A village named karapincha | Sunday Observer

A village named karapincha

29 October, 2017
Remote charm: the landscape  of Karapincha village
Remote charm: the landscape of Karapincha village

On hearing the name Karapincha, your mind would undoubtedly conjure up the Karapincha that we use as a flavouring in cooking. However, if you were to travel around nine kilometres from Ratnapura along the Hidellana-Karapincha narrow and winding road, you will reach a village called Karapincha. It is but a small village, with line rooms, a tea estate by the same name, vast ever-green rubber plantations and paddy fields.

I should have written this article much earlier – maybe then I could have thoroughly explained how this name came into being. The elders with knowledge of the village, who knew how this unusual place name originated, have left this world. “Today, no one seems to know how our village got its name,” shudders villager Kandasamy; and Christy, another villager, says, “I myself want to find out how this unusual name came into being”.

The fiercely proud two Karapincha villagers, Kandasamy and young Christy are not about to give up, yet. They take a deep breath and share the other less-known charms of their beloved village, and how their fathers and forefathers came to the village many years ago when it was less prosperous.


I consulted a scholarly Buddhist monk in the area, Ven. Amutagoda Indrarathana Thera, the chief incumbent of Sri Maha Vihara temple in Weeragoda, Hidellana, one of the neighbouring villages of Karapincha. “There are interesting stories on how some of our villages got their names. Usually, these stories are based on geographical locations, often, trees which are abundant in particular areas are associated with most of the names.

Probably, we could assume that Karapincha being a small tree, there were a large number of Karapincha plants in that area and the name would have originated from this. Since then, the name Karapincha would have passed from generation to generation in the form of folk-tales, and later it may have stuck to the village. At the same time, one can use these names to get an insight into the evolution of culture and lifestyle from ancient times,” says the Thera.

Christy also mentioned that a large number of Karapincha trees are found in his garden, even today.

A constant drizzle followed us on the narrow road but it was magical to feel the rush of the monsoon in the village. We saw an oasis almost everywhere as water gushed through low lying lands and flooded the roads.

Dark low-hanging clouds pregnant with rain took over the sky. The villagers are reluctant to embrace the downpour because they can’t do their work in the estate. Although a drizzle is welcome for the tea plantation, rubber tapping comes to a standstill in the estate due to rain. Some women were engaged in tea plucking even though it was raining. If they stay away from work, they don’t get paid.

The ubiquitous scenic views of mist laden mountains, rubber and tea plantations add to the rustic feel inherent to the village, while the laid-back nature and the friendly greetings of the hard working villagers welcome any inquisitive visitor.

We took a walk round the village. Only a few hundred people live here, mostly Indian-origin estate-labourers brought in by the British planters to work in their tea estates during the colonial period. Most of the Tamils are devoted Hindus, a few are Catholics, while a few Sinhala families too live in the village, peacefully. Kandasamy and Christy love to talk about their village. There are three religious places in the village- Wanaidhalketiya Buddhist temple, Muththumariyamman Temple and the Sadasarana Dewamathawamge Catholic church. “The Muththumariyamman Temple is the oldest. The Catholic Church was built by Fr. Jacob Fernando in 1965,” says Kandasamy,73, a shop owner. “There is no hatred, all communities live here peacefully, that is the difference in our village,” says Kandasamy. Again he warns, “Those days, we had livestock farms of cattle, chickens and goats in each house, and we engaged in paddy cultivation as well. None of these exist now. Today, the young generation is searching for easy jobs.”

Once a prosperous village and estate, Karapincha, under the British planters maintained its cleanliness and neatness of the road system. Today, the roads to the estate are in a dilapidated condition. Kandasamy recalled his young days in the village sitting on a stool in his small shop. “There had been two gates at the entrance to the estate, located a few metres from here across the road there. Each person who entered by bullock cart or a vehicle should pay two rupees. My father was the gatekeeper here in 1917, exactly 100 years ago.

There were a couple of bullock carts and a car which belonged to the Superintendent of the Estate who was a Briton. They set up this rule to keep the roads neat,” says Kandasamy, who also worked in the estate as a “Kankani” (overseer) until he retired.

Strict rules

During the time of the British planter’s strict rules were adhered to by the workers. The working hours were from 7 am to 4 pm and all workers were given long buildings with quarters called ‘line rooms’. One of these long buildings accommodated around 20 families, and each building had a toilet.

Representing the younger generation in the village, I talked to Christy, 37, also a shopkeeper whose small boutique is located in front of the church. “When I was a boy, each morning, I saw around 100 women walking with huge buckets on their backs to pluck tea leaves in the estate.

It was a mesmerizing scene. Those days there were tea plantations everywhere. Rubber was introduced here in 1960. The unity improved among the villagers, but, education was nil. The building called “Pullemaduwa” (nursery) lies here.

There were three water tanks located in different places in the village and a “Dobhi” (laundryman) lived in the estate, in keeping with the tradition of the British planters,” he continued. “I am saddened today because all the rituals and lifestyle in the village are fast vanishing. We couldn’t show them to our future generation,” he lamented.

The glimpse of colonial heritage still can be viewed in the village. A massive tea factory belonging to British planters, known as St. Joachim still exists in Karapincha. Today, it has the capacity to handle about one million kg of tea annually. It is like a bee hive. Workers, both in tea and rubber estates, work day and night with vigor in the estate to contribute their part to the country’s economy. The Tea Research Institute (TRI), Low country station was established in 1963 at St. Joachim estate in Karapincha to cater to the technological needs of the tea growers in the low country tea planting districts. Today, the Karapincha estate belongs to Balangoda Plantations which owns a cluster of estates, such as, the Palm Garden Tea and Rubber Factory.

The word “Karapincha” evokes much excitement and a sense of zest for life. The Karapincha village evokes the same feelings with its tight-knit community of hard-working people belonging to all communities.