Who is the Sun King, Raavana or Prabhakaran?
By Chandre Dharmawardana
Tamil Nationalists are making their myths, extending their history to ancient times and claiming they were in Sri Lanka (and even in Africa, Babylon and Egypt) since the beginning of time, and that the Tamil language is the source of the ancient Sumarian language. Wigneswaran, the ex-Chief Minister of the Northern province, has captured the limelight by repeating these unsubstantiated fairy tales. He loves the publicity garnered from all this.
Some Sinhalese nationalist groups are also undermining well-established history and reviving old stories (specifically, the Raavana story) by giving them a huge new dimension. This is driven by popular media and the search for a sense of grandeur. The “Sinhalei” is said to be the center of all civilizations, with a history claimed to be going back to even 30,000 years BCE (i.e., some 275 centuries before the Buddha!). The Hela people are claimed to have developed a highly advanced civilization complete with airplanes, nuclear energy etc. The more modest Ravana supporters put Raavana’s reign to some 4000 years BCE and not 30,000 BCE!
All this started with people like Raepiyel Tennakoon, Areesen Ahubudu and the “Hela Havula” people initially led by Kumaratunga Munidasa. He even attacked the great poet Thotagamuwe Rahula as a plagiarist and a cheat. The Hela Havula people were against the presence of Sanskrit and other “foreign” words in Sinhala, and wished to write only in pure Hela language. In the ensuing literary debates of the 1920s and 1930s, scholars like Sir Baron Jayatilleke, W. F. Gunawardena, Enulasiri Dharmawardhana, and writers like Martin Wickemasinghe and others wrote against Kumaratunga. A book on those literary debates (written in the early 1960s) appeared posthumously, a decade ago:. See Godage Publishers, 2010 Kukavi Vaada Satya Prakashanee, by Enulasiri Dharmawardhana.
But the Hela Havula program was a low key linguistic effort, compared to what we have today. Their “plot” has been hijacked from them and highly amplified by modern media savvy operators. A monk who is a SJP graduate, Ven. Manewa Wimelaratne is said to have an 8th century “pus-kola potha” (Ola Leaf book) that he allegedly refuses to show to anyone! The Ola leaf book is supposed to give details of another ancient text (presumably more ancient than the Deepawamsa etc.) called the “Vargapoornikaava” that nobody had heard of up till now. It is claimed to delineate the story of the Hela Vargaya (Hela genealogy)). The monk has written many books in Sinhala ( I have not read his books) and they are supposed to give intricate details of the royal lineage and deeds of Hela kings and queens since very ancient times. The monk is said to have studied linguistics at the SJP university.
All Indo-Aryan languages (including Pali, Sanskrit) are claimed to be derived from Sinhalese by the Raavana cult. Not surprisingly, there are also a number of kindred Buddhist monks who have identified the Buddha’s birth place to be in Sri Lanka itself. A remarkable literature has been woven, with the standard Buddhist history rejected as an anti-national conspiracy to hide the truth. They claim that the various places mentioned in the life of the Buddha are all locations in Sri Lanka.
Tele Drama programmes, plays, novels and forth-coming films are minting money using the Ravana story. One novel is said to tell a gripping story of the US forces coming to destroy a Raavana Fortress up in the mountains, and how Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his forces saved it in the nick of time, or something like that. Gotabaya Rajapaksa had already become a mythical figure of the Raavana movement, even before he came forward to seek votes.
It is amazing that the “political observers of the left, of the right, and the weekly columnists of the well-funded NGOs that conduct ‘opinion polls”, failed to take account of the political dimension of the Raavana narrative. It is a narrative pushed forward, even by English newspapers like the Daily Mirror in weekly columns. If Colombo’s political “scientists” follow what ignites the Sinhala media rather than long-dead European writers with failed political programs, then they would have known who is widely regarded as the “Avathar” of Raavana today!
Indian tourists also have their own version of the Raavana Myth and they travel to Sri Lanka to visit places related to Raavana and Sita. Place names like “Sheetha Ella” (Cold water fall) have been conveniently changed to “Sita Ella” (Sita’s waterfall). The Tourist Board is also supporting the Raavana myth and neglects the traditional Buddhist heritage. Important politicians, and some of the nationalist “Chintanaya” people, also like to identify themselves with this surge in popularity of Raavana, said to be of the “Soorya Wansha”. This has become the new royal lineage of Lanka. Some of the people of Kelaniya ‘Sarasaviya’, who brought out various types of political “Chinthanaya” that rejected rational scientific methodology, are also said to support the Raavana belief system. Their spiritual kin in the “Hela Suvaya Vedakama” (which rejects western medicine) wishes to establish a Sinhala medical system based on the revelations of Natha Deviyo and Vibhishana.
The Raavana cults are very popular with such groups, and a statue of the King Raavana has been erected circa 2014 in Kelaniya. Wigneswaran, during his five years as the Chief Minister, also constructed a statue of King Sankili sitting on a horse, to put some reality to his “Jaffna Kingdom” claims and fill the archeological emptiness of the Sankilli rule. Why didn’t the Chief Minister position King Sangkilli on a caparisoned Elephant and follow the South Indian tradition? In Indian iconography, kings ride in chariots pulled by horses. It is alleged that Wigneswaran was moved by statues of Western Monarchs on horseback!
Exhibitions and big Tamashas to commemorate Ravana have been held in Colombo. Ravana has been the subject of an exhibition of paintings titled ‘Indumini Ravana’ held about a decade ago in Colombo. The Devram Vihara monk, Ven. Kolonnuwe Sumangala (ex Member of Parliament) conducts an annual procession called the ‘Maha Raavana Perahera’. Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to its inauguration procession in 2013.
The armed forces are often identified as a “Ravana Balaya”.
One of my old students from Vidyodaya University from the 1970s era who lived in Canada had become a complete convert to the Ravana story. He began to send me letters attacking “The traitor Mahanama”, and asking me to read various Ravana books, and write articles in support of the nonsense, until we cut off communication. Labeling individuals opposed to the programme as traitors is something that the ITAK, and later the LTTE, also did. The LTTE also decided that the traitors should be executed!
Some government ministry has even given “research funds’ ‘ to carry out excavations to do “archaeological research” on the Raavana civilization hidden or destroyed by the Mahavihara monks, already in the 6th century. Claims that Indian sages like Pulasthi knew how to build rockets that could go to the Moon is being pushed by the Hindutva enthusiasts of Prime Minister Modi in India. They think that modern science is not needed, and they only have to find what the Rishi’s said, and re-implement them, to recover the past glory of Bharatha. In Sri Lanka we have people who say that modern Science is actually “Patta Pal Boru” (a well fabricated lie).
Meanwhile, Wigneswaran is pushing the Dravidasthan Myth (i.e. Greater Eelam that extends all the way from Tamil controlled electorates in North America through UK, EU, Tamil Nadu and to at least Malaysia). This surpasses the Hindutva myths of Modi and remains only second to China’s Belt Road Initiative. The Sri Lankan Raavana myth has captured the imagination of the Sinhalese far more effectively than the Dravidasthan-Eelamist myth of the TransNational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and the Eelam myth which had its peak under Prabhakaran. Wigneswaran is merely one of the leading Jaffna representatives of the TGTE.
Kmalika Pieris has written about Ramayana and Sri Lanka, where some complementary material relevant to this topic may be found:http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2019/06/04/ramayana-and-sri-lanka-part-3/
Speculations about origin of placename, ‘Negombo’ (Meegamuwa)
By Chandre Dharmawardana,
A writer using the pseudonym GADS, replying to a previous article regarding Negombo, states (The Island 17 Sept. 2023), “It is also historically recorded that the name Negombo is the Portuguese corruption of its Tamil name Neerakolombu and the Sinhala name Meegamuwa which means and comes from old Tamil Naval terminology Meegamam Pattnam. Meegamam denotes a naval captain”.
Unfortunately, the author does not give the reference to this “historical record” or elaborate on the details available from any early sources, Portuguese and Dutch maps etc. Furthermore, he asserts that “Meegamam” denotes a naval captain. Here again, this is certainly not so in any of the Dravidian languages, or Indic languages. No such usage exists even in Arabic and other languages of the Hebrew family, as far as we can ascertain.
A “naval captain” in Arabic would be Kabtin Bahriun, while the Tamil usage would be Katarpatai Kaptain in modern usage. In old Tamil words like Nakutawere used . However, “gama, gamuwa, gammam, kamam, etc., are all refer “village”.
I have collected what is known about the place name Negombo in the website listed at the end of this note . I quote from it below:
The name Meegamuva is believed to refer to a village (gamuwa) which was reputed for its honey (mee). Thus, the Mahavamsa-based tradition has it that honey was procured from this region for Queen Vihara Maha Devi, (2 century BCE), initially from a honeycomb found in a boat turned upside down. It could also refer to a forest of Mee trees, Madhuca Longifolia (Koenig). It is well known that placenames have been based on vegetation and prominent land marks; in our view, this is the most likely source of the name.
Another interesting legend is that the name is related to “Nihumbala, the nephew of the Yakka king Raavana. The Tamil form, Neerkozimpu may mean water, and ‘kozimpu’ is sometimes claimed to mean ‘village’, but such a meaning is not recognised in standard Tamil Lexicons. Also, the Tamil name originally applied only to the lagoon-like area and not to the whole of Meegamuwa. Given the ancient histoofthe village, kozimpu may have comefrom the sinhala kalapuva adorned with the Tamil “nir”.
Maya Oya flows north of Negombo and falls into the ocean near Kochchikade. This was an early center of the cinnamon trade, set up by the Moors in medieval times. The Portuguese ousted them in the 16th century and built a fort, and established a strong Catholic religious centre here. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese in the 1644 CE. The ruins of the fort, with its fine archway marked ‘1672’ can still be seen. In 1796 the British took over Negombo, by which time the cinnamon trade had declined. The town has remained strongly Roman catholic to this day.
Frivolous folk-lore etymology attriutes the name ‘Negambo’ to nikam biruva. That is, a dog ‘just barked’ is said to be the response given by a non-comprehending bystander to a colonial who asked ‘what is the name of this town? While GADS recognizes such frivolities for what they are, the claim that Meegamuwa or Neer-kozimpu comes from the Tamil words for “sea captain” can be very intriguing if anyone takes it seriously; one cannot find a source for substantiating such a claim in any reputed Tamil lexicon or Tamil literary source.
Madras Tamil Lexicon.
 Mahawamsa, XXII, verse 48.
How to conserve electricity at home and workplace
Going through my old paper clippings, I came across the following news item which is more applicable today when the country is facing a severe energy crisis on how to conserve or restrict the use of electricity at Offices and other working places.
There are several ways of conserving electricity at home, offices and other workplaces. It is absolutely necessary to do so because electricity is harmful for our environment and the planet we live in.
Here is how
(a) Unplug all electrical appliances in the kitchen when not in use, except the refrigerator. This includes coffee pots, sandwich toasters, blenders and ovens. These appliances use small amounts of electricity when they are left in standby mode.
(b) When it comes to washing, soap them first and then open the tap halfway to wash them.
(c) Use the washing machine once a week. Try washing some of your lighter clothes by hand and save jeans and other heavy clothing for the washing machine
(d) When drying your clothes, do not use the dryer unless very necessary. Hang wet clothes on a line in the backyard which is an easy way of drying them and clothes dry so easily during the day in this intensely hot weather.
(e) Change the traditional light bulbs for energy saving bulbs. The garden lights can be replaced with solar powered lights. In the kitchen, the refrigerator is out of direct sunlight and not next to the oven. Avoid putting hot dishes in the refrigerator as it will have to work harder to cool the dish, therefore wait for a while for the dish to cool and then put it in the refrigerator.
(f) Unplug any phone or laptop chargers when they are not in use.
(g) Unplug the computer when it is not in use. This is very important because it can get very badly damaged if it is plugged in during a thunderstorm. You may not even be at home during the storm, so it is advisable to unplug the computer when it is not being used. Do not leave the computer switched on for long hours.
(h) Unplug the television set and gaming consoles too, as they can get damaged if they are on standby mode during a thunderstorm.
(i) Keep DVD players, TVs and other audio and stereo equipment plugged into a multi-port which can be turned off with one switch. This saves electricity.
(j) Turn off the lights, fans and air-conditioner when you leave the room. Remember that you do not need the lights switched on during the day.
(k) Do not use electric appliances such as vacuum cleaners and use the broom instead.
Some lesser known historical facts
The Greek women in ancient Greece realised to their utter dismay that their husbands were always fighting wars overseas. One brave Greek woman, Lysistrata, organised a women’s front with the sole purpose of denying their husbands the marital pleasures unless they remained at home to fulfill their marital duties
Socrates, known for his wisdom, was invited by the King of Sparta, which had waged war against Greece, to be an honorary citizen of Sparta. He gracefully turned down the offer as he valued the democratic way of life in Athens. As he was always arguing with fellow Athenians neglecting household work his wife used abusive language on him in the presence of his companions. Socrates continued with his arguments when his wife in utter exasperation treated him with a plate full of dish water. Socrates merely said to his companions that after thunder comes the rain.
In the Olympic games held during the peaceful times the athletes ran the races naked. Women were not permitted to attend them. The penalty was death if a woman was discovered breaking the law. On one occasion a middle-aged woman was caught breaking the law. As she happened to be the mother of a celebrated athlete she was forgiven.
Julius Caesar was caught dressed as a woman in a women only club in Rome. He was not punished since he had gone there only to meet his lover who saved him. On another occasion he had to offer a bribe to the ship’s captain, a pirate, who threatened to throw him overboard into the Mediterranean Sea.
Isaac Newton was accused by Robert Hooke for plagiarizing when the former introduced the gravitational constant in his book Principia Mathematica. Hooke was the Secretary of the Royal Society of which Newton was the President. Hooke was the person who encouraged Robert Knox to write the book “Historical Relations…” Newton was accused by the German philosopher Leibniz of plagiarism as the latter had published the calculations of infinitesimal calculus before Newton. There was a rule in the Universities that dons should take holy orders. The king exempted Newton from this obligation. Newton’s denial of the divinity of Jesus and the trinity did not earn any punishment from the ecclesiastical authorities. The complementary part of calculus, integral calculus, had been discovered by Archimedes in the second century BC. After the conquest of Greece by Rome the intellectual supremacy and the culture of Greece saw a gradual decline. It was known that the burial place of Archimedes was a much-venerated place visited by Greeks. The Romans did not show such veneration and the burial place got neglected. However, when Cicero, a Roman intellectual, lawyer and writer became the governor of Athens in the second half of the first century BC, he visited the burial site and had the monument restored to its former state. He noticed the epitaph wherein the symbol of a sphere within a cylinder had been inscribed.
A century later Rome conquered England, killing the English queen Boudica. There stands the figure of this queen on a horse (close to the underground tube station Westminster) with words emblazoned on the flanks in poetic language indicating that while England was colonised by Rome, England had conquered half of the world.
Guy Fawkes was the man who made an attempt to set fire to the Parliament building. This incident is known as the “Gunpowder plot”. He failed in his attempt and was executed. This incident may be compared to the attempt by a JVP member who threw a hand grenade when a Cabinet meeting was taking place in the Parliament building with the President JRJ presiding. The culprit got away.
When a German prince from Hanover became George the First of England, he found life in England very dull as he could not speak English. So, he invited his old German friend Handel, the musician, to be his companion. It was during this time that Handel composed his famous “Water music” and many operas.
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