THE KING AND THE FLAG - PART II
(1999 August 18)
Mr. E. A. V. Naganathan like many others of his ilk looks at the problem through the eyes of the westerners. For example Prof. Ranaweera A. L. H. Gunawardane looks at the history of the Sinhala nation through the eyes of Marx, Lenin and other westerners. For them the concept nation has to be understood the way it has been defined in a western context. The national flag, royal standard, heraldic symbols are all interpreted according to the western historians and others who have described them in their writings.
People like Mr. Naganathan seem to believe that the national flag has to be different from the royal standard in all countries at all times. However there is no clear definition of a royal standard though what is meant by the sovereign's personal flag is not something that is difficult to understand. Mr. Naganathan goes on to describe the personal flag of the queen of the U. K. and informs us that it is different from the Union Jack, which in any case depicts the Christian culture and demonstrates the importance of the saints.
If the lion flag was the personal flag of the king Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe what was the national flag of the Sinhale or Lanka? Those who can think only in terms of the concepts formulated in the west will say that the country had no national flag then. This position is correct only if one assumes that the concept of a national flag was had not been defined then. Those who try to understand the past from the concepts of the present always face problems of this type. The Tamil racists and the apologists of Tamil racism in trying to read the western concepts into the history very often deny the Sinhala nation not only a national flag but the nationhood itself.
Mr. Naganathan seems to know some "facts" of history but he does not know what happened in history. Perhaps it could be due to the imitative colonial education he has received. Let us listen to the "facts" of history as recited bombastically by Mr. Naganathan. " But let Mr. de Silva take the case of the U.K. In the one corner he will see the sovereign's personal flag that floats above the official residences she occupies. It comprises 4 quarters, the one occupied by the stylised 3 lions of England in horizontal formation; the next by the lion rampant of Scotland; next by the harp of Ireland and the last again by the lions of England......... .If at some future date republicanism prevails in the U.K. the Windsor or, to be more exact, Schlesweig - Holstein - Sonderbug - Glucksberg family can yet keep their personal flag, without prejudice to the Union Jack, which will continue with the same acceptance as now, as the national flag." Now before I proceed to deal with the Vadiga family I must say that Mr. Naganathan having known some "facts" of history assumes that he has the power to predict the "facts" of history of the future as well. How does he know that the republicanists will continue with the Union Jack after the Schlesweig - Holstein - Sonderbug - Glucksberg family is ousted? If at all they decide to continue with the Union Jack is it due to the fact that the Union Jack depicts the Christian culture in the U.K?
Let us come back to the Vadiga family of kings who were kings of Sinhale and hence Sinhala kings just as much the kings and queens of Schlesweig - Holstein - Sonderbug - Glucksberg family are English kings and queens. Now the question is why did the Vadiga family also choose the lion flag of the other families that ruled the Sinhale? Rajasinghe the second, Parakramabahu the sixth, Nissankamalla who came from Kalinga, Dutugemunu the liberator who defeated Elara the invader, Devanampiya Tissa (Devanampiya Theesam of the Tamil "scholars") all had an appeal for the lion flag and the lion symbol. What was the reason behind that?
Mr. Naganathan who exhibits his knowledge of "facts" of history apparently does not know that lion flag has been with the Sinhale from very ancient time. He says: " The lion flag, with sword or whip in the right paw, was the personal flag of the last king of Kandy. That much is certain. It would be interesting to trace its pedigree. Is there reliable documentary evidence of its having been the flag of King Rajasinghe II of Kandy, or of King Rajasinghe I of Sitawaka, or King Bhuvaneka Bahu of Kotte? I limit the study to this period, as there is a wealth of records from various sources relating to it. This would be the inductive method, associated with the scientific approach that would be expected of a scientist of the standing of Mr. de Silva. What, however, is not subject to is the fact that since Mr. E. W. Perera brought back the last king of Kandy's personal flag from the Royal Chelsea military hospital ......." At the outset I must say that I am not a scientist, meaning a western scientist, of any standing. I may have obtained a degree in science from a western Christian university in my youth, but it is a long time since I have realised that in Asia and Africa western science is operative mainly as a tool of cultural imperialism. I am not an agent of cultural imperialism.
Having said that I have to state that there is no so-called scientific approach. In western science like in other systems of knowledge, creation of knowledge is relative to a particular culture and very often it is a question of convincing the others by various methods. Co-consistency of the system within certain paradigms plays a part here but however, it is not the only criterion. Aesthetic values, probabilities, hegemonies all have a role to play. In any case even within the discipline of western philosophy of science, induction belongs to history. Perhaps that may be the reason why Mr. Naganathan, the fabler of historical "facts" thought of referring to induction. That particular discipline has come a long way since induction and anybody familiar at least with the works of Karl Popper would not have mentioned induction. By the way even the falsification of Popper belongs to history and Mr. Naganathan is well advised to memorise some "facts" relating to 'falsification of hypotheses'.
Now what is this inductive method Mr. Naganathan is talking about in relation to flags? Is he trying to say that if the lion flag has been used by the Kotte kings and the kings of Kandy other than Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe then we can generalise and proclaim that the lion flag was the flag of all the Sinhala kings, in the sense that they were the kings of Sinhaladeepa? Though I believe in the co-consistency within a certain paradigm, for the benefit of Mr. Naganathan let me quote at length from Mr. E. W. Perera. If Mr. Naganathan who has referred to the "fact" of Mr. Perera bringing the flag from the Chelsea hospital took the trouble to read fastidiously "Sinhalese Banners And Standards" by one Edward W. Perera he would have come across the following paragraphs.
"Banners were in use in India from the earliest ages. The Mahabharata (circa B.C. 600) described the emblems borne by the different monarchs on the field of Kurukshetra. Kings of Pandya, Chola, Chera, and Kerala had each their royal standard, emblazoned respectively with a fish, tiger, bow, and lion. The three lions on the gateway of Sanchi (circa. third century B.C.) have been identified as the royal arms of Ceylon, as the peacock on it signifies the banner of the Mayura. The arch contains a representation of the despatch of the bo-tree to Ceylon, and the symbols on either side of the panel depict the standard of Asoka and of the Sinhalese monarch Devanampiya Tissa. This is the first representation we have of the Sinhalese royal standard. The lion was the national symbol, from the fabled origin of the Sinhalese monarch Wijaya from the king of beasts. Even the Maha Vihara, the great Buddhist monastery of Anuradhapura, was laid down in the shape of a lion. The magnificent carved stone lion now in the Colombo Museum served as the pedestal of King Kirti Nissanka Malla (A. D. 1200-1209) of Polonnaruwa. The similarity of the Sinhalese national symbol to the heraldic lion is remarkable, but the lions of Sanchi were sculptured and the stone lion of Polonnaruwa was carved long before European influence had made itself felt.
The three-winged lion on the Sanchi gateway probably stood for the three divisions into which the island was divided. In the fifteenth century the national flag bore only a single lion, as may be seen from the following stanzas from the Perakumbasiritha (v. 91) ascribed to Sri Rahula (A. D. 1415-1467) :-
Deka hima sel eti siha dada uturu desa,
Aehi sindangana vena vena gatha me lesa,
Perakum rajuta sari nirindek tilo kusa,
Ohu ruwamaya pili bimbu pat dapana pasa,
which may be translated as follows:-
Behold the Himalayan height (i.e., snowy rampart) bearing the lion banner on the northern side,
There heavenly maids sing to the lute in this wise,
The only peer of King Parakum among the monarchs of the three worlds,
Is the reflection of his own image shown in the mirror."
(pages 6 and 7)
Irrespective of whether the Vijaya story is a myth or not ( I have explained the so called myth in the Sinhabahu theory in my series of articles on 'Myths and Scholars' ) it is clear that the lion has been the national symbol of the Sinhala people and the Sinhala Deepa from at least the time of king Devanampiya Tissa. If Mr. E. W. Perera's assertion that the three lions on the gateway of Sanchi represents the royal arms of Ceylon is correct then it means that the Asokan symbol has something to do with the Sinhala national symbol. Further during the time of the king Nissanka Malla who came from Kalinga and became the Sinhala king the lion has been the national symbol. I think Sigiriya is another important place that demonstrates the significance of the national symbol.
The reference to King Parakramabahu VI in the Perakumbasiritha clearly establishes that the lion has been the national symbol even during the Kotte period. It is significant that Mr. E. W. Perera refers to the fifteenth century flag as the national flag.
Mr. Perera says further: "A fragment of an old manuscript on flags in the library of the Malwatte Vihara records - 'The Sinhalese royal standard: a banner bearing the device of a lion holding a sword in its right paw. This was the flag of Sri Wickrama Raja Sinha, who became the Sinhalese king." (page 7)
The above record is significant. It refers to this particular banner as the Sinhalese royal standard and not the royal standard or the family flag of the Vadiga kings. It further says that Sri Wickrama Raja Sinha became the Sinhalese king. The person who became the king of the Sinhale was the Sinhala king, irrespective of his family, and his standard was the Sinhala royal standard.
"The symbol in a stone carving in the Colombo Museum, from the ruins of the ancient palace at Kotte, as also a stone lion in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, appear to be almost identical with the figure on the royal standard of the eighteenth century." (page 7).
"Dr. Daalmans, a Belgian physician, who visited Ceylon in 1687, described the royal standards borne at the military pageant held by the Dutch in Colombo in memory of the obsequies of Raja Sinha II (A.D. 1634-1687):- 'After this, that is after the company of sailors, followed four trumpeters and a kettledrum, all on horseback and in deep mourning, and the coat-of-arms of the King of Candien, which is a red lion on a golden field, to the best my recollection,........(page 8). As Mr. Perera has subsequently said the colours mentioned might not be correct but the fact is that long before the Vadiga kings, the lion had been the national symbol in the Sinhale.
On page 29 Mr. Perera gives the "general order of the chiefs and departments, with the flags assigned to them". The king is assigned the Sinhala rajakiya dajaya (Sinhalese royal flag), having the figure of a lion holding a sword. Under the Maha Disawanis we have the flags of the Hatara korale, (sun and moon) , Hat Korale (lion), Uva (swan). and Matale (white- sudu maha kodiya) . Then he lists the disawanis and their flags. What is important here is that the Maha Disawanis and the Disawanis had been assigned flags and the Disawas who looked after the Disawanis were in possession of these flags on behalf of the Disawanis. Similarly the lion flag was the flag of the country and it was in the possession of the king. The Sinhala king whether he belonged to the Mauriyan, Lambakarna, Vadiga or any other family was in possession of the Sinhala rajakeeya kodiya or the lion flag. The flag was not the flag of the family of the king but it was the flag of the royalty(rajyathva).
It is very likely that the country which had flags for the Disawanis had a flag for the entire country as well. That flag had the lion symbol as it was and is the national symbol. The difficulties arise when the historians and the others try to understand the lion flag through the royal standards and family banners of the kings in Europe. The lion flag in the days of the Sinhala kings was not the flag of the king but the rajakiya dajaya. The Sinhala history has to be understood in terms and concepts relative to and meaningful to that history and not through the western concepts that are meaningful in a western cultural context. It is unfortunate that due to the imitative colonial education that we have received most of us are stuck with concepts and theories which are meaningful in an European context but become misleading when applied to local situations.
I must also state that the lion flag does not belong to the Sinhala comprador bourgeois class. It has been in existence at least two thousand years before that spineless class was created by the British. I defend the lion flag because it has a historical value and the lion is the national symbol of the Sinhala people. People like Mr. Naganathan are against the national symbol of the Sinhala people simply because they aspire to deny the rightful place given to the Sinhala people, Sinhala culture, and the Sinhala history. Mr. Naganathan says that I do not belong the comprador class. Not only that I do not belong to the comprador bourgeois class I have no intention of becoming a member of that spineless class. Further the Marxist classification based on class, like most of the western concepts and theories are not applicable to our society. All that I have to say in this regard is that I was born as a son of Sinhala school teachers and in spite of the western education I have received I will live and die as a son of Sinhala school teachers.