Chandrakanthi or Moonstones
To Mitiyagoda to see Chandrakanthi
By Felician Goonewardene and Ariyaratne Handunetti
@ Sunday Leader
The Chandrakanthi stone, also known as the moonstone, is a very special stone. This is because it is seldom found in any other country in the world. That is why Mitiyagoda, a hamlet in the Galle district has come into the spotlight in recent times with its renewed interest in the moonstone industry.
When one comes along the Colombo-Galle road and turns off from the Kahawa junction, one is in moonstone territory. This special gemstone is named moonstone because it is said to have the magical quality of being able to absorb the brightness of the moon. This is the firm belief of the villagers of Mitiyagoda.
These moonstones deliver a brightness that is compared to moonlight and thus wearers of this stone are said to experience a magical brightness in their lives itself.
When the stones are immersed in water too, they still seem to attract the power of the moon. In addition to this, the inhabitants of Mitiyagoda believe that when the moonstones are taken out of the water, its yellow colouring shows a striking similarity to the rays of the moon.
The moonstone is different to other gemstones because it is a transparent stone. Like glass, it glistens. Its magic starts when it is in water, as one villager said. For it is then that the stone begins to glisten and when taken out, its lustre seems to have lessened. The villagers believe that when the stone is polished, it can match the excellence of any gemstone.
The rarer kind of moonstone is the kingfisher blue which fetches a much higher price than the ordinary moonstone.
The moonstone it is believed had been discovered by a person of Tamil origin during the reign of the Portuguese and had named it Punakka.
The Dutch and the Portuguese later exported this special stone to several countries.
According to the villagers of Mitiyagoda, one has to only dig about 20 feet or 30 feet to find these magical stones. For most of the villagers of Mitiyagoda, the moonstones have brightened their lives, for this is their way of earning a living.
It is also learnt that some chemicals like selica, carbon, calcium and phosphorous are mixed with the soil which comes out with the moonstones and this soil too is believed to have much value. Trinkets such as bangles, earrings etc. are made from this soil.
It is the firm belief of the villagers that moonstones are able to counteract all evil effects that the moon may have on one’s life.
The foreigners in the village of Mitiyagoda are evidence that the moonstone has a greater lustre outside Sri Lanka.
Lokuge Premasiri, a man who has made a life with the moonstone has been engaged in this trade for the last 30 years and handles millions of rupees worth of items made with moonstones. He has been responsible for bringing much foreign exchange to our country.
However, there is also a downside to the moonstone industry in Mitiyagoda. Abandoned mines have turned into polluted holes breeding mosquitoes and other harmful insects. Thus, an industry which is a boon to many has become a nightmare for others and it would do well for the environmental authorities to take note of this.