Category Archives: architects & architecture

No Debt Trap at Hambantota: False Picture on China’s Role

Deborah Brautigam & Meg Rithmire,  in The Atlantic, 6 February 2021, where the title is The Chinese ‘Debt Trap’ Is a Myth “

The narrative wrongfully portrays both Beijing and the developing countries it deals with. China, we are told, inveigles poorer countries into taking out loan after loan to build expensive infrastructure that they can’t afford and that will yield few benefits, all with the end goal of Beijing eventually taking control of these assets from its struggling borrowers. As states around the world pile on debt to combat the coronavirus pandemic and bolster flagging economies, fears of such possible seizures have only amplified.

Ben Shmulevitch

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Jaffna Fort in Ruins: Evoking Its Chequered History

Dishan Joseph, in Daily News, 4 Septmber 2021, where the title is “Jaffna Fort: Reflections of Dutch History” … reproduced here with highlighting inserted by The Editor, Thuppahi

The Northern Province is embellished with history and culture. It is a land laced with mystic aura. Perhaps the most iconic landmark in the Jaffna town area is the massive Dutch Fort, which stands as a historic sentinel. This fortified superstructure is the second largest Dutch Fort in Sri Lanka.

For centuries this Fort has been associated with the strategic defence on the maritime boundary of our resplendent island. It is probably the most visited destination of the Northern Province by local and foreign visitors, the other being the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. From the 13th century to the 17th century, the Nallur Rajadani featured prominently in ancient Ceylon.

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Exploring the Etymological Strands of the Word “Thiruketheeswaram

Chandre Dharmawardana

The word stub “ket,”, கேத, in the place name:  Tiru-k-keteeswaram,  திருக்கேதீசுவரம்

In finding a meaning for the component –ket– in Tiru-ket-heesvaram, well known Engineer Thiru Arumugam has quoted an interpretation given in 1849 by Pridham which leans on a mythological tale of Vishnu’s exlir of mortality that fell into the hands of a demon. The demon was said to be cut into two and became Rahu and Ketu (.இராகு கேது) recognized in astrology.  Predham stretches his imagination very far to convert the Tamil -கேத- sound to கேது in finding  an “explanation” or rationalization for the stub  -கேத- found in the place name.

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Thiruketheeswaram: the Site of a Temple from Pre-Historic Times

Thiru Arumugam, being an article presented recently in The CEYLANKAN, Journal of the Ceylon Society of Australia. No. 3, August 2021

Thiruketheeswaram is located about eight km north of Mannar Town. It is on the coastal mainland of Ceylon, near the seashore on the direct coast road from Mannar to Jaffna. It has been the site of a Temple dedicated to Siva from pre-historic times. The place name of Thiru-Kethu-Iswaram has been devised as follows.  ‘Thiru’ means sacred or holy and “Iswaran” is another name for Siva. As regards ‘Kethu’, Charles Pridham in his 1849 book A Historical, Political and Statistical account of Ceylon and its Dependencies describes how the gods asked Vishnu to prepare an elixir which would make them immortal. The elixir was prepared by churning the oceans but a demon who was a bystander also managed to drink the elixir. When Vishnu realised this, he cut off the demon’s head, but he was too late as the elixir had already made him immortal. The two parts became Rahu and Kethu, which are significant planets in the Hindu astrological system. In order to propitiate his sin, Kethu (Fig. 1) wandered from place to place and ultimately reached the shores of Lanka. He performed severe penances and he   was ultimately blessed with the Lord’s vision and the place where this occurred was named Thiru-Kethu-Iswaram or Thiruketheeswaram.

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Valentine Gunasekara: His Architectural Virtuosity and Heritage

Anoma Pieris, with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor of Thuppahi

Architect Valentine Gunasekara passed away peacefully at sunset on Monday 4, September 2017; and I felt it was important that his passing did not go unnoticed. The ebook version of Imagining Modernity: The Architecture of Valentine Gunasekara published 14 years after my 2007 book is an effort at ensuring he would not be forgotten. He mirrored the struggles of my parent’s generation across the hard years of import-substitution and Socialist policies when every bag of cement was purchased with a special permit.  In fact, even attempting to build with concrete appeared foolhardy. However, he persevered, leaving a small coterie of buildings that are comparable to the works of Van Molyvann (1926-2017) in Cambodia or the Malayan Architects Co-Partnership (1960-67) in Singapore.  These buildings have not garnered the attention and care that is afforded mid century modernism elsewhere, largely because their attempts at design synthesis are overlooked. The tropical climate is also hostile to pristine architectures and plastered concrete surfaces are high maintenance. But if one is willing to look beyond everyday tolerances to the aspirations behind the aesthetic responses that surround us in our rapidly growing cities, one needs to engage with Gunasekara’s repertoire.

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Stalag Luft III and Its “Great Escape” Tunnel: An Archaelogical Treasure

The Great Escape Tunnel

Untouched for almost seven decades, the tunnel used in the Great Escape has finally been unearthed. The 111-yard passage nicknamed ‘Harry’ by Allied prisoners was sealed by the Germans after the audacious break-out from the POW camp Stalag Luft III in western Poland. Despite huge interest in the subject, encouraged by the film starring Steve McQueen, the tunnel undisturbed over the decades because it was behind the Iron Curtain and the Soviet had no interest in its significance.

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Sinhalaness in Pre-British Ceylon: Issues and Pathways

A Review Essay by Alan Strathern** dissecting a Book by Michael Roberts published in 2004

This item was located by Thuppahi in the web-site Colombo Telegraph on 26 December 2012 (see https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-royal-we-sinhala-identity-in-the-dynastic-state/). However, it appeared initially in 2005 in the prestigious journal Modern Asian Studies,  39: 1013–1026.

AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Michael Roberts, 7 August 2021

This item is a review essay not a standard review. Alan Strathern is an accomplished historian who happens to be the son of a leading social anthropologist, viz., Marilyn Strathern of ANU and Cambridge University. You will find that his prose is as refined and clear-cut as demanding. After some hesitation, I decided to adhere to my normal policy of highlighting some parts of the text with blue colourfor the benefit of readers facing the difficulties posed by complex issues in historical sociology. On occasions I have also imposed a break in extra-long paragraphs. The illustrations too are my impositions intended to promote reader interest.

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The Skeins of Class bearing on the Threads of Sinhala Cultural Revival under the British

Uditha Devapriya, in The Island, 24 July 2021, where the title reads “Colonial Bourgeoisie and Sinhala Cultural Revival”

The colonial bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka did not form a monolithic class. They were divided horizontally as well as vertically: horizontally on the basis of income and inheritance, and vertically on the basis of primordial attachments, such as caste ideology. Various factors, mainly economic, conspired as much to unify the bourgeoisie as they did to divide them, distinguishing them by their homogeneity as much as by their heterogeneity.

Panadura Vaadaya

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Columbathurai School for Disadvantaged Tamil Children

A THANK YOU NOTE addressed to MOHAN SAMARASINHE, 27 July 2021

Dear Respected Sir

I would like to extend my sincere thanks for coming forward to establish a Pre-school in our place and begin for the poor and needy. I highly appreciate your great service towards our people especially it is how important to see that a Sinhala  person has come forward to help Tamil  who have suffered so much since 1983. Even though we tried to get help from many people they didnt give us proper reply. Then only I requested Mr.Mohan Samarasingha. You accepted our request without any hesitation to support us to begin the school succesfully. You have already given nearly four hundred thousand rupees to renovate the building. Now the building has come up  yet we have to do little work to finish. So we hope to receive  your support in future too. Once again I extend my sincere thanks to your love and grate service towards us.

Thank you
Amitha
Colombuthurai
Jaffna.

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Universal Franchise for Ceylon in 1931: The Complexities of Governance and Policy

Jane Russell

I am greatly honoured to be asked by the Awarelogue Initiative to speak at their Lecture Forum in this year of 2021, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the advent of universal franchise in Sri Lanka. In my lecture, I shall touch on some of the complex problems of governance and policy faced by a small multi-ethnic island, flanked as it is and always has been, by economic and political superpowers.

Dr. Thomas Drummond-Shiels: Donoughmore Commissioner 1927/28: Labour MP for Edinburgh 1924 -31; Under Secretary of State for the Colonies 1929-31

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