Category Archives: Indian traditions

Presenting the Portuguese Burghers of Sri Lanka: Today and Yesterday

Earl Barthelot, in Ceylon Digest, 22 February 2020, where the title reads The Portuguese Burghers of Ceylon”

Sri Lanka is well known for its diversity with over 22 numerically small communities and majority communities such as Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Burgher community is one of the numerically small communities. Large proportions of the Burghers do live in the Batticaloa District and a small proportion live both in Trincomalee and Ampara District. At the same time there are Portuguese Burghers living in all parts of the country in small numbers.

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The Nomenclature and Lineaments of White-Brown Cohabitation in British Ceylon: A Puzzle

MEMO from Michael Roberts, October 16 October 2021

Moving from BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI to the Greet and Paynter lineages in British Ceylon-and-thereafter has raised a query in my mind: how is it that the category “ANGLO-Ceylonese” did not take root in Ceylon and Lanka in contrast with British India where the label “Anglo-Indian” became well-entrenched[1] and therefore was carried over to the era after India secured Independence in 1947? As we know,[2] Revd Arthur Paynter was an Anglo-Indian missionary who established the Paynter Homes in the Himalayan region of India and then set up the Paynter Home in Nuwara Eliya. He had also married a fellow-missionary in the Salvation Army who was pursuing her commitment in India, one Miss Weerasooria from Dodanduwa … and together sired a talented lineage.

Photograph on display at the Paynter Home of the Paynter family. David Paynter stands at the centre, behind his mother Agnes

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When Tamilnadu’s LTTE Stalwarts attacked Thiru Nadesan at Rameswaram Temple in 2012 –DBS Jeyaraj

 D.B.S.Jeyaraj, in his website on 9th October 2021 with the following title “Revisiting the Attack on Thirukumar Nadesan in India”

Though Thirukumar Nadesan is a well-known businessman, it was the Rajapaksa connection of his spouse Nirupama that captured headlines in national and international media

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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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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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Portuguese Nomenclature in Sri Lanka

Unknown Author** … in https://www.elanka.com.au/portuguese-sri-lankan-surnames-and-their-meanings-2/

The Portuguese arrived in Ceylon, or Ceilão, as they called it, by chance. In 1505, a fleet commanded by Lourenço de Almeida—the son of Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India—was blown into Galle by adverse winds. It was thirteen years later, in 1518, that the Portuguese established formal contact with the Kingdom of Kotte, ruled by Vira Parakrama Bahu, and were permitted to build a fort in Colombo.

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Crossing Boundaries: The Indo-Portuguese Religious and Cultural Encounter

Chandra R. de Silva, aka “CR”, being the Inaugural Tessa Bartholomeusz Memorial Lecture, Department of Religion, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, delivered on March 4, 2002

Let me begin by thanking the Department of Religion and Florida State University for inviting me to deliver the inaugural Tessa Bartholomeusz Memorial Lecture. As many of you are aware, Tessa and I worked together in two academic projects in the last few years and we were part of a group that worked hard and successfully to set up an American Research Center in Sri Lanka. I miss her both as a scholar and a friend and thus, my appreciation for all you have done in her memory is immense.

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Adam’s Bridge? Evaluating the Legend

Patrick Ranasinghe, at elanka 2 August 2021, where the title runs thus: “Could This Be The Legendary “Magic Bridge” Connecting India And Sri Lanka? “

eLanka _ Could This Be The Legendary _Magic Bridge_ Connecting India And Sri Lanka_ – by Patrick Ranasinghe – eLanka

Location   The bridge starts as a chain of shoals from the Dhanushkodi tip of India’s Pamban Island. It ends at Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island. Pamban Island is accessed from the Indian mainland by the 2-km-long Pamban Bridge. Mannar Island is connected to mainland Sri Lanka by a causeway.

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