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Paranavitana on Hora Miniha, mistress to the world and sweet mangos



Dr. Senarath Paranavitana, the first Sri Lankan Commissioner of Archaeology, was one of the world’s foremost Archaeologists, who was famous for his discovery and interpretation of Sri Lankan monuments and rock edicts. About five miles to the East of the Galle town is the Metaramba Village. He was born in this village at Mabotuwanage Watta, on December 26, 1886, and was named Senarath by the Nayake Thera of the Yatagala Temple. The house where he was born does not exist now.

His mother passed away when he was just a child. He went to the village school from his married elder sister Sopaya’s house. From the village school, he joined the Buona Vista English School about two miles away. It was a difficult journey on foot, through jungle patches and paddy fields. His sister gave him one cent a day as pocket money, which he saved to buy books. After he joined the Archaeological Department, he gratefully sent a monthly payment to this sister of his, till her demise. The Buona Vista English School was founded in 1814 and boasts of other distinguished old boys like Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, the first Sri Lankan Governor-General, President Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives, the celebrated author Martin Wickremasinghe, National hero Dr. W.A. de Silva, and the patriot E.W Perera.

In his quest for knowledge in Sinhala, Pali and Sanscrit, he went to the Heenatigala Pirivena, after school, which was also two miles away. This resulted in his having to walk eight miles a day! One day he was going to the Pirivena over the ridges of the paddy fields, memorizing a sanscrit stanza, glancing at the book he was carrying, from time to time, when all of a sudden he fell into a muddy-pool. Having washed the mud, he proceeded and reached the Pirivena. Seeing him drenched, the Nayaka Thera laughed loud and asked him as to what exactly happened to him?

On leaving school, he served as a teacher in English in several schools before he joined the Archaeological Department, which he served with distinction, later to become its head as the first Sri Lankan Commissioner of Archaeology ushering in a golden age. His resounding success did not make him forget his native village of Metaramba, a rare trait when many a villager who achieve VIP status breaks ties with their kith and kin and the village.

When he was engrossed in literary work, he went to sleep around 2 or 3 a.m, getting up at 7.00 a.m., notwithstanding the sporadic attacks of Malaria and attended to his duties.

As a form of relaxation he liked to play card games like Bridge. He also loved to see Charlie Chaplin films and Russian Ballets.

Some of his monumental works were ‘Archaeological Survey of Ceylon’, ‘The Stupa in Ceylon’, ‘Epigraphia Zeilanica Graffiti’, ‘Ceylon and Malasiya and Sinhalayo’. After his retirement as the Commissioner of Archaelogy, he functioned as a professor of Archaeology at the University of Peradeniya. It is ironical that without a formal university education he came to be a professor. He was very popular with the university students who affectionately called him ‘The 20th Century Paranavitana.’ Once at an International Archaeological Conference, held in Ceylon, Dr. G.P. Malalasekera, who presided, introduced Dr. Paranavitana thus; “There is only one Dr. Senarath Paranavitana in the world. Here is he.” When Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Sri Lanka, Dr. Paranavitana accompanied them to the historic sites. In recognition of his erudite scholarship and laudable services rendered, he was conferred the honour of C.B.E. (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by the Queen.

On hearing that there was an ancient statue in semi ruinous state, at a far off village, he went to see it. But it was not there. The villagers told him that as the statue was limestone, they prepared chunam out of it, for their quids of betel. This story is laced with humour. One day a teacher told a pupil that his handwriting was illegible, adding that not even Dr. Senarath Paranavitana would be able to read it. One day he was explaining some details of a matter pertaining to archaeology in English to a French State Guest, when the guests, wife said something in French belittling Dr. Paranavitana. Then, to her utter embarrassment, Dr. Paranavitana immediately switched to French.

Nowadays when some misguided individuals are making attempts to prove that Buddha was born in Sri Lanka, Dr. Paranavitana in his day announced that he was not able to say that Buddha visited Sri Lanka, due to lack of archaeological evidence. Dr. Paranavitana was once asked who in his opinion were the greatest monarchs of Sri Lanka. He said that they were King Dutugemunu, who drove away the Dravidians, and King Wijayabahu the Great, who drove away the Chola invaders, who for 77 long years ruled at Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, adding that they both hailed from Ruhuna.

Paranavitana went shopping in Colombo one day. As he was unusually late to come back, his driver went out looking for his master, when he saw him seated in another car. “What the hell were you doing all this time?” he asked the driver, “Sir! You are seated in someone else’s car,” said the driver. “Is that so,” said Paranavitana, and walked back to his own car. One day he was on his way to Anuradhapura, passing through jungle patches, with hardly any other vehicles on the road. All of a sudden he saw some distance away, a group of monkeys seated on the middle of the road. He told the driver not to proceed further and to take the car to a side until they finished their Raja Sabha meeting!

Another day he was engaged in archaeological excavation of a possible king’s cremation site. When he came for lunch and was in the process of taking his shoes off, an excavator came running and told him that ashes have surfaced from the site. As it was a welcome sign, he ran to the site with a sock in one leg. He was of the opinion that the word ‘Dhusta’ in ‘Dhusta Gamini’ meant brave in ancient Sinhala and not cruel or wicked.

Once he was invited to deliver a lecture at the Vidyodaya University. It was largely attended. Among the attendees were a number of Vice-Chancellors of the universities. Looking around and seeing them, he said that he was happy to see such a large number of Vice-Chancellors present, to hear him. Then in lighter vein, he proceeded to analyse the Sinhala word ‘Upa Kulapathi’ which is now used for a vice-chancellor. He said that, as between a wife and her husband in a family, the husband, of course, as the head of the family is known as ‘Gedera Miniha’ or Kulapathi. The word ‘Upa Kulapathi’ therefore means ‘Hora Miniha’ (paramour or husband substitute!) The audience roared with laughter.

Another day he analysed the word ‘Kawthukagaraya’. He said that the Sinhala word ‘Katugeya’ suggests museum. He said that this word means the room occupied by a newly-wed couple in the consummation of marriage. On another occasion he said that Parakramabahu VI had a daughter named ‘Lokanathaa’ which means ‘Lokayatama Hamine’ (mistress to the whole world). Referring to the designation ‘Sahakara Lekam’ of some Government Departments, Paranavitana said that the word ‘Sahakara’ means ‘Sweet Mango’, adding drily that if that the incumbent happens to be a lady, it would make some sense.

When he was supervising some excavations in a distant part of the country, he was in the habit of motoring down to his home in Colombo every weekend. One day some of the younger officers in the excavation party thought they could ‘rag’ their beloved chief, and ringing up every police station on the way, told them that such-and-such a car-bearing such-and-such a number, was transporting cannabis to Colombo. At the first two police stations, Dr. Paranavitana’s car was stopped and searched thoroughly and when it was stopped at the third police station, the revered scholar thought it was enough, and asked the Officer-in-Charge whether he could take a telephone call to the IGP.

With great reluctance the OIC allowed him to do so, and the way Dr. Paranavitana addressed the IGP made the OIC almost shoot out of his chair. “Richard,” said Dr. Paranavitana and went on to explain what was happening adding that it was obviously some fellow’s idea of a joke. (Then IGP Sir Richard Aluwihare, was a very close friend of his.) Sir Richard apologised profusely to the Commissioner for the inconvenience and ordered the OIC to provide him with a police escort right up to Colombo.

On October 4, 1972, he passed away at the age of 72. It was reported that his library was sold for Rs. 25,000,00 to a citizen in Jaffna (Anyway, three hearty cheers! to the Public Trustee).

He was truly a great son of the soil nay a staunch son, of Ruhuna! There will never be another like him.


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Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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