Tea Estate Bungalows in Sri Lanka
Tea has brought more than just a plant, or a beverage to Sri Lanka. The culture and practices as well as various structures associated with tea still stand bringing back the fond memories of a yesteryear.
Scottish and English planters made Sri Lanka their home to grow coffee first and then tea. They were thousands of miles away from their loved ones, familiar homes and gatherings. One way to recreate the fond memories was to alter the structures and procedures in the paradise island.
The houses for the estate managers were built thus. Although they were supposed to be homes for the “Periya Dorai” as the Indian labourers called him in Tamil or “Loku Mahaththaya” in Sinhalese, they were also status symbols. The buildings were large, spacious and built with the best raw materials that could be found. The “Sinna Dorai” or the second-in-charge also had a house but it was not constructed as lavishly as the owners’ or manager’s adobe.
Tea estates were first sprung in and around the beautiful hill country, where he best Ceylon black tea was grown, and most estate bungalows are found in that area even today. Manager or the owner often lived by himself; due to many foreigners following this practice, they got together and formed a “club”, doubtless following the practice in their home countries. These club houses still exist, and similar to the estate bungalows some are converted into hotels and restaurants.
After a hard day at work, the “sudu mahaththaya”s gathered at the club. The club, however was far from the estates which were mostly on the steep hills. Roads were not developed by this time. In addition to the adverse transport conditions and lack of electricity, there were other hindrances, such as the wild beasts that were at large during the night, when the men were returning from the club. These difficulties directed many of them to start entertaining friends and colleagues at their own bungalows surrounded by the familiar Ceylon black tea. Expansive kitchens were built; cooks or “appu”s were hired to cook various food items, Sri Lankan as well as ones from back home. Most bungalows were beautifully adorned with large gardens with colourful flowers native to the central highlands, swimming pools, stone masonry and wooden floors.