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Historical glance at Galle

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Galle is the capital of the Southern Province. The popular derivation of its name is from the Sinhala word Gaala – a cattle pen.

The mighty king Ravana’s cattle pen had extended from the present day Mahapola premises to the Town Hall, according to legend.

Galle is also considered to be the Tarshish in the Bible.

It is reputed for cottage-crafts, lace making, tortoise shell work, gem polishing, ivory carving, jewellery and ornamental ebony elephants.

Area – 6.5 sq. miles

Latitude – 6° 2′ North

Longitude – 80° 13′ East

Altitude – 41 feet above Mean Sea Level

Weather – Longest day – 22nd June, shortest day – 22nd December. On the 7th April and the 5th September the sun is directly overhead Galle.

Emblem – A cock standing on a rock.

In about 2300 B.C. the Galle mechanics are reputed to have invented the king Ravana’s airship, Dandumonaraya named Pushpaka Yanaya

A.D. 545 – Cosmas Indicopleustes, Greek merchant, makes first reference to Galle.

1000 – Masudi, Muslim traveller, makes specific reference to Galle.

1344 – Ibn Batuta, the Arab traveller, from Morocco, visits Galle.

1409 – Chinese General Cheng Ho and his men landed at Galle.

1505 – Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Viceroy of Goa, was the first Portuguese to set foot in Galle.

1587 – The Portuguese capture Galle.

1592 – James Lancaster, a pioneer sailor, was the first Englishman to land in Galle.

1625 The Portuguese built the Fort of St. Cruz at Galle.

1640 – i). The Dutch capture Galle. ii). The 1st map showing Galle and its harbour was produced by Barretto de Resende.

1663 – The Dutch built the Galle Ramparts.

1758 – The first breadfruit tree brought to Ceylon from Batavia, planted in the Galle Fort.

1796 – The British capture Galle.

1800 – The Survey Department of Ceylon was created by a Proclamation issued at point de Galle.

1801 – The Kachcheri system introduced.

1810 – The British brought in Chinese and settled them at Galle to cultivate English vegetables. This settlement later came to be known as ‘China Garden’.

1832 – The Galle Library inaugurated.

1838 Galle-Colombo mail coach commenced.

1844 The Galle Police Courts established.

1848 The first lighthouse in Ceylon, built at Galle.

1850 Galle-Colombo ‘Pigeon Express’ started.

1854 – The first Sinhala Magazine in Ceylon –Yathalaba Sangarawa was published in Galle.

1860 – ‘Lanka Lokaya’, the first newspaper in Ceylon published in Galle.

1862 – The first bank in Galle, along modern lines, the Mercantile Bank established.

Prior to it was the ‘Kittange system of Banking’, which was confined to Galle, and managed by the South Indian Chettiars.

1866 – The first direct telegraph message from New York, received at Galle.

1867 – The first meeting of the Galle Municipal Council held.

1868 – The Oriental Hotel (later the New Oriental Hotel), the last and only one of the Victorian Hotels to survive today, opened. It is the first registered hotel in Ceylon.

1870 – A newspaper called ‘Gall telegraph’ published in Galle.

1874 i). Galle Cricket Club founded.

ii). The construction of the St. Mary’s Cathedral.

1880 – The arrival of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott in Galle.

1881 – The construction of the Galle Clock Tower.

1885 – i). The Galle Gymkhana Club founded.

ii). The Hindu Vel Festival commenced at Galle.

1886 – The first horse race in Galle.

1887 The first Buddhist Sunday Dhamma school in Ceylon, started at

Wijayananda Vihara, Galle. It was at this temple that Colonel H. S. Olcott observed the five precepts in, for the first time.

1888 – The birth of the National hero, Edward Henry Pedris, at Dangedara in Galle.

1889 — Opening of Victoria Park. (Now Dharmapala Park)

1892 — Reservoir at Bekke was built.

1894 — The first train from Colombo reached Galle. People had danced on the platform, with a band in attendance.

1896 — The first Galle baby born in London. She was named ‘London Harry’.

1897 — King Choolalankara of Siam visits Galle.

1903 — The demise of Dr. P. D. Anthonisz, in whose memory the majestic Galle Clock Tower was built by a grateful public, while he was still living.

1905 — i). Richmond-Mahinda big match series commenced.

ii), The first owner car arrived in Galle.

1907 — Low Country Planters Association formed. (L.C.P.A.)

1911 — Hiyare Reservoir constructed.

1913 — The Southern Province Boy Scouts Association founded.

1919 — At the age of 13, Prof. Lyn Ludowyk, then a student of Richmond College, was the youngest King’s Scout in the British Empire.

1922 — i). Dr. Rabindranath Tagore visited Galle.

ii). Widespread epidemic of bubonic plague in Galle.

1924 — The first film theatre ‘Britannica’ opened.

1926 — i). Ceylon National Congress Sessions held in Galle with E.W. Perera as president. ii). Galle gets electricity.

1927 — Mahatma Gandhi visits Galle.

1930 — The first principal, P. R. Gunasekara of Mahinda College, elected to the Galle Municipal Council. He ended his career as the Ceylon’s High Commissioner in Australia.

1931 — Mahinda College Scout Troop represented by B. Piyadasa de Silva, at the International Scout Jamboree held at Arrow Park, England.

1933 — The Patron Saint of Galle Cricket, E. M. Karunaratne (E. M. K.) of the Galle Cricket Club, elected President of the Ceylon Cricket Association.

1935 – The first aeroplane seen at Galle.

1937 – The first Cricketer from Galle, to play for the All Ceylon Cricket Team D. D. Jayasinghe of Mahinda College.

1938 – Mohamed Macan Markar of Galle, the first Muslim in Ceylon, to be knighted.

1939 – i). The first Mayor of Galle elected – W. Dahanayake.

ii). The first Sinhala speech in the Galle Municipal Council made by Muh. A. William Wijeratne.

1940 – i). Ananda Samarakoon’s National Anthem first sung at Mahinda College.

ii). Mayor W. Dahanayake declared May Day a holiday for the Municipal Workers, long before 1956.

iii). A group of scouts of the St. Aloysius College, Galle, scaled 14.700 feet of the Himalayan Mountain range.

1942 – The first Muslim Mayor of Ceylon, A.I.H.A. Wahab, elected at Galle.

1953 – i). The demise of the founding father of hydro electricity in Ceylon, D.J. Wimalasurendra, who was born at Muhandiramgewatta, Galwadugoda in Galle.

ii). The All Ceylon Buddhist Congress holds sessions at Galle.

iii). Wicketkeeper W. B. Bennett, playing for Mahinda College against the Galle Cricket Club, dismissed all 10 batsmen, in one innings to establish a world record.

1955 – The last English G.A. of Galle, R.H.D. Manders assumes duties.

1956 – Galle gets a new Town Hall.

1958 – W.M. Neil de Silva of Galle, captains the Ceylon Athletic Team.

1959 – The Galle MP, Dr. W. Dahanayake, assumes duties as the Prime Minister of Ceylon.

1961 – Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet Cosmonaut, visits Galle.

1963 – The Galle Cricket Club wins the ‘Daily News Trophy’.

1964 – National Independence Celebrations held at Galle.

1967 – i). Galle Municipal Council turns 100 years old.

ii). The first ‘Cricket Stamp’ issued. Cricket enthusiasts will be interested to know that Galle has a claim to Sri Lanka’s First Cricket Stamp. The 25 cent stamp issued in 1967 to commemorate the Centenary of the Galle Municipal Council which depicts a large area of the Esplanade, has been included in the category of cricket stamps by philatelists.

1969 – Galle Fort declared an Archaeological Reserve.

1970 – Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma of Galle, was the first Ceylonese to handle the precious lunar soil, when the Apollo astronauts returned from their journey to the moon.

1992 – Galle city declared a World Heritage site.

 

Some phrases synonymous with Galle

 

1. Weda bari unath gama Galley

(One who tries to live by the reputation alone)

2. Ikkai mai galu giya

Ikka giya mang awa

(When one gets hiccup, one of the practises at Galle is to sip water seven times, while reciting the above stanza in one’s head. It is said to be an instant cure).

3. Wedath ahaki

Gamath Gaaley

(A good worker also hailing from Galle).

4. Galu giya aawe netho

(Refers to the disappearance of youth at the 1971 insurrection. With grateful thanks, to Prins Gunasekera, the then MP for Habaraduwa)

5. Galle Legs

It is a type of filariasis brought to our country by a Chinese called ‘Chiang Kai’ who had come with General Cheng Ho, way back in 1409 A.D.

6. Gaalley kollo bohoma vasai

Ung hapuwath Naaga visai

Yakada kandan dekata navai

Dekata nawala thunata kadai

(The boys of Galle are very dangerous

If they bite you, it’ll be like a snake bite!

They can bend iron girders!

Bend them in two and break them into three

7. Galle Face Green

The name brings back nostalgic memories of native Galle.

8. Some Landmarks of Galle

i. Pacha Gaha (Fibber’s tree)

The space under this tree was akin to the world famous Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park, London, the difference being that in addition to people who wanted to get something off their chest, minor politicos, political aspirants, agitators, ‘Kavi Kola- karayas’ (poets of sorts who recited and distributed their work written in sheets of paper), magicians, astrologers, itinerant vendors of instant cures for everything from the common cold to snake bites, would also extol the virtues of their wares here. It is now no more, bowing to the Law of Impermanence.

 

ii. Moda Ela (Fool-cut canal)

The fool-cut canal. It was cut by the British, at Galle to drain inland water to the sea. However, on completion, it was found that instead of water flowing to the sea, sea water was flowing inland. The people then started calling it the ‘Moda Ela’. It exists to this day and functions with a pumping system.

 

A poem written by teacher, A.B. Dionysius de Silva

 

Galu Pura

 

Sweet city of Ruhuna, adorned by ramparts,

Galu Pura of traditional fame;

How glorious thine enthralling vistas

Vying with each other to exalt thy name.

 

Leaving their ancient stately heritage

Portuguese and Dutch in by-gone days

Furnished us with landmarks, tarnished by age

Standing as sentinels in diverse ways.

 

Skirted by mighty Roomassala ridge

With well known Unawatuna hard by seen

Fringing the ramparts – the butterfly bridge

Depict a gracefully picturesque scene.

 

Splendid record Galu Pura did hold,

In scenic beauty, second to none

Gigantic clock tower, as monument bold

Venture to kiss the clouds in fun.

 

Embellishing Ruhuna’s annals with grandeur

Graced by educationists of Olcott’s fame,

Of pandits, scholars, philanthropists of lustre

And Premier Dahanayake appending his name.

 

Gone are the renowned ‘Galle Bulath Vita’

The famous ‘Pacha Gaha’ honoured of yore

Veterans of Galle, now sigh with pity

Bowing to law of impermanence – they’re no more.



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India at 75

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By Gwynne Dyer

Last Tuesday, on the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to turn India into a developed country, within the next 25 years. If all goes well, that could actually come to pass, but it would have to go very well indeed.The demographic and economic signs are positive. The country’s population has grown fourfold, since independence in 1947, but population growth has now dropped to ‘replacement level’: 2.1 children per completed family.

The current youngest generation is so large that the population will keep growing, until 2060, when it will have reached 1.7 billion. The upside of this is that India will continue to have a rapidly growing young workforce for another generation, while its only rival, China, will have a rapidly ageing and dwindling population (1.2 billion and still falling in 2060)

India’s GDP per capita has been growing at about 5% for years, and if that continues for the next 25 years, it will have grown to $7,500 per person. That’s certainly within the lower ranks of developed countries (like Mexico, South Africa or China today). Given the size of India’s population, the economy would certainly rank in the world’s top five.

So, Modi’s prediction was certainly within the realm of possibility, but there are two big wild cards. One is climate: although only half of India, technically, falls within the tropics, all of it, except the very far north, suffers long, very hot summers.This summer has been the hottest ever, with many of the largest cities experiencing temperatures, above 45°C, for days at a time. Whatever we do about climate in the future, it can only go on getting worse for India, for the next 25 years.

That will bring the country into the zone where it literally becomes unsafe for people to do manual work outside, at the height of summer; death rates will go up, and food production will go down. Nobody knows exactly how bad it will get, but it will certainly get much worse that it is now.

The other wild card is war. Since the Indian and Pakistani tests of nuclear weapons, in 1999, the subcontinent has lived under the threat of a ‘local’ nuclear war that would devastate both countries (and also cause global food shortages lasting for at least four or five years).An Indo-Pak nuclear war is not inevitable, but, unlike the major nuclear powers, these two countries have fought real wars against each other – three in the past 75 years. The likelihood of such a catastrophe actually happening is certainly a lot higher than zero.

Each country now has about 160 nukes, and although both are now working to move beyond the dangerously unstable ‘use them or lose them’ phase where a a surprise attack might disarm the other side, there is no real stability to be found when the adversaries are so close and the hostility is so intense.So there is no harm in considering whether it might have been better to keep the entire Indian subcontinent, first united by the British empire, in one piece, at independence, rather than splitting it into two countries (and eventually three, counting Bangladesh).

The split was by no means inevitable. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the two main Hindu leaders of the independence movement, wanted an inclusive, non-sectarian republic, including all of British India, although they failed to offer Muslims sufficient guarantees to ensure their support.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the main Muslim leader in 1947, did want to carve a Muslim-majority Pakistan out of the country, but there was no obligation for the British government to satisfy his demand. He got his way because the United Kingdom was virtually broke after the Second World War and in a great hurry to dump its responsibilities in India.

Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer who had never been east of Paris, had five weeks to draw the dividing line between the two new countries. Around 15 million people, who found themselves on the wrong side of that line, became refugees, mutual massacres followed, and within weeks India and Pakistan had their first war. But it could have been different.

The undivided ‘big India’ would have 1.8 billion people today, about one-third Muslim and two-thirds Hindu. That would virtually guarantee that both groups would be represented in every government and in most political parties.

Lots of countries, elsewhere in the world, manage to be both democratic and prosperous with comparable religious and/or ethnic differences. The ‘big India’ would not have wasted 75 years’ worth of high defence spending, and there would be no risk of nuclear war.All those energies would have been devoted instead to civilian priorities, and that united India might already rank as a developed country. Might-have-beens.

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Ukraine War: Mother May I?

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By Gwynne Dyer

“This obviously does not happen because of a thrown butt,” said British Defense Minister Ben Wallace. But the Russian Ministry of Defence insisted that the explosions that destroyed at least eight warplanes at Saki Air Base in Russian-occupied Crimea on 9 August were due to “a violation of fire safety requirements.”

The implication is that some careless Russian smoker tossed away his cigarette butt and caused a fire that set off explosions. That’s hardly a testimonial to the discipline of the Russian air force’s ground crews, but it’s better than admitting that Ukrainian missiles have reached 225 km behind Russian lines to destroy a whole squadron of Russian fighters.Moscow also claimed that no Russian aircraft had been damaged by the explosions in Crimea, although the wreckage of the destroyed fighters was clearly visible on the ‘overheads’ from satellite observations.

The Russian Defence Ministry played the same silly game in April when Ukrainian cruise missiles sank the ‘Moskva.’, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. It claimed that a fire had caused munitions to explode, and that the ship then sank while under tow due to “stormy seas” (although the sea was actually flat calm at the time).And what caused that fire? Careless smokers again, presumably, because even the most damning statements about the indiscipline and incompetence of Russian sailors and airmen are preferable to an admission that the Ukrainians are really hurting Russia.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry is having fun with this, reporting that it “cannot establish the cause of the fire [at the Russian airfield], but once again reminds of fire safety rules and a ban on smoking in unauthorized places.”

Taking responsibility for these strikes deep in Russian-controlled territory is not in Ukraine’s interest, so it’s happy for Russia to take the blame. Various anonymous defence officials in Kyiv further muddied the waters by suggesting that Ukrainian partisans were responsible, or Ukrainian special forces already operating far behind Russian front lines.

But why is it not in Ukraine’s interest to take ownership of these small but symbolically important victories?

It’s because the really decisive front in this war is how fast American and other NATO weapons systems are sent to Ukraine, and that is determined by a process that seems to be derived largely from the old children’s game of ‘Mother May I’ (also known as ‘Giant Steps’).The opening move is quite straightforward: Kyiv asks Washington for a hundred HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems so that it can counter Russia’s huge superiority in older artillery and rocket systems and drive Moscow’s forces from Ukrainian soil.

Washington replies that it can take two giant steps and a frog hop. No, wait a minute, it replies that Ukraine can have four HIMARS systems now. Once the crews have been trained and have demonstrated their proficiency in using the weapons, Kyiv can start the next round of the game by asking for more. This takes four weeks.

Getting into the spirit of the game, Ukraine then asks for only twenty more HIMARs, leaving the rest for later. Washington replies that it can take four baby steps and a pirouette – or rather, four more HIMARs now, but with the range still restricted to 70 km. and no thermobaric ammunition (fuel-air explosives). And so on.We are now in the fourth round of this game, with sixteen HIMARs promised of which Ukraine has already deployed between eight and twelve on the battlefield. At this rate, Ukraine will have the hundred HIMARs it needs to expel the Russians around April of 2024.

Similar games are being played with other badly needed weapons from NATO stockpiles like Western-made combat aircraft, modern anti-air defence systems, and longer-range missiles for attacks like the one on Saki Air Base. This is all driven by an excess of caution about such ‘escalation’ at the White House and in the National Security Council.

Washington is right to be concerned about Russia’s reactions, but it is prone to see the Russians as dangerously excitable children. They are not. They are poker players (NOT chess-players) who bet over-confidently, and are now trying to bluff their way out of trouble. The Russian ruling elite, or at least most of it, remains rational.

The Ukrainians, however, have to take American anxieties into account even when they use their own weapons, some of which have been modified for extended range, on distant Russian targets. The simplest way is just to pretend it wasn’t their weapons that did the damage.The same policy applies to the numerous acts of sabotage carried out in Russia by Ukrainian agents – and by a happy accident the Russians are willing to collaborate in this fiction. They’d rather blame the clumsiness, ignorance and incompetence of their own troops than give the credit to the Ukrainians.

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Book Review : An incisive exploration of Sri Lanka’s religiosity

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Title: ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka’ – Innovation, shared spaces, contestation

Editors – Mark P. Whitaker, Darini Rajasingham- Senanayake and Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran

A Routledge South Asian Religion Series publication

Exclusively distributed in Sri Lanka by Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo 5. (e-mail: vijiyapa@gmail.com)

Reviewed by Lynn Ockersz

This timely publication could be described as a revelation of the fascinating nature of Sri Lanka’s religiosity. It is almost customary to refer to Sri Lanka as a ‘religious country’ but it is not often that one comes across scholarly discussions on the subject locally. ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’, a collection of research papers put together in book form, fills this void most adequately.

Although not necessarily synonymous with spiritual development, religiosity in Sri Lanka essentially refers to the widespread prevalence of organized or institutionalized religion in the lives of the majority of Sri Lankans. What qualifies the country to be seen as religiously plural is the presence in it of numerous religions, though mainly in their institutionalized forms.

What ought to pique the interest of the specialist and that of the inquiring layman alike is the fact that though falling short of the highest standards of spirituality most of the time, religion is used innovatively and creatively by its adherents to meet some of their worldly and otherworldly needs. That is, religion is a dynamic and adaptable force in the lives of Sri Lanka’s people. ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’ explores these characteristics of religion in depth and underscores the vitality of religion in the consciousness of its diverse practitioners. A chief strength of the publication is the featuring of almost all the main religions of Sri Lanka, from the viewpoint of their innovative and adaptable use by devotees.

The research papers in question, numbering 16, were presented at an Open University of Sri Lanka forum held in mid-July in 2017. The editors of the volume have done well to bring these papers together and present them in book form to enable the wider public in Sri Lanka and abroad to drink deep of the vital insights contained in them, considering that religiosity has gained increasingly in importance in post-war Sri Lanka. Fittingly, ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’, is dedicated to the memory of well-known Sri Lankan social scientist Malathi de Alwis who, unfortunately, is no longer with us, but had contributed a paper at the relevant forum prior to her passing away. Her paper too is contained in the collection.

The thematic substance of the volume could be said to have been set out in some detail by co- editor Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake in her introductory essay titled, ‘Spaces of Protection, healing and liberation…’ She writes: ‘Religiosity appears as a means of coping with life’s transitions, celebrations, disappointments, diseases, conflicts and violence; and events such as birth and death, illness, exams, marriage, divorce, the sense of the sacred, the auspicious, and inauspicious (Sumangali-Amangali). Fundamentally, beyond the political, (multi-)religiosity provides an individual’s coping strategy and/or a social performance for negotiating with the perceived power, energies and structures that are greater than oneself, particularly the supernatural and transnational.’

When seen from the above perspective, the ability of many Sri Lankans to comfortably worship at multiple religious institutions and shrines, for example, while claiming adherence in the main to this or that religious belief makes considerable sense, because the average Lankan devotee is of a pragmatic bent and not a religious purist. Depending on her needs she would worship at a major Buddhist or Hindu temple, for example, and also supplicate her cause at a prominent Catholic church. Such practices speak volumes for the flexibility and innovativeness of the devotee. They also testify to her broad religious sympathies and her ability to share her religious spaces with others of different religious persuasions. A few places of religious significance in Sri Lanka that thus draw adherents of multiple religions are Adam’s Peak, Kataragama, Madhu Church and St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, Colombo.

At these places of reverence the usually restricted adherence to a single religious belief or faith is easily transcended by worshippers as apparently part of a personal or collective coping strategy to deal with multiple personal and societal pressures. ‘Kataragama Pada Yatra – Pilgrimaging with ethnic “others” ‘ by Anton Piyaratne and ‘Religious innovation in the pilgrimage industry – Hindu bodhisattva worship and Tamil Buddhistness’ by Alexander McKinley are just two papers in the collection that deal insightfully with this aspect of worshippers’ abilities to comfortably manage multiple religious identities and spaces. These habits of the average Sri Lankan devotee highlight the potentiality of religiosity, among other things, to be a bridge-builder among communities.

For instance, Mckinley sets out in his exposition: ‘Religious innovation at shared sacred sites can thus blur or sharpen the dominant ethno-religious divisions of ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ and ‘Tamil Hindu’ in Sri Lanka. Saman devotion can simultaneously be interpreted as a sincere form of highland Hindu religiosity, a strategic innovation by Tamil workers to appease Sinhala pilgrims, as well as an opening for Sinhalas to either convert Tamils into Buddhists, or to cooperate with them towards common goals, such as environmental conservation’.

A conspicuous and continuing theme of the collection is the wide-ranging and often damaging impact of the Sri Lankan government’s 30-year anti-LTTE war. Quite a number of the researchers, thus, deal with its adverse impact on women, and quite rightly, because the war revealed as perhaps never before the marked vulnerabilities of Sri Lankan women in conflict situations. ‘Of Meditation, Militarization and Grease Yakas’ by Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake and ‘Vijaya and Kuweni retold’ by Neena Mahadev deal quite elaborately on this subject and throw valuable light on the multi-dimensional impact the Northern war has had on women, besides focusing on the resourceful ways in which religion is used by women to cope with social and political issues.

‘Emerging innovative religiosities and what they signify’ by Selvy Thiruchandran continues with the focus on women and religiosity but introduces a wider societal dimension by bringing into the discourse the phenomenon of New Religious Movements (NRM). The researcher points to the immense popularity among mainly middle class women of two of these movements, the Satya Sai Baba cult and the growing interest in Brahma Kumaris Yoga centres, and elaborates on the roles they play in enabling women to deal with personal and societal pressures.

However, Thruchandran arrives at the thought-provoking conclusion at the end of her wide-ranging research that, ‘The old religion and the new so-called innovation that is sought in the new religions can be summarized in a well-known cliché – old wine in new bottles.’ That is, these New Religions are mainly forms of escapism. We have here a fresh perspective on issues relating to the liberation of women that calls for deep consideration. Moreover, these New Religious Movements do not help in any substantive way to change the fundamental and perennial reality of male domination over women; for, we are given to understand that some men actively discourage their wives from joining the Brahma Kumaris movement.

The role of Sri Lanka’s Christian Left in giving religion a progressive and socially emancipatory orientation in recent decades is the subject of Harini Amarasuriya’s paper titled, ‘Beards, cloth bags, and sandals – Reflections on the Christian left in Sri Lanka’. The researcher’s prime focus is on an institution of mainly Left political activism established by a Christian clergyman, Sevaka Yohan, in Ibbagamuwa, Kurunegala in the seventies decade by the name Devasaranaramaya. Besides committing itself to robust Left political activism, the latter centre possessed an indigenous cultural ethos and sought to unite the country’s cultures and religions. In other words, the institution aimed at being a shared space where religions comingled on the basis of shared values.

Accordingly, the publication of ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka…’, is a welcome development. The book sheds invaluable light on the subject of local religiosity, which is a relatively unexplored but vital area of knowledge that has important implications for nation-building in Sri Lanka. Besides the papers discussed above, there are numerous other learned and insightful research papers on religiosity in this collection that call for urgent reading. Collectively the papers constitute a treasury of knowledge that those pursuing Sri Lankan Studies could ill-afford to by-pass.

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