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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2040

Some Historic And Archeological Facts About Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan Solidarity Movement

Sri Lankan Solidarity Movement

The Sri Lankan Tamils demanding a ‘Tamil homeland’ is a totally bogus demand as per the history and archaeology of the country. Even a few months back, a discovery was made of an archaeological site in Anuradhapura (the ancient capital of the Sinhala people) dating back to 800BC and included beads, pottery etc. Anuradhapura was a large village by 900BC and there was an expansion into a city by 600BC.

There is plenty of evidence of pre-historic cave discoveries such as the Fa Hien, Bellanbendi pellessa, Batadombalena, Belilena caves and other cave discoveries especially in the wet zone of pre-historic sites, iron age and stone age discoveries (due to the clay in the wet zone preserving such sites well). The oldest skeleton found on the island is 37,000 years old. We know there were four tribes Yaksha, Naga, Raksha and Deva living in the island and around 600BC there was an influx of people from India, possibly Bengal or Orissa. These people together with the four tribes Yaksha, Naga, Raksha and Deva then formed the Sinhala nation. This is why Anuradhapura which was a village by 900BC, expanded into a city by 600BC.

When looking at Sri Lanka’s history, it is extremely obvious that from 600BC to around 1400AD there were three kingdoms, all Sinhala Buddhist, Ruhuna, Rajarata and Malayarata. The Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Rajarata (600BC-1400 AD) was located in the dry zone of the country encompassing today’s North Central, North Western and Northern Provinces. The Eastern Province was part of the Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Ruhuna (600BC-1400 AD) which encompassed today’s Eastern, Uva, Central and Southern Provinces. There was a third Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom called Malayarata (600BC-1400 AD) which encompassed the rest of the island. Anuradhapura and later Polonnaruwa were the capitals of the Kingdom of Rajarata, the foremost of the Sinhala Buddhist Kingdoms. These periods are commonly known as the Anuradhapura Period and the Polonnaruwa Period.

Apart from many Buddhist ancient cities, artifacts and ruins, a very important part of the Sinhala Buddhist Civilization is the extensive hydraulic system that still prevails in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The Sinhala Kings built over 10,000 – 15,500 large, medium and small scale

irrigation reservoirs, dams across rivers to divert the water flow, an extensive canal system to convey the water flow etc. in Rajarata and Ruhuna encompassing today’s, North Central, Northern, Eastern, Southern and North Western Provinces. For example the massive Yodha Wewa Reservoir in Mannar in the North was built by the Sinhala King Dathusena. The massive Pavatkulam Reservoir in Vavuniya in the North was built by the Sinhala King Mahasen. The large scale Kanthale Reservoir in the East was built by Sinhala King Agbo II. All of the irrigation reservoirs present in the North Central, North, North Western and the Eastern Provinces were built by Sinhala Kings.

No historical account on the reservoir systems in the island is complete without reference to the works of the Sinhala King Parakrama Bahu I (1153–1186 AD). This ruler is reputed to have been responsible for the construction or the restoration of 165 dams, 3,910 canals, 163 major reservoirs and 2,376 minor reservoirs, all in a reign of 33 years, perhaps reaching the zenith of development in irrigation and agriculture. Major irrigation schemes of Sri Lanka, as evident from the earliest written records in the Mahawansa (an ancient chronicle), date back to the fourth century BC.

These achievements were highlighted by Sir Henry Ward, a Governor of Ceylon who said ‘it is possible, that in no other part of the world are there to be found within the same space, the remains of so many works of irrigation, which are, at the same time, of such great antiquity, and of such vast magnitude as Ceylon. Probably no other country can exhibit works so numerous, and at the same time so ancient and extensive, within the same limited area, as this island.’

In fact, to get the water to flow out of the large scale irrigation reservoirs in a smooth manner, the Sinhala Irrigation Engineers invented the ‘biso kotuwa’ or the ‘besi kotuwa’, a type of valve pit, or a type of water outlet out falling from the large scale irrigation reservoirs where water pressure can be managed so as not to damage these large scale irrigation reservoir’s bunds. Another use of the Sinhala Irrigation Engineer was the anicut where a river’s water was diverted using a dam type structure built across a river partially blocking the river water flow and diverting the water into an open channel flow canal.

The amazing and extensive irrigation system encompassing over 10,000 – 15,500 large, medium and small scale irrigation reservoirs, dams across rivers to divert the flow, an extensive canal system to convey the flow etc. in Sri Lanka’s dry zone encompassing today’s North Central, North, East and North Western Provinces was built by the Sinhala Kings.

Therefore there is no doubt whatsoever that there was a Sinhala Buddhist Civilization encompassing today’s North Central, North, East and North

Western Provinces, even just by considering this extensive irrigation reservoir system. R.L. Brohier, H.C.P. Bell, D.L.O. Mendis, Henry Parker and many other archaeologists, irrigation engineers and surveyors have written many books and research papers on this subject. In fact even the British Governor at the time Sir Henry Ward marveled at the ingenious Sinhala Irrigation Engineer and wrote on the subject and Even Sir Emerson Tennent, another British Civil Servant marveled at the ingenious Sinhala Irrigation Engineer and wrote on the subject. In fact, the Sinhala Irrigation Engineer was a master of hydraulics. Not only that, extensive data on rainfall patterns would have had to be collected to figure out the capacity of the irrigation reservoirs. Very accurate surveying of the lay of the land would have had to be carried out to come up with very accurate contour maps in order to figure out the placing of the reservoirs and the traces of the open channel flow canals.

The ancient Sri Lankan Buddhist stupas (or pagodas) are distinctive for many reasons. They were probably the largest brick structures known in the ancient world. The Jetavanaramaya Pagoda (273–301 AD) in the ancient Sinhala Capital of Anuradhapura is the largest pagoda constructed anywhere, in any part of the world. It is 122m or 400ft in height and its diameter is 367ft. Its foundations are 8.5m or 28ft deep. It needed bricks that could bear a load of 166kg. Jetavanaramaya Pagoda was the third tallest building in the ancient world. Abhayagiriya Pagoda (89-77 BC) 122m (400ft) in height in the ancient Sinhala Capital of Anuradhapura was ranked the fifth tallest building in the ancient world and Ruvanvelisaya Pagoda 103m (338ft) in height and with a circumference of 290m (951ft) (circa 140 BC) in the ancient Sinhala Capital of Anuradhapura was the seventh tallest building in the ancient world. The first, second, fourth and sixth places are held by the Pyramids of Egypt.

The ancient Sinhalese excelled in garden design. The Anuradhapura Period produced not one but two planned gardens. They were at Sigiriya (5th century) and Ran Masu Uyana (10th century). Sigiriya is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. It has a layout ‘unequalled in India’. It encompasses an intricate, symmetrical layout, developed along a ‘beautifully identifiable grid’. There were three types of gardens at Sigiriya, a water garden, a boulder garden and a terraced garden. These used the geometrical style, as well as the organic style.

The ancient Sri Lankan steel industry catered to both the local and the export markets. There were steel medical instruments in use in ancient Sri Lanka. The Arab writer Al Kindi (9th century) said that Sarandibi steel was used to make swords in Persia and in the Yemen. Juleff suggests that they were made out of the wind powered steel manufactured in the Samanalawewa area of Sri Lanka between the 9th and 11th centuries. These ancient sites have been studied by archaeologists and research

papers written on the subject. She says that the Samanalawewa furnaces would have provided steel in quantities exceeding local requirements.

From the 2nd century AD Mantota (present day Mannar in the Northern Province) in Sri Lanka was the main South Asian Emporia in a chain of entre-ports. Sri Lanka was therefore a centre of the East-West sea transit trade.

Sri Lanka became an important trading centre for the merchants of Persia, Ethiopia, China and India. They exchanged their commodities in Sri Lanka. The goods exchanged included perfumes, horses and wines from Persia, silk from China and minerals from India. The Egyptian Monk Cosmos Indicopleustus writing in the 6th century said that Sri Lanka was the most important entre-port in South Asia during this time. He said that from ‘all India, Persia and Ethiopia, many ships came to Mantota’ (present day Mannar in the Northern Province). He described Sri Lanka as ‘the great emporium which was connected by seaways with trading marts over the world.’ The entre-port trade brought in a hefty income for the Sinhala Kings.

Sri Lanka had many ports which were used for trade. There were a number of port towns as well. Mantota (present day Mannar in the Northern Province) was a major port from about the 2nd century BC. A sea route along the Eastern Coast of India from Tamralipti to Mantota (present day Mannar in the Northern Province) started around the 5th century AD. Mantota (present day Mannar in the Northern Province) was the chief port of Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Rajarata up to the middle of the 13th century, at least. It had declined in importance by the 15th century. The Eastern ports of Sri Lanka were also in use. They opened into the Bay of Bengal. Sea routes to South East Asia and China had developed by the 5th century and Trincomalee in the present day East (the Sinhala name is Gokanna) was known to merchants by then. Trincomalee was a natural port. Trincomalee was the main port of the Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Ruhuna.

The Jaffna Ports were used for sea travel during the Anuradhapura Period. ‘Jambukola pattana,’ (modern day Kankesanturai in the Jaffna Peninsula) was an important embarkation port for India. There was a high road from ‘Jambukola pattana’ to Anuradhapura to facilitate this. ‘Uratota’ (modern day Kayts, an Island off the Jaffna Peninsula) was an important commercial port in the Polonnaruwa Period.

Subsequently, the Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Kandy or the Kandyan Kingdom from 1400AD – 1815 AD encompassed most of the island inclusive of today’s Northern and the Eastern Provinces except for the Jaffna Peninsula. Even the Jaffna Peninsula which was invaded and occupied by force by Aryachakravarthi (a Pandyan invader from South

India) belonged to the Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of Rajarata earlier and later the Kandyan Kingdom.

There were over 43 attempted invasions of the island by the Chola, Kalinga, Pandya, Vijayanagar and other South Indian and Indian Kingdoms etc. However, only five of these invasions succeeded. There was one other invasion by a Malayan Kingdom too. These were during the Sinhala Kings Walagamba, Dhutugemunu, Dhathusena, Vijayabahu I, Parakramabahu II, Buvanekabahu V and Parakramabahu VI times. However invaders invaded Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, the ancient capitals and stayed only for a short period of time and left the island once they were overwhelmed. There were no settlements due to these invasions except the very last invasion by Aryachakravarthi of the Jaffna Peninsula.

It is the Aryachakravarthi invasion of the Jaffna Peninsula where the first settlements of Tamils took place. This happened just prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505. At that time the Jaffna Peninsula was an island and not connected to the Sri Lankan mainland. During the Portuguese, Dutch and the British colonial times, Tamils were brought over (called Malabars meaning those from the Malabar Coast of India) for purposes of planting tobacco and indigo within the Jaffna Peninsula by the Dutch and the British colonialists. Therefore it is with the arrival of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British that the Malabars, meaning those people from the Malabar Coast of India, were brought over to work in the tobacco and indigo plantations of the Dutch and the British in the Jaffna Peninsula. In fact in all the extensive writings of the Dutch and British colonialists, the Tamils were known as the Malabars (meaning those from the Malabar Coast of India) and the Sinhala were known as the natives! It is only during the 1911 census in fact that these Malabars were even categorized as Sri Lankan Tamils.

Prior to the Aryachakravarthi invasion, all archaeological finds in the Jaffna Peninsula is of a Sinhala Buddhist Civilization. There is no doubt whatsoever that all archaeological evidence attests to a Sinhala Buddhist Civilization throughout the island’s mainland until the present day and even the Jaffna Peninsula until the Aryachakravarthi invasion. It is best to talk to the Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka about this to verify these facts.

Of course other people such as the Arab traders, Malays and the Burgers (descendants of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British colonizers) also migrated to the island too. Does this not then prove that this entire island inclusive of the North and the East is the homeland of all its people? So is this demand for a Tamil Homeland by the Sri Lankan Tamils (called Malabars meaning those from the Malabar Coast of India), descendants of recent migrations to the island, not absurd and unacceptable? Let us state

in the constitution that this island is the homeland of all its people, for the sake of justice and fair play by everyone concerned.

Today’s provincial boundaries were drawn up by the British colonialists as per their divide and rule policy and the Sinhala people were not consulted when drawing up these provincial boundaries. In the meantime, most Sri Lankan Tamils of today were actually brought over during Dutch and British times to the Jaffna Peninsula and elsewhere to work on tobacco and indigo plantations which were planted extensively in all the colonies since they were much sought after and made a lot of money for the colonialists. Therefore they are recent arrivals and cannot claim homelands as a result.

The usual practice of a colonial power is to hand over its former colony to its original owners. Therefore the British colonialists did hand over the Kandyan Kingdom to its original owners the Kandyan Sinhalese from whom they took the Kandyan Kingdom by force. Since the Kandyan Kingdom encompassed the North and the East, these provinces too were handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese who are its rightful owners. Even the Jaffna Peninsula was handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese since it was part of the Kingdom of Rajarata and later the Kandyan Kingdom and was only forcefully occupied by Aryachakravarthi (a Pandyan invader from South India).

It is a fact that the island was called Sinhaladvipa in ancient times (meaning the island of the Sinhala), Sinhale, Heladiva, Zeylan, Ceilao, Ceylon, the Sinhala Kingdom, Serendib etc. All these names mean the ‘land of the Sinhalese’. It is only called Lanka today since this was also another name the island was known by. However, the real name of the island is Sinhaladvipa or Tri Sinhale (meaning the three kingdoms of Sinhala). Ancient records of the Indians, Chinese, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Somalians, Malays, Indonesians, Ramanna (present day Burma), Siamese (present day Thailand), and the Cambodians all attest to this fact in their numerous ancient records.

Several variations of the word ‘Sinhaladvipa’ have been used by foreign countries when speaking of the island. Weerakkody says ‘these names testify, not only to the variety of nations who visited its shores but also the extraordinary renown which this illustrious island enjoyed from antiquity down to modern times. China had more than thirty names for Sri Lanka, dating from the Han Dynasty (206 BC), such as ‘Se cheng buguo’ and ‘Si diao guo’. The names all derive from ‘Sinhadipa’. The term widely used during the Jin Dynasty (265-429 AD) was ‘Shi zi guo’ (lion country). Buddhist Kingdoms in South-East Asia, such as Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Cambodia used ‘Sihala’ and ‘Sihaladeepa’.

The Greeks called the island ‘Sieladiba’ and later ‘Salike’. Sieladiba was a translation of Sinhaladvipa and Salike came from Salai, which was probably derived from Simhala. Eratosthenes (230-195 BC) and Ptolemaus (2nd century) speak of Sinhaladipa. The Greeks briefly called the island Palesimoundou, derived from Parasamudra. Scholars are unable to work out how this name was derived. Ptolemy in the 2nd century spoke of ‘the island of Taprobane, which was formerly called Simoundoue and now Salike.’ Roman literati referred to island as Serendivi. Cosmas (6th century) said that the island was called Sielediba.

A copper plate grant of the Western Chalukya King Pulakesin I (89-90 AD) refers to the island as Sinhala. Nagarjunikonda inscriptions (2nd and 3rd century) record the foundation of a monastery named Sinhala vihara. The early Tamil word for Sinhala was ‘Ila’. Two cave inscriptions at Tirappanguram and Kalugamalai refer to ‘Ila’. ‘Cinkalam’ was also a name that was used. Sri Lanka was referred to as ‘Ilam’ or ‘Singalam’ by the Chola Kings. Inscriptions of Raja Raja I (985-1014 AD) speak of ‘Ila Mandalam’ and the ‘land of the war-like Sinhalas’.

Arab traders called the island ‘Siyalan’, ‘Singaldib’, ‘Serendib’ and ‘Saheelan’. ‘Saheelan’ was the Persianised form of Sinhaladvipa. In his Kitab-Al-Masalk-Wal-Mamalik, the oldest available work of Arab geography, Ibn Khurdabdhbih (c. 345 AD) uses the term Sarandib to describe the island. The island was called Siyalan and Sahilan. Abu Zayad, Al Biruni and Al Masudi (10th century) spoke of Sri Lanka as Serendib or Zailan. The Portuguese called the island ‘Ceilao’, the Dutch ‘Zeylan’ and the British ‘Ceylon’ all derive from Zailan.

From the Anuradhapura Period to the Kandyan Kingdom Period, the island called itself Sinhaladvipa or a variant of the word. The Kandyan Kingdom was known as the ‘Sinhala Kingdom’ or ‘Sinhale’.

Today the Tamil National Alliance or the TNA and its supporters are trying to ethnic cleanse the North of Sinhala people. This should not be tolerated. Buddha statues in the North are attacked and buses carrying Sinhala pilgrims visiting ancient Buddhist sites in the North are stoned. In Bogaswewa, a Sinhala village in the North, villagers are threatened to leave by the TNA local councilors. In Kokeliya, a Sinhala village in the North, the village’s Sinhala people are threatened by the TNA’s supporters to leave. The Buddhist priest of Asirimalai ancient Buddhist temple, which is also an important archeological site in the North, is being attacked by the TNA’s supporters. Nagaviharaya, the most ancient archeologically important Buddhist site in the North, visited by hundreds of Sinhala pilgrims a day, is not allowed to build its Buddha statue by the TNA. The Sri Lanka Navy and Army members stationed in the North are attacked for no reason by the TNA’s supporters and the list goes on and on.

There should be security and freedom for the indigenous Sinhala people to live in peace in the North. The over 135,000 Sinhala people and their decedents ethnically cleansed from the North and the Batticaloa District in the 1980s by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist group should be resettled in the North and in the Batticalo

- Asian Tribune -

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