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Traditional rice varieties of Sri Lanka

Rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka and many other countries. Over 2000 different kinds of traditional rice varieties are being cultivated in Sri Lanka. Almost all those traditional rice varieties have been organically grown under natural conditions without the application of agro chemicals and inorganic fertilizers. Therefore the traditional rice cultivation is 100% environmental friendly as sustainable food production methods are been practiced by Sri Lankan traditional farmers.

Traditional rice varieties have been cultivated from ancient time. King Devanam Piyatissaruled the country in 370 BC, constructed many  water tanks  for paddy cultivation. Later King Wasahabha,King Dhathusena, King Prakkramabahu, King Mahasen and many other kings who ruled the country had given their priority to build big tanks to reserve water specially for paddy cultivation.

People believe that our traditional varieties have higher medicinal and nutritional values.  Sr​​i Lankan traditional doctors have used many of these traditional rice varieties such as Kalu Heenati, Sudu Heenati, Maa Wee for the preparing of herbal medicines.








Some of our traditional rice varieties  have an aroma (good smell) and higher nutritional value. They have a high content of dietary fibre which reduces illnesses  such as constipation and because of this they have slow release of sugar (low glycaemic index). This feature is favourable for diabetic patients to maintain a low blood sugar level after taking meals. Most important characteristic  of  the Sri Lankan traditional rice is that they are rich with antioxidants which help to reduce the risk of cancers. Though they have better qualities these native varieties are low in yield. During rice processing the most important part of the rice grain can be removed therefore it is advisable to consume whole grains rather than the polished grains.

Special characters of some traditional varieties.

  1. Pachcha Perumal

Tall stem(120-130 cm) with high tillering ability (7-8) Small grain size(30 grams per

1000 grains) with red pericarp. Yield is around 2.5 mt/ha. Traditional doctors used

this variety for medicinal purposes.

  1. Kalu heenati

Moderately tall stem(111-115 cm) medium long grain size(24.1 grams per 1000

grains) with red pericarp. Yield is around 1.5 mt/ha. This variety is considered as a

medicinal rice variety for  Ayurvedic medicines.

  1. Sudu heenati

Moderately tall stem(112-135 cm) medium long grain size(25 grams per 1000 grains)

with red pericarp. Yield is around 2-2.5 mt/ha.

  1. Rathu heenati

Moderately tall stem(95-115 cm) Small round grain size(17 grams per 1000 grains)

with red pericarp. Yield is around 1.5 mt/ha.

  1. Rath ell

Tall stem(130-140 cm) short bold grain size(22 grams per 1000 grains) with white pericarp. Yield is around 2 mt/ha.

  1. Suwadel

Moderately tall stem (90-95 cm) medium long grain size(20-22 grams per 1000 grains)  with white pericarp. Yield is around 2 mt/ha. This variety has good aroma when  cooking.


According to recent research conducted by the ITI, it was found that rice varieties namely Kalubalawee,Pachchaperumal,Dahanala,Rathuheenati,Kattamanjal and Rathel having  relatively high iron and protein levels and are of high nutritional value and good for anaemic conditions. These varieties can be recommended for pregnant and lactating mothers and also growing children.

Rice varieties such as Kalabala wee,Pachchaperumal,Rath Suwadel and Kaluheenati which possess  high antioxidant levels are expected to have health promoting effects in reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as cancers.

Rice varieties such as Suwadel,Masuran,Dikwee and Gonabaru with low hydrolysis rate ( low glycemic index) are suitable for diabetic patients due to low digestion rate.

Different traditional varieties found in Sri Lanka:


Kuruluthuda wee





Sudu heenati



Kuru Hondarawala

Polon wee

Guru podi wee

Kuru ma wee

Pulli wee

Alagu samba

Guru wee

Pushpa raga

Alagu samba

Allei perumal

Hapumal wee

Mada el

Rasna vaalu


Hata da wee

Rata thawalu

Hathi el

Madei Karuppan

Rath el

Heen deveradhari

Maha maa wee

Bala goda wee



Bala murunga

Heen rath el

Rath karael

Bala samba

Heen samba

Molagu samba

Rath Mada al

Bala thatu wee

Heen suvuru wee


Bata kiri el



Mudu kiri el

Rathu bala wee

Beheth heenati

Kahata el


Rathu Sooduru

Kahata samba

Niyan wee

Kalu bala maa wee

Kalu Bala Vee


Kalu handiran

Sudu Maa Wee

Goda wee


Wanni dahanala

Still some of the  farmers cultivate some of this varieties in small scale. More than

3000 accessions of traditional varieties preserved at the Plant Genetic Resource

Centre of Department of Agriculture.

K. Rohana Thilakasiri Principal Agriculturist

Rice Research and Development Institute


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