Category Archives: ancient civilisations

Addressing A Criticism of DS Senanayake’s Dry Zone Colonization Schemes

Chandre Dharmawardana, 28 May 2021, with this title “Criticism of D.S. Senanayake’s Dry Zone colonization schemes”

Would Sri Lanka have been better off if not for the fetishization of rural peasant life and its connexion to the Sinhalese Buddhist nation-myth?

Why do people talk of “colonization schemes” when a government  facing bulging population growth, for one reason or another, opens up land for its people to settle?

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Mathematics: Islamic Mainsprings Magnifique

Adrienne Bernhard, in BBC.Com, 7 December 2020, where the title reads thus: “How modern mathematics emerged from a lost Islamic library”

Centuries ago, a prestigious Islamic library brought Arabic numerals to the world. Though the library long since disappeared, its mathematical revolution changed our world.

The House of Wisdom in Wikipedia ….

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Tamils in Ancient and Medieval Sri Lanka: The Historical Roots of Ethnic Identity

Sirima Kiribamune, in Ethnic Studies Report, vol IV/1, January 1986, pp. 1-23 … article retrieved via meticulous work by Iranga Silva of the ICES, Kandy — in a committed labour of love

“The past is intelligible to us only in light of the present; and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past.” E.H. Carr.[*]

Professor Kiribamune

The current ethnic problems of Sri Lanka form the backdrop to this paper. The present tension lies between the majority Sinhalese who speak an Indo-Aryan tongue and the Tamils who use a Dravidian language. The two groups claim distinct racial antecedents, the Sinhalese styling themselves Aryans from north India and the Tamils tracing their origins to the Dravidians of the south. (The use of the terms ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ to denote racial groups is considered totally unscientific. This terminology can only be used in a linguistic context. Sinhalese is included in the Indo-European or Aryan group of languages and Tamil belongs to the Dravidian group. The division of people speaking these two groups of languages into distinct racial types is not valid even for India and less so for Sri Lanka.) This division is further marked by religious differences, the Sinhalese being largely Buddhist and the Tamils, Hindus. Interested parties on both sides of the conflict have tried to use the past to legitimise different standpoints. It is the responsibility of the historian to set the record straight and that is the aim of this paper, but one is all too aware of the fact that complete detachment in the writing of history is hardly ever achieved. It is an ideal towards which one strives and needs to strive.

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An Exploration: Discerning How a Sinhalayā in Kandyan Times BECAME Sinhala

Michael Roberts, reproducing here an old draft that is entitled “Becoming Sinhala” ***

Preamble

The scene is somewhere early in 1984 and the location is the building housing the Social Scientists’ Association on the road to Nawala off Narahenpitiya in Colombo. The late Charlie Abeysekera and the late Newton Gunasinghe are reflecting gloomily on the pogrom of July 1983 that had victimised Tamils living in the capital and elsewhere in the south. Charlie is one of the founder members of MERGE and both are among the few personnel in Colombo who had taken an active stand in public forums against the atrocities that had occurred.* Now, in the gathering dusk, Charlie looks at Newton and asks: “what makes you think that you are a Sinhalese?” Newton immediately grasps the serious import and analytical purpose behind this question. He considers the issue gravely before venturing upon an answer.

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A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese

Michael Roberts

An ABSTRACT of an article that appeared in print in Ethnos, 1989, vol 54: 1 & 2,  pp. 69-82…. available online for payment to Taylor & Francis.

This essay decodes a sixteenth century folktale which records the Sinhalese reaction to the arrival of the first Portuguese. Where the historiography has interpreted this tale as benign wonderment in the face of exotica, a piecemeal deconstruction of the allegorical clues in the ‘story is utilised to reveal how the Sinhalese linked the Portuguese with demons and with Vasavarti Mārayā, the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces.

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Shirley De Alwis: The Hand behind Peradeniya University’s Designs

KNO Dharmadasa**

Shirley D’Alwis, the first University Architect, died in harness. He was working day and night to complete the job entrusted to him – the preparation of the buildings he had designed and started constructing – for the university to be shifted to its intended site in Peradeniya. After a long and protracted “battle of the sites” fought in the legislature and in the media, the State Council had finally decided in September 1938 that the proposed University of Ceylon was to be a unitary and residential university and that it should be sited in the land to be acquired from the New Peradeniya Estate, a tea and rubber plantation on the lower Hantana range on the banks of Mahaveli Ganga. It was a picturesque site with the tree clad hilly terrain sloping down from the Hantana range to the river bank.

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Facing Religious Zealots: Easter Sunday 21/4 Placed in a Global Conetxt

  Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake, in .. where the ttile runs thus “Geopolitics Of The Easter Attacks: The Weaponization Of Religion Amid Hybrid War”

“We have met the enemy and he is us” — Walt Kelly from Pogo Comics, quoted in “The ISIS is US: the shocking truth behind the Army of Terror”[1]

“Crime is a form of communication that is both complex and fascinating as it is always characterized by a relationship that can be established between elements present and something absent, or yet to be discovered…Investigating a crime and trying to prevent recurrence means evaluating every possible voluntary and involuntary message left by an author..”[2]

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/7/sri-lanka-catholics-demand-justice-for-easter-bombing-victims

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Sri Lanka’s Ecological Crisis in Overview in the Context of the HR Accusations

Asoka Bandarage, in Asia Times, 3 April 2021, where the title runs thus:  ‘Human rights’ and Sri Lanka’s ecological crisis “

A UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution of March 16 brought extensive charges against Sri Lanka over alleged human-rights violations, but is arguably seriously flawed. Opportunistic and strategic use of human rights by the Western powers to maintain hegemony continually ignores violations of the rights of nature and humanity rooted in the destructive model of economic development the same powers introduced to the world.

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KD Paranavitana’s Felicitation Volume: A Treasure Trove

 

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Charlie Chaplin in Bali

Tony Donaldson’s Treasure Trove

Here are two photos of Charlie Chaplin in Bali from my collection.

In one photograph, we see Chaplin in a comical moment as if he is conducting a gamelan orchestra in a Balinese village, possibly Ubud.  He could also be dancing in front of the gamelan — for the way his arms and hands are positioned suggest this  We can’t say for sure. The gamelan players are clearly enjoying this moment with Chaplin, with lots of fun and laughter. A gamelan orchestra is led by the kendang (drum) player – the nearest thing to a kind of conductor in a gamelan.

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