19 September, 2020

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Ediriweera Sarachchandra: A Renaisance Man

By Ranjini Obeyesekere

Ranjini Obeyesekere

Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends,

I am honored to be here today to say a few words about an old and dear friend, a rare and unusual person, a Renaissance man of 20th century Sri Lanka – if there ever was one..

Born at the cusp of the 20th century, at a moment when the cross influences of colonialism, nationalism, and Buddhist revivalism had a powerful impact on the psyche of Sri Lankan intellectuals, – – generative as well as conflictual,  the life and work of Ediriweera Sarachchandra, represents a transformation of these forces into works of path breaking scholarship and brilliant creativity.  His erudition was legendary, and his influence on generations of students as well as the general public has made him a household name in the country.

I will present a few vignettes to try to capture the intellectual range of his erudition, his sensitivity to the cultural and social demands of his time and his innate creativity that enabled him to fuse the many influences and exposures of his life into magnificent literary and dramatic works.

Ediriweera SarachchandraBorn to a Christian mother and a Buddhist father, and named Eustace Reginald de Silva, he transformed himself, his name, and his world, to become Ediriweera Sarachchandra —  perhaps the foremost intellectual, scholar, teacher, and creative artist of 20th century Sri Lanka.

His early childhood in a family of devout Christians exposed him to the English language and western music – he is said to have played the organ in his village church.  This double exposure stimulated his intellectual interests which always remained unfettered, and also nurtured his sensitivity and love of music which quickly extended to eastern music and its musical instruments.  Much later, after his stay in Japan he was fascinated by the music of Noh performances.  Music becomes then a central element in his later achievements and as H.L.Seneviratne remarked, “It becomes a metaphor for his east-west personality.”[1]

As a young intellectual caught in the ferment of anti colonial nationalism and Buddhist revivalism he fiercely rejected his early Christian cum western identity, studied Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhala, at the University of Ceylon, and with his sharp intellect and amazing memory became very proficient in those languages and their literature.  After graduation he chose to go to Shantiniketan, the Mecca for young Asian nationalist intellectuals and spent two years there as a full time student of music. Tagore’s world with its openness to a wide range of influences, its fusion of native cultural, and artistic modes of expression in creative experimentations in art, music, and performance, had a deep impact on the young Sarachchandra and strengthened his innate critical and creative instincts.

When he returned to Sri Lanka, aware now that a western academic training was indispensable to the scholarly enterprise he joined the University of London for graduate work. Again he combined his Pali and Sanskrit background with his interest in philosophy and psychology and wrote his PhD dissertation on ‘Buddhist Psychology and Perception.[2]

As a University teacher, Sarachchandra’s earliest contribution to the world of scholarship was in the sphere of literary criticism. The late 19th century and early 20th century had seen an enormous growth in literary activity in Sri Lanka, fuelled by scholarly monks and lay intellectuals steeped in the theories and traditions of classical Sanskrit aesthetics and philosophy.  The anti colonial mood of the time necessarily focused around a revival of the native language and literature.  It involved a looking back to the earlier classical heritage coming through Pali and Sanskrit and a rejection of English and western influences associated with colonialism.  Accordingly the school of classical scholarship quickly flourished around this time and the success or failure of literary works was judged on how strictly the rules of poetics and prosody as laid down by the Sanskrit aestheticians was applied.  The late 19th century had also seen the growth and spread of printing, which in turn had produced an avid reading public and a spate of journals, newspapers and critical works that surfaced to serve this public. Journals sprang up overnight to express or support a particular point of view in a currently raging critical controversy.

Sarachchandra’s earliest foray into this public melee of critical controversy and scholarship was with his book Modern Sinhala Fiction (1943) in which he assessed the work of some contemporary Sinhala novelists from a totally different perspective than the current schools of classical theory.  Prof. Malalasekera, in his preface to the book, while praising Sarchchandra’s special equipment for this task because of his university training, his travels abroad, his wide reading and his bilingual background, yet has this to add. “The charge can be made against Sarachchandra, with some justification, that he has based his judgement on standards that are unduly high.  ….   Viewed from that standpoint his verdicts may appear unnecessarily severe”[3] Then with great diplomacy he goes on to say, “No one has yet evolved a complete definition of what constitutes good literature.  In the last resort the reader is the final judge.”[4] These remarks convey some idea of the tricky position of a critic attempting to evaluate works of contemporaries in a small literary community in a small country like Sri Lanka where many of them were personal acquaintances if not friends!!

It was in this context of fervent intellectual debate that Sarachchandra together with Martin Wickremasinghe, made a bold bid to introduce critical concepts and theories from the western world into the Sinhala writing of the time.  By mid century, there was already a growing recognition among some critics, like Munidasa Kumaranatunge, of the need for developing evaluative criteria that could escape the rigid bounds set by the Sanskrit aestheticians, and  create a space for new writing.  Like many of his contemporaries Sarachchandra was influenced by the New Critical schools of England and America and the modern literature that was flourishing in the West.  His seminal contribution came however with the brilliant tour de force by which he took concepts now current among the New Critics in the west and reinterpreted them in terms of the concepts used by Sanskrit aesthetics –which he knew well. To give a few examples, Bharatha’s concept of rasa he related to the concept of aesthetic pleasure derived from a work of art. The concept of dhavani, the secondary or suggested meaning of a word was not different he claimed from the western critical concept of ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings in a work. The concept of aucitya or the appropriateness of words or images in a poem could be related to the western critical concept of organic unity in a work of poetry. By doing so he cut the ground under the feet of his classical critics. What better justification for the use of modern western critical criteria for evaluating literary works than the fact of its endorsement in the work of the ancient and venerated Sanskrit theorists![5]

In the Principles of Literary Criticism,[6] Abercrombie states that the realm of literature was occupied by the activities of three distinct powers: the power to create, the power to enjoy, and the power to criticize.  A good critic is not necessarily a good creative writer and vice versa.  Nor did everyone have the ability to experience and appreciate the full power ( rasa ) of a creative work. This was something that Sarachchandra endorsed and consistently maintained to the end of his life.  Yet ironically Sarachchandra himself epitomized the unusual combination or fusion of these very powers.  He was a brilliant creative artist, passionate in his enjoyment and appreciation of good art and literature, a perceptive and extremely sensitive critic who did in fact create an audience of rasikas to appreciate modern literature

Like F.R.Leavis and I.A.Richards, the theoreticians of the then popular school of New Criticism, Sarachchandra’s influence as a critic is closely related to his role as a University teacher.  It enabled him to play a pivotal role in the creation, direction, and diffusion of modern western oriented evaluative criticism. Through his influence on successive generations of students he was able to give a new direction to modern Sinhala writing and so make a major contribution to Sinhala literature.

Pandit Amaradeva, in a talk he gave in 2002, recalled how Sarachchandra would quote classical poetry while driving his car or seated in a corner of a wayside restaurant. Once in order to convey the kind of subtle musical effect he needed for the love scene for his play Pabavati that he was then working on, Amaradeva says Sarathchandra suddenly quoted a verse from the 13th century poem the Kavsilumina and passionately expounded on it.

Kataka bota mihivita                                         A young woman drinking liquor,

Heta kiyabu mihi siduvara                                 a siduvara flower from her hair fell (into her cup)

Duralannasin pimbiyē                                         as if to remove it the king blew

Muva mī gate naravarā                                        sucked nectar from her mouth

This 13th century classical Sinhala can hardly be understood by most of us today, but Sarachchandra’s fine poetic sensibility could bring out the nuances underlying the verse.

Pandit Ameradeva relates how Sarachchandra described that drinking scene and expounded on the nuanced minimalist lines with which the poet describes the kiss. He then went into a long discourse on the poet’s descriptive power, his language and usage.[7]  It was this sensitivity to language, literature and music and his uncanny ability to communicate it to others, that galvanized and inspired successive generations of students, both in the classroom and outside.

Sarachchandra was not merely a good teacher, scholar and critic he was also a novelist and a writer.

Here is a vignette from his early writings about his travels in India.

“It is a great misfortune to form your impressions of India in the trying heat of summer. . …

Quite unknowingly I fell into the trap of the Indian summer.  While writhing and sweating in the heat and wondering whether this saṃsāra would never end I still remember the reply my wife got from an Indian gentleman who happened to get into our compartment near Calcutta. ‘Is there no place that you can get away from this heat?’ she asked.  His words had the inevitability of the teachings of the Indian saints.  ‘No madam there is no place in the whole of India where you can escape the summer.’  Sarachchandra adds,

“There is nothing you can do under circumstances such as these but resign yourself to your fate.  You have merely to sit cross-legged on your seat, close your eyes and forgetting the flesh endeavor to merge yourself in the Absolute.  And it is not surprising that under conditions such as these there grew those philosophies and practices which are peculiar to Indian civilization.  I mean the doctrines of karma, nirvāṇa and dyāna.[8]

There is a typically Sarachchandra irony that plays over the whole scene described. The intellectual leap he makes from the cross-legged equanimity of his fellow traveler to the philosophies of the sub continent engendered probably by this very heat, are characteristic of the man!

If literary criticism and the introduction of modern forms of critical thinking were Sarachcandra’s major achievements as a teacher and a scholar, it was in the field of drama, the explosive new direction he gave to the Sinhala theatre with his experimental works such as Maname and Sinhabahu, that were the high point of his creative career.

I remember vividly the first night performance of Maname in 1956.  As the curtain rose and the rich chant of the Pothegura (narrator) filled the auditorium, I sat spellbound at what seemed to me a theatrical miracle. Sarachchandra’s total transformation of ideas and theatrical aspects that he had taken from the traditional rituals and folk plays, into a sophisticated modern drama; the bare stage emblazoned with colorful costumes by the artist Siri Gunasinghe, the sheer poetry of his verse enhanced by his creative use of music and dance, left me and the audience stunned.  Here was something new, exciting, different, from anything seen in the Sinhala theatre so far, breaking away from the western influenced fourth wall proscenium dramas and opening new directions for Sinhala drama.  As I walked out dazed and excited I remember meeting Regi Siriwardene, at the time the leading critic for the English newspapers, and he was equally transfixed. We talked briefly, at a loss for words to express our excitement.

That was the first night performance.  Since then it has played to generations of audiences, and hundreds of performances.  Although the stylized dance drama that he introduced has now become standard fare in the theatre and even somewhat passe, yet the sheer poetry of Sarachchandra’s  language and music still enthrall his audiences.

Years later when teaching at the Peradeniya University, I remember attending again a performance of Maname.  It was at the open air theatre — grass tiered seating under towering Taboobia trees that shed their delicate pink blossoms on a packed audience of students, teachers, monks, government bureaucrats, workers, and villagers from the surrounding area. Then, in the scene where the lovers walk in the forest and the now familiar song ‘prēmeyen maṇa ranjita vey’ was being sung, a student voice spontaneously joined in, and instantly the entire audience burst into the song.  It was an unforgettable magical moment.

If Maname was his first experimental drama, then his next play Sinhabahu with its rich dramatic text, the powerfully, complex tragic characters he created around the popular yet simple folk legend, their singing of his poignant poetry was I think the high point in his dramatic career.   Sarachchandra remained a dramatist to the end of his life and continued to write poetic drama yet none has remained as popular or as powerful as Sinhabahu.

I will quote some lines from Lakshmi de Silva’s translation of the dramatic encounter between the lion and his son Sinhabahu:[9] No translation can capture the full poetic power of the original – but it is the best we can do.

[The raging lion comes on stage dancing to drum music and singing.]

Lion:

I will besiege the universe

Unsphere the earth – around the world

Turn and return to seek –to seek.

Those who would trap me I will rend

Crush, tear, with red these claws shall reek

As I lap up their dripping blood,

Shatter their ear drums with my sound

as loud my sky hurled roars resound.

 

Look is it another man

Destined to die, facing in me

Retribution for past misdeeds?

Why must they come in quest of death?

I cannot understand their ire.

I merely come to seek my wife.

Whom have I wronged? These men bereft me

Of kith and kin, now seek my life.

Ripped crushed and mangled they shall die

In fragments rent their limbs shall lie.

 

Then the lion recognizes it is his son who has come. The chorus now takes over:

That dread lion wild with pain

Of love in severance,

Saw his son’s face like the moon

Over the dark trees rising

And his mind like white night-bloom flowered

In its radiance.

The arrow sped and fell

But by the power of love

Grazed neither fell nor flesh.

 

Love of a son goes deep

Piercing skin, flesh and nerve

Seeking the very bone,

Cleaving deep to the marrow

It gives incessant sorrow.

 

Lion

Why does my son shoot at me? Does he not know,

Or fail to recognize me? Was it wrath  /Or was it fear that made him bend his bow?

I have wondered long seeking your mother, you and your sister.  I would know if they are happy.  I will not harm you. Do not fear me.  Lay aside your bow and arrow.  Come to me.

Of course the audience knows that two arrows did not touch the lion because of the power of the overpowering love and compassion that suffused his being.  But when angered by the second arrow he decides to teach his son a lesson, the arrow strikes home and he is killed.

As a critic Sarachchandra has always remained a controversial figure in spite of his increasing impact on generations of writers and poets. The Peradeniya school of modern criticism of which he was a central figure, though it spread fast from the universities to the schools, has remained controversial.  Not so with his dramas.  There he stands a colossus and has remained so, even though other modes and other styles and experiments have followed in the theatre.

In the late sixties and seventies as young faculty at the University of Peradeniya, living at Mahakande, he was our neighbor and we became close friends. Soon he became a frequent evening visitor at our home.  Those evening gatherings were memorable. Sitting over drinks or a pot luck dinner we would talk into the night on any and every topic that currently absorbed us. Often other friends dropped in, Alex Gunasekera, H.L. Seneviratne,  Ian VandenDriesen, Bandula Jayawardene, to mention a few. The conversation would range from concepts in Buddhist or European philosophy, or modern Sociology, to recent literary criticism, music, drama, folk ritual performances, in short anything that any of us happened to be engaged in.  Sarath as we called him, was at his scintillating best – ready with a quote of a Pali stanza, or a Sanskrit sloka or a piece of classical Sinhala poetry to make a point or clinch an argument.  He was equally quick with his jokes and word play. The nicknames he coined for his friends and himself were legendary for their punning and perceptiveness.  I shall not attempt a translation.  But typical of Sarath he not only had fun names for others but he gave himself one too —  “Harak Andare” – court jester of cattle! His sharp wit and light hearted jokes enlivened the evenings, as the conversations ranged over a gamut of social political and literary concerns. I realize now that the seeds of my own intellectual stimulation came from those evening conversations and my earliest work on Sinhala Literary Criticism germinated there.

Ediriweera Sarachchandra was a renaissance man. His brilliant, wide ranging intellect, could compare, absorb and integrate the multifaceted influences he was exposed to and transform them into powerful works of critical scholarship, fiction, biography, poignant poetry and magnificent dramas.   It was done effortlessly, with ironic wit and often a slight note of self deprecation that endeared him to his friends and subtly destabilized his critics.  His boyish laughter was always directed at all forms of intellectual or ideological pomposity. Over his long life he touched the minds and lives of many, but to the very end he was a man on whom years of fame and popularity sat lightly. 

*Ranjini Obeyesekere’s today speech at the UNESCO commemoration of the Sarachchandra centenary.


[1] H.L.Seneviratne in an email communication with me. May 10th 2014.

[2] Buddhist Psychology and Perception, University of Colombo press, 1958.

[3] G.P. Malalasekera in the foreward toModern Sinhala Fiction, p.x, 1943.

[4] Ibid

[5] For a fuller discussion of the Sanskrit terms and their transformation by Sarachchandra  see R. Obeyesekere, Sinhala Writing and the New Critics, Colombo 1974, p38-53

[6] Principles of Literary Criticism, Lascelles Abercrombie, reprinted 1961.

[7]Pandit Amaradeva in his talk, “Peasurable experiences I had when I was creating the music for several of Sarachchandra’s plays.”  Ediriweera Sarachchandra memorial oration, June 14, 2003, p.19 ,20.

[8] Essay in Kesari titled “Through Shanthiniketan Eyes, 201.p.55

[9] Sinhabahu; Ediriweera Sarachchandra, translated by Lakshmi de Silva, Colombo 2002 p.38 and 39

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    Fascinating…!

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    Dear Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere

    RE: Ediriweera Sarachchandra: A Renaisance Man

    “I am honored to be here today to say a few words about an old and dear friend, a rare and unusual person, a Renaissance man of 20th century Sri Lanka – if there ever was one”

    “Born at the cusp of the 20th century, at a moment when the cross influences of colonialism, nationalism, and Buddhist revivalism had a powerful impact on the psyche of Sri Lankan intellectuals, – – generative as well as conflictual, the life and work of Ediriweera Sarachchandra, represents a transformation of these forces into works of path breaking scholarship and brilliant creativity. His erudition was legendary, and his influence on generations of students as well as the general public has made him a household name in the country.”

    1. I have seen both Maname and Sinhabahu and very much appreciated his talents.

    2. Appreciated Maname, as a good story. However, Sinhabahu was the perpetuation of a Myth, based on lies and imaginations by Para-Monk Mahanama of Mahawansa Fame and Notoriety, which many Para-Sinhala in the Land of Native Veddah believe. Most of these Para-Sinhala also believe that Myth, and more.

    Why would a renaissance man promote such Myths? If even the so-called “Educated” Professor Sarathchandra was promoting such myths, what do you expect from the ordinary academic, the ordinary school teacher and ordinary student and the ordinary Sinhala to think?

    So, Prof. Sarathchndra contributed to the current Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamil conflict, with its roots on Mahawansa, which Sinhabahu was based on.

    So much for the “Renaissance” Man from Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah.

    But, what are the Facts?

    “The above theory jolly well fits with our own archaeological evidence. ‘Balangoda Man’ dates back to 38,000 years.”

    Lions? Lion gene?

    Not only that, the paras sprang from apes about 3 million years ago, and they had 48 chromosomes, just like the Apes. The para have 98.5% of their DNA in common with the great apes. Because the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Portuguese and others are paras, foreigners in the land of Native Veddah. The Native Veddah lived in the land of Native Veaah for 30,000 years or so before the Para, who later divided into Sinhalese and Tamils, claimed they were here before.

    Check the DNA of the Paras. That is proof. What more do you want?

    Just like Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler stated, the data supports that the Para-Sinhalese and para-Tamils are truly paras in the land of Native Veddah., The Paras should get back to South India/Nagaland , where they belong. There, they can follow their myths in India.

    https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

    Since its launch in 2005, National Geographic’s Genographic Project has used advanced DNA analysis and worked with indigenous communities to help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth.

    Ken Miller on Human Evolution and Para-Sinhala and para-Tamil Evolution

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

    Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007 Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2

    All the above statements can be supported and confirmed and supported by data, unlike the lie, imaginations Incorporated in Sinhabahu by Prof. Sarathchandra, the “Renaissance” Man. He does not fit the definition.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/renaissance+man

    Renaissance man

    a man who is interested in and knows a lot about many things

    a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas

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      Oh, for gosh sakes’ man, give us a bloody break from your persistent ranting!!!
      Ever heard of self-censorship?
      High time you practised that.
      Bloody tripe it is, most of what you write!

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        Poorly educated conflation is in full swing today.

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        Ivor Biggun

        1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says
        by SCOTT NEUMAN
        February 14, 2014 5:55 PM ET

        Did anybody ask the same questin from the Paras in the Land of Native Veddah?

        1 In ?? Paras in Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah, Thinks That Monk Mahananama Mahawansa is true and is Buddhism.

        http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says

        A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.

        The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

        To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

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      Dear Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere,

      ‘prēmeyen maṇa ranjita vey’

      You can sing again, but please discard the Monk Mahanama lies and imaginations… that is where prof. Sarathchadra went wrong, lost his title to be a Renaissance Man.

      “Years later when teaching at the Peradeniya University, I remember attending again a performance of Maname. It was at the open air theatre — grass tiered seating under towering Taboobia trees that shed their delicate pink blossoms on a packed audience of students, teachers, monks, government bureaucrats, workers, and villagers from the surrounding area. Then, in the scene where the lovers walk in the forest and the now familiar song ‘prēmeyen maṇa ranjita vey’ was being sung, a student voice spontaneously joined in, and instantly the entire audience burst into the song. It was an unforgettable magical moment.”

      Enjoy Maname, but discard the lies and imaginations of Mahawansa..

      Premayen mana ranjitha we’
      Nanditha we’

      Pushpayen vanasundara we’
      Lankrutha we’

      Aalayen weli saadi me’ latha

      Mandapayen chandathapa
      Banditha we’ hiru rajuduge’

      Kokila handa kan pinawai
      Ran swarayayi

      Rana giraw dena gee sindu
      Ama bindu

      Saama dese’ sangeetha asay

      Pipi thambarin nada bambarin

      Piya ravi dena liya kindurana

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    This is a loving tribute to a great man who was a giant among academics when I went through university. Though I am a Tamil, he did smile and greet me whenever I passed him. He did care and I hold his memory without in any way tarnishing it.

    I only have some pain not specifically against Professor Saratchandra but against other Sinhalese leaders of thought of that generation which could have changed the history of the country. They had the stature to do this. There was a purge of Tamil academics in a diversity of ways taking place at the universities. There were cooked up promotions. Widespread corruption was taking place in the universities. Why did they not act to stop it?

    Students were misled. The same combination of Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhalese did good for Prof Saratchandra but where would it have got the countless young Sinhalese whose parents pawned their last cow to send their children to study the same three subjects a generation later, with no English to supplement their knowledge?Why did the Sinhalese leaders of thought not stop it?

    These students later joined the JVP through sheer frustration. They along with other innocent youth were simply slaughtered. Why did the Sinhalese renaissance men not protest and call for prosecution as the Tamils are doing now for the killing of their innocent civilians? Even if the Sinhalese youth were guilty, there was no right in the government, simply to eliminate them. It began a tradition of impunity that still continues.

    In the same breath, why did the Sinhalese leaders of thought not prevent the slaughter of the Tamils over the years or at least speak up against the frequency with which they occured? Why did they not practise what all the Pali slokas and Sanskrit slokas dictate- the care for the other?

    Until these questions can be answered, the Renaissance men, these tarnished persons could not be. When people among them suffered, they remained silent. Sometimes, perhaps inadvertently, they stoked the fires that burnt for long.

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      Siva,

      I agree with you.

      I wonder and wonder,how a country that claims to practices ahimsa, exudes philosophy in every facet of its art and literature, a country as Ranjini says that keep producing great minds turns out to be the most racist, the most base and the most barbaric country that at least I know of. There is something wrong with the gene of the Sinhala Buddhist.

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      Ponkoh Sivakumaran

      “where would it have got the countless young Sinhalese whose parents pawned their last cow to send their children to study the same three subjects a generation later, with no English to supplement their knowledge?”

      Most of them ended up in Ministry of Finance, Planning, Central Bank, State owned Banks, Civil Services, and some of them became perverted Aryan Sinhala/Buddhist historians or full/part time racists.

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      Ponkoh Sivakumaran

      1. “Students were misled. The same combination of Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhalese did good for Prof Saratchandra but where would it have got the countless young Sinhalese whose parents pawned their last cow to send their children to study the same three subjects a generation later, with no English to supplement their knowledge?Why did the Sinhalese leaders of thought not stop it?”

      2. “In the same breath, why did the Sinhalese leaders of thought not prevent the slaughter of the Tamils over the years or at least speak up against the frequency with which they occured? “

      3.”Until these questions can be answered, the Renaissance men, these tarnished persons could not be.”

      Succinctly put, thanks.

      My feeling is that Prof. Sarathchndara was fully immersed in Pali ( Para-Pali), Sanskrit ( Para-Sansktit), and Sinhala (Para-Sinhala), that he was not able to see the forest for the trees,

      to pay too much attention to details of Pali and Mahawansa and not understand the general situation not see the wood for the trees .

      With Mananme he had pristine milk. However, with Sinhabahu, with its mahawansa roots of lies and imaginations, his credibility was tarnished. It was like putting cow ding(shit), into pristine cow milk. In Sinhala, it is called “Kiri Walata Goma Danawa.” It spoils the Milk.

      As Ponkoh Sivakumaran points out, this had repurcussuins in the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamil conflict, and “Sinhabahu”, indeed add fuel to the flames, the fire started by Para-Monk Mahanam of Mahawansa.

      Had, Prof. Sarathchandra, selected any Jataka Story, out of the 500 odd stories, with good ethics and wisdom in them, he could have promoted pristine Buddhism, instead of the corruptions of Mahawansa.

      Looks like, Prof. Sarthchdra, the Plai Scholar, kept his Tipitaka and the Mahawansa, in the SAME BASKET, and because both were in Pali, mixed them up.

      Even though Prof. Sarathchandra lived in the 20th century, the great advances made the modern renaissance men in the West especially in Science, and the elucidation of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953, all eluded this Pali Scholar. I wonder if any of his students knew who Watson and Crick were, and that their work will make a mockery of Mahawansa and the Para-Sinhala lies and imaginations.

      So much for the “Renaissance” man, Prof. Sarathchandra.

      PS.*****

      An actor depicting a lion, expressing in mime, body movement and song: Gal lena bindala ! Len dora harala ! Sinhaba, Sinhaba…..” ?

      SHOULD HAVE BEEN An actor depicting a lion, expressing in mime, body movement and song:

      “Gal boru galala !Boru pacha pathirala, !Rata bindala ! Minussu harala !Mahanama, O Mahanama! ”

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      I agree with what you said on JVP. Your rationality and analysis when it comes to other’s issues is tremendous though the rationality is negligible when writing about tamil Hindu issues like saying Buddha was influenced by Bagwat Geetha

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    In April 1989, when I was on a long stay in Colombo, the British Council asked me to organize a felicitation for Professor Sarachchandra on his 75th. birthday. I did this with a number of speakers, and actors reading from his plays.
    I had to open the meeting with an introductory talk. I told the gathering that it so happened that a few weeks earlier the educational authorities in England did a wide survey to find out how much young people in 1989 knew of the main personalities of England a hundred years before 1989, and even before. They found that there was hardly any knowledge of the political leaders of a hundred years before, not even of the great William Gladstone, prime minister in 1889, or of the political leadership of England when it defeated France at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. However, the young people surveyed were joyously familiar with Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Sheridan, Congreve, John Milton and others, the literary figures of so long ago whose works continue to nourish the cultural blood and identity of the English people. No work of a politician can perform this function, and that explains why those young people knew not of the political leaders of a hundred years before.

    I conjectured that a hundred years from now, and long after, when all of us will be long gone, lights will still come up on stages and audiences will respond to two young actors dancing as they sing:

    “Premeyen mana ranjita vey, nanditha vey….”

    or
    An actor depicting a lion, expressing in mime, body movement and song:

    Gal lena bindala ! Len dora harala ! Sinhaba, Sinhaba…..”

    Maname and Sinhabahu are for all Lankans to rejoice in, not any one ethnic component, because at their origin base is the Nadagama, which came to the western coastal parts of Sri Lanka through the Catholic Church using the Jaffna and Batticoloa Kutthu folk drama’s dance and music in dramatic presentations in the Sinhala language. The oldest printed nadagama is Sthakki Nadagama and the author tells us that it is a Tamil play he has translated to Sinhala. All this is detailed by Sarachchandra in his The Folk Drama of Ceylon, Department of Cultural Affairs, 1966, pages 95 to 120.

    It was Sarachchandra’s genius that fused the original Tamil dance and transformed music of the Kutthu with his Sinhala dramatic literature in Maname and Sinhabahu. A seamless fusion for all Lankans, while elevating these two works high above their original derivations.

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      Ernest,

      A long time ago I read a literary thesis on ‘Sinhabahu’. I do not remember the author. It went like this-

      ‘Gal lena bindala, len dora kadala,’ was an analogy to rape. (Excusing sensibilities) Almost every Sri Lankan knows what ‘gala’ means in relation to sexual activity. It is simple to imagine what ‘gal lena’ means. The act of sexual violation and deviance is imbedded in Prof Sarathchandras powerful words ‘len dora kadala’. It is therefore easy to conclude that Prof Sarathchandra’s works had a profound influence is shaping the present day Sinhala psyche. How many rapes have the Sri Lankans committed since independence especially during the anti Tamil riots and during the 2009 war against terror?

      And see what the Sinhala Buddhist monks are shaping up to do to the Muslim women.

      Prof Ranjini Obaysekera can wax lyrical about the works of Prof Sarathchandra et al, but the proof is in the pudding – what a Sinha beast the Sinhale has become.

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    The politicising of Sri Lanka as a mono ethnic state and Edirweera Saratchandras’s complicity in it-

    The politicising of Sri Lanka as a monocultural authoritarian state was initiated by S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake in 1956. There were many intellectuals behind this project to Sinhalize the country’s history and establish the parameters of a nationalist culture. Two of these ideologues behind the throne, Professor Sarachchandra and the famous writer Martin Wickramasinghe, produced influential theories and books about the Sinhala Buddhist folk tradition. These gentleman scholars saw themselves as serving a noble mission.

    Professor Sarachchandra was committed to the Sinhala cultural project. In 1952 his authoritative book Sinhala Folk Drama was published by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. It established the orthodoxy, the traditions and forms which would thenceforth be understood as the sole ‘authentic’ expressions of the nation’s culture. Although Professor Sarachchandra had carried out his research in all regions of the country, his book intentionally subsumed all non-Sinhala forms as elements of the Southern tradition.

    Professor Sarachchandra then wrote two stage plays, Maname and Sinhabahu, based on his researches. To this day these dramas are performed over and over again, always greeted as classic works of our national heritage — always understood as the Sinhala tradition.

    Theatre Education, this set of documentary films from Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, addresses the discrimination and exclusion at the core of this post-Independence political manoeuvring to establish our ‘traditions’. But these films are not just about the theatre. They open a new act in our social, political, cultural and ethnic discourses by reconnecting to lost dimensions of our shared cultural legacies. The following notes indicate some aspects of what Dharmasiri reveals in these documentaries.

    Kooththu and Kooththu Workshop

    Kooththu is the traditional theatre of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, rich in colours, gestures and rhythms. There are many styles in Kooththu and it is a narrative theatre that is performed all through the night in the Vadda Kalari, (round stage) in the villages. The performers dance and sing around the Annaviyar and the Sabaiyor who are in the centre of the Vadda Kalari. Playing maththalam and sallari and supporting the performers with pinpattu (background singing), The audience sits around the

    Vadda Kalari.

    According to Dharmasiri, the late Prof. S. Viththiananthan modified the traditional Kooththu, and in the process of modification he re-shaped Kooththu into a proscenium stage with Annaviyar and Sabaiyor positioned in front of the proscenium stage of the auditorium. He used modern lighting and introduced traditional instruments such as savanikkai, udukku and sanggu with maththalam and sallari and made changes in costumes, make-up and music. Students of Peradeniya University took part in this modification process of the late Prof. S. Viththiananthan in the 1960s and Prof. S. Mounaguru who was at that time an undergraduate of the same University, not only played the major role in it but also composed the script with the guidance of the late Prof. S. Viththiananthan and Prof. K. Sivathamby.
    Before the making of this documentary, only one Sinhala commentator, Professor M.H. Gunathilake, in his two-volume Kooththu (2000), had investigated this element of our overall cultural heritage. These two films on Kooththu, give this traditional dance-drama the recognition it deserves.

    Ravanesan

    The story of Ravanesan revolves round Ravanan’s struggle to keep up his stature of heroism in the face of crisis. Ravanesan portrays the sufferings and struggles of good-hearted people who are trapped into the war machine. The abduction of Seethai, followed by the message from Raman and the manner in which it was conveyed to Ravanan by the messenger Anggathan, posed a challenge to his heroic qualities and leads to his tragedy. It is also the tragedy of the people around him.

    In the 1960s, the late Prof. S. Vithiananthan inspired by the creative work of the late Prof. E.R. Sarachchandra in the Sinhala theatre took Vadamody and Thenmody kooththu styles of Batticaloa for his Kooththu revival and modified it to fit into the proscenium stage for modern audience, Dharmasiri noted.
    Ravanesan is a re-creation by Prof. S. Mounaguru. In 2003, when Dharmasiri arranged to stage the play at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, this aroused the enmity of the Sinhala fundamentalists and death threats were issued to Dharmasiri and the others involved in the production. It had to be stopped.

    Traditional Drums

    The Sinhala nationalist project was applied to music as well as to dance and drama. The authority in this instance was C.deS. Kulathilake, who produced his Jana Sangeetha Siddhantha (Theory of Folk Music) in 1984. Although he too had travelled, collected and documented the music of many communities, this book again reproduced only those from the Southern Sinhala region, thereby contributing to the obfuscation of any other ethnicity and religion.

    Kathakali and Bhangra

    Theatre Education is not limited to dance-drama and marginalised ethnic traditions in Sri Lanka. It also covers the Indian traditional dance form, Kathakali, and the current Europeanised Punjabi music known as Bhangra. These films explore background, technical production and the nature of their music and dance forms.

    Unsettling Memories

    This film, an Indian play made with the Aruvani community, deals with another tradition of South Indian drama, so much more inclusive than that of Sri Lanka. The South Indian theatre’s capacity for embracing the wider social realities of its audience — political, practical, generational — could be an inspiration and a model for the directions which a liberated Sri Lankan drama might pursue.

    Doothikavo (Mission Everlasting)

    This film is about a student drama produced at the Holy Family Convent in Kaluthara. The young people had produced a play bringing together two recent news stories which had affected them: the experience of Rachel Corrie, the American girl who went to Palestine and was killed there, and the siege and slaughter at the school in Beslan. The students wrote a play within a play, staging the Corrie story as a drama being prepared in the Russian school, playing Beslan children rehearsing their performance of the story from Palestine. After their capture by the Chechen guerrillas, the Sri Lankan/Beslan children keep their spirits up by continuing to work on their Palestinian drama.

    This play, written and performed without any guidance or contribution from the Sri Lankan peace industry, fascinated Dharmasiri and his documentary includes reflections by the children and teachers involved. This extraordinary anti-war intervention, the first for many years, again attracted the wrath of the Sinhala Buddhist fundamentalists. Death threats were sent to the children and to the adults who had worked with them. The play was stopped.

    Method and Significance

    Compared with European producer directors, Dharmasiri works with simple equipment in a style more like guerrilla or Raindance filmmaking than broadcast documentary. Although the economy of his method is appropriate to the material and environments he is dealing with, his technical expertise and personal skills deliver a sophisticated set of films.

    Dharmasiri worked on the Theatre Education series over a period of 4-5 years. The Ceasefire Agreement enabled him to move around the country, to record dance-drama from the North and East and to rediscover and emancipate some of our hidden traditions. Beyond its contribution in the domains of drama and dance; this series’ widening of our cultural spectrum, can enable new sociological discourses and heal some of the fractures in the nation’s knowledge and recognition of its diverse and unique treasures. Significantly, the trilingual subtitles enable all Sri Lanka’s to connect to these important films.

    Sri Lanka’s political problems cannot be adequately understood without recognising the decades of systematic discrimination and exclusion from our cultural life of our non-Sinhala heritages. Dharmasiri Bandaranayake has made it a personal responsibility to recover and re-present aspects of our true traditions essential to the forging of a culturally coherent and liberated future for Sri Lanka.
    http://www.countercurrents.org/ratnayake170707.htm

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      oopla

      “This play, written and performed without any guidance or contribution from the Sri Lankan peace industry, fascinated Dharmasiri and his documentary includes reflections by the children and teachers involved. This extraordinary anti-war intervention, the first for many years, again attracted the wrath of the Sinhala Buddhist fundamentalists. Death threats were sent to the children and to the adults who had worked with them. The play was stopped. “

      Time to issue death threats for any who promotes Sinhabahu, because it is based on lies and imaginations of Para-Monk Mahanama based on lies of Mahawansa.

      Alternately, they can prove that the Mahawanda is correct by showing the presence of Lion DNA in the so-called Sinhala, in the Land ff Native Veddah.

      Also post Amarasiri’s poster on every wall, tree and surface in the Land of Native Veddah…

      ENGLISH TRANSLATION of Sinhala and Tamil poster

      PARA FOREIGNERS GO BACK TO SOUTH INDIA

      PARA-SINHALA, PARA-TAMIL, PARA-MUSLIM, FOREIGNERS

      TO LIVE WITHOUT FEAR, GO BACK TO SOUTH INDIA

      YOUR DNA IS PROOF

      LANKA VEDDAH PEOPLES INHERITANCE LANKA PEACE.

      PEACE FOR VEDDAH PEOPLE. GOOD ENVIRONMENT

      ******************************

      PARA-SINHALA, PARA-TAMIL, PARA-MUSLIM, FOREIGNERS

      GO BACK TO SOUTH INDIA

      LANKA VEDDAH PEOPLES INHERITANCE

      ***************************

      Lanka will be peaceful, and the Naive Veddah can live in an environmentally friendly manner. No more Para Wars. Pars, please Go, Go, Go…

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      Oopla,
      “The politicising of Sri Lanka as a monocultural authoritarian state was initiated by S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake in 1956. There were many intellectuals behind this project to Sinhalize the country’s history and establish the parameters of a nationalist culture. Two of these ideologues behind the throne, Professor Sarachchandra and the famous writer Martin Wickramasinghe, produced influential theories and books about the Sinhala Buddhist folk tradition. These gentleman scholars saw themselves as serving a noble mission.”

      You said it well. All the arts and crafts and Sinhala discourses since independence contributed to the monstrous state that is Sri Lanka today. Inadvertently or advertently Prof Sarathchandra’s works also went along in shaping the Sinhala mindset that led to so much horror since independence.

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        “All the arts and crafts and Sinhala discourses since independence contributed to the monstrous state that is Sri Lanka today.”

        what nonsense!
        what is wrong with celebrating the arts and crafts of sinhala people? Sinhala people at that time was under a hegemonic british rule and western imperialism like all other south asian ethnicities. In a time of subjugation and cultural domination it is the celebration of arts and crafts, language that helps the local people to fight the foreign cultural domnation.

        And SL is far away from a monstrous country even with all wars, conflicts and coruption. Read about other countries.

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      “The politicising of Sri Lanka as a monocultural authoritarian state was initiated by S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake in 1956. There were many intellectuals behind this project to Sinhalize the country’s history and establish the parameters of a nationalist culture. Two of these ideologues behind the throne, Professor Sarachchandra and the famous writer Martin Wickramasinghe, produced influential theories and books about the Sinhala Buddhist folk tradition. These gentleman scholars saw themselves as serving a noble mission.”

      In your comment you did not connect, Sarathchandra’s and Wickramasinghe’s works with SWRD politics though you thought you did. How does producing theories and books about sinhala buddhist folk tradition is carrying out SWRD’s politics?

      So according to your theory the way ahead for the coutry had been making the sinhala people forget their cultrual assets, literature and in other words everything in sinhala identity so that everyone can become just Sri Lankan ofcourse allowing only the Sl tamils to live with their identity? This is what all these fellows commenting here suggest.

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    An excellent and intimate exposition of the erudition and the thinking of such a great intellectual and an incomparable artist in his field. One of his greatest traits was also his humility. Bensen

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