5 December, 2020

Blog

Don’s Diary IVb: Peradeniya

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Continued from Don’s Diary IVa: A Week in Jaffna.

Friday: After checking in at the hotel, I take a walk around Kandy. I have a couple of hours before sunset, enough to buy credit for the phone, take some photographs and act a bit of a tourist. I take a three wheeler drive to Bahirawakanda where there is a massive Buddha statue of which I noticed something different. The Buddha was sporting a pottu (bindi) dot on the forehead. But isn’t the pottu is usually associated with Hinduism? I don’t recall seeing the Buddha statues in Dambulla or Aukana decorated with pottu. Perhaps something modern here, a form of reconciliation between religions, I wondered. 

But I have my own pet theory comparing religions. Take Hinduism as practiced nowadays. Strip off the superstitions and rituals from it. The poojas, the Holy Ash, the offerings of food and fruits, the thought that a cat crossing from left to right is bad omen whereas right to left is OK, etc. Once you are done, what remains, you will be surprised to know, are the philosophical teachings of Gauthama Buddha. Of transcending within. Of a critical examination of the self. Of the sensitivity to and awareness of poverty, old age and death. Of birth, life and death as an eternal cycle. That is Gauthama’s beautiful philosophy. Reflective and inspiring. Now Buddhism as above is inadequate to preform little miracles. It won’t make you pass exams or win elections. You need to bring back rituals and superstitions. Flowers have to be offered. Nool (string) has to be tied on wrists. When you add enough of it, mix some hatred in it and top it all up with the pursuit of political power, what do you get? Is it not Buddhism as practiced by our countrymen (or dare you quote the scholar’s word ‘betrayed’)

At the temple, there were strict instructions. On how young men and women ought to behave. On treating the place with respect which had to be in line with Buddhist and Sinhala values. But the toilets in the place were only for foreign tourists! I got caught out on that one. I could legitimately claim foreigner by virtue of my present passport. But I had not paid an entrance fee, the colour of my skin having come to my aid at the gates.

Back in town, I got trapped by a missing comma. I insisted that what I need is a Mobitel phone card and that the pol rotti phone card he was selling wasn’t going to work on my phone. The shop guy gives me a funny look. “Picking on a missing comma, are you a don setting an exam or what?” written all over his face.

Past the lake, I get a chance to photograph birds in nests. Branches of lakeside trees come slanting down to about two meters form the ground, so a cameraman can be just four or five meters from the birds, feeding the young and practicing to fly.

Saturday and Sunday: 

Two friends drive down from Colombo to spend the weekend with me. “What are nice places to visit?” I ask the receptionist at the hotel. She is not imaginative. “You can visit the Tooth Temple, er, and , er… and you can visit the Tooth Temple.” But my friends had done their homework. We take a walk in a beautiful park just up the hill Udawathe Kele and drive to a few ancient temples ten or so miles away. The Embekke Devala, not really a temple, but a meeting place of Kings of the Gampola period has beautiful carvings on its wooden pillars. Wrestlers, horsemen and pretty young ladies. Well preserved from the 14th century. Such skills of the carpenters. 

Where have I seen such skills before? Yes. My grandmother’s house in Karainagar. The doors and door frames had beautiful carvings. Lady Goddess of wealth seated on lotus, Six headed God, Elephant face God. All of them designed to bless her next harvest. Carpentry cum artistic skills of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, passed down from father to son and kept within a caste that practiced that particular trade. It is all lost now. We began losing those partly due to the evil caste-based societal suppression and partly because easy money was to be made in the Seventies by taking odd jobs in the Middle East. Jobs performed under semi-slavery conditions, but you could bring back home a duty-free two-in-one (an audio device that could tune to radio waves as well as play a magnetic cassette tape of music). Anything that did survive that trend got blown up in the thirty-year dirty war. 

We lost it.

I didn’t quite agree with the Archaeology Department’s characterization of the Kataragama inhabitant as a war-god of the Sinhalese. With six heads and two wives, the good God Murugan was supposed to be a rather peaceful one, I had thought. 

But we have to accept, what was then is what our archaeology department finds now. 

Gadaladeniya and Lankathilake temples. One had beautiful carvings on stones. Drummer, dancer and, once again, pretty young ladies. Good Lords Vishnu and Buddha seem to have shared accommodation in these temples quite comfortably those days. In the South. Around the same time, or even before, the Northerners were quite comfortable contemplating the teachings of Gauthama. Today it is different. There is popular discourse about whose accommodation should be bigger, what should be State supported, what could spring overnight with armed protection etc. “When did it change,” I wondered, “where did it go wrong?”

The stone carvings at Gadaladeniya were impressive. Unassumingly carved out on the steps of the temple structure. But they are getting worn. Protection from the elements is minimal. A saddening sight. 

Monday:

There is a new viral activity out there. That of painting random walls. I think it started as a beautifying project with a sprinkling of patriotism thrown in. I expected the paintings to consist of elephants on parade, kings on elephants beating up other kings, be it Rajarata 250 BC or Mullivaikkaal in more modern times. There were hints of such triumphalism here and there, but the best of the paintings was to be found on the upper Gampola Road in Peradeniya, which was of my favourite two Gauls, who enjoyed beating up Romans.

I took a bus to the University campus. Peradeniya is a beautiful university. My father was in the first batch of students to go there. They had cleared the jungle and built the buildings, spaced out well, and leaving the huge trees untouched. The hostels were built to high standards, including toilets designed to be of Western style – where you sat rather than squatted. “How did you know how to use one of those?” I remember asking my father, “you wouldn’t have seen them in our village.” He mumbled something about looking it up in google! By the time I went to study there, the toilets were all damaged. You could neither sit nor squat in comfort, making life rather challenging.

The campus has expanded a lot. More and more students are being sent there without proportionate increase in the facilities. Buildings propped up here and there, often missing to maintain the architectural continuity that made the place so great. The tree, my favourite tree, is untouched though. I sat under it for an hour, contemplating, letting nostalgia take over. 

I remembered the surveying class. We go around with an expensive instrument with a powerful telescope in it, measuring angles. A very sensitive instrument. Multiple measurements had to be taken according to a recipe, more precise than making hoppers. The idea is to cancel out systematic errors made by the instrument. But you saved a lot of time if you knew the direction of the errors. You took one measurement and filled the rest of the table. The dreaded instructor suspected I was fudging a bit. But my numbers were in the right direction, so he couldn’t prove anything. Time thus saved could be put to better use. The telescope reached far. Beyond the trees and the hills, into the village and focused on a stream. There, through the telescope’s cross hairs you saw what Wordsworth saw: 

“Yon solitary highland lass, singing by herself.”

“At least they have left my tree alone,” I said to myself of the campus developers. But next to the tree is a footpath. Motorbikes use it as shortcut. The riders save just a few yards by cutting across via the pedestrian path. But they do that, irritatingly revving their engines high in an exhibition of their testosterone levels when getting past the first step.  

Tuesday:

I hide in the hotel and prepare my talk for the conference. In the afternoon, I walk to the botanical gardens. It is as lively as ever with a particularly colourful collection of orchids.

Wednesday:

Conferences in Sri Lanka are great. There is much colour in the organization. VIPs gather in a corner of the building and are escorted a few yards with dancers, drums and the piercing sound of a conch, beautifully played. At the venue, much time is spent lighting a traditional oil lamp, which each of the VIPs is called upon one by one, with precise title and name announced to the audience. And every speech addresses each of the VIPs one by one, repeating the already known information about who they were. The formality is overwhelming. But I thought it is enjoyed much by the VIP folk, usually dressed up for the occasion. And that is the bee in my bonnet, for I often turn up in socks and sandals, and am made to feel, well, naked? 

The state of research in Sri Lankan universities was well demonstrated by the conference. There certainly is much more research activity now than the days I remember, when one solitary socialist was fighting with his computer code written in punch cards trying to simulate a power system and understand its stability properties. But research activity is to be found in isolated pockets of excellence, fragmented, and with no critical mass. There is output, but no culture of critical inquiry. In most sessions, the number of authors presenting work were the only people in the room. Ready to present their own work, but showing no interest in critically appraising, or even simply listening to what someone else had to say. A culture of research cannot be created overnight, I know, and I am aware of quite a lot of the obstacles to creating such a culture in that environment, too. 

Thursday:

I take a long walk. From Peradeniya, all the way to Kandy. The walk started from the Gemba (frog) canteen. Those days, the canteen was just a small shed. You had to cross a couple of puddles to get there. And you encountered the odd frog in those puddles. Hence the name. The place has all been concreted over now. No puddle. No frog. But the canteen remains. The vadai and tea taste exactly the same. The tables are as untidy as I remember them from 19xx. A beautifully written poster from 2017 features prominently on the wall [I find Sinhala characters beautifully curved, a clear challenge for the guy who designed the French curve]. Of free education. A quote from C.W.W. Kannangara himself. “It is incumbent upon you lot,” he says in it [approximately], “to fight to protect free education.” 

Four young ladies were sitting next to me. “Do you speak English?” I start a conversation. Three of them immediately look at the fourth one. She is their nominated English communicator. I ask her what the poster means. She translates with a slight shrug of her shoulders. The words, she translates well. But the semantics and the passion I expected failed to come across. There was sharp mismatch between my nostalgic expectations and the realism of someone less than half my age.  

That hurt.

Walking all the way to Kandy, I stared at advertisements. There were the odd adverts for shock absorbers, latest film and the like. But the dominant ones were for private tuition classes. The range was impressive: Maths, Tamil, Sinhala, Science, English, Geography, History, Economics and Commerce. Years 1-5, 6-11 and Advanced Levels. The full range, constantly expanding: primary to secondary, birth to death, womb to tomb, erection to resurrection. All subjects, all stages, you could get educated at a price. Yes, private tuition classes had started during my days, too. But the intensity and coverage was overwhelming to see. 

The message was clear. We have lost it. Something we once could legitimately be proud of, a system through which my mother, coming from a farming family who had just about enough to eat, with parents just about literate, could get herself high quality education to degree level. At this very university. And for free. 

That, we have lost. 

Saturday and Sunday:

I am off to Unwatunne for a get together with friends. A get together of the graduating class of 19xx. Spiritual uplifting was to be the theme and I am armed with a Johny Walker bottle, too. 

Feeling a bit adventurous, I opt to try the train. Express train, leaving Fort at 8.00ish. I manage to get into the packed train. There is just enough standing space to squeeze in.  

A group of students were travelling in my carriage. “Do you speak English?” I start a conversation. All of them did. Fluently so. “We are on a day out to mark the end of exams.” They were students from a private university, bright, sharp, communicated well and, as far as I could tell, would make fine graduates when their results are released.

I remember the days of my youth when that very private university was founded. 

I remember being strongly opposed to that plan, writing posters and going on strikes and marches protesting its creation.

“What was all that for?” I wondered.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    2

    “The Buddha was sporting a pottu (bindi) dot on the forehead. But isn’t the pottu is usually associated with Hinduism?…”
    The Buddha statue at Bodhgaya has a prominent pottu. A Google search will show many more that are not very recent.
    The pottu may have a place in Hindu culture (but not in a unique way among various Hindu religions), but it is not exclusive to that group of religions.
    *
    “I didn’t quite agree with the Archaeology Department’s characterization of the Kataragama inhabitant as a war-god of the Sinhalese. With six heads and two wives…”
    He got his first wife by waging war on behalf of the ‘Devas’. The ‘vEl’ in his hand is not for plucking coconuts I guess.
    *
    Prof MN will do well with some research before commenting on culture and religion.

    • 3
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      It is not a pottu. It is Urna Roma Datuwa. There are special sings in Lord Buddha one is this. It is a Hair Folical on the forehead.

    • 4
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      SJ: you should not take everything in religious stories literally (the guy waging war to find a wife type nonsense). Learn to tell the wood from the trees. If you sing kaarthigeyaa, kaliyuga varathaa, kanthaa, murugaa, karunaakaranE (கார்த்திகேயா, கலியுக வரதா, கந்தா, முருகா, கருணாகரனே), the last word there is about a kind, gentle and generous murugan. Not a Sinhala war-mongering god.

      • 1
        2

        Dettol
        I do not believe in mythology. But when reference is made to it, one has to be consistent.
        The writer referred to the two wives of Skanda. That is the mythology that talks about how he acquired the first wife.
        Both Kanthapuranam and Kumarasambavam refer to Skanda destroying the Asuras.
        Skanda is associated with war in both northern and southern traditions.
        BTW, Karunakaran is kind only to devotees. He is also called sUrasamhAran.
        I am sure that Prof. MN has seen the SUran POr at Nallur. Perhaps he forgot it when he objected to the association of Skanda with war.

        • 3
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          SJ: To be fair to MN, he wrote he is from Karainagar, so he may not have participated in the Nallur SUran POr.

          • 0
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            Dettol
            To be fair by MN, why don’t you let him make his own excuses.

  • 2
    1

    Thank you for sharing. I used to visit the campus early 70’s when one of my sister used to study there and later when my other sister used to live there too for a very many years and her my late Brother in Law was the Director of Education for Kandy. I also had an Uncle used to work in the Agriculture Research Centre and married and lived locally near the University too.

    The entire space is so magical but I get the issues related to the Planning/Layout issues in expanding the University. The same issue applies to the entire Nation……City planning/Landscaping………..I am not sure if we run any studies on these topics would be a great idea to diversify the home grown expertises?

    I walked the exact route (2016) from the University to the Kandy town with so many tuition centres indeed..it looked a bit like Jaffna town in late 70’s.

  • 6
    0

    Mr. M. Niranjan,
    Both articles are interesting. Hope you would make another visit in another few years and do the same!

  • 4
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    Dear Niranjan,
    .
    Many thanks
    for bringing that all back to me. When were you at Peradeniya? I fancy it would have been about five years before me, although I’m probably ten years older.
    .
    Actually, how I happened to enter Peradeniya in November 1982 got told here just a week ago:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/some-thomian-pharisees-are-adamant-on-the-need-to-cheat/
    .
    A batch-mate and I “did” the three temples on one day, on my little motor-cycle in 1983. I can’t remember the order of visiting them, but I rather fancy that Lankathilake was sandwiched between the other two, because seen from afar in the noon-day sun, the stately white building was a commanding sight. Quite a hill, isn’t it? The other two temples you have described sufficiently. I saw them only that once.
    .
    I was considered a second-year student, having completed my GAQ externally. In that relaxed Special Arts Qualifying year we had a “background” paper, for some of which this may have been relevant. A difficult year that, but somehow Drs Thillainathan and Poololasingham managed to teach us about the Thurkkaral and the Sangham Period of Tamil Literature. I can’t remember much of it, but the July riots had impressed upon us how important it was to understand that there are two languages and cultures in Sri Lanka.
    .
    In the University itself, the violence started on the 11th of May in the Science Faculty Canteen. Some of it I have recounted here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/university-of-peradeniya-may-1983-when-majesty-stoops-to-folly/
    .
    Niranjan, I have by now made two brief visits to your village of Karainagar. They represent my feeble attempts to get to know the background of those whom we treated so cruelly in 1983.
    .
    Thanks for this pilgrimage of yours in return, and for your search for a solution.

    • 2
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      SM: // Thurkkaral // you mean thirukkuRaL as in තිරුක්කුරළ්.

      • 2
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        Thanks, Chandra.
        .
        I plan to tell you a little more about this “Background Paper”, which I’m pretty sure that I must have failed, if strictly marked.
        .
        I know that these things are supposed to be kept secret, but why bother when I’ll soon be dead. That will be the end of me. No life after Death, I’m pretty sure!
        .
        But you will not tell us whether you’re man or woman. Hmmmm!

        • 2
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          SM: These days gender is not seen as purely binary. So I could be a man, woman, both at the same time or neither. You can never tell.

    • 3
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      Dear Sinhala Man,

      hope you are keeping well. Please take good care of you, since your person is known to Rajapakshe barbarians.

      Your comments do bring me back to my past at Hilda Obesekara hostel at Pera. That is why thought of adding few lines here below.
      :
      To tell you the truth, I spent just one year at Pera and another 2 years I waited until the uni was reopened for us. Once I Ieft the hostel leaving behind my own belognings somewhere there AND never went back to collect them. I loved the surroundings at Pera. But I did like much about university. All because of inhuman ragging. Now looking back I think ragging has lot to with the gap between undergraduates. If they went to popular schools, those who came from rural schools had always something against them. Batchas are against own batchas. And if you would get on with girls, were ragged more for some reasons. We also have some foreign students in our science batch. They were from Nepal and Bangaladesh.

      I never like lanken University ragging. This was late 80ties. To that time, there had been youth unrest across the country. like I did some left the country for various destinations and others remain. Some were caught by JVP killing squads.
      .
      Now when I look back, I feel had I been then, I would also have been killed by unknown rascals. Each time I travelled back home, I happend to hear, dozens of my batchmates, as only child or only son in some families were burnt down. Their parents had gone mad etc. Today, JVPrs behave as if they are saints, but to me, most of them, as I know are no different to Rajakashe politicians.

  • 2
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    Well, I am still against private universities, those days and these days.

    • 3
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      Sumathy
      Thanks.
      The battle was lost more by subversion, but there is still room and time to resist; and I believe that it is still on.
      *
      Quite a few of our intelligentsia have a colonial mindset in matters of education, development and research. If we get our priorities right, the case for private universities will cease to be.

      • 1
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        Why not private universities,Proffessional who are millionaires are enjoying the spree in free education while the children of the poor find it difficult to enter If all those who ean above say Rs 100,000 per month sendtheir children to private schools and universitiues, this country might become a better place,.
        It is high time that the perverseness of Padeniyas and the thug monks are called to account.

      • 2
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        Well done, SJ, in the same sentence claiming that the battle was lost and is still on! Just like some people believing that Prabakaran is still around.
        But, what is an example of colonial mindset?

        • 0
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          C
          The battle is lost, but not the war.
          In prolonged struggles many a battle is lost before final victory.
          *
          As for examples:
          Aping the West in full or part is one.
          Seeking solutions based on Western models is another.
          Pretending not to know its existence is about the worst.

    • 0
      0

      Sumathy,

      dichotomy between private medical colleges and other private universities are not yet clear to srilankens.

      There have been lot more PVT university or higher education institute in this country for such a long time. At the time, my mates broke away from Univeristies not being able to continue due to 89 insurgency, some of them joined CIMA or other charted institutes and got internationally qualified.

      And law was also not taught at UNI in SL for such a long time. Most of them got their qualifications from Law college which is a body functiong out of UGC.

      There are enough other pvt academic institutes that offer PVT degrees.

      But when it comes to OPEN pvt medical colleges, they become allergic to it. I have no objections if they set PVT medical colleges in our country in accordance with world norms.

      The problem of MR ‘s private medical college was that has been introduced without respecting the world norms.
      The aftermath of that COLLEGE was fallen on the previous govt. Any thorny issue in this country came into being DUE to lack of proper feasiblity activities. Rajakahes dont care about anything but they let it go. They abuse srilanken state as their privtate property.

  • 3
    0

    Interesting yet soul searching reading. What we should have got rid of after this many years, has stayed with us. The religious animosity,division and hatred are much deeper and stronger now. Where as what needed to be preserved for generations , has now lost its value. The culture, heritage, education, splendors of the campus, priorities and values. Irony is that all this is taking place in the name of “saving our religious/language identities”. By the way MN, my father too is an alumnus , of first or second batch. And my mom who hailed from similar background as yours, sailed to India to get her degree level education, because it was not provided then in Lanka. Her father sold his land to finance and she was the first women to step out of the village then.

  • 1
    0

    Like the private university story, we never hesitate to throw our two cents to judge anything based on what we had been personally experienced in life right?

    Who is going to take the blame for reminding us the Johny boy and breaking our New Year resolution even before the end of January 1st week? Is there any hidden reason to include ethanol in every update? Sorry to throw my two cents on ethanol!

    Thanks for the updates.

  • 5
    0

    “But I have my own pet theory comparing religions. Take Hinduism as practised nowadays. Strip off the superstitions and rituals from it……..”

    “…… Once you are done, what remains, you will be surprised to know, are the philosophical teachings of Gauthama Buddha. Of transcending within. Of a critical examination of the self. Of the sensitivity to and awareness of poverty, old age and death. Of birth, life and death as an eternal cycle. That is Gauthama’s beautiful philosophy. Reflective and inspiring…….”

    “…. Now Buddhism as above is inadequate to preform little miracles. It won’t make you pass exams or win elections. You need to bring back rituals and superstitions…..”

    AND that is what Sinhala/Buddhism Has become NOW!
    Thank you Prof. Mahesan Niranjan for the above ‘Eye Opener’!
    Sorry I had to Plagiarise to make a STATEMENT!

  • 0
    5

    The guy should stick to his subject. Religion is not obviously one of them. Otherwise engaging read.

  • 1
    17

    I sense lot of sarcasm in most descriptions. Possibly the years he spent in the West and a feeling of superiority.

    • 12
      0

      Eusense:-
      “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,”
      If you see ‘Sarcasm and a ‘Feeling’ of Superiority’ in Niranjan’s Article it is the Fault of Your Own ‘Eyes’!

    • 3
      1

      Nonsense
      You are the one with “minority” complex.

    • 0
      0

      Please have your eyes checked.

      You will see it different then

      I think you were born so to twist things as you think is right. Get well soon !”

  • 4
    1

    Niranjan,
    Two points caught my eyes: 1. Buddhism. It is true that Buddhism is deep reflection on life but in a very pessimistic mode which I think stand against the very existence life. For example, if each and every person decide to a monk or attain Nibbana, homosapien, the only surviving species of homo, will go extinct in a two three generations. I wonder why this obvious fact eludes the post-Darwinian Buddhist philosophers. Of course, Buddha couldn’t not have caught such debilitating logical hole in his theory b’cos evolution & extinction were not entered into the “science” of his day.

    But, why Buddha favored pessimism when the natural meaning of life is striving for the joy of hope & satisfaction. I think he did b’cos he built his theory deductively based on his own personal experience of life – mainly his dissatisfaction with hetero-sexuality. The story of “Abhinikmana” provides more than enough proof for such a conclusion.

    2. Research activities in SL universities. Yes, there are many but I believe that the lack of active criticism is caused by three reasons: a) fear of exposing own lack of knowledge; b) fear of antagonizing superiors who hold the fate of subordinates; and 3. social relations. For example, WAW was talking about the research base approach to economic development by the new head of CB W D Lukshman but (to my knowledge) non has challenge the lack of results. In SL, what work for career progress is not criticisms, whether productive or not; rather scratching the back of powerful politicians.

    • 2
      0

      D. P.
      In SL, what work for career progress is not criticisms, whether productive or not; rather scratching the back of powerful politicians.
      *
      Perhaps in your field.
      Do not insult edicated workers.

  • 0
    3

    Certainly the Painter and the Sculptor did a bad Job. The pottu you have seen is said to be a thread of curly hair. Wherther Sinhala or not God Kataragama is said to be the Warrier King among those.

    • 0
      0

      JD,
      What mistake did the sculptor of Bodhgaya make?

  • 3
    4

    Machan

    “The poojas, the Holy Ash, the offerings of food and fruits, the thought that a cat crossing from left to right is bad omen whereas right to left is OK, etc. Once you are done, what remains, you will be surprised to know, are the philosophical teachings of Gauthama Buddha. Of transcending within. Of a critical examination of the self. Of the sensitivity to and awareness of poverty, old age and death. Of birth, life and death as an eternal cycle. That is Gauthama’s beautiful philosophy. Reflective and inspiring. Now Buddhism as above is inadequate to preform little miracles. It won’t make you pass exams or win elections. You need to bring back rituals and superstitions. Flowers have to be offered. Nool (string) has to be tied on wrists. When you add enough of it, mix some hatred in it and top it all up with the pursuit of political power, what do you get? Is it not Buddhism as practiced by our countrymen (or dare you quote the scholar’s word ‘betrayed’)”

    *** I am struggling to make sense of what you are saying. Hinduism is 4000 years old but Buddhism is 2500 years old . Either way you are done for what have uttered above. If Buddhism wont make you pass exam ( but Hinduism might ) god help you. Gotha is waiting for the results of his application to renounce American Citizenship. If you say he will fail Gotha will lynch you. Get out of Sri Lanka quick if you haven’t left already. I know you have shifted from Manchester to Winchester your final resting place . Gotha a Negative man has asked EU to be Positive. He is lonely as he has no friends and no job for you under Gotha. Wasted Journey

    • 3
      1

      Hinduism is 4000 years old!
      K, which of the Hinduisms are you referring to?
      The Vedic system of worship?
      The Brahminised system that the Buddha confronted?
      The Bakthi religions of Tamils and Kannadigas and of Kabir and Namdev?
      The sitthar tradition?
      Those of the bandwagon of miracle men?
      What do these things have in common?

      • 2
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        SJ

        I hope you find Solace in the following

        Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion, according to many scholars, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, with about 900 million followers, Hinduism is the third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s Hindus live in India. Because the religion has no specific founder, it’s difficult to trace its origins and history. Hinduism is unique in that it’s not a single religion but a compilation of many traditions and philosophies.
        Hinduism Beliefs
        Some basic Hindu concepts include:
        • Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,” as opposed to a single, organized religion.
        • Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means they worship a single deity, known as “Brahman,” but still recognize other gods and goddesses. Followers believe there are multiple paths to reaching their god.
        • Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect).
        • One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to achieve “moksha,” or salvation, which ends the cycle of rebirths to become part of the absolute soul.
        • One fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives.
        • Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality.
        • Hindus revere all living creatures and consider the cow a sacred animal.
        • Food is an important part of life for Hindus. Most don’t eat beef or pork, and many are vegetarians.
        • Hinduism is closely related to other Indian religions, including Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.

        • 1
          0

          The question is whether it is a ‘religion’.
          It is a collection of convenience comprising faiths of South Asian origin.
          It has no common text, let alone code.
          It has no common faith: it ranges from personal to impersonal god (the Brahmam) and from monotheism to polytheism.
          It has no common system of worship. (The Sitthars even reject ritualistic worship.)
          There is little in common among several of the ‘Hindu’ faiths.
          Perhaps, the Caste System is the most common element, as Ambedkar would have it.
          *
          Jainism was the most persecuted by ‘Hindus’ among all ‘non-Hindu’ faiths.
          Buddhism comprises outright rejection of the Brahminic religion, persecuted to near extinction in India by Hindus.
          Sikhism, a religion of revelation, is an adaptation of Islam and a brand of Hinduism.
          *
          Do some research on the Bakthi movement. The Veera Saiva of Kartnataka do not consider themselves to be Hindu.
          Hinduism as understood today is post Shankara, much younger than Indian Christianity.
          *
          Are all Hindus so revering of all living creatures that they never sacrifice animals in temples or consume flesh?
          I can assure that most ‘Hindus’ are non-vegetarians, and that includes many Brahmins. Check your data.
          You are defining a Hinduism without the foggiest idea of whether the definition applies to all or even a vast majority of those you call ‘Hindus’.
          Thanks for the offer of ‘solace’, but sorry that it is not my favourite dish.

      • 1
        1

        This Hinduism is only 4000 years old theory is based on assuming that western theories of human evolution are correct and because of that every thing began recently within a 100,000 years so. That is is wrong. Western theories are correct and those are the perfect truth. Their theories are based only on materiality of everything. But Scientists have included consciousness and it’s influence in quantum particles. with that they solved many things.
        Anyway the truth is that there were thousands of Earths existed before this earth but not at the same point in the universe. At the same time, gods existed everywhere in the world. Hindu theories are connected mostly to GOds who really exists. the only way to test these is not thought experiments or scientific method which become invalid. Instead use MEditation and you will realize at the right conditions (no drunkards or no meat or fish consumers) they will reach you.
        Anyway, Hinduisam and Vedas are as old as the earth. Buddhism also existed as old as the earth or earths are and so many Buddahs were born on those earths.

        • 3
          0

          Interesting to say the least, JD.
          .
          I welcome what you have written, and the tone. But who are you?
          .
          If you must use a pseudonym, can’t you pick on something that aids memory more than two initials? There are one or two guys who are out and out racists. You don’t sound that at all.
          .
          Getting back to your theories, how does one “falsify” them – a-la-Karl Popper?

  • 3
    0

    Prof

    Thank you for interesting an article.

    “The Buddha was sporting a pottu (bindi) dot on the forehead. “

    This is also new to me until I saw Buddha with pottu in Danang/Vietnam.

    https://www.123rf.com/photo_12609708_marble-statue.html?fromid=WnBPTFlWa2ozZlNBM0dXcUpEWVYvQT09

  • 9
    0

    I quite liked this article, more the one on Jaffna Uni. than this. He seemed to have pulled his punches here, maybe owing to the fact that this is the alma mater.

    However, I do have a critique; rather a mild one. A cursory glance, a fleeting exchange, in the canteen and on the train, does little to capture the politics of Higher Education, where it is and where it is going. I was disappointed with the slightly touristy tone of this.
    ON THE OTHER HAND: I do wholeheartedly agree with the point about research in our universities. Of course, a huge generalisation, and one has to be careful. But the causality for the condition lies elsewhere i think. I hope Mahesan Niranjan reads this comment and responds, or even if he does not, reflect on it, for I do like his interventions hugely.

    • 6
      0

      Thanks, Sumathy. In this forum, I do find it difficult to strike a balance between making an observation and being perceived as patronizing. E.g. the reactions of Eusense (“feeling of superiority”) and SJ (“colonial mindset”). Hence the touristy style with recycled pub jokes is intentional. I did aim at being more straight in the past, perhaps going a bit OTT, e.g.: [ https://tinyurl.com/yh2ta4ye ]
      I would certainly learn much from discussing HE funding and research in SL universities.
      March 30/31 Gemba canteen? Or the tree? :-)

      • 3
        2

        MN
        I have used the term colonial mindset earlier regarding notions of development of some of our elite– this time in the context of Sumathy’s concerns.
        The piece by you had far less to justify that term, although I have earlier contested your notions of research and development.
        I found some your comments to be rather flippant: What has using computer punch cards to do with socialism? Were there other computing options at Peradeniya then?
        I analysed my research data at a reputed British University using a 94kB IBM machine. I learned some frugal habits in the process.
        *
        What relevance has most of the higher education delivered in this country to the needs of the country?
        We once produced civil servants for the colonial master and now brains to drain to serve interests that do not benefit us.
        We had a brief spell in which people thought differently, an era that produced medical personalities like Senaka Bibile. There were engineers who boldly undertook projects once denied to locals. There were intellectuals who looked at history, culture and religion without colonial glasses. None rejected modernism (which incidentally had origins in West Asia) or industrialisation, but addressed problems as free of the colonial burden as possible.
        *
        What are we doing here? Trying to teach the way they do in Australia without the resources?
        Empty phrases like Outcome Based Education offend me as my views are liberal and for open-ended learning.
        *
        I can guess what provoked the phrase “feeling of superiority” but it is owing to a difference in sense of humour. He should know that ones who talk down to others are probably victims of an inferiority complex.
        *
        It is not easy to accept criticism, let alone tolerate it.
        I do not blame any for that.

        • 7
          0

          //What has using computer punch cards to do with socialism?//
          Nothing. Just a tourist observing. In “I saw a black swan fly”, being black has nothing to do with flying [and black swans and good socialists are rare.]
          +
          //The piece by you had far less to justify that term//
          Far less is still non-zero. I would love to know what is it here by which I am exposing my colonial mindset?

          • 7
            0

            SJ: // is not easy to accept criticism//
            Long travel ahead, so let me sign off this page by saying throwing insult (“colonial mindset”) without being able to show an example — either of what exactly a colonial mindset is, or where in this piece I am showing such a state — is not criticism.
            Over and out.

            • 1
              0

              MN
              I was out of Colombo over the weekend.
              *
              I did complain about some flippant remarks on matters of religion and culture. Where did I refer to ‘your colonial mindset’?
              My response to Sumathy was: “Quite a few of our intelligentsia have a colonial mindset in matters of education, development and research”. That was in the context of private education.
              If it is any consolation, you are strictly not among ‘our intelligentsia’, unless you have dual nationality.
              So, where is the ‘insult’?
              If a hat fits, by all means wear it.
              *
              Many in former British Colonies are hooked to English as the source to knowledge.
              I responded once to one of your not so deep comments on education in Tamil.
              *
              Our notions of development are still much guided by Western models.
              Little wonder we now produce labour, including intellectual labour, for export.
              The issue is not an individual flaw but more of a collective frame of mind.
              *
              It is good to be critical.
              Criticize and I will as always listen.
              Even where criticism is invalid, I seek to find the other’s point of view.
              Safe Journey.

  • 1
    0

    Mr. Nadesan, any comments on Lord Buddha sporting a “pottu”. (he too comes from a royal family which was considered the higher cast , even then ).

  • 6
    0

    The tree, the tree you used to sit under. I wonder which one it was. And what a stunning tree has been used (by you or CT) to illustrate your article.
    My memories of the campus are full of the landscape: its hills, its lawns, its streams and ponds, the sunken garden (above which we lived for some months in 1956, with the Mahaveli at the end of our garden) where we watched plays; and the trees, the beautiful trees, everywhere. We lived all over the campus in the 50s and early 60s — it was a wonderful place to be in, to walk in, to dream in….especially during the vacations when we children had the whole place to ourselves. And so quiet.
    Such a far cry from the noise and barreness of this Colombo road I am forced to spend my last years in.

    • 5
      0

      Manel, this tree is at the right-of-the-river end of the Akbar bridge, just next to the geography/geology department. If you get a chance to go there, plan to spend ten minutes under it and you are guaranteed to lose an hour! I would love someone to make a virtual reality reproduction of it so we could visit it from far away, climb it and jump around its branches like squirrels.

      • 3
        0

        Thank you, Mahesan. I wish I could act on your suggestion but it is many years, alas, since I was last on the campus. And I’m not sure if I ever saw the Akbar bridge. Perhaps it was built much later. But if it was there in my time I must have seen it. However, the only time I recall crossing the river — and in the dark — was to see a Sarathchandra play.
        Just googled. Built mid 70s? There are 2 or 3 videos of it online.
        So the photo is yours. If you took any more of it would you care to share them (via Uvindu perhaps, or direct?).
        I wonder which years you were there & which end of the campus.

        • 3
          0

          Manel,
          .
          You know Peradeniya and its denizens
          much better than I do. Please check this out, but I’m almost sure it’s true. It was told me by late Uncle Tommy (Wikramanayake).
          .
          What you now have is the second bridge built by the Engineering Faculty. The first had just been built and declared open. The following night the thing collapsed, much to the amusement of all Faculties other than Engineering.
          .
          Mind, what we now have is a very long span of slightly arched beam bridge, too narrow for anything except a Mini Minor, but owing to some steel impediments that have been put in place at both ends of the bridge meant for pedestrians, only motorcycles can go across. I used to go across quite often. We interacted quite a lot with the E-Fac. The other end was between the Gym and the Senate building.
          .
          What about push cycles – the good old bicycles?
          .
          One of the points Uncle Tommy used to make was that bicycles were the ideal transportation within the campus, but some nasty fellows deflated the tyres of the first bikes that were used.
          .
          All that before my time – but do you see how all the wrong values came in?
          .
          In our time, the E-Fac adventure that turned into a joke was the incomplete swimming pool. Professor Milton Amaratunga had decided on some novel design for it – and we couldn’t use it. It was just a 50X20 meter pit. Took about 20 years to make, and we were getting Canadian aid all the time for it. By the way, there was never any suggestion of financial irregularity.
          .
          I knew his son, Kevin, and we shared jokes about it.

          • 1
            0

            Mr Sinhala man,

            tell me why you call them ” Denizens ” instead residents, inhabitants etc. Why is that, I have never heard many in UK using the term ” Denizens”.
            :
            I know your English is superb but sometimes, you use terms that are not familiar to many. I then had a scotish friend, who also used words that are far from common use. Those who read his articles were tired of reading the stuff.

        • 3
          0

          How stupid of me, Mahesan, not to realise that the photo was yours. I’m only now seeing some of the others by going more slowly on my mobile than when I first read yr article. Some of the images didnt have time to “evolve”.
          I suppose you know that a book came out about a year ago about the University. I only glanced at it somewhere; seem to remember that the photos were awful.

          And, thank you, Sinhala_Man for giving some history of the bridge. Maybe I’ll ask Eugene, Uncle Tommy’s wife, about it.

          • 3
            0

            What collapsed was not a bridge and it was never opened.
            What collapsed was the shuttering for concreting the panels.
            I tried explaining it to my Arts Faculty colleagues, but they opted for the two bridges story as it made more interesting literature. The engineers did not decide on the width of the bridge. It was university policy to avoid its becoming a public road. The iron bars arrived out of security concerns I suspect.
            The tale of the swimming pool is just another in the style of the tale of two bridges.
            Prof Milton A had left the country in the 1980s. He is a very good structural engineer who built the impressive Applied Mechanics Laboratory during a time of shortages.

            • 2
              0

              Dear SJ,
              .
              Thanks for the very clear explanation of the bridge.
              .
              The swimming pool, on the other hand, is something that I beheld for four years.
              .
              I will not, hereafter, tell the more interesting garbled versions, although we all like to tell stories about the eccentricities of absent-minded Professors. Although there was no malice in what I said, one never knows how these things get twisted by mischief-makers.

    • 2
      0

      You seem to have been thinking of this poem, Manel:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLlcvQg9i6c
      .
      I’ve got go now, but I will return to this within the next couple of days. I’m being cruel to impose this on deaf Manel, who will hear nothing of the audio part of this.
      .
      I listened for 45 minutes, actually, since this segued into two more YouTubes.

      • 1
        0

        I wasnt thinking of it but know it well, of course.

  • 7
    0

    Thank You Prof Niranjan for your beautifully written diary. It brought back to me bitter- sweet memories of two events: watching the solar eclipse of 1955 from the platform on Kekirarawa station, and in 1989 trying to drive through the beautiful campus at Peradeniya to the village of Hindagala only to be stopped by a burning jeep and a squad of armed soldiers of the SLA. On a different note, your comments on the variable toilet experiences in your travels has caused me to consider publishing a starred guide to the available toilet facilities for travellers in Sri Lanka. In my many travels up and down this blessed land, I have adopted a simple modus operandi. If the facility is not up to ‘standard’ I find out who is charge, offer a ‘small’ incentive to have everything cleaned up and washed down, and hey presto! business as usual for yours truly and guests.

    • 3
      0

      Thanks Spring Koha. It would be fantastic to have a Lankan google map plugin that shows clean public toilets. Great idea.

  • 4
    1

    This is a fantastic article that gives the expat view rather well. The author does not bore us with the usual genocide and other nonsense, he sticks with the dry British humour. Well done!

    • 2
      1

      Lester/jester

      “This is a fantastic article that gives the expat view rather well. The author does not bore us with the usual genocide and other nonsense, he sticks with the dry British humour. Well done!”

      So genocide/war crimes never happened?

      • 1
        0

        Native:
        Lester no say genocide no happen; He just say, it is boring nonsense topic. Maybe Lester not have relatives killed. I have. I know.

      • 0
        1

        A genocide happened, the genocide of the Sri Lankan economy. The country was set back by at least 25-30 years in development, once you factor in brain drain, lost FDI, GDP, etc.

        • 2
          0

          Of course, Lester. And what you say of our country being set back is true. But you did not see friends and family killed or disappear, so your understanding is different to mine. We cry over different things because our losses are different.

          • 0
            1

            You must not have been in Colombo, how do people react knowing a bomb could go off any moment. Bus, train, bank, etc, all were targets of the LTTE. This kind of environment also scares foreign investors anyway, making prices go up and giving people less opportunities for the future. What you speak of, army occupation, could have been avoided if the Tigers surrendered. They never had a chance to win, anyway. After 2001, the world stopped negotiating with terrorists.

  • 4
    0

    Prof Niranjan,
    You bird photography skill is excellent!! What kind of camera and lens you have?

    • 4
      0

      Anpu: Nikon Coolpix P1000. But camera alone wont do — you need to find the birds and sometimes climb trees also :-)
      If you are interested in photography, look up Jaffna Photography Society’s facebook page. Some young people there are brilliant.

  • 1
    0

    My friends who visited Kandy in the last 2 years tell me that the quality of Tamil life there had declined sharply. They say the temple, restaurants, etc., in the town, are in poor, dilapidated condition and there aren’t enough middle-class people there, unlike in the 1980s and 1990s, to renovate the buildings and maintain a sense of community.

    Is that your experience as well, Prof. Niranjan?

    • 6
      0

      Hard to tell.
      I found Kandy town to be very crowded and pollution levels very high (I am mildly asthmatic). I doubt if air pollution affects Tamils more than it does others. The Hindu temple has built extensions and looks more colorful than before (but it probably doesn’t depend exclusively on Tamil/Hindu customers). The saiva kadai had higher standards of hygiene than what I remember from 80’s: the thosai shooter had a chef’s hat on, vadai was taken from cupboard with tongs, the saambaar was fantastic and there was a clean male toilet. Some of the old buildings do look run down, but the new ones (e.g. hotels) seemed fine. Anyway that’s what the tourist saw.
      +
      Could your friend’s comment on declining Tamil life and middle class have a Jaffna-centered bias!?

  • 2
    0

    Thanks Prof. Niranjan for your observations.

    Everyone has some sort of bias, so it is possible.

  • 1
    0

    We’ve not had many stories from you recently.
    .
    This is one that I enjoyed immensely:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-the-failure-of-separatism/

    .
    In a sense, they are like Saki’s short stories. One mustn’t sit down and read them all at one go.. Actually, I’ve discovered just now that there are quite a few that I haven’t read yet, form the days before I began accessing Colombo Telegraph – not understanding what proxy sites are.
    .
    Have you picked up inspiration for any?

    .

  • 1
    0

    University of Ceylon Peradeniya is marvelous campus that which was build during that an occupation of British Empire and after 1948 Independence for long years.
    It has lost so many facilities, including hostels, faculties branches has to expanding , other educational building, play grounds and Sports with modern equipment gem are essential .
    And Library functions needed more of new innovation of that tools has to introduce by authorities . University research and development that wanted substantial funds for revitalization education to created environment for 21 st century to be created new elites by products of University Dons and teachers as well.
    Therefor due to lack of funding by many previous governments that University outlook has disappear at fine landscape of that Hanata Vally.
    An Eventually out of that maintenance of whole landscape of Peradeniya Hantan that beautiful scenic has lost and disappear for ever..

    But I think any govt. being to power that their responsibility to develop and upgrade University up to international standard is accountability by Minister of Higher Education ?

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