Folk tales of Sri Lanka - 1

Introduction to Mahadena-mutta and his pupils


Simplified and retold for children by

Sumedha Manabarana

Mahadena-mutta the character
Long time ago, there lived in a far away village of Sri Lanka an old guru called Mahadena-mutta. Some people called him a pedagogue because Mahadena-mutta thought that he knew more than any other person in the whole country and he always wanted to teach other people what he knew.

However, some other people thought that Mahadena-mutta was a man of great wisdom. They often came to see him hoping that he would give them good guidance and counseling for their day-to-day problems. Mahadena-mutta’s idiotic instructions only made their problems even worse adding unexpected results.

Mahadena-mutta had a Santa Claus look-like beard and neatly combed grey hair. He often wore a semi-circular comb firmly set on the head which gave him a distinctive look.

Pedagogue = a teacher or a person who likes to teach people things, especially because they think they know more than other people Distinctive = having a quality that makes him different and easily noticed from others

He wore a pair of metal rimmed circular lens glasses like Mahatma Gandhi of India.

His faded black coat and his cotton cloth wrapped tightly around his waist with a broad belt around it gave him a wonderful look. The double linen black belt he wore helped him to keep his soft cotton cloth in its place. When Mahadenamutta chuckled, his fleshy body shook like a tightly filled bag of jelly almost bursting at the seams, especially his protruding belly.

The sparkling metal buckles on the belt with two brown leather side pockets with black buttons gave him a proud look. He also has a scarf on one side of his shoulder and carried a walking stick in his hand.

Protruding belly = belly that is sticking or coming out / a big belly

Mahadena-mutta had five pupils. These five pupils were equally stupid like their teacher. They always believed that there was no other person in the whole world whose knowledge could be compared to the great wisdom of their great guru.

The five pupils constantly followed him carrying his palm-leaf book of instructions, his bag and all the paraphernalia needed for the journey, sometimes giving added trouble to Mahadena-mutta himself.

Mahadena-mutta’s five pupils
His five pupils were
1. Polbe-moona 2. Kotu-kitaiya 3. Rabboda-aiya 4. Puwak-badilla, and 5. Indikatu-pancha

Although the five pupils had their own names, people used to call them using funny names based on their physical appearance.
All the paraphernalia = the total collection of things or items he had in his possession

Polbe-moona is the eldest of the five pupils. His half a coconut look-like circular hefty face gave him this funny name. His little knowledge about simple home remedies gave him an added value in the village.

Kotu-kitaiya was thin and tall and he almost resembled a stick. He usually did not wear a shirt and as a result even his ribs could be counted by another person. He was a bit clever at mental mathematics.

Rabboda-aiya (also known as Rabbada-aiya) had a big round belly. He got his big belly as a result of his habitual dirking of toddy. It is a natural alcoholic drink made from the sap of some trees like coconut or kitul palm. Rabboda-aiya had a simple knowledge about carpentry.

Puwak-badilla had a tall slender body which gave him the appearance of an arecanut or beetle nut palm. His face was small and looked like an arecanut. Therefore, he was lovingly called by the name Puwak-badilla, the arecanut-like or the beetle-nut like pupil. He had a fair knowledge of astrology.

Indikatu-pancha or the needle-like pupil was the youngest of the three. He was very small in size. His main job was to follow Mahadena-mutta wherever he went. It was Indikatu-pancha who looked after Mahadena-mutta in the absence of the other four pupils.

Mahadena-mutta had no means of living. The five pupils had to look after him daily. They lived in a wattle and daub house with cadjan thatched roof. Mahadena-mutta’s walking stick, his spittoon, his lazy chair and the rope bed were the only items he possessed. It maybe his simplicity that attracted people most disregarding his stupidity. Even today, you find people who instruct others putting them into more trouble. And there are enough people in the world who are willing to follow such absurd instructions without thinking much about the damaging results.
-To be continued [[

Wattle and daub house = house made using clay and wooden sticks or stems cut from trees. Cadjan thatched roof = roof covered using matted leaves of coconut palm. . Spittoon = a tall cup-like thing into which ancient people spit after chewing betel leaves with arecanut, tobacco, etc.

Sumedha Manabarana

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