The Jak fruit and god Sakka in Sinhala folklore

God Sakka appears as an old man with a jak fruit

Generations and generations of Sri Lankan women have prepared jak and breadfruit in various ways. Yet the credit has gone to a god for introducing jak as a food.

God Sakka, the leading god out of thirty-three million major and minor gods, performed that act during a period of drought. He came to this world as an old man carrying a well-formed jak fruit.

“Will you boil this fruit for me?” the old man asked from a woman.

“Are you crazy, grandpa? This is very poisonous,” the woman an­swered.

“Never mind. You do as I say. I am very hungry and I want to eat this.”

“If you eat it you will die and I can’t take the responsibility.”

The woman refused many times. Finally she agreed after much coaxing.

When the jak was boiling, it filled the house with a very tempting smell. Failing to resist it, she tasted a little in secret. Thereafter, jak became a valuable food.

Jak is known as herali in the low country. Hera is the masculine form of thief in Sinhala. Liya is a woman in Sinhala. Thus folklore, while glorifying the food value of jak, has unintentionally discredited women’s instinct.

From Jak: The Heavenly Food
Edited by Sunethra Rajakarunanayake
Illustrations by Darshana Karunathilake
Designed by Priyanjen Suresh De Silva
Published by:
Intermediate Technology Development Group
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Kirulapone, Colombo-5 Sri Lanka
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