I refer to the article titled “Let the Court of History summon all perception peddlers”, by Malinda Seneviratne in the Daily Mirror of August 10. I wish to respond to some of the views expressed therein.
Firstly, I am not a perception peddler or an ethnic Tamil, though a Hindu. My only interest is academic and historical. Yes, knowing the Truths of history is a precondition for any reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamils. At the outset, Malinda echoes the views of Dr. Dayan Jayatileke (DJ) - I quote “ Dr. Dayan Jayatileke is absolutely opposed to any more that goes beyond the 13th Amendment. Not even a single mm, is he ready to concede”. Who needs DJ’s approval to resolve the national Question? Has he any status to sound so omnipotent and relevant to the National Question? He does not represent the Govt in power or the Opposition. It is the political leadership expressed through the Govt that should decide on resolution of the national question and the matter of approval or disapproval. Malinda again says that DJ limits“even the implementation of the 13th Amendment, must be gradual and conditional on conduct”. DJ is only an individual and is irrelevant to the issue.
The Chief Minister, C.V.Wigneswaran is absolutely right in saying that reconciliation is “mind-oriented”, rather than reconstruction, which is a physical component. What is needed is a change in the mental attitude between the two communities. A process of healing of wounds; understanding and friendship should supersede estrangement and distrust.
Coming to the subject of the article, Malinda’s recurring demand in all his writings is the call for historical evidence. Even in the instant article under review, it is mentioned at three places :- (a). “C.V.Wigneswaran is not calling for an audit of perceptions in terms of historical evidence” (b).“ The politicizing script of tall tales, creations and/or exaggerations of grievances and painting of myth and rank falsehood as truth and historical fact” and, (c).“Why should there not be a serious discussion about claims? Why not call for it? History, as I have argued frequently, ought to chair the reconciliation process. Let the man (CVV) and his words stand trial before the Court of History”.
I would say it is not because the Tamils have no cogent facts to be presented before the so-called Court of History, but because as Mr. Wigneswaran quite rightly says (not pompously as stated by Malinda) but in all humility “that lots of our Tamil Leaders would shudder to say these truths for fear they would hurt the feelings of the Sinhalese; and by not informing the truth we are consolidating the wrong perception fed into the Sinhalese mind.”This is exactly true. Malinda’s retort to this is that “Tamil leaders would shudder to utter such preposterous claims for fear that they would be called out for lunacy”. This, I would say is a defence of the lame.
I, as a private person and not a political one, have no qualms about stating the truths of history; because truth is no respecter of persons. Truths, no doubt hurt feelings. If it doesn’t hurt, then they are not truths. I am no politician to be diplomatic and avoid speaking the truth.
Would Malinda admit the fact or the truth that Lanka was a part of the Sub-continent of India. He cannot deny this, as this is an established fact by geologists. The Continental mass called by the geological name “Demuria” was connected to India. In Tamil, it was called “Commorikkandam” that is why the southern tip of India is called even today as Cape Commorin. It is stated that the 5th Sea storm that occurred in 9000 B.C. due to the shift of the tectonic platesin the Indian Ocean, this land mass disintegrated and drifted in all directions. A small part of that separated from South India, is the present Lanka.It was called “Ilankai” in Tamil.This name was later modified, by deleting the first and the last letters and what remained, made it Lanka. Consequentially, the inhabitants of the island was composed of a mix of South Indian Dravidians, speaking Tamil,Telungu, Kannada and Malayalam languages.
The historical chronicle, Mahavamsa claims that the Sinhalese were a founded race.That is, not an indigenously and organically evolved race. It is stated that Prince Vijaya arrived around the 6th century B.C.with 700 hundred of his followers and by marrying the Tribal women named Kuveni, founded the race. This is a myth of Mahanama, the author of the Mahavamsa. If this is so, Sinhalese are the only race in world founded by an identified individual. No races are found by individual persons. Races are organically evolved with the march of time. However, granting this, as an assumption, it would then mean, that there was no Sinhalese race before 600 B.C. Besides, Kuveni couldn’t have been a Sinhalese. Name Kuveni, is undoubtedly a Dravidian name.There are names ending with “Veni” even today, as for example Krishnaveni, Hamsaveni etc, amongst the Tamils. Further, Vijaya gave up Kuveni and married a Pandyan princess from South India. So did his followers. So, the descendants of these marriages cannot, by any logic, be Sinhalese but Dravidian Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalees. Therefore, the origins of the Sinhalese lay elsewhere.The author of the Mahavamsa never ventured into the period beyond that of Vijaya. That would have been uncomfortable for his agenda.So, he painted in one stroke that the pre-Vijaya inhabitants were Yakshas and Nagas.
"These are the facts of history. These are in the historical works of Sinhalese historians. These are the facts before the Court of History. But the Court should be a ‘hybrid one’, and not a ‘one-sided’ one. "
There may have been such aboriginal people, but that does not mean no civilized people existed. The so called Veddhas, are ‘Adhivasis’. Their remnants still exist amidst the modern civilization even today ; still not evolved wholly as civilized people. Mahavamsa does not say about the presence of the five Hindu Iswara temples viz Thirukoneswaram in Trincomalee, Thirukeetheeswaram in Mannar, Muneswaram in Chilaw, Naguleswaram in Point Pedro and the now defunct Thondeswaram in Dondra, which are of the Epic Ramayana period around 7000 B.C. and the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Murugan in Kataragama, which was in existence from about 10,000 B.C. These sacred religious structures are still extant in mortar and stone as tangible, concrete evidence to establish the presence of Dravidian Hindu population of mixed ethnicities. Great Indian Rishies like Agastya and Danwanthri came on pilgrimage in 5000 BC and worshipped at these temples and this is recorded in Brahmi rock inscriptions, and place names associated with their visits. These are not tall tales of perception peddlers of history. These are undeniable veritable truths that would hurt the feelings of the Sinhalese.
The pre-historic Rulers of Lanka were not mythical personages but real life characters, from Pulasthi (grandfather of King Ravanan), who ruled from Pulasthinagar (later changed to Polonaruwa) to the last of the Ravanas of the Ramayana Epic. The fact of he being named in the Ramayana Epic, by the Indian Sage Valmiki, is corroborative external evidence and with other existential evidences like Adam’s Bridge in the Palk Straits, place names as Seetha Eliya, Ramboda (actually Ram Bhoda) stands testimony to the fact of the inhabitants of ancient pre- Vijaya Lanka being Dravidian Hindus of more than one ethnicity. The Sinhalese were conspicuous by their absence during this period. Ravanana’s rule was followed by his brother Vibhishana and Kumbakarna and later by Muthusiva, the father of King Devanambiyatissan, who ruled till he was 80 years old, when Arahat Mahinda set out on his visit to Lanka. As the king was old, he stayed for a period in South India, learning the language of the Lankan King. Following the death of Muthusiva, Arahat Mahinda visited Lanka in 247 B.C. when Devanambiya Tissan ascended the throne. These kings were not Sinhalese, but Telugu Hindus. That is why it is said that the King was “converted” to Buddhism. That he was a Hindu before conversion is not said.
Conversion of Devanambiya Tissa and his subjects
With the conversion of the king most of his subjects too accepted Buddhism. He ruled for 40 years from 247 to 207 B.C. Acceptance of Buddhism did not mean, they became a new Sinhalese race overnight. King’s four brothers continued to rule. In 2nd century B.C. two rulers from South Indian Chola kingdom invaded Lanka and ruled for 22 years. This was followed by the other Chola ruler, Ellalan (Elara), who ruled the country for 44 years and was defeated by Dutugemunu.
Origin of Sinhalese race
The ancestral progenitors of the Sinhalese race, therefore, are the converted Hindu Dravidians. It is a created race. First generation of the converts continued with their Hindu customs, practices and rituals, side by side with the observance of the Buddhist precepts. The next generation of born Buddhists,wanted a separate identity, distinct from the Dravidian Hindus. They already had a religion. What was lacking was a language. The spoken language was created by modifying Tamil words. According to Rev. Fr. Gnanapragasam, there are about 3000 Tamil words in the Sinhalese language and later inclusion of Sanskrit words. The Sinhala alphabet and grammar for a written language developed much later during 5th or 6th century AD. A Buddhist bhikku with title of Dantha from Kanchipuram in South India, came to Sri Lanka and created the Sinhalese alphabet on the basis of the Tamil alphabet. A Sinhalese Grammar too was created, based on the Tamil grammar, Virasolium, called the Sadatsangrava,which is confirmed by Dr. C.E. Godakumbura.
The demographic composition of prehistoric Buddhist and Vijayan period can only be surmised. There was no Census and Statistics Department then, to adduce evidence that Malinda is clamouring for. It can be only known by deductive logic. Most Sinhala Buddhists see this ancient period through the telescopic lens of the current times and imagine that the Sinhala Buddhists was a preponderant component. During my school days in the 1950’s, the entire population of Lanka was a meagre 6 million. Now, it is 20 million. On this pro-rata, basis, I believe it would have been around 50,000. I may be right or wrong. However, I cannot be off the mark by a great difference. This whole population was composed only of Dravidian Hindus, as Sinhala race was neither” founded” nor evolved, then.
The majority of this number embraced Buddhism with the conversion of the King, reducing the Dravidian Hindus to a minority.This disparity in the population between the Tamils and the Sinhalese persisted over the period of 2250 years, along with their natural increase, to today’s population ratio, with addition of other new ethnicities such as Muslims, Burghers and others.
The Tamil population was augmented by the additions of Tamil inhabitants left over, by the rule of many hundred years of South Indian invasions. The South Indian invasions forced the Sinhalese kingdoms to shift to the South West and the Tamils continued to inhabit the North Eastern regions and which became their traditional Homelands,a claim based on historical facts as stated above. Therefore, to say Tamil claims are myths and falsehood is off the mark.These Tamils had their own kingdoms, ruled by Arya Chakravarti and Sangili when the Portuguese arrived in 1505 AD. So the claim of the Tamils to their ancestral region of habitat is not based on tall tales and myths, but on true history of Lanka.
These are the facts of history. These are in the historical works of Sinhalese historians. These are the facts before the Court of History. But the Court should be a ‘hybrid one’, and not a ‘one-sided’ one.