantities. Middle East countries are the largest buyers of Lankan bananas, (largely Cavendish) followed by several European countries including Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and the UK. Japan and New Zealand are also among lead buyers.
Along with its everyday presence in Lankan homes, the fruit is also part of the country’s religious and cultural fabric. All of it, be it leaves, flower bud, pseudo stem or corm, no part of this plant goes unutilized. It is also a popular weaning food for infants as it is easily digestible, soft and palatable. Rice and curry wrapped in banana leaves, popularly known as kesel-kola buth is much relished, giving a special flavour to a meal apart from its packaging function.
Harvard School of Public Health in their literature alludes to banana as the ‘iconic golden fruit’ which carries the title of the ‘first super-food endorsed by the American Medical Association in the early 20th century as a health food for children and a treatment for celiac disease. Rich in potassium, vitamin A and C, banana can easily fulfill the minimum daily fruit requirement of 100gms, says Dr. Renuka Jayatissa, Head of the Department of Nutrition at the Medical Research Institute and President of the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association.
An advocate of ‘a banana a day keeps the doctor away,’ she remarks that banana is a natural intervention for tropical lands like ours to supplement the minerals lost due to heat. “It’s actually a wonder fruit with many advantages – nutrition value, affordability, availability and its natural peel-wrapper, makes it a safe and a practical fruit that could be eaten at any time without interfering with our meal patterns.”
Nearly 50% of Lankan adults have high blood pressure says the Clinical Nutritionist. Rich is potassium, the fruit is recommended for maintaining blood pressure levels. However, those with potassium-related health issues need to be conscious of how much of the fruit they eat, says Dr. Jayatissa. As it is rich in calories and carbohydrates, it should be eaten in moderation by diabetics and other high risk groups such as the overweight and the obese, to prevent glycemic overloading. “People unnecessarily fear banana which should not be the case. Eating in moderation is the key,” she notes.
The nutritional level of different kinds of bananas varies but this is not very significant, so people have the advantage of enjoying their preferred variety, Dr. Jayatissa says. “Ambul has more citric acid, and that’s the reason why it doesn’t agree with those who have citric acid intolerance. But such cases are now not very common. Rath-kesel has more beta-carotenes and is good for those with Vitamin A deficiency. Anamalu is recommended to treat diarrhea as well as constipation,” she explains emphasizing that this fruit can also meet the recommended daily dose of vitamin C as a buffer against COVID-19.
Citing Thailand’s example, she says that the wastage of this wonder fruit must be avoided. “In Thailand, hardly any bananas are thrown away. Overripe fruit is sun-dried and diced into small pieces which they enjoy with ice cream or smoothies. We can learn from this and even add it to our much loved curd. Banana peel soaked in water for three days is a good fertilizer”, Dr Jayatissa says, encouraging Lankans to be more creative with this abundant fruit.
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