A PROBLEM OF HISTORY - RE VISITED- I
(1998 November 25)
Mr. E. A. Naganathan, who thought that he was re-examining the article on "A Problem
of History" , appears to be a confused person. Writing to the midweek review of The Island on the November
18, he tells us more about his family than of the history of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. He intends writing of families
of histories but ends up writing on the history of the family. Mr. Naganathan, rather his ancestors, are fortunate
for we do not pass judgement on them on the basis of what he writes.
In my article I showed that the interpretation given by the Tamil racists to the Dutugemunu Elara story based on what Dr. Siriweera has written does not stand up to the facts. It is true that anybody can give any interpretation to the facts but unless it is consistent with the other relevant facts (for example archaeological evidence) and interpretations it has no merit. Dr. Siriweera's thesis that Dutugemunu and Elara were participants in a feudal power game stands on flimsy grounds. His only argument, other than what he has to say on the Mahavansaya in general, is developed on the single fact that there were Sinhala soldiers like Miththa, Gamani and Dighabaya in Elaras's army.
This does not establish that the Tamils lived in this country then with the Sinhala people. It only goes on to prove that, even then, there have been Sinhala people who served the foreigners, invaders and the like just as much we have them today among us. If there were Tamils living in this country at that time, as people of Mr. Naganathan's ilk seem to believe, and if Dutugemunu Elara war was a fight between two feudal chiefs why were there no Tamils in the army of Dutugemunu? Dr. Siriweera creates a suspicion among the readers that Velusumana was a Tamil. Unfortunately for him, and some others who have come to the conclusion that Velusumana was a Tamil, Velusumana is the Pali translation of the name of that particular soldier as it appears in the Mahavansaya. Velu in Pali, as I have already mentioned, means bamboo and we do not know how the name appeared in the Sinhala original, Sihalattha katha mahavansaya, which was translated into Pali and edited by Rev. Mahanama. We should remember that Rev. Mahanama had translated Sinhala names like Digaba and Bintenne into their Pali equivalents Dighabhaya and Mahiyangana.
Now let us examine whether Mr. Naganathan has got anything to add to this argument. He starts by giving us the qualifications of Mr. Anthony Gnana Pragasam and of his wife, who happens to be an aunt of Mr. Naganathan, for the sole purpose of quoting Justice de Sampayo, who had given tuition to Mrs. Gnana Pragasam. This reminds me of the naya (cobra) story very often referred to by the undergraduates in Sri Lanka. Apparently one lady has once described to her friends how a naya had crept into her home. She had started by saying how the naya crept under her brand new refrigerator, which had stored very expensive items brought from the shops with big names and then how the naya had crept near the wardrobe, then a description of all the new sarees and the other dresses, and so on and so forth. At the end of the story her friends did not know anything about the naya or what happened to him and her, I mean the naya and the lady, but knew all about what the good lady possessed or claimed to posses. I only hope that Mr. Naganathan would not make use of the naya story to 'prove' that he and the Tamils are descendants of the Nagas. With the kind of logic he employs he is not incapable of doing that.
Mr. Naganathan appears to make fun at the Sinhala Buddhist consciousness and seems to believe that the Sinhala Buddhist consciousness originated with Vijaya. He says Elara was the 13th ruler of Sri Lanka, 'assuming the Mahavihare postulate of a "single nation state" reflecting a Sinhala Buddhist consciousness'. Unfortunately for Dr. Naganathan, on this count even Dr. Siriweera does not agree with him. This is what Dr. Siriweera has to say in his article published in "Ethnicity and Social Change in Sri Lanka". "It is no wonder then, that the author (Rev. Mahanama) selected Dutthagamani, who unified the whole island under one banner for the first time in history and was the patron of the Mahavihara establishment as the ideal king." (Pg. 56) " In the final battle, Elara fell, pierced by his rival's dart, and subsequently Dutthagamani united Sri Lanka under one royal umbrella." (Pg. 59) "Thus the author of the Dipavamsa gave articulation to the Sinhala -Buddhist consciousness which was strengthened by subsequent chroniclers." (Pg. 55)
It is very clear that even Dr. Siriweera, the 'objective historian' who is not sympathetic to the Sinhala Buddhist cause has to admit there has been a Sinhala Buddhist consciousness at least from the time of Dipavansaya and that Dutugemunu united Sri Lanka under one umbrella (eksesath) for the first time in the history. I agree with him on this for the simple reason that it is not his fiction (interpretation) and represents the truth and nothing but the truth. The eksesath rajya is the unitary state in the vocabulary of the western political scientists and it was king Dutugemunu who established the Sinhala Buddhist unitary state in the country. The countdown of the kings in the unitary state should begin with king Dutugemunu and not with Vijaya. Thus Elara was not the 13th ruler of Sri Lanka but was an invader who ruled Anuradhapura until he was defeated by the liberator Dutugemunu. Mr. Naganathan, using the methods of Tamil racist propagandists, tries to confuse the readers by projecting Elara as the 13th ruler of Sri Lanka.
Mr. Naganathan then moves on to Elara, Sena and Guttika, and Mutasiva. We shall first consider Mutasiva, who according to Mr. Naganathan has 'somewhat a Saivaite sounding name'. One of Mutasiva's sons was 'Mahasiva -again the Saivaite ring' says Mr. Naganadan. He says 'viewed totally, with a son of Pandukhabaya enjoying the name of Mutasiva, ... Devanampiyatissa's second son ...bearing the name of Mahasiva, and the number of Nagas abounding in the regnal titles of Mr. Nalin de Silva's "single Sinhala Buddhist nation state" i.e. Khallatanaga, Cholanaga etc., we cannot help agreeing with Dr. Siriweera's (in my view) understatement that "the Mahavamsa was more a national epic of the Sinhala Buddhists of the orthodox Theravada sector (and I would add of the Mahavihare sect) than a dynamic history of the island." ' What Mr. Naganathan does not seem to know is that Siva in Pali means Nibbana. However as I do not make use of the logic of Mr. Naganathan I am not going to suggest any rings around the name Mutasiva.
Mr. Naganadan, not satisfied with what Dr. Siriweera has written on behalf of Tamil racism tries to extract more out of his article. As I said in my previous article the history as revealed in Mahavansaya is relative to the Mahaviyaraya, just as much the stories written by Dr. Siriweera and Mr. Naganathan are relative to Tamil racism. When there is no objective Physics it is futile to talk of an objective history. The question is whether these relative histories are consistent with the other relevant facts. For example the history as revealed in Mahavansaya is not only consistent with the archaeological evidence found in Sri Lanka it is also consistent with the Indian history during the Asokan period and has helped to identify the king Asoka. Neither Dr. Siriweera nor anybody else can produce a so-called objective dynamic history of the island. They can only produce "histories" relative to Tamil racism, which are not consistent with the other facts and are full of internal contradictions.
Mr. Naganadan then discloses more of his total view. For him these 'Nagas' were the yet unabsorbed residue of the original people of the country. Now what Mr. Naganathan does not explain consistently and without any internal contradictions, is why according to this residual Naga theory Khallatanaga was not absorbed (presumably) into the Sinhala nation while his father Saddha Tissa and uncle Dutugemunu were absorbed. Similar situations can be observed in the cases of Valagamba and his son Cora Naga, Vasaba and his grand son Mahallaka Naga who was the brother-in-law of Gajaba I. Were Dutugemunu, Saddha Tissa, Valagamba, Vasaba and Gajaba also Nagas? They were all Sinhala kings and the Naga in the names of some of them did not make them non- Sinhala. Nagas by that time were absorbed into the Sinhala nation and however much Mr. Naganathan may try he would not be able to show that the kings and the others who had the part Naga in their names were Tamils.
The irony is that people of Mr. Naganathan's ilk have no source other than the Mahavansaya even to talk of these Nagas. In the article 'TULF, BUDGET AND THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE' , I have quoted Dr. Indrapalan to show that the arguments of Gnanapragasar, who was mainly responsible for the theory that the Nagas were Tamils, are not valid, and as such I do not want to repeat them against Mr. Naganathan. Mr. Naganathan in his total view wants to combine the residual Naga theory with the 'insights to be gained from the epic Ramayanaya', for the lack of any other source. Until and unless Sri Lanka is identified definitely as the Lanka of Ramayanaya it is futile even to drag that epic into any discussion on the history of the country.
Even without Ramayanaya it is not difficult to accept that there were tribes such as Yaksha, Naga . Rakshasa and Deva in this country before the Aryans arrived with their culture. Mr. Naganathan states whether there were four such tribes or fewer, 'we shall never know as long as we cling to the Mahavansa for divination'. The irony again is that without Mahavansaya we would not have known much about these Nagas and Yakshas. Now Mr. Naganathan having taken his total view expresses the following opinion. It is an opinion or a view whether total or partial without any corroborative evidence archaeological or otherwise. "Scattered throughout the land would have been these units of skilled, efficient and organised people, but their interaction with each other and the Tamil immigrants and their Saivaite priests, and the Prakrit -speaking immigrants from 'Lata' and 'Lada' identified as Bengal and Gujarat, and the Pali- speaking Buddhist missionary monks, we will never be able to learn, let alone get to know, if we remain as deaf, dumb and blind as Mr. Nalin de Silva, except to the effusions of the oracle, otherwise called the Mahavansa."
What is clear from the above is the total hatred of Mr. Naganathan towards the Mahavansaya. His total view is nothing but his total aversion. Let us assume that Mr. Naganathan is not deaf, dumb and blind. Now how did he come to the 'conclusion' or view or whatever that there were Tamil immigrants with their Saivaite priests presumably around the same time that the Prakrit-speaking immigrants came with the Buddhist monks. Or did the Tamil immigrants come much earlier? Where is the evidence? He has no source other than his 'total view'. His eyes are wide open so much so that he could see the Tamil immigrants and their Saivaite priests interacting with the Yakshas and Nagas and the other tribes scattered throughout the land. Sometimes this kind of experience is referred to as day dreaming. I suppose this is an example of the dynamic history of the country that the Tamil racists are talking about.
Mr. Naganathan at least appears to admit that the original Nagas in this country were not Tamils, as in his total view the Tamil immigrants have come later and interacted with them. That is a deviation from the Gnanapragasar "theory" that the original Nagas in the country were Tamils.
Continued in Part II.