To introduce the bullock cart in Sri Lanka, it’s always a two wheeled vehicle led by a bullock as per the name-sake, sometimes hooded and sometimes not, but most often open and airy. The style of bullock carts differed by region and culture but the basic structure always remained uniform.
As the sole mode of road transport for Sri Lankans not so long ago, the bullock cart not only aided in transportation for villagers on their journeys but also in relieving the burdens of their livelihoods, being used in carrying items such as wood, grain, hay, vending items and any heavy loads from kerosene to laundry over longer distances.
As a mode of commuting it was a symbol of social status with differing varieties used by the commoners and the elite.
The thirikkale and the bakki karaththe, were often used by the higher echelons of traditional Sri Lankan society. The thirikkale, a single-seater bullock cart was used mainly for racing by their affluent owners. The comfortable bakki karaththe, so called due to its basin (bakki) like space at the bottom which allows legroom for its passengers to be seated comfortably was often used by the likes of the village headman or dignitaries.
It was also considered an essential part of the wedding retinue in the past as the vehicle that the couple set out on, in their new wedded life.
As Part And Parcel Of Sri Lankan Life…
These two latter types of carts were closest to the hearts and souls of the masses, becoming a source of inspiration for storytelling, poetry, and song.
Perhaps greatly influenced by the Buddhist standpoint of the unending trailing of karma compared to “the cartwheel following the steps of the bullock,” the common carter’s life hand in hand with the bullock’s, was depicted as one of hardship.
Evolving With Times…
And occupations bullock carts are seen less often as a mode of commuting and transportation. The use of the thirikkale and bakki karaththe died out since many decades ago and the bara karaththe and barabage are now an almost exotic sight in the midst of the city, to be seen infrequently in the suburbs and progressively lesser in the countryside.
A Sustenance To Life…
The bullocks and cart are rooted in the country’s past and present, as a confidante of both noble and commoner, as a friend who proudly took on the burdens of the natives’ livelihoods, as a provider of prosperity to the household, and as an inspiring muse for the literary mind. It has imparted nourishment for the body and soul and continues to do so.