Category Archives: Indian religions

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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Vijaya and Kuveni: Two Legendary Figures of the Pali Chronicles

Chandre Dharmawardana

“This may confuse some since Madura became a part of the Chola kingdom, and that Vijaya called for a Chola princess after rejecting Kuveni. In reality, many south Indian kings sought North Indian brides as they were fair-skinned”.**

Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras, are mentioned in the Ashokasthamba (Asoka-Pillar) inscriptions (3rd century BC although some historians think the pillar inscriptions may have been even earlier). When did Vijaya come to Tambrapanni? Is Vijaya even a real person?

I believe there have been many invasions (basically, not necessarily invasions, but people coming in even to farm, fish or trade, and by boats and settling down). Even Vijaya’s landing as described in the Pali chronicles was accidental.

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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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From Empiricist Conflation to Distortion: Caste in South Asia

Michael Roberts, responding in 1985 to a Review Essay by Susan Bayly of Cambridge University  on his book on Caste Conflcist and Elite Formation, CUP 1982

Susan Bayly** has done me the honour of reviewing the book on Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 at considerable length.’ Her essay is appropriately entitled ‘The History of Caste in South Asia’. This title provides a clue to the interpretative pathways which have led her systematically to misunderstand the arguments within the book. No less problematical is her implicit belief in the possibility of constructing a composite picture of the caste system qua system on the basis of empirical data drawn from different regions, regions as widely different as Sri Lanka, southern India and western India. Let me elaborate this charge, and in doing so reiterate the arguments which I presented.

Susan Bayly

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Qadri Ismail’s Challenging Essay: An Iconoclastic Hurrah!

Qadri Ismail, in Groundviews in 2015 with this title “The Import Of Sri Lankan Muslim Names”

My name is Mohamed Qadri Ismail. Mohamed Qadri Ismail is not my name.

The statements may prompt a wtf. (The acronym, btw, of the World Taekwondo Federation.) Surely one cannot affirm a position and its contradiction. Yet I do.  The second sentence doesn’t necessarily negate the first.

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Scott Atran on Unconditional Commitment draws Reflections from Thuppahi Roberts

  ONE: Scott Atran: “The Devoted Actor Unconditional Commitment and Intractable Conflict across Cultures,” ... as introduced to Thuppahi by The Library of Social Science,in New York,with this abstract at journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/685495

Uncompromising wars, revolution, rights movements, and today’s global terrorism are in part driven by “devoted actors” who adhere to sacred, transcendent values that generate actions dissociated from rationally expected risks and rewards. Studies in real-world conflicts show ways that devoted actors, who are unconditionally committed to sacred causes and whose personal identities are fused within a unique collective identity, willingly make costly sacrifices. This enables low-power groups to endure and often prevail against materially stronger foes. Explaining how devoted actors come to sacrifice for cause and comrades not only is a scientific goal but a practical imperative to address intergroup disputes that can spiral out of control in a rapidly interconnecting world of collapsing and conflicting cultural traditions. From the recent massive media-driven global political awakening, horizontal peer-to-peer transcultural niches, geographically disconnected, are emerging to replace vertical generation-to-generation territorial traditions. Devoted actors of the global jihadi archipelago militate within such a novel transcultural niche, which is socially tight, ideationally narrow, and globe spanning. Nevertheless, its evolutionary maintenance depends on costly commitments to transcendental values, rituals and sacrifices, and parochial altruism, which may have deep roots even in the earliest and most traditional human societies. Fieldwork results from the Kurdish battlefront with the Islamic State are highlighted.

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Today’s Far Right League of Nations

Eviane Leidig,  in  Foreign Policy, 20 January 2020, where the title reads “The Far-Right Is Going Global”

An unofficial visit by nationalist European leaders to Kashmir highlights the solidarity of far-right movements across the globe. In October 2019, 23 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visited Kashmir, just two months after the Indian government removed the region’s special autonomous status. The trip sparked controversy when it was revealed that most of the MEPs belonged to far-right political parties, including France’s National Rally (formerly National Front) and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It wasn’t just the affiliations of these visitors that drew attention: The MEPs had been granted access to Kashmir even as foreign journalists and domestic politicians were barred access to the region, and the Indian-administered government had imposed an internet shutdown since August.

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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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African Diaspora across the Indian Ocean: The SIDI Project:

VISIT https://thesidiproject.com/

At Sidi men play drums at t heir communities’annual Urs celebration – Photo copyright by Luke Duggleby for Sidi Project

Few need introductions to the Western movement of slaves from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean. Much has been documented and studied about this horrific part of history. But this wasn’t the only slave route that existed; a far older eastern movement of slaves was forcibly taking people to the opposite side of the world. Between the first and 20th century, beginning with Arabs and the Ottomans, and later continued by the Portuguese, the Dutch, French and the British, an estimated 4 million Africans were taken from their homes, mostly in East Africa, and across the Indian Ocean.

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St. Joseph’s in Colombo: Service till the Mountains Disappear

 Chryshane Mendis, reviewing Till the Mountains Disappear: The Story of St. Joseph’s College authored by Avishka Mario Senewiratne and late Fr. Dr. Stanley Abeysekera

 

It was well known back in the day that Fr. Stanley Abeysekera was writing a book on College history and through my Grade 09 exhibition project of 2008, I got to know the great man very closely. From then on till I left school in 2013 I constantly dropped by his room and viewed the rare Blue and White magazines  with him and earnestly listened to his stories of College. I was sad that his progress on the manuscript had slowed down due to his failing eyesight and when he was finally called to rest in 2015, I thought the book had died with him.

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