I was recently at the Galle Fort and parked my car at the square by the Court complex. Enthralled by the Pacha Gaha – Fibber’s tree, that stood majestically at the corner of that square, I recalled this article I had read many years ago (It appeared in 2004 in a Saturday Island). Since I had my iPad with me, I captured the beauty of this masterpiece of our heritage and am presenting them for you together with the story written by Mr. Godwin Withane. I invite you to enjoy it.
The famous Pacha Gaha of Galle
by Godwin Witane
Among the objects that are significant and famous in this world are sometimes mountains, rivers and trees and various other things that people very often thinks they are unique. For instance people speak of the Seven Wonders of the World. Among the oldest trees in the world we reckon the Sacred Bo Tree at Anuradhapura as famous in the Buddhist world. The river Ganges in India is a sacred river for the Hindus. We in Sri Lanka adore the mountain Sri Pada as sacred in the world.
However have you herd of the Pacha Gaha of Galle. Although it is one among the common shady trees in the island, it has become famous and significant for the main reason that it affords a useful service to man. It stands on the outskirts of the Galle harbour. It is a rendezvous for a galaxy of human beings. Its shade is a great boon to anyone who needs the shade over one’s head.
A variety of people find umbrage under this tree. Among them are palm readers, who invite every passer by to get his or her palm read. The gullible individual is tempted by the suave calling often to learn about the expected fortune predicted by this cunning individual. This tree is situated on the road to the Law courts in Galle Fort and most litigants fall pray to this individual tone.
The other person who reside under this tree is the vendor of medicinal oil. When a cluster of people pass by he displays his store of bottles containing the medicinal oil. This oil he announces cures many an ailment. His vocabulary is so tacit and inviting that many an unsuspecting passer by is induced to buy a sample of oil for it is predicted that it serves to alleviate a host of ailments, which normally man is subjected to. It is a well-known fact that the street vendors of medicinal oil palm off coloured coconut oil or gingerly oil. Another person who takes advantage of a small crowd formed under the Pacha Gaha is the acrobat dressed is a patched up coloured dress. Sometimes he uses a bicycle to display his stunts to the flabbergasted crowd. After the show he passes round the hat for donations when those who witness the event surreptitiously and slowly evade the turn and proceed away from the scene.
There is one other claimant of the broadside of this famous tree who mounting on a soap box starts speaking to the air. When an attractive crowd gathers he most eloquently preach on an alluring topic once the speech is over the people who were in the audience most charitably make monetary contributions to this man who in no way implored for it.
Thus unscrupulous people make their living through "Pacha". These various people find the shade of the Pacha Gaha a stage to display their individual effects in procuring an effortless living though more tolerable than committing crimes which are much more serious than these harmless undertakings. While the Galle Pacha Gaha affords a convenient platform for blatant liars the present day embroils in this period of election fever most aspirants display their frivolous lies "Pacha" to entice gullible voters to accord them in to their camps. Most people called these attempts "Pata Pal Boru".