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Mahavansa , Compiled For The Serene Joy And Emotion Of The Pious

| by Dr.Sripali Vaiamon

( January 27, 2014, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) This piece of literature has been compiled for the “serene joy and emotion of the pious.” Not for the general readership. Because there are some events look historical but not authentic as there is no evidence or facts. For devotees with piety those may sound as real. Particularly when a Buddhist monk has done the composition of a story they have more faith. They grasp as real story. They will never reject but on the contrary praise all situations are genuine and wholeheartedly believe. If an elderly person says the idea of lion having coitus with a woman they open their mouths and believe it as an adventurous truth. If the woman bears children as a result they never disbelieve. This is exactly what had happened in Suppadevi and lion’s story in which the origination of the Sinhala race etched. But according to science reproduction of normal human children by animal sperm and human egg is beyond reality. However let us touch a bit of the story as elaborated in Mahavansa. The compiler Rev. Mahanama of the Deegasanda Pirivana at Anuradhapura built up the story with the help of a few Jathaka stories, such as Nalapana, Walahassa, Janaka, Padakusala Manawa and Devadhamma. King of Vanga got married to a queen of Kalinga where they had a beautiful daughter, Suppadevi. Royal soothsayers prophesised she will one day elope with a lion and live in the jungle. Royal parents thoroughly guarded right round the palace to prevent this adverse mishap. But somehow or other she escaped and joint a caravan that was heading towards Lata Desha in the Indus valley region at the western end of India.

A long way and a lonely road. When they reached Lata Desh or present Gujarath where there was a small town called Sinhapur or Sihor. Where the name has been earned as it was the only area in India Asiatic lions were living in the adjacent hilly forest. When the caravan reached that region a lion has pounced upon and those who were in the caravan have run helter-skelter accept Suppadevi. Mahavansa described the lion wagged its tail and came over to her perhaps like a tamed animal. She who was aware with the soothsayers’ prediction stroked its lovely fur and got friendly. Lion makes her to get on to her back and she did and then slowly walked into a jungle cave. They live there and begot a boy and a girl, who were named as Sinhabahu and Sinhaseevali. They were living in that cave minus ventilation or light and it has a stone door only lion could open. They were inside the cave whole day until the boy reached 16. Just imagine the situation! When the boy asked mother why they are living in a dungeon like this she had recollected the whole story and said that they are royal people. He wanted to leave the cave and escape. So he did. When they arrived at the Royal Palace narrated the story and king was fully convinced and allowed them to stay. When the lion found they are missing came to the town and ravaged the whole area. King agreed to offer a 1000 gold to whoever kill the animal. Vijaya agreed and with one arrow he killed the grandpa. Now without lengthening the story lets go to the end. When the old king died Sinhabahu became the king. Sinhabahu and Sinhaseevali lived as wife and husband. They had so many children and the eldest was Vijaya who was a boisterous character. He had so many followers, around 700 who were violent in disposition and involved in various nefarious activities. Kings’ subjects complained many a time. Ultimately they were banished by shaven half side of their heads in a ship. Their ship landed near present day Puttalam in Sri Lanka. They named it Thambapanni. It was on the day that Buddha was demised. According to Mahavansa year was 543 BC. They had met a woman of yakka tribe, kuveni, who reveals that there is a kingdom called Sirisawastu and a king name Mahakalasena. However, According to Mahavansa origination of Sinhalese started from Vijaya. That means the history of Sinhalese according to Mahavansa is from the descendents of a human and an animal, the lion.

Dr.Ananda W.P.Guruge and historian John M. Senaviratna referring to the union of Suppadevi and lion deliberated in their expressions that it was an outlaw or robber chief ,named Sinha (lion) who with his men fell upon the caravan to plunder. It was quite possible as there were plunderers in the lonely roads in by gone era. In that case why so strongly they had etched the term Sinhala for their descendants and depicted with a lion in the national flag?

Couple of days before Christmas there was a TV forecast to the effect of a massive ice storm. Prior to that in the afternoon I crossed over the road to collect letters from the letterbox. When I returned I could not open up the house door. My palms were frozen as I was not wearing gloves. I asked for a pliers from next door lady. With that tried to open. But the key was broken. So I had to be in her house and initiate a call to my daughter to come with a locksmith. From the lady I learned that they are Gujaratians and her father was there he was 78 years old. She introduced to me as a good historian. I asked him about the Vijaya story. He said it is a truth and described well in their folk tales which now has gone to the history. It was a true lion. He confirmed. But ethically it can never be justifiable. Moreover offspring inherit the genes of their parents. Each chromosome contains smaller segment of DNA known as genes. These genes become prominent in the offspring. Therefore human and animal cannot produce normal human children. Even if we believe what Dr.Guruge depicted is it justifiable to name the race as Sinhala? Historically it is from the Mahavansa depiction the Sinhala race was originated. Even the list of kings started with Vijaya and not with Mahakalasena, although it was discussed between Kuveni and Vijaya.Professor Ellawala who involved in research of Mahavansa categorically said that the early part of Mahavansa is far beyond reality. In that case how to justify the ongoing story! A scholar like Prof.Nalin de Silva could furnish an acceptable answer or at least an ecstatic view.

Prior to this picture of history in the Mahavansa the terms Sinhala and Lanka were exist in the country. Archaeologist, Siran Deraniyagala revealed through his recent excavation that there was a big civilization at Anuradhapura 400 years prior to the advent of Vijaya. Prior to that there were four major tribes called Deva, Naga, Yakka and Raksa in the country who were speaking a dialect called Illu or Hela. Professor J.B.Dissanayake and erudite scholar Arisen Ahubudu named the combination of the four with hela as sivu hela, which became Sihala. Much prior to that, Terms Sinhala and Lanka appeared in Mahabaratha very prominently. In the bk.1 Ch.177.bk.2 chs.33 and 51 and bk.7 ch.20. In the bk.2 there is a description where a Sinhala deputation from Lanka has gone to the consecration ceremony of the king Udistara with gifts such as pearls, conches, sea beryls, elephant tusks and gems. It has further described what the Chieftain had dressed for the occasion.( 2-27-48) Compilation of the Epic according to Internet has started in 900 BC. Monier Monier Williams who compiled the first Sanskrit English Dictionary believed it as 1200 BC. Epics are concerned Mahabaratha is the second in antiquity in the world where as Epic of Gilgamesh supposed to be the first. Other than this, term Sinhala occurred in several ancient Sanskrit texts such as, Bhagawatha, Markandya Purana, Brahath Sanghitha and Jaina canonical works. Archaeologists revealed there were people in the country from very early period. The skeleton of a woman that had been unearthed from an excavation pit at BulathSinhala was determined as 37,000 years. One at Batadombalena, Kuruvita 28,000 years. As such the origination of Sinhala language and the race yet to be traced with meticulous excavations and also with possible scrutinizing of old Sanskrit literature available at several university archaic libraries in India as the term Sinhala is Sanskrit.Dr. Senarath Paranavithana in the foot note of Seegri Gee described that the term Hela is presence in Kurutu Gee and the term Sinhala is Sanskrit,in Pali it is Seehala and in Prakrit, Sainhala.

The significant embalm of SRI PADA was the devotional idea borrowed from Afganisthan which was earlier known as Bacteria where there was Buddhism prior to Sri Lanka. They who built the first Buddhist statue at Gandhara and massive Buddha statues at Bamian range. They who carved Sri Pada with innumerable symbols that were absorbed apparently from Mahayana. The idea of foot prints of Buddha was first borrowed from Afganistan perhaps by Sanchi thereafter Sri Lanka and carved on the peak of Samonala. Subsequently in several other countries borrowed this concept. The researcher, Dr.Waldermer Sailor attempted past 25 years to study in depth the meaning of the symbols but was not successful. Others who copied did not bother to adopt the same pattern but was implied to have a foot print to symbolized that of their great preceptor, the Lord Buddha. The length of the foot on Samanola is 5 feet seven inches and the breadth is 2 feet seven inches. Dr.Senarath Paranavithana says prior to 11th century there was no foot print on Samanola or anywhere close by. That suggests it may have been constructed just after the 11th century. So far no records have been discovered to trace who was responsible for the carving and in what period.

With regard to the descriptions of Lord Buddha’s three visits may have been purely psychic, with Iddi power. He had an enormous Iddi power with which he could appear in two places at the same time. One is physic and the other is psychic, just like television waves. A programme televises at BBC studio you can watch at the same time in your domestic TV set. When Buddha had visited by Iddi power there is no physical body and what he uttered do not go to records. As such entire gamut has not gone to Tri Pitaka. None of those who took part in the Three Sangayanas were not aware Buddha’s trips to Lanka. Perhaps certain descriptions in Mahavansa may be exaggerations and not real. However his visits from the point of view of psychic were authentic to a greater extend. But of course with the elaborations in the Epic Mahavansa where the compiler had imposed in great piety to say Buddha physically came over and implanted his left foot print cannot be accepted as it is not available in the Tri pitaka. Although there are other interpretations also to say the print is that of Adam, Shiva or St.Thomas. It is immaterial to Buddhists they are glued to believe that was their religious leader, Gauthama the Buddha as depicted at the end of every chapter in Mahavansa with the clause as serene joy and emotion of the pious. Prior to the period where there were no facts and evidence the subsequent continuation of is authentic and the epic could be believed as genuine history. Continuation in Chulavansa with facts and evidence is nothing to be discarded. We have to praise their efforts. However the controversial depictions should be further discuss by a panel of erudite scholars and arrive at a final conclusion for the sake of history.

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