Breasts in Sri Lankan culture

Posted Thursday February 05, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

As I have given up on the idea of getting other volunteer company I took myself off to the National Museum in the morning. This was interesting with a beautiful collection of Buddha and Hindu statues and pictures. It also wetted my appetite for visiting the cultural triangle as there were lots of pictures and artefacts from the three old Sinhalese cities. Sri Lankan art portrays women with physically impossible bare breasts. They are always large, big nipples and unfeasibly pert. In art they also have tiny waists – very Barbie like. I love the pictures though. I like artistic portrayal of the naked form. Real Sri Lankan women go in for conical bras Madonna style and post 20s a very un-British tendency to expose waists that can often be rolls of flesh even if they are nice brown rolls of flesh.

After that I walked in the park and went round a ‘Selfridges’ equivalent department store and tried on swim wear. There was a concession in the store selling merchandise for a street dog charity. I got the blurb, but it only covers Colombo which isn’t that bad, probably because they are there. I might write to them and see if they are considering expansion.

Then I went back to HQ and told a VSO colleague I would carry a box of mental health reports back with me to Batticaloa and distribute them which saves her doing it and cheered her up fractionally. Afterwards I went to the specialist and got jabbed for Japanese encephalitis albeit with a slightly different strain that apparently has been tested on mice brains, but after her extensive internet research she reckons is the closest fit. Finally Upali took me to buy my ticket home and showed me where I have to go to get the bus so I have my routine now although next time I will try the train for a change which is apparently slower still.


Local people have commented that much of the culture was lost during the war years. The parental generation feel that their children were exposed for a significant time to a new value system in the camps and that now they feel they deserve to enjoy their freedom without the life skills to manage this level of social change. They feel that the young are very aware of their ‘rights’ through the work of the INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organisations) without a similar absorption of the ‘responsibilities’ that go with rights.

However traditions are still alive in people’s living memory, but they need to be brought back in to a place of prominence and given renewed strength. The role of culture as a unifying force and as giving people local pride and a sense of belonging is also very important to those communities that were displaced during the war. In the war torn areas people still feel dislocated.

Batticaloa District is fantastically diverse ethnically and in faith. It is home to Tamils(71%), Muslims(26%), Burgers(0.6%) and Sinhalese(0.5%.) The Veddhas are living in Vaharai area and their lifestyle is documented there.

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013


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