By Shohorab Ahamed –
The interviewer asked on TV from Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize winner, about the man who shot her. He replied “It wasn’t a man, it was an ideology”. I write this with a tingling sensation that warns me of a growing, instigated and extremely ignorant akin ideology in my mother country, Sri Lanka.
I am sure as a reader you would have definitely seen this new “Sinha-Le” image going viral not only through digital media like Facebook but also in print. Taxis are branding themselves with a sticker and even some boutiques have joined the band wagon. The image has the lion taken from the national flag accompanied with the word “Sinha (Lion)” written in yellow and the last letter “Le” in red. “Le” means blood in Sinhalese and the picture tries to portray the word Sinhale as a conjunction of the two words “Lion” and “Blood” very obviously trying to tell all of us that he belongs to the Sinhala race, born of Lions Blood. Who is funding this? Who is printing this image? Who’s idea was this?
Those are questions that would come to your mind but the more potent question should be, “Is that what Sinhale Means”? I am a Muslim, my mother tongue is Sinhalese, my mother country is Sinhale (Sri Lanka is a new name) and I say to the intellectual who designed this ideology, you have got the whole thing wrong, so please don’t lead astray the future generations of this glorious and probably the most tolerant, genuine nation in the world.
The old story goes that Prince Vijaya landed in Thambapanni and met Kuweni who he betrothed. According to chronicles Vijayas father was Sinhabahu (Sinha=Lion, Bahu=Hands) who’s hands were like that of a lion. He inherited genes of his father who was a lion from whom he escaped from with his mother and sister. It is widely believed, taught in schools and spoken over food and drinks that King Vijaya was the first king of Sri Lanka. This idea that Sinhale means Lions Blood probably originated with this story where all of us think that we are descendants of King Vijaya.
Keeping aside that any human being with common sense will not believe a story so mythical, do you actually believe that Vijaya was the first king of Sri Lanka and all Sinhalese people are descendants of an Indian prince? This notion has been very openly negated by intellects in our country and yes, we had kings before that and our people were proud citizens of this country. Therefore, the origin of the name Sinhale is obviously not Lions blood, rather it has a much argued but very different evolution.
Sri Lanka is not our country’s name, neither is Ceylon or Ceilo. Our country’s name is Sinhale (Pronounced Sinhalay), and those who are born in this country are Sinhalese and we speak Sinhala. Of course now since the country is called Sri Lanka we have grown ignorant of our country’s heritage and what we really are.
It is only a commonly known fact that Sri Lanka had four tribes before the advent of King Vijaya called “Yaksha, Naga, Raksha and Deva”. Four in Sinhala is also “Siw” as you would probably know. Siw-pa is four legged. Siw-Hela is four tribes. This word Siw-Hela evolved into Sinhala, and Sinhale is our country, our mother nation. Everyone born in this country is a Sinhalese. You are Indian if you were born in India, American if you were born in America. Sri Lankan is a new phrase, Ceylonese is also a new phrase. We are Sinhalese.
Sinhale, our country has a great history unparalleled by most if not all countries on earth. The skeptics will have various views that could show our kings murdering their own siblings and sometimes even their fathers for power though alternative views emerge with new archaeological and historical studies. But I believe a good example would be the story of Puran Appu, the hailed hero who together with Gongalegoda banda, the widely accepted anointed king and Dingirala led the rebellion against the British occupation in 1848. It is though amusing to find us surprised to hear his real name, Veerahennedige Franciscu Fernando. He was from the Karave cast whose ancestry has several theories. Puranciscu or Puran Appu as the Sinhalese people called him had the support of the Sangha and is widely known to have been anointed by Ven. Kudapola thero. Adding to that, Gongalegoda Banda who was anointed as king of Sri Lanka according to established history of Sri Lanka was Wansapurna Dewage David crowned by the most Ven. Giranegama Thera. Yes, the Sinhalese Sangha were probably the most open minded religious leaders we could come across.
Putting some thought into the lately given names to our country like Sri Lanka and Ceylon, it is funny that no Muslim will accept wholeheartedly that he is a Sinhalese Muslim. That could even sound quite odd if you do not know that “this is the name of my great country”.
Thus, going back to the widely emerging Sinha Le (Pronounced “Lay”) ideology is false but is spreading. We are Sri Lankans, we are patriots, lets end this now with education and knowledge. There is a fine line between patriotism and nationalism. All of us who believe we are from different races, so be it. All of us from various religions, lets embrace them because Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or Islam are not different races or nations blood is always red. Dear reader, please understand that we have one flag, we do not need different colours to represent us because those colours are all man made. Lets educate at least the one standing next to us. We are all Sinhalese.
Others will speak maliciously; we shall abstain from malicious speech here — thus effacement can be done. – Sullekha Sutta