Cenan Pirani: “Widening the study of military organization in the early modern South Asian context: an examination of the Sinhala Hatana Kavya”, in South Asian History & Culture, Vol9/2, April 2018, pp. 207-24.
ABSTRACT: This essay highlights the under-represented subject of military organization in the context of early modern Sri Lanka. Military organization is a topic well covered in North Indian studies of the Mughal State, and this essay borrows certain thematic concepts from that historiography to examine the Sri Lankan context. Specifically, it considers the existence of a ‘military labour market’ from which both European and Asian kings and generals recruited base soldiery between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Such an economic market can be found through a reading of Sinhala sources known as the Hatana Kavya (‘war poems’), which document warfare and conflicts between the Portuguese and Sinhalese kings in this period. Information in these poems also notes the clear connection between territorial authority and efficient military organization, where authority was dependent on the loyalty of one’s military force. The essay attempts break from previous scholarship, which usually assumes military conflict in the period is the result of ideological conflicts (i.e. religion and ethnicity) between foreign, European, and native island elements. It does this by showing how military leaders of both groups were essentially required to gain the services of the same base soldiery through material incentives.
A representaion of Portuguese times
… and a modern representation on the staircase at The Lighthouse Hotel, Galle, –Alamy Photos
Filed under art & allure bewitching, centre-periphery relations, cultural transmission, economic processes, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, Indian traditions, landscape wondrous, life stories, military strategy, patriotism, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, Uncategorized, war reportage