Category Archives: British imperialism

Buddhist Temples in Lanka: Evocative Thoughts

Uditha Devapriya, in The Island, 9 April 2022, … With input from and photographs by Manusha Lakshan … & bearing this title  “Some reflections on the temples of the South”

The social and cultural history of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka has been the object of study for well over a century. Far from receding into a world of their own, these temples occupied a prominent place in the world around them. Buddhist monks lived under a code of piety and self-denial, and they operated under their own rules and customs. Yet despite being cut off from mundane concerns, they were very much linked to the society they hailed from. Granted entire villages for their upkeep, the clergy made use of the social institutions of their time, most prominently caste, to maintain their hold.

 

 Ceityagiri, 

Dharmasalava, Pushparama Continue reading

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Obeyesekere’s New Book on the Kandyan Kingdom

Uditha Devapriya, reviewing Gananath Obeyesekere’s new book The Many Faces of the Kandyan Kingdom (1591-1765) Colombo, Perera-Hussein, 2020, 200 pp., Rs. 1,200 ... with ‘arbitrary’ highlighting imposed by the Editor, Thuppahi

In 1602, the year of the Dutch East India Company’s founding, Joris van Spilbergen reached the shores of Sri Lanka after setting sail from the seaport of Veere in Holland a year earlier. Tasked with opening up trade negotiations with the King of Kandy, Vimaladharmasuriya, Spilbergen bore with him a letter from the Prince of Orange, acknowledging their willingness to counter the Portuguese. Not for one moment underestimating the Portuguese presence in the island, though, they disembarked at Batticaloa, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Kandyan Court. They anchored off the coast on May 31.

 

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The 1956 Generations: After and Before

Michael Roberts, reproducing  the GC Mendis Memorial Lecture in 1981** in his collection of essays within Exploring Confrontation as chapter 12, pp 297-314.

ABSTRACT of the Article:  The electoral victory of the Mahajana Eksat Peramuna (MEP) led by the SLFP has been described as a “cultural revolution”, “a radical shift of power in Sri Lanka’s politics”, and a landmark in Sri Lanka’s history. Some authors have even gone so far as to speak of “the dethronement of the westernised elite” or the “replacement” of “the westernised bourgeoisie” by the national bourgeoisie. Within the pancha-maha-balavegaya particular attention has been directed towards the role of the bhikkhu, the vernacular school teachers and the ayurvedic physicians. To these interest ‘groups’ and social categories5 should be added the Sinhala journalists, the minor officials, the notaries and petition writers, and the small businessmen. Among the political goals emphasised by the revivalist elite were the demand for an explicit importance to be attached to Buddhism and the demand that the English languages should be replaced by the vernaculars as the language of administration.

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Robert Knox’s Journeys: Producing His Book …. Two

Thiru Arumugam, in The Ceylankan, Vol 25/1, Feb. 2022, where the title reads “A Three Hundred and Forty-Year Book-about-Ceylon”

Captain Robert Knox (1642-1720) of the East India Company
*oil on canvas
*126 x 102.8 cm
*1711
*inscribed b.l.: AEtat: 66
*inscribed b.l.: P: Trampon : Pinx (on the chair)
*inscribed c.r.: R: Knox: (on the quadrant)
*inscribed c.r.: Memoires of my owne Life: 1708 (on the notebook)

 

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Robert Knox’s Journeys in Ceylon and the World in the 17th Century: One

Thiru Arumugam, in The Ceylankan, vol 25/1, February 2022 , where the title reads thus A three-hundred-and-forty-year-old book about Ceylon – Part 1″

There exists a three hundred-and-forty-year old book about Ceylon which was published in 1681. Although there are other books about Ceylon in other European languages written in the 17th century, this is the oldest book about Ceylon in English. Other books of this genre include the manuscript of Fernao de Queyroz’s book in Portuguese titled “The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon” which was completed in 1687 but the author died a few months later in Goa and the book was never published until Father SG Perera translated it into English and published it in 1930. Another book is by Phillippus Baldeus titled “A true and exact Description of the Great Island of Ceylon” which was published in 1672, but this was in the Dutch language.

An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, Continue reading

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Two Distinguished Indians schooled by Trinity College, Kandy

Punsara Amarasinghe, in Indian Defence Force Review, 8 October 2021, where the title runs thus: “How Trinity College Kandy in Sri Lanka moulded two great sons of India?”

Major General A A Rudra

Atma Jayaram

 

Retrospection of the British empire and the legacy it implanted in the colonies are filled with a sense of grey feelings as the overarching effects of imperialism distorted the nations by pushing the colonized into an impoverished status. Nonetheless, some of the socio-cultural experiments carried out by the colonial administrators in the colonies left irreversible impacts that extended to the formation of post-colonial settings of those colonies.

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Remembering DS Senanayake on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day

Senanayake Foundation, Item in Daily Mrirror, 4 Feb 2022

The first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) D.S. Senanayake entered the National Legislature in 1924. He was relatively unknown in the country and was pushed into prominence by his elder brother F.R. Senanayake, who was a very popular and active figure in the social and political arena. Many were surprised and taken aback to see D.S. entering the political field, as they were expecting his brother F.R. to fit the role. Perhaps the only person who had faith in D.S’s capability at that time was none other but F.R. Senanayake himself. 

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British Imperial Pillage? The Parthenon Marbles

An Item in the Archaelogy News Network, 20 October 2021, with this title  Trophies For The Empire: The Case Of The Parthenon Sculptures”

A recently published article by eminent Professor David Rudenstine at New York’s University Cardozo Law School examines the cultural property dispute between Greece and Great Britain over the Parthenon Sculptures taken to London in the early 1800s by the British ambassador, Lord Elgin. The article specifically assesses the legality of their appropriation and argues that, contrary to conventional narrative, there is no evidence that establishes that Ottoman officials gave Elgin prior or subsequent written permission to remove the Parthenon Sculptures from the edifice. Three translations of the document were said to have been made (Ottoman to Italian, then Italian to English), however the English document has since been lost.

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Kaffir Traditions: Vibrant Traces at Sirambiyadi off Puttalam

Dishan Joseph, in Daily News, 20 February 2021, with this title “A slice of Africa in Puttalam”

Most Sri Lankans in Colombo city would have caught a glimpse of robust women, of African descent dancing to pulsating drumbeats. We have applauded the performances of the African Manja group. But have we truly understood their origins, displacement and hardships hidden behind their smiles. I firmly believe that after their generations have lived here for 500 years, they too are very much Sri Lankan.

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Sarojini Jayawickrama’s Book on Robert Knox

Nira Wickramasinghe: reviewing Sarojini Jayawickrama’s Writing that conquers. Re-reading Knox’s Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, (Social Scientists Association, Colombo 2004)

 

Among academic historians in many parts of the world there exists an almost pathological fear of contamination by literary studies via the linguistic turn which manifests itself in the display of fierce criticism of authors of postmodern or cultural studies especially those interested in ‘discourse’ or textual analysis. This is an indication of how centred professional historians still are in the historicist and implicitly empiricist models which are responsible for their material and political hegemony in academia as well as in the public sphere.

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