the house that ‘roars’ with history
how many times have we passed this building situated upon a cliff overlooking the etul kotte road? the black board of the archaeological department is quite evident. but still most people seemed clueless about it. so one saturday morning i decided to check it out for myself. and weren’t i in for a surprise.
situated in etul kotte, in the heart of our old capital, is the e.w. perera memorial kotte archaeological museum named after one of kotte’s greatest sons, e.w. perera, also known as ‘the lion of kotte’. the museum, set up in 1992, is housed in the ihala walauwwa, the home of e.w. perera, and it contains a variety of artefacts recovered from kotte and elsewhere, including various regional flags, local costumes, weapons, pottery, chinaware and a collection of coins and other relics.
at the entrance, on a table, is displayed a model (map) of the old city of kotte with its fortifications and all.
some black and white photographs of a few identifiable archaeological sites of kotte are hung on a the walls, in particular the site of veharakanda at baddegana before excavation and after conservation.
a rich collection of flags are on display affixed to the top part of the walls, bearing witness to mr. e. w. perera’s famous work — the monograph on sinhalese banners and standards.
a small but interesting collection of miniature statues are also on display. an ivory samadhi buddha, a wooden standing buddha found near the kotte dalada medura, a limestone samadhi buddha, a metal kneeling figure, a female figurine measuring about four inches, holding in her arms an even smaller figure, found near the diya agala or moat near the mahasen devmedura, a bell with a carved handle in the shape of a human figure, a bronze carved lamp, a few silver items including a silver wine cup, metal chunam pouches, silver bangles, bead chains, hair ornaments out of turtle shell etc.
a showcase also displays a few firearms including a particularly long double-barreled pistol of about 16 inches with a butt thought to be made of buffalo horn, a few antiquated swords of various sizes including one with the head of a lion similar to a sinhalese kastane, a kinissa sword with ivory handle and an old head of a keteriya or sinhalese battle axe.
there is also an interesting collection of colonial-period clothes. long-sleeved white jackets embellished with renda lace and adorned with floral motifs are quite chic.
some of these have a piece of cloth attached to and extending from the sleeves to cover the hands up to the wrists. besides these are a veskat, a kind of female bodice with collars and long sleeves ending in a triangular shape at the waist and a bost trokke, a jacket-like female upper garment with laces in front to fasten it. these costumes probably were influenced by the portuguese and other colonials.
among the native clothes on display are a somana cloth, a pata kambaya and a kukkuta saluva a sombre collection of brown and blond tresses are also on display. the description states that these were recovered from the graves of the portuguese.
a side room of the house is dedicated to some of the personal belongings of the late e.w. perera. his advocate’s gown, the his top hat, a brief case of yore, and a baldric with a badge depicting a crown on either side of which are the words gr for george rex and the name ‘the hon’ble e.w. perera’ below it. an antique miniature sewing machine will no doubt also capture your attention.
in another room on the side, a collection of antique tableware including porcelain plates and dishes, painted with chinese style houses, sailing ship, birds and flowers, countryside scenes with cottages, flowers etc, collected by e.w. perera from the vicinity of kotte are to be seen.
the back hall is dedicated to a collection of coins, which, if you are a numismatist, you will no doubt find interesting.