22 June, 2021

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Heritage Histories: A Reassessment Of Arumuga Navalar

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan –

Dr. Charles Sarvan

Ratnajeevan Hoole, Heritage Histories: A Reassessment of Arumuga Navalar, Thesam Publications, London, 2020.

It is beyond my competence to write a review of this book, and the intention here is only to give readers some inkling of it. As the title makes clear, the work is a “reassessment” and not an introduction. That being the intention, we are taken, “in medias res” into circumstance, characters and controversy:  those without any knowledge, particularly of the last two, may find orientation difficult. Secondly, the author has carried out thorough and meticulous research, often drawing on original texts including past newspaper reports, minutes of meetings and correspondence. The wealth of substantiation; the detail, the minutiae, are for readers with a special interest.

We must briefly pause over the word “Heritage”. Etymologically, it’s connected with “to inherit”. What we inherit is many and varied, but not everything can be credited with veracity. Heritage history, not being rigorous and factual, must be scrutinised and interrogated – as Professor Hoole attempts to do with the ‘inherited’, popular history of Navalar. Heritage history, as he notes, can be nothing but heritage myth: sometimes, history is fabricated rather than made. As it has been ironically said, historians have a power that the gods themselves don’t possess, namely, to alter the past. ‘The Mahavamsa’ records that the dying Buddha prayed to the Hindu god, Vishnu, to protest Vijay who would establish Buddhism in Lanka – in turn, replacing Hinduism! Books have influence (if not authority) in that what one book states can be picked up and repeated in another, and so on until it comes to be accepted as truth. Professor Hoole frees himself from the “inherited”, and looks at things with an independent mind.

The central character is Arumuga Navalar, 1822-1879, (Navalar = “learned”)  described in one source as “a Sri Lankan Shaivite Tamil-language scholar, polemicist, and a religious reformer who was central in reviving native Shaiva Tamil traditions in Sri Lanka and India.” The other important character is the Rev. Peter Percival (1803-1882) who came to Jaffna at the age of twenty-three. Most Englishmen during those imperial days didn’t deign to learn the language of the “natives” over whom they or their compatriots ruled, but Rev Percival mastered Tamil and went on to publish many works in the language. He saw education, rather than direct evangelism, as the more effective tool in Christian missionary work.  In re-examining Navalar, his role and contribution, Hoole demolishes the belief that Navalar translated the Bible into Tamil: that work was undertaken and accomplished by Percival. Another and far more important aspect, and the one on which I will focus, is that of caste.

Navalar was “a notorious casteist” (page 155). Even as a schoolboy (then one of Percival’s pupils) he refused to sit on the same bench as a low-caste fellow pupil. When this protest was not accommodated, Navalar led several other upper-caste boys in leaving the school: see the book’s cover illustration. One is reminded of apartheid South Africa where buildings and facilities were strictly segregated.

The incident of Gandhi being ejected from a whites-only compartment in South Africa is well known but what is not equally well known is his reason: he wouldn’t move to compartments occupied by “kaffirs”, a derogatory terms for black South Africans. What follows is drawn from Perry Anderson’s article, ‘Gandhi Centre Stage’, in the ‘London Review of Books’, 5 July 2012, pages 3 – 11. At the Round Table Conference in London, Muslims, Sikhs and the Untouchables (the last led by Dr Ambedkar) demanded separate electorates. However, if Untouchables were to be treated as external to the Hindu community, it would be confirmation that caste was a vile system of discrimination, relegating the lowest orders of society to a subhuman existence with which the smallest brush was pollution. And since Hinduism was founded on caste, it would stand condemned with caste (Anderson). There was also Gandhi’s fear that the ‘Untouchables’ would link forces with the Muslims. Gandhi who had never fasted against ‘untouchability’ itself, now declared a ‘fast unto death’ and Ambedkar, fearful that the Mahatma’s death would lead to a mass massacre of the untouchables, withdrew his demand for a separate electorate. Of the Satyagraha of 1932, Ambedkar wrote: “There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against a helpless people [forcing them to] agree to live on the mercy of the Hindus” (Anderson, page 10). For a fairly recent work on the lived experience of caste in India, see Sujatha Gilda’s ‘Ants Among Elephants’, reviewed by me in Colombo Telegraph (28 March 2019) under the caption, ‘The curse of caste’.

In as much as (non-existent) ‘race’ proves stronger than religious affiliation, so caste is more potent than religious doctrine. Many of those who convert to Buddhism or become Christian, do not jettion the inherited baggage of caste. Professor Hoole claims it is difficult for someone who is not from the Govigama caste to win political leadership at the national level (page 42). Advertisements for marriage often specified (specify?) the caste of the prospective bride or groom, despite the Buddha having clearly and decisively turned his face against it.

Going back over sixty years, I recall a friend, Dharmasiri de Zoysa, picking up a book and exclaiming in mock (if cynical) surprise: “How did these two entirely different subjects get into the same work?” The title was: ‘Love and Marriage’. Similarly, religious doctrine and religious practice are separate; very often, contradictory. Like many Buddhists, Christians also remain infected with caste: for example, Hoole states that Bishop Kulandran justified ban on low caste temple entry (page 126). ‘Mirage by K. Daniel (translated by Subramaniam Jebanesan, 2016) is a novel but, as the author states, based on fact. It is a searing indictment of caste, both in Hindu and Christian society. As I wrote (Colombo Telegraph, 28th March 2019), it’s an instance of the novelist as witness and testifier. I cite from this article: In the name of religion and ancient time-honoured practice, power and privilege are preserved on the one side; exploitation and suffering perpetuated on the other. (The Tamil Tigers, apart from their many and grievous faults and failings, are reputed to have disapproved of caste, even as they tried to advance female emancipation.)

It can’t be easy for a member of a defeated minority group to publicly attack a fellow member. As I wrote in that Colombo Telegraph article on caste in Jaffna: “There’s no doubt that those Sinhalese incurably infected with ugly racism will gleefully grab this … as a bludgeon with which to beat the Tamils, pretending to a moral outrage and a compassion of which they are completely devoid. To change the metaphor, casteism among Tamils can be used as a red herring to divert attention away from racist acts. Racists can come before their victims clothed in the garment of solicitous saviours.” But evidently with Professor Hoole, the guiding principle is “Veritas vincit omnia”. It’s now for others, far more knowledgeable on the subject, to enter into discussion and debate, if not disputation.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    5

    I accidentally left out the following sentence:

    “Tamils who don’t categorically and completely eschew caste have no moral right at all to protest Sinhalese hegemony.”

    • 13
      5

      CS
      Your comment will probably disqualify a majority of Tamil nationalists.
      Caste is still deep rooted in Tamil society but in different ways in different parts of the Island. Even Christians are into it.
      For evidence, just look at matrimonial columns.
      Jaffna gets closest to the Varna scheme of things, although the Brahmin is socially not above the Vellaala.

      • 7
        12

        disqualify a majority of Tamil nationalists
        After your lesson, Prof Sarvan might have learned the extremely basic, simple lesson that is “Teaching is easy practicing is hard”. By teaching that lesson to Prof Sarvan, you upgraded yourself equal to Lord Muruga, Kumara Guruparan, as the Guru to the Gurus. Prof. Sarvan who brought this line ” There’s no doubt that those Sinhalese incurably infected with ugly racism will gleefully grab this “ and a person who is well aware that the entire history of Ceylon is distorted and used to justify genocide, though no caste in that distorted history, failed to ignore that if anything is wrong in the history of Arumuganavalar & if it is being used to impose caste cruelties on oppressed, that is only “Oosi Pora Idam Theriyuthu, Ulakkai Pora Idam Theriyelai”, and also he failed to be conscious within him that the you-likes will be using his writing to justify Sinhala Racism against Tamils like “disqualify a majority of Tamil nationalists.It is sad a learned gentleman like Sarvan must learn his lesson from you, the chaff. Now, hopefully, he would move to “Ceylon History, more useful, instead of Anti Hindu, Ratnajeen’s “Heritage History.”

      • 5
        5

        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

        For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 4
      8

      Caste discrimination is a powerful umbilical chord Tamils in SL have with India. Once you cut it, they are lost. So it must not be cut. Caste has an economic purpose in the north. If not for caste who will labor in the fields, fish in the perilous seas, do pooja in kovils, perform funeral rights?

    • 3
      3

      In his second paragraph, Sarvan writes: “vishnu to protest Vijay”.
      Surely, he meant to write, “to protect Vijay”?

    • 11
      9

      Ratnajeevan Hoole is into mischief; Charles Sarvan has bought it.
      Sinhalese hegemony is a matter of life and death for Tamils. Associating Caste and Morality with it could only add to pain to their suffering.

      • 2
        6

        CORRECTION: only add to pain to their suffering, corrected to,
        only add pain to their suffering.

  • 2
    11

    Sinhalese had their own version of Arumuga Nalavar. His name is Anagarika.

    Isn’t it obvious the two communities were always divided sharply! It’s impossible for the 2 communities to have one nation. SL is one nation only because it is an island. Shame!

    • 6
      7

      Gatam,
      First time I’ve seen you make a sensible comment. Keep it up.
      BTW, his name was Dharmapala, not Anagarika.

      • 7
        9

        old codger

        JATAM is clearly in a dilemma caused by his adolescence (unsure of his own sexuality), whether to remain an Ethical Muslim or to support Tamils in their fight against fascism or to convert to Gota’s Sinhala/Buddhist Fascism.

        He will be alright once he passes his teenage years.

      • 4
        5

        OC
        Sorry to disappoint you.
        Please see my comment.

      • 2
        1

        Dear oc,
        .
        Teenaged GATAM sometimes makes an intelligent observation, as here about Anagarika Dharmapala. He’s never content to leave it at that.
        .
        Why?
        .
        Whenever GATAM comments, whatever the subject, he advocates separatism.
        .
        Many of us who don’t get mad at separatist rhetoric, actually work pretty hard to ensure that Lanka stays united.
        .
        Ours is a sincere position, often misrepresented. Contrast Vickremabahu Karunaratne (a Sinhalese who supports self-determination for Tamils – and for whom I’ve voted) and Dr Brian Senewiratne (whom I respect, but won’t support) who advocates not just separatism, but ardently champions the LTTE.
        .
        Haven’t I digressed from the topics of heritage histories and caste? That happened because of the trolling GATAM. Colombo Telegraph should actually ban him/ her

      • 1
        1

        Dear oc,
        .
        Teenaged GATAM sometimes makes an intelligent observation, as here about Anagarika Dharmapala. He’s never content to leave it at that.
        .
        Why?
        .
        Whenever GATAM comments, whatever the subject, he advocates separatism.
        .
        Many of us who don’t get mad at separatist rhetoric, actually work pretty hard to ensure that Lanka stays united.
        .
        Ours is a sincere position, often misrepresented. Contrast Vickremabahu Karunaratne (a Sinhalese who supports self-determination for Tamils – and for whom I’ve voted) and Dr Brian Senewiratne (whom I respect, but won’t support) who advocates not just separatism, but ardently champions the LTTE.
        .
        Haven’t I digressed from the topics of heritage histories and caste? That happened because of the trolling GATAM. Colombo Telegraph should actually ban him/ her

    • 9
      6

      G
      You seem to be repeating a myth.
      AN was not into politics the way AD was.
      AN campaigned arduously against what he perceived as Christian attack on Hinduism through conversion and attacks on the faith.
      His pursuits were vastly different from those of AD.

      • 2
        0

        Not quite. (Responding to SJ’s comment that Navalar was not involved in politics the way AD was).
        In the contest between Ramanathan and Britto, Navalar spoke for Ramanatģq4èqe⅘þŕéhan against Britto. There was cheering and Booing — I think reported in the Observer. As a result Hensman and a big party walked out.

        Like a typical politician, Navalar commended Ramanathan at that meeting as “educated at Presidency College.”

        Yes he was educated there but only until he was sacked to the great embarrassment of my ancestor CW Thamotharampillai who was the college’s first graduate and the guardian of the brothers Ramanathan and Coomaraswamy.

        Youthful passions was the reason for the sacking says biographer Vythilingam — a euphemism for using prostitutes. My family sources add copying at exams as the real cause of their dismissal.

        A university does not dismiss students for using prostitutes. Presumably Navalar meant that Ramanathan was educated on the Kamasutra at Presidency College !

    • 4
      1

      Gatam,
      Please go back to Montosori. That can guide you little bit more.
      If the message would be transported to all equally, where is the problem ? To me, if tamils and muslims would do their best, you th ekind of sinhala modayas are also against them. This is cruel. Today we ve been governed by alleged war criminals. We the sinhalayas are ashamed to call us sinhalaya. There this great monk become very vocal agains tthe injustices being faced by ME living sinhala diaspora. Leaderships makes announcement publicly that ME living sinhalayas should NOT return home. But this great monk makes it very clear how hard those srilanken labourers face it today.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa2OZYCTkuA

      with those HIGH CHAPTER monks stay like AMAZONIAN sloths, this monks to fearlessly make such public statements should be highly commendable.

      • 1
        1

        A great message, LM.
        .
        This has been said more than a year ago.
        .
        This is what we mean by saying that there should be consistency. We certainly have to rethink certain positions that we have taken up depending on circumstances, but there can be no compromise on principles.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe, a guy who is trying to be a human being first and foremost.

  • 17
    5

    Dr. Charles Sarvan “Hoole demolishes the belief that Navalar translated the Bible into Tamil: that work was undertaken and accomplished by Percival.”
    ======
    “Hoole demolishes the belief”
    Demolishes – very strong word
    Belief – whose belief?
    =======
    Arumuga Navalar never claimed that he translated Bible in Tamil
    Rev Peter Percival apparently translated the King James Bible into Tamil. There is a BELIEF that Arumuga Navalar helped hi, After all Rev Peter Percival was not that fluent in Tamil.
    =======
    However Ratnajeevan Hoole has some irritation about Arumuga Navalar…to be crude sort of pain in the arse.
    Ratnajeevan Hoole has many times shown his irritation of Arumuga Navalar here in CT
    =====
    I will definitely not by or read this book.
    I am not trying to DEMOLISH the book just expressing an opinion
    =======

  • 18
    1

    The proverbial Achilles Heel for Prof: Ratnajeevan Hoole is Arumuga Navalar.
    Its all about Hinduism and Christianity.
    Caste-wise both the Author and the subject are in the same boat!

  • 12
    5

    Prof. Uyangoda commented on the book some months ago in CT.
    I questioned the credibility of claims concerning the translation of the Jaffna Tamil Bible in three part response to Uyangoda.
    Two parts addressing the translation were not published but the last contesting Uyangoda equating AN to AD was.
    I decided to take the matter up in the Tamil media. My criticism of the analysis appeared in Sunday Thinakkural in December 2020. A few responded personally, but none in print so far.
    I will not waste time repeating my text. I have two simple questions for Prof. Sarvan
    1.
    Rev Percival’s produced an English-Tamil dictionary, which seems his only work in Tamil, and his Tamil-English translation of Tamil proverbs is highly commended.
    Did he publish any text in Tamil to bear evidence to his mastery of Tamil prose?
    2.
    The researcher has worked hard to ‘demolish’ AN and his linguistic skills. Prof. Sarvan should be even slightly aware of AN’s mastery of Tamil. If AN’s role was minimal in the translation as a member of a team that assisted Rev. PP, can Prof. Sarvan identify any other Tamil scholar in the group of assistants?
    *
    If Prof. Sarvan reads Tamil I can send him the text of the Thinakkural article.
    *
    எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
    மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்ப தறிவு
    (To discern the truth in anything by whomsoever spoken is wisdom.)

    • 8
      4

      SJ,

      I didn’t get a chance to read your Tamil article in the Sunday Thinakkural.

      Why don’t you translate and publish it on CT, given the many iterations of the claims by Dr. Hoole on CT? It will provide some balance or counterpoints in an article form.

      Whatever people write in the comment section will get lost in a sea of comments and will be forgotten. Articles will have a link and therefore longer life. You could send it to me as well.

      • 4
        3

        Agnos
        Thanks.
        I need your e-address. Kindly send it to sivasegaram@gmail.com.
        CT was the reason why I had to resort to Thinakkural.
        Its selective omission was very regrettable.
        The Tamil paper reaches more who need to know.

        • 2
          1

          SJ, Ok, sent an email.

          • 0
            3

            Agnos
            Not received yet.

    • 7
      13

      Part I of II
      The comment about whether Sarvan reads Tamil is a hit below the belt by SJ (S. Sivasegaram). I am sure Sarvan began his student days in Tamil.

      Does SJ know that Percival was the first Professor of Sanskrit and Vernacular Languages at Madras? Mahalinka Iyer who wanted that job and did not get it and who had praised Percival’s Bible for its Tamil, now suddenly said that Percival knew no Tamil. SJ has learnt well from Mahalinka Iyer to hit out blindly.

      Percival learnt Tamil in England before coming to Ceylon. He worked in Tamil areas till his death nearly 50 years later except for brief periods in the UK and Bengal.

      SJ to belittle Percival says his Tamil-English Dictionary is his only work in Tamil but lets it slip that he SJ knows about Percival’s translation of Tamil proverbs. I can also mention Percival’s work on Auvaiyar.

      Percival also started the popular Tamil weekly journal in Chennai, The Thinavartamani. I believe it was the first Tamil periodical. Moreover, to cite Percival,

      I had the superintendence of the Public Instruction Press on my hands; and, aided by the Pundits of the Presidency College, and other competent native scholars, had the responsibility of editing, among the works that issued from the Press during this period, seven dictionaries, some of which have since been reprinted.

      • 6
        15

        Pert II of II
        Percival produced and abridged a version of the Mahabharatha for our seminaries. He also produced translations like Kambaramayanam where he left out all the sexuality explicit raunchy parts for which he has been unfairly accused of colonising in the realm of words by Sascha Ebeling of Chicago. I too was taught the text with all the sexuality removed. Why does no one blame the government for not letting us read of the rape scenes like that of Valli? One needs to be fair in criticizing a great man like Percival who was in charge of all Methodist schools in Jaffna and founded Jaffna Central.

        Many of us educated in Tamil have gone on to become high-achieving academics in the English language — Sarvan included. Why does Sivasegaram want to know who assisted Percival?

        Besides the point, Percival did have 6 native assistants not because he knew no Tamil but because an important work like Bible translation needs multiple checking (dictionaries are said to have 5 proof readers and books on drugs pharamacology 7). One of Percival’s assistants was my ancestor Elijah Hoole.

        In our weak academic culture of arranged pomotions to professor, Sivasegaram is used to becoming a senior professor without the required 8 years as professor, and going as an examiner for a friend’s promotion to Professor of Tamil.

        • 4
          13

          Correction to the last sentence:
          Percival however was a true scholar, a polyglot and productive writer who was awarded the DLitt degree by London.

        • 7
          6

          The author of the book claimed that a team of people assisted PP.
          Why could he not name any but AN then.
          This claim re Elijah H is now made in hindsight. Elijah H’s role was stated differently in the original text.
          My question is about PP’s Tamil prose publications.
          *
          Do not go at a tangent to avoid the issues.

          • 5
            12

            Here is something from Percival’s letters to the Bible Society:
            ““At the last meeting of the Committee I laid before
            the members present my general plan for proceeding in
            the prosecution of my work. I devote six hours every
            day in the regular work with my Native Assistants. …My manuscripts, as they are carefully copied off are
            sent on to the members of the revision Committee
            who will doubtless afford all the aid they can in the
            furtherance of our object.”

            The Revision Committee had missionaries as members, all wel-versed in Tamil. Two were Joseph Knight and Rhenius who had already translated the Bible not Tamil which Percival was revising.

            I have always known that my ancestor was one of Percival’s assistants. It is incorrect to say I could not name an assistant except Navalar. At least by 1990 I had got down Elijah Hoole’s file from the CMS archives at considerable cost. Parts of that file are reproduced in this book under discussion.

            Usually when stupid or quarrelsome questions are asked I do not answer. That does not mean I could not answer.

  • 9
    15

    “Navalar was “a notorious casteist” (page 155). Even as a schoolboy (then one of Percival’s pupils) he refused to sit on the same bench as a low-caste fellow pupil.”

    Here is evidence that certain segments of the Tamil community were discriminating against each other well before Independence. Casteism is much more vitriolic than Sinhala nationalism. If we exclude riots, the farthest Sinhala nationalism went is “Sinhala-Only” Language Act. But even this is not racist, as there is nothing preventing Tamils from learning Sinhala and fully assimilating, as Muslims have done. Therefore one is led to question the true motives of Tamil leaders like SJV and GG Ponnambalam. Was their real motivation to achieve an equitable political solution, or to create an independent state dominated by Vellalas, openly discriminating against lower castes? The answer to this question is clear from the fact that Prabhakaran (low-caste) assassinated at least half a dozen members of the TULF. The higher castes (Amirthalingam et al.) thought they could use various Tamil militias to force GOSL into a political settlement via limited (controlled) violence. After July 1983, this plan completely backfired.

  • 9
    7

    Did Ratnajeevan Hoole make a comprehensive research on all aspects of life and Works of Arunuga Navalar to call it A Reassessment of Arumuga Navalar.

    On the contrary he had conducted complete research only on the subject , Who had translated Bible into Tamil for the first time?

    His conclusion that Arumuga Navalar had only made a margin al contribution is acceptable.

    But his reference to casteism of Arumuga Navalar is not the result of any research but it is the widely held belief of almost all the scholars who had written on the subject.

    The context in which Arumuga Navalar advocated Casteism is important. It was a period when the Saivite Tamils faced threats to their mere existence.

    In this context, it was a natural response for any living being to get into a shell and be defensive.
    Now the paradigm had shifted, democracy, equality and human rights are the accepted norms and the Tamil society is also struggling to be in this new paradigm

    • 7
      12

      Accepted norms? Maviddapuram temple entry? If that is old did you see the recent documentary by Colombo’s law students? Were you aware of the debates within the TNA when Arnold was nominated to contest?

      Here is something I hear only yesterday from a senior lawyer. A person of the depressed caste had worked hard and become a justice of the Supreme Court.
      GG Ponnambalam was late to court and the Judge had begun proceedings without him. When GG arrived late, the judge had gently castigated him. Here is the conversation that followed.
      GG: Sorry My Lord. I had to go to the temple.
      Judge: I too went to the temple but came back in time.
      GG: My Lord, I went inside where there was a crowd.. Did you also have to go inside?

    • 3
      4

      Srikrish,
      .
      This is from Bandarawela, and from a man who knows no Tamil.
      .
      Jeevan Hoole has certainly studied all aspects of Navalar’s life. The book is in English and I received the drafts about a year ago. I realised that it would create a storm and advised against publishing it.
      .
      However, let me state this clearly: Jeevan has studied Navalar’s entire life thoroughly and he knows what he’s talking about. It’s easy to communicate with Jeevan, he listens, he’s down to earth, but he will tell what’s clear to him even when the results are not going to be beneficial to him.
      .
      So read the book yourself. Let’s put this behind us and get ready to face the very difficult times that lie ahead of us because of the mismanagement of the entire country by the Rajapaksas.

      • 8
        1

        Dear Sinhala_Man,
        I wish I could advice you to stay clear of this subject; but, that would be offensive. What the heck, let me do it right.
        I am from the same school Jeevan Hoole attended. The school is caste-free. Jeevan Hoole has a congenital aversion to Hindus and their faith.
        He is conscious of caste. Once, he wrote an article, on CT, giving the caste to which each VC of the Jaffna University belonged.
        Arumuga Navalar was an ardent Hindu; an exponent of Hinduism.
        You are free to draw your own conclusions.

        • 3
          5

          Thanks, Nathan.
          .
          Please see also comments by me posted below in response to Paul. They haven’t appeared yet.
          .
          He has linked us to two Youtubes, by an Upcountry Tamil Buddhist monk. One in flawless Sinhala which I appreciated. He, too, discussed caste – always a difficult subject.
          .
          There’s a 10 minute Youtube in Tamil, which I listened to without understanding.
          .
          I appreciate how difficult it is for you to get your message across to me. I greatly respect Jeevan Hoole, but yes, I do feel uncomfortable when he discusses caste. There’s so much good he does in many other spheres.
          .
          And this book; let’s hope some actually read it. As you say, for me, with such little knowledge of Hindu society, to discuss it is tricky: perhaps best left alone!

          • 5
            3

            Thanks for your kind words, Sinhala_Man.
            Jeevan Hoole is highly qualified and knowledgeable. He would be better off leaning towards a society that shuns caste prejudices.

  • 4
    9

    . ‘The Mahavamsa’ records that the dying Buddha prayed to the Hindu god, Vishnu, to protest Vijay who would establish Buddhism in Lanka – in turn, replacing Hinduism!”

    Well, the true god is in the mistranslated detail. Back in the day notable and distinguished individuals became the venerated posthumously. For example God of Katharagama is King Mahasen. Mahasen was a class mate of Prince Sidatha. Mahasen later did a lot of work for the Buddha Sasana. That is why he came to be venerated as a God.

    Similarly, Vishnu was a King known as Uppalavanna. He was present on the day of the Parinibbana. What Mahavansha mentions Lord Buddha asked King Uppalavanna to re-establish the Sasana in Lankadipa. This is the northern regions of the island. This is because Lord Buddha had established it in Lankadipa after visiting it 3 times. Although it had deteriorated. The long term vision was correct however. The Buddha Sasana established in Anuradhapura lasted till today. Although it disappeared from the Jambudipa areas.

    • 9
      8

      “The comment about whether Sarvan reads Tamil is a hit below the belt by SJ”
      This is a cheap jibe by “Jaffna Man”.
      *
      Many scholars who left the shores have stopped working in Tamil now for decades. Some still speak it at home and with close friends. Very few read or write extensively.
      I merely offered to provide the text of an article in Tamil if Prof Sarvan reads Tamil.
      (There is already a request by someone on this page.)
      One’s fluency in any language is not the issue.
      If Prof. Sarvan feels offended in any way, I offer my apology to him.
      I will particularly appreciate his response to my questions.

      • 1
        4

        lf have a few things to say about Professor Sarvan in this respect.
        .
        It may take anything up to two days. Living alone I have to fend for myself. We can’t afford to die of starvation. That is another serious problem that is going to face us්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍්‍.
        Ours is a country blessed by nature as few others – “where every prospect pleases, and man alone is vile.”
        .
        I’m sorry that much of this is rather irrelevant. Shall restore relevance with next comment, but it may not please all.

    • 7
      5

      Jambu,
      “Mahasen was a class mate of Prince Sidatha.”
      So ancient Lankan students could work online, Sidatha in Jambudipa and Mahasen in Lanka! How avanced our glorious civilization was!

      • 3
        7

        Whats age bracket you belong? 75-85 ? If that’s the case I suspect you will know about the glorious civilisation before you pass.

  • 4
    2

    This Tamil bhikkhu has interesting views on caste https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVDVWAdDJ4A
    This is in Tamil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkbTS5uVyrU

    • 2
      3

      Wonderful. The first of the Youtubes listed above. One hour. I understand no Tamil, but will try that later. As I saw it now, the Sinhala, that is, there were 739 Youtube comments, but almost all of them six months old. After that, virtually nothing. I made another. I hope that a few seeing it on this English website will change that.
      .
      He had been a Saivite clergyman (I can’t think of a more appropriate word), now Bagawantalawa Rahula, an yet young Buddhist monk. He had not known any Sinhala then; he speaks perfect Sinhala now, his accent flawless. That makes me wonder why we have so many problems with English accents.
      .
      No desire to see conversions! Let understanding prevail.
      .
      This must get better known.

      Panini Edirisinhe

    • 2
      3

      Dear Paul,
      .
      Having already commented on the hour-long Sinhala video, let me tell Tamil listeners that they ought to let us know what they make of the 12-minute Tamil video. As a Hindu swami, he had been Maheshvar Sharma, now Ven. Bagawanthalawe Rahula Thero. The date of that is 16 Jan 2019, and there are only 150 comments, but better spread out. There may be many other Tamil Youtubes. Somebody had given this:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01K4eryC-lI
      .
      While hearing it, I’ve been multi-tasking, since I don’t understand any of it. However, I have made comments on Youtube. When I do that, my identity is unambiguous – a photograph and my real name, which is:
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

    • 2
      3

      No, dear readers all,
      .
      The link that I’ve just given you,
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01K4eryC-lI
      .
      is to a programme that is mainly in Sinhala, a more populistic one, which bears the date 6 Jan 2020 and has racked up 265,881 views.
      .
      Populistic”? Isn’t it one of our problems today? That attention spans are so short, and we bring politics into everything?
      .
      This monk sounds very sincere, and right now there is a political role for a person like him to play, without becoming a politician. One positive is that I see no desire on his part to go around converting every Hindu to Buddhism.
      .
      A fellow like me is most comfortable calling myself an agnostic because all these religions seem to want to compete with one another, and put the others down. Hardly getting away from “thannaha” (desire) is it?
      .
      Let younger people work it out.
      .
      Time for me to sleep, the sun has dawned!
      .
      No, time for the majority of us on this forum to sleep eternally! To depart.
      .
      tbc

    • 1
      4

      Continuing:
      .
      This really is the problem, isn’t it? We, who mostly operate in English, just don’t know how to reach those who need desperately to hear some of the truths that we imagine they should be told. I hope that clumsy sentence has performed its job and told you what is wrong with our own attitudes. Condescension.
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/athulasiri-samarakoon-7-may-2021/
      .
      You have above the earliest of three articles in the Sinhala section of CT posted on the 7th, Friday. Not one of them has been commented on. It’s mostly “leelagemalli” and “Champa” who go there. “We” don’t know even how to reach out to “them“.
      .
      I suspect that Youtube is getting increasingly important. Will the number of smartphones keep increasing? The Double-Paksa government will have no money to import anything, their “brilliant” performance in Geneva being one reason. Where’s Dr Laksiri Fernando?
      .
      Youtube: most phone providers are now giving data for Youtube-only viewing at ridiculously low rates, and young people, who are unlikely to read, are spending hours entertaining themselves with Youtube.

  • 2
    5

    A 2015 video from CT on caste by Tamil Law students at University of Colombo may be seen at:

    https://youtu.be/OZLmgs1DbFc?t=407

    The actual article is
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/passing-is-the-caste-system-real-or-fiction-among-tamils/

  • 6
    2

    It is sad to see so much controversy and animosity on a topic of historical interest. We should look back at history only to learn our lessons. No doubt there are good and bad in what humans do.

    The following extract from the publication: Hindu Pastors by the Rev E.J. Robinson, late Wesleyan Missionary in Ceylon, 1867 will be of interest to readers:

    “Saivite preachers and stewards (soon) appeared, and formed and worked a circuit somewhat on the Methodist model. In connection with the reading and recitation of passages from their sacred books, a lecture or sermon was delivered every Friday evening ….. The principal orators, both of whom had been day-pupils in our Jaffna (Wesleyan Missionary) school, were Arumugavar, the first and the most frequent, and the presiding genius through all the movement, and a friend of his named Cattigas Ayar. The former, good looking, intelligent, studious, reserved, of grave demeanour and blameless life, not better acquainted with the Hindu Shastras than with the Christian Scriptures, had been for a long period, day after day, the worthy companion and valued assistant of the gifted and plodding Mr Percival in preparing and editing treatises and hymns in Tamil and translating the prayer-book and the Holy Bible……..”

    • 3
      3

      Vin,
      Thank you for that enlightening piece of information.

  • 6
    1

    A recent scholarly work sheds more light on the topic:

    Arumuga Navalar, Saivite sermons, and the delimitation of religion, c. 1850
    Bernard Bate
    Yale University
    https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.825.3813&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    • 4
      5

      Vin,
      I browsed through the said article and found it interesting. Thank you.
      I am not a Navalar enthusiast but I highly value what he has done for the language as a moderniser of prose, a grammarian, and reviver of a substantial volume of Tamil literature. These are besides much more he has done with regard to Saivaism. The scale of whatever he did in translating the Bible (even if it the whole thing as wrongly claimed) will only be marginal to the worth of his literary work.
      *
      Uncalled for attacks on him had gone on for some time with very few serious critical comments. I had intervened occasionally but not extensively.
      This time I chose to contest the false research methodology. (I rebutted it fairly extensively in my article in Tamil.)
      The “research” went out of its way to insult and humiliate AN personally and belittle his worth and work in order to reinforce the thesis that it was Rev. PP who solely revised a Bible translation. Evidence was very selective and ignored views of important scholars.
      CT is not the forum for serious scholarly debate for reasons that any discerning reader will readily see.
      I do not have the energy or resources for extensive searches. I use scientific reasoning to challenge whatever seems unfair or incredible.
      I appreciate very much your kind effort to inform me usefully.

  • 2
    4

    So there, Paul!
    .
    That “populist programme” lists a mobile phone number for Ven. Barawantalawe Rahula Thero. I’ve just sent him a text message. Wherever and whenever possible we must act! Provided we talk to people gently and kindly, the results will always be good.
    .
    We may not always agree, but much better to disagree on one or two things, since we will always have many subjects where we can agree with another human being. I’m being vague!
    .
    Just look at what Nathan and I have been telling each other above. It may be that what Plato has stated is true. I have told Jeevan Hoole similar things myself. However, let this also be told to all readers; Professor Hoole is one man who will actively do what he thinks is necessary – even if it means filing Supreme Court cases against the incumbent President of the Republic of Sri Lanka!
    .
    tbc

    • 3
      4

      Continuing
      .
      By now
      I know that SJ and Jeevan Hoole hate each other.
      .
      “Their personalities clash!” Rubbish!! The GambadaIngirisiIskoleMahaththaya (Tamil readers stumped? Portmanteau in English: “VillageEnglishSchoolMaster) must tell these two Learned Professors that onlookers will conclude that both are at fault. Try saying that one is more to blame than the other? There we go again! Childish old men, you look so silly!
      .
      Pathetic, really. But capable elsewhere of displaying heroic courage.
      .
      But, I know one better than the other, and I know his version better. This performance by SJ really shocking:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/jaffna-a-university-sinking-in-mediocrity-and-sectarianism/comment-page-1/#comments
      .
      Professor Sarvan has said, “Veritas vincit omnia” – Truth will conquer all things. I hope that such will be the case even in all this. Charles Sarvan is a third Professor enmeshed here, in an article somewhat different from most of his broodingly exquisite writing. Highly sensitive, he is yet able to face unflinchingly up to the uncomfortable realities of life.

  • 3
    4

    Dear Paul,
    .
    I actually had a ten-minute telephone chat with Ven. Bagawanthalawe Rahula Thero yesterday morning, about 8.30.
    .
    Yes, he was very nice, but he may have found me a strange guy when I explained to him how I had arrived at his phone number from Colombo Telegraph. He said that he’d send me his email address, but it hasn’t got to me yet. Perhaps it’s there in his website which is below his phone number.
    .
    Certainly, this is a lead that should be followed. I hope others will also explore this, although the problem with most readers is that they don’t come back to anything more than two days old.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe, Bandarawela aka “Sinhala_Man”

    • 3
      3

      Mr Sinhala Man,
      For the last time let me tell you that I did not indulge in hostile personal remarks or character assassination despite repeated uncalled for provocation.
      Vile abuse is not my cup of tea.
      *
      Kindly stop patronizing, I find it sickening.

    • 4
      0

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa2OZYCTkuA
      :
      Please listen to the speech delivered by the thero. While pinguntharayas born to sinhala nation stay watching TV and other activities to the very same manner, lay people would do, but this monk is sending a message no second that of late MOTHER THERESA or

  • 5
    0

    S.M,
    Rahula hamuduruwo may object to the Hindu caste system, but it is clear from the colour of his robe that he will never be the Mahanayaka of Asgiriya due to the Buddhist caste system. So much for good intentions.

    • 0
      2

      I get your point, oc.
      .
      Do others get it? I’ll say more later.

    • 0
      1

      So many complications, oc!
      .
      There was a power failure. This is from my mobile phone. Power has returned but the UPS battery needs time to recoup.
      .
      I have done something interesting / mischievous. Sent off an email to the two addresses provided above by SJ and also Hoole and Agnos, telling them that Rahula puts us all to shame. Copied to some others whose addresses I have. None for you! Or for NV, Champa, RTF, nf , etc.
      .
      Your predictions?

  • 1
    0

    ……….Casteism among Tamils can be used as a redherring to divert attention away from racist acts……….
    ………Racists can come before their victims clothed in the garment of solicitous saviours…….

    For Prof: Ratnajeevan Hoole the aforesaid by the Reviewer Prof; Sarvan takes a lower priority.
    He wants his pound of flesh from Arumuga Navalar!
    Commentators, like Eagle Eye on these pages now have enough ammunition!

  • 0
    0

    Others who will get the email are Kumar David, Charles Sarvan, – oh, quite a few others.
    .
    You see, I’ve been getting some ominous phone calls. Did you see the warning that I received from well intentioned Captain Morgan? He had hinted that the Double-Paksas could be after me. Yes, the risk is there.
    .
    However, the irony is that I have nothing to fear from any of those whom I emailed. Why can’t we all get together and defeat the crooks?
    .
    Kumar David had emailed me that he’d received a huge compliment from the editor of the Island for an article which will appear in their e-paper.

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