Traditional rice of Sri Lanka

Rice in Sri Lanka has played an important role in the country’s functioning and survival for centuries. Rice continues to be a staple of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine today.


Early history

Sri Lankan people may have started cultivating rice as early as 800 BC, according to documentary evidence. [1] Further evidence of early cultivation is the construction, since 390 BC, of ​​massive irrigation structures, reservoirs , and interconnected canals . From ancient times, rice cultivation was not only an economic activity, but a way of life for the people of Sri Lanka. [2] Some varieties of rice have been passed down for generations, and are called traditional , indigenous , or heirloom .

Once again , Sri Lanka offered more than 2000 indigenous rice varieties to the rest of the world. Rice cultivation in Sri Lanka was once considered sacred. The process is sustainable due to the methods used for production, as well as the sanctity associated with the cultivation process. [3]


With the European colonization of Sri Lanka during the 16th and 18th centuries, more emphasis was given to other planting crops . In the 20th century, however, rice was once again given attention. With a population in the country, a new series of rice varieties, called “the H series,” was introduced in the 1950s. Fertilizers were also introduced at this time to increase harvest yield. As a result, the average yield of rice increased from 0.65 metric ton / hectare (mt / ha) to 1.73 mt / ha in 1950.

Unfortunately, many of the diseases of Sri Lanka contain lower concentrations of glutamic acid , vitamins , and fiber , and a higher glycemic indexthan the traditional varieties. While the new rices were being produced in greater quantities, it was not as important as the Sri Lankan people. [4] [ unreliable medical source? ]

Rise of the new rices

By the 1980s, 90% of the farmland in Sri Lanka was used to cultivate the “semi-dwarf” (newly improved) rice variety.

Currently, 95% of the rice produced in Sri Lanka are hybrid varieties. These are harvested using non- organic fertilizers and pesticides which are needed to produce larger harvests with lower costs.

However, traditional rice is slowly making a comeback. This is due to increase global demand for organic food . [5] [6]

Traditional rices


As the name implies, this is a fragrant white rice with an exquisite aroma. [7]

Its milky taste makes Suwandel a common choice for festive occasions and ceremonies. Nutritionally, the rice consists of 90% carbohydrates , 7% crude protein , 0.7% crude fat, and 0.1% crude fiber. Suwandel is known to contain higher amounts of glutamic acid and vitamins than other, more common rice varieties. [8]

Suwandel is an heirloom rice variety, grown organically with traditional rain-fed methods in the southern lowlands of Sri Lanka. Because of this, cultivation takes longer than other varieties of rice. It is usually 5 to 6 months before harvest. Heirloom rice cultivation in Sri Lanka is a sacred process.

Kalu Heenati

Kalu Heenati is literally translated as “dark, fine grain.” It is a highly nutritious product that is considered to be good for everyday consumption.


This is a reddish-brown rice variety with a unique texture. It is low in carbohydrates, and rich in protein and fiber. Ma-Wee has also been found to have a 25% to 30% lower glycemic index (GI) than other common rice varieties. It is 84.5% carbohydrates, 9.4% protein, 3.6% fat, and 1.1% fiber.

Ma-Wee rice is best when soaked up to boiling. One traditional dish calls for the rice to be cooked with chopped spring onion and leeks , and served with bottle gourd sautéed in spices and coconut milk.

Ma-Wee was loved by the queens of Sri Lanka, who believed it helped them maintain a trim, shapely figure.

Ma-Wee is also revered for its historical significance in religious ceremonies. According to folklore, Ma-Wee has been placed in the caskets of sacred relics and the pinnacle (kotha) of dagabas. [9]


The word “Pachchaperumal” means “The Lord Buddha’s color.” It is a wholesome red rice variety. When cooked, it takes on a deep, rich burgundy color. It is rich in nutrients and proteins, and is considered an excellent choice for every day meal. [10] It is also said to be part of a good diet for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Pachchaperumal has long been considered a divine rice in traditional Sinhalese culture. Traditionally, it was often used in alms -giving.


A nutritious red rice variety rich in protein and fiber, kuruluthuda has a unique, pleasant taste.


Other types include Rathdel, Madathawalu, and Hetadha Wee.


Rice has a sacred association among Buddhist , Hindu , and Muslim populations. It is said that rice cooked with coconut milk is the first offering made to Buddha, and to this day the dish is a staple of Sri Lankan culture during festivals and important events.


  1. Jump up^ “From wild grass to golden grain” . . Retrieved 12 October 2014 .
  2. Jump up^ “Rice” . . Retrieved 12 October2014 .
  3. Jump up^ “Sri Lanka – Granary of the East – Sri Lanka” . . Retrieved 2015-02-19 .
  4. Jump up^ “Features” . . Retrieved 12 October2014 .
  5. Jump up^ “Varietal Improvement_RRDI” . . Retrieved 12 October 2014 .
  6. Jump up^ “Dhasa Maha Yodhayo- The Legendary King of King Dutugemunu – Sri Lanka” . 2011-01-15 . Retrieved 2015-02-19 .
  7. Jump up^ “Identification of fragrant gene, fgr, in traditional rice varieties of Sri Lanka” . . Retrieved 12 October 2014 .
  8. Jump up^ “Suwandel Rice – Sri Lanka – Cereals and Flours – Ark of Taste – Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity” . . Retrieved 12 October 2014 .
  9. Jump up^ “2011 Progress & 2012 Program: Ministry of Agriculture” (PDF) . . Retrieved 19 February 2015 .
  10. Jump up^ “Spectrum | – Sri Lanka” . 2008-10-19 . Retrieved 2015-02-19 .