HUMAN DIVERSITY IN SRI LANKA
Posted on June 24th, 2018

BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

Human diversity is an attribute that popularly accepted as an assortment of human, individually or collectively, when compared to each other’s. The dissimilarity might relate to skin colour, language, religion, accent of language used, behaviour, culture and many other factors. Diversity exists not only among human, but also in many others such as weather, soil, lands, forest and almost in all physical matters, and diversity exists in non-physical matters such as weather. Aristotle viewed that people are different from size, shape, colour and many others, but people do share something universal, which is called humanness.  This humanness exists regardless of any particular human and this is the reality.” in many countries diversity regard as an asset, but the diversity in humanity has become a disaster in many places without scientific reasons. Diversity in the humanity shouldn’t be a criterion to treat a particular person or a community is superior or inferior. Humanness is equal and nobody can differentiate it.

Archaeological discoveries in Sri Lanka have proven that diverse human settlements had been in the country since prehistoric era and the country had a long history of living humans who were at the civilized level or not.  Archaeologists attempted to give a clear picture of the beginning humans based on the traces and the historical evidence also give conflicting views on the ancient population of Sri Lanka as they had diverse cultural and religious practices.  The conflicting opinion abide concerning with the ethnic identity of the country and it also appears that conflicting views of ethnic identity have involved in political beliefs of historical analysts.

Current Sri Lanka has misunderstandings of the population structure, its trend, diversity and the patterns of growth.  Some controversial ideology in relation to ethnic identity has debated in academic forums and it is also believed that historical findings have confirmed the shape of the population of Sri Lanka despite many fabrications.

According to historical story written in the Mahavamsa, Sinhala ethnic group began with effect from the arrival of Vijaya and his associates, but opinion in the same book expressed that there were groups of humans called Devils in the country, when Vijaya embarked to the country. (Please read Chapter 1, the Visit of the Thathagatha in Mahavamsa).  Further, the Mahavamsa describes that when Lord Buddha visited the country, there were other groups of humans called Nagas and Devas. When reading the book, a doubt creates in our minds whether so-called devils, nagas and devas were humans or animals or spirits of real devils. If so-called devils were demons, they were supposed to exist in all over the world not only in Sri Lanka according to religious mythology and the question is how did human (Vijaya and associates) deal with spirits, which were not visible to naked eye.

The Mahavamsa further indicates that human arrived under the leadership of Vijaya and interacted with devils.  As a result of the interactions, a mixed-race people were originated in the country and it is a concrete evidence for the beginning of human diversity in Sri Lanka.  It is also understood that so-called devils, nagas, and devas were also humans, but the identity of them was based on religious beliefs. There is no doubt that the diversity of population had existed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of settlements, which were probably happened in Mesolithic era. The first human did never originate in Sri Lanka but they migrated to the country from India, where the archaeological traces confirm similar to discoveries in Sri Lanka.

After Mesolithic anthropoid, people of New stone age arrived to Sri Lanka from India, most probably they brought various type of religious alignments and they had the knowledge of Agriculture and Irrigation technology at certain level and the people of late iron age had the knowledge of agriculture based industrial technology such as making yarn from Cotton, waving cloths, sawing garments, making ships and sometime so-called aircrafts. Vijaya and his associates had the knowledge of irrigation and more advanced food processing and weapon making, agricultural equipment and a variety of technology related to human life.  The other vital discovery was the language of early humans.  There is no evidence that the language used by Mesolithic Anthropoids and people of new stone age, but it can be assumed that the language was similar to the language of indigenous people.

Another significant point we need to consider is that Sri Lanka was not an empty land (Terra Nolias) when Vijaya and his associates embarked to the country.  Whatever the religious beliefs had among the people, they were human. The arrival of Vijaya and his associates subjected to alloying with existed people and to generate a new nation called SINHALA.  There is an international wide story that a King called Ravana ruled the country with a large human population and the Devils, Nagas and Devas, who were described in the Mahavamsa might had related to them.  However, Mahavamsa has not mention about Ravana or Sitha or Rama or Vibhishana or the God of Kataragama.

It is believed that the brother of the God of Kataragama, Vibishana had an association with King Ravana. The rule and the stories of Ravana has a historical controversy, because people in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other East Asian countries talk about this king.  When we think in that line, current indigenous people of Sri Lanka were a community mixed with ancient humans and the group of Vijaya, but they were not related to Dravidians.

There is another issue relates with the beginning of Sinhala race. The historic book, the Mahavamsa attempted to interpret the ethnic group (Sinhala) began from a lady Suppa Devi who was forcefully eloped by Sinha (Lion), while she was traveling to another state with cart traders. Suppa Devi was born to a couple, a Princes of Kalinga who married to a Wanga King.  Two kids were born to Suppa Devi, they were named as Sinhabahu and Sinhasevali and when grew up, Sinhabahu killed his father Sinha and build a city called Sinhapura where was the origin of Vijaya and associates.  Archaeological researchers found that there was a town called Sinhapura in the Orissa Province in India. However, there is a clear doubt whether Sinha was a lion (animal) or a human named Sinha, which means in Sinhala language, a Strongman.  Sinha was not an animal but a human who was named as Sinha on the basis of his characteristics and the behaviour.  Recently I read a book titled The People of The Lion”, which was published by Verite Research Organization in Colombo.  The book is mainly focused on a debate in relation to the people of the lion, between Prof RALH Gunawardane and Prof KNO Dharmadasa. Many interesting points were discussed in the book, but points were not authentic facts because no archaeological evidence has found in relation to the arguments.  The debate leads us to further thinking and investigation requirements on the basis of various assumptions on this matter.

When we read many historical books in Sri Lanka they help us to understand a vital fact on the population history of the country. Sri Lanka was a place of living human before Prince Vijay arrived at the country.  Anthropologically, there were groups of humans, who had roots of Indians or mixed with Indians and Mongolians and pacific countries. Most probably they had dark and light skins. Sinhala language may have originated from Vijaya and his associates and it is further proved from the Divehi language in Maldives, which is very similar to Sinhala and Sinhala people can understand Divehi without learning the language.   Human diversity was a remarkable characteristic of the population and the diversity has contributed to developing an assorted culture in Sri Lanka.  This situation can be seen in other countries of the world.

Another significant fact is that Indian population has contributed to maintaining the population level of Sri Lanka and the ethnic identity of Sri Lanka was strongly influenced by Indian population and characteristics of them.  Indian people migrated to Sri Lanka legally or illegally and they bought to Sri Lanka as mercenaries, slavers and for other purposes such as to participate in economic and military activities.  Sri Lankan authorities brought Indians to perform work that was unwilling or unskilled to perform by Sinhala people.  There was a story that seven or seventy thousand people were brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Gajaba and people were brought by King Vijayaba too from India and settled them in seaside area.

During the British rule, many Indian labourers brought to work in the plantation industry and to work as coolies in public offices in urban areas.  Poor Indians illegally came to Sri Lanka and worked as toddy tappers in coconut plantation and later these illegal Indian migrants engaged in retail trades in rural areas. Many of Indians migrated to rural villages converted to Sinhala race by changing their names. The Illegal arrival of Indian migrants stopped mainly because of the JVP Insurrection in 1971.  There was a strong opposition to Indian expansionism by JVP leaders in 1971. In this way human diversity of Sri Lanka incurred from time to time.

Muslim people were also allowed to settle in Sri Lanka after Polonnaruwa era and some Christians in Assyrian and Nestorian Sects were in Anuradhapura era, but religious diversity was not an issue in the history as the prime objectives of Christians arrived in the country was to engage in business rather than religious missions. According to the experiences of Robert Knox, Muslims and Christians were treated well by Sri Lanka’s king Rajasinghe 11 (Senkadagala Ranasinghe 1635 -1687), however, some Muslim individuals’ behaviour appeared to be cunning or questionable.  According to some historians (Prof GPV Somaratne), the arrival of Christianity and Muslim religion were significant cultural events similar to the arrival of Buddhism.  It is also recorded that St Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ arrived to Sri Lanka in 40 AD and stayed a short period (Klin, AFJ (2003), The Acts of Thomas: Introduction, Text and Commentary, Brill Academic Publishers).  Further, it is recorded that a Christian Bishop from Taprobane attended to Naisia conference, which was held in 325 AD. A Christian church was in Sri Lanka before arrival of the Portuguese that was reported by Cosmas in 525 AD and Cosmas clearly stated that the King of Sri Lanka and citizens of the country were associated with other religion, which means Buddhism.

2 Responses to “HUMAN DIVERSITY IN SRI LANKA”

  1. Christie Says:

    There are two groups of people in Ceylon. One locals and the others Indian Colonial Parasites who had a free ride on the back of the British.

    All Indian Parasites in the former Tropical British-Indian Empire is the same.

  2. Nimal Says:

    It was a great multi racial country during the latter part of the British rule and with the sad rise of the absurd Buddhist nationalism I lost my burgher friends to other countries with all the rock and roll. What have we got now is chaos,corruption and division and it is a sad state for the majority. Some call it a miracle of Asia.

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