Sakkara Deiyyo and Ratnawalli
Posted on February 16th, 2013

By Chandre Dharmawardana Canada

Sunday, 10 February 2013 00:00

Ancient carving in Sri Lanka Ancient carving in Sri Lanka
`Clinical dissection’ of public awareness of language
Sakkara deiyyo was a god king particularly sensitive to the iniquities of asinine individual on the Earth. His throne, made of precious stone (Sailasana) heated up whenever things turned sour. But Lanka became really foul. Sakraya couldn’t handle it. The Inter-celestial Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded the privatization of Sakraya’s office, opening the heavens to free markets and removing all `handouts’ to the poor. The Sailasana, lacking even a thermostat overheated and split into smithereens of sand — “Ratanawalli”. Thirty-first century archeologists claimed to deduce these events from a few scratches on a 21st-century potsherd discovered in the Vanni.
Each grain of the Sailasana sand inherited a teleology of `putting-right the wrongs’, but without Sakraya’s good sense. Darshani Ratnawalli (21st century) decided to `clinically dissect the forces’ that may have resulted in the lamentable `state of public awareness on the language of the Brahmi scripts of Lanka’. In a series of articles published in The Nation, Darshani turns her guns on many historians, especially for not taking Prof Karthigesu Indrapala to task on his book `The evolution of an ethnic identity’ (Nation: September 30, 2012). Indrapala was vulnerable with his attack on `pseudo-historians’ following Sudharshan Seneviratne’s outburst in the Island (04-08-2001). But Indrapala, whatever his lacunae, is one of our distinguished historians who has recorded his specific views. If we look at academics writing onethnic, or linguistic identities, an authority like KNO Dharmadasa positions Sinhala circa 3rd century BCE, while Leslie Gunawardana opts for the 12th century CE. The error bar is 15 centuries wide. In fact, the uncertainty is in defining concepts like `ethnic consciousness, Sinhala language’ etc., and in weighing the data.
Linguistic identity is not the same as ethnic identity. Ratnawalli snapped my snippet `I personally think there were no Damila or Sinhala in the 2nd century BC. The Inscriptions are really not Sinhala or Tamil. The Sinhala (inscriptions) have an advantage because the Prakrit is close to Pali, but I personally think the ethnic distinctions came up probably after the wars of Dutugamunu’. This snippet fitted in with her witch hunt targeting heresy.
Ratnawalli, armed with Gair et al., insists on a clear Sinhala -Tamil distinction in language, and in ethnic consciousness, before the Common Era (BCE). Gair et al had concluded from phonological studies that Sinhala and Tamil were already distinct by BCE, while others had different views. While Gair’s work is more systematic, determining phonology from inscriptions without hearing how the ancients spoke is like evaluating English from the text messages on mobile phones. Even Gair had noted that Sanga becomes saga, or Gutta becomes guta, etc. in the inscriptions. Furthermore, the paucity of BCE `Tamil-Brahmi’ inscriptions in Lanka compared to Sinhala-Brahmi makes comparisons difficult. Even Iravatham Mahadevan, a paramount figure in `Tamil Brahmi’, contents that `Tamil’ as such came of age only during the Cankam period, possibly in the early centuries CE.
Gair posits distinctive phonological developments in Sinhala, and that `on balance… phonology is not one of the areas of strongest Dravidian influence’. Yet, he too, like Hettiarachchi accepted Mudliyar Gunasekera’s list of `Dravidian loan words’. Murray Emmeneau is no less guilty. Indrapala followed them (his footnote 359) and ascribes the place names Malaya, and Pattinam to Dravidian origins, ignoring earlier occurrences in proto-Sanskrit. I had discussed them elsewhere in some detail. But Ratnawalli’s witch hunt spares Gair, Emmeneau and others.
My position is that many Sinhala words ascribed a Dravidian origin are descendants of Pali and Prakrit. The language in BCE Sri Lanka was a form of Prakrit. The distinctions between Tamil Brahmi and Sinhala Brahmi at the time were perhaps not even that between Brooklyn English and Texan English.
Ethnicity is not just linguistic identity. The ancients identified themselves by their Varna (caste) than by ethnicity. When Vijaya called for a bride from Maduara, it was for a fair-skinned Kshatriya, unlike Ku-veni (i.e., `dark-colored’). The Madura kings preferred fair-skinned Northern princesses. Furthermore, early `Dravidian’ rulers were from the Gupta dynasty. The Mahavamsa record of a princess from Madura linked to the Sakya clan was an anthropologically and historically plausible statement. However, some moderns claim that Vijaya’s queen was Dravidian, extrapolating the ethnicity of modern Madurai some 25 centuries into the past!
Ethnic consciousness is revealed more in claims to historical land ownership than in linguistic distinctions. The crucial forces that cooked up the crucible of ethnicity in ancient Lanka were, in my view, the wars of Dutugaemunu.
Perhaps Ratnavalli was launched on this eschatological mission of eradicating heresy by a Mischievous Rishi (MR)? However, to uncritically become the cats-paw of an MR is nothing but lack of judgment.

One Response to “Sakkara Deiyyo and Ratnawalli”

  1. Ben Silva Says:

    Good article. It inform the readers of our history. IMF is the international Mafia Fund. They will meet the needs of the International money market and will not help local technology, culture or agriculture or even traditional way of work or living. If we want to survive in the globalised world we have to understand how they operate and also how economics and finance operate. In short we have to master skills related to economics and finance. We need to move forward, rather than be tied up to ancient Indian unproven, unscientific beliefs, that even Indians do not believe anymore, which makes us less competitive.

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