Who is the Sun king, Raavana or Prabhakaran?Myth-making is a past time of both sides – Tamils as well as Sinhalese.
Posted on September 8th, 2020

Chandre Dharmawardana

Tamil Nationalists are making their myths, extending their history to ancient times

and claiming that they were in Sri Lanka (and even in Babylon and Egypt)  since the beginning of time, and that Tamil language is the source of the ancient  Sumarian language. Wigneswaran has captured the lime light recently, with such fairy tales. He loves the  publicity garnered from all this.

Some Sinhalese Nationalist groups are also undermining well-established  history and reviving old stories (the Ravana story) by giving them  a huge new  dimension. This is  driven by popular media and the search for a sense of grandeur. They make claims to grandeur where the Sinhale was the center of all civilizations, with a history claimed to be  going back to even 30,000 years BCE (i.e., some 35 centuries before the Buddha!).  The Hela people are claimed to have  developed a highly advance civilization complete with airplanes, nuclear energy etc. Other Ravana supporters who are more modest  put Ravana’s reign to some 4000 years BCE  and not 30,000 BCE!

All this started with people like Raepiyel Tennakoon, Areesen Ahubudu and the “Hela Hawluva” people initially led by Kumaratunga Munidasa. He  attacked the great poet Thotagamuwe Rahula as a plagiarist and a cheat. The hela Hawala people were against the presence of Sanskrit and other “foreign” words in sinhala, and wished to write only in pure Hela language.  I know quite a bit about it as my father was one of the protagonists in the ensuing literary debate, with scholars like Sir Baron Jayatilleke, W. F. Gunawardena, and writers like Martin Wickemasinghe and others also wading in against Kumaratunga.    A  book on those literary debates (written by my father  appeared posthumously, a decade  ago: Godage 2010 Kukavi Vaada Satya Prakashanee, by Anulasiri Dharmawardana).

 But the Hela Huvala  program  was a low key  linguistic effort, compared to what we have today. Their “plot” has been snatched from them and highly amplified by modern  media savvy operators. A monk who is an SJP graduate, Ven. Manewa Wimelaratne even claims to have an 8th century “pus-kola potha”  (Ola Leaf book) that he refuses to show anyone! The ola leaf book is supposed to give details of another ancient text (presumably more ancient than the Deepawamsa etc) called the Vargapoornikaava that no body had heard of up till now. It is claimed to delineates the story of the Hela Vargaya. The monk  has written many books in Sinhala (that I have not read) and they are supposed to give intricate details of the royal lineage etc., of kings and queens since very ancient times. Sad to say, the monk is said to have studied lingustics at the SJP university.

All Indo-Aryan languages (including Pali, Sanskrit) are claimed to be derived from Sinhalese by the Raavana cult. Not surprisingly, there are also a number of Buddhist monks who have identified the Buddha’s birth place to  be  in Sri Lanka itself. A remarkable literature has been woven with the standard buddhist history rejected as an anti-national conspiracy to hid the truth which claims that the various places mentioned in the life of the Buddha are all locations in Sri Lanka.

Tele Drama programs, plays, novels and forth-coming films are minting money using the Raavana story.

One novel tells of a gripping story of the US forces coming into destroy a Ravana Fortress up in the Mountains, and how Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his forces saved it or some thing like that (I haven’t read the Sinhala novel). It is amazing that Ranil Wickremasignhe, Premadasa, “political obserevers of  the left, and of the well-funded NGOs that conduct ‘opinion polls”  failed to take account of the political dimension of the Raavana narrative pushed forward every week by even English newspapers like the daily Mirror.  

Indian tourists also have their own version of Ravana Myth and they travel to Sri Lanka to visit places related to Ravana and Sita.  The tourist board is also supporting the Ravana myth and neglects the traditonal  Buddhist heritage.  The government, and some of the Nationalist “Chintanaya” people  also like to identify themselves with this  surge in popularity of Raavana of the Soorya Wamasa as the new new Roayal lineage of Lanka. The University of Kelaniya that brought out various types of political “Chinthanaya” that rejects rational scientific methodology,  also harboured  the “Hela Suvaya” vedakama which rejects western medicine and wish to establish a sinhala medical system based on the revelations of Natha Vediya. Raavana cults are very popular with such chinthanaya groups, and a statue to the king Raavana has been erected circa 2014.

The armed forces are often identified as a “Raavana Balaya”.

Exhibitions and big Tamashas  to commemorate Ravana have also been held. Ravana has been the suibject of  an exhibition of paintings by Indumini Bandara titled  ‘Indumini Ravana’ held in February 2011 in Colombo. The  Devram Vihara monk, Ven. Kolonnuwe Sumangala (ex Member of Parliament) conducts an annual procession called the ‘Maha Ravana Perahera’.   Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to its inauguration procession in 2013. The Daily Mirror newspaper used to publish every week some material on the Raavana narrative.

One of my old students from Vidyodaya University from the 1970s era, a science graduate had become a complete convert to the Ravana story which he believed was essential to correcting Sri Lanka’s history once and for all, and began to sent me letters attacking “The traitor Mahanama“, and asking me to read various Ravana books, and support the nonsense, until we cut  off communication. Labeling individuals opposed to the program as traitors is something that the ITAK and later the LTTE also did. The LTTE also decided that the traitors should be executed!

Apparently, some  government ministry has even given “research funds”  to carry out excavations to  do “archaeological research” to find out more about the Raavana civilization that has been hidden or destroyed  by the Mahaviharin monks already in the 6th century.

This kind of going back to the past, with claims that Indian sages like Pulasthi knew how to build Rockets that could go to the Moon is being pushed by the Hinduthva enthusiasts of Prime Minister Moodi in India. They think that modern science is not needed, and they only have to find what the Rishi’s said, and re-implement them, to recover the past glory of Bharatha.

Meanwhile, Wigneswaran is pushing the Dravidasthan Myth (Greater Eelam that extends all the way from Ontario  through Tamil Nadu to at least Malaysia). This surpasses  the Hiduthva myths of Modi and remains only second to China’s belt road initiative. The Sri Lankan Raavana myth has captured the imagination of the Sinhalese far more effectively than the Dravidasthan myth of the Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). Wigenswaran is merely one of the Jaffna representatives of the TGTE. The Eelam myth had its  peak under Prabhakaran.

Kmalaika Pieris has written about Ramayana and Sri Lanka, where more material relevant this topic may be found:

Chandre Dharmawardana.

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