By Kusal Perera –
“Lord Buddha travelled a vast country, preaching his philosophy in villages, to the poor, to the kings and the nobility. Everywhere Lord Buddha visited and preached, he had a great following and some turned into disciples of his philosophy, Buddhism. It is said Lord Buddha visited ancient Lanka three times, but in Lanka, there were no following and no disciples. It was only after Arahath Mahinda dropped Buddhism here, the Lankans picked it up.”
“The ancient Chinese, after hearing there is a great philosophy in North India, travelled extremely hazardous routes, climbed and crossed the Everest mountain range and came to North India. There they learnt Pali and Sanskrit languages to learn and understand Buddhism. They then translated Buddhist teachings into their Chinese language and carried them all back to China. In ancient Lanka, most of our kings from prince Vijeya, brought their queens and concubines in shiploads from India. But not Buddhism. That had to be sent here by king Dharmasoka through his son Arahath Mahinda.”
These two quotes are from Saman Athaudahetty, journalist, radio artiste, writer, lyricist and travelogue narrator, when he made a crisp “thank you” to all who came (and could not come) on his invitation to his book launch “Along River Sarawak”, held at the BMICH on 04 September, 2013.
The second quote, though on the first take is also as interesting as the first quote, is not that logical and as the first. According to Mahavamsa that all Sinhala patriots wish to believe, after prince Vijeya, there were only 04 others, before King Devanampiyatissa, during whose rule, Arahath Mahinda visited Lanka to convert King Devanampiyatissa into Buddhism (this conversion is accepted as holy).
Two things of note, here. One, since Vijeya’s trespassing of this land till King Devanampiyatissa’s conversion after which he had his coronation blessed by the Indian king, there was no such practice or sharing of female nobility with India, recorded in Mahavamsa, although prince Vijeya is said to have brought a princess from India. That obviously was to break off from the local nobility and Kuveni as the story goes, and to establish his own clan as the lords of the land. Thus it was no “King Vijeya” but a runaway prince who married an Indian princess yet again, to establish his ethnicity as rulers of land usurped.
Two, till Pandukhabhaya, the ruler immediately before Devanampiyatissa, there had been no kingdom established by any, including Vijeya, perhaps reason why he is still recognised as “prince” Vijeya. The other two after him, Panduvasudeva and Abhaya have been mere ruling lords of a patch of land in North-West of ancient Lanka and are not called “kings” in Mahavamsa. After them, there is an interregnum of about 17 years, before Pandukhabhaya established the first kingdom in ancient Lanka.
Therefore it is not very correct to say, ancient kings brought their queens and concubines from India, but not Buddhism. By the time the ancient kings after Devanampiyatissa, started the habit (call it tradition if you wish) of bringing their queens and concubines from India, people of this land had already been “converted” into Buddhism.
It seems most arguments, “for” and “against” on most issues, are not based on facts and are not logically argued too. But they certainly carry lot of punch and that is what is expected, I believe.