If Andare tradition is to be revived in Sri Lanka, the recruit should not exceed jesting , clowning , or buffoonery, and least of all should not be a Minister.
Posted on August 6th, 2010

By Charles.S.Perera

 I t has been said that during the  rein of  Sinhala Kings, there was a court jester called Andare who was employed to amuse the King, and his Ministers.  There is no historical record about employment of  court jesters  but  folklore has many stories about  Andare and the  pranks he played on the King , his Ministers and even the Queen.  

 He was probably there to amuse the King  to take away the tension from the day to day work of the King and his Minsters. One Andare  story  as far as I can remember is the one  where  the Ministers wanted to play a prank on Andare, and how it rebounded on them. 

 The King and  the Ministers  had a day in the week when they go to the Royal Pond  to take a bath. Andare always accompanied them on  such outings. Each of the Ministers, unknown to Andare,  took an  egg along with him.  At the  pond when they were bathing one Minister  asked who can dive  into the pond and bring an egg.  All the Ministers  shouted back that they  can.   Then at a given signal all of them dived into the pond. Andare was surprised,  but having no alternative, he too dived into the pond. After a while the ministers  came up each holding  an egg in his hand. 

 Andare too came up,  but had no egg with him. Andare  guessing what happened did not want to accept defeat. Not short of wit, Andare cried ” Cock-a “”…”doodle doo “, and shouted  you are all hens and I am the only cock.  The King saw how Andare turned tables on the Ministers and  had a hearty laugh.

 The royal palaces or even the houses of nobles in Europe on the other hand had such providers of amusement to the King and his court of Ministers.  They were known as  jesters, jokers, fools or buffoons. They wore  special multicoloured dresses and floppy hats  made of cloth with corners looking like donkey’s ears with  small jingle-bells.  They made a funny laugh, and  carried a sceptre-the bauble.  They even criticised the Kings , the Queens,  Ministers or even the guests. 

 They were like  pets or mascots.  Some of them were licensed fools, they could make a mockery of the Court .  They entertained the Court with their clowning, playing music, juggling and telling riddles.  King Henry VIII had Will Sommers as his jester.

 The jester  of King James was  Archibald Armstrong. Archibald was a clever sheep-stealer, and supposed to have sought to become a court jester  to escape being caught as a thief.   It is said  that  Armstrong became a  favourite of the king, and  was  given great honours at court.   But when he became extravagant   and began to insult influential people who visited the Court, the King had him thrown out of  the  Palace.

 Jeffrey Hudson was the jester of King Charles I .   He was very loyal and popular.  He was a small man , therefore he was called the Royal Dwarf.  He hid himself inside  Giant Pies that were  presented to the Royal Court and when it was  to be served  he jumped out of the pie to the amusement of every one present. In the English Civil War,  Jeffrey Hudson fought  alongside the Royalists.  Jesters were also entrusted to keep the  King informed of bad news, no body else would dare tell.

 It is also said that the Kings trusted the counsel of the jesters, as they had no vested interest in any region, estate or church.  After the over throw of  King Charles I  in the Civil War, the Lord Protector  Oliver Cromwell had no use of such frivolity.

 Charles II, after restoration of Monarchy did not follow the tradition of  employing a Court Jester, but he seemed to have liked a theatrical comedian  Thomas Killigrew, about whom it had been written that , ”  Thomas Killigrew the King’s fool and jester, with the power to mock and revile even the most prominent without penalty” .  There after no British monarch had employed court jesters, but the tradition  continued in Russia, Spain and Germany.

 Stanczyk was the court jester of Poland, whose jokes and pranks  were related to political matters.

The Court Jesters had been recruited from amoung the villagers and peasants. In Russia they were selected from among  ugly and old serf-servants, older and uglier men were found to be  more amusing and had a better chance of getting recruited as a court jester.

Tarlton the jester of Queen Elizabeth I was a swineherd .   When  the Duke Eberhard the Bearded  of Wurtemburg in Germany, wanted to recruit Paul Wust as the  jester  he refused.  Asked why he refused,  he said  ” my father, fathered his own fool, if you want one, father one yourself”

India too had Court Jesters recruited from those who were able to make the King laugh. Tenali Rama was one such recruit. Tenali Rama got the King Krishnadevaraja’s  Guru to carry him on his shoulders.  The  King seeing his Guru is being humiliated asked the guards to beat the man riding on the shoulders of his Guru.  Tenali Rama knowing what was going to happen  jumped off the Guru’s shoulders  and going on his knees asked the Guru to climb on to his shoulders to carry him to pardon himself.  The Guru consented and climbed on to his shoulders and was being carried when  the guards caught them, and beat the man riding on the shoulders.

The King seeing that it was his Guru who had got beaten , inquired why the Guru was beaten. Tenali related the what happened and the King found Tenali’s trick  amusing, and he was recruited as the Court Jester.

The  history of the manor of Gawsworth describes, the  Jester employed in the Manor , one Samuel Johnson as “”¦..one of the last of the paid English jesters. . . . In addition to his being employed as jester or mirth-maker by the manorial Lord of Gawsworth, he was a welcome addition at parties given by the neighbouring country families, when he had free license to bandy his witticisms, and to utter and enact anything likely to enliven the company, and to provoke mirth and laughter.”

Different from a Court Jester is a Buffoon, he is absurd, idiotic and  nonsensical  but amuses through his funny behaviour.  He is described as ,” ..a clown like publicly amusing person, such as a court jester. In the more modern sense, the term is frequently used in a derogatory sense to describe someone considered a public fool, or someone displaying inappropriately vulgar, bumbling or ridiculous behavior that is a source of general amusement.”

 Now about court jesters in ancient Sri Lanka the only known Jester is Andare.  Therefore, one does not know whether there had been a tradition in Sri Lanka for the Sinhala  Kings to recruit a Court Jester. Even the recorded history  of Sri Lanka the Mahavansa does not mention a Court Jester.  The history has not recorded even  a Minister of a Kings who resembled a court jester.

But Andare as a court jester was intelligent and witty and never made a fool of himself.  He is remembered lovingly for his wit and humour,   but there is no story of his  taking the advantage of his being  close to the Kings to humiliate his country men in whatever way.

So if the tradition of a court jester is to be revived in Sri Lanka, one has to recruit one who will not exceed his jesting , clowning or even buffoonery, not to deviate from the Andare tradition. 

It should be at least  some one like Will Sommers: 

” But this Will Summers was of an easie nature, and tractable disposition, who . . . gained not only grace and favour from his Majesty, but a general love of the Nobility; for he was no carry-tale, nor whisperer, nor flattering insinuater, to breed discord and dissension, but an honest plain down-right, that would speak home without halting, and tell the truth of purpose to shame the Devil; so that his plainness mixt with a kind of facetiousness, and tartness with pleasantness made him very acceptable into the companies of all men.”
A Pleasant History of the Life and Death of Will Summers (1676)

3 Responses to “If Andare tradition is to be revived in Sri Lanka, the recruit should not exceed jesting , clowning , or buffoonery, and least of all should not be a Minister.”

  1. Nihal Fernando Says:

    This is a very interesting article by Charles S.Perera.

    For all the live comadies performed at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini compound, various other places and the latest in Kelaniya there is no doubt that the present day unofficial court jester or the merry-andrew is no other than Mervyn Silva. He can deliver funny speeches, sing, dance, grimace and do all what he can to entertain the public as we saw on TV during the recent general elections campaign. Ancient Royal Jester Andare was said to be hailing from the Durawa caste. Some say it was derived from King Dutugemunu as Dutugemnu Raja Wansaya – DURAWA. Whatever it was, Mr Mervyn has claimed that he is hailing from the same Dutugemunu Raja Wansaya since he also belongs to Durawa cast. In that case, he is also related to Andare of the same cast and has all the right to become the paid clown, jester, buffoon, fool, wearer of the cap and bells (he has got both with his doctorate). He is also known as a good procurer and entertainer to his political masters in the country.

  2. douglas Says:

    “ANDARE” cap fits “Dr” Mervin very well. After all he is a very close associate, family friend and most importantly the Deputy Minister of High Ways. The Minister is none other than the HE President. However at a time the whole country is geared to uplift from decades of destruction, this type of Andares must be kept out of seen. But unfortunately those in power are not conscious of the dangers these jokers are bringing about. One Minsiter said “if a complaint is made appropriate actions would be taken”. He, no doubt hinted the people what happens when a complaint is made against this “Joker”. The people of Sri Lanka are not fools who can easily forget the recent past. They know what happened to the people who made complaints in the Rupavahini incident where this joker was the respondant. His goons were let out in the field doing what the master wanted. He is no doubt Andare, when he said in Parliament that the Official gave a letter indicating his request to be tied to a tree.

    Mr. HE President please remember the whole world is laughing at you with this incident. This incident has been well documented and in circulation in foreign countries and that has gone a long way to tarnish you immage. Also remember your friends are the worst enemies within and you will suffer immensely unless corrective steps are taken immediately. Your son MP has sensed it very well and he was quick to say that “only one law should prevail in the country and that law should be maintained by the Judiciary”. One advice: KICK THIS JOKER OUT….. OUT. If that happens, the whole country will admire you for ever and ever.

  3. De Costa Says:

    The following is a statement of a government minister with the name Keheliya Rambukwella.
    “It is still less than 48 hours since the alleged incident has taken place. Law enforcement officers cannot initiate an investigation without a formal complaint from the victim. If there was a complaint to the police in this regard the government would definitely investigate the incident and take action according to the law. As far as I am concerned no complaint has been lodged with the police up to this morning by the victim,”
    If this is report in a major newspaper is true action should be taken against Keheliya Rambukwella.
    This a disgraceful statement. If the “alleged” incident was a murder of 100 people, will Mr. Rambukwella defend police inaction until a complaint is made?
    It is the Governement ministers such stupid and immature statements that bring disgrace to the nation.
    This writing on Lanka Web is the “written complain” on Keheliya Rambukwella for Mahinda Rajapakse to take action against him.
    There is no need for complaints for police to take immediate action against crime, the silly minister should learn !

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