Category Archives: Indian traditions

Revisiting the Sins of Leslie Gunawardana (Part lll)


 Darshanie Ratnawalli. Q & A from  Saturday, 21 March 2015 … with emphasis by highlighting being  impositions by the Editor, Thuppahi

Professor KNO Dharmadasa, the present Editor in Chief of the Sinhala Encyclopedia goes down in history as mounting to date, the only direct, authoritative academic challenge to Professor Leslie Gunawardana, an ancient period historian of Sri Lanka who became a darling of certain social anthropological circuits through his “The People of the Lion: The Sinhala Identity and Ideology in History and Historiography”– (1979) and “Historiography In a Time of Ethnic Conflict, Construction of the Past in Contemporary Sri Lanka”– (1995). This is the third and last installment of Prof. K.N.O’s conversation with Darshanie Ratnawalli continued from 08 March, 2015.    


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Engaging the Vijaya Fable Once Again

note that Michael Roberts

    Perinbanayagam  Peiris  Gunatilleke


In coming across one of my old essays on the Vijaya myth reproduced and questioned within my website Thuppahi recently, I circulated it (ITEM TWO below) once again by email – perhaps too hastily. Both responses to this email and the original commentary signal sharp reactions. Besides they involve eminent Sri Lankan scholars in the person of Professor Robert S. Perinbanayagam of Hunter College in New York and Professor Gerald H. Peiris of Peradeniya University, besides enabling me to bring in the incisive intervention of Godfrey Gunatilleka and to hark back to a ‘line’ from the economist VK Wickremasinghe (son of the noted author Martin Wickremasinghe). Continue reading

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Perinpanayagam’s Study of the LTTE Strand of Tamil Nationalism

Anushka Perinpanayagam, paperback, 2010 …

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a nationalist organisation which has been a key player in Sri Lanka’s ethnic war. Like the early Tamil nationalist groups in Sri Lanka, the LTTE professes to be a secularist organisation. This tradition of secularism distinguishes Tamil nationalism from its Sinhalese counterpart. A small group of academics, however, has debated whether the LTTE is truly secularist. The debate focuses on the LTTE’s ritual calendar and commemorative events which draw on religious symbols and which, according to some critics, have the character and quality of religious events. This project intervenes in this debate by analysing how scholars use the terms ‘religion’ and ‘secular’ when discussing the LTTE and Sri Lankan politics. In addition, this book investigates how the LTTE’s claim to be secular impacts upon its narration of history and its discourse around death and dying. This work is useful not only for those interested in the Sri Lankan situation but also for those who wish to explore nationalism, modernisation and the categories of religion and the secular.

The book can be purchased via AMAZON =… with illustrations below being from the Thuppahi stock associated with my work on the “sacrificial devotion” of the Tamil Tigers — work which is considered intelligently by Perinpanayagam in association with the writings of Peter schalk Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam and others.  Continue reading


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Preserving the Sikkim Palace Archive: Digitalisation Project

Alex-McKay-250x250 Alex McKay, reprint from IIAS NewsLetter, where the title readsThe Sikkim (India) Palace Archive Digitilisation Project” …. Emphasis by highlighting is the imposition of The Editor, Thuppahi

The Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, which separates Nepal to the west and Bhutan to the east, emerges into the historical record with the establishment of the Namgyal dynasty in the 1640s. As a Buddhist kingdom Sikkim’s closest cultural links were with their northern neighbour Tibet, but during the 19th century they were increasingly drawn into the orbit of their southern neighbour, British India. The colonial government sought to establish diplomatic and trading relations with the Tibetans as well as to ensure the security of their northern frontier from any threat in that direction. Sikkim offered them a “stepping stone” to Tibet and despite Sikkimese efforts to avoid alienating either of the two powers the British appointed a Political Officer in 1889 who ruled Sikkim under the Princely State system. A series of Political Officers then oversaw the administration of Sikkim down to Indian independence in 1947. In 1975 the 12th and final ruling Chogyal (King/Maharaja), Palden Thondup Namgyal (1923 – 1982), was deposed by India and Sikkim was merged into India. It exists today simply as a state of India, albeit with certain administrative distinctions.

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Against The Modernist Grain: Polyandry & Other Traditional Practices that may still persist in Sri Lanka

Asiff Hussein, courtesy of Roar Life, 25 April 2017, where the chosen title is  “Three Strange Sri Lankan Customs And The Stories Behind Them”

Sri Lankans had, and still have, some strange traditions that are thought of as indigenous. However, much of these have their origins in other parts of the world, especially in India, and, to a lesser extent, in the Middle East. Here are three such local beliefs and customs with exotic origins.

Dola-Duka (Pregnancy Craving)

Sri Lankans, and especially the Sinhalese, believe that mothers-to-be experience a longing to eat certain kinds of foods, and that if these cravings are not satisfied, it would harm her health or the child she is carrying. This is known as dola-duka. Continue reading

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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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Anguish as Empowerment … and A Path to Retribution

Michael Roberts, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph where it is presented with a different title ….

Anguish and grief are powerful emotions that can contort and wrack a body. While ‘suggesting’ helplessness, the anguish that engulfs a person can also empower that person … and others connected to that person by commonalities of interest/emotion. In this manner anguish can transcend obstacles, generate waves of bitterness and swell into paths of retributory hate and punishment. The ‘little’ drops of tears can swell metaphorically into ‘waves’ – and even inspire enraged mobs (mostly male) bent on punishing the purported root of the tears, a recalcitrant Other, an enemy family or “community” deemed to be the cause of that expressive anguish or deemed to have transcended local norms. In southern Lanka that community can be a neighbouring caste grouping or ethnic group or religious group (Muslim Moor,[1] Hindu, Buddhist, Christian).

Let me highlight the argument by presenting an unusual juxtaposition.

  1. Expressive Grief displayed by a Sri Lankan Tamil woman at a protest demonstration before David Cameron by persons whose kin have been missing in the course of Eelam War IV

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