The Mahavamsa mindset: Re-Visiting political Buddhism in Sri Lanka
By J.L. Devananda
26 December 2010 (Part 1)
The Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka, better known as Sinhala-Buddhism (or Mahavamsa-Buddhism) is different from the Theravada Buddhism practiced in other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and so on. The Buddhists in these countries follow only the Buddhist scriptures Tripitaka (Viniya, Sutta, Abhidhamma), whereas in Sri Lanka the ‘Mahavamsa,’ which was written by one of the Mahavihara monks (Ven. Mahanama) more than 1000 years after the passing away of Lord Buddha is also considered as a part of the Buddhist scriptures, although it deals mostly with mythical or supernatural Buddhist history, some episodes of which are copied from the ‘Mahabaratha’ and ‘Ramayana.’ Since the Buddhist scriptures (Tripitaka) and the mythical Buddhist history (Mahavamsa) were both written in the Pali language, a Buddhist layperson who does not understand Pali cannot understand the difference between the two and, therefore, he/she believes everything that the Buddhist monks preach, to be the true words of Buddha.
Due to ignorance, even the present day Sinhala-Buddhists still believe that they are blood relatives of Buddha because, according to the Mahavamsa, their forefather Pandu-Vasudeva belongs to the Sakya clan, and is a relative of the Buddha where as the historians believe that the term ‘Pandu’ in Pali means Pandyans.
According to Buddhism, a person ordained as a Bikkhu should practice Ahimsa (non-violence), Karuna (compassion), Metta (affection), and Maithriya (loving-kindness) towards fellow humans, (irrespective of race or religion), not only by words but also in his thoughts and action. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, due to the influence of the Mahavamsa, a Buddhist Bikkhu is at liberty to engage in racist politics and promote Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism and hatred, as we see today.
There was NO Buddhism in Sri Lanka until Emperor Asoka’s missionary monks led by Mahinda converted the Hindu (Siva worshipping) Naga King Tissa into a Buddhist in the 2nd century BC. Similarly, there was NO Sinhala race/tribe in Sri Lanka until the Mahavihara monks created it in the 5th century AD. When Hindu/Brahmanical influence posed a serious challenge to Buddhism and when Buddhism started to lose popular support and the patronage from the rulers, the Buddhist institutions in India came under attack. The Mahavihara monks of Anuradapura including Ven. Mahanama, the author of the Pali chronicle Mahavamsa and a close relative of the Buddhist Naga king Dhatusena witnessed the decline and disorientation of Buddhism in India. The events that took place in India against Buddhism must have prompted the Mahavihara monks in Sri Lanka to come up with a plan/strategy to protect Buddhism. Due to their strong devotion to Buddhism and desire to consolidate and protect this religion in Sri Lanka they have decided to write the Pali chronicles Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa making Sri Lanka a Dammadeepa/Sinhaladvipa (chosen land of Buddha where Buddhism will prevail for 5000 years) and creating the Sinhala race by integrating all the Buddhists from different tribes/ethnic groups into one race and making them the sustainers of Buddhism (Gautama Buddha’s chosen people) to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka for 5000 years until the next Maithriya Buddha arrive.
With the patronage of the Buddhist Kings, it is the Mahavihara monks who assimilated all the Buddhists from many different tribes together and called them Sihala (followers of Mythical Vijaya). There may have been instances where the convicted criminals from India (Bengal/Gujarat) who were exiled would have sleeked asylum in the island and would have been allowed to settle and got assimilated with the local population, but there is NO historical evidence what so ever to prove Vijaya’s arrival with 700 men or to say there were Sinhalese during the Early Historic period. The term ‘Sihala’ itself first appeared ONLY in the 5th Century AD Pali chronicles Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa and that also ONLY twice in the beginning chapters.
To date, no archaeological evidence has been found to prove ‘Hela’ or ‘Sihala’ or ‘Sinhala’ existed before that or anything about Vijaya’s arrival. Only the Mahavamsa Tika that was composed very much later to interpret the Mahavamsa, mentions that it was adopted from the mysterycal ‘Vamsa texts’ known as ‘Sihala Atthakatha’ (collection of Sinhala verbal stories). Very strangely, most of the mythical/supernatural stories from the so called ‘Sihala Atthakatha Vamsa texts’ are very similar to those found in the Indian Epics and Puranas such as the Mahabaratha/Ramayana. Ultimately, the Mahavamsa has transformed the Buddha into a special patron of Sinhala-Buddhism, an ethnic religion created in Sri Lanka.
Sinhala and Damela
There are enough of ancient archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka such as Brahmi stone inscriptions, cave writings, Pali chronicles, etc where the terms ‘Dameda’, ‘Damela’, ‘Damila’, ‘Demel’ are mentioned as a group of people living in the island. Even in the Jataka stories such as Akitti Jataka, there is a reference to Tamil country (Damila-rattha), where as there is NO evidence what so ever about the terms ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, ‘Sinhala’ before and even a few centuries after the Pali chronicles were written. Even the Mahavamsa says, the missionary monk Mahinda Maha Thero preached Buddhism to the people of the island in Deepa basa (language of the island) but it does not say that the deepa basa was ‘Elu’ or ‘Helu’ or ‘Sihala’.
Some Sinhala scholars have a weak argument for the above. They argue that the ethnic name of the dominant group does not occur in these records for the very good reason that there is no need to distinguish any person by referring to him/her as such when the people as a whole are entitled to that name (Sihala). The million dollar question is why it is not the case now because today they are actually the dominant ethnic group? (How they became a majority is another subject but I will briefly mention below). Today, leave aside the major things like medicine, etc, even the smallest stuff like roof tiles are labelled after ‘Sinhala’.
The above argument could have been accepted if the terms ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, ‘Sinhala’ was found at least somewhere outside Sri Lanka such as in any of the ancient literary works and/or the stone inscriptions/rock edicts of neighbouring India (either South or North) that was always associated with the island’s history, but unfortunately nothing has been found until now.
The kingdoms of Anuradapura and Polonnaruwa were NEVER known as Sinhala kingdoms and the Naga and Tamil kings who ruled these kingdoms never called themselves ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, or ‘Sinhala’. There is no evidence to prove that the Nagas were Sinhalese or they became Sinhalese. Subsequent to the Cola domination of Sri Lanka in the 10th century A.D, people who identified themselves as Buddhists and Sinhalese shifted their seats of rule from the ancient kingdoms of Anuradapura and Polanaruwa towards South and Central Sri Lanka while the people who identified themselves as Hindus (Saiva) and Tamils moved their ruling structures from these same regions to the North and East of the island. It was only after the 13th century AD that the kingdoms of Kotte and Kandy were known as ‘Sinhale’ even though some parts of the Tamil areas in North and East also came under the Kandyan rule but Kandy was mostly ruled by the Kalingas of South-East India and the Nayakkars of South India with whom the Tamils did not have any problems. Also, the term ‘Sinhale’, appeared only in the 13th Century AD Chulavamsa and NOT in Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese and in the 18th century, the Dutch who occupied the island brought in tens of thousands of people from South India (presently Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andara) and settled them in the Southern parts of the island as menial labourers (for growing/peeling cinnamon, fishing/pearl diving, coconut planting/plucking, toddy tapping, and for many other jobs). Within a few centuries, the Sinhala population increased exponentially when these people assimilated with the local Sinhala population by adopting the Sinhala language and the Buddhist religion. Today their decedents (6th generation) are not only claiming the ancient Sri Lankan civilization as their own ‘Sinhala’ heritage but have also become the patriots and champions of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism.
It was the British who re-discovered the Mahavamsa in the early 20th century and their so called European ‘Pali Scholars’ misinterpreted it, thereby creating another myth known as Arya-Sinhala. Since the Sinhala (Elu) language (mixture of Sanskrit, Pali and Tamil/Malayalam) was more of Indo-Aryan in nature, the British declared that the Sinhalese were Aryans from North India and the Tamils were Dravidians from South India. Influenced by the colonial historiography, the Sinhalese declared that they were indigenous to the island, and that the Tamils were invaders from South India.
It is said in MAHAVAMSA CHAPTER VII – THE CONSECRATING OF VIJAYA,
*But the king Sihabahu, since he had slain the lion (was called) Sihala and, by reason of the ties between him and them, all those (followers of VIJAYA) were also (called) Sihala.*
If Sihabahu whose father had slain the lion was called Sihala and his eldest son Vijaya and his followers were also called Sihala, then what about Vijaya’s twin brother Sumitta and his followers in Sinhapura, India? Why they were not called Sihala? That itself proves that Vijaya and the Sinhala race was a creation of Ven. Mahanama and the Mahavihara monks.
Another good example of the myths, fantasies, superstitions and fables from the Mahavamsa is the Elara/Dutugemunu episode. Just around ten lines/verses in the Pali chronicle Deepavamsa about the Elara/Dutugemunu was blown up into 11 chapters in the Mahavamsa just to glorify Buddhism and the Buddhist kings against the Hindus which gave birth to “superior race”, “Bhoomiputhra (sons of the soil)”, “Sinhaladivpa” “unitary state” and “Dhammadivpa” theories. The Mahavamsa author being a Buddhist monk and justifying the killing of around sixty thousand Tamils/Hindus (aka invaders) by Dutugemunu is one reason why others (non-Buddhists) think that Sinhala-Buddhism is somewhat of a violent barbaric form of Buddhism where killing Tamils is justified. The killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka by the Sinhala-Buddhists even today is due to this uncivilized and barbaric ehhno-religion known as Sinhala-Buddhism (or Mahavamsa-Buddhism).
There is a clear record of all the main events of Buddha, the places he visited, with whom he was, where and what he preached and to whom he preached, in the Buddhist scriptures Tripitika, but nowhere it is mentioned that the Buddha visited or even spoke about the island of Lanka. In order to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka from those powerful South Indian Hindu kingdoms, Ven. Mahanama wrote the Mahavamsa, by added his own imaginations and myths. He has introduced many events concerning Buddha which never took place, things that Buddha has never said or done, events which are not mentioned in any of the Buddhist scriptures (both Theravada and Mahayana).
For example, according to the Mahavamsa, Buddha made three magical trips to Sri Lanka, each time colonizing another area of the island, in preparation for the formal introduction of Buddhism two centuries after his death. One of these trips was to settle a dispute between the Yakkhas and Nagas at Naga Divipa (Ninathivu) where the Buddha tamed the Yakkhas, the non-human inhabitants of the island.
There is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim (Buddha’s 3 visits), other than the three chaithiyas (Buddhist structures) built in the recent past by the Sinhalese Buddhists at 3 different locations to say, ‘This is where Buddha came.’ Even the footprint of Buddha at Sri Pada (Adam’s peak) is nothing but an obvious myth.
According to the Mahavamsa, just before passing away, Buddha has called the Sakka (King of Gods) and told him,
‘My doctrine, O Sakka, will eventually be established in the Island of Lanka, and on this day, Vijay the eldest son of Singha Bahu king of Sinhapura in the Lata country lands there with 700 followers and will assume sovereignty there. Do thou, therefore guard well the prince and his train and the Island of Lanka. On receiving the blessed one’s command, Sakka summoned God Vishnu and said, ‘Do thou. O lotus-hued one, protect with zeal prince Vijay and his followers and the doctrine that is to endure in Lanka for a full five thousand years’.
It should be noted that in Buddhist scriptures, Buddha has never mentioned about any Hindu/Brahmanical Gods, he only talks about Devas and Bramahas from different worlds who have no connection with any Hindu/Brahmanical Gods.
Jathika Chintanaya (Mahavamsa mindset) and its consequences
Ven. Mahanama has created an imaginary link between the three elements, Country-Race-Religion and made it into one unit similar to the Holy Trinity, whereby Sri Lanka (Dhamma Deepa), Buddha’s chosen people (Sinhalese), and Buddhism (Buddha Sasana) should be protected for 5000 years. This is known as the Jathika chintanaya or the Mahavamsa mindset and its outcome is the ‘Sinhala-Budda Deepa’ and ‘unitary state’. Therefore, for the next 2500 years, a Sinhala Buddhist will never allow a federal state or any autonomy for others (non-Sinhala-Buddhists) in Sri Lanka.
What we witness today is a kind of political Buddhism trying to promote the interests of the Sinhala-Buddhist people, rather than religion (Buddhism) as a path for personal salvation, and it is the main impediment to peace in the Island of Sri Lanka because it is based on the doctrine of primacy and superiority of the Sinhala race and the Buddhist religion.
From a very young age, the innocent Sinhala Buddhist children who attend the Daham Paasela (Sunday school) in the Buddhist temples are brainwashed by engraving the Mahavamsa Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhist racism into their sub-conscious minds. They are taught to believe that the non-Sinhala Buddhists (Tamils) are invaders who do not belong to Sri Lanka. All the Tamils should be chased away to Tamil Nadu just the way their ancient Kings Dutugemunu did. The country (Sri Lanka), Sinhala race and Buddhism should be protected from the Tamils. Now, from recently, they have also included the Christians in those needing to be thrown out. Due to the above conditioning, the Sinhala-Buddhist majority believes that the entire Sri Lanka belongs to them and the minorities are aliens.
One good example is the former Army Chief Lt.-Gen. Sarath Fonseka who once said that he strongly believes that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese, the minorities can live in the country with them (Sinhalese) but they must not try to demand undue things. This is the common understanding/belief not only among the Sinhalese masses (both educated and uneducated) and the Buddhist clergy but also among the Sinhalese political leaders right from the top as we see from the Sinhala Only Act in 1956, the Sinhala-Only (sri) vehicle license-plates policy in 1958 (have we learned anything from its aftermath that has ruined the country for many decades?) and the recent proposal to scrap the Tamil version of the national anthem and have a Sinhala-Only National Anthem, but unlike the former army chief, these politicians are extra careful when uttering in public due to diplomacy.
Coming out of ignorance
In Sri Lanka, the history is already twisted many centuries ago and sealed. What we have is not history but his-story (Ven. Mahanama’s story). Today the myth has become the truth and if anybody tries to undo the twist (after enormous amount of new discoveries) he/she will be considered an unpatriotic traitor or even a ‘terrorist supporter’. Some of the new archaeological discoveries (artefacts) which are not in favour of the Mahavamsa mythology are either hidden (not allowed to reveal the facts) or they are made to disappear by none other than the governing authorities in order to keep the majority community happy.
For example, the archaeologist Prof. Senerath Paranawithana being a non-Buddhist had to come up with magical evidence from his research to prove the accuracy of the stories in the Mahavamsa (misinterpret as true history). Once when he deviated (by saying the truth that Buddha never visited the island) he was forced to deny.
During that turbulent period (when Buddhism was under threat), the Mahavamsa author Ven. Mahanama and the Mahavihara monks had a genuine reason for the above mythology but unfortunately today due to ignorance and lack of rational thinking, the Sinhala Buddhists still believe the Mahavamsa as the gospel truth.
As long as the Sinhalese remain ignorant, as long as they cling on to the 2500 years old mysteries of the past as their guide, as long as they remain engrossed to the Mahavamsa mindset, whatever solution the that the government tries/pretends to bring in, the Sinhala-Buddhists are not going to accept. Scholars and analysts have identified that the ‘Sinhala (Mahavamsa) Buddhist mindset,’ (about the Sinhala Buddhist claim to the whole island of Lanka), as the reason why most of the Sinhalese cannot be rational and liberal.
The so called Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) should have understood by now that the first lesson and most probably the only important lesson that the Sinhala majority has to learn in order to come out from their ignorance is to differentiate/distinguish between Sinhala and Sri Lanka. Only when the Sinhalese clearly understand that Sinhala-ness and Sri Lankan-ness are not the same but two different things, we will be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel (peace will prevail) and the Sri Lankan Tamils will be able to give up their demands and unite as one Sri Lankan nation.
While I agree generally with Dr.Wickramabahu’s narration of early history of Ceylon, I disagree with certain of his assertions/concludions.
Chola, Chera and Pandyas are Thamil Kshasthiriya and not Aryan Kshasthriya. To claim otherwise is preposterous. I don’t know from where Dr.Wickramabahu got this novel theory.
The term ‘Sihala’ meaning lion (Not Sinhala) itself first appeared ONLY in the 5th Century AD Pali chronicles Dipavamsa/Mahavamsa and that also ONLY twice in the beginning chapters.
The Elara – Dutu Gemenu was not a tribal war, it was a war faught by Duttu Gemenu who was a Naga prince to regain the Anuradhapura throne that belonged to his ancestors on his father’s side. Dutu Gemenu’s father was Kakavanna Theesan (KavanTissa) whose father was Gotabhaya. Gotabhaya is the sone of Maha Naga, brother of Devanampiya Theesan (Tissa) the first convert to Buddhism. And Devanampiya Theesan’s father was Muta Siva (BC307 – BC247) who ruled Anuradhapura. Therefore, Kakavanna Theesan was the great grandson of Maga Naga who established the kingdom in Mahagama in Rohana. Maha Naga’s older brother, Devanampiya Tissa, a contemporary of Emperor Asoka, was the first king of the Tissa dynasty.
It may be of interest and educational value to note that all kings from Muta Siva (307-247 B.C) right down to the beginning of the Christian era (a period of 300 years), were Nagas/Thamils and were of Hindu faith. Naga kings continued to rule from Anuradhapura till they lost their identity and became Sinhalese in the 8th century. As mentioned above the much adored and admired King Duttu Gemunu was a Naga prince both from his father’s side Kahavanna Theesan and his mother’s side Viharamadevi. Viharamadevi was the daughter of Kelani Tissa who ruled Kalyani (Keleniya) They were of course, Buddhist by faith. (Source : www.tamilcanadian,com)
During the war between Elara and Duttugemenu there were Buddhist Thamils/Nagas fighting on the side of Duttugemenu and Hindu Thamils/Nagas fighting on the side of Elara. The Thamils/Nagas who were Buddhists needed a separate identity from Thamils/Nagas who were of Hindu faith. This was achieved by inventing the Sinhala language and script by Buddhist monks.
There was no Sinhala language in Lanka or in any part of the world before 8th A.D., it is thuggery to claim that there were Sinhala people in Lanka prior to the 8th century A.D.
The ancient Sri Lankan heritage, the Vevas (tanks/reservoirs), Dagobas (dome enshrining sacred relics) and all other massive ancient structures were constructed by the Buddhist Nagas and Demelas (not Sinhalas). The development of wet rice cultivation, a rudimentary tank system, and iron technology were common features of development for both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.
Dameda is the most mentioned ethnic group in the ancient epigraphy of Sri Lanka. These inscriptions refer to the Dameda Vishaka (Tamil merchant), the Dameda Samana (Tamil householder), and Dameda Navika (Tamil sailor). There are enough of ancient archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka such as Brahmi stone inscriptions, cave writings, etc where the terms ‘Dameda’, ‘Damela’, ‘Damila’, ‘Demel’ are mentioned as a group of people living in the island. During Sena I ((833-853) and Kassapa IV (899-914), there are definite epigraphic reference to Tamil villages and lands, Demel-Kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demelat-valademin (Tamil lands), Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages & lands), Demal-Kinigam, Demelin-hetihaya, etc. The presence of Tamils in the island Sri Lanka in the early historic period is not denied even in the Pali chronicles.
The present day historian Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne says, “there is no mention of the word Sihala or Sinhala ethnicity in the thousand odd short inscriptions that come to us from this period, but on the contrary, a vast majority of the host of clan names and titles that we come across in these inscriptions only show affinities with the clans of the ancient Tamil country”.
Sinhala lan guage evolved from a mixture of Elu (Hela), Thamill, Pali and Sanskrit languages during 8 century A.D. It was not Pali or Sanskrit, but the Tamil language that helped in the formation of the Sinhala alphabets. The alphabets of the Sinhala language are round in shape like the alphabets of the other Dravidian languages. Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and proto-Tamil. In the 10th century. Tamils changed the shape of their alphabets to the present square shape. There is remarkable semblance between Telugu script and Sinhalas script.
The new year celebrated on the 14th of April is common to both to Sinhalese and Thamils for the reason before conversion they were all Hindus. It is interesting to note that after the death of Vijaya there was an interregunnum of one year during which a Brahmin priest by the name Upatissa acted as the king.
The caste hierarchy is almost similar in both Sinhalese and Thamils. The Sinhala caste system is closer to the Jati system, than the Sanskrit Varna system. Quiet a few Sinhala castes are composed of South Indians & their descendants, who came over several centuries – sometimes for trade or as the soldiers of the presiding Sinhala, Pandya or Chola kings.The Karava, Salagama (aka Chaliya), Durawa castes were brought down by Portuguese and Dutch to work as cinnamon peelers, toddy tapping etc. Duravas descended from the Nadars of Thamil Nadu and Ezhavas of Kerala.
Clash of civilisations
2 days ago
At the time of the supposed arrival of Aryan people from North India to this island between 6th and 3rd Century BC, those who lived here belong to the South Indian megalithic culture. It was a commune society based on small tank-villages.
by Vikramabahu Karunaratne
( May 24, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the Buddhist society everybody was equal before the state; and all property, in particular the land belonging to the state. Caste based on ethnic and racial differences was done away with. However in place of that, there developed the caste separation based on crafts and professions, associated with the agricultural society rooted in a centralized irrigation system. Cultured elites were paid officers of the state while the peasantry gave a share to the state coffers and also gave free labour for constructions and services of the state, during off season Elara Dutu Gemunu war; was it a tribal war or a war between two different civilizations Many different views are expressed. Some are scientific. Many are biased to fit chauvinist positions held by political leaders. We have to get the facts and figures correct and analyse the socio-economic development of the Lankan society.
At the time of the supposed arrival of Aryan people from North India to this island between 6th and 3rd Century BC, those who lived here belong to the South Indian megalithic culture. It was a commune society based on small tank-villages.
This was an intrusive culture thought to have originated, on the basis of recent discoveries, in the Nubian region which came into South India sometime after 1000 BC. It was metal used with implements chiefly of iron. A settlement had four distinct areas: a habitation area, a cemetery, a tank and fields. Dravidians who built the fabulous cities of Mohenjo-daro Harappa and taught the Nomadic Aryan invaders how to irrigate with dams and canals, had shifted to the South. The South Indian megalithic culture may have had descended from them.
With the advent of Aryan people, there were in the island two or three distinct racial elements. Before 250 BC, before Mauryan Dynasty, Aryans could not have come in great numbers. Nor did they add much to the indigenous civilization. They also knew agriculture and may have started their traditional subsistence village societies based more on animal husbandry. They did not have proper kingship and their village communes were led by ‘Gaminis’. Aryans unlike the indigenous islanders at the time of intrusions were war-like people and were better equipped with military technology.
Theirs was a patriarchic society as opposed to the mother god culture of Dravidian people.
However, the real dawn of civilization came with the introduction of Buddhism. Recorded history started with the elite acquiring a literate culture. Spread of Buddhism among the Sinhala Kshasthriya and other elite castes had a social significance. It means the development of the society from both small-tank village and dam-river valley culture to an organised large-tank culture. Large tank irrigation systems necessitated a centralised society with a finer organising of labour. This could be achieved only by abandoning the strict semi-racial caste divisions of the old Brahaministic society, in place of a social division based more on the services of an irrigation system. Asoka’s version of Theravada Buddhism provided the ideology for this change. Thus Buddhism became the religion of the elite of the centralised agricultural society, where water management and maintenance of dams and canals was done by the state.
By studying early cave inscriptions, it is claimed that the language of the people at the time of Devanampiyathissa was a variation of Magadha Prakrutha, spoken language understood by both the elite and the lower masses. It is most probable that the Sinhala language developed from the spoken language of the common folk, along the Pali Sanskrit line and departed from the rest of Dravidian languages due to the continuous influence of Buddhism.
Clearly before Buddhism got rooted here, there was no difference between Lankan and Pandean kingdoms. Both were ruled by Aryan Kshasthriya elites though people belonged to Dravidian race. There was close kinship between the two royal houses.
In the Buddhist society everybody was equal before the state; and all property, in particular the land belonging to the state. Caste based on ethnic and racial differences was done away with. However in place of that, there developed the caste separation based on crafts and professions, associated with the agricultural society rooted in a centralized irrigation system.
Cultured elites were paid officers of the state while the peasantry gave a share to the state coffers and also gave free labour for constructions and services of the state, during off season. The first and second Dravidian invasions came in 3rd Century B. C. Sinhala elite were displaced and majority of them were forced to take refuge in the South. In the meantime, the Dravidian elite at Anuradhapura attempted to re-organise the society in the form that existed in South India at that time. With their irrigation know how, small tanks and dams were improved at the expense of the centralized irrigation system.
This would have made them popular among the lower classes while the surplus depreciated. Buddhism was left out as it went against the structure of the society.
Prince Gamini was a prominent village leader of the Sinhalese people that eked out an existence in Ruhunu. He mobilized, this defeated and driven out people to win back the control of the irrigated land that their fore-fathers helped to develop around Anuradhapura. His victory created a fully developed centralized irrigation based agricultural society, with Buddhism as its ideology. The Buddhist monk Mahanama who wrote Mahavamsa, devotes most of it to this epic story of how Sinhala elite brought all people inhabited this island under its domination and established itself at the apex of an Asiatic state structure. So historically it is a clash of two socio-e-conomic formations: Asiatic centralized state structure and village commune based state structure.
Salagama (AKA Chaliya) is a caste of cinnamon peelers in the Southern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. They were also associated with cinnamon cultivation & in Kandy, with weaving. Noted cricketer Lasith Malinga is a Salagama.
Chaliya or Saliya is a caste of weavers in Northern Kerala & Southern Karnataka. It seems possible that the Sinhala kings sought skilled weavers to setup shop at various periods. Saliyas from Kerala & Karnataka moved in waves. And some of them moved onto cinnamon peeling.
Durava or Chanda is a toddy tapping caste, that initially moved to the Southern Coast of Srilanka. Their hereditary role is coconut or palm tree climbing. It is believed that they descended from the Nadars of Tamil Nadu & the Ezhavas of Kerala. Many of them also functioned as mercenaries & soldiers for the Sinhala kings.
Its worth noting that the term “Chanda” is very similar to “Sanar”, another name for the Nadar community in Tamil Nadu. The Duravas take great pains to deny their connections with South India & with toddy tapping, which in their eyes is a demeaning profession.
According to the Durava revisionists, their ancestors took up toddy tapping only because they owned the land themselves. Or, they did it for their Durava brethren that owned large coconut groves. Toddy tappers, them – Oh, sacrilege! They also claim that they are a community devoted to martial arts, which was well connected with the aristocracy. Their role as soldiers for the Sinhala kings probably explains their contacts with the royals.
Karavas – The Negombo Story
Along the Eastern sea-board of India, predominantly in the states of Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh, a community of fisher-folks called “Karayar” live. A long time back, they moved to the South-Western coast of Srilanka.
Charge of “Racism” leveled against the chronicle be sustained?
First of all, let me thank Mr. D.B.S. Jeyaraj for publishing my article in his blog (http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1886) and Dr. Rajasingham Narendran for his response to my article on another website (http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/12/sinhala-mahavamsa-buddhism-revisited_29.html). Dr. Narendran has made a lot of effort to enlighten me by highlighting the positive aspects of the Mahavamsa. Of course, as Sri Lankans, we must appreciate the fact that the Mahavamsa is the greatest Epic Poem written in Pali in our country, but there is a saying, “no matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides”. I remember the well respected Pali scholar (a Sinhalese), late Dr. E.W. Adikaram once said in an interview after the 1983 black July, the only way to have peace in Sri Lanka is by burning all the copies of the Mahavamsa. I am sure the Pali scholar must have perceived the negative side of it.
Let me also thank all the members who have commented (valuable feedback and constructive criticism) on my article and specially Mr. Bandu De Silva for his reply (http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1922) to what he calls as ‘Polemics’. Shakespeare once said, ‘A rose, by any other name, will smell as sweet’. We in Sri Lanka have had the benefit of several waves of cultural influences. It is necessary that we should assess them with a certain amount of objective impartiality and admit the contributions made to our country by others. Our culture in the past has been a synthesis of different cultures, and in evolving a new culture these influences have to be taken into consideration. If the so called ‘Polemics’ can help at least a few members of our community (Sri Lankans) to burn the veils that have shut them from appreciating the beauty of pluralism and multi-cultural diversity that exists in our country for thousands of years and the secularism Sri Lankans practiced in the past as we saw in Kandy where the Sinhalese accepting the Nayakkar dynasty of Madurai, South India (presently Tamil Nadu) as their Kings, then let it be called by whatever name.
I am sorry to say that in his reply titled “Can the charge of “Racism” levelled against the chronicle be sustained?” the learned gentleman Mr. Bandu de Silva has totally missed my point. If anyone has read my article carefully, s/he would have understood that, I did not accuse Ven. Mahanama thero as a racist or his poetic literature (Mahavamsa mythology) that he wrote for the ‘serene joy and emotion of the pious’ as a racist doctrine. I even mentioned that during the turbulent period when Buddhism was under threat, the Mahavamsa author Ven. Mahanama and the Mahavihara monks had a genuine reason (cannot be blamed) for the mythology. Also, my article was not a document/paper on deep analysis of Sri Lankan historiography (which many number of academics and scholars have already done) but only a political overview to highlight the belief system (Myths and fallacies) of the present day Sri Lankan society or rather the Sinhala-Buddhist majority due to the influence of Mahavansa, which has manifested into a prejudiced way of thinking known as the Mahavansa-mindset [Rata (Sinhala Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion]. The outcome of such a state of mind is the Sinhalese-Buddhist Nationalism spanning from Anagarika Dharampala’s Revivalist Movement to Sinhalese-Buddhist Ultra-Nationalism of Jathika Chinthanaya and presently the Hela/Sinhala Urumaya that has lead to Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, one of the main causes for the unresolved ethnic crises in Sri Lanka that has resulted and continue to cause misery to our Sri Lankan nation.
Even though Politics, History (academic), and Religion (spirituality) are three different disciplines, in Sri Lanka they are interlinked, and in order to understand the mindset of the present day population of Sri Lanka, we need to pay attention to all the three, the only reason that dragged me into Mahavamsa and Buddhism. Having said that, even I do not want to engage in any ‘Polemics’ but at the same time I also do not want to disappoint my readers who are expecting a reply. This is only a clarification and should not be misunderstood as a rebuttal.
Without altering or diluting the original content of my writing, let me elaborate further on the major issues that are raised here (which I think is worth replying) with more reasoning/clarification with references and additional examples wherever possible to support my views. Once again it is not a deep analysis because if I were to do a deep analysis, each statement/paragraph that I have written (my article) can be expanded into separate articles and that is beyond the scope of my intention of highlighting the present day Sinhala-Buddhist (Mahavansa) mindset.
…..they who know truth as truth and untruth as untruth arrive at truth….. Dhammapada
- Is Mahavamsa the History of Sri Lanka?
History is basically the capacity of the society in remembering the past. The mode of exerting this capacity differs from society to society. Archeology (ancient artifacts, ruins, potsherds, burials, coins, stone inscriptions, cave writings, rock edits, writings on Ola leaves, etc), ancient literature, chronicles, cultural anthropology, folk stories, historical linguists, etc are some of the tools to understand the history of a society.
1.0 The Chronicles
The Mahavihara monks of Anuradapura maintained Pali chronicles in Sri Lanka which were intended primarily to record the activities of the Theravada Buddhists. There are two sets of Chronicles on which the historians of Sri Lanka have placed their reliance for the study of the Island’s story. The Dipavamsa (5th century A.D), the Mahavamsa (6th century A.D), and the Culavamsa (12th century A.D) were written in Pali, while the later chronicles the Pujavali (13th century A.D), the Rajaratnakara (16th century A.D), and the Rajavali (18thcentury A.D), generally considered to be less reliable as historical documents than even the earlier Pali chronicles were written in Elu/Helu (Sinhala-Prakrit). There is also a commentary to Mahavamsa written in Pali by an unknown Buddhist monk in the 13th century AD known as the ‘Tika’ or Vansatthappakasini to explain/interpret the verses in Mahavamsa. It is the Tika that talks about a mysterious “Sihala atthakatha” (Vamsa text known as original source) that has disappeared after the Mahavamsa was written, the main reason for calling the Pali chronicle of the Mahavihara as the chronicle of the Sinhalese. (What is believed to be “Sihala Attakatha” is nothing but the Indian Epics and Puranas written in Sanskrit).
The Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle of historical poem) was written not as a history of Sri Lanka (or Sinhalese) but as a history of the Mahavihara (Theravada Buddhists). The Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa speaks ONLY of Theravada Buddhists and NOT Sinhala Buddhists. The original Mahavamsa (Mahawansha), is a historical poem written in Pali, which covers a period starting from the arrival of Vijaya (543 BC) to the time of Mahasena’s rule (334-361 BC) written by the Venerable Mahanama Thero, an uncle of King Dhatusena.
To study the history of Sri Lanka (put it into context) and its people (Sinhalese/Tamils), its ancient religions (Buddhism/Hinduism), its languages/scripts and its culture we need to also study/understand the history of India (North and South) because the origin (roots) begin from there and both histories were always interconnected (umbilical cord) until independence.
1.1. Theravada Glorified
From the archeological/epigraphic evidence and the chronicles itself, it is clear that during the same period there also existed other religions such as Mahayana Buddhism, Saivism, Vaishnavism, Jainism, etc but they were all left out. It is also clear that, not only Yakkas, Nagas, Demadas and Kalingas, but also a few other tribes such as Kabojas/kambojas, Milekas, Muridis, Merayas and Jhavakas have also lived in the island during that period but right from Devanampiya Tissa to the end of Anuradapura period the Mahavamsa glorifies only the Theravada Buddhist kings, even though their ethnic background is never mentioned (an ethnic group or a dynasty called Hela/Sinhala is not at all mentioned accept twice in the beginning chapter about Vijaya/Lion myth). Only the non-Buddhist kings were identified in the Mahavamsa (even though not mentioned in any epigraphy) as Damelars (outsiders/invaders). Therefore the Pali chronicles on which the authoritative history of the island is still based cannot be considered as a complete history of Sri Lanka or the history of the Sinhalese, and is also not much helpful to understand the Tamil history of Sri Lanka. In that sense, the Archaeological explorations and epigraphy are much more important than the biased and distorted past records of the chronicles that refers to events which happened many centuries earlier, as an account of the history of the island. In other words, we have to look for other sources to understand the actual history of the country and its people. Unfortunately none others, not even India (North & South) maintained any such chronological record or any other organized system to preserve their historical records, but that does not mean that they did not have a history or they do not have any other historical evidences.
The Pali chronicles were written long after the events described took place (some of them more than 1000 years). Therefore these cannot be considered as accurate records of the events. These were written by Theravada Buddhist priests who mainly tried to convey a religious message using the events to illustrate the importance of the Theravada Buddhist religion, hence a very biased version. The description of the events had a very heavy religious flavor and the history was modified to glorify those kings who patronized and supported Buddhism and those who did not were portrayed as “bad kings”, or “invaders”. There was also a tendency to remain silent on the issues which did not portray Buddhism in a favorable light.
1.2. Bias towards North India
It is also clear that the Mahavamsa is biased towards North India against the South. This may be because Buddhism and Pali came from there. It has been trying to minimize the South Indian component of the Lankan culture, adopting an anti-Tamil attitude and trying to maximize on an imaginary North Indian component of Lankan culture. Brahmanic revival, Bhakthi movement and extinction of Buddhism in India and the South Indian dynasties intervening in Sri Lanka may be the underlying reason for the formation of a Sinhala-Buddhist identity. To create the Sinhala-Buddhist society in the 5th century AD, the Mahavihara monks have imagined/visualized a mass ‘Aryan migration’ from North India during the proto-historic period. This myth created the foundation for the authoritative history of the island, conditioning the minds of the people from generation to generation and it still continues to the future generation. In reality, there is no objective evidence of an Aryan migration from North India; the ethnic structure in Sri Lanka is quite South Indian with close affinities to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Many renowned Historians, Archaeologists, Geologists, Epigraphists, Genealogists, Anthropologists, etymologists and Linguistic Scholars have engaged in research, on the ancient history of Sri Lanka for more than 30 years, conducting Archaeological excavations.
The latest Archeological and Genealogical discoveries in Sri Lanka using modern technology show that not only the Flora and Fauna but the people of South India and Sri Lanka are of the same stock. This has been further established by findings relating to their culture, language and religion which show that the people of these two regions were closely connected. The recent excavations in Rajarata (Anuradapura) by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala and a team of archeologists discovered a very large number of inscribed potsherds with Brahmi writings going back to the 4th century BC, very clearly indicating that Anuradapura was settled by people who have adopted the South Indian Megalithic culture. Nevertheless, the modern archeologists and historians accept that the ancient people of Sri Lanka belonged to the Dravidian Language family and followed the Dravidian (Megalithic) culture. The findings also show that there was a strong similarity between the ancient people of Sri Lanka and those of South India. The geographical proximity of Sri Lanka and South India with 22 miles of shallow sea could have been the reason.
On the other hand, even the South Indian great Pali scholar Buddhaghosa who came to Sri Lanka from Tamil (Chola) country in the 5th Century AD and made a remarkable contribution to Buddhism was depicted (in the Mahavamsa) as a Brahmin from North India and born near Bodh Gaya showing a clear bias towards North Indians (Magadhi) against South. It also failed to mention the other South Indian Tamil Buddhist scholars such as Buddadatta and Dhammapala who worked with Buddhaghosa and contributed to the Pali canon.
1.3. Against Mahayana
The Mahavamsa is also highly biased towards Theravada against Mahayana. It failed to mention the influx of Mahāyana Buddhists from South India. All the kings who supported Mahayana were portrayed as the worst men possible. The biggest victim was Kassapa who was termed as a father-killer for a crime he probably never committed. There are still some Tamil Mahayana Buddhist establishments (Palli) in the east and possibly in the Jaffna peninsula. The best known was Velgam Vehera, which was renamed Rajaraja-perumpalli after the Cola emperor. Another was the Vikkirama-calamekan-perumpalli. The number of ancient Buddha statues found other than in Sri Lanka was in Tamil Nadu showing a strong presence of Buddhism.
1.4. Tamil Buddhist Epics
The well known Tamil Buddhist epics found were Manimekalai, Silappadhikaram, Valaiyapathi, Kundalakesi, and Jivaka Cintamani. The lost Tamil Buddhist works include the grammar Virasoliyam, the Abhidhamma work Siddhantattokai, the panegyric Tiruppadigam, and the biography Bimbisara Kada. Manimekalai, a purely Buddhist work of the 3rd Sangam period in Tamil literature is the most supreme and famous among the Buddhist work done in Tamil. It also talks about the Tamil Buddhists in the island/Nagadipa but, neither Manimekalai nor Silappathikaram is a historical work.
Commenting on the very great popularity of the story of Pattini in Sinhalese villages, Dr. Godakumbura writes: “Literature, dealing with Pattini and the origin of the worship, is very large, and most of it has come from Tamil sources.” He gives a fairly comprehensive list of Sinhalese writings based on the stories of Silappathikaram and Manimekalai.
The ancient Tamil literature and the excavations (archeological findings) in Jaffna proves the existence of Tamils including Tamil Buddhists (Theravada and Mahayana) but there is no evidence what so ever to prove the existence of a separate Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna before the 13th century AD and the same goes to the Sinhalese. The temptation to consider that everything Buddhist in Sri Lanka is necessarily Sinhalese has to be resisted, as it must be remembered that the Tamils, Andhras, and Kalingas, also were at one time Buddhists, and had a very large share in the dissemination of Buddhist culture in the countries of South-East Asia.
The history of Sri Lanka, from the 3rd century A.D. to the 9th century A.D, is permeated with the influence of Buddhism and Buddhist culture. This includes from early historical times, the intrusion of Pali and Sanskrit languages and their spread among the ancient Tamils of Sri Lanka and their Dravidian culture, as well as the origin of the new language from Sanskrit, Pali and Tamil languages known as Elu/Helu (Sihala Prakrit).
1.5. Nagas (Chera/Sera), Pandyans/Pandu and Cholas/Sola (Damelas)
The evidence of the presence of Nagas in Sri Lanka during the early historic period and how they freely assimilated with the Pandu (Pandyans) through marriage is fully corroborated by the ancient artifacts, inscriptions literary work and the Pali chronicles. The Pali chronicle Mahavamsa projects the Non-Buddhists as Damelas (foreigners/invaders) but still it could not help linking the Pandyans of Tamil country even in the genesis of Sinhalese in Sri Lanka indicating the strong presence of Pandyans (Pandu) during that period. Let us not forget that the Nagas were not unique to Sri Lanka, in the early historic period, the Nagas not only occupied Nakanatu/Nagadipa in Sri Lanka but also Nagar-Kovil, Naga-Pattinam and a few other places in South India and as per Prof. Indrapala, both Nagas and Damelas were also moving back and forth between Sri Lanka and South India.
Today the Nayar (Nagar) from Chera (Kerala) are believed to be the descendants of Nagas. Dr. G. C. Mendis ‘Early History of Ceylon’, p. 23, Northern Ceylon is indicated as the Nagadipa which corresponds to Serentivu in Tamil.
“The Sera or Chera (presently Kerala) is the Dravidian equivalent of the Nagas. Chera Mandala has the same meaning as Naga Mandala” – ‘Anthropology in India’ (Bharatiya Vidiya Bhavan Publication).
The Arab traders/merchants who first landed in the North of the island called Serentivu/Serendipa as Serendip.
Let me give some examples of the Naga Kings who bore the Naga clan names,
The first Queen, Anula (47-41 BC) was the widow of Chora Naga and Kuda Tissa. She made Siva, the palace porter as her consort. Subsequently she poisoned Siva and lived with an Indian carpenter, Vatuka, a firewood carrier Dharubatissa, and a palace priest named Neeliya, all of whom she poisoned, till she finally ruled the country alone and continued to live an infamous life. She was burnt alive by Kuttakanna Tissa, the second son of Cula Maha Tissa, who found that he had the backing of all of the people of Lanka to put an end to such an ignominious sovereign. King Candamuka Siva (44-52 AD) the Son of Ila Naga married Damila Devi. Looking further, Khallata Naga (109BC) son of Saddha Tissa, Cora Naga (63BC) son of Valagamba and grandson of Saddha Tissa (incidentally he was the husband of Anula (48BC) whose first paramour was Siva), Ila Naga (36AD), Mahallaka Naga (136AD), grandson of Vasabha (67AD) and brother-in-law of Gajaba (114AD), Kudda Naga (188AD), grandson of Mahaliaka Naga, Siri Naga I (184AD), likewise grandson of Mahallaka Naga, Abhaya Naga (231AD), son of Siri Naga I, Siri Naga II (240 AD) grandson of Siri Naga I, Maha Naga (565AD) etc, and King Siva (515 AD) the Uncle of Kirti Sena.
The kings belonging to the Tissa and Lambakarana dynasties that ruled the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Anuradhapura were Prakrit speaking Nagas. Dutugemunu, the national hero of Sri Lanka, was a Naga king belonging to the Tissa dynasty. His mother Vihara Maha Devi was the daughter of the Naga king of Keleniya, and his father Kavan Tissa, was the great grandson of Maha Naga, who established a kingdom in Mahagama in Rohana. Maha Naga’s older brother, Devanampiya Tissa, a contemporary of Emperor Asoka, was the first king of the Tissa dynasty. Some of the Tissa kings who proudly bore Naga clan names were Khallata Naga (Dutugemunu’s nephew), Cora Naga, who was one of the many victims poisoned to death by the amorous Queen Anula, Mahadathika Maha Naga and Ila Naga. Yasa Lalaka Tissa was the last king of the first dynasty that ruled the Anurdhapura kingdom.
A few known names of the Naga poets of Sri Lanka who contributed to ancient Tamil literature are Elaththu Pootha Thevanar (whose compositions are included in anthologies known as Nattrinai, Kurunthokai and Puranaanooru), Mudingarayar, Musiri Asiriyar, Neelakandanar and Ela Nakar.
On the other hand, the old Tamil names found in South India – Sri Lanka region are very similar to those Prakrit names (do not end with an ‘N’ or an ‘M’). For example, some of the names of ancient Sri Lankan Tamil kings (mentioned in Mahavamsa) were Sena, Guttika, Elara, Pulahatha, Bahiya, Panayamara, Parinda, Dathiya, and so on. Similarly in South India, the names of the ancient Tamil kings, for example some Chola kings were Kulothunga Chola, Vikrma Chola, Aditya Chola, and so on. Some Pandya kings were Kulasekara Pandya, Vira Wickrama Pandya, Parakrama Pandya, Sundara Pandya, and so on. Some Chera kings were Kulashekhara Varma, Rajashekhara Varma, Rama Varma Kulashekhara, Goda Ravi Varma, Bhaskara Ravi Varma, Vira Kerala, Rajasimha, and so on.
Neither the epigraphy nor the Pali chronicles mention the ethnic background of the Buddhist kings of Sri Lanka. Since we cannot identify the ethnicity of them from the names, if not for the Mahavamsa, we would have never come to know that these non-Buddhist kings (such as Sena, Guttika, Elara) were Tamils. Similarly, some or most of the Theravada Buddhist kings of Sri Lanka (whose ethnicity is not known) also would have been Tamils but we will never know.
This only proves that the present day Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils originate from both Prakrit speaking Nagas, Tamil speaking Damelas (Pandyans & Chola), and all the other tribes that lived in the island other than the Veddas.
According to historians, it was only during the 9th century AD, the term Nagas totally disappeared from the stone inscriptions and the two major ethnic groups Hela/Sihala and Demela clearly appeared. Historians believe that the Nagas were assimilated into the two major ethnic groups Hela/Sihala and Demela. The Archeologist/Historian Dr. Parnawitharana says, “We know next to nothing about the pre-historic autochthonous people of Sri Lanka. They could have been the ancestors of the present day Sinhalese and Tamils.” As per Prof. K. Indrapala, ‘The Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are descended from the common ancestors who lived in the country in prehistoric and proto-historic times and have a shared history going back to over two thousand years’. If we agree with these historians, the people who call them Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils today originate from the same stock. What is seen from the evidences is that the Tamil identity of Sri Lanka was not only parallel to the Sinhala identity but also parallel to that of the Tamils of Tamil Nadu. It is not merely an extension of the Tamil identity of Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan Tamil social formation is an evolution and is a result of people interacting with the land of Sri Lanka throughout its phases of history.
Analyzing the Sinhala writings called Vittipota, W.A. De Silva states that from very early times the island was colonized by people from all parts of India. Therefore those inhabiting this country should not say that they belong to some one particular family or race.
The Sinhalese argue that they are unique to Sri Lanka (there is no other Sinhala Nadu) and therefore Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country. We should not forget that the Arab/Muslim traders married local (Sinhala/Tamil) women and therefore their decedents share the same ancient ancestry of the Sinhalese/Tamils. Since the Malay and Portuguese did not bring their womenfolk but married local women, even the Malays and Burghers also share the same ancestry. The fact is, as a race, not only the Sinhalese but also the Sri Lankan Tamils, Sri Lankan Muslims, Burghers, Malays and Veddas are all unique to Sri Lanka, they have no other place on earth, the only difference is they adopted a single language where as the Sinhalese adopted Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil, Vedda, a very few words from unknown origin and later Portuguese, Dutch, English and developed a new language (due to their heavy mixing).
1.6. Ancient Sri Lankan heritage
The ancient Sri Lankan heritage, the Vevas (tanks/reservoirs), Dagobas (dome enshrining sacred relics) and all other massive ancient structures were constructed by the Buddhist Nagas and Demelas (not Sinhalas). The development of wet rice cultivation, a rudimentary tank system, and iron technology were common features of development for both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. The tanks and fields, which were the main support of the kings and their armies and a large body of priests and monks, were damaged frequently either by wars between rival kings of the island supported by their sponsors in the Chola or the Pandyan country or through natural forces as well as sheer neglect. Repairs to these tanks and the maintenance of irrigation and cultivation could not be affected without the aid of specially trained men from the Tamil country. Sir James Emerson Tennent, Colonial Secretary to the British Government of Ceylon (1845-1850) tells us even during his time, the expertise/services from Tamil country had to be obtained for repairing tanks in the North Central Province.
1.7. Tamil Names Twisted
1.8.The Mahavamsa written a millanium after the events took place and a century after Deepavamsa, has added mythical/supernatural stories and legends (from Indian epics, not from mysterious Sihalattha katha) that are not known to Deepavamsa and at the same time some names/stories were twisted. Let me mention an example,
The Deepavamsa does not say king Panduvasudeva, it says Panduvasa. As per B.C. Law,
“It may as well be a Pali or Prakrit equivalent of Pandya Vasa meaning one from the Pandyan country i.e., A Pandya by his nationality”. (B. C. Law, ibid. p. 52).
How Pandu-Vasa in Deepavamsa became Pandu-Vasudeva in Mahavamsa is a mystery. (Vasudeva must have been adopted from the Indian epic Gita). The name Panduka is apparently of the same import. After the death of Panduvasa (Panduvasudeva) his eldest son Abhaya became the lawful king. Panduvasudeva’s mother is said to have been the daughter of the Mada king (‘Mada-Sanskrit Madura was the capital city of the Pandyans). Their son was named Panduka Abhaya, the name being a combination of the names of Panduvasa and Abhaya, the best example of a Naga-Pandya mix. Pandukka Abhaya gives his son a Tamil Saiva name Mutasiva (elder Siva). We are not told whom he married, but his second son Tissa succeeds him. His real Saiva name is not known. (Devanampiya is a title given to him by Emperor Asoka for accepting Buddhism, it is not a Tamil name). B. C. Law has pointed out that the name of neither Devanampiya Tissa nor of Dutugemunu, the two heroes of the Mahavamsa, is found in the early inscriptions. (B. C. Law, ibid. pp. 65-66).
True to the tradition of the early Buddhist writers in Sri Lanka who had twisted Tamil words sometimes out of recognition in transforming Dravidian names into Pali or Prakrit forms, Dr. Paranavitane, the first Sinhalese Archaeological Commissioner of Sri Lanka continued the same tradition.
1.9. Earlier Language and Script
The Hindu/Brahmanic scriptures Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, etc and the Indian epics Mahabaratha, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc were all written in Sanskrit (the sacred language of the Hindus). Similarly, the Buddhist scriptures and the Sri Lankan chronicles were written in Pali/Magadhi Prakrit (the sacred language of the Buddhists). Even the Tamil Theravada Buddhist monks of South India (Chola Sangha) have used Pali language in preference to Tamil in their writings.
One of the most significant areas in which the North Indian influence made a lasting impact in South India and Sri Lanka was the language. As trade between the Northern and Southern regions of India (including Sri Lanka) began to develop actively in the 1st millennium BC, the Prakrit became the lingua franca of this trade. Going by the earliest inscriptions in South India, it would appear that Prakrit had a greater impact in Andhra, Karnataka and Northern Tamil Nadu. But in Southern Tamil Nadu almost all the earliest stone inscriptions are in Old Tamil, some of them showing influence of Prakrith. It was the only region in South Asia where inscriptions were in a language not belonging to the Indo-Aryan sub-family.
The Sanskrit/Indo-Aryan Prakrit language is found in the Brahmi inscriptions in the 3rd century BC. Brahmi was used to write the early dialects of Prakrit. Its usage was mostly restricted to inscriptions on stones/rocks, caves, buildings and graves. Even though Brahmi script had been used throughout South Asia, it had regional variations. In addition, South Indian Brahmi needed special characters to write some special letters of Dravidian, especially Tamil.
Ancient Brahmi inscriptions of Lanka had been written in Prakrit language like other contemporary inscriptions of South Asia, excluding ancient Tamil country, but they have so many words which are not found in Prakrit or Sanskrit in other parts of South Asia. Early Brahmi inscriptions of Lanka have all the symbols of south Indian Brahmi. Paranavitana, believing the Mahavamsa version of the story, was very ingenuous in trying to argue that the early Brahmi script of Lanka was following the north Indian version of Brahmi, but a considerable number of them appear to be Tamil terms and they could be easily explained as Tamil terms, drawing comparable material from ancient Tamil Sangam literature as well as ancient Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.
Iravatham Mahadevan has published ‘Early Tamil Epigraphy’, which has been included in the prestigious Harvard Oriental Series, where he points out the occurrence of all the special sounds of early Tamil Brahmi letters among early Lankan Brahmi inscriptions.
In the 19th century AD, Wilhelm Geiger who translated the Mahavamsa studied the language of the inscriptions/island at various time intervals and gave some name labels. He labeled the earliest Prakrit/Sanskrit language spoken in the island as Prakrit-Sinhala but a somewhat developed Elu/Helu/Sihala language was found for the first time only on the 8th century AD Sigiri mirror wall and not before that. Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil and a very few words from unknown origin appear to have influenced the formation/evolution of the Elu/Helu language.
1.10. Outdated History
The 1965 PhD Student Mr. K. Indrapala
It is surprising that, like many pseudo-scholars, even Mr. Bandu de Silva says, Indrapala has had no reasons to alter the pronouncements he made in his 1965 PhD though he came under heavy ethnic pressure to rewrite history as the facts had not changed.
In any historical research, it is natural to change the views and assumptions, because up to now, we have no definite answers to so many unanswered questions in the fields of Archaeology, history, anthropology, epigraphy and etymology in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, daily we stumble across several new findings and they contribute to new historical vistas. Therefore, based on new facts, one’s earlier conclusion has to be compromised to adopt changes. History is a continuous process of investigation without any end in sight.
For example, for the last 40 years, the Sinhalese Pseudo-historians and bogus scholars (charlatans) had been using the Tamil PhD student Mr. Karthigesu Indrapala’s 1965 PhD thesis which was not in favour of the Tamils as a guide in all their arguments/writings. When the well renowned and recognized former History professor of the Jaffna University, the same Prof. Karthigesu Indrapala retired from his profession after 30 years of research as a Senior Archaeologist/Historian/epigraphist and a University Don. Prof. K. Indrapala published a book in 2005; 40 years after his 1965 PhD thesis where he says his PhD dissertation is completely out of date that even he does not have a copy of his 1965 PhD thesis what he wrote 40 years ago as a PhD student. It is absolutely natural that people change their opinions upon new findings (not ethnic pressure) but the bogus scholars (charlatans) want to still continue to quote the obsolete theories what Indrapala himself has abandoned.
This is what Prof K. Indrapala says about his 1965 thesis:
I was planning my postgraduate research, the late Prof. W.J.F. LaBrooy, my revered teacher and, at that time, Head of the department of History at the University, advised me to research into the early history of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for my doctoral dissertation, as he considered this aspect to be a serious gap in the known history of the Island.
The thesis was completed with the material that was available in the early 1960s.
As long as excavation work remains undone, I pointed out; much that is relevant to our study will be wanting… Even the inscriptions and literary works that we have used have proved to be inadequate in the reconstruction of a satisfactory history of the settlements and in the solution of many important problems.
The thesis was presented as the first major attempt to bring together all available evidence on the subject. THE FACT THAT IT WAS IN NO WAY A COMPLETE STUDY WAS ADMITTED. In view of these limitations and difficulties, while we may claim to have added something to our knowledge of the history of the Tamils of Ceylon, the account presented here is inevitably incomplete and not always definite. We have often been led to state our conclusions in hypothetical terms.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THAT DISSERTATION IS NOW COMPLETELY OUT OF DATE. MY OWN PERSPECTIVES AND INTERPRETATIONS HAVE CHANGED SINCE ITS COMPLETION.
More importantly, significant developments, both in terms of archaeological research and changing historical perspectives, have taken place in the last four decades.
Another Historian that the Sinhalese Pseudo-scholars always quote is Nilakanta Sastri of Tamil Nadu. Nilakanta Sastri’s historical research was over 50 years old. According to historians/scholars in Tamil Nadu, Nilakanta Sastri’s Tamil proficiency was not good and he relied on others for understanding Tamil literary works. Thus he was not able to analyze the changing meaning of words over time. They say, the professional historiography in Tamil Nadu practiced during K. A. Nilakanta Sastri’s period there was rarely any interrogation of sources.
Dr. Senerath Paranavitana, an Archaeological Commissioner, was a dominating figure in archaeology, epigraphy, and ancient history of Lanka for more than fifty years during the last century. For him, the Mahavamsa was like a holy book. Instead of giving primacy to archaeology and epigraphy, and supplementing his findings with material from the Mahavamsa, he was trying his best to interpret archaeology and epigraphy in the light of the Mahavamsa. His research was one sided (biased), beginning with the conclusion (Mahavamsa), he was only finding evidence to prove his conclusion. If the archaeological/epigraphical findings did not match the conclusion (Mahavamsa) he redefined/misinterpreted them using his own theories, assumptions, hypothesis and analogies to prove that the Mahavamsa was right.
On his retirement as Archaeological Commissioner, he was appointed as Professor of Archaeology in the University of Ceylon (the only university in Lanka at that time) for a short period. The University of Ceylon had a project for publishing an authoritative history of the country and Prof. Paranavitana functioned as its editor. He was adopting the Mahavamsa as his guide, especially for the early period of Lankan history. He himself admitted that he had rejected some portions of a Tamil contributor to the volume on the ancient period of Lankan history, because those portions didn’t fit into what he considered Lankan history (Mahavamsa).
Prof. Paranavitana was a non-Buddhist but today we have people like Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero, the former leader of Jathika Hela Urumaya doing archaeological research especially in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Tamil ancient inscriptions, Hindu deity statues, and other artefacts found in favour of Tamils, suddenly disappearing is not a surprise.
- The British and the Mahavamsa
It was only in the 19th century AD, the British re-discovered the Mahavamsa.
The first printed edition and English translation of the Mahavansha was published in 1837 by George Turnour, an historian and officer of the Ceylon Civil Service. A German translation of Mahavansha was completed by Wilhelm Geiger in 1912. This was then translated into English by Mabel Haynes Bode, and the English translation was revised by Geiger. English historians who wrote on Sri Lankan history are also responsible for the misrepresentation of Sri Lankan history as Sinhalese history.
Prof. K. Indrapala says in his book, ‘The evolution of an Ethnic Identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE’, it was in the nineteenth century, under the British rule, that the British officials adopted a keen interest in the history of the island. The European discovery of the Pali chronicles, the publication of early translations of the Mahavamsa and the acquisition of information relating to the ancient ruins lead to the first serious British attempt to write the early history of Sri Lanka in the middle of the nineteenth century.
2.1. Aryans and Dravidians
The colonial Orientalist ‘scholars’, who were enthusiastic to invent Indo-Aryan cousins in this part of the world, created enough myths in that process for Brahmanism in India and Sinhala-Buddhist elitism in Sri Lanka. It was in these early colonial writings, largely based on the uncritical acceptance of the local chronicles, that a new perspective of the ancient history of the island began to develop. The view that the Sinhalese were the ‘proper inhabitants’ of the island in ancient times and that the Tamils were invaders came to dominate colonial historical writings. In addition, since the Sinhala language was more of Indo-Aryan in nature, the British declared that the Sinhalese were Aryans from North India and the Tamils were Dravidians from South India. In recent years, several anthropologists and historians have shown how this perspective came to be developed in the colonial writings. It was only in the 19th century AD, the Sinhalese started to believe the myth that they are Aryans from North India and the proper inhabitants of Sri Lanka where as the Tamils are Dravidians and outsiders.
It is important to note that the Aryan theory was not merely something imposed from above by Orientalist ‘scholars’. It was eagerly welcomed by most Sinhala scholars who found the Aryan theory flattering in that it elevated them to the ranks of the kinsmen of their rulers. The combined result of the forces at work was the mischievous oversimplification of Sri Lankan History that the Sinhalese are Indo-Aryans who came from North India in the 6th century BC and the Dravidian Tamils are later migrants who came as invaders, traders and mercenaries to snatch a part of the promised land of the Sinhalese away. Influenced by the colonial historiography, the Sinhalese declared that they were indigenous to the island (first arrivals/natives), and that the Tamils were invaders (came later) from South India. The above facts and the non-existence of Tamil Buddhists during the colonial period (due to the aftermath of the 10th century Chola invasion) led the 19th century European Pali ‘scholars’ to assume and subsequently the present day Sri Lankans to believe that the ancient Buddhists and the Buddhists Kings of Sri Lanka were none other than Sinhalese. In Sri Lanka, any person who adopts Sinhala as mother tongue ipso facto is an Aryan. Most of the Sinhalese cannot even think/believe that there were Tamil Buddhists in the early period. If there were Buddhist remains in any part of Sri Lanka, by default it belonged to Sinhalese (only) and if there were Hindu remains it belonged to Tamils (only) whereas the Sinhalese worship most of the Hindu Gods.
2.2. Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism
The most influential figure in this field was the great German indologist, Max Muller. According to Prof. Leslie Gunawardana, scholars in late 19th century Sri Lanka took up Max Muller’s theories and injected a RACIALIST content into Sinhala nationalist thinking. One such scholar was Anagarika Dharmapala (Aka Don David Hewavitarana). Through publications such as the ‘Sinhala Bauddhaya’, ‘Sinhala Jatiya’, and the ‘Mahabodhi Journal’ during the period 1909 to 1915, he propagated the Mahavamsa as the Orthodox Theravada Buddhist doctrine of the Sinhala Buddhists. He called the Sinhala Buddhists as the only unique race (Arya-Sinhala) with a pure Aryan blood.
Today, the Maha Sangha and the Sinhala-Buddhist monks are NOT the disciples of Buddha; they are the disciples of Anagarika Dharmapala who believed in the Mahavamsa as an Orthodox Theravada Buddhist doctrine of the Sinhala Buddhists. In 1908, Dharmapala declared that Buddhism was “completely identified with the racial individuality of the people.” As Peter Schalk states: “This is probably one of the most conflict creating public statements made in the 20th century. It is also a statement that is detrimental nationally and internationally to the reputation of Buddhism. He stated explicitly that Lanka belongs to the Buddhist Sinhalese and for the Tamils there is South India.”
2.3. Buddhist monks and Politics
In 1946, the faculty at the Vidyālankara monastery approved without dissent a resolution declaring that monks should become politically active. The Vidhylankara monks moved the Dharmapalite revolution from nonsectarian social action in the villages to a political ideology that fused language, religion, and state. The radical monks formed the Lankā Eksat Bhiksu Mandalaya, the United Bhikku Organization of Śri Lankā. The seeds of a highly politicized Sinhalese Buddhism were now sown. As Seneviratne states, “By the mid 1950s it turned into a hegemonic Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism.”
It should be noted that none of those European Orientalist ‘scholars’ who translated and brought to light (or rather misinterpreted) the Sanskrit texts and Pali canon/chronicles ever attempted to do the same to the ancient Tamil texts and the writings on ola/palmaryh leaves which are believed to be destroyed when the Jaffna library was burnt. Some of them which were translated by Arumuga Navalar, Thamotharam Pillai and Saminathaiyar still wait for a comprehensive translation. The partiality in historiography by the British colonial rulers brought in new social gaps, confrontations and competition. With that started the Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalism spanning from Anagarika Dharampala’s revivalist movement through 1956 “silent revolution to Jathika Chinthanaya and Sinhala Urumaya in the 1990s is interpreted as a teleological linear history, at the end, intending the ethnic crisis at present.
2.4. History further Twisted
Continuing what was written by the English, the Sinhalese historians twisted and misrepresented and misappropriated the civilization achievements of the ancient Sri Lanka as the history of the newly conceived Aryan Sinhala race.
MAHAVANSAYA – Sinhala version was edited by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala thero (aka Don Niculas Gunawardhana). Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala along with Don Andris de Silva Batuvantudave have amended, modified, added and edited the Mahavamsa to suit the Sinhala race.
In the Trustworthiness of the Mahavamsa by Wilhelm Geiger the author says, I do not consider the final chapter 101 which has been added by Sumangala and Batuwantudawa, the authors of the edition princeps.
2.5. Sinhalese Confused
Most probably due to misinformation or lack of clear information, during the last few decades, the Sinhala Buddhists Nationalists were concocting many different versions of their history, some of them contradicting each other.
There is one group that totally believes in the Mahavamsa, that about two thousand five hundred years ago, Vijay and 700 men (Aryans) came from North India, took Tamil Pandya wives (Dravidians) from South India and formed the Sinhala race.
Another group, the followers of Anagarika Dhammapala believes the same but without the Tamil connection, that is, the Sinhalese are pure North Indian Aryans and did not mix with anybody.
Then there is another group known as the Jaathika Chinthanaya (national consciousness) movement founded by Gunadasa Amarasekera (Sinhala writer/poet and dentist) that believes, about two thousand five hundred years ago, Vijaya Singh and his clan (Aryans) came from North India and landed in Hela Diva and mixed with the Hela tribes that lived in Sri Lanka and formed a Sinhala Nation under king Pandukabhaya. From that cross breeding the name Sinhala came to all the progeny of these immigrants (Singh + Hela = Sinhala), and the Sinhala race/nation already existed during king Tissa’s period when Mahinda Thero brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka and during King Devanampiya Tissa’s period the Sinhalese became Buddhists and the Sinhala-Buddhist society was established.
Today, another group of Sinhalese-Buddhists by the name Hela Havula (Sinhalese literary organization founded by Munidasa Cumaratunga) have created a new theory (Siv + Hela = Sinhala) linking Ravana to the Sinhalas and totally contradicting the Mahavamsa to say that the Sinhalas are the original natives of Sri Lanka (even before Ravana) from the four tribes known as Siv-hela (Deva, Naga, Yakka, & Rakhsasa) and not migrants from India as mentioned in the Mahavamsa. Their theory is purely based on the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha. Some of them even want to add the Mahayana Buddhist text Lankavatara Sutta which is based on Ramayana to Sinhala-Buddhism.
None of the above versions have any archeological/epigraphic evidence in Sri Lanka or India and the present day historians do not accept any of the above as true. Till now, the actual history of Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamils) is not likely to be concluded and we still have to wait for more archeological discoveries for any breakthrough.
To be continued …… – “Neither Epigraphy nor Pali chronicles say Dutugemunu was a Sinhala”
“NEITHER EPIGRAPHY NOR PALI CHRONICLES SAY DUTUGEMUNU WAS A SINHALA”
By J.L. Devananda
(A Response (Part 2): “Mahavamsa Mentality”; Can the charge of “Racism” leveled against the chronicle be sustained?)
- Imagined ‘Tamil Presence’ or ‘Sinhala Presence’?
Mr. Bandu De Silva begins by saying; I have presented a picture of an ‘imagined Tamil presence’ in the country in the past comparable to the weight of preponderant evidence of the existence of Sinhala element to this day.
3.1. Tamil Presence
Even though I only commented about the presence of Dameda in Akitti Jataka, Dameda is the most mentioned ethnic group in the ancient epigraphy of Sri Lanka. These inscriptions refer to the Dameda Vishaka (Tamil merchant), the Dameda Samana (Tamil householder), and Dameda Navika (Tamil sailor). There are enough of ancient archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka such as Brahmi stone inscriptions, cave writings, etc where the terms ‘Dameda’, ‘Damela’, ‘Damila’, ‘Demel’ are mentioned as a group of people living in the island. During Sena I ((833-853) and Kassapa IV (899-914), there are definite epigraphic reference to Tamil villages and lands, Demel-Kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demelat-valademin (Tamil lands), Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages & lands), Demal-Kinigam, Demelin-hetihaya, etc. The presence of Tamils in the island Sri Lanka in the early historic period is not denied even in the Pali chronicles.
The present day historian Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne says, “there is no mention of the word Sihala or Sinhala ethnicity in the thousand odd short inscriptions that come to us from this period, but on the contrary, a vast majority of the host of clan names and titles that we come across in these inscriptions only show affinities with the clans of the ancient Tamil country”.
3.2. Lack of Sinhala Presence
As I clearly said in my article with sufficient reasoning, thousands of Prakrit (Sanskrit) stone inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered during the early period, but not a single archaeological/epigraphical evidence has been found within or outside Sri Lanka to prove ‘Hela’ or ‘Sihala’ or ‘Sinhala’ existed until the 8th/9th century AD. Most probably, the Hela/Sinhala race would have started evolving (assimilating the Buddhist Nagas, Damelas, and others) only from the 5th/6th century AD after the foundation was laid by the Mahavihara Buddhist monks and the Theravada Buddhist kings. Since there was NO Sinhala in Sri Lanka until the Mahavihara monks mentioned it for the first time in the 5th/6th century AD, in order to create the Sinhala identity (to sustain Buddhism in Lanka) the term Sinhala may have been adopted from the Indian epic Mahabharata which predates the Mahavansa by many centuries. The Mahabharata talks of Sinhalas as the barbarous mlecchas, the natives of Lanka in its Book 1, Chapter 177, in Book 2, Chapter 33 & 51, and in Book 7, Chapter 20. However, the Sinhalas mentioned in the Mahabharata is totally different from the Sinhalas that the Mahavihara monks created (Lion myth) in the 5th century AD. A Tamil inscription found in a Hindu temple in South India during the Rajaraja Chola 1 (10th/11th AD) also has a very similar statement like what was found in the Mahabaratha with a slight variation, referring to Lanka it say, ‘the land of the warlike Singalas’.
This is what B. C. Law says referring to the authors of these Chronicles –
“They offer a cheap fantastic explanation for the origin of the name of the Island ‘Sinhala’ because of Vijaya’s father Sihabahu since he had slain the lion”. (B. C. Law, ibid. p. 49). The probability is that this ‘fantastic explanation’ is the result of an interpolation crudely effected during the period the Tika was composed (circa XIII C). Besides this single Ola manuscript, ‘not more than 200 years old’ we have no other copies to check the authenticity of its contents.
Strangely, Buddha did not direct Vijaya to the Nagas who had been so friendly to the Buddha when he visited the island just a few decades before Vijaya’s landing? Soon after arrival, Vijaya and his followers were among the Yakkhas. But they did not mix with the local tribes, instead brought brides from Pandiya kingdom. Therefore the Sinhalese cannot be called Boomiputhra (sons of the soil) as some of the present day Sinhalese claim. Buddhism was introduced to the island only two centuries later. Ven. Mahanama does not seem to have noticed the contradiction.
Some historians and scholars have noted that some sections of the Mahavamsa deviates from the rest of Ven. Mahanama’s work in style and content. The manner in which it is introduced gives the impression that it is a later interpolation. They believe that, the version of the Mahavamsa that the British found in the 19th century and translated into English, German and finally to Sinhala was the modified/revised version composed during the period when Tika was composed and the original Mahavamsa what Ven. Mahanama composed is either lost or destroyed.
Mahavamsa has written 11 chapters to praise the Buddhist King DutuGemunu, but unfortunately not a single word ‘Sinhala/Hela’ was found where as his Naga ancestral relationship is very clearly given. Before marching against Elaro he declared his object to be ‘the restoration of the religion’ and proclaimed ‘I fight not for dominion but for the sake of the religion of Buddha.’ The kingdom of Anuradapura was never known as Sinhala kingdom and none of the kings of Anuradapura called themselves as Sinhala.
The early foreign traders from Arabia, Persia, Rome, China and so on called Sri Lanka by many different names but NONE of them mentioned about the existence of a Sinhala Kingdom or a Sinhala nation. Not a single stone inscription/rock edict of neighboring India (either South or North) that was always associated with the island’s history mentioned about a Sinhala Kingdom or a Sinhala nation in Sri Lanka.
There is no doubt that the ethnic identity ‘Hela/Sihala’ found in inscriptions for the first time in 9th century AD evolved in Sri Lanka and nowhere else, so did their language ‘Elu/Helu’ and later ‘Sinhala’ but as I said, before 9th century AD, the term Hela/Sinhala was not found in anywhere.
Therefore, the concepts of a fully evolved ‘thoroughbred Hela/Sinhala race’ and a ‘thoroughbred spoken/written Elu/Helu/Sihala language’ before the 9th century AD are pure assumptions and cannot be proved. The form Hela appears for the first time for the geographical identity of the island in 8th century AD Sigiri Graffiti and Elu/Helu for the name of the language only after the 9th century AD Sinhala literature. The earliest Elu/Helu writings such as Siyabaslakara and Elu Sandas Lakuna do not lead us beyond the 9th Century AD. There was NO Elu/Hela/Sinhala literary work (other than Pali) found before this period. (Elu Bodhi Vamsa, Elu Akaradiya, Elu Hathvanagalu Vansaya, Elu Umanda, Elu Daladavansa Kavya, Elu Silowa, Elu Silo Sathakaya, Helusuthra etc were all written very much later).
On the other hand, the Sri Lankan Tamil writings/literature was all done after the 13th century AD. Vaiya was a historian who penned the poem “para-rasa-sekaran-ula” and the chronicle “Rasa-murai”, written in the reign of king Seka-rasa-sekaran. Another known work was Vai-iai Padal and later work Vaipava-Malai and Kailaya Malai. Most of them were written as ala books made of Palmirah leaves. The writings in many cases were indistinct and were waiting for a proper interpretation and translation. They were carefully preserved in the Jaffna library until the modern Dutta-Gamini burnt them to ashes.
For those who believe in the weak argument by Prof. Paranavitana (a Sinhala biased researcher whose views were always one sided) who assumes that the dominant group of the kingdom ruled by the Anuradapura kings were all Sinhalese and that any ruler other than a Sinhalese in control of Anuradapura was a foreigner, in other words, he assumed like every other present day Sinhalese that since antiquity, Sinhala happened to be the norm in the country and no one bothered mentioning it. Very strangely, after the 9th century AD, they kept mentioning the word ‘Hela’ at many places (after it appeared in inscriptions) and after 12th century AD the word Sinhala is mentioned everywhere, and today they are the dominant group but they keep on mentioning it all the time (as I said in my article, not only Sinhala Vedakama /medicine or Sinhala Avurudda/new year but even roof tiles are labeled after Sinhala).
3.3. Sinhala and Demela
Until the 10th century AD, the people in the island irrespective of their racial background were scattered all over the island with the Tamil settlements (Demel-gam-bim) more towards Rajarata (North of Anuradapura and close to Polonnaruva). According to the historian Dr. M. Gunasingham, from around 10th to 13th century A.D, (Subsequent to the Cola domination of Sri Lanka in the 10th century A.D), people who identified themselves as Buddhists and Hela/Sihala shifted their seats of rule from the ancient kingdoms of Anuradapura/ Polonnaruva towards South, West and Central Sri Lanka while the people who identified themselves as Saiva and Demela moved their ruling structures from these same regions to the North and East of the island.
With the archaeological findings till today, the historians believe that the permanent Tamil settlement in the North & East and the permanent Sinhalese settlement in South, West and Central started taking place only after the 10th century AD. According to the research done by the historian Prof. Leslie Gunawardane, the Sinhala speaking people were considered as a nation only after the westerners came to this part of the world.
Since, there was neither a separate Tamil Nation/Kingdom nor a separate Sinhala Nation/kingdom in Sri Lanka (neither North nor South) before the 13th Century AD; it is meaningless to talk about a continuous existence of Sinhalese/Tamils or a separate ‘Sinhalese-Buddhist’ or ‘Tamil-Hindu’ identity in Sri Lanka in the pre 12-13th century AD period. Tamils may have lived in the North & East and many other places in Sri Lanka for many thousands of years just like the Veddhas but, the Northern (Jaffna) kingdom was established only in 1215 AD by Kalinga Magha who adopted the name Segarajasekeran Singhai Ariyachakravarthi on coronation. Similarly, the Southern kingdoms (Gampola, Dambadeniya, Kotte, Kandy, etc) were also established during and after the 13th century AD. Only after this period that the Southern kingdoms such as Kotte and Kandy (not Jaffna) were known as ‘Sinhale’ (not the whole country) even though some parts of the Tamil areas in North and East also came under the Sinhala kingdom of Kandy. (Kandy was mostly ruled by the foreigners, the Kalingas of South-East India and the Nayakkars of South India). Also, the term ‘Sinhale’, appeared only in the 12th Century AD Chulavamsa and not in Deepavamsa or Mahavamsa.
In the Dutugemunu-Elara episode, the Mahavamsa says, Dutugemunu had to conquer not just one Tamil king (Elara) but 32 Tamil Chieftains around the Anuradhapura principality alone. He also killed around sixty thousand Tamils in the war. How could there be 32 Tamil chieftains in the area of Anuradhapura alone. Even if the Dutugemunu-Elara war is a myth, his writing proves (did not deny) the Tamil settlements (Demel-gam-bim) in Anuradapura? Similarly, King Valgambha had to fight seven Pandian chieftains to reassume sovereignty at Anuradhapura.
The Sinhalese Nampota dated in its present form to the 14th century AD suggests that the whole of the Tamil Kingdom, including parts of the modern Trincomalee district, was recognized as a Tamil region by the name Demala-pattanama (Tamil city). In this work, a number of villages that are now situated in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts are mentioned as places in Demala-pattanama.
Even during the recent past, in 17th century AD (colonial period), Rajarata (Anuradapura) was inhabited by Tamils as per the book written by Robert Knox who was the prisoner in Kandy. When he escaped from prison, he had to go through several places and when he came to Anuradapura, he says it was fully occupied by Tamils (NOT Sinhalese).
This is what Robert Knox says, when he visited Anuradapura in 1679,
“The people stood amazed as soon as they saw us, being originally Malabars, though subjects of Kandy. Nor could they understand the Sinhalese language in which we spake to them, and we stood looking one upon another until there came one that could speak the Sinhalese tongue who asked us, from whence we came? We told them from Kandy, but they believed us not, supposing that we came up from the Dutch from Mannar. So they brought us before their Governor. He not speaking Sinhalese spake to us by an interpreter.” (Robert Knox in the Kandyan Kingdom, Ed. E.F.C.Ludowyk, p 50).
When the Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch and British) arrived, what all of them clearly observed and experienced during their period was that, there were two different ethnic groups (Sinhalese and Tamils) having two different languages, religions, cultures, and living in two well defined and clearly and naturally demarcated (thick jungles, lakes, river, etc) land areas with their own kingdoms within their lands. The Tamils lived as a majority within their land area (North & East) and the Sinhalese also lived as a majority within their land area (South, West & Central). The Portuguese and the Dutch ruled Jaffna as a separate entity (as they found it) without amalgamating it with the Sinhalese areas. The British, on seeing the naturally existing borders of the two ethnic groups used their technology to demarcate them as two separate regions (occupied by two separate races) and created the maps for the first time somewhere in the 1800s.
The British also maintained the separate entity of the Tamils until 1833 at which year they unified the Tamil and Sinhalese regions for the purpose of administration.
There are many proofs to establish that Tamil was the main language even during the time the Portuguese landed. For example, the king of Kotte, Bhuvanehabahu VII signed the treaty with the Portuguese in Tamil. H.W. Codrington has stated that “there can be little doubt that the Jaffna Kingdom was for a time paramount in the low-country of Ceylon (his book short history of Ceylon) and the Tamils “had been the court language of the Kings of Kotte” Scholars like H L Seneviratne pointed out that many of the Kandyan chieftains signed the 1815 Convention (treaty with the British) in Tamil.
Based on the fact that there is no archeological evidence of a permanent Tamil kingdom or settlement in the North East before the 12th century AD, while rejecting the Tamil claim as a myth, the Sinhalese who also do not have any evidence of a permanent Sinhalese kingdom or settlement before the 12th century AD are trying to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic (unitary) state based on a mythical doctrine right from the day we gained independence.
In this never ending process of learning, I will be one of the happiest persons if someone can enlighten me by disproving the above with some archeological/epigraphic facts/evidence (not assumptions/hypothesis) to prove the existence of Hela/Sinhala before the 9th century AD.
Strangely, the learned gentleman Mr. Bandu De Silva says, I have presented a picture of an ‘imagined Tamil presence’ in the country in the past comparable to the weight of preponderant evidence of the existence of Sinhala element. I will leave it to the intelligent readers to decide.
- Mahavamsa Myth and its Implications in today’s context
Mr. Bandu De Silva’s main argument was how Mahavamsa can be connected to the present ethnic issue/debate and how it can be attributed to the present day ultra-nationalist chauvinism in Sri Lanka. Even though I have said enough on this issue (above) and in my article, how the present day Sinhala-Buddhists accrued the Mahavamsa mindset (the fusion between Mahavamsa and the present day Sinhala-Buddhists), let me further elaborate on how the fusion took place.
4.1. Imaginary Buddha
More than thousand years after the Parinibbana (passing away) of Lord Buddha the Mahavamsa has created an imaginary Buddha (Mahavamsa Buddha) who
- Made three magical visits to Sri Lanka paving the way for his Dhamma to prevail in the island in the future for a full 5000 years. (Today, the Sinhala-Buddhists believe, Sri Lanka is a ‘chosen land ’and ‘thrice blessed’ by none other than Buddha).
- Confirmed that Vijaya and his followers (convicted criminals and non-Buddhists), the ancestors of today’s Sinhala community, are said to have landed on the island of Lanka (Promised Land), exactly on the day he attains Parinibbana (his passing away).
- Made arrangements for the safety of Vijaya and his followers. He calls on Sakka (Indra), who in turn calls Vishnu (Upulvan) for divine intervention and help to protect his chosen people (Sinhala Jathiya) and their promised land (Dhammadeepa) and his Dhamma (Buddhism) for a full 5000 years.
Even though Siddharta Gautama was from a Hindu background, the concept of God in Hinduism (Brhama, Vishnu, Siva) is completely different from the (Brhama, Deva) in Buddhism, Buddha never mentioned about any Hindu Gods (Tripitaka). By introducing the above myths and attributing it to Buddha, the Mahavamsa is not only perverting Gautama Buddha’s peerless Dhamma, but also making it an orthodox Theravada Buddhist doctrine of Sinhala-Buddhism in Sri Lanka which ultimately has transformed the Gautama Buddha into a special patron of Sinhala (Mahavamsa) Buddhism, an ethnic religion (political) created in Sri Lanka. The outcome of the above is the Jathika Chinthanaya or Mahavansa-mindset [Rata (Sinhala Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion] which has manifested into Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-nationalist chauvinism today.
4.2. Racial Factor
The fourth important step, Mahavamsa justifies (Non-Buddhist/Tamil killing) by attributing it to a [Buddhist] Arahant who equates the killing of sixty thousand Tamils by DutuGemunu to a mere one and a half human, indicating that it is no crime in killing thousands of Tamils. Mr. Bandu De Silva says, as a frequent reader of Bhagavad Gita, Ven. Mahanama must have adopted this concept from the Gita. Of course, as I mentioned in my article, he has adopted many concepts from the Indian epics but unfortunately the present day Sinhalese do not know the stories in Gita, they only believe the Arahant’s words as the gospel truth that killing sixty thousand Tamils is equal to killing only one-and-a-half human (the reason why others/non-Buddhists think that Sinhala-Buddhism is somewhat of a violent barbaric form of Buddhism where killing Tamils is justified). This demonstrates that there has been substantial anti-Tamil (Saiva) sentiment for centuries and it provides ready fodder for contemporary Sinhalese propagandists. Even the great Buddhist/Pali scholar Dr. Walpola Rahula thero uses this incident without questioning its veracity in his defense of Sinhalese nationalism. If an Arahant can utter such racial statements, it is not rocket science for us to understand why the present day Buddhist monks are engaged in racial politics. Still I do not consider Ven. Mahanama was a racist or his doctrine was racist but it has definitely influenced racism in today’s Sinhalese society.
Here is what we read in the Dipavamsa, (Ch. XVIII, vv. 47-50).
- 47. “The Damilas, Sena and Guttaka, capturing Sura Tissa, ruled righteously for twenty-two years.”
- 48. “Prince Asela, son of Mutasiva, killing Sena and Guttaka ruled for ten years.”
- 49. “The Prince named Elara killing Asela ruled righteously for forty-four years.”
- 50. “Avoiding the paths of desire, hatred, fear and delusion, he ruled righteously being incomparable.”
Of course, Prince Duttugemunu killed Elara and ruled after him. Curiously enough the Dipavamsa, the earlier of the two old Pali Chronicles, makes no mention of a war between Elara and Duttugemunu, (a tale apparently fabricated to counteract the Saiva revival that was fast spreading through the Tamil country during this period). The graphically and romantically described campaigns occupying a large section of the Mahavamsa were written a century later than the Dipavamsa, and about 900 years after the time of Elara. It was evidently invented for the edification of the pious in Sri Lanka and to protect the faith from Saiva (Tamil) revivalists. Unfortunately today, it is considered as a Sinhala-Tamil war. Neither the Pali chronicles nor does the epigraphy say Duttugemunu was a Sinhala. Why abuse the good old Tamil Kings when our Sinhalese brethren, who lay exclusive claim to this Island, have a feeble case to support their make-belief?
If we turn to the later chronicles the Pujavali (13th century A.D.), the Rajaratnakara (16th century A.D.), and the Rajavali (18th century A.D.), it is not likely that these writers had read either the Dipavamsa or the Mahavamsa. The names of the kings of Sri Lanka, the order and the details of their activities in these Chronicles do not always agree with those found in the earlier Pali Chronicles. The writers of these chronicles had probably heard by word of mouth of a war between the Tamil Saivite king Elara and Duttugemunu whom the Buddhist priesthood had traditionally held to be an early champion of Buddhism.
These chroniclers, themselves priests, give a totally different picture of Elara. They represent him as a desecrator of Buddhist monuments and a destroyer of Buddhist temples. The author of the Mahavamsa, without doing any harm to the character of Elara as represented in the earlier Chronicle, the Dipavamsa, guilds his hero Duttugemunu with a fabulous account of a long and glorious campaign (religious war of liberation) against the Tamil king, a campaign about which the Dipavamsa was totally unaware.
4.3. Sinhala-Buddhist Only
As I have explained in my article, the concept ‘Rata (Sinhala-Buddhist Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala-Buddhist Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion)’ the three are attributed to Sri Lanka with an inseparable fusion (trinity) derived from Mahavamsa as I have listed above (Jathika Chinthanaya/Mahavamsa mindset) and its primary outcome is the Sinhala-Only, Buddhist-Only, unitary state. All others are secondary, considered as from outside (migrants, invaders, etc) who are allowed to stay but they should not demand anything.
From a very young age, the innocent Sinhala Buddhist children are brainwashed by their parents/grandparents, teachers, Buddhist priests (some members of the Maha Sangha), media personnel, text book writers, and some of the Daham Paasela (Sunday school) teachers in the Buddhist temples by engraving the Sinhala-Buddhist Mahavansa mindset and Sinhala Buddhist racism into their sub-conscious minds. They are taught to believe that the non-Sinhala Buddhists (Tamils) are invaders who do not belong to Sri Lanka. All the Tamils should be chased away to Tamil Nadu (where they belong) just the way their ancient Kings like Dutugemunu did. The country (Sri Lanka), Sinhala race and Buddhism should be protected from the Tamils. Now, from recently, they have also included the Christians in those needing to be thrown out. Due to the above conditioning, the Sinhala-Buddhist majority believes that the entire Sri Lanka belongs to them and the minorities are aliens.
When the Mahavamsa author Ven. Mahanama Thero created the above myth during the early period when there was a threat to Buddhism (mainly from South India), he would have never imagined that after 15 centuries, his myth would (misinterpreted in a political context) influence an ultra-nationalist/chauvinist mindset in the group of people (Sinhalese) that he created to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and that he will become an unfortunate victim for the ethnic crisis that manifested from his creation.
To be precise, a mythical mindset to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic (unitary) state that in turn influenced/created another mindset among the Tamils to create a separate Tamil state. For those who have misunderstood my article, I repeat that, by considering the era in which Mahavamsa was written (turbulent period), Ven. Mahanama cannot be blamed because his only motive was to protect Buddhism.
For the Sinhala Buddhists nationalists, who have become myopic over the years of misinformation or lack of information, the Mahavamsa constitutes a sacred unquestionably legitimate proof of their original Sinhala Buddhist heritage and ownership of the island. According to the Sinhala nationalism the Mahavamsa mythology provides proof beyond doubt that the Sinhala race was the chosen people, the predestined custodian of the island and the guardian of Buddhism.
The entire body of claims of Sinhala chauvinism, and the Sinhalese and their entire historical perception, all their inflated claims are based on this cooked up and concocted historical work called Mahavamsa.
- How Sinhalese becoming Majority and the Tamil ‘Vellalar Migration’ theory
The ethnic Tamils have found themselves in Sri Lanka in a political culture that promoted Buddhism from the beginning of written history. As a consequence, Tamils have assimilated into the Buddhist tribes at varying rates. During the last 2500 years, more Tamils and South Indians mixed with those who call themselves Sinhalese today than anybody else. If a comprehensive genetic study is conducted on the Sinhalese population, it will reveal this fact.
5.1. Colonial Aided colonization
In the 16th century, the Portuguese colonized a large number of South Indians (mainly from Cochin in the Malabar coast/presently Kerala and from Tutucorin in the Coromandel Coast/presently Tamil Nadu) in the entire western coast of Sri Lanka from Mannar to Matara. Of course, those settled in Mannar remained as Tamils but all others got converted to Sinhala Buddhists and Sinhala Catholics and today their descendents (6th generation from the South) have become distinct, ‘North Indian Vijaya’s Lion-blooded Sinhala Aryans’, the Nationalist Patriots and guardians of Sinhala, Sri Lanka and Buddhism, the job that Lord Buddha assigned to the Hindu God Vishnu as per the Mahavamsa. If these so called “Sinhaputhra/Boomiputhra of Heladiva” had remained as Tamils, (without assimilating with the Sinhalese) today the Tamils would have been the majority in Sri Lanka or if they had assimilated with the Veddas instead of Sinhalese, today the Veddas would have been considerably a large population in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Bandu De Silva accepts the fact that the Tamils and the low-country Sinhalese are heavily mixed but strangely he leaves out the up-country Sinhalese. The last four Kings who ruled Kandy from 1739 – 1815 were Nayakkar from Madurai (Tamil Nadu). During the 75 years period how many of their people (close associates and others), would have come from there and mixed with the up-country Sinhalese. It is said; the King had them married to Kandyan Sinhalese women of distinction (a royal affair). In fact the Kandyan rulers had close ties with Tamils than with low country Sinhalese.
5.2. Dutch and the Vellalars
A few Sinhalese pseudo ‘Intellects’ talk as if they have witnessed the Dutch bringing Vellalars to Jaffna from South India (Vellalar migration). While the Tamils ridicule such cheap His-story created by some charlatan for the serene joy of a few non-rational gullible and bigoted Sinhalese chauvinists, even the majority of the Sinhalese do not believe in such stories. This myth was concocted by those who are totally ignorant about Vellalar and the Jaffna society. I am really surprised that Mr. Bandu De Silva, once a diplomat who represented our country at international level believing in such myths.
The theory (myth) fabricated by a Sinhalese pseudo-scholar Gamani Iriyagolla, (Lawyer cum civil servant), without any recorded proof was “Many Tamils in Jaffna were brought in the 17th century by the Dutch to work in the tobacco plantations”. Later his theory was further modified by naming those imaginary migrants as ‘Vellalar’ and the reason behind the introduction of Thesawalamei Law (adopted from Malabar Muslim Customary Law) by Dutch was to encourage the Vellalar of South India to come and grow tobacco.
It was Markus Vink, a Dutch historian who first mentioned quoting a Dutch Record, in an article published in the ‘Journal of World History’, the Slave trade was flourishing during the Dutch period (17th century AD). There was a famine in South India during that period and slaves were brought to Sri Lanka and to a few other countries from the Coromandel Coast in South India in 1658-1663, 1670/71-1689/90. Although he mentioned that, ten thousand slaves were settled in the South of Sri Lanka (Colombo, Galle and the entire South West) where cinnamon grew to perfection; he did not say how many were settled in Jaffna.
5.2. Cinnamon Trade
From the time of the Portuguese, who had a monopoly of trade in spices, they developed the cultivation of spices in Sri Lanka and established a lucrative trade. Cinnamon was the staple export. It was ‘the Helen or bride of contest’ (as Baldaeus called it) for whose exclusive possession successive European invaders had in turn contended. Dutch Governor Rijckloff van Goens Jr. (1675-80) stated cinnamon is said to be the bride around whom they dance in Ceylon. If not for cinnamon, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British would not have taken such interest in this tiny island of Sri Lanka.
Other than for Cinnamon, coffee and coconut plantation in the South, the Dutch also used them for domestic purpose.
Let me quote from the report of the Dutch writer Markus Vink:
“In 1661, 10,000 slaves had been put to work by the company and by private individuals on the lands in South-western Ceylon, including 2,000 company slaves. In 1694, the city of Colombo alone had a slave population of 1,761.”
The Sinhalese population increased exponentially and became a majority in Sri Lanka only after these people brought by the Portuguese and the Dutch assimilated with the local Sinhalese population.
Only those that the British brought in the 19th century AD and settled in the upcountry did not assimilate with the Sinhalese (even though they were highly discriminated by the Vellalar Tamils) because the British had a different policy/agenda and they maintained it till they left the island in 1948. (If given a choice, they will prefer to join with the Sinhalese rather than Tamils).
5.3. Vellalar Domination
When the last Tamil king of Jaffna, Cankli Kumaran was fighting decisively with the Portuguese forces, Jaffna was well populated with Tamils.
The ‘Cambridge History of India’ says,
“The Tamils formed the three kingdoms of the Pandya, Chola, Chera, where the ruling element was the land tilling classes, the Vellalars.” (ibid. p. 539).
“Even in the fifth century AD, the South seems to have felt little influence of Aryan culture but the Dravidian Society was still free from the yoke of Brahmin caste system” (p. 540).
In other words, the Vellalars were the dominating caste among the Damelars (Tamils) and not the North Indian Brahmin caste.
From 13 Century AD, the economy of the Jaffna kingdom had been based exclusively on agriculturalists, predominantly of the Vellalar caste. The Vellalars were the land owners and they were dominating the entire peninsula. It is true that the Dutch also settled some of those slaves in Jaffna in the Tobacco fields to help the Vellalars but it is ridiculous to assume (without any proof) that there are considerable amount of recently migrated Tamils in Jaffna brought by the Dutch for Tobacco plantation or to say Vellalar community of Jaffna was brought from South India during the Colonial period. The Dutch did not bring Vallalar from South India; they brought labourers/slaves from South India to help the Vallalar with Tobacco cultivation and those labourers/slaves remained as a distinct caste until recently. Encouraged by the ambiguities in Dutch law which interpreted the bonded status of landless labourers as slave labour, vellalar landowners claimed ownership of these landless labourers, similar to western slavery.
The people of Jaffna knew very well right from the beginning, who is an original inhabitant and who were those tobacco cultivation laborers/slaves. They only ridicule at such myths created by the so called ‘Educated’ Sinhalese. Right from Ven. Mahanama, it has become a tradition for the Sinhalese-Buddhists to create myths whenever they feel there is a threat to [Rata (Sinhala Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion]. It is so contiguous that it has spread to some Sri Lankan Tamils as well who in turn have come up with another myth that there was a permanent Tamil kingdom in the North/East for 3000 years. (Myth creating more and more myths).
5.4. Tobacco Cultivation
Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam published an article on the very subject in 1994 where he took Markus Vink’s article and further elaborated on the Jaffna issue. According to him, the Dutch fully supported the local Vellalar farmers to grow Tobacco which was extensively cultivated in Vadamarachchi and in parts of Valikamam. The Dutch helped the Vellalar by bringing in workers/slaves from South India. He also says, these vellalar elites were able to command the labour of untouchable castes, who were migrating from south India until the 18th century. It is also very clear from his article that, the tobacco cultivation labourers/slaves were none other than the untouchable castes from South India who remained in Jaffna until recently as low castes.
Even Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam does not say how many were settled in Jaffna. What he said was, consequently, due to this settlement, the populations of the already densely populated provinces of Valikamam and Vadamarachchi increased and the older villages, with their intensively cultivated and subdivided land, recorded populations of as much as 5000 each (those already living plus those settled).
The Dutch Predikant Philippus Baldaeus in his famous 1682 historical account ‘A True and Exact Description of the Island of Ceylon’ says he first landed in the Malabar Coast (presently Kerala), stayed there for a very short time moving along the Malabar Coast to Coramandel Coast (presently Tamil Nadu) up to Nagapatnam, and then to Galle, and finally Jaffna (presently Sri Lanka). He was living in Jaffna during the period when the Dutch slave trade was flourishing, when tens of thousands of slaves were brought to Sri Lanka from Coromandel. He was preaching Christianity in the Tamil language (he learnt Tamil just enough to preach) to the people of Jaffna.
With regard to the similarity in the languages spoken in both Jaffna and Coromandel, this is what he said,
“I have HEARD it often asserted by the inhabitants of Jaffna Patnam that, that part of the country was TIMES PAST peopled from the Coromandal coast and hence the dialect of their fatherland.”
This statement is usually quoted out of context (misquoted) by the Sinhalese scholars. If we analyze the above statement, this Dutch officer says, he has only heard the peasants of Jaffna talking that the similarity in language is because, in the past history, the people of Jaffna were from Coromandal He did not say anywhere that he saw/witnessed people from Coromandal settling in Jaffna (Dutch settlements/Vellalar settlement). Without reading such historical accounts in full and without analyzing them, these pseudo-scholars not only misinterpret them but also make assumptions and come to wrong conclusions.
5.5. Tesavalamai Law
The adherence of special laws such as Tesavalamai by the Northern Tamil society in Sri Lanka is NOT due to any South Indian Vellalar or any Tobacco cultivation. It was only a customary law that governs property rights among the Tamils of Jaffna, codified by the Dutch in 1707 under the heading ‘The Malabar Laws and Customs’, under which not all property could be given away. A person could give away only the tetiatettam, i.e. property acquired by either husband during the period after married life and or the priests acquiring from such properties. Even of the tetiatettam property, the husband cannot alienate the whole property; the wife is entitled to half of it. Those properties inherited from the parents cannot be given away according to ones own wish. The Thesavalamai is part of some ancient customs of Tamils in Sri Lanka and India on the matrimonial rights and Inheritance with respect to property and intestate succession and has no relationship what so ever with the Malabar Muslim Customary Law of India.
As the rulers of Jaffna, the Dutch accepted the customs of the Northern Tamil society and by the order of the Governor Simons in 1706 it was promulgated by the Dutch Government as a customary law of Jaffna and codified it under the heading ‘The Malabar Laws and Customs’. These Sinhala pseudo-scholars have totally misinterpreted the customary law of Jaffna Tamils (Thesawalamai) by comparing it with the Muslim Customary Law of India. Not only Thesawalamai Law, it should be noted that the colonial rulers also accepted Kandyan Law, Muslim Law, Buddhist Law and Hindu Law in Sri Lanka in addition to their Roman-Dutch Law and English Law.
5.6. Converting to Christianity
Like the the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonial powers who only dealt with the Vellalar who were so powerful within the Jaffna Tamil society, even the Sinhala dominated governments in the South continued the same practice after independence.
The Portuguese went about converting the remaining members of the royal family and the Vellalar Tamil aristocrats of the Kingdom of Jaffna (after its fall) into Catholicism. They made them the headmen of Jaffna and give them the Portuguese title Don. These titles continued into the Dutch period as seen in the names of signatories of the Thesavalami laws and customs of Jaffna which was codified under the Dutch.
The signatories of the Thesavalami laws and customs of Jaffna were, Don Philip Villaivarasa Mutaliyar, Don Anthony Narayanan, Don Frnscisco Arulampalam Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chantirasekara Mana Muthaliyar, Don Martino Manappuli Mutaliyar, Don Franscisco Vanniyarasa Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chayampunata Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chutukavala Chenathirayan Mutaliyar, Don Louwys Putar, And Don Francisco Rasarathina Mutaliyar.
During the Dutch rule, in an attempt to control the powerful Vellalar elite, all the holders of Muthaliyarships were asked to present their letters of appointment and prove their titles. The census indicated that in the four provinces of Jaffna there was a total of 516 Mudaliyars. However hard they tried, the Dutch could not break the dominance of the Hindu Vellalar land owners. Finally, the Dutch introduced a legislation, no native could have title to land without becoming a Christian (Protestant) and being baptized. As a result, most Vellalar families who were agricultural land owners in Jaffna accepted baptism but behind closed doors they still practiced Hinduism. Dutch religious leaders lost hope and departed from Jaffna. As a result, the local Christians (Protestant) had no religious leadership and many of them converted back to Hinduism. Even though the Dutch could build Forts, they could not establish a Dutch Reformed Church in Jaffna like what they did in many places in Colombo and Galle. The British who succeeded the Dutch were also unsuccessful, unlike in the South; their mission could not establish a Church of England in Jaffna.
The first Christian missionary; American Mission (Congregationalists), under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, landed in Ceylon in 1812. When the American missionaries first arrived in Jaffna, they found that the greatest impact they could make on the powerful Tamil Hindu Vellalar community was through education. They put up well equipped Schools, hospitals, etc and established the Church of South India. Some of the Vellalar Tamil families became Christians and took American names permanently when they were baptized.
Murugesar Ramanathar became Francis Asbury, Ambalavanar Chitampalam became Nathan Strong, Ethirnayagam Murugesar became Cyrus Mills, Muttukumaru Sithamparapillai became William Nevins, Arumugam Nannithamby became Robert Williams, Vairavanathar Sinnathamby became William Cotton Mather and many others followed.
After the Americans established their mission schools, churches and hospital with the help of the powerful Vellalar, they deviated from the system by taking in “low caste” Tamils, and started baptizing them giving them Christian/Western names so as to erase their “low caste” identities. The Hindu Vellalar Tamil nationalist Arumuga Navalar launched a campaign to deny “low caste” Tamils access to missionary schools but failed.
5.7. Tracing the Tamil Ancestry
Mr. Bandu De Silva goes on to say, the Tamils do not have a continuous history going back to a date beyond the seventeenth century. I do not know how he came to such a conclusion? In the case of the Sinhalese, their family name/surname is constantly carried forward from generation to generation (Eg, Ratwatte, Don Hewavitharana, De Silva, etc), where as the Tamils do not carry forward a constant family name/surname and their ancestors are not known beyond three generations. (Eg, we do not know who Don Philip Villaivarasa Mutaliyar’s forefathers/decedents are). Only a very few Vellalar families opted to constantly carry forward their family name/surname and therefore their ancestors can be traced back up to the 17th century and not beyond.
5.7. Colonial Lackeys
It was neither the Dutch nor the British but the Americans who built those leading schools in Jaffna which helped the Tamils to receive an English education, an advantage they had over the Sinhalese when it came to white collar government jobs under the British. There is no truth in the Sinhalese claim that the Tamils collaborated with the British against the Sinhalese. Very similar to some of the Sinhala rebellion against the British rule even the Tamils have rebelled. Pandara Vanniyan (Kulasegaram Vairamuthu Pandaravanniyan) was known as one of last native Tamil chiefs to challenge British rule.
In fact it was not the Tamils but the Sinhalese who collaborated with the British. Unlike the Indians (Mahatma Gandhi, Jawalhal Nehru, Mohd Ali Ginna, Subash Chandra Bose, and others) who suffered for their Independence, the Sinhalese whom Anagarika Dhammapala termed as ‘Kalu Suddho’ collaborated with the British (not a bad move anyway), who gave us Independence on a platter (without shedding a single drop of tears, sweat or blood) and made them leaders to rule the entire country.
5.8. Yarlpana Vaipava Malai
Just like Dhatusena invited Ven.Mahanama to compile the Mahavamsa, the Dutch Governor Jan Maccara may have had an interest in knowing the history of the people who were dominating one part of the country and he invited Mayilvagana Pulavar, the right person who could compile it. This has nothing to do with tobacco cultivation as some of the Sinhalese charlatans are trying to misinterpret. Just like the Mahavamasa written by a the poet monk Ven. Mahanama in 6th century AD who glorified the Theravada Buddhists, the Yarlpana Vaipava Malai is a book written by the Tamil poet Mayilvagana Pulavar in 1736 AD and he glorified the supremacy of the Tamil Hindu Vellalar. Like the Mahavamsa, it also contains folklore, legends and myths mixed with historical anecdotes, most of them cannot be proved.
The only good thing that the Tamil militancy did to the Sri Lankan Tamils was, getting rid of the caste system and the Vellalar supremacy but in doing so, they got rid of most of the well educated Vellalar Tamils.
- Saivism and the Ancient Hindu shrines
I am not going to comment much on the antiquity/existence of five recognized ‘Eeswararms’ of Siva before the arrival of Thero Mahinda because until now, even with all the latest advanced technology, there is no proper archaeological research conducted on them.
The worship of Siva was prevalent in Sri Lanka from even before the mission of Mahinda in the 3rd century BC, the mission that resulted in king Tissa of Anuradapura and many of his subjects being converted to Buddhism. After all, the father of this Anuradapura ruler was Muta Siva and his brother was Maha Siva whose names imply association with the worship of Siva. The numerous occurrences of the personal name Siva in the early Brahmi records and also in the early Pali chronicles leave us in no doubt that the cult of Siva was prevalent in the island, unless of course some etymologist/linguist comes up with a different meaning for the term Siva in the early Sri Lankan/Indian languages.
The earliest reference in the Pali Chronicles to the Saiva Shrine at Trincomalee is found in the Mahavamsa (Ch. XXXVII, vv. 40-44). It states that Mahasen‘built also the Manivihara and founded three viharas destroying the temple of the gods the Gokanna, Erukavilla, and another in the village of the Brahman Kalanda’. In a note below Geiger the official translator of the Mahavamsa, states, “according to the Tika, the Gokanna Vihara is situated on the coast of the Eastern sea, the two other Viharas in Ruhuna, the Tika also adds everywhere in the Island of Lanka he established the doctrine of the Buddha having destroyed the temples of the unbelievers, i.e. having abolished the Phallic symbols of Siva and so forth”. In his foot note quoting the Pali version of the Tika Geiger clarifies that King Mahasen destroyed symbols of Siva:
“Evam sabbaththa Lankadipamhi kuditthikAnam Alayam viddhaamesetvA, SivalingadAyo nAsetvA buddhasAsanam eva patittahapesi”
If what the Tika says is to be accepted, Ruhuna and the Eastern coast would appear to have been early homes of Saivaism, the Tamil religion par excellence. The authors of the Pali Chronicles and the monk author of the later 13th century AD Tika were Buddhist priests, who at that time were the bitterest opponents of Saivaism and those who supported it in Sri Lanka, as we see from their writings. The truth and accuracy of the statements made by the commentator cannot be verified. It has however been pointed out that the unknown writer of the Tika (who also mentioned about the mysterycal ‘Vamsa texts’ known as ‘Sihala Atthakatha’) had used his piety and his imagination rather than verify facts to explain the allusions found in the Mahavamsa.
Coming over to historical data furnished by Dr. Vigneswaran, it is his view having examined many sources that the original Thirukoneswaram temple is under sea. The original temple now under sea was a rock cave temple built around an earlier existing Shivalingam.
What is important is not what is said in the ‘Mahavamsa’, or Tika or the thevaaram that the ancient Tamil Saiva poet, Thirignanasampanthar sang on ‘Theiruketheesvaram’ and ‘Thirukoneswaram’ or the reference to Siva temple in relation to Raavana in Ramaayana or what Dr. Paul E. Peiris declared at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society or the remains of several Saiva shrines unearthed at Anuradapura, or king Sena1 (833 – 853) getting converted to Saivism or even what Dr. Vigneswaran furnished. What is needed is an extensive archaeological research that is still pending.
Professor C. Pathmanathan suggested that systematic excavation done in the Trincomalee district could bring valuable historical evidence to establish not only the existence of the ancient symbols of Siva but also the history of Tamils in the country.
Regarding Buddha’s three visits, another creative imagination of the great poet Ven. Mahanama, Mr. De Silva says, let it remain in the realm of belief just like many other myths. With the modern technology, it is not a herculean task to find the antiquity of the three ‘chaityas’ despite its renovation/embellishment but who would want to shoot themselves on their own foot? It is easy to rule/preach the masses if they remain gullible.
Today the Sri Lankan Tamils have lost everything and are reduced to refugees in their own land. It is a bitter historical truth that, it was not only the colonial rulers who were responsible for this state of affairs but also the competitiveness, superiority complex, caste discrimination, disunity, jealousy, lack of co-operation and lack of patriotism among the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is unlikely this situation can be changed until the Tamil politicians and officials truly realize the gravity of the situation and apply themselves sincerely to solving these urgent problems which still exists within the Tamil community.
Let me quote the powerful saying “United we stand, divided we fall”. The divided Tamils who were struggling for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka do not even deserve a federal solution. The unity and solidarity among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans (North, East, Upcountry, Colombo and the Tamil speaking Muslims) is the number one priority. Unless and until all the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka unite, they do not deserve any political solution. These people (leaders) have to decide whether or not the Tamils are to continue living as refugees. The best lesson they can learn is from their own Sinhalese brethren with whom they have lived for many centuries. Their unity (irrespective of their differences) in defeating the LTTE should be admired.
The fall of LTTE is one good thing that has happened to Sri Lankans and especially to the Sri Lankan Tamils. If it had continued for another few decades, it would have reduced the Sri Lankan Tamils (Demelas) to the state of Veddas, another indigenous population that lives in the island from pre-historic period. What development have they done to the land/people of Vanni within their 25 years of self rule with millions of dollars they received from the Tamil Diaspora, other than fighting a losing war and making the people refugees in their own land?
Unfortunately, the present government has also succumbed to the Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-nationalists (obsessed with Mahavansa mindset) masquerading as Patriots with their hidden agenda to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic state. By encouraging certain myopic actions such as erecting Buddha statues in places where there are no Buddhists, Sinhala Only National anthem, and so on and by delaying the political solution, they are only aiding to spawn another Prabakaran. For the Tamil speaking people, Sri Lanka still remains as a land of broken promises and shattered dreams. Let us not repeat the bitter history again by falling back to the 1956 era.
These are some of the important and critical issues that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) have to look into if the government is genuine in working towards finding a lasting solution for an ethnically peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.
The kingdoms of Anuradapura and Polonnaruwa were NEVER known as Sinhala kingdoms and the Naga and Tamil kings who ruled these kingdoms never called themselves ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, or ‘Sinhala’. There is no evidence to prove that the Nagas were Sinhalese or they became Sinhalese.
“This is the real story. Sinhalese were in Sri Lanka from the beginning and Tamils came to Sri Lanka recently and that’s why Tamils are minority in Sri Lanka and Sinhalese are majority. Tamil home land is Tamilnadu not Sri Lanka. This is the fact which you can not swallow.”
Where did you learn this nonsense? Sinhalese were in Sri Lanka from the beginning! When was this beginning? Was the ‘Balangoda man’ a Sinhalese? When did you think the Tamils came to lanka from India? When did the Karawa, Duruwa, Salagama and similar castes come to Lanka from India? How do these castes identify themselves now? When did the Sinhala identity assert itself? Please read the publications of Professors. Leslie Gunawardene, Gananath Obeysekera, Michael Roberts and others of similar scholarship, to understand what we are and where we came from!
The ‘Red Indians” are a minority in the USA now and the ‘Whites’ are majority. Does this mean that the ‘Whites’ were in the USA before the ‘Red Indians’? What sort of logic are you peddling?
Please state clearly if you believe that the Tamils in Sri Lanka have to become Sinhalese to survive there. Do not bandy words like integration and assimilation to cloud your intent. Do integration and assimilation mean that Tamils have to lose their identity to prove they are loyal Sri Lankans? This is like asking men and women to run around naked to prove what their sex is!
Please grow up and open your mind. When you do that you will become rational and hence a true Buddhist.
An expanded version of the Opening Address of Welcome from Senaka Weeraratna, Chapter Leader, Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) Colombo, Sri Lanka Chapter delivered at the 2nd Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference held in Colombo on October 26, 2017.
Most Venerable Aggamaha Pandita Kotugoda Dhammawasa Mahanayake Thera, and Venerable members of the Maha Sangha, Hon.Speaker, Mr. Bob Isaacson, President of Dharma Voices for Animals and Chapter Leaders of Dharma Voices for Animals, President of the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Dharma Voices for Animals, Colombo Chapter, being a Jt. Convenor together with the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, of this 2nd Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference, I welcome you all to this unique occasion. It is unique because we are gathered here not to discuss problems affecting members of our species, which are what almost all meetings of humans tend to discuss but to focus attention on the plight of other species that we humans share this planet with. It is this aspect which makes this gathering extraordinary.
It is a conference not to discuss the commercial exploitation of animals under the seemingly inoffensive terms such as animal husbandry, livestock industry, inland fisheries, goat farming, cattle farming and the like, but to direct attention to their suffering on a mind boggling scale mostly at the hands of humans that can no longer be treated as a closed book. We take great pride in the progress of civilization in regard to human rights but we have failed to maintain ethical coherence when it comes to our treatment of the other eight million species that inhabit this planet with us. We place high value on human life but almost zero value on non – human animal life. All our pretences to be civilized are put to shame by our double standards and sheer hypocrisy.
This big gap must be bridged. This Conference is a step forward in that direction.
The main objectives of this Conference are:
1) To promote DVA’s Sri Lanka Project which calls on all Buddhists to refrain from harming animals and become vegetarian or vegan
2) To require all Buddhists to become vegetarian or vegan for at least one day per week and forego flesh foods in the month celebrating vesak
3) To appeal to Buddhist clergy to consume a vegetarian/vegan diet while calling on the public to serve only plant-based food as dana to clergy.
4) To call for a ban on cattle slaughter.
5) To call for the enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill without further delay.
This Conference has two main platforms:
1) To draw attention to animal suffering, and
2) To work out remedies including personal transformation through change of diet by humans to reduce such suffering.
In this context it must be mentioned that in 2015 after evaluating more than 800 case studies the World Health Organization (WHO) gave its verdict on the cancer risks of red and processed meat. It is alarming to note that processed meat is now being classified as a ‘definite’ cause of cancer, and red meat being identified as a ‘probable’ cause.
In the wake of these findings it has therefore become a matter of urgency for all concerned people to take active steps to promote a vegetarian/ vegan diet. Buddhists in particular must set the example because Buddhism by and large recognises animal rights more than any other religion except Jainism. Buddhism holds that all life forms are sacred.
The Buddhist first precept
“I undertake to abstain from taking life.” can be given also an implied and pro active meaning ‘I undertake to save lives in danger from abuse and slaughter’ . This is exactly what the Buddha did in his time. He walked from Devale to Devale asking people to cease killing animals by way of animal sacrifice.
The first precept is not only about abstaining from taking life but it can also be interpreted to contain an implied calling to save lives in danger. Buddhism opposes all forms of animal exploitation. Killing of animals for food is contrary to Buddhist teaching. Kill and eat is not a Buddhist principle.
Greed, craving and desire to eat meat constitute a mental defilement. To eat meat without bothering to consider its true source is not right mindfulness. Kindness and compassion, and craving for meat cannot go together.
When the celebrated Russian writer Leo Tolstoy said ‘As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields”, he was merely echoing in different language what the Buddha had said in the Sutta Nipata 2, 600 years ago,
Of old there were only three diseases -desire, want of food, and decay. Owing to the killing of the cattle, there sprang ninety-eight diseases.” (Suttanipata: 2:7:27-30:)
Wars, ethnic and religious riots and other forms of related human unrest and violence are collective karmic results of generated hatred when group-slaughtered animals, which die in great fear and hatred, are reborn as humans. Moreover the pain vibrations of dying animals are not without adverse consequences for humanity.
For hundreds of thousands of years
the stew in the pot has brewed hatred and resentment
that is difficult to stop.
If you wish to know why there are disasters of armies and weapons in the world,
listen to the piteous cries from the slaughterhouse at midnight.”
-Ancient Chinese Verse translated by Gold Mountain Monastery Staff
An Indian Scientist, Dr. Madan Mohan Bajaj in his book ‘A New Approach’ claims that the slaughtering of innocent animals and their cries before death is responsible for a large number of natural disasters such as Earthquakes e.g.
Festival in Nepal in 2014 where over 500,000 head of cattle were slaughtered brutally was followed shortly afterwards by a Nepali Earthquake in April 2015 that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000.
The daily butchering of thousands of animals continually for several years generates acoustic anisotropy due to Einsteinian Pain Waves (EPW) emitted by dying animals. And the accumulated acoustic anisotropy is found to be related to the stress history of rocks.
The French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard in a recent article ‘ A Plea for the Animals’ explains the double standard of humans by use of the expression ‘ Cognitive dissonance ’.” You split your mind. You do terrible things to others including animals and play the role of good father at home on the other”. He says ‘if you keep on being ethically incoherent there is something in you that is not being healthy, that undermines your flourishing. It is not physically and mentally healthy to have this deep incoherence”
Public Policy in Sri Lanka
It is a national shame that the Animal Welfare Bill which the Law Commission released in 2006 is still languishing in the pipeline without any single Political party making a concerted effort to ensure its enactment. Both main rival political camps in the country are fighting shy to better the lives of animals though law reform providing greater protection and care. Animals have no votes and therefore they fail to get into the radar of public policy making except in the instances of commercial exploitation.
We must re – fashion public policy to be animal friendly like in the pre-colonial era. The Mahavamsa and the Chulavamsa provides specific examples of how Sinhala Kings cared for animals worthy of being recorded in historical chronicles as good meritorious deeds.
The concept of Justice in the Sinhala Legal Heritage was much wider than the idea of Justice rooted in the western legal tradition because it included protection of animals not only from mere cruelty.
The challenge we face is to revive Buddhist values that save lives. The view that animals are there to serve human ends even at the expense of their lives is not part of Buddhist teaching.
Heavy emphasis is placed on the idea of Reconciliation. It is the Buzz word. Why should it be confined to members of only one species? Ideally speaking Reconciliation in a Buddhistic sense must apply across the Board. Humans have been engaged in wrong doing since time memorial to other species. The least we can do is to apologise to them in the form of a catharsis though their lives cannot be restored. We are today still struggling to achieve accountability for wrongs done to various groups by more powerful forces by way of intra – species accountability. The day is not far off when there will be calls for inter – species accountability as part of ethical co – herence.
Bar Association of Sri Lanka
The legal profession especially in Sri Lanka must become proactive in the animal rights field. A life of an animal is dear to it as much as it is to us humans. It is not only a moral or ethical issue. It is also very much a Justice issue. Animals are the most inhumanely treated and victimized members of our moral community.
No lawyer worth his salt can deny this plain simple fact. To do otherwise is to draw attention to one’s insensitivity towards others or lack of a true sense of justice.
I call on the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to join us in demanding the enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill. Its deafening silence on Animal related issues including inhumane killing of stray dogs does no good to its overall image. The world is changing to accommodate animals even in national constitutions. Sri Lanka too must march forward with the times.
Public commissions of Inquiry are established at the drop of a hat in Sri Lanka to probe every conceivable alleged wrong doing except in the case of heinous crimes committed on animals e.g. slaughter houses, ritual slaughter, home slaughter, animal sacrifice and the like. The crimes perpetrated against animals live in the black hole of our collective amnesia unable to awaken our moral conscience.
Religious Festivals should be slaughter free
The screams of animals being slaughtered under most primitive unregulated conditions and in the backyards of homes during times of religious festivals go unheard and unnoticed in the corridors of power of this pre-dominantly Buddhist country. In England home slaughter is banned. Ritual slaughter is regulated and required to be performed only in registered abattoirs by skilled persons carrying a certificate. Women and children sometimes carrying blunt knives are prohibited from slaughtering animals in the backyards of their homes in England as part of ritual animal sacrifice.
All Religious Festivals in Sri Lanka should by law be made slaughter free. A vigorous advocate of Vegetarianism, the Italian monk, Ven Lokanatha wrote a Book on the subject entitled ‘ The Crime of Killing’ which remains unpublished.
There he boldly declares
” Any religion that allows killing is false. and Why? because it is impossible to kill with any trace of love left in the human heart. The first thing that dies in the act of killing is love. A religion which permits animal slaughter is based on Greed, Selfishness, and Hatred. How can you eat animals by killing them. Your love is in your text, not in your heart. You tell the animals” Your death is my life”. I am a vegetarian Buddhist and I tell the animals: ‘ Live and Let Live’.
Buddhism is the religion of boundless loving – kindness”
Extracted from ‘ The Western Contribution to Buddhism ‘ by William Peiris
Buddhist Cultural Centre: 2017
Our children are the protectors of animals in the future. Hence the importance of animal protection education from the very beginning of a child’s education. Legal education in both the Law Faculties and Sri Lanka Law College must offer study courses that also include units on Animal Rights along with Human Rights, or special courses on Animal Rights.
Today you will hear many voices speaking on behalf of animals at this Conference. They are drawn from a variety of fields e.g. nutrition, medicine, religion, veterinary science, law, humanities, politics etc. and backgrounds local and foreign. Animal Rights activists who are well represented in this Hall can be expected to have a field day in the ensuing deliberations. We have arranged for Conference meals in line with our animal friendly beliefs and practices – all vegan food. Vegetarianism and veganism are both gestures of renunciation. A Meatless Sri Lanka is a noble ideal worth pursuing as part of our ethical and moral advancement.
This esoteric Conference is the fruit of the labour of a number of people too numerous to mention by individual name. However it would be tantamount to an unpardonable lapse and a dereliction of duty if I fail to acknowledge three outstanding efforts, namely, the magnanimity of the DVA parent organization led by Bob Isaacson in funding a sizeable part of the expenses, the contribution of Dr. Lanka Dissanayake and her enthusiastic team from the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, in handling the logistics with great attention paid to detail, together with constant guidance in negotiating numerous twists and turns along the way, and Ms. Renuka D. Nagodavithana, DVA Colombo Chapter Co – ordinator, for her invaluable services in several areas to ensure the success of this Conference.
I thank you all once again for your kind presence at this noteworthy gathering.
Source : http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2017/10/27/meatless-sri-lanka-a-noble-ideal-worth-pursuing-as-part-of-our-ethical-and-moral-advancement/comment-page-1/
SOME HATRED COMMENTS AGAINST TAMILS IN MAHAVAMSA
- Chapter 1
• The king Dutthaga mani dwelling there while he made war upon the Damilas, built a mantle cetiya over it eighty cubits high. Thus was the Mahiyangana-thupa completed. Para 9 chap 1
• and then she longed to drink (the water) that had served to cleanse the sword with which the head of the first warrior among king Elära’s warriors had been struck off, (and she longed to drink it) standing on this very head, and moreover (she longed) to adorn herself with garlands of unfaded lotus-blossoms brought from the lotusmarshes of Anuradhapura.
• The queen told this to the king, and the king asked the soothsayers. When the soothsayers heard it they said: `The queen’s son, when he has vanquished the Damilas and built up a united kingdom, will make the doctrine to shine forth brightly.’
• But when it was said to them: `Never will we fight with the Damilas; with such thoughts eat ye this portion here,’ Tissa dashed the food away with his hand, but Gämani who had (in like manner) flung away the morsel of rice, went to his bed, and drawing in his hands and feet he lay upon his bed. The queen came, and caressing Gamani spoke thus: `Why dost thou not lie easily upon thy bed with limbs stretched out, my son?’ `Over there beyond the Ganga are the Damilas, here on this side is the Gotha-ocean, how can I lie with outstretched limbs?’ he answered. When the king heard his thoughts he remained silent.
• Damilas who desecrated at that time thupas and other (sacred memorials), this strong man used to tear asunder, treading one leg down with his foot while he grasped the other with his hand, and then (he would) cast them out (over the walls).
• When they observed the diminution of the Damilas they told the king; but the command `Take him with his prey they could not carry out. Nandhimitta thought: `And if I do thus, it is but the destruction of men and brings not the glory to the doctrine. In Rohana there are still princes who have faith in the three gems. There will I serve the king, and when I have overcome all the Damilas and have conferred the overlordship on the princes, I shall make the doctrine of the Buddha to shine forth brightly.’ Then he went and told this to prince Gamani. When this latter had taken counsel with his mother he received him with honour, and with high honours the warrior Nandhimitta continued to dwell with him.
• King Kakavannatissa caused a guard to hold the Damilas in check to be kept continually at all the fords of the Mahäganga, Now the king had, by another wife, a son named Dighabhaya; and he gave the guard near the Kacchaka ford into his charge. And to form the guard this (prince) commanded each noble family within a distance of two yojanas round (to send) one son thither.
• Afterwards prince Gamani, reviewing his host, sent to announce to his father the king: `I will make war upon the Damilas.’
• Arrived at Mahiyangana he overpowered the Damila Chatta. When he had slain the Damilas in that very place he came then to Ambatitthaka, which had a trench leading from the river, and (conquered) the Damila Titthamba; fighting the crafty and powerful foe for four months he (finally) overcame him by cunning,’ since he placed his mother in his view. When the mighty man marching thence down (the river) had conquered seven mighty Damila princes in one day and had established peace, he gave over the booty to his troops. Therefore is (the place)called Khemäräma.
• All the Damilas on the bank of the river who had escaped death threw themselves for protection into the city named Vijitanagara. In a favourable open country he pitched a camp, and this became known by the name Khandhavarapitthi.
• When the king had (thus) put them both to the test he marched to Vijitanagara. Near the south gate befell a fearful battle between the warriors. But near the east gate did Velusumana, sitting on his horse, slay Damilas in great numbers.
• Theraputta his great club,’ and thus, rushing each by himself into the streets, they shattered the Damilas there.
• the army of the Damilas was scattered; nay, Elara turned to flee and they slew many Damilas. The water in the tank there was dyed red with the blood of the slain, therefore it was known by
• When the king, after winning the victory, had slain all the Damilas he went up on the terrace of the palace,
• conquering of the Damilas this people was oppressed by me. It is not possible to levy a tax; yet if without a tax I build the Great Thüpa how shall I be able to have bricks duly made?’
• Then Tissa the brahman and the seven Damilas also sent the king a written message concerning the (handing over of the) parasol. The sagacious king sent a written message to Tissa the brahman: `The kingdom is now thine, conquer thou the Damilas.’ He answered: `So be it,’ and fought a battle with the Damilas, but they conquered him.
• Thereupon the Damilas made war upon the king; in a battle near Kolambalaka the king was vanquished. (Near the gate of the Tittharama he mounted into his car and fled.
History of Sri Lanka [Ceylon]
Historical evidence of 3 pre-colonial kingdoms in Ceylon
When the Portuguese landed on the island in 1505 there was not one but three kingdoms, namely the Tamil Jaffna Kingdom, the Sinhala Kotte Kingdom and the Sinhala Kandyan Kingdom.
They captured the Tamil Kingdom in 1621; nearly 116 years since capturing the Sinhala kingdoms. The Tamil King Sangili was taken to Goa and hanged. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaffna_kingdom).
The majority Sinhalese dismiss this historical fact as medieval nonsense. A counter challenge to this fact can be viewed at the link below: (http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/05/reply-archaeology-sparks-new-conflict.html
“… statements that the country had been united for 2,500 years flies in the face of history. There was for some centuries an independent Tamil kingdom and the chronicles report frequent wars between Singhalese and Tamil kings. Separate Singhalese and Tamil communities existed on the island from the pre-colonial era until the administrative unification of the island by the British in 1833.” (Supplement to Professor Virginia Leary Report on a Mission to Sri Lanka 1981-83 published by the ICJ)
This unification was carried out by the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission in 1833.
(http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-13139.htmlRobert Knox’s narration of his capture visiting Ceylon and his ultimate escape here on this link
The 1799 minutes of the first British colonial secretary of Ceylon, Sir Hugh Cleghorn to His Majesty’s government: “Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouve to that of Chillow, and the Malabars [another name for Tamils] who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners’. Ponnambalam, Satchi (1983) Sri Lanka: the national question and the Tamil liberation struggle (London: Zed Books)
The British colonial secretary James Emerson Tennent, (1845-1850) to Ceylon wrote, “In pre-colonial days there was the Tamil Kingdom in the north-east (Jaffna) and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the south, called Kotte and Kandy. Drawings and maps from the time of the Greek explorer Ptolemy, and later from the period when the British came to the island, show how the areas of the Tamils and the Sinhalese were recorded separately from antiquity”. Emerson, Tennent J (1859) Ceylon, Volume 2 (London: Longman Press)
Sir Alexander Johnston, a Chief Justice in the British government wrote on 01.07.1827 to the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland,
“…I think it may safely be concluded both from them and all the different histories which I have in my possession that the race of people who inhabited the whole of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the Island of Ceylon at the period of their greatest agricultural prosperity spoke the same language, used the same written character and had the same origin, religion, castes, laws and manners as the race of people who at the same period inhabited the southern peninsula
BRIEF ANALYSIS OF SRI LANKA’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS:
1948 The Citizenship Act disenfranchising Indian Tamil Plantation workers was passed in Parliament. One million 3rd generation plantation workers had been living in the island for over 115 years. They were brought to the island by the British from South India to work in Tea and Rubber plantations in the hill country. 100,000 plantation Tamils were victimised. (Violation of UDHR article – 21)
Sinhala colonisation – As a result of many years of State planned Sinhala colonisation since 1948 in the Tamil homeland (North and East), the Sinhala governments and its destructive agents plundered and robbed 50% of the ancestral lands of the Tamils in the North East of Sri Lanka. (Violation of UDHR articles – 17)
1956 The “Sinhala Only” Act was passed in the Sri Lankan Parliament. This Act made Tamils second class citizens in the island. Tamils staged peaceful protests in Colombo and Gal Oya. 150 Tamils were burnt or hacked to death; 20 Women were raped; 3000 were made refugees and their properties were looted by Sinhala mobs. (Violation of UDHR article – 2, 3, 5, 12, 17 )
In 1957, the “Banda Chelva”pact and in 1965 the “Dudley-Chelva” pact. These agreements were based on a quasi-federal system devolving certain powers to the Tamils in the North East province. These were the first of several agreements and pacts signed between Tamil leaders and Sinhala leaders to resolve the political turmoil in the country, that were unilaterally abrogated by Sri Lanka.
1958 Anti Tamil riots in Sinhala areas. Massacre of Tamils, looting of their properties, setting fire to their houses. 25,000 Tamils were made refugees; 500 Tamils were burnt or hacked to death; 200 Women were raped and Tamil properties were looted or destroyed by Sinhala mobs. (Violation of UDHR articles – 2, 3, 5, 12, 17)
1961 Tamil non-violent (Satyagraha) civil disobedience campaign in the North and East was disrupted by the security forces, protesters were beaten and arrested. (Violation of UDHR articles – 5, 9, 20)
1964 The Pact (Srima-Shastri) to evacuate Tamil plantation workers of Indian origin was signed. They were living in the island for over 131 years. 650,000 Plantation Tamils became stateless persons. (Violation of UDHR articles – 4, 15, 23)
1972 Equal education opportunities for Tamil students were denied. Standardisation on University admission was introduced. (Violation of UDHR article – 26)
1974 The Fourth International Tamil research Conference held on 10/01/1974 in Jaffna was disrupted by the Sri Lankan Police. 9 Tamils were brutally killed. (Violation of UDHR articles – 2, 3, 20, 27)
1977 In July, Tamil United Liberation Front-TULF, contested and won overwhelmingly at the Parliamentary election giving them a mandate to exercise the “Right to Self-determination” and establish Tamil Eelam in the North East. In 1983 August 8, Sri Lankan government enacts the 6th amendment to the constitution and rejected the right to self-determination of the Tamil people, the mandate voted by the Tamils in 1977 general election. (Violation of UDHR articles – 8, 10, 21)
1979 July, Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was introduced in Sri Lanka. This Act gives a free hand to the Security forces to arrest, detain, torture, rape, kill and dispose bodies with impunity. Arrested people could be detained for three months without being produced in courts. (Violations of UDHR articles – 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
1981 The Jaffna Public Library containing 95,000 volumes was completely destroyed in a fire set by a group of Police officers who went on a rampage in the Jaffna city on May 31, 1981. 95, 000 volumes of unrecoverable-invaluable books were burnt. (Violations of UDHR articles – 2, 21, 24, 27)
1983 Since independence in 1948, more than 35 years of peaceful non-violent struggle by the Tamils protesting against Sinhala oppression, were suppressed by violent means by the Sri Lankan security forces, inflicting loss of many lives and much material damage to the Tamils. (Violations of UDHR articles – 3, 4, 5,9,13,20)
1983 The Government masterminded anti-Tamil riots in July 83. More than 6,000 Tamils were killed by the Sinhalese in the South. Tamil houses and businesses were looted and destroyed. Tamils living in the South were sent in ships to the North and East by the government.
250,000 Tamils were made refugees; 2,500 Tamils were burnt or hacked to death; 500 Women were raped; 53 Tamil political prisoners were brutally murdered in the maximum security Welikada prison on 25-27th July. Sinhala extremist groups and thugs, ruined the socio-economic and the political rights of the Tamil people. Anti-Tamil riots also in 1956, 1958, 1977, and 1981. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26)
1984 – To date Tamils living in the North-East were arrested, tortured and killed. Women were raped, many disappeared. Tamil properties were looted or destroyed by the Sri Lankan security forces. Air Force bombers dropping Cluster bombs in residential areas and near IDPs camps causing severe loss and damage to Tamil people and their property.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (ER) adopted by the government are helped the security forces to carry out all sorts of human rights violations with impunity. (UDHR was completely violated)
1990 – To date Economic embargo in Tamil areas. Food, medicine, electricity and other important items are denied to the Tamils. (Violations of UDHR articles – 22, 25, 26)
1995 – On 15th November, the NGO Forum took place at Bentota Beach Hotel, in Bentota, in the South of Sri Lanka. Both foreign and local NGO representatives participated in this forum and this forum meeting was disrupted by anti-NGO demonstrators. The organisers of the NGO forum decided to shift the venue to the capital, Colombo. On 16th November, the NGO Forum re-convened in the morning at a conference hall in Ratmalana, police officers arrived to “request” the Forum to suspend its proceedings, claiming that the meeting was illegal! The meeting was dissolved and all attendees dispersed. (Violations of UDHR articles – 8, 13, 18, 19, 20)
1997 – On 25th September, 38 NGOs serving in several parts of Batticaloa district, were ordered by Government of Sri Lanka to cease all their humanitarian operations. This immediately followed a government order banning NGOs from assisting people in the areas of Batticaloa. (Violations of UDHR articles – 8, 13, 18, 19, 20)
1998 – the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated that, “Sri Lanka had the second highest number of disappearances in the world, ranking next to Iraq”.
Also Sri Lanka was the only country that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had visited several times. So far no proper remedies had been found for these disappearances. (Violation of UDHR articles –3,4,5,7,9,10,11)
2005 – with the aim of ensuring equal distribution of Tsunami aid to the worst affected North East, an agreement known as the Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure – PTOMS was signed between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. This was unilaterally abrogated by the government of Sri Lanka under the pretext of a Supreme Court judgement. (Violation of UDHR articles – 16, 25)
At this time, over 85,000 Tamil people had been killed or “disappeared”; more than 12,500 Tamil women raped and killed; more than 2500 buildings of Tamils’religious places of worship (Churches and Temples) destroyed in aerial bombings and artillery shelling and billions of rupees worth of material damage had been caused to the Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.
As a result of well planned ethnic cleansing by the Sinhala State, nearly 500,000 Tamil people were internally displaced and more than 500,000 Tamils’ have sought political asylum in Europe and other countries. (Violation of UDHR articles –3, 16, 16,17)
2005 – 7th January, the UN Secretary General made a humanitarian visit to Sri Lanka to see the Tsunami affected areas. When Kofi Annan requested to visit the North East, the areas in the island most affected by the tsunami, the Sri Lankan authorities deliberately prevented him from making a humanitarian visit there.
(Violation of UDHR articles – 13,25 & a serious violation of the United Nations Charter, Chapter XV Article 100.
2006 – Sri Lankan citizens cannot seek remedy from the UN Human Rights Committee – Even though Sri Lanka is signatory to the ICCPR, on 15 September 2006, the Supreme Court effectively ruled that Sri Lankan citizens cannot seek remedy from the UN Human Rights Committee regarding human rights violations. It declared that the accession to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1997 does not bind Sri Lanka and has no legal effect within the island. – Decision of the Supreme Court 15 September 2006 – SC Spl (LA) No 182/99. (Violation of UDHR articles – 8, 10,19)
2006 – Sri Lanka’s Air Force bombed a gathering of schoolgirls at Vallipunam on August 14, 2006, killing 56 schools girls and wounding 210 others. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3, 10,12,13,20,26)
2006 – The India and Sri Lanka accord was signed in 1987 under the guise of settling the Tamil ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Under this accord the merger of North Eastern province took place on 8 Sep.1988. But, after exactly 18 years, The Supreme Court delivered its political judgement on 16 October 2006, stating that the merger of these two provinces was invalid. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3,5,9,10,13,21)
2007 – Sri Lanka was ranked third most dangerous place for the media in the world, with many journalists having been killed. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3,5,6,7,10,13,18,19)
2008 – Sri Lanka withdrew from the Ceasefire Agreement-CFA between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE that was signed in February 2002. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3,5,9,10,13,)
2008 – According to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, presently Sri Lanka rank as the country with the highest number of disappearances. The fate of 656 Tamils who ‘disappeared’ in 1996 was not yet known but Tamils continued to‘disappear’ in North East. Many Tamil journalists, academics, parliamentarians, human rights activists, children and others in the North East were killed. (Violation of UDHR articles – 3,4,5,7,9,10,11)
2008 – IIGEP quit Sri Lanka –President Rajapaksa had invited the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons – IIGEP to observe and ensure the transparency of investigations held by the Commission of Inquiries on the complaints of abductions, disappearances and other serious violations of human rights arising since 1st August 2005. Also, the IIGEP was to ensure that those inquiries were conducted in accordance with basic international norms and standards. On 22 April 2008, the IIGEP, quit Sri Lanka, citing government unwillingness to implement its recommendations to bring the probe up to international standards, lack of financial stability, government interference and slow process. (Violation of UDHR articles – 8,10)
2009 – Sri Lanka government and their security forces committed War crimes and Genocide against the Tamil people. This has been well recorded by all international human rights organisations and the United Nations. Furthermore these serious violations have been documented and screened by the TV Channel 4, UK. (Violation of UDHR and other international conventions)
2010 – The UN Secretary-General’s appointed panel submitted a report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka on 12 April 2001. This was subsequently transferred to the UN High commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Human Rights Council on 13 September 2011. However no action was taken.
2011 – The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission released its Report
The report of the LLRC is a serious assault on the dignity of the victims of the war in Sri Lanka, and as such, has not only gravely damaged the chances of genuine reconciliation but has further alienated the victims of the war.” It therefore called on the international community “to acknowledge the consistent failure of domestic accountability mechanisms in Sri Lanka and take steps to establish an international mechanism for accountability.”
ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மனித உரிமை பேரவை கடந்த 2015 -10-01 நிறைவேற்றப்பட்ட தீர்மானத்தை முழுமையாக செயல்படுத்தப் படவேண்டும் – சுமந்திரன், நா.உ