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Monuments for the author of Mahavansa & the King Elara

| by Dr.Sripali Vaiamon

( July 15, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The reputed author of the great chronicle Mahavansa, Rev.Mahanama of the Deegasanda Senapathi Pirivena, Anuradhapura, highly praised the South Indian Chola king who ruled Pihiti Rata for 44 years as a KING OF JUST who was renowned as a righteous ruler. This may be the prime reason attributed him to rule the Sinhala country been a foreigner for such a lengthy period.

Chola, Pandya and Chera or Kerala were the three kingdoms that were in the southern India earned the term as Tamilakkam in the yore.

If I quote Rev.Mahanama in his monumental volume by promulgating the term Ujujathika suggests that he had an unequivocal regard to Elara although he was an invader. He had described Elara as Chola Ratta idhagamma Rajaththani Ujujathiko Elaro Nama Dhamilo. He further said that he ruled with even justice toward friends and foe on occasions of dispute and law. Nowhere else in the National chronical do we find such singular and unstinted bestow on a ruler comments Dr.James Rutnam on his article on the Tomb of Elara at Anuradhapura. Author elaborated to have even ordered the execution of his own son on the basis of a heinous crime where a calf has been killed while the son was driving his chariot. He was a peculiar figure in the history of Sri Lanka and one with particular resonance when taking into consideration the ethnic strife that was just over in the country. Although he was an invader to the northern region of Sri Lanka he had an image for us to consider as a wisest and most just monarch as highlighted in the Mahavansa. According to the chronicle King Dutugemunu didn’t want others to fight with Elara, but only he will restfactfully involved in as a duell of two kings.Elara’s nemesis had a great respect even at the time of the duell where he allowed first Elara to start the battle by hurling his dart and meanwhile king Dutugemunu had goad his elephant Kandula to pierce Elara’s elephant with his long tusks and in the process he has evaded Elara’s dart and aimed his dart accurately on his chest. When he was fallen down, breathed his last and died. He has immediately descended and publically expressed his condolence to the fallen king. Chronicle has recorded that he ordered to cremate him on the very spot with royal dignification and respectation.Subsequently arranged to build a monumental tomb where he was cremated. A pillar inscription said to have been set up near the tomb where it reads as follows: Let no man, prince or peasant in future pass this way riding in palanquin or litter with beating of drums.

On the history of early Cholas apparently there is little authentic written evidences available. The earlist datable reference to Chola is find in the 3rd century BC. Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of the 13th century with the rise of the Pandyan kingdom. Elara described as Damilo in Mahavansa.That means he is a Dravida according to the definition described in Fr. Caldwell’s A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian languages.Damila is not Tamil although grossly misused it in Sinhala, in Sri Lanka, which referred to Dravidians.It derived from Dramida.Tamils should be addressed as Tamils or Thamils.In Sinhala Demala. As Damila refers to Dravidian. It is strange and puzzling me when South India has earned a name as Tamil Country and a literary period as Tamil Sangam why inhabitants in the Chola, Pandya and Kerala regions were not addressed as Tamils.Moreover during this epoch where were the Tamils ? I have perused only two comprehensive books on the history of the Tamils. One was, History of the Tamils by P.T.Sirinivasa Iyengar and the other was The Tamils 1800 years ago by V.Kanakasabey. But didn’t come across any valid reason explicitly for this discrepancy. I am quite clueless on this episode.When Pandyan amalgamated with Chola it became Madras Presidency during the British period.In 1967 Chief Minister C.N.Annadorai declared it as Tamil Nadu. Let us analyze Mahavansa further with remarks expressed by writers and look into this ambiguity if anything tangible has been added later.

When I am scripting this article I accidentally came across a reproduction in the Web a lengthy article by one Mrs.Vasantha Nadarajan. B.A. , appeared in the Tamil Mirror News paper, Canada, under the caption-History of Ceylon Tamils-part 9- ...Where it says that there is no Indian historical records of anyone by the name Elara from Chola dynasty having invaded Elam at any time....! The only logical conclusion that could be drawn is that Ellalam was from North of Ceylon and not from South India.

Prof. S.Pthmanathan in his “Tamils in Ceylon” says-In the 2nd century BC.Elara,a nobleman of the Chola country,subdued the Sinhala ruler Asela and administered a major part of the Island from Anuradhapura for a period of 44 years.

Another para from madam Vasantha which is really degrading and provoking Sinhala Buddhists was this-

(The war tactics employed by him and the part played by his mother Viharamahadevi, contributed to a large extent to his success. Knowing Ellalaan army commander Thithapan’s lust for women,Thutu Gamini had paraded his mother in front of him to direct his attention and defeated his army.It was by stooping to such low level that Thutu Gamini was able to score the victory over Ellalaan forces.)

THIS MUST HAVE INSERTED WITH A MALICIOUS MANTALITY. I did not desire to peruse further, because it may have been an attempt to recreate history! And also to degrade the highly recocognized royal queen in the Srilankan history! History is not something that you create as a novel but you narrate what has happened in the past!

I have read so many history books on Sri Lanka plus archaeological documents but no where came across that Dutugemunu accompanied his mother to the war front.This is nothing but another malicious creation of madam Vasantha in her procreated history book on Ceylon Tamils. Oh! It is very unpleasant for a historian to make such a vicious comment!

Twenty five kings from South India have ruled Sri Lanka, particular\rly the northern region, starting from two horse traders Sena- Gutthika in 237 BC.Mahavansa has not identified the ethnicity of all the South Indian kings who ruled the island, most probably that they were all Dravidians but specific ethnicity was not quite apparent or observable at the time that he was gathering details for his monumental work where he ended all his chapters with a comment to judge that he is compiling it for the serene joy of the pious. Encyclopedia of Britannica remarks that in the yore and at present there are twenty Dravidian communities in South India and population wise Thelagu come first.Tamils second. As such specifying ethnicity may have become an enigma. Because all Tamils are Dravidians but all Dravidians are not Tamils.

Present day Tamil critiques condemned Mahavansa as bias and information are not accurate. Here I wish to quote a para from a half-page article I contributed to The I sland on Friday 25th May, 1990 with the caption Sinhala race and Vijaya myth, where I categorically affirmed; History is not a subject that could be completed. What historians, professors had firmly expressed yesterday will be disproved by students of tomorrow, based on facts of recent excavations and research findings.

In the same article I quoted 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.

It perhaps could be fitting with any chronicle.

Let’s refer to the truism of this statement by the research findings of the veteran archaeologist, Dr.Siran Deraniyagala, former Director General of Archeological Dept. where he referred to a recent excavation conducted by him at Anuradhapura.

He revealed that there had been a civilization at Anuradhapura 400 years prior to the advent of Vijaya. According to Mahavansa Vijaya arrived here on the day that Gauthama Buddha attained Perinirvana.That was in 543 BC.

Mahavansa referred to this period of history where Vijaya met Kuveni while she was spinning thread. That clearly indicates they were wearing clothes. Not an uncivilized generation. Moreover, she has revealed that there is a kingdom in the region by the name SIRISAWASTHU and the king is MAHAKALASENA. But Rev.Mahanana had started the list of kings that were ruling the country with the name of Vijaya. It should have been, MAHAKALASENA. Author at that time could not have possibly foreseen the recent revelation made by the acknowledged archaeologist. As such history that has been written earlier had to be recasted in view of the recent findings. And the century in view of this revelation could be 900 BC.This is something extremely important to Sinhala inhabitants in Sri Lanka. Internet has enumerated the composition of Mahabharata commenced in 900 BC, Monier Monier William says it was in 1200 BC.To be in safe side let us take 900 BC. For the first time I came across the term Sinhala in the second book, Sabha Parva, of Mahabharata where there was a stanza depicting a SINHALA deputation from Lanka has gone to the consecration ceremony of king Udistara in India with various gifts. I have given a comprehensive description on this along with other ancient Sanskrit books,viz.Markandya Purana, Bhagawatha and Bharatha Sanhitha where the term Sinhala had been embodied in the aforesaid issue of the Island published on 25th May 1990. Incidently Monier Monier William in his first edition of his English – Sanskrit Dictionary, has not used the Indian pronunciation of M sound for required words but utilized N. As in Mahavamsa he had emphasized Mahavansa.For the Sinhala tounge it was quite easy and natural) and also later I came across the term SINHALA in Mahabaratha Bk.2 Ch. 33 and Ch.51,Bk.3.Ch.51,Bk 7 Ch.20. where Mr.Kisari Mohan Ganguli translated all the eighteen books of Mahabaratha.

Dr.Ruwan Rajapakse who authored THE CONCISE MAHAVANSA, revealed his opinion on the contents of Mahavansa as thus: We must not forget that the Mahavansa is not a dry chronicle in the modern sense of the word but a poem.Embelishments and sometimes also exaggerations may occur. But within these limits I have the strong impression and whoever reads the Mahavansa without prejudice will have the same....that the author at least wished to tell the truth. He was perhaps sometimes misled by his education and by his conviction, on account of his priestly mode of viewing things, but he never tells a falsehood intentionally.”

German philologist, Wilhelm Geiger, who did a yeoman service to the history of Sri Lanka comments, Mahavansa is considered to be a work of art, written in Kavya style. He further comments in his ‘The culture of Ceylon in medieval times,’ it would be too rash simply to set aside this ancient legend which contains a kernel of history wrapped up in the tales and invention of a pious tradition. ( Preface, XX11)

Elara according to what the late Prof.Mendis Rohanadeera (historian) surmised that he was a Jainist and not a Hindu. That was why he had observed non-violance during the tenure of his kingship. He treated all his subjects very kindly and respectfully. He supposed to have provided all the necessities and facilities for them to observe their religious practices. Almost all of them who were in Pihiti Rata may have been Sinhala Buddhists.

Prof. A.D.T.E.Perera contributing an article to the Vidyodaya University Journal. Vol.3 No.2, in 1970. Under the caption, Elara, King of Anuradhapura, he writes, A chapter in the history of Ceylon has often been enigmatic to us and provide avenue for thinking on account of the availability of certain factors that would help to reinterpret, this particular chapter wholly,to bring in completely different picture. This is the Chapter that deals with the saga of king Elara.......it is interested to sift and study in the light of the material made available to us by recent researchers. We hesitate to accept king Elara being identified as a Chola from South India. On the other hand we have a good cause for Elara as a non-Tamil, as interpreted by certain Tamil writers.

There are criticisms with regard to the material in Mahavansa as myth and just erroneous embellishments. Prof.Perera says, No, it is exactly not so. We have to analyze each and every instant and judge by the circumstances of the situations where he had to gather the information of the relevant events. Otherwise erudite scholars would not have praised Mahavansa as one of the remarkable historical documents in existence.Unrivelled as a dynastic narrative of an ancient and cultural civilisation. This must not basically evaluate in bias attitude with a hateful mentality merely to expose unfounded vindication. Of course if there is something erroneous due to lack of facts and evidence we may have to analyze in correct perspective.

If necessary an erudite panel could be appointed and the findings could be published as an another TIKA.A commentary.

Wikipedia described Elara, as Manu Neeth Cholan, a king from Chola kingdom; referred to as one of Sri Lanka’s wisest and most just monarchs,

Let us consider why king Dutugemunu was motivated to declare war against a noble, just monarch, Dhrmista king like Elara. He had openly proclaimed that he is having this exercise not to glorify himself as a king but for the protection and sustenance of the Buddhism.

Dutugemunu`s father, King Kavantissa had indirectly or directly motivated or allowed him to felt that it is utmost necessary, Pihitirata should come under a Sinhala Buddhist king as Mayarata is already under a Sinhala Buddhist king, Kelani tissa.It is because of the very reason Rev.Mahanama composed that courages lyrics, as a form of a reply to a question posed by his beloved mother, when he was coiled himself and sleeping in a distressed position. For which prince responded- Over in the South there is a messive dumb ocean and in the North outrageous Tamils. How am I to stretch my limbs and sleep?

King Kavantissa after the completion of the pinnacle laying ceremony of the Ungula Chethiya and thereafter the alms giving for Mahasanga he requested that they must see two brothers will never have tussels each other for the kingship: but there is a great battle ahead for the Elder.

King had enlisted enough youth and trained them well in advance on battle-crafts.Recruited ten Yodhayas with gigantic strength. Taught all of them the secret tactics on battle field in the war-front. In my earlier paragraphs I illustrated the tactics adapted at the battle between two great kings.
When recapturing the saga of this episode of Sri Lankan history, It is possible to have an impression that, if not Dutugemunu , Lanka would have been another Indian Colony today.

A few weeks back I contributed two articles to Sri Lanka Guardian on the hate politics of Jayaram Jayalalitha and Mutuwel Karunanidi.Before winding up I feel it is quite appropriate to cite a few information from these articles to look back and view the present in terms of Mahavansa.

Madam Jayalaitha’s predecessors somewhere in 1964 when the Indian Govt.introduced Hindi as the official language for down south, DMK was totaly against the Main Govt.and to display their displeasure a party woman of DMK got herself immolated.

When LTTE was fighting against the citizens in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have dreamt, if the terrorists become successful Tamil Nadu will get amalgamated with them and carve a bigger region to claim for a separate Govt. for South India. The danger is precarious. In consultation with the late President Jayawardana he sent IPKF battalion to crush the world’s treacherous outfit of terrorist movement who grabbed the bread winners and children of their own Tamil families and made them as shields to get protected the forerunners of the movement. When this was embroiled Rajiv was assassinated in Tamil Nadu by a LTTE suicide bomber on the May 21st 1991. Karunanidi and Jayalalitha are famous for hate politics. Still the predecessors’ dream may not have difused.They still try to keep company with North of Sri Lanka. Daily agitating that their fishermen are convicting by Sri Lankan Navy.Once the Chief Minister filed a law suit to claim the righte of the Kachchative Island which was discussed amicably by the two great ladies, the late Mrs.Indira Gandhi and the late Mrs.Srimao Bandaranayke and entrusted to Sri Lanka. Recently young boys from Sri Lanka went over to Tamil Nadu to play a friendly soccer match, she went into frenzy and inhumanly driven them away. Even the pilgrims who went over there were badly disappointed and driven back. IPL cricket participants from Sri Lanka were not allowed to step into Tamil Nadu. It was on the June 26,2013 Chief Minister forced to remove the Sri Lankan defence officers from the defence training college of Wellington.

The deputation with the leader of the opposition Mrs.Susima Swaraj visited the devastated region in the North of Sri Lanka. Jayalalitha made nasty comments for which she replied that it was not a picnic or a junk trip. We were satisfied with the development activities and she made sincere comments. These situations eventually would have been orchestrated the Chief Minister to crop up a strong undue grudge with Sri Lankan and Indian Govt. This I extracted to show if Rev.Mahanama would have depicted these situations he would have become subject to a barrage of criticism.

Sri Lankan absolutely have no grudge with Sri Lankan Tamils.We must live with them cordially and amicably as fellow citizens under one banner and move forward peacefully for a prosperous country.Everyone should treat them as own brothers and sisters who are now getting all the benifits from the government.

One of the Tamil parties in the North,TNA is kicking up a row over the 13th amendment.Hon.Minister,Basil Rajapaksha had a discussion with the Indian Minister of External Affairs recently but his view was not to dilute or make any amendment, however land and police powers stipulated in may have to be diluted if it seems to be vulnerable to the smooth administration in the country. If disruptive activities launch by the rival Tamil parties on the infrastructure constructions already initiated on the allocated lands it will become an bad reflexion over those who granted aids or loans.Therefore this issue have to be decided soon by the PSC, perhaps after the election of the northern council which has been scheduled to be held on the 25th of September 2013.

Now let us come back to our main theme where we have to refer to the compilation of a monumental task like Mahavansa, the compiler in that remote epoch of 5th century AD., would have involved in colossal amount of ground work, viz. collecting accurate information with available data, statistics and other required material from every possible sources and informants to build up in a trustful and believable dispoition to be used in generation after generation. Perhaps certain variable material would have to be changed and take another aspect, another shape in distant future on results of further excavations and subsequent findings. That may be the dubious reason why the author in every chapter inculcated with an attribution- Serene joy of the pious or more clearly as we could be presumed, Ithi sujanath pasende sanvegaththaya kathe Mahavansa.

During the past 16 centuries no erudite scholar has ever undertaken such a gigantic historical or any other literary work to be treated as a monumental masterpiece. If there is any shortcoming in this chore due to lack of authenticity of the facts and evidences available at the era of the compilation undoubtedly there is provision to be suplimented with another Tika, after the findings of a recognized, competent panel delegated by the Head of the Government. This process has to be conducted relevant to any ancient historical events time to time if there are no acceptable evidence.

I am quite confident ongoing descriptions of the just-King Elara of Chola Dynasty and Rev.Mahanama of the Deegasanda Senapathy Pirivana, the author of the reputed great Epic, Mahavansa will definitely earn the plausibility and eligibility to erect their statues in two or three prominent places in Sri Lanka to be in rapport with the long-drawn history of the country.This will pave way for the younger generation to get familiarized with the subjects as well as for the foreign tourists now pour in to get a glimpse of the history of Sri Lanka.

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