Category Archives: Hinduism

The Historian’s Craft via Lakshman Perera’s Deciphering of Lanka’s Ancient Inscriptions

Sudharshan Seneviratne, reviewing Lakshman S. Perera: The Institutions of Ancient Ceylon from Inscriptions, (from 3rd Century BC to 830 AD) Volume I ….. with Introduction and supplementary notes by Sirima Kiribamunne and Piyatissa Senanayake, ICES, Kandy 2001, … 322 pages … reviewed in


The Antecedents: My first encounter with the historian was in 1974 when I visited the University library at Peradeniya as a postgraduate student. It was never a formal introduction – not even a personal meeting. Yet, it was close enough for me to admire the man and his work. The silent space afforded by the Ceylon Room at Peradeniya was ideally suited for a dialogue with the past. I reached out to the past through the volumes of a doctoral thesis – so immaculately completed a year before I was born! Page after page three volumes of information unfolded a dimension hitherto less known in the history of Sri Lanka. This study I thought, will always remain as a testimony to the ‘historian’s craft’ (apologies to Marc Bloch) so purposefully executed by a scholar with a sober perception to the study of history. Continue reading

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Kill Any Sikh: The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984 in Delhi in Bhawan Singh’s IMAGES

1= agitated Indians try to scale gates of the All-India Medical Institute, 31 October 1984

@= Deep Anguish etched in every face

Michael Roberts on Bhawan Singh’s Pictorial Images

The first two images reveal the agitation and anguish of Indian citizens in Delhi who had rushed to the entrance of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on the 31st October where Indira Gandhi had been rushed to in hopes of her resuscitation after she was shot by her own Sikh bodyguards. Two more pictures below underline the emotions coursing through the minds and bodies of these patriot citizens of India who were so moved by the prospect of her death that they rushed to her side so to speak. Continue reading

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Talaivar Pirapāharan embodied in Notebooks: One Mark of the LTTE’s Remarkable Propaganda Machinery

Michael Roberts

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These three images adorn the cover of little notebooks, each 4 inches in height and 2.7 inches breadth, in my possession. They were purchased by me at Kilinochchi on 27th November 2004 when I visited the administrative capital of the state of Thamilīlam[1] during the ceasefire. The tale is recounted below as entry-point to a portrait of the LTTE’s remarkable innovations.

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Past in the Present: Deciphering the Cosmological Threads in Sri Lankan Politics

Michael Roberts,  being a re-print of a review of Roshan De Silva-Wijeyreratne’s book in Groundviews in February 2015 entitled “Review of ‘Nation, Constitutionalism and Buddhism in Sri Lanka’,” … including here  the comments in Groundviews from devoted critics of the reviewer Roberts.

This treatise encompasses a vast span of time and straddles both the pre-modern and modern periods of Sri Lanka’s history down to the present moment. It engages, deploys, transcends and weaves through a vast array of scholars: Berkwitz, Chakrabarty, Collins, Duncan, Greenwald, Kaviraj, Kemper, Obeyesekere, Rampton, Roberts, Smith and Tambiah among others, with Bruce Kapferer as the guiding inspiration. As such, it is an ambitious tour de force that seeks a synthesis. The book is heavy reading and not a task for those weak or impatient. They have to comprehend a battery of difficult concepts in noun and adjectival form: ontology, episteme, refraction, governmentality, hermeneutic, telos and cosmic sovereignty for instance.

bu-p-_sri_lanka_buddha aa-roshan-pic

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III. Bavinck Diaries: The Tamil Intelligentsia for the LTTE

 Michael Roberts,  also see there will be comments. NOTE: highlighting in RED and other colours is my imposition to draw readers to highly significant opinions and/or information.

 Continuing with my presentation of “Motifs” from within his diaries, this collection is relatively meagre, but must be placed alongside the paths depicting moderate Tamils who were caught in between the main protagonists. Since Bavinck’s political leanings were firmly with the latter, it is not surprising that there is more information on that facet of political thinking. Therefore, this post must be studied in conjunction with the one immediately following on “Bavinck on Life in Jaffna, 1994-2004: People Caught in the Middle of Two Awesome Forces.” A. Thurairajah fR EMANUEL Fr. Emmanuel Thomas_Savundaranayagam--en.wikipedia.orgBishop Thomas Saundranayagam

Both together indicate ambivalence and shifting tides in the thinking of the people residing in Jaffna under LTTE rule and/or SL Army rule. They also provide a sense of the shifting fortunes of war. The entries here are of great importance and indicate that the LTTE had a solid foundation of support among the middle class peoples of the north – an impression that was sustained during my brief visit to Jaffna Peninsula and Kilinochchi in late November 2004. Bavinck’s diary entries are written intermittently, Note that he was residing at Puttur from mid-1994- September 1995; Atchuvely from then till July 1996; Puttur again from June 1996 till August 1999; Maruthanarmadam from thence till he left the island in September 2004. Note, however, that there were spells when he left the island on pastoral business or on furlough.


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Religious Diversity in Colombo’s Melting Pot

Ronan O’Connell, courtesy of The West Australian where the title is “Melting pot of beliefs in Colombo” … also in Daily News =

In the middle of a Colombo street, four shirtless men are beating drums as a rush of people surge past them. Clutching a long wooden stick, its tip ablaze, an elderly man sways to the percussive beat, his eyes shut and his head tilted to the heavens. As he balls one hand into a fist and raises it to the sky, the worshipper releases a deep bellow, then lowers his head, opens his eyes and takes off dancing through the dense crowd. He disappears beyond a coloured chariot which is slowly making its way down the street, parting the crush of people.

An Aadi Vel Festival parade outside the Kathiresan Kovil Hindu temple-Ronan O’ConnellAn Aadi Vel Festival parade outside the Kathiresan Kovil Hindu temple

Aadi Vel is being celebrated in the Sri Lankan city and a street parade is taking place outside Kathiresan Kovil, a beautiful Hindu temple which has a dimly lit interior embellished by brightly coloured flags. This temple, dedicated to the war god Murugan, was built in the mid-19th century following an influx of immigrants from southern India. Continue reading

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Venkatachalapathy reviews Romila Thapar’s The Past Before Us

ARV A. R. Venkatachalapathy, courtesy of South Asian History and Culture  2015, Vol.6/4, pp. 510-12…. reviewing  The Past Before Us: Historical Traditions of Early India, By Romila Thapar. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Mass. 2013. pp. xvii+758. Maps, tables, bibliography, index.

Marx, following Orientalists of his times, famously declared that India had no history. No history, in the orientalist discourse, meant that not only was there no history writing but there was no history to be written about. Since the time of the nationalist movement Indian historians have been grappling with this question and making various claims. The present Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) appointed by the Hindu nationalist BJP government has now declared that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are historical texts!

4703433393_968c5058f2Romila Thapar, arguably India’s greatest living historian, has pursued both historical and historiographical concerns in her long and productive career spanning more than half a century. Over the years she has tackled the question of the existence or otherwise of historical consciousness in early Indian society. Her popular radio broadcast on this subject, delivered as the Vallabhbhai Patel lectures in 1972, continue to be in print (Past and Prejudice). In these lectures Thapar not only interrogated Orientalist notions of Indian society but also made an epistemological distinction between ‘the past’ and ‘history’. Many long essays on the subject have appeared since, and the present volume, with the alluring and suggestive title of The Past Before Us sums up a lifetime’s work on the nature of historical knowledge in what can be termed pre-Islamic (a term she of course eschews) India. This book is unlikely to be surpassed in the near future, and will hopefully trigger further work. Continue reading

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