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From Oceania to East Africa



Meeting of Kuveni and Prince Vijaya. (Painting by Prasanna Weerakkody). The radical view is that a relatively advanced civilisation existed in the island 'prior' to the arrival of Prince Vijaya and that the evolution of Sri Lanka into a modern geo-political entity took place through a complex process of integration, differentiation and creative synthesis

Ruminations on Sri Lanka’s Ancient Past – Part III

By Seneka Abeyratne

Historical evidence suggests that Sri Lanka had regular trading and cultural connections with the empire of Sri Vijaya in Palembang, South Sumatra. Legend has it that the Radala, noble families of Sri Lanka, and the Raden, noble families of Indonesia, frequently intermarried. It is something of a mystery that though the island’s location is subcontinental, its character is more Southeast-Asian. We can make sense of this paradox only if we accept the premise that in ancient times there were continual migrations from Southeast Asia to Sri Lanka.

Periodic migrations from the opposite direction also occurred, notably southern Arabia and East Africa. According to Senake Bandaranayake (‘The Peopling of Sri Lanka: The National Question and Some Problems of History and Ethnicity’, 1987), our ethnic mix is so complex it even includes Mediterranean, Himalayan, East Asian and Oceanic strains, as revealed by various ethnological studies. It is worth noting that the term Oceania applies to the isles in the Pacific Ocean, including Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Bandaranayake (‘Continuities and Transformations: Studies in Sri Lankan Archaeology and History’, 2012) is of the view that Southeast and East Asia have had a significant influence on Sri Lankan architecture, as per the multi-slope roofs. This pattern of construction is commonly found in Bali, northern Thailand, and Laos. But David Robson submits the following counter-argument: “His study of roofs suggests a process of diffusion across a huge region…A similar comparative study of plan-form might have shown that the courtyard typology, which is characteristic of many of traditional Sri Lankan houses, occurs in many parts of India but is not common in Southeast Asia, suggesting a different area of diffusion.” (Review of above paper, The Island, March 23, 2013).

Bandaranayake always maintained that our ethnic structure was no less distinctive than that of any other country on this planet. The key point he makes is that we cannot view this structure narrowly in terms of the colonisation of the island by migrant settlers from the Indian subcontinent. Rather, we should view it as the product of a dynamic process involving a series of migrations from the subcontinent as well as other regions during historic and prehistoric periods combined with internal developments that laid the foundation for rapid population expansion.

Vijaya myth

The traditional view, as we have seen, is that the history of Sri Lanka begins with the arrival of the Sinhalese from northern India sometime in the 6th Century BCE, as recorded in ‘The Mahavamsa, The Great Chronicle of Ceylon’ (Geiger, Wilhelm, 1912). The first Sinhalese to land in the island were Prince Vijaya and his band of seven hundred followers, somewhere on the north-west coast. To cut a long story short, the prince subsequently became the island’s first monarch. Although some modern historians doubt the authenticity of the Mahavamsa’s account of Vijaya, we should take the following viewpoint into consideration: “Beneath this charming exercise in myth-making lurks a kernel of truth – the colonisation of the island by Indo-Aryan tribes from northern India” (de Silva, K.M. ‘A History of Sri Lanka’, fifth edition, 2016). Whether the island experienced an ‘Aryan impulse’ of this nature in the Late Protohistoric-Early Historic Period is the subject of an ongoing debate. We should note that modern historians like Senake Bandaranayake avoid using the word ‘Aryan’ or ‘Indo-Aryan’ for reasons discussed above. The preferred word is ‘North-Indian’.

The notion prevalent among the Sinhalese, that their genes are ‘Indo-Aryan’, is firmly anchored in the Vijaya myth. Ironically, this myth has served not to unite but to divide the nation and fuel racist ideologies in the modern era. “Thus, in our own context, as elsewhere in the world, historical notions and the consequences of ethnic differentiation form a fundamental and highly visible aspect of the national question, the daily currency of communal tension and conflict. Historians, sociologists and all those working in relevant fields are thereby compelled, in one or another, to address themselves to these issues and have a special responsibility to lay bare some of the myths and distortions that lie at the heart of these ideas” (Bandaranayake, Senake, op cit, 1987).

Radical viewpoint

The radical view, presented by Bandaranayake (ibid), is that a relatively advanced civilisation existed in the island ‘prior’ to the arrival of the Sinhalese and that the evolution of Sri Lanka into a modern geo-political entity took place through a complex process of integration, differentiation and creative synthesis. This process was the result of an internal dynamism generated by the indigenous people. In other words, the prehistoric and protohistoric culture of the island was not ‘closed’ or ‘static’, rather it was ‘open’ and ‘dynamic’ and able to constantly evolve into higher and more sophisticated forms through a vigorous ‘dialectical’ process.

According to popular view, the first people to speak an advanced language, practice plough-based agriculture, introduce irrigation, and lead a settled village existence in Sri Lanka, were the so-called ‘Aryan’ migrants from the western or eastern parts of northern India.

This view implies that the transition from a hunter-gatherer way of life to a civilised existence based on settled agriculture occurred only after the Sinhalese arrived on the island. It therefore does not recognise the possibility that prehistoric migrations to Sri Lanka, from both the South-Indian peninsula and the Malay-Indonesian archipelago, may have occurred or that these migrants may have crystallised into a self-sufficient community, practising the rudiments of settled agriculture by the time the Sinhalese settlers arrived. Since Sri Lanka was strategically located on the ancient maritime trade and cultural routes linking east and west, it was constantly attracting traders and pilgrims. It is quite possible that many of these ‘visitors’ were so taken up with the pristine nature of the island that they couldn’t bear to leave, in other words they lost their hearts to Serendib!

The radical view of history hence presupposes that the island had attained a relatively high level of internal development prior to the 6th Century BCE which served as a base for later social, cultural and economic developments triggered by migrations from the subcontinent. It therefore rejects what might be called the ‘Indo-centric’ bias of almost all 19th and 20th century historical writing on Sri Lanka. What is meant by the Indo-centric bias is the conventional viewpoint that the subcontinent has played a dominant role in the evolution of Sri Lankan culture and society.

The radical viewpoint, by contrast, adopts a much wider Indian Ocean-Monsoon Asia perspective and takes into account the interaction between external factors and internal development from an early period, even though modern historians have yet to arrive at anything like a full understanding of the prehistoric situation. It gives considerable emphasis to the impact of this interplay between gradual change from within and sudden change from without on the island’s historical development, especially in the first millennium BCE (Bandaranayake, Senake, op cit, 2012).

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ICC arrest warrant; a setback for authoritarian rule



‘All-weather allies’: President Xi Jinping meets President Vladimir Putin.

As should be expected, the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes allegations has given rise to a widespread debate on how effective it would be as an instrument of justice. What compounds the issue is the fact that Russia is not obliged to cooperate with the ICC, given that it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which outlaws the crimes in question and envisages punitive action for signatory state representatives who act in violation of its provisions.

Predictably, the Russian side has rubbished the ICC allegations and its arrest warrant on the basis that they are totally irrelevant to Russia, considering that it does not recognize the ICC or its rulings. However, the fact remains that important sections of the international community would be viewing Putin and his regime as war criminals who should be shunned and outlawed.

The possibility is great of the Putin regime steadily alienating itself from enlightened opinion the world over from now on. In other words, Putin and his cohorts have incurred a heavy moral defeat as a consequence of the ICC’s arrest warrant and its strictures.

Morality may not count much for the Putin regime and its supporters, locally and internationally, but the long term consequences growing out of this dismissive stance on moral standards could be grave. They would need to take their minds back to the white supremacist regimes of South Africa of decades past which were relentlessly outlawed by the world community, incurring in the process wide-ranging sanctions that steadily weakened apartheid South Africa and forced it to negotiate with its opponents. Moreover, the ICC measures against Putin are bound to strengthen his opponents and critics at home, thereby boosting Russia’s pro-democracy movement.

However, the Putin administration could earn for itself some ‘breathing space’ at present by proving the ICC’s allegations wrong. That is, it would need to establish beyond doubt that it is not guilty of the crime of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia and other war-linked offences. It could liaise with UNICEF and other relevant UN agencies for this purpose since it does not recognize the ICC.

A wise course of action for President Putin would be to pick up this gauntlet rather than ignore the grave allegations levelled against him, in view of the long term consequences of such evasive behavior.

Besides, the Russian President would need to restrict his movements from now on. For, he is liable to be arrested and produced before the ICC by those governmental authorities who are signatories to the Rome Statute in the event of Putin entering their countries. That is, Putin’s head is likely to be increasingly restless as time goes by.

However, the gravest consequence flowing from Putin and his regime ignoring the ICC and its strictures is that later, if not sooner, they could find themselves being hauled up before the ICC. There is ample evidence from recent history that this could be so. All the alleged offenders need to do is take their minds back to the convulsive and bloody Balkan wars of the nineties to see for themselves how the ICC process, though slow and laborious, finally delivered justice to the victims of war crimes in that tempestuous theatre.

All those war criminals who have lulled themselves into believing that it is possible to escape being brought to justice before the world’s tribunals, need to recollect how former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevik and his partners in crime Rodovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the early years of this century and required to pay the price for their criminality. So confident were they initially that they would never be brought to justice that they agreed, tongue-in-cheek, to fully cooperate with the ICTY.

It is pertinent to also remember that the criminals mentioned were notorious for their ‘ethnic cleansing’ operations and other war-time excesses. Accordingly, those accused of war crimes the world over would be only indulging in wishful thinking if they consider themselves above the law and safe from being held accountable for their offences. Justice would catch-up with them; if not sooner, then later. This is the singular lesson from Bosnia.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has considered it timely to call on President Putin in Russia. He did so close on the heels of being elected President for a third straight term recently. This is a clear message to the world that Russia could always depend on China to be a close and trusted ally. It is a question of two of the biggest authoritarian states uniting. And the world they see as big enough for both of them.

Interestingly, China is having the world believe that it has a peace plan for Ukraine. While in Russia, though, XI did not spell out in any detail how the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved with China’s assistance. However, China has drafted what is termed its ‘Position on the Ukraine Crisis’. It contains 12 points which are more in the nature of a set of principles.

Seen against the backdrop of the developments in Ukraine, some of these principles merit close scrutiny. For instance, the first principle lays out that the sovereignty of all countries must be respected. Besides, International Law must be universally recognized, including the ‘purposes and principles of the UN Charter’. However, ‘double standards’ must be rejected. Hopefully, the West got the hint.

Principle 4 has it that ‘Dialogue and negotiations are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis.’ Principle 8 points out that, ‘Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought’.

Needless to say, all the above principles are acceptable to the international community. What is required of China is to evolve a peace plan for Ukraine, based on these principles, if it is in earnest when it speaks of being a peace maker. The onus is on China to prove its credibility.

However, China could be said to be characteristically pragmatic in making these moves. While further cementing its alliance with Russia, China is placing the latter on notice, though in a subtle way, that its war in Ukraine is proving highly counter-productive and costly, both for the states concerned and the world. The costly economic consequences for the world from the war speak for themselves. Accordingly, nudging Russia in the direction of a negotiated settlement is the wisest course in the circumstances.

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In the limelight again…Miss Super Model Globe 2020



Those who are familiar with the fashion and beauty pageant setup, in Sri Lanka, would certainly remember Shashi Kaluarachchi.

Three years ago, she was crowned Miss Super Model Globe Sri Lanka 2020 and then represented Sri Lanka at the Miss Super Model Globe International, held in India.

Shashi won two titles at this big event; she was placed second in the finals (1st Runner-up) and took the title of Best National Costume.

Very active in the modelling scene, in the not too distant past, Shashi went silent, after dazzling the audience at the Super Model Globe contest.

Obviously, those who are aware of her talents were kept guessing, and many were wondering whether she had prematurely quit the fashion scene!

Not quite so…and I had a surprise call from Shashi to say that she is ready to do it again.

The silence is due to the fact that she is now employed in Dubai and is concentrating on her office work.

1st Runner-up at Miss Super Model Globe International

“When I came to Dubai, I was new to this scene but now I do have some free time, coming my way, and I want to get back to what I love doing the most – modelling, fashion and beauty pageants,” she said.

Shashi indicated that she plans to participate in an upcoming beauty pageant, to be held in Dubai, and also do some fashion shoots, and modelling assignments.

“Dubai is now buzzing with excitement and I want to be a part of that scene, as well,” said Shashi, who had her early beginnings, as a model, at the Walk with Brian Kerkoven modelling academy.

“I owe my success to Brian. He made me what I’m today – a top model.”

Shashi, who 5’7″ tall, says she loves wearing the sari for all important occasions.

“The sari is so elegant, so graceful, and, I believe, my height, and figure, does justice to a sari,”

Shashi has plans to visit Sri Lanka, in April, for a short vacation, adding that if the opportunity comes her way, she would love to do some photo shoots, and a walk on the ramp, as well.

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Dry Skin



Shorter Showers

If you have dry skin, do not take long showers, or baths. Staying in the water for a longer time can dry it out more. You should also use warm, instead of hot, water, when you wash. Hot water can strip your skin of the fatty substances that give it hydration. As soon as you finish cleansing yourself, apply a body lotion, all over your body, to moisturize. Don’t wash yourself more than once a day


Applying a daily moisturizer can do wonders for dry skin, and there are products in your kitchen you can use which are natural and effective. Try coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, or sunflower seed oil


Olive oil and brown sugar have amazing properties for the skin. Both of these substances deeply hydrate. Olive oil is also a known wound-healer, while sugar contains glycolic acid, which allows it to have anti-aging. You can make a natural scrub, using these ingredients which can be as good as the best anti-wrinkle creams.

*  Mix one tablespoon of brown sugar with a teaspoon of olive oil.

*  Blend them, and spread the mixture on your face, and neck, using a circular motion, for a few minutes.

*  Then leave it to sit for another couple of minutes, and wash it off with warm water.

You can do this twice a week for amazing results


Taking care of your lips is important. Lips can also get dry and chapped, which is why you need to keep them hydrated, daily. If you’re looking for a natural balm, try sugar and lemon, or honey, sugar, and butter.

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