Our History

Serpentine Wisdom: Mysteries and the History of the Neelamhara Tradition

Neelammahara is a village 20 miles away from Colombo city and a long established place for a local traditional (Desheeya chikithsa or Hela wedakama) psychiatry treatment.Neelammahara hereditary psychiatrist’s tradition was brought down from 7 generations and is a remarkable tradition with deep historical roots, dating back 300 years, and originating from a Royal Physician in Sri Lanka. It’s unique preservation of medication prescriptions on Ola leaves, coupled with its pioneering psychiatric classification, underscores its significance in the history of mental health care. This tradition, along with contributions from Ayurveda and Buddhist literature, offers valuable insights into the understanding and treatment of mental health conditions, bridging the gap between ancient wisdom and modern psychiatry.

Historical Significance: Neelammahara hereditary psychiatry is a tradition that has been passed down through seven generations and spans over 300 years. It is known for its unique approach to mental health and psychiatric treatment. This tradition has its roots in Sri Lanka and is characterized by the preservation of medication prescriptions on Ola leaves, a practice that dates back centuries. **Ola Leaf Manuscripts:** One of the remarkable features of Neelammahara hereditary psychiatry is the preservation of medication prescriptions on Ola leaves for over three centuries. These Ola leaves hold significant historical and cultural value. It is believed that thousands of years ago, seven revered sages, or rishis, inscribed fortunes on similar Ola leaves. The National Library of Sri Lanka houses a collection of these ancient Ola-leaf manuscripts, showcasing the enduring tradition of recording knowledge on these leaves.

Oldest Psychiatry Classification: Neelammahara Manasika Hela Wedakama, which translates to “Local Psychiatry Tradition” or “Desheeya Unmade Chkithsawa“ represents a significant historical milestone in the field of psychiatry.This tradition, dating back 300 years, is home to one of the oldest psychiatric classifications in the world. It recognizes 22 types of psychopathologies and goes beyond diagnosis, delving into the etiology, management, and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Remarkably, the descriptions of these disorders in this tradition align closely with modern psychiatric classifications, demonstrating a profound understanding of mental health across centuries.

Ancient Ayurvedic and Buddhist Contributions: In addition to the Neelammahara tradition, the subject of psychiatry has been extensively discussed in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine, and Buddhist literature. These texts, dating back nearly 2500 years, provide valuable insights into mental health and well-being. The descriptions and treatments discussed in these ancient texts are remarkably similar to contemporary psychiatric knowledge, highlighting the timeless nature of mental health understanding.

Royal Origins and Healing Formulas: The Neelammahara hereditary psychiatry tradition traces its origins to a Royal Physician who served King Rajadi Rajasingha in the kindome of upcountry (Kanda uda rata Rajadaniya ) of Sri Lanka during the 1890s. This Royal physician Shailndrasinhe Guru held a dual role as a consultant psychiatrist and counselor for the Royal Family and the Royal Army. Textual records reveal that ancient healers from this tradition utilized secret herbal formulas to treat a wide range of psychological, psychiatric, and medical disorders. These formulas were passed down through generations and played a crucial role in the healthcare practices of the time.

The Legacy of King Rajadi Ranasinghe's Royal Psychiatrist Shylenrasighe Tradition in Sri Lanka

The origin of the renowned Neelammahara hereditary psychiatry tradition in Sri Lanka is a tale of resilience and transformation. This tradition was brought to the Neelammahara village by a remarkable fugitive, Shylenrasighe, from upcountry along with his two sons, after their defeat in the 1890 Kanda Udarata rebilion declared by the British army. Their journey began from kandy and ends in southern town of Dikella in Matara, where they initially sought refuge. However, it was one of Shylenrasighe’s sons who ventured further, eventually arriving at the tranquil village of Werehera, nestled along the banks of the Sub branches of Kalu River which falls from Matara to Bellanwilla . Here, a profound transformation occurred. Shylenrasighe’s son embraced a life of spirituality and became a Buddhist monk, taking on the name Dikelle Sudassi. His decision to become a monk was blessed by his father, the Royal Psychiatrist and gifted all his wealth of written knowledge from Ola leafs. As Dikelle Sudassi adopted the monastic life, he followed the traditional “Pinda Patha” practice, where monks venture to nearby villages to collect alms and sustenance. It was during this time that he encountered the village of Werehera, which was in close proximity to Neelammahara. Intriguingly, Neelammahara village was a serene yet isolated village with a small population. One of Dikelle Sudassi’s devoted followers invited him to stay on a piece of land owned by a devout follower of the Buddhist faith. He accepted this gracious offer and, over time, transformed the land into what is now known as the Neelammahara temple. A captivating legend is associated with the choice of this specific location within the temple’s grounds. One day, as Rev.Dikelle Sudassi meditated under the shade of a tranquil location under a tree in the temple yard, he witnessed a remarkable battle unfold before him. It was a legendary confrontation between a Snake and a Mongoose, a battle where the odds were stacked against the weaker party, the snake. This ancient battle between these natural adversaries had been the subject of numerous folk stories among Sri Lankan villagers. One such tale speaks of the remarkable ability of a junior mongoose. If the junior mongoose failed in the battle, it had the unique capability to make the Snake in to trance like state and summon its king or the head of its community for assistance. Finally the stronger party will be able to capture the Snake’s hood.
However, even the more experienced and senior mongoose failed to secure victory, and the Snake emerged triumphant. The observer of this dramatic battle,Rev. Dikwelle Sudassi, saw in this very spot an opportunity to channel and transform the energies of those who were feeling weak and vulnerable. Inspired by the symbolism of the battle, he decided to establish a place within the temple garden dedicated to the treatment and well-being of individuals. This sacred location, steeped in history and imbued with the spirit of transformation, eventually became the heart of the Neelammahara hereditary psychiatry tradition.
It is a testament to the enduring legacy of Shylenrasighe’s lineage, which found its way to Sri Lanka through the trials of history, and continues to bring healing and strength to those in need.


The Enigmatic Tranquilizing Power of the Temple: Tales of Charmed Objects

In the heart of the Neelammahara temple, an intriguing phenomenon unfolded—a profound transformation of individuals with violent and agitated tendencies. As they crossed the threshold of the temple gate, a remarkable metamorphosis occurred. These once-volatile souls seemed to undergo a gentle sedation, becoming tranquil and serene. Behind this mysterious effect lay two extraordinary elements of the temple’s legacy. One was a potent oil infused with sacred mantras, discreetly deposited beneath the two sides of the main entrance of the temple gate. This oil, imbued with the blessings of ancient chants, seemed to possess a unique power to soothe and pacify. The second object of mystical significance was a simple yet extraordinary cane, resting upon the consultation table. This unassuming cane held within it the enchantment of powerful mantras, bestowed upon it through generations. It served as a symbol of wisdom, guidance, and spiritual authority. What makes these tales even more captivating is the fact that the charmed cane now rests in Manasa Ayurveda hospital, a tangible link to the temple’s enigmatic heritage. Its presence continues to carry the essence of tranquility and the enduring legacy of the Neelammahara tradition. These stories serve as a testament to the profound and transformative power of faith, ancient rituals, and sacred objects—an enduring legacy that transcends time and space, offering solace and serenity to those in need.