“SINHA KODIYA” : THE NATIONAL FLAG
Posted on January 23rd, 2020

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

It is time we revived and strengthened the movement to restore and reinstate our legitimate national flag, the ancient Sinha kodiya” (lion flag). The authentic National flag of the island consists of a yellow coloured lion representing the Sinhala ethnicity the mainstream community of the nation, holding a ‘kastane’ sword which is the national sword of the island in the past, on a dark red background, with four golden coloured ‘bo’ leaves symbolizing the four sublime states in Buddhism or ‘brahma-vihara’- Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), Muditha (sympathetic joy) and Upekkha (equanimity).  

As the nation’s authentic traditional national flag, this popularly known Sinha-kodiya” was hoisted prominently at the historic occasion of the signing of the Udarata Givisuma (Kandyan Convention) in 1815, and also at the occasion of the formal granting of political independence to the country in 1948.

During the British rule of the country, the traditional lion flag was replaced by the Union Jack. The nation’s traditional lion flag that was hoisted at the Udarata Givisuma in 1815, was taken away to England by the British. In the early 20th century, this flag was recovered from the Royal Hospital at Chelsea where it had been stored. It was brought back to Ceylon in 1948 and was used at the ceremony granting political independence to the country, and was adopted as the country’s national flag.   

It was in 1953 on the initiative of the then UNP government headed by D.S. Senanayake, that action was taken to modify this authentic traditional lion flag, with the addition of green and orange colour bands to represent the minority communities. This basically was a politically motivated move which virtually destroyed the authenticity of this ancient national insignia. More changes were effected to the flag in 1972, further corrupting and shattering the wholeness and aesthetic value of this dignified and meaningful traditional ‘Sinha kodiya’. The addition of bands to represent minorities was redundant given the fact that all those who subscribe to the idea of a single nation, are necessarily represented in the traditional national flag. History of our country reveals vividly that a spirit of tolerance and accommodation of others irrespective of religious or other differences has been a common distinguishing characteristic of the people of this country from very early times.

According to the Mahavamsa, the national flag of the country, during the reign of Vijaya, the first king of the island was one with a prominent symbol of a lion. This was 2500 years ago in the 5th century BCE. Since that time, the lion symbol has played a significant role in the history of the country. It was used extensively by the kings that followed Vijaya. It is noteworthy that the flag used by King Dutugemunu (166 to 137 BCE) or more than 2000 years ago, and by subsequent rulers of the country,  prominently depicted the symbol of a lion carrying a sword. The most distinguishing feature in the national flag, emblems and other insignia of the country from historic times, has been the figure of the lion or ‘sinhaya’. This symbol signifies the national character of this island nation. A gold or yellow coloured symbol of a lion prominently depicted on a dark red background with yellow borders and four symbols of the Bo leaf at the four corners characterized the national flag. Green and orange colours were never used either in the national flag nor in any of the national or regional emblems and other insignia of the country.   

From ancient times, or for more than 2200 years, the identity and character of this island nation, have been based on Buddhist norms and principles. Iinspiration for all aspects of the island’s development – economic, cultural, social and spiritual was drawn from these Buddhist principles and values. Buddhist values essentially include non-violence, peaceful coexistence, compassion, tolerance, virtuous and simple lifestyle.   From ancient times, with the single exclusion of the European colonial period, the inspiration for all aspects of the island’s development- economic, cultural, social and spiritual was drawn from these social values.

It is time we discard the distorted and corrupt version of our rightful historic national flag. The green and orange colour bands should be removed from the flag so that the idea of a single unitary nation is reflected in the national flag. The changes made to our authentic ‘Sinha Kodiya” in 1953, is a form of destruction of one of our nation’s unique historical symbols, or in other words, one of our nation’s significant visual cultural insignia. monuments. No patriotic national of this country should tolerate such vandalism in a country that values its ancient cultural wealth which has given the country its unique identity as a nation. We should not further delay the resurrection of our traditional national lion flag. It is the most significant of the nation’s insignia. It is an essential step towards preserving our nation’s cultural heritage. Such action is required to protect our national heritage in order to enhance our pride and dignity as a nation, and to build unity, self-energy among the people of Sri Lanka. It is a relevant step given the unequivocal national cultural revitalization taking place in the country since the emergence in recent times of a forward-looking, strong patriotic national leadership.    

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

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