10 December, 2019

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Finders Keepers: On Sex, Tara The Buddhist Deity At The British Museum & Brownness In The Colonies

By Senel Wanniarachchi

Senel Wanniarachchi

“Your victory

Was so complete

Some among you

Thought to keep

A record of

Our little lives

The clothes we wore

Our spoons, our knives”

 —Lenard Cohen, Nevermind

I am at the entrance to the British Museum and the path separates into two. I take the path which appears to be less crowded and a guard interrupts me saying this entrance is for ‘members only’. I apologize, take the other and stand in a queue for several minutes. I pass through barricades that separate the members from ‘the other’ which leads me to a checkpoint. It’s my turn to have my bag checked and suddenly I’m conscious of my brownness. Soon, I find myself facing the British Museum. The building’s personality is intimidating and reeks of power. As I walk in, I am reminded that the history of this building and this city is intrinsically entrenched to my own and that of my ancestors and I am reminded of my place in the world and its hierarchies. As I walk in, I see a sign that reads ‘The British Museum —  collecting the world’.

Soon, I am lost in the midst of glorious looted treasures – the mummies of Egypt, Samurai armour from ancient Japan and a Moai statue from the Easter Islands. Even the biggest cynic cannot deny that the museum is a grotesquely impressive custodian of memory, preserving people’s fears, broken dreams and fantasies; like a tragic yet magical cemetery. French art theorist André Malraux once noted, that ‘a museum has always been an artificial concept, a wrenching of objects not into context but out of it’. However, there is very much a context to the British Museum — it’s an institutional legacy of colonialism, white supremacy, slavery and genocide.

I collect a headphone, the piece of technology that would guide me across the museum. Odd euphemisms are used to refer to how the artefacts were ‘acquired’ —‘governed South Asia’, not ‘colonized’, protectorate not colony, ‘suppressing unrest’, not mass killing. Soon, I am drawn to the Museum’s long South Asian Gallery where I see Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction dancing on a circle of fire, Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and a shadow puppet of Mahatma Gandhi. I feel a strange sense of solidarity with these inanimate artefacts. At the end of the gallery, I find the infamous Tara,  standing tall atop a plinth gazing at me. Tara is a Buddhist and Hindu mother goddess of mercy and generous compassion. Her bronze statue plated in gold was stolen from Sri Lanka’s Kandyan Kingdom when the British colonized the island in 1815. Tara’s upper body is completely naked with a sarong draped around her hip concealing her body waist down. Her right hand is in the gesture known as varadamudra – of granting a wish.

At the museum, almost everyone passing by stops to take a look at Tara. A young white couple stands adjacent to me. The young man whispers something in his female companion’s ear. They both giggle. I’m inclined to assume it was a joke laden with some sexual innuendo. Many aren’t aware of Tara’s genealogy or her divinity. Many wouldn’t care. She fulfills an exoticized oriental fantasy. The audio explains that Tara was ‘given’ to Robert Brownrigg, the third Governor of Ceylon (as the British referred to Sri Lanka) who ‘donated’ it to the museum ‘perhaps finding her voluptuous form rather out of place in his English country home’. However, Tara was considered to be too obscene and perverse to be exhibited to the public. Her exposed bronze breasts too big, her waist too narrow and her hips too curvaceous for the respectability of the white gaze. As such, she was locked up in a discreet storeroom, aptly named ‘the Secretum’ for nearly thirty years. The Museum was mandated to create the Secretum, colloquially known as ‘the porn room’, through the 1857 Obscene Publications Act which gave the state power to destroy material it deemed offensive and obscene.

Here was a Sri Lankan mother Goddess worshipped by her devotees, stolen and taken by force to a foreign land where she is treated as some pornographic knick-knack only to be locked up in a storeroom along with phallic antiquities and European erotica that display orgies, bestiality and whatever else was deemed too indignant for the holy white gaze. Only adult white male specialists of ‘mature years and sound morals’ who constituted the very apex of the social hierarchy had access to enter the ‘Secretum’ for their pathologizing intellectual gaze. These scholars probably used Tara to enrich their knowledge system of ‘scientific’ racism that drove colonialism — the libidinous, ‘out of control’ non-humans were vice-indulgent and so were their vain gods. For the natives in the ‘Orient’, she represented mercy and compassion. The brown devotees who wanted to escape the illusion and suffering of the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth of samsara would stare into her bronze eyes and meditate. This would have perplexed the white missionary slave masters for whom she represented a sinful profanity. How could a naked woman be a God? A God so religiously venerated that even the most powerful of men would kneel before her image, join their palms and pray? They were convinced that these queer emasculated leaders weren’t capable of governing their lands and people and as such, colonialism was not only justified but also inevitable.

For their white gaze, Tara wasn’t any woman, she was pornographic. How could one meditate while watching porn? For the Asians, the sensual and the spiritual were always interconnected and interdependent, perpetually producing and reproducing each other. In Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism, sexual yoga is treated as a form of meditation. However, the British, who failed to comprehend this hypersexualized dichotomy, concurred that the effeminate natives needed the white masters to civilize, not just them, but their Gods. As the missionaries ‘civilized’ the brown Buddhists, they inadvertently ‘civilized’ their Buddhism, and a new kind of rehabilitated Buddhism emerged– a Protestant Buddhism.

The language of conquest was taxonomically allegorized by gender and sexuality. The manly and bold Europe penetrates the effeminate ‘orient’ with exotic landscapes and strange non-humans who worshipped licentious naked Gods. Attempting to meditate looking into Tara’s bronze eyes, I was reminded of what Sri Lanka would have once been, before the island and its inhabitants were marked by colonialism. For the white colonial masters, the island was full of sin and vice. Like Tara, the brown Asians audaciously exposed their bodies in the tropical sun with only a ‘small bit of cord round the loins from which hung a piece of cloth … covering their natural nakedness’. Polyandry was customary as men had ‘but one wife; but a woman often had two husbands’. ‘The sin of sodomy’ was ‘so prevalent’ and with the absence of binarized performances of gender, the colonial masters often found themselves looking at the brown natives under tropical palm trees in confusion wondering ‘men or women?… these males are so perfectly beautiful that one’s gaze can be fooled’.

The audio in my ear whispers that Tara was perhaps buried in soil for protection from invaders causing the scars across her face and body. The image of Tara’s body traumatized by scars reminds me how Sri Lanka continues to be marked by colonialism. In order to please our colonial masters, we learnt to regulate ourselves and each other and to be ashamed of our brown bodies and conceal them in shame. The same temples that were home to female deities like Tara, now deny women access as they ‘sinfully’ menstruate ‘dirty’ blood. We memorized the masters’ language and started sharing their obsession with hierarchies such as heteronormativity, patriarchy and capitalism. We now perform their binarized gender roles for them better than the masters themselves. Our militarized nationalisms treated the minorities within our own communities the way our slave masters treated us. We appropriated their monogamous marital family as the primary site of surveillance of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’. Our state institutionalized colonialism in all its arms, from the military to politics and education to tame its populations and massify them into these moulds, using biopower to regulate every raised eyebrow, every condescending giggle and every embarrassed look. Our legal infrastructure is a residue of colonialism, not one based on Buddhist or Hindu jurisprudence. Our Obscene Publications Act is much like the one which mandated the creation of the Secretum. Our penal code criminalizes homosexuality and the Vagrants Ordinance criminalizes sex work. These laws were mobilized to punish deviance and most of us abided through ‘self-governance’ in fear of the carceral state. The post-colonial monolithic Sri Lankan state metamorphosed itself in order to please the masters’ understandings of chastity, virility, domesticity, and respectability and we ‘emulate and simulate’ these ‘moral codes’ as if they are our own culture. A new post-colonial brownness was recreated to be in a perpetual struggle to achieve whiteness both physically & ontologically.

The audio tells me that the precious gems that decorated Tara’s hair are now missing. Colonization robbed us not only of our gems but our soil, our air, our sexuality, our language, our culture and our gods. We complied in order to please our colonial masters and to show to them that we are respectable and are capable of governing ourselves. Today, the same master looks back at us and says we are too illiberal, unenlightened and conservative, our masculinity too toxic, our femininity too servile and our culture and religion too backward, for practising these very things we appropriated from them. ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’. When will we admit that this purity is a performance? That we are erotic? That we were the original ‘free the nipple’? That some amongst us are queer? That some of our ancestors were sex workers?

Museums construct certain ‘narratives’ of history, and the British Museum’s narrativization is one of a history as written by the victors, of the ‘executioner having the last word’. Representations of colonialism as adventurous expeditions to ‘collect the world’ erase the struggle of the natives and reproduce orientalist fantasies. We need to reclaim these stories, our brownness and our erotic which is our power.

However, unmoved and unaffected, Tara stands tall as a silent yet deeply political act of resistance and a reminder of a pre-colonial past where a naked woman was a goddess who brought the most powerful of kings, priests and generals in ‘the Orient’ to their knees. There have been several requests from Sri Lanka calling for the return of Tara and other artefacts. Looking into her eyes, I am unsure if Tara should to be brought back to Sri Lanka. Colonialism has erased something so intrinsic about the island that I am no longer sure if she is even welcome. The audio in my ear concludes voyeuristically, ‘before you move on, admire her from every side’. I look at Tara’s left hand, the varadamudra, and say a prayer for my beautiful country.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    0

    Senel, Here, you have written about Tara!
    Do you know the original Tripitaka written on ola leaves was also stolen by George Turner (Government agent of Sambaragamuva around 1930-40s) and now it is in the British museum? In that Tripitaka, we can find the original words preached by the Buddha.
    Geroge Turner, being the GA of Sabaragmuwa, practically snatched it (bought it for peanuts) from whoever lived in Mathula Cave temple near Kegalle and dispatched with other ‘artifacts’ he forcibly acquired from then Ceylon to England.

    • 10
      8

      Young Senel Wanniarachchi
      has many personal issues to deal with.
      He seems to suffer from his own colonial complexes of being brown even after 71 years of independence and confirms “It’s my turn to have my bag checked and suddenly I’m conscious of my brownness.”

      Young Senel could have explored the net before visiting the Museum.
      Penguin publication “A History of the World in 100 Objects” by Neil MacGregor (2012) has a chapter (54) Statue of Tara, Bronze Statue from Sri Lanka AD 700 – 900, pages 294-298 which gives more detail than the young Senel. Young Senel should by one and read it.

      Lot of the old treasures would not have survived if left in Sri Lanka. The poor village monks trade in old oola scriptures for dollars or rupees . Young Senel is too young to know that some of the Ola scripts looted from Jaffna Library have been stored in the South, or might have been sold to private collectors outside the island.

      • 11
        5

        Native Vedda,

        You also suffer from lots of personal issues, complexes and numerous other bees in your bonnet. Please deal with them before preaching to others.

        But thanks for the info on “History of the World in 100 Objects”. I have not read it.

        There is a very good bbc documentary on this Tara figure you might find on YouTube.

        Aside:-
        By the way regarding your favorite topic kallathonis, there is a book titled “The Illicit Immigrant”. Used to be available at the Lake House Bookshop. You might like to brush up a bit more on the topic!

      • 2
        3

        NV
        You are pleading browner than brown. No, we are the same.

        Soma

        • 2
          5

          somass

          Though I may look brown and uncivilised in my amude I have been trying to keep my heart and mind cleaner. However its my non religious duty to liberate Buddhism from Sinhala/Buddhist fascism.

      • 6
        7

        Gon Veddha,

        Senel Wanni has written a beautiful piece of writing about his experiences inside a British museum.

        Perhaps, you feel like you are some kind of a Suddha, but Senel and I feel we are perfectly brown and damn proud of it.

        When I purchased my brand new Mercedes, I did not have it’s windows tinted. Because I wanted every poor Suddha to see that a proud Brown man was imperiously driving the bloody thing.

        We are proud of our colour.

        The only thing I am not proud of it is while serving in the Army we failed to eradicate these savages Wannilaeththo like yourself. If I knew Veddhas were such mad men like yourself, I would have shot your rear-end and thrown you to the Gatapojjas while we were clearing the Wanni.

        • 2
          0

          Ado A hole Retarded Walter Mitty push bike owner

          The young Senel Wanniarachchi types:
          “The manly and bold Europe penetrates the effeminate ‘orient’ with exotic landscapes and strange non-humans who worshipped licentious naked Gods.”

          Could you translate the above and tell us what exactly did young Senel mean.
          Ignore me if you do not know.

    • 0
      0

      Raj, Any palm leaf manuscript written so long ago would not have survived. If George Turnour “robbed” any manuscripts they would have been copies, though probably a few centuries old copies. Also according to written accounts the original Tripitakaya was written on gold plates – two complete sets of copies were made on gold plates and deposited in Abhayagiri and the Alu viharayas.
      One manuscript which we know went missing after Turnover acquired it, is the Sinhalese Daladavamsa. Turnour mentions that he had found the “original” Sinhalese Daladavamsa, but some years later it was nowhere to be found. The Sinhalese Daladavamsa was written somewhere shortly after the tooth relic arrived here in 310 A.D, which makes it the oldest extant Sinhalese text in the 19th century, besides the Sinhala Brahmi inscriptions.
      If George Turnour forcibly acquired and robbed anything then it was land. Like many British colonial government officers Turnover was also a planter. His ambition was to have coffee plantations and with this in mind he manipulated policies to snatch land from the Sinhalese peasants. Its a tragedy how the British took land from the hill country peasants and made the people landless and destitute, and in the process destroyed the indigenous economy, even affecting the very social structure of the society. Turnour’s policies were instrumental in forming and adopting of the Wasteland Ordinance of 1840, which practically dispossessed the Sinhalese of their land. Turnover died in 1843, before any large scale plantations were established and the relatively homogeneous hill country was transformed into an troubled area of immigrant planters, Tamil coolies and Muslim traders. By the way Turnour’s father was managing pearl fishery for the British crown and was sacked for robbing, together with cunning Hugh Cleghorn who was also involved in bribery.

  • 11
    4

    What is the point with the original written by Buddha? Proof of the pudding in the eating. Do the SL Buddhists folw what Buddha had preached, even otherwise? How many Buddhist clergy follow his direction? Had the original been here in SL it may have even got stolen like the sword from the museum. At least now it is on display and available for scholars to study and research.

    • 3
      7

      Nathan: Your comment shows your ignorance.

    • 9
      0

      Nathan:-
      “What is the point with the original written by Buddha?”
      Nathan there was no written language in which the Buddha wrote his Teachings.
      His Followers learnt the Words by Rote and passed it on orally through Generations, until finally written in the Pali Language on Ola leaves!

      • 6
        4

        Mate by word of mouth means as years pass by there will be numerous distortions and facts. We all know how messages are conveyed and how they get twisted. 1977 anti Tamil riot in kandy got aggravated owing to a rumour aka by word of mouth that Sinhala breasts came in malu pettiya from Jaffna. No one ever bothered to find out whether they were Sinhala breasts or Tamil breasts. Kotti Friday in 1983 carnage is another good example of these word of mouth stories. A man in uniform sweared to me that there were kottis in Colombo and their colours are yellow in color? Some told me how they were slaughtering the army guys in Colombo. How about Vijayans origin and arrival and sadly this word of mouth Kathawa finally misled the innocent Sinhalese and unwanted blood bath.

        Where did mahanama live? He lived around 500 CE. Is he a Sinhalese? If so why he did not write in Mahavamsa in Sinhala instead of writing in an obsolete, poorly used and poorly understood Pali? Pali is a language of northern India and not Ceylon and there too it was not a well developed popular language and no other literary or religious or philosophical or scientific writings are in Pali. One even cannot properly express oneself in Pali. So there is a huge logical gap in the whole Mahavamsa. Sadly Mahavamsa refers more to Hinduism and Hindu deities in Mahavamsa than real Buddhism. Can someone please explain these concerns and consider them as purely academic and certainly not racial at all. Give truth a chance.

  • 2
    0

    Dear CT reader!
    A correction: George Turner was the GA of Sabaragamuwa from 1826 to about late 1830s. He collected and dispatched to Britain a lot of old documents written on Ola Leaves, including an original copy of the Mahawansa. He went back to England and passed away in 1843.
    Please read “Ceylon” Pearl of the East, by Harry Williams for more details of the man available on Google.
    Sorry about the mistake!
    Raj.

    • 1
      0

      There are so many other books stolen from Sri lanka. I read in the web a Book Called Ceylon Chronicles. It talks about many strange things about Srilanka. Now that book is hidden in the web. It was in google books. I heard that book is in the University of Pennsylvania. So, there are many books written in Sri lanka but had been stolen and kept in the west.

    • 3
      3

      Rasu

      It was not just a handful of British eccentrics collected artefacts from this island, many scholars not only collected them but also passed their rare collections to various British institutions where the originals have been preserved and catalogued. For instance Hugh Nevil’s Collections are being preserved in many institutions such as British Museum, British Library and V&A. K.D. Somadasa had painstakingly catalogued them into 6 Volumes, running into about 3000 pages.

      Hugh Nevill did what the public racist Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala couldn’t do it, preserving many sinhala poetry, ………… . otherwise would have been lost over a period of time.

  • 3
    3

    David Camaron, former British PM, told in India, if they return the robbed items from India, China, zSri Lanka and other countries, they would go bankrupt. Modern Commonwealth are the countries that they robbed from. Another article say from India alone they stole (Rs/dollars or most probable sterling pounds) 41 Trillion and Britain would go broke if they decide to give back. Even todate they ROB/STEAL from weak countries. That include Gold deposits kept for security in there, Oil and mineral deposits in those countries and human resources should be those. Once they attacked those countries, cash and GOLd deposits were confiscated.

  • 4
    1

    Thank you Senel. The real impact of discovering or recovering our heritage is on our soul. People like Native Vedda seem to minimize and ridicule the personal renaissance of a people who have been victimized by centuries of subjugation by another group.

    But the recognition that the victims too have the same potential, and in fact, similar past glories as the vanquisher is a necessary step in reconciliation between the colonizer and the colonized.

    • 3
      1

      sinhalese buddhist

      “People like Native Vedda seem to minimize and ridicule the personal renaissance of a people who have been victimized by centuries of subjugation by another group.”

      Good.
      What are you doing to stop treasures being exported abroad illegally similar to women folks are being exported to Medieval Middle East Countries while you lazy crooks and bigots sit on your bum whole day and reminisce old glory and hope for renaissance to dawn one day upon the people from sky.

      Have you ever regretted the fact the magnificent Jaffna Library was torched to ground, and some old books and ola manuscripts have been stolen and stored in the South or sold? Similarly I was told the Hartley College Library was burned down by the armed forces. What is the matter with you people?
      Those arsonists were never challenged nor charged for the crimes they committed in the name of patriotism. If the armed forces and senior ministers could erase such depositories what chance the country has for renaissance.

      Please stop pretending you really care about old treasures, artefacts, heritage, ………….. and … renaissance while some of you carry racist s***t in your head. You are only interested in rebranding every little thing as being the heritage of Sinhala/Buddhist and nothing else.

      “But the recognition that the victims too have the same potential, and in fact, similar past glories as the vanquisher is a necessary step in reconciliation between the colonizer and the colonized.”

      Are you talking about Sri Lanka in the past 71 years and 2 days?

  • 9
    2

    I agree with Native Vedda that a lot of old treasures would not have survived if left in SL. The British may well have “looted” but the British Museum is a professionally maintained institution, and the fact that a large number of artifacts are there in one place enables students and other researchers access to them which they otherwise would not have had. No one in his senses would accept, far less defend, colonialism, but colonial bashing is now a bit tiresome. It’s an unBuddhist and hateful state of mind. In any case we cannot do anything about the past but we CAN do something about the future, by being pragmatic and sensible. We could have used the colonial connection to our advantage today, if we got about it in an intelligent manner. During colonial rule, the monks of the Vidyodaya monastic college did so, and the colonial government ended up supporting the college, and the colonial governor considered it an honor to preside over its graduation exercises.
    To come back to the safety of ancient artifacts, readers will recall how at the height of the Rajapaksa rule, the auspicious sword of the last king Sri Vikrama Rajasingha was stolen, one would presume, in broad daylight, presumably also in full view of the CCTV cameras. After some initial noises the whole thing was forgotten, and the national museum is minus one of its solemn possessions.

  • 2
    1

    Buddhists do not have gods or dieties. Tara is not in any Jathaka or other later story, to my knowledge.

    • 0
      0

      WHO OR WHAT IS TARA? WHY IS SHE HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM? has she got any relationship with Hindu gods like Saraswathi, Luxmi, Parvathi? What are her functions?
      Please explain.

    • 2
      0

      Bandula

      “Buddhists do not have gods or dieties. “

      However, the Sinhala/Buddhists do.

  • 2
    0

    We should be immensely great full to the British for taking such good care of treasures from many parts of the world. If left in the hands and care of the natives gold would have turned to brass or jewellery, artifacts sold for two pence.

  • 2
    1

    this is an excellent piece of writing on the white colonial legacy
    “Colonialism has erased something so intrinsic about the island that I am no longer sure if she is even welcome.” – precisely put!

    • 2
      0

      thamizh

      ““Colonialism has erased something so intrinsic about the island that I am no longer sure if she is even welcome.” – precisely put!”.

      Is that why the Sinhala/Buddhist state has been killing its own people left right and centre in order to establish/create “something so intrinsic” while looting the country’s wealth and old treasures?

      It is not colonialism that endangers present state of heritage preservation but the crooks who collude with politicians, functionaries, and police. In addition the politicised and racialised Archaeological departments and universities bent on appropriating every little archaeological goods, monuments, ……………. as being belonging to majoritarian heritage. What a humbug!!!

  • 3
    0

    British Museum is not a strange place to me but I should be honest to imagine the destiny of Tara if she left behind in Sri Lanka. No wonder she would have given a safe refuge in a British built museum after (so called) independence until Rajapaksa robbed the museum after the infamous prophecy of Sumansena during his terror filled reign. Like the king’s sward Tara too nowhere to be seen.

  • 2
    0

    The British museum has been criticised for displaying ‘looted’ artefacts from ancient civilisations & the Greeks in particular, have been demanding some of their ancient historic treasures to be returned. Arguably, as some readers who have commented on this article, many historic artefacts have survived today under the custody of the British museum as there has always been a flourishing illegal market patronised by rich collectors for such ‘trophies’, in which case, these objects would have disappeared in some private collection, or, as seen in recent times, destroyed by terrorists & such like, who, in their misguided or misinformed learning, have no appreciation of it’s historic significance. The fact is, these objects of historic culture are preserved & available for public viewing, free of charge in London.
    However, on the subject of looting of historic art & objects, even in recent times, there have been allegations of treasure hunters in SL & thefts from SL museum with, apparently, political patronage but few in SL may be aware that some years ago, a painting from the Queen’s House was given for auction to Sotherby’s in London by the family of an ex. President, only to be rejected when they could not prove their ownership. So we had looters of our own even in recent years.
    By the way Senel, the statue of Tara may cause a snigger but for most, it is accepted that nudes & erotica are part of ancient civilisations. In fact, there is a brothel among the ruins of Pompeii with erotic paintings of the services offered still visible on the walls which I am sure is source of merriment to all. I am no historian but judging from the paintings of Sigiriya, topless maidens were not considered ‘erotic’ in our ancient culture & we should not be bothered by those who do not appreciate the artistic significance of such cultures.

  • 1
    0

    Well done Senel for this articulate account and for your perceptions. It was an interesting read to come across during this time that we celebrate independence. Keep writing!

  • 1
    0

    “The audio tells me that the precious gems that decorated Tara’s hair are now missing.”

    You can find these at Buckingham Palace, no doubt.

  • 2
    0

    There are many who cannot differentiate between art and porno! Ever since humanity evolved there had been such arts and they were never viewed as sexual symbols.

    Even the Hindu Yoni and Lingam worship is part of that and also how the religion depicts the truth of existence of life. Without them no lives on earth. There are many other cultures too where worshipping the phallus is part of religion. Look at life in a positive way.

  • 2
    0

    The article is totally out of whack. Where has this guy been living during the last 71 years. At least people can view Tara in London. If it was left in Sri Lanka would have disappeared without a trace, probably melted and sold for peanuts.
    The country has been robbed by the political bandits and their henchman. At least so called looted stuff by the ‘colonial masters’ are their to be viewed and studied by the ‘brownies’ and the ‘whites’ alike.
    At least Tara has a home and appreciated by wider world.
    Don’t forget the tea, rubber and coconut and transport systems the so called colonisers left behind. Todate the country and its people benefits. I rest my case.

    • 0
      2

      No need for bootlicking. Your fundamental assumption is that the native people were incapable of reaching the same level as the Europeans. Do you know the history of Europe? With the exception of the Romans, they did not discover the value of hygiene till the 1900’s. Before that time, people were dying from malaria, typhoid, Black Death, rabies, fever, etc. Lice, dysentery, smallpox, etc. were very common. Unfortunately, they spread these diseases to other continents, where millions were wiped out, especially in North & South America. What about science? Greek science was WRONG, especially when it came to astronomy. These fools believed the Earth was the center of the solar system; this assumption was taken up by the Europeans for more than 1000 years. Another popular “science” was alchemy. The belief in so-called “ether” also prevailed for a very long time. On the other hand, the Chinese and Indians were well-ahead in astronomy, mathematics, etc. for a long time. They had the correct model of the solar system and were ahead in mathematics.

  • 3
    0

    The 19th century British Museum probably had not heard of Sigiriya. The frescoes are topless. The present British Museum has still not realised that significance.
    .
    Is it time to cease blaming colonisers for our problems?
    Right now we are debating as to whether or not a convicted BBS monk be pardoned by the President.
    Should we be?

  • 0
    0

    Up until two years ago this bronze was at the entrance to the south Asian section. It has now been moved closer to the Buddhist, Sri Lankan, Ghandara and Sanchi treasures. I have been to this museum over a dozen times and had never felt even remotely conscious of brownness. On the contrary I found many treating me with admiration, regard and respect to the extent I had to give up the false pride that I was engulfed with in the first few visits to this museum, in particular around the statue of this Mahayana Tara from the east coast, as well as in the Egyptian, Assyrian and the Pacific islander section. Colonization has certainly robbed us, but the Europeans were not the first to colonise and who betrayed the Kandyan king ? The British museum is free, primarily because it consist mainly of stolen goods, but not all such museums are free. Theft and colonisation, though bad has happened even in our history as well as in recent generations by the political class. Even after being at the receiving end of European racial theories, SL has been incapable of overcoming the more primitive tribal theories, where even the priests are incapable. Blindly blaming external factors for the failure of the internal and self is a common, and is a sign of the COLONISED MIND, the sooner we can get over this the better.

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