25 September, 2020

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Sri Lanka: Learning To Deconstruct Modern Myths

By Maheshi B Weerakoon –

Maheshi Weerakoon

Not small are the tragedies Sri Lanka has witnessed because of the irrational beliefs of the masses. The modern myth we have created regarding the purity and the supremacy of the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony has gained so strong a stance in the society that every logical proposition made against it through facts, scientific evidences, statistics, and simple common sense are proving to be unable to eradicate the perception from the social consciousness.

This myth has solidified the erroneous notion that the country solely belongs to the Sinhala Buddhist majority and that the minorities must learn to live in the periphery, in the shadow, for they cannot make legitimate claims to the constructive narrative of the country.

Isn’t it quite logical to assume that any person having an unbiased reading of history cannot express such ludicrous sentiments?

As yet another species subject to Evolution, Homosapiens carry the tendency to migrate from place to place in search of better living conditions. This tendency is written into our DNA as an essential requirement for surviving. We, humans, descendants of a common ancestor and now living scattered around the world, began our journey from the plains of Africa about 60,000 years ago. These ventures continued until we found healthy environments to live in different regions of the world. Even after settling in one place and building advanced civilizations, we could not escape from our natural yearning for migrating and, compelled by many reasons such as wars, climatic changes, sense of adventure, and hostile environments, we never stopped going further in search of Promised Lands. Sri Lanka was no exception from that history and that history tells us how it hosted many visitors arriving at its golden shores at different times, for many a reason.

The linguistic, literary, archeologically and genetic evidences pertain to the fact that we migrated from Indian subcontinent as an extension of Indo-Aryan migration that started its course from the Steppes. According to Mahavamsa we may infer that by the time of prince Vijaya’s first landing, there had been a developed civilization in Sri Lanka. Even if we disregard Mahavamsa’s account as of minor value for its questionable credibility, the archaeological and genetic evidences have proven that we have migrated from India. The finding of Balangoda Man and the genetic similarities the Veddah people share with African and Indigenous Indian people would suggest that they are the original settlers of the island. Hence, the Sinhala people themselves have acted the role of the “outsiders”, the “Other” on Sri Lankan soil at a certain point of history.

From then onwards, there had been constant migrations into the island from different parts of the world. The proximity of the Indian subcontinent naturally facilitated contacts with south Indian powers such as Chola, Pallawa and Pandya. In the beginning, people came here from these kingdoms either as invaders or royal affiliations. As early as the Polonnaruwa kingdoms, king Wijayabahu I married the Kalinga princess, Thilokasundari ( Kalinga was a vassel state of Chola Kingdom), while his sister was given in marriage to a Pandya prince. The matrimonial ties, which strengthened king’s powers against further Indian invasions was an advantageous political strategy. It also initiated innumerable similar events that involved royal marriages which subsequently interfered with and influenced Sri Lankan political scenario. The Indian element played a vital role in construing the socio-political and cultural realities of the country. Many of the Hindu elements were assimilated into Buddhism: Their myriad of gods, Hindu shrines, veneration of cows, to name a few. The removal of cow from the moonstone during the Polonnaruwa Era signifies how strong the cultural integration of the Hindus might have impacted the Sri Lankan consciousness. This association was so entrenched in the society that it culminated to the point where, during the Kandyan Era, the Kandyan kingdom was ruled by kings belonging to Nayakar dynasty. 

Muslims started coming to the island from Middle-Eastern region around the 7th Century. They were either traders or pilgrims  to visit the Adam’s peak. The study done by Dr. Lorna Devaraja (Muslims of Sri Lanka- One Thousand Years of Ethnic Harmony 900-1915) gives a broad insight to the dynamics of the relationship that existed between Sinhalese and Muslims, and its impact on the socio-political and cultural discourse of the country. The practice of secluding Muslim women would have inevitably compelled the males to travel alone so that once they came here they married local women, converted them to Islam, and settled down to a new life operating their trades from the Sri Lankan ports.

The attitude of the Sinhalese kings towards the Muslims was one that of amicability. It is shown in the study that the Muslims were even employed as delegates to Middle-Eastern powers such as Egypt mainly because of their religious loyalties and navigation skills. The trading skills of the Arab Muslims proved advantageous to the Sri Lankan monarchs as the former were instrumental in promoting Sri Lankan trades, and subsequently bringing a vast sum of revenue to the kings. The Muslims were even given grants for various services they rendered the kings. In later times, Indian Muslims too began to frequent the country mainly for the commercial purposes. Although there had been moments of mistrust and strain between Muslim and Buddhist communities, those trivialities were overshadowed by the rapport between the two ethnicities. The affinity was to be seen throughout the history of monarchical Sri Lanka up to the Kandyan Era.

The European arrivals opened a passage to an influx of outsiders from various localities. Europeans’ unions with local women resulted in Burgers and Eurasians. The political ventures and economic policies implemented by the Europeans attracted many Malays, Chettis and Farsis to the island. Some of the people were brought here by the colonizers as labour force. Subsequently, Salagama, Durava and karawa castes which were comprised of Indian people were introduced to the Sri Lankan socio-economic landscape. South Indian Tamils too were brought here as labourers to work in tea plantations.

All of these people blended with the Sinhala community via intermarriages. They contributed to the Sri Lankan socio-political economic and cultural text with their trades, beliefs, labours and knowledge. The merging manifested in every major and minor aspect of Sri Lankan life: Religion, cuisine, language, customs, values etc.

Thus, it is not only unethical but illogical as well to claim that Sri Lanka belongs to only one race when it has been nurtured by the contributions done by all.

No single race can uphold the placard of sole ownership of a country; except in the mind of a megalomaniac like Hitler, may be. The socio-political, economic and cultural realities of any land are written by many hands that belong to many ethnicities. Rome was built by the Romans, an entity constituted of Italians, Gauls, Germans and Africans who were recognized as Roman citizens. Athens enjoyed the wisdom of many a foreign mind. Pericles’ well-versed consort was Aspasia whose name itself meant “the woman from Asia”.

These people that the Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalists want to push to the fringe have been living with the majority for centuries. All of us are interconnected down to our blood in this matrix that the notion of a pure race becomes a pure myth within the dialogue of history.

True, there are certain immaculate races in the world hidden in deep forests of Amazon and Africa, and according to the facts discussed in the article, why they remain at such a primitive stage is axiomatic.

The question to rise is where do we trace the line? The line that demarcate the moment of history when one group of outsiders became “us” and another became “them”? Can we, in fact, make such dichotomies on the tapestry of history which is woven with unfathomable intricacy and with zillions of narrations?

On the other hand, the minorities too must learn to live in consolidation with the majority. They should not forget that it is not with segregation but with integration that peace lies. It is not in secrecy of the community but in openness and transparency that understanding and trust can thrive.

The worst thing that can happen to an ethnicity is to be plagued with irrationality and hatred. The negativity would silently kill it from within and then, like a dying star, it would collapse upon itself and die. We are evolving beings and the chances are that in another 200-300 years not only the polity of the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony, but of the entire human race might shift to different dimensions.

Meanwhile, isn’t it better to contribute our best to the society and leave this a peaceful place for the future generations?

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    Dear Ms Weerakoon
    I think the following article is in line with an “evolving society” you have wonderful articulated in your writing ……and the framework required for us to take our rich heritage further…..the language question in our country is well answered by this author in the following article…this being written by a third party free of projuduces and stayed objectively to capture the “burning question” answers all my doubts….as a “one nation” child of Mother Lanka from birth I love to share the following with all your readers please….perhaps it will illustrate our failings from inception…….the article further make the case why a well functional common language for “local and international” use is important in todays world….(it could well have been French/Spanish/Chinese too but we happen to have the English heritage & spoken by large number if the world population for their daily needs too so why not take advantage??) that is all………failure to understand this has affected not only the minorities but equally if not “more devastatingly” the majority too. We never have to sacrifice our own culture/heritage/language by adopting to the “current working” of the world but in fact we can do a great service to the “same” by doing the opposite……….Singapore is a great example……..it is ironic they have learned the lessons from our mistakes as part of their nation building exercise but we still in the same old well proven impractical/obsolete mindset begs a question….. we doing this to ourself in the interest of whom exactly???

  • 7
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    224 comments to Maheshi Weerakoon’s article. Isn’t it a record? She is young but not immature. The problem is, for many here, her message goes just over their heads. We should encourage her to write more articles.

    • 1
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      Dear Silva

      Agree Mr Silva……Cool…
      I hope she can be a beacon of hope and inspiration for all our young children to express/shape their future in such a healthy way. Once we create a healthy environment we can change this real estate of an island into the “paradise for nature/space for science and technological inventions/sustainable human life” the world has never seen before……so encourage all our children not to loose hope….but to work for this “united” future “where lies the answers to all our problems”…..reach out to each other to spread the message of love..because the Buddhas message of “love” travelled through Sri Lanka to the rest of the world is a fact one shall never forget….and we are “all” blessed to be the subjects of such land too always. I travel the world proudly as such a subject to date as it is “not a patented heritage” but belongs to all of us.

    • 3
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      This is the style of lankens – no matter what it is what they listen they just believe in.

      Over 90% of people are like PINGONNU.

      Best example, regardless of the level of education, They go after AStrology, and Hakkgediya or other sorcery tricks.

  • 1
    2

    For Whom the Maheshis Write: The author starts with “not small are the tragedies Sri Lanka has witnessed because of the irrational beliefs of the masses”. That is an unfair and dangerous generalization. The culprits were criminals, who came from all communities, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, bent on looting and opportunists who were paid by the masters to make trouble. The second sentence, “the modern myth we have created…” is even worse. She is talking about the Sinhalese not heeding to facts, scientific evidence, statistics etc. I would like to ask, where are her facts, evidence and statistics that the masses are involved in these things, unless of course, she means anything that has mass as in Physics and is a Sinhalese Buddhist.

    But of course, all this would be honey in the ears of the Tamils like Thiagarajah Venugopal, Dosthara Gnana, K.Pillai (which should be Kapillai, because you do a lot of cutting against Sinhalese). You hail this as a masterpiece because it helps you to remain in the West as refugees, even if it means washing white toilets, and not be deported back. It is well known that there are some Sinhalese (Maheshi’s family is very likely to be one) who use the same guise as Tamils for the same end.

    By writing such articles, authors such as Tisaranee, Himashi and Waduge may generate a lot of supportive comments from the Tamils and opposing comments from people like us. That way she gets the dubious reputation as a great writer. Fooled by the cheers of the Global terrorists such authors will march and end up in doom.

    • 2
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      Edwin,
      I have observed and even admired your writings off and on.
      “She is talking about the Sinhalese not heeding to facts, scientific evidence, statistics etc. I would like to ask, where are her facts, evidence and statistics that the masses are involved in these things,”
      Well, this is perfectly true. Look at the Glyphosate controversy, for example. Mass hysteria is generated by a political monk and his followers, supported by crank “scientists” such as Nalin de Silva, a man who claims that God Natha told him about arsenis in fertilizer.
      In which country other than this Sinhala Buddhist paradise would such a person be a Dean of a Science Faculty?
      The masses are so conditioned to respect the “sivura” that they will not speak against such idiocy.
      The country is at the brink of an agricultural disaster, but the monk and his mass following are hardly bothered.
      I really cannot imagine how apparently educated people like you can talk advanced Buddhist metaphysics in one breath and in the other spew out contempt for a young person putting forward her own ideas.
      As to toilet-washing, you ought to remember that it is Sinhala women who do most of it in the Gulf where you claim to work. Such demeaning comments are unworthy of a true Buddhist.

      • 0
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        Coming specifically to Glyphosate, don’t you think it is dangerous to use it? I am sorry if I sound uninformed about this. But I thought that CKD is caused by this very chemical.

        • 0
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          Mr.Edwin,
          ” But I thought that CKD is caused by this very chemical.”
          Well, that is what Ratana hamuduruwo says. But he is neither a chemist or a doctor.
          But please read up the articles by Prof. Chandra Dharmawardena (who is a distinguished chemist AND a Sinhala Buddhist.
          He has explained convincingly that CKD in the Rajarata cannot be caused by Glyphosate,

          • 0
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            There’s a class-mate of mine who seems to disagree with Prof, ChandarE Dharmawardena.
            .
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3vVT-jSh3w
            .
            I know almost nothing about all this.
            .
            One of the great misfortunes visited upon us by these ethnic conflicts, is that very important social and scientific issues get pushed in to obscure corners of public interest owing to sectarian politics.

          • 1
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            old codger

            “Well, that is what Ratana hamuduruwo says. But he is neither a chemist or a doctor.”

            It should not prevent them from saying what they say and believe in.
            For example,

            the Mahasangha comments on the country’s constitutional development,

            Wimal Sangili Karuppan Weerawansa comments on Indian national anthem (being sung in Hindi),

            War Criminals and Chief of torture camps go to Geneva to defend government’s records on human rights,

            HLD M, Waduge, Kamalika, Darshanie Irathinawalli …………………….. typing on history, ….

            Dayan, Malinda, ……………. typing on politics/

          • 0
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            Thanks old codger. Dr. Dharmawardena is known to me. I will approach him directly.

            • 0
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              Edwin,
              As oldcodger says, Dr. Dharmawardena has been writing often on this site about the so-called Glyphosate poisoning.
              The problem is that the masses get carried away by loud rhetoric and don’t listen to people like Dharmawardena.

  • 0
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    Dear ER

    However much I do not agree with you on your observations on the article I do indeed agree you have managed to get Mr Thiagarajah’s son washing “white man’s toilet” indeed…..as there are huge number of our citizens who is having to do this around the world for living because of what is taking place in our country since independence… is exactly what we have been discussing….you comment was spot on? biggest income earner for the entire nation too…”washing toilet”………I am proud I am one of them Indeed Sir.

  • 2
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    Your effort is admirable. I guess, now you see how hard to communicate an idea with people who live in their own tins.

  • 0
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    The 29th Dream of King Kosala: The morning meeting starts.
    King: Purohitha, I had this strange dream of a young cow grazing in a faraway land together with full horned bulls and well uddered cows and strangely, many old, toothless Tigers. From time to time the young cow raised her head from grazing and gave out a cow call, you know, what we call ‘Thappulanava’. Whenever the cow did that, the rest of the herd shook their heads from side to side in a combined rotary and simple harmonic motion, signifying total approval. What does all this mean? I am afraid that this may mean my Queen taking over control after my death, which would be worse than a cow taking over.

    Purohitha: Do not worry Your Majesty. This cannot be about Kosala Desha. Even if your Queen takes over, it cannot be worse than what is going to happen in Lankadweepa in a few thousand years, which this dream signifies. But tell me more about the Tigers. They seem to be ominous – though toothless.

    King: Yes I agree. These Tigers had migrated to this nice land by lying through their teeth (I mean rhetorically, because they had no teeth) to the nice white people of the new land. What is the significance of them?

    Purohitha: Don’t worry about those toothless guys. They have no leader. Their leader would be bumped off, most unceremoniously, by a soldier of the Ravana Army, while begging for mercy. Leaderless, they follow the young cow, praising her. I am sure you will have the second part of the dream tonight. Let us discuss that tomorrow.

  • 0
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    Dear ED,
    I am counting the things you do not like so far………..Tigers (I am not sure you are only referring to the animals), Cows, Tamils, Muslims, Sinhala Buddhist, White Man……….and most definitely “washing toilets” for sure……..people you do not “agree” with you in general and their “lively hood” too…………..you have now also stating what you want to do to them??……kill them unceremoniously……….wow…
    The choices as follows………Kindly take all the stuff you have written so far to the nearest police station and tell them what you planning for the people you do not like please. I hope they could help you understand the law of cohabitation/”law and order” of the respective land which allow you to make a living to date/share the space/cohabit etc.
    For me life is simple……….if I harm/kill another being I am a “criminal”…how could you be around “free” without knowing this fundamental please??…….I do not take law into my own hands because then what we will be left with is “law of the Jungle”is exactly where we are now…..even an intent to cause harm in your mind is equally bad “spiritually” speaking following Buddhas preaching too………now you say this out loud in writing is a serious concern and is noted in the system.
    We were all hoping to see some real input to this discussion such we could make our country a better place is what was expected from you “nothing more nothing less”…….for some reason you have moved on to discussing matters as though “people” are “asking” your “permission” to live in their own land/planet….”where and how”…how did you find yourself in that space please?? playing “god” with people??

    • 0
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      Cowards: What a pathetic display of cowardice. You must be following in the footsteps of your great leader who behaved in the same way when cornered in the Nanthikadal. Listen carefully.

      All attempts to save his skin through Western interference had failed. VP abandoned his comrades, his army and even his family and ventured alone in to the Nanthikadal. In that fateful morning, the waters of the Nanthikadal was pleasantly warm. But strangely, VP was shivering.

      Suddenly he perceived the silhouette of a man carrying a gun. VP tried to submerge and swim underwater to escape. But the Laws of Archimedes worked against him. Suddenly he surfaced like a submarine doing an emergency surfacing maneuver, rising several feet in to the air.

      That was all thanks to Archimedes. Next Laws of Newton (F = mg) took over. VP with his huge (m) had a huge (F) fell back in to water making a small Tsunami. Nimal Maharage (Army Pvt – 2nd Class, GCE OL – 5 A’s, 3 S’s) first thought that it must be a whale and did not want to fire. But then, the Army trains its soldiers well. Although equally massive, Nimal knew how to discern a whale from a fat Tiger and threw out the challenge, “who goes there?”.

      VP started begging in broken Sinhala, “Mavai Prabakaran. Aiya Samy, Mava Meranna Yepa. Shingala Muniya Meranne Ney” and started licking ….. (self censored). VP should not have made the fatal mistake of using a language that he did not know well at such a critical moment. Nimal understood it as “Shingala Miniha Inne Maranna ney.” The AK 47 did its talking and you know the rest.

      So, Thiagarajah, add cowards to your list of things I don’t like.

      • 0
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        Good day ED……………..how am I related to all those things you have written above please?????…………..people like you may have created those who you described earlier is what I think may have happened……through your own cowardly acts……………..basically it was between you two parties correct??……..others like me have nothing to do with that correct??

        In this article “we” the others are discussing how to shape our own future in our land remembering the journey to date……..so no other children of ours end up in the situation correct??

        So you still need to goto a police station near by tell them what you have been upto bro……sorry I can not help you with your deeds………if you are looking for victims who may carry your burden then you are looking at a wrong fellow…………….”listen carefully” you say in your writing………..need medical help too…..

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