Mahadenamuththa and his golayas | Sunday Observer

Mahadenamuththa and his golayas

21 February, 2021

Compiled by Nira Diaz

Once upon a time, there lived an old man whom the people called Mahadenamuththa as they thought he was very wise. His name meant that he was very wise and knowledgeable and the people really believed it to be so. They came to him seeking solutions or answers to their problems. But, in reality, Mahadenamuththa was foolish and this is seen in the way he solved problems and gave advice on various matters.

Mahadenamuththa was elderly and had white hair tied in a little knot (konde) at the back of his head. He had a snow-white beard too. He wore a comb on his head (nami– panawa) as was the custom those days. He wore a black coat and somanaya (a cloth tied round his waist) and all thismade him look wise and dignified. Mahadenamuththa had five golayas who were as foolish as him. They believed all he said and carried out his orders faithfully. Some times, Mahadenamuththa gave them written orderswhich were written on a thalpatha (a paper made out of palm leaves) with a panhinda (pen).

The golayas would not do anything that was not written even if a different course of action was needed. For example, Mahadenamuththa fell into a mud pool and was unable to come out on his own. The golayas kept pulling out the thalpathas and looked for instructions on how to get their Master out of the mud pool. But there were no writeen instructions so the golayas kept quiet. A frustrated and exasperated Mahadenamuththa finally asked them whether they were not goig to get him out of the mud pool.

The golayas then said that as there were no written instructions they could not do so. A fuming Mahadenamuththa quickly wrote ‘if your Master is stuck in a mud pool rescue him’. Once they got the written instructions the golayas pulled Mahadenamuththa out of the mud pool.

The missing golaya

After spending the night on the river bank Mahadenamuththa and the golayas fearfully crossed the river the next morning. Mahadenamuththa was very suspicious of the river and wanted to make sure that it had not swallowed one of them. So, he decided to count everybody. He pointed to himself and said ‘I’ and then counted the golayas but in his foolishness did not add himself to the count of the five golayas. Therefore, he only got the number five. He became extremely frightened thinking the river had swallowed one of them. The golayas too got frightened and each of them counted the others. But they too made the same mistake as their Master. Now convinced that they had lost one of them they started howling and crying.

A man passing by asked them the reason for their sadness and they told him that one of them had been swallowed by the river. He asked them about their method of counting and realised how foolish they were. He offered to count them and said that as he hit each one of them with a stick they must cry out their number as one, two and so on. They did so and found that all of them were there and were very happy.


The golayas were :


Polbamuna– he was given this name as his face looked like half-a-coconut .


Kotukithaiya- This man’s body resembled a stick so he was Kotukithaiya.


Indikatupancha – with a body like a needle it was only natural that Indikatupancha was given this name.


Rabbadaaiya - he had a huge stomach the shape was which was like a rabbada puwak gediya (rabbada arecanut) and this earned him his name.


Puwakbadilla- this golaya too got his name because of his body structure which was like a puwak gediya (arecanut).



The goat and the pot


A villager’s goat got his head stuck in a pot. The owner tried all he could but could not get the goat’s head out of the pot. He finally sought Mahadenamuththa’s help to get the goat’s head out of the pot. Mahadenamuththa told the villager that without seeing the goat he could not say or do anything. The villager brought an elephant for Mahadenamuththa to travel to where the goat was. When they reached the villager’s house, the entrance in the wall around the house was too small for the elephant to go through. Without dismounting from the elephant Mahadenamuththa ordered the wall to be broken and the villager did so. A large crowd had gathered to witness Mahadenamuththa solving the problem. He ordered that the goat’s neck be cut and a golaya did just that. The head fell into the pot and the people wondered how to get it out of the pot. “Break the pot” said Mahadenamuththa and it was done so. The people marvelled at his wisdom.


The River


On one of their journey’s Mahadenamuththa and his golayas came to a river at nightfall. Mahadenamuththa told his golayas that it would be dangerous to cross the river at night and that the river may be awake and therefore, could even swallow them. ‘Let’s wait till the river falls asleep’ he said.

“ How will we know if the river is asleep’? asked the golayas.

“That is very easy” said Mahadenamuththa. “Just make a torch out of some coconut palms , light it and dip it in the river. If the river is awake it will make a big noise”.

Polbamuna made a coconut palm torch ,lit it and dipped it in the river and there was a great shhshh noise. A very scared Polbamuna ran back and told the others what had happened. ‘The river is awake and dangerous. We will cross in the morning said Mahadenamuththa. They all went to sleep on the bank of the river.

The horse puppet

A man’s horse fell sick and the owner made a vow. When the horse got well he fulfilled his vow by making a wooden figure or a puppet of a horse and offered it to a devale. The kapurala ( person in charge of a devale) hung it on a na tree which overlooked a pond. Puwakbadilla came to the pond to wash and saw the reflection of the horse puppet in the pond.He was very happy thinking that there was a horse without a owner and if caught it would make a fine mount for his Master. He ran back and told the others and came with them to the pond. Remembering their river experience none of them wanted to get into the pond. They decided to bring buckets and empty the pond. But as it was emptied the well filled up with more water. The kapurala saw the foolish men and asked them what they were doing. They told him about the horse in the pond and he said it was only a reflection. They thought he was lying and got angry. Then, the kapurala showed them the puppet in the tree but they still did not believe him.

In an attempt to convince them the kapurala got a man to take down the horse puppet from the tree so that there was no reflection of it in the pond. The golayas were still not convinced and went away angrily accusing the kapurala of hiding the horse.


Sources- Mahadenamuththa saha gola pirisa- Lanerolle

Mahadenamuththa Professor- J.B.Disanayake, Internet