BUDDHIST VIHARAS AND EELAM Part 19d
Posted on June 23rd, 2024

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The restoration of Kurundi vihara has brought up the question whether   Buddhism has the right to move into the north and east of Sri Lanka.  Supporters of Eelam see this as intrusion and conquest, while those against Eelam see it as natural, long delayed   return.  In Sinhala Buddhist nationalist discourse, the expansion is a re-conquest”. [1]. It figures as a conquest within the Tamil nationalist discourse said Jude Lal Fernando.

Nirmal Dewasiri notes that Sinhala-Buddhist and Tamil communities have developed mutually exclusive historical narratives. [2] Tamil nationalism has invented the Tamil Homeland in the North and East’ in order to support their political claims.  Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists have responded with the counter argument of the ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North and East’ (SBHNE).

‘Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North arose as a reaction to the growing strength of the Tamil Homeland ideology, said Nirmal. That is not so. ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North and East’ arose due to exasperation with Tamil separatism and a firm desire to destroy the notion of an exclusive Tamil north and east. The ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North and East’   campaign   is getting stronger as a force, while the Tamil Separatist Movement is slowly retreating, but under protest and with much noise.

Tamil Separatist Movement has   found a novel way to hit back at Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North and East’   . Tamil Separatist Movement says a Sinhala Buddhist state  never existed in Sri Lanka .There was no   ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Heritage of North and East’ either.  Both are imaginary. Tamil nationalism alone is genuine. The north and east has been Tamil for centuries.  This is a clever reversal of the orthodox history of Sri Lanka .It deserves some applause for sheer outrageousness.

Tamil Separatist Movement dismisses the formal history of Sri Lanka as imaginary. Anuradhapura is labeled the imagined sacred city” of the Sinhala Buddhist civilization. The Rajarata for instance, only exists in the Vamsa literature. Rajarata was covered with thick forest when the British arrived in the island, they added.

The notion of a Sinhala-Buddhist state in Sri Lanka was invented by the British administration and encouraged by Western sympathizers, they said.   It was thereafter picked up by Sinhala leaders in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The Sinhala-Buddhists then started to lay claim to the entire island as Sinhala-Buddhist territory. And now, Sinhala-Buddhists are attempting to take over its imagined territory in the North and East, said Tamil Separatist Movement complained.

The ideological justification for the expansion of Sinhala Buddhism into the Tamil region is based on a collective imagination of nationhood, informed by a belief in the perennial existence of a Sinhala Buddhist state, said Jude Lal Fernando.

Tamil Separatist Movement is trying to create two contested histories. This is unlikely to work. The Sinhala-Buddhist one is supported by hard evidence and the Tamil history is based on false statements.

There is well corroborated, scientifically supported information on the Sinhala-Buddhist state. The Sinhala-Buddhist state was a stable, long standing monarchical state, known as Sinhaladvipa, with an unbroken history starting well before Devanampiyatissa (250-150BC). It has a clear political history and there is substantial information on its international relations, urbanization, irrigation, religion, literature, architecture and   fine arts.

The statement that the Sinhala-Buddhist state is an imaginary one which never existed will create anger and indignation among the public and the intelligentsia. Also laughter. But there is an ethical aspect as well.

 The abuse of the social sciences is now recognized as a serious issue in the west. This includes history as well. Critics note that History has been used to manipulate public opinion through misinformation.

There are ethics in history writing. The public turns to the historian, in trust, to   find out about what happened in ancient times. They generally believe what the historian says, which means that the historian has an obligation not to mislead the public with distorted information.

Professional historians are   expected to examine their data critically, and   obtain independent collaboration of their facts before they come to conclusions. Historians are not expected to write what they imagine happened, only what, to the best of their knowledge, seems to have happened. Interpretations change as new data arrives.

The intelligentsia should take a good look at the current spate of   anti Sinhala-Buddhist writing, posing as social analysis and see   whether the publications   should be taken before a court of law. There is a growing body of writing which blatantly bashes the Sinhala-Buddhist civilization and the Buddhist heritage of the north and east. (Continued)


[1] Jude L. Fernando. War by other Means. Expansion of Siṃhala Buddhism into the Tamil Region in Post-War” Īlam 2013. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:604440/FULLTEXT02

[2]Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri ‛Historyafter the War:Historical Consciousness in the Collective

Sinhala-Buddhist Psyche in Post-War Sri Lanka. International Centre for Ethnic Studies

July 2013

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