History minus evidence is no history

| by Dr.Sripali Vaiamon

( May 06, 2012, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) Dr.Mortimer Wheeler, an acknowledged historian and archaeologist, referred to writing of history in an introduction to a comprehensive history book of an Indian author as thus: A dozen years ago it could have been written, dozen years hence it will have to be rewritten.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where there is a documented history spanning over two and half millennia, according to our historians. Deepavansa and Mahavansa are the two cryptic chronicles compiled in the 4th and the 5th centuries respectively. But some of the prominent events depicted are minus evidence.
History is a subject that could not be completed. When historians, professors and those who have obtained doctorates on solitary thesis, what firmly expressed yesterday will be disproved by students today based on facts and artifacts discovered from recent excavations and relevant research findings.
Qualities of a good historian, according to Professor Vaughen who was at Oxford University, is the principle of attraction to facts.
Dr.Siran Deraniagala, former Director General of Archaeology, Harward Fellow in Pre-history, who carried out excavations at Anuradhapura recently arrived at a conclusion with the findings yielded that there had been a civilization 3 to 400 years prior to the advent of Aryan Vijaya with his entourage around 700 males. C 14 process proved that the inhabitants of early Anuradhapura were associated with iron technology, paddy cultivation and horse breeding. The artifacts found had inscribed with some kind of Brhami characters. That means even writing ability must have been there to a certain degree. Our prestigious chronicle, Mahavansa which impressed us to believe that Vijaya was the progenitor of the Sinhala race was nullified with the findings of Dr.Deraniyagala’s excavation. The term Sinhala, as Seehala occurred in the Deepavansa,-Lankadeepo aium ahu seehena Seehalayithi.
Mahavansa recorded Vijaya and entourage arrived on the day of the Buddha’s demise. Rajavaliya, another historical document reveals that they arrived seven days after the Buddha’s Parinirvana. Which one is correct? Laymen can’t decide.These matters although not much significant have to be rectified, for the sake of general public as well as particularly younger generation. The year has taken by Mahavansa is 543 BC. That was the year according to the Parinirvana had taken place. This is again quite different from the years elicited by other authorities. This I have illustrated in my book.,’Views on Buddhism,Vol 1. Pps.22 and 23.This is also a matter that has to be finalized by World Buddhist Forum and a panel consists of erudite scholars and archaeologists.
Theravada, Heenayana had a conflict until 1950.This was rectified by the World Buddhist Forum and now there is no controversy.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where there is a documented history spanning over two and half millennia, according to our historians. Deepavansa and Mahavansa are the two cryptic chronicles compiled in the 4th and the 5th centuries respectively. But some of the prominent events depicted are minus evidence.
Mahavansa elaborates Prince Vijaya and entourage was banished and shipped at Vanga, that is present Bangaladesh, which is in the East of India, and on the way according to Mahavansa they anchored at Supparaka, a few hundred kilo meters below Mombai. Deepavansa, the earliest extant attempt at recording historical traditions in the country, says they touched Barukachcha. Which is also in the western coast of India. Compilers were most probably not acquainted with geography of the Indian sea coasts. If they were shipped from Bangaladesh, it is not possible for them to touched down at the ports referred above.
Indian historian Dr.A.L.Basham,categorically states Vijaya was a trader and came from Sihor in the Kathiawar District of Gujarath and never from Vanga in the eastern coast.According to Kautilliya Trade transections had taken place in Gujarath and Sri Lanka.The port they had used was Manthai,the present Manner. Our veteran historian Prof.Paranavithana totally agreed with him.
Now let us look into the entire episode portrayed by Rev.Mahanama of Deegasanda Pirivena,
Compiler of Mahavansa borrowed the entire Suppadevi yarn from Ghata Jathakaya, where a demon kept a damsel in a cave. Could it be biologically possible for a woman and a lion to have copulation and procreate human children as depicted in Mahavansa?
If someone deliberate how the lion kept Suppadevi in a cave and daily close the door which was a massive stone only the lion could moves it. Could anyone believes how on earth a woman could live in such a cave until she gave birth to two children and survived till the son grew up to carry the mother and her sister on his shoulders and moved the stone door and vacated the cave? Where on earth they pass urine and excreta. Was it inside the cave itself. There was no reference for washing They would have been lived like animals. What a stinky story, our adventurous priest has built up.
To built up this fictitious story he has borrowed material from Janaka Jathakaya referred to a ship wreck with 700 passengers and Valahassa Jathakaya related about a shipwreck in the area where Vijaye landed. Nalapana Jathakaya gives a story where the retinue of the Bodhisattva visited a pond to quench their thirst but an ogre captured them. When the Bodhisattva visited and found that their footprints on the pond were in one direction only, he realized what had befallen. He cut a reef, knocked off the knots and drank water without stepped into the pond. Then Yakkini appeared. He pulled out the sward. Yakkini got frightened when he threatened and she agreed to release all the captives. Identical yarn is engulfed in the Vijaya story. So the entire Vijaya episode was built on this and there is absolutely no evidence.
Mahavansa depicted Sinha lunathi sihalo! Lion was killed earned the term Sinhalese. Which is again a myth. Any way he has given an apology, I am writing Mahavansa for the satisfaction of the public. Ithi sujanath pasanda sanvegaththaya kathey Mahavansa. As such 80% of this believed to be a cooked up story. This is not embedded in any of the recognized Indian literature.This may have to treats as a fiction.
The term Pasanda, satisfaction, had been incorrectly translated in the Mahavansa Tika,as piety.Ancient kings who were the very embodiment of piety have taken erroneously and made an unpardonable error reflect in most of our historical events where there are no evidence. It was in 1837 ,George Turner ,CCS who managed to trace a Tika from a temple at Mulkirigala and with the help of Buddhist monks translated accurately as satisfaction.
Vijaya was not the progenitor of Sinhala race or the originator of the Sinhala language.
The term Sinhala exists from about 900 BC. In comparison to Sanskrit literature. It coincides with the period that Dr.Deraniyagala’s excavation at Anuradhapura. I came across it in the second Parva of Mahabaratha, where a Sinhala deputation has gone to the Royal Consecration ceremony of the king Udhistara with gifts such as pearls, conches, sea beryls, elephant tusks and gems. It has further described what the chieftain of the deputation had dressed for the occasion.(2-27-48.MB)
Compilation of the Mahabaratha was commenced just after the completion of Chaturveda. These were not written on any script but in the brain, where they memorize anything and everything. According to Internet it was 900 BC. But Monier Monier Williams and Prof.Van Buitenen who did the English translation of Five Parvas, Believed it to be the 12th century BC. Nevertheless, to be in safe side until the accurate date discovered with evidence let’s confined to 900 BC.
Epics are concerned that the Mahabaratha is the second in antiquity in the world as the Epic of Gilgamesh supposed to be the first. But pity that some of the clay tablets of this epic inscribed in Cuneiform characters were among the exhibits in the Bagdad Museum that had been destroyed by the recent US attack, as a result some had been looted by those who knew the value of the material. Incidentally the term Bandara I came across for the first time in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Besides this several Indian classics, viz, Brahath Sanghitha, Marcandya Purana, Baghawatha, explicitly carried the term Sinhala. It is mentioned in the Sanskrit commentaries of Jaina Canonical works. In relevance to an article contributed to the Ceylon Historical Journal,Vol. 2.by Dr.B.J.Perera and also in an inscription of the king Samudraguptha,which says ,Sakamurundak Sayinhalakad, which is obviously referred to Sinhala.
Sinhala scholar, a philologist, Prof.K.N.O.Dharmadasa who contributed the ‘Foreword’ to my Historical publication, ‘Pre-historic Lanka to end of Terrorism’ He affirmed that there is an accepted affinity for the Sinhala but my amazement is how it has so explicitly gone into the earlier Sanskrit literature. This fact cannot be easily ignored. Kishan Ganguly who translated all the 18 books of Mahabaratha into English, clearly displayed term Sinhala and Lanka in Bk. 2 Chapter 33, Bk 3 Ch.51 and Bk.7 Ch.20 where he referred to Kurushestara war that Adithya and soorya names were existing as in Lanka today.
I firmly believe who are interested to know exact details with evidence urge the Government to appoint a panel consists of erudite scholars to excavate the whole hidden treasure.
Dr.Paranavithana affirmed the term Sinhala is Sanskrit, in Pali it is Seehala and in Prakrit Sayinhala. In the footnote of his Seegiri gee he comments that the term Hela occurs at Seegiri Graffiti as an equivalent of Elu or Illu. Sinhala is indigenous to the Island.
The late Mr.Munidasa Cumaratunga contributing an article to “Prabhasodaya” in 1936,had very explicitly defined that Sinhala was the term used in ancient time for the entire country as well as the language. Now it is being used only for the language. Mudliyar Rasanayagam in his ‘Ancient Jaffna’ relates that the people came to be known as Sinhalese not because they were the descendants of a lion, but because they populated the land called Ilam, Silam, Sinhalam or Singalam. Sir.Cunningham in Geography of India,described that Ceylon was known to Tamils as Ilam, Illumandalam.The Island also was known as Heladiva, Heludiva as Elu or Hela was the language of the inhabitants.Defining the Tamil term Eelam,The Tamil Lexicon published by the Madras University refers it as the land of Illu speaking people. Illu was the language of the inhabitants of ancient Lanka.
Mudliyar Rasanayagam himself confirms Ceylon was known to Tamil as Eelam.Ilam or Ilumandalam which also was known as Hela Diva or Helu Diva as Elu or Illu or Hela was the language of the people.
I can clearly remember present Governor, Wi. Ja. Mu. Lokubandara, when he was holding the portfolio of Minister of Education, evinced an interest to re-introduce history as a separate subject into school curriculum. History is a subject that every citizen with a patriotic feeling should be conversant with. With that glorious intention, if I am correct, he appointed a panel to rewrite the history of the country in correct perspective, as it contains so many mythical embellishments minus evidence. But I believed he could not implement the proposed project.
Couple of years back Swarnawahini, television channel broadcast a series of discussion, with veteran historians and archaeologists in the country, which was very commendable for the laymen of the country to have an apprehension. But as I observed there were no proper conclusions and decisions.
About one and half year back His Excellency the President directed the Director of Archaeology to rewrite the history of the country in correct perspective so that it could be re-introduced as a separate subject to school curriculum. It was not an easy project.
However it is up to the Sinhala scholars to propose the Government in power to appoint a well acknowledged panel to discuss all these matters in detail and assigned the Director of archaeology to serve as the Chairman in his/her official capacity.
Any controversial matters relevant to history should be investigated, discussed, find evidence and correctly established for the sake of the present generation and the posterity.
It is up to the Sinhalese of Sri lanka.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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