A Response: Mahavamsa Mentality - Part 06 (Final)

Can the charge of “Racism” leveled against the chronicle be sustained?

by J.L. Devananda

6. Saivism and the Ancient Hindu shrines

(February 05, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am not going to comment much on the antiquity/existence of five recognized ‘Eeswararms' of Siva before the arrival of Thero Mahinda because until now, even with all the latest advanced technology, there is no proper archaeological research conducted on them.

The worship of Siva was prevalent in Sri Lanka from even before the mission of Mahinda in the 3rd century BC, the mission that resulted in king Tissa of Anuradapura and many of his subjects being converted to Buddhism. After all, the father of this Anuradapura ruler was Muta Siva and his brother was Maha Siva whose names imply association with the worship of Siva. The numerous occurrences of the personal name Siva in the early Brahmi records and also in the early Pali chronicles leave us in no doubt that the cult of Siva was prevalent in the island, unless of course some etymologist/linguist comes up with a different meaning for the term Siva in the early Sri Lankan/Indian languages.

The earliest reference in the Pali Chronicles to the Saiva Shrine at Trincomalee is found in the Mahavamsa (Ch. XXXVII, vv. 40-44). It states that Mahasen‘built also the Manivihara and founded three viharas destroying the temple of the gods the Gokanna, Erukavilla, and another in the village of the Brahman Kalanda’. In a note below Geiger the official translator of the Mahavamsa, states, “according to the Tika, the Gokanna Vihara is situated on the coast of the Eastern sea, the two other Viharas in Ruhuna, the Tika also adds everywhere in the Island of Lanka he established the doctrine of the Buddha having destroyed the temples of the unbelievers, i.e. having abolished the Phallic symbols of Siva and so forth”. In his foot note quoting the Pali version of the Tika Geiger clarifies that King Mahasen destroyed symbols of Siva:

“Evam sabbaththa Lankadipamhi kuditthikAnam Alayam viddhaamesetvA, SivalingadAyo nAsetvA buddhasAsanam eva patittahapesi”

If what the Tika says is to be accepted, Ruhuna and the Eastern coast would appear to have been early homes of Saivaism, the Tamil religion par excellence. The authors of the Pali Chronicles and the monk author of the later 13th century AD Tika were Buddhist priests, who at that time were the bitterest opponents of Saivaism and those who supported it in Sri Lanka, as we see from their writings. The truth and accuracy of the statements made by the commentator cannot be verified. It has however been pointed out that the unknown writer of the Tika (who also mentioned about the mysterycal ‘Vamsa texts' known as ‘Sihala Atthakatha') had used his piety and his imagination rather than verify facts to explain the allusions found in the Mahavamsa.

Coming over to historical data furnished by Dr. Vigneswaran, it is his view having examined many sources that the original Thirukoneswaram temple is under sea. The original temple now under sea was a rock cave temple built around an earlier existing Shivalingam.

What is important is not what is said in the ‘Mahavamsa’, or Tika or the thevaaram that the ancient Tamil Saiva poet, Thirignanasampanthar sang on 'Theiruketheesvaram' and 'Thirukoneswaram' or the reference to Siva temple in relation to Raavana in Ramaayana or what Dr. Paul E. Peiris declared at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society or the remains of several Saiva shrines unearthed at Anuradapura, or king Sena1 (833 – 853) getting converted to Saivism or even what Dr. Vigneswaran furnished. What is needed is an extensive archaeological research that is still pending.

Professor C. Pathmanathan suggested that systematic excavation done in the Trincomalee district could bring valuable historical evidence to establish not only the existence of the ancient symbols of Siva but also the history of Tamils in the country.

As Professor of Archaeology in the University of Ceylon, Paranavitana also functioned as the editor for publishing an authoritative history of the country. He admitted that he had rejected some portions of a Tamil contributor to the volume on the ancient period of Lankan history, because those portions didn’t fit into what he considered Lankan history. Prof. Paranavitana was a non-Buddhist but today we have people like Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero, the former leader of Jathika Hela Urumaya doing archaeological research especially in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Tamil ancient inscriptions, Hindu deity statues, and other artefacts found in favour of Tamils, suddenly disappearing is not a surprise.

Regarding Buddha’s three visits, another creative imagination of the great poet Ven. Mahanama, Mr. De Silva says, let it remain in the realm of belief just like many other myths. With the modern technology, it is not a herculean task to find the antiquity of the three ‘chaityas’ despite its renovation/embellishment but who would want to shoot themselves on their own foot? It is easy to rule/preach the masses if they remain gullible.


Today the Sri Lankan Tamils have lost everything and are reduced to refugees in their own land. It is a bitter historical truth that, it was not only the colonial rulers who were responsible for this state of affairs but also the competitiveness, superiority complex, caste discrimination, disunity, jealousy, lack of co-operation and lack of patriotism among the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is unlikely this situation can be changed until the Tamil politicians and officials truly realize the gravity of the situation and apply themselves sincerely to solving these urgent problems which still exists within the Tamil community.

Let me quote the powerful saying “United we stand, divided we fall”. The divided Tamils who were struggling for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka do not even deserve a federal solution. The unity and solidarity among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans (North, East, Upcountry, Colombo and the Tamil speaking Muslims) is the number one priority. Unless and until all the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka unite, they do not deserve any political solution. These people (leaders) have to decide whether or not the Tamils are to continue living as refugees. The best lesson they can learn is from their own Sinhalese brethren with whom they have lived for many centuries. Their unity (irrespective of their differences) in defeating the LTTE should be admired.

The fall of LTTE is one good thing that has happened to Sri Lankans and especially to the Sri Lankan Tamils. If it had continued for another few decades, it would have reduced the Sri Lankan Tamils (Demelas) to the state of Veddas, another indigenous population that lives in the island from pre-historic period. What development have they done to the land/people of Vanni within their 25 years of self rule with millions of dollars they received from the Tamil Diaspora, other than fighting a losing war and making the people refugees in their own land?

Unfortunately, the present government has also succumbed to the Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-nationalists (obsessed with Mahavansa mindset) masquerading as Patriots with their hidden agenda to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic state. By encouraging certain myopic actions such as erecting Buddha statues in places where there are no Buddhists, Sinhala Only National anthem, and so on and by delaying the political solution, they are only aiding to spawn another Prabakaran. For the Tamil speaking people, Sri Lanka still remains as a land of broken promises and shattered dreams. Let us not repeat the bitter history again by falling back to the 1956 era.

These are some of the important and critical issues that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) have to look into if the government is genuine in working towards finding a lasting solution for an ethnically peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.


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