24 September, 2020

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Thinking Through And Beyond The Sandahiru Saya

By Pradeep Jeganathan

Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan

The construction of the Sandahiru Stupa in Anuradhapura, which we are told, is the “first among nine such Stupas to come up in all the nine provinces, giving due recognition to the memory of those War Heroes who defended the country from threat of separation, sacrificing their precious lives for the sake of our future generation,” raises inevitably a question about ‘history.’ Have Sri Lankans always done this kind of thing, after a war? Is this an age old Sinhala-Buddhist practice? Did Dutugamunu? Is this a straightforward replay of history, that goes back, in constant replays, to the 5th Century AD, or before?

No. A critical history is an account of change; of both continuity and ruptures. Imagining, quite blithely, that something we see today,  comes down to us from the distant past, is sort of an optical illusion; we need to try to see through it.

In what has become our common sense understanding of our shared past, what’s happening at Anuradhapura today is a replay of the “Mahavamsa” which is commonly understood today, as the repository of Sinhala Buddhist ideas and practice. So then the Sandahiru Saya is a simple sequel to the Ruwanveli Saya. Again, as I have argued before, there isn’t a straight line between the two; it’s not historically tenable to assume the second is a sequel of the first. Yes it seems like it; that’s part of its power. All nations claim to be ancient, but this idea itself, is recent. It’s modern.

Sandahiru Saya

One of the key features of modern identity is equality. Everyone is putatively equal within a group, Sinhala = Sinhala. Tamil = Tamil. This is not to be confused with real hiarachary or inequality. It’s putative, supposed. Hence, to make a couple of logical jumps forward, the Sandahiru Saya is “to the memory of those War Heroes who defended the country from threat of separation.” It’s a war memorial. War memorials are quinessencially modern; it is a keystone argument in Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. In its paradigmatic form, such a memorial also includes a body of an ‘unknown soldier’ who stands in for all the others who were killed. Again, this is only logical if all are equal. So this is the first way that Sandahiru Saya is different from anything that happened in ancient Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the identities of Sinhala, Tamil and ‘Moor,’ were racialized throughout the nineteenth century, by linguists, anthropologists, and census commissioners. Ways of being that were fuzzy, were put into exclusive boxes, counted and ranked. The idea that each of these groups then need representations of their own ‘race,’ came into being and solidified. These idea are still with us; we have imagined these ideas into national communities and into nationalisms.

It may surprise some to hear that we’ve done better, on this score at least, in the recent past; on the banks of the Victoria-Randenigala reservoir complex are three steel needles rising into the sky in a large square, anchored in each corner by markers of our four great religions. That memorial, designed by the well known architected Mano Ponniah, is still a memorial to GoSL soldiers who were killed, not to everyone who died in this brutal, long drawn out war.

There is something to be said, as I’ve done before, for imagining a nation through death, without taking sides. Without trying to figure out, who was right and who was wrong, in an unending cycle of accusations and counter accusations. All we need to do is stretch our imaginations to encompass all those in our country who grieve.

You can read Dr.Pradeep Jeganathan‘s wrtings @ www.pjeganathan.org

Sandahiru Saya

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Latest comments

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    Pradeep,
    You mustn’t worry too much about this.Tolerance being anathema to you Tiger terrorists who come in all shapes and colors,i.e.Dr,Priest,human rights activists,journalist etc can always do a “Dalada Malaigawa”type attack.Or can go even further and do a “Srimaha Bodhi”type massacre in the name of liberation.You buggers attack Budddhism whenever you can and still utter about reconciliation.Yes we are ready to re conciliate.For starters if and when Governor Paki of CPA fame arrives in the island we plan to give him a rousing welcome as a means of reconciliation.Reconciliation will be completed once the remaining Tamil tiger terrorists and their paid half a dozen Sinhala terrorists who are enjoying five star comfort in Geneva are sent to join “VELU” who is a permanent resident of hell!

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      Your hero in Temple Trees has banned the Dalai Lama from visiting S. Lanka. Even the cricketers were banned from meeting him: http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2010/5/56232_space.html

      Horapakse is afraid of upsetting the Chinese. He would sell his mother rather than upset the Chinese. Without all the Chinese commissions, Shiranthi might have to eat 12 meals a day instead of 112.

      Horapakse and his band of Sinhala-Buddhist thugs are the biggest hypocrites in history.

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        Take it easy Observer.Don’t you have anything else to say other than this Pakse,that Pakse?I understand your unfortunate plight.I know you hate Rajapkse for sending that wonderful human being”Velu” to hell unexpectedly.My boy don’t cry.I will try to get you a toy “velu”.Using it you can kill Rajapkse hundreds of times.After all it’s a toy.What else you need my boy?A few toy one engine Kurumbatti machines?Pl give me your shopping list.For god sake stop crying and eat humble pie.

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      Max.. you are always brand whoever criticize the regime as terrorist..

      Every body knows who killed LASANTHA WICKRAMATHUNGA.. and why…

      your hands are full of blood… both of tamils and sinhalese..

      You don’t have the moral right to put any comments here..

      and stop insulting Mr.Pakyasothi Saravanamuthu..

      The way you comment helps others to know about your attitudes and those of you represent.

      Thanks a lot for that.

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    The writer seems somewhat conceited in his analysis and condemnation of Buddhist structures. I wonder if he is arrogantly proposing some form of memorial to the misguided youth who perished in pursuance of self-rule for one minority. While Buddhist history and preponderance in Sri Lanka has been used (and abused) by some rulers simply to gain popularity and to fulfil cutural mores, we need not be unduly worried unless it wastes public funds better spent on providing essential medicines at rural hospitals, for example.

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    Excellent write up Pradeep.THe last paragraph sums up the need of the hour. Thanks.

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    thanks Tharindu! I hope it happens.

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      once you lose no memorial you need to be win to celibrate

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    No thanks for me?Real tiger terrorism attitude!

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    @max and lasantha,
    there is no condemnation to buddhist structures in his article. Actually he is speaking against the ones who condemn it. i dont know whether ur buddhist or not but building statues as a war memorial is an insult to me as a buddhist. It insults buddhism more than taliban ever did by bombing bamiyan statues. those builders go against the very principle buddhism was based on, which is Avihinsa. a stupa can never be constructed as a war memorial. those who try to do that insult my religion.
    also the soldiers who died in the war come from all the religions. There are catholic and muslim soldiers as well. Are they represented by this war memorial? These dumbos who build stupas as war memorials need to be stopped. I am heavily dipressed that no body in my religion who are secular stand up to these dumbos.
    If SL need a war memorial, it should be built for the dead. The sons and the daughters of lanka who died in this 25 years of war who ever they are. The war memorial should be built for all the civilians killed whether in north or south, soldiers in SL army who gave their lives for the country they love and LTTE cadres who died for a cause they believed in. For me that would be an ideal war memorial. A memorial that all lankans can pay respect regardless of their ethnicity and religion. A memorial that would remember the lankans after many yrs in the time to come what a period of bloodshed this country had been through, a period never to be repeated.

    @author of the article.
    Job well done. I have read ur blog its interesting. I read u r previous one in sinhala buddhism as well. i think u are closer to the reality than others who write on this topic. Hats off to you sir.

    @all the buddhists who read this
    If u are secular and distaste the many acts of these dumbos who try to build stupas as war memorials, stand against them at least now.

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    Jayathilaka,
    We will invite Pradeep to deliver us a Bana sermon.We could also perform a Bodhi Pooja on behalf of that Monster Prabakaran so that he will re born among us and continue his killing spree.

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      LEARNED MAX SILVA.
      I HOPE YOU WILL NOT BE AN INSULATION TO BUDDHISM.WE ARE THINKING THAT, YOU ARE NOT A BUDDHIST.
      I HAVE READ YOUR COMMENTS, ARE GETTING WORST. AS WE BUDDHIST GET BAD IMPRETION ON THIS BLOGS ON COMMENTS LIKE YOURS.
      PLEASE LEAVE OUR SCARED BODHIDHARMA SEPARATE FROM YOUR MUD APPLYING,
      BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU IT GETs OTHER BUDDHISTS TO VERY LOWER LEVAL

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        Carpenter,
        No i am not a Buddhist.Neither a full blooded Sinhalese.I am an independent analyst.The greatest followers of Buddhism are the Tamil Tiger terrorists including the Observer,Gamini and Borukaraya.Hence they massacred devotees at Srimaha Bodhi in cold blood so that those devotees would have the pleasure of enjoying Nirvana sooner than later.You say that my comments are getting worse.You can say that again.But this is only a mild dose.The best i have reserved for governor Paki,Sunanda,Nimalka and Sunila the $$$ Kakkas if and when they return,in which case i have planned to deliver in person.In fact right this moment i am loitering in the vicinity of Velupillai International airport awaiting their imminent arrival with garlands comprising Ealam Rupee bills.

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        TO DEAR PROf MR MAX SILVA,
        I think I AM A GOOD BUDDHIST, FREE EDUCATION RECEIVED, O/L PASSED CARPENTER. NOT LIKE WESTERN EDUCATED PROF MAX SILVA. NOT LIKE Former PRESIDENT PREMADASA OR CURRENT PRESIDENCY HOLDER MAHINDA WHO GOES AROUND ALL THE HINDU TAMIL KOVILS aAND INDIAN MALAYALI SOOTHSAYERS.I CAN SAY THAT I AM A PEACE LOVING HUMANE.I CANNOT ANSWER ABOUT THIS FULL BLOODED OR HALF BLOODED. WHAT I LEARNED IS ALL HUMANS ARE RED BLOODED, IS CATAGORISED TO A B AB O LIKE THAT. SO I CONSIDER YOU AS ANOTHER HUMANE WITH FULL OF HATE, ANGER, AND JEALOUS.
        DEAR PROFESSOR, I HOPE YOU BETTER CALM DOWN. I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU ARE< HOW WE SUVIVED INTHE EAST< UNDER THE BLOODY JAWS OF LTTE, NOT ONLY LTTE, BUT GOVERNMENT CRADLE'S SLEEPING EPRLF ENDP. PLOTE, EROSE ALSO,STILL YOU APPROVE THIS CLAN's KEEPING OF PILLAYAN WHY DONT THIS RULING FAMILY DOES NOT PUT THE INTO JAIL AND CHARGE FOR CRIMS THEY COMMITED, BETTER YOU KEEP IT HIDING , KNOW.
        MAX SILWA THAT IS CALLED DUBBLE STRANDED POLICY OF TH RULERS.
        AS WE BELIEVE ALL THESE HAPPENINGS BEHIND, WE HAVE EAGERNESS HATE AND JEALOUS AND GRATE KARMA. in Sinhalese WE CALL KARUMAYA.
        EVEN THIS SO CALLED DR PRADEEP JEGANATHAN ALSO MADE A MISTAKE.THERE IS NO SINHALA BUDIDHISM. AS YOY KNOW BETTER THAN MY SELF.
        IT IS AN UNIVERSAL PHILOSOPHY [ CAPENTER IN SAUDI ARABIA.]

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    Jayathilaka, thank you for reading and commenting — it really makes it worth while. Much appreciated.

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    Pradeep, much better article this time. I hope you understand that I had to take you on last time because that piece of writing came across as a hastily put together contraption meant to be a bicycle that cannot be ridden. The spirit in which you wrote this is not lost.

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      I always appreciate comments; Chandrani. And no, I didn’t get your issue with my previous article. Indeed it has a point — if you read it again, may be you will get it? But that’s fine!

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    Nobody would worships these Dagabas’, except that those who can milk the lucrative commissions through contractual arrangements to built them. There is a giant Dagoba built by Gamini Dissanayake on a hillock near Kothmale reservoir, perhaps to commemorate what he achieved through Mahaweli scheme. But nobody worship it.
    But it would be really unfortunate if these are built in violation of the provisions to protect ancient archaeological sites. At least Kothmale Dagaba was not built on an archaeological site. I understand your worry, but the government has to sustain its triumphalist propaganda by hook or crook.

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      Extinct Dinosaur,
      It is for the Buddhists to decide what they should worship and not.Buddhists don’t need any out of town Johnny to lecture on subjects best left for scholars of Buddhism.As for Tamil tiger terrorists and their followers,better go and worship those stupid cemeteries of terrorists who can’t kill anymore.
      You ask me to stop insulting one geezer going by the name of Paki.There is nothing to insult to a world class conman whose occupation is milking gullible foreigners of $$$ on the pretext of protecting human rights.This Dinosaur bum says that i don’t have the moral right to post comments here.Your late god father,that monster Prabakaran also thought that others who don’t fall in line doesn’t have the right to LIVE.Thank god the monster is no more.You must understand that abuse is not one way traffic.If you want such, better make your presence felt at the mouthpiece of the terrorists,TamilNet or start expressing your views without calling heads of states bugger,bastard etc.You reap what you sew..The problem with you terrorists is that you believe that you have the right to hit with everything and anything but not others. Your barbaric leader learnt it the hard way at Nandikadal.
      PS:You cowards,without resorting to phony aliases why don’t you use your real names?Ashamed,ah!

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