Category Archives: Indian traditions

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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A Funeral and Its Professional Lamentation

Alagu Subramaniam,  courtesy of Rajiva Wijesinha, An Anthology of English Poetry and Prose, Godage & Bros, 2016, … see http://www.godage,comas Addendum to the item on professional mourners in Thuppahi, viz The Original Title of this Essay is “Professional Mourners”

 My grandmother died late at night on a Saturday while my sister, brother and I were fast asleep. We were wakened in the morning by the cries from grandmother’s house and the sound of drums. We dressed hurriedly and ran to her place. A large gathering was there, and the space between the boundary fence and the outer verandah was lined with people. We pushed our way through the crowd to the centre of the hut in search of our mother. We were feeling afraid because it was the first funeral we had attended.

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Vale Jim Gair, Sinhala Enthusiast, Linguist Extraordinary

A Valedictory in American Academia


James Wells Gair, Ph.D. ’63, professor emeritus of linguistics who throughout a long and distinguished career produced groundbreaking work on South Asian languages and their relation to other languages, died Dec. 10 in Ithaca. He was 88.“Jim Gair was in many ways the paradigmatic Cornell linguist,” said John Whitman, chair and professor of linguistics. “He had a language passion for Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka, and he threw himself entirely into it, teaching the language, writing textbooks for its learners, and analyzing both the colloquial language and its classical texts.

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The Indus Civilisation: A Great Civilisation, Yet Forgotten?

Andrew Robinson, courtesy of History Today Volume 65 Issue 12 December 2015….

Perhaps the most famous statement about the Indus civilisation is the opening paragraph of an article in the Illustrated London News published in 1924 by John Marshall, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India: “Not often has it been given to archaeologists, as it was given to [Heinrich] Schliemann at Tiryns and Mycenae, or to [Aurel] Stein in the deserts of Turkestan, to light upon the remains of a long-forgotten civilisation. It looks, however, at this moment, as if we are on the threshold of such a discovery in the plains of the Indus.”

aa-indus-1 Steatite seal from the Indus valley, c.2500 BC. The script is still undeciphered

Subsequent Indus excavations certainly made an impression on the young Kenneth Clark. In Civilisation, Clark, while pondering the non-western beginnings of civilisation two-and-a-half millennia before the classical Greeks, observed in 1969:“Three or four times in history man has made a leap forward that would have been unthinkable under ordinary evolutionary conditions. One such time was about the year 3000 BC, when quite suddenly civilisation appeared, not only in Egypt and Mesopotamia but also in the Indus Valley; another was in the sixth century BC, when there was not only the miracle of Ionia and Greece … but also in India a spiritual enlightenment that has perhaps never been equalled.” Continue reading

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Tony Donaldson to introduce Sunil Santha and His Sinhala Music to Contemporary Lankans

Tony Donaldson will be presenting the inaugural Guru Devi Sunil Santha Memorial Lecture  at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 14 December 2016. The talk is entitled “Sunil Santha: The Man who invented Sinhala Music for a Modern Age” …  Dr Ruvan Ekanayake will give a Sinhala translation of the lecture.

sunil-shantha sunilshantha

ABSTRACT OF TALK: Since the arrival of Sunil Santha on the music world in 1946, there has been a great deal written and talked about his music. People have listened to his songs. His songs have been sung in films, on the concert stage and television, or at parties, picnics and weddings. His music has been played by military bands, at state occasions or cricket matches. I too have listened to his music but somehow I have never penetrated to his core to really understand him, and I dare say that except for his close supporters and those who care about his music, nor has anyone else. I say this advisedly because much of what has been said and written about Sunil Santha and his music by academics and critics has been wrong, and so this gives me the chance to get it right this time. It is time to crack his DNA.

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Anagārika Dharmapāla on the World Stage: Pictorial

15 Dharmapāla at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893, with Swami Vivekānanda on his left

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Reading Amunugama’s Study of Anagārika Dharmapala in LION’S ROAR

Tissa Devendra in The Island, 31 August 2016, where the title reads “

I quailed when asked to review Sarath Amunugama’s 700-odd page work on Anagarika Dharmapala’s life and times. I wondered what else was there to write about this colossus who strode across the Buddhist scene in the ‘Ceylon’ of little more than a century ago. So many of his statues adorn our towns and so numerous are the books, pamphlets, learned articles, both in English and Sinhala, published in Sri Lanka, India, Britain and America that there seemed little new to say. But Sarath Amunugama — administrator, politician, art lover and, above all, a meticulous scholar — has overcome my reluctance with his comprehensive, yet eminently readable, study of the Anagarika’s life and times, aptly titled The Lion’s Roar- a singularly apt description of the reverberations that the Anagarika caused in Colonial Ceylon and India.

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