Sunday, October 11, 2015

Karaveddi: a Jaffna landscape

We were dropped not even at a junction. Just an advertising sign along the road, like everyplace in Sri Lanka, indicated where we were. Karaveddi was meant to be a town center, at least on the Rough Guide map. 

A kovil opposite where we were dropped off indicated something, but not the commercial center we expected. After we explored its beautiful, deep step tank lined at the bottom with limestone rocks, we walked down the road a bit and then turned left (and slightly downhill) along a pretty, winding lane. 

The lane continued downhill for a mile, seeming to meander all the way. Mostly fenced in properties and a few stores. A very small Hanuman shrine along the right side of the road provided some refreshing water for our hands and faces.

The village ended abruptly at a windscreen and some high palmyras and opened to a vast flatland, un inhabited except for another kovil half a km to our left along the pitted road that ran parallel to the marsh. 

Was Karaveddi this road, roughly bounded by two kovils above and below it? Was this village without a center a new kind of village for us, a linear collection of houses, tightly woven by generations over hundreds of years who had lived here?

Could this kind of linear village have existed in the past, bound less by trade than kinship, with each family more or less self-sufficient, a line of communication connecting the hundred or so families along the road? 

Tempting thoughts as we considered the possibility of a new-old urban-suburban form in this dense, rich, deeply rooted place. 

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