Maara Man Without the Maara Tree

In Kandy town, along the main street (Dalada Veediya), there was a single Maara tree standing on the pavement of the right hand side leading towards the Queen’s Hotel. Unlike the pavement on the other side, this tree — an evergreen, familiar sight in the vicinity of Bake House, and Old Bank Of Ceylon — was the only specimen of greenery along the whole street. This Maara tree was also known as the tree by which the “Maara Man” of Kandy used to sit. “Maara Man” is the fond name by which Bevis Manathunga — or, Bevis —, artiste, conversationalist and peace loving nice human being, is known in and about Kandy town.

Bevis at his usual seat

Bevis at his usual seat

Bevis is a familiar sight on almost all days as he would occupy the side of the road and get on with his trade — talking to the many friends he has made over the years on music, politics, day-to-day developments etc. In an age where, in Colombo, the Ministry of Urban Development is busy putting up trees, the maara tree of Dalada Veediya was cut down a few weeks ago. According to sources who insisted on anonymity (most probably because they were of a lesser trade, and were politically less empowered) the tree was cut by the municipality to satisfy the whim of two big time businessmen of the street. An unconfirmed theory is that part of the branches of the tree were first cut down to satisfy the said businessmen, and were cut in such a way that the fall of the tree was inevitable.

Those who know the score know that Bevis has been fighting hard for

The missing tree was not unnoticed by FB traffic

The missing tree was not unnoticed by FB traffic

years to save the tree from being cut down and the street artiste / guitarist’s anger was at boiling point even as he spoke to me about the loss, a few days after the “defeat”. For those who don’t know Bevis Manathunga, he is an artiste and a guitarist / singer who treads an alternative path, living the life of a “public artiste” in the optimum sense. Bevis has over the years performed at numerous concerts — including his famous “Dhonkaaraya” (The Echo) — and is well marked for his promotion of peace and harmony through his music, in a time where those elements were begging to be acknowledged in Lankan society (not that things are any better today).

However, with the maara tree gone, what we see is a contemporary replay of that age-old trajectory, where “progress” buys over “nature”; and where “big business” steamrolls the aesthetic impulses of life.




2 thoughts on “Maara Man Without the Maara Tree

  1. I cried seeing the tree missing 😥 they have planted a nechew Naa tree in the same location now, BUT somehow this is the second Naa plant planted within 2 months, the trees die out as if someone put a chemical there to stop the plant from growing.

  2. Its a shame…I have first hand experience of how the other cities in the developed world safeguard its city trees. These cities have a list of preserved trees in the city, well documented. If anyone want to start a business or put up a building they have to go through tree preservation reports from city officials and identify tree root basin and should keep away from encroaching into the tree basin. cannot touch the branches. people have to build around the trees not cutting them off for their short commercial interests.

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