The “Island In The Sun” is the title song of the 1957 movie bearing the same name. It was written by Irving Burgie and sung by Harry Belafonte.
Oh island in the sun
Willed to me by my father’s hand
All my days I will sing in praise
Of your forest waters, your shining sand
As morning breaks, the Heaven on high
I lift my heavy load to the sky
Sun comes down with a burning glow
Mingles my sweat with the earth below
Oh island in the sun
Willed to me by my father’s hand
All my days I will sing in praise
Of your forest waters, your shining sand
I see woman on bended knee
Cutting cane for her family
I see man at the waterside
Casting nets at the surging tide
Though this song addresses the island of Jamaica, it is equally applicable to Sri Lanka the pearl of the Indian Ocean and nature’s treasure chest.
The island paradise, formerly known as Ceylon until 1972, is in the northern Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. It is one of the most delightful destinations in the world to visit.
Sri Lanka is the home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Though the island’s documented history spans over 2,550 years, evidence shows that it had prehistoric human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its history boasts of planned cities, magnificent palaces, temples, and monasteries, expansive reservoirs, green forests and gardens, monuments and works of art.
Sri Lanka due to its geographic location and endowed with natural harbours has been the cynosure of strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.
Today, Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city.
Sri Lanka is home to many races speaking diverse languages, and following different religious faiths. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils, Moors, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Veddas.
The island has a rich Buddhist heritage spanning from the time of the Indian Emperor Ashoka Maurya (304–232 BC) of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all the Indian subcontinent from circa 269 to 232 BCE. The first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon dates back to the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BCE.
The island is one of the most beautiful and delightful destinations in the world for tourists to visit. Its historical planned cities, magnificent palaces, temples, dagobas, monasteries, monuments, sculptures and other works of art, expansive artificial reservoirs, green gardens, etc., illustrate the characteristic rich history of its ancient rulers.
Here is a video titled “Heritage of Sri Lanka” produced by The Ministry of National Heritage Sri Lanka, which I enjoyed viewing and I hope you too will be delighted to view it as well.
A hundred years ago, on July 7, 1915, at the height of the anti-Moor riots, the firing squad of the 28th Battalion of the British Punjab Regiment, executed 27-year-old Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris at the Welikade Prison. The young man, a Captain of the Colombo Town Guard (CTG) was a prominent socialite and scion of one of the richest families in colonial British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
On May 28, 1915, a petty incident in the town of Gampola in Ceylon, triggered a spate of communal riots between the Sinhalese and Muslims. It is now known as the ‘anti-Moor riots’ or ‘the 1915 riots’. Like wildfire, the riots swept through several districts of the Central, Western and Southern Provinces.
The Muslims in Kandy Town decided not to allow any perahera (procession) of the Buddhists beating the traditional drums, flutes and using any other musical organs to disturb worship at their mosque. But, on the following full Moon Poya Day of Vesak, the Buddhists held their usual perahera, following the usual route. When the perahera was passing the Mosque, a group of irresponsible Muslims jeered and threw stones at the passing pageant. There was a pandemonium. The Buddhists retaliated resulting in a free-for-all leading to a conflagration.
The riots spread to Matale, Kegalle and even to Colombo. The Sinhala people harassed the Muslims throughout the country, leading to many deaths and loss of property. The Muslims sustained heavy losses.
Sir Robert Chalmers, the 21st British Governor of Ceylon, feared he might lose control of the colony. He mistook the riots as a Sinhalese-Buddhist movement to oust the British from Ceylon, through mass violence. So, the British Colonial establishment waged war on the Sinhalese-Buddhists.
The British used untrained volunteers recruited from commercial establishments, shops, factories, and plantations, to suppress the riots.
The soldiers of the 28th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment brought from India to help quell the riots, along with the volunteers unleashed a reign of terror in villages occupied by Sinhala Buddhists. They shot hundreds of civilians on sight and hauled up hundreds of innocent people before the military courts.
According to the available British records, 86 mosques and 17 Christian churches were burnt or damaged, around five boutiques and shops looted, 35 Muslims killed, 198 injured and four women raped. But unsubstantiated claims say thousands of Sinhalese died of bullet wounds.
Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris
Our protagonist, the young Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris at first attended Royal College Colombo. Later, he joined St. Thomas’ College. He excelled in sports and cricket. He was a member of the school’s first eleven cricket team. After some time, he returned to Royal College where he again played cricket and took part in sports activities.
After he finished school, Henry Pedris was much interested in horse riding. He excelled as a horseman and had a wide knowledge about horses. A Russian Prince gave the Pedris family a horse named “Rally”. Henry rode the horse with the composure of a prince which made the minions of the British rulers envious of him.
Once, at a cinema hall, a British official walked in and demanded his seat. Henry refused and said that he too had paid the same fare and would enjoy the film from that seat.
When World War I broke out, the British mobilized the Ceylon Defence Force and raised the Colombo Town Guard (CTG), a regiment of volunteers to defend Colombo if attacked.
His father, Duenuge Disan Pedris, had great hopes for his son’s future. He wanted his only son to take over his business enterprises and become a leader in the business sector. But Henry Pedris opted to join the Colombo Town Guard as a private. He was the first Sinhalese to enlist to the new regiment. His excellence in marksmanship and horsemanship made him a commissioned officer in the administrative (mounted) section. Within a year, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. Though Henry Pedris was by no means anti-British, he was much envied by the British because of this promotion and his immense wealth.
During the ‘anti-Moor riots’, Captain Henry Pedris was responsible for the defense of the city. He was successful in disbanding several rioting groups after peaceful discussions.
The shooting incidence in Pettah
On June 1, 1915, when Henry Pedris was at his shop on Main Street, Pettah, a mob of Moors advanced towards his shop. Pedris came out with a gun and fired six shots into the crowd. One of the bullets hit police constable Seneviratne in the head.
Many British and jealous Sinhalese henchmen led by Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, the Maha Mudaliyar (chief native interpreter and adviser to the Governor), wished Henry Pedris and his rich family ill. They brought charges against him. They accused Henry Pedris of inciting people to march to Colombo from suburban Peliyagoda. He was also charged with shooting at the Moorish mob and attempted murder of constable Seneviratne, even though the constable survived.
The British officers and Punjabi soldiers raided the Pedris’ residence on Turret Road. They then broke the doors and almirahs and rifled the whole house, searching for any incriminating documents. They arrested Henry Pedris and incarcerated him in the Welikada Jail.
On June 2, 1915, Martial law came into effect throughout the country. Due to the rigor of the enforced martial law, normalcy returned within ten days. However, the Martial law was in force until August 30, 1915.
On July 1, 1915, a military court tried Henry Pedris. Sir Hector Van Culenburg, the elected Legislative Council member pleaded for Henry Pedris. Many prominent citizens and educationists, both British and Ceylonese alike, including Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan appealed against the judgment. An appeal was also made to King George V.
Governor Sir Robert Chalmers and the Inspector General of Police, Herbert Layard Dowbiggin, were adamant that Henry Pedris should die. They wanted to make the swift execution of Captain Henry Pedris a lesson for the ringleaders of the anti-British movement.
The three presiding military judges declared Henry Pedris guilty and branded him a traitor.
The Ceylon Observer of July 5, 1915, records the death sentence passed on Henry Pedris. He was charged with “treason, shop-breaking, attempted murder and wounding with intent to murder.“
The military court sentenced him to death by firing squad and set July 7, 1915, as the date of execution, without any form of appeal.
The British rulers imprisoned more 86 prominent Sinhalese leaders, members of an emerging Ceylonese élite for ‘waging war against the King‘ and abetting the riots against ‘His Majesty’s Moorish subjects.‘ Among the arrested were D. S. Senanayake, D. R. Wijewardena, F. R. Senanayake, Edwin Wijeyeratne, D. B.Jayatilaka, Dr. Cassius Pereira, Dr. W. A. de Silva, E. T. De Silva, F. R. Dias Bandaranaike, Dr. C. A. Hewavitharana, H. Amarasuriya, A. H. Molamure, A. E. Goonesinghe and several others.
Execution of Captain Henry Pedris
At 7.30 a.m., on the day of the execution, Additional District Judge Arthur Charles Allnut, a graduate of the Oxford University and a member of the Ceylon Civil Service, ordered that the 86 Sinhala-Buddhist notables to line up in the veranda outside L-Hall in Welikade Prison, and watch Henry Pedris walk to his death.
Captain Henry Pedris dressed in his Town Guard uniform, but stripped of his rank, marched with his head held high and chest forward. At the site of the execution, they strapped him to a chair.
Before his execution, Henry Pedris requested that he be shot by a Punjabi firing squad, and not a British squad, as the Punjabi soldiers were Non-Christian and Asians. Allnut acceded to his request. He ordered the soldiers of the 28th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment brought from India, to carry out the sentence. Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris rejected the blindfold offered to him. He faced the Punjabis without any fear.
After the execution, F. R. Senanayake on seeing the limp body of Henry Pedris slumped in the chair to which he was strapped, vowed that he would initiate a concerted struggle to free the country from British colonial rule.
The prison authorities then took the blood-soaked chair on which Captain Hendry Pedris sat when shot to the prison cells to warn the incarcerated Sinhalese leaders, including D. S. Senanayake, the future first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, that they could be next.
Burial of Captain Henry Pedris
The British refused to hand over the body of Henry Pedris to his grieving parents who wanted to accord their dead son a Buddhist burial with attendant religious rites.
Before burying the body of Henry Pedris, the British rulers declared Martial law for the first time in the whole island.
They transported the body of Henry Pedris to the Kanatte cemetery in great secrecy at midnight in the midst of martial law. The British had come to know that his father Duenuge Disan Pedris had owned several family burial plots at the General Cemetery at Kanatte in Borella. They chose one of these plots for the burial. It was the only burial not recorded in the General Cemetery registers or any other official register, since 1910. For the first time, the British rulers declared Martial law in the whole island.
Duenuge Disan Pedris had not only lost his only son, but he also lost two of his sons-in-law who were also incarcerated in the Welikada Prison. Though disheartened, he was silent as he did not want any more of his family members imprisoned by the British.
Most Ceylonese viewed the execution of 27-year-old Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris as unjust. The Sri Lankan patriotic leaders took the cue from his death and projected him as a martyr. His death motivated the pioneering patriotic leaders of the liberation movements organize themselves and strive for a concerted campaign to liberate the country from the harsh British rule.
The execution of Henry Pedris and the many unjustifiable and arbitrary brutal acts committed by the British during the 1915 riots hastened the formation of the Ceylon National Congress on December 11, 1919 by members of the Ceylon National Association (founded in 1888) and the Ceylon Reform League (founded in 1917).
Saint Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 in the village of Benaulim, Goa, India.
In 2012, Rev. Fr. Anthony Hemantha Peiris of the Diocese of Badulla, Sri Lanka, wrote the Lyrics in Sinhala and also composed the music of the hymn sung in the following video to commemorate the birth of the Saint of India and Sri Lanka.
Rev. Fr. Michael Rajendram Pillai of the Diocese of Galle translated the lyrics were Tamil.
The hymn is sung in both Sinhala and Tamil languages in the same Melody.
The above image of a snake makes regular rounds of the Internet every few months or so. Each time the incident was purported to have occurred in a different geographic locale.
Today, once again, I came across the same photograph of a distended snake with the caption: “ANACONDA EATS WOMAN ALIVE!”
In August 2012, someone using this photograph, claimed a serpent ate a man in Qujing, China.
In January 2013, the snake swallowed another person in Jakarta, Indonesia,
In February 2013, it gobbled a man whole in Panama.
In June 2013, it devoured a woman near Durban North, South Africa.
In October 2013, the snake gulped down a 4-year-old child in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia.
In November 2013, the python made its way to Attapady, Kerala, India to swallow a drunkard lying beside the liquor shop.
Now, you be the judge.
The Python reticulatus also known as the (Asiatic) reticulated python, is a species found in Southeast Asia. The specific name, reticulatus, is Latin meaning “net-like”, or reticulated, and is a reference to the complex color pattern. They are the world’s longest snakes and longest reptile, but are not the most heavily built. Adult pythons can grow to 22.8 feet (6.95 metres) in length, and grow to an average length of 10–20 feet (3–6 metres). They are nonvenomous constrictors and not considered dangerous to humans. Although large specimens are powerful enough to kill an adult human, reports of attacks are rare. It is not found in countries such as South Africa.
The Boa constrictor
The Boa constrictor is a species of large, heavy-bodied snake. It is a member of the family Boidae found in North, Central, and South America, as well as some islands in the Caribbean. It has varied colour and pattern and are distinctive. Ten subspecies are currently recognized.
The anaconda is a large snake found in tropical South America. Although the name applies to a group of snakes, it is often used to refer only to one species in particular, the common or green anaconda, Eunectes murinus. It is one of the largest snakes in the world.
Although the name refers to a snake found only in South America, the name commonly used in Brazil is sucuri, sucuriju or sucuriuba.
Peter Martyr d’Anghiera suggested the South American names anacauchoa and anacaona. Henry Walter Bates questioned the idea of the origin of the South American names. Bates in his travels in South America, failed to find any similar name in use.
Some researchers believe the word anaconda is derived from the name of a snake from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In 1684 Andreas Cleyer described its habit. Cleyer described a gigantic snake that crushed large animals by coiling and crushing their bones.
Henry Yule in his Hobson-Jobson noted the word anaconda became more popular due to a piece of fiction by a certain R. Edwin published in 1768 in the Scots Magazine. Edwin described an anaconda crushing and killing a tyger when in fact tigers never occurred in Sri Lanka. Yule and Frank Wall noted that the snake was in fact a python. They suggested a word of Tamil origin anai-kondra (Tamil: ஆனை கொன்றா) meaning elephant killer.
A more-likely Sinhalese origin was suggested by Donald Ferguson. He said the word Henakandaya (Sinhalese: හෙනකන්දය; hena = lightning or large, kanda = stem or trunk) was used in Sri Lanka for the small whip snake (Ahaetulla pulverulenta).
Neither Tony nor Joe knows who the original author of this article is. Obviously he must be a Sri Lankan.
I enjoyed reading every word of this sarcastic, thought-provoking dissertation, and wish to share it with you.
I have used my editorial discretion, to strike out two phrases in the first paragraph which, though hilarious might seem objectionable to a few. Also, I have added images to spruce up the presentation.
There are three things in the world that are of no use to anyone, viz. a man’s breast, a priest’s balls,, and a Sri Lankan passport. The uselessness of the third item becomes absolutely clear when one tries to apply for a visa to go abroad.
Today, international travel for a bona fide traveler from Sri Lanka is fraught with unbelievable red-tape, undesirable paperwork and unforeseeable pitfalls. It is, for example, much easier for the proverbial camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an honest Sri Lankan passport holder to enter the United Kingdom. Everything in life has a price.
Ironically, these days, it is relatively easy for a Sri Lankan illegal immigrant to enter any western country of his choice and claim asylum, become a citizen and sponsor his kith and kin. This way, entire villages from Jaffna peninsula have been uprooted and are now relocated to Scarborough in Toronto, Canada.
A Sri Lankan passport is not unique. Israeli passport is the next most useless document as it is not recognized by 23 countries in the Middle East and also by North Korea and Cuba. Presenting an Israeli passport to an immigration officer in a Muslim country would be the equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull in Spain.
Although the Sri Lankan passport clearly states that “The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka requests and requires all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary” the document is more often than not treated with total disdain while its possessor is regarded with suspicion by almost all countries including Bangladesh, Benin and Bulgaria.
Although the purpose of the Sri Lankan passport is to promote and facilitate international travel, the way in which its owners are treated at foreign embassies makes one wonder if it was instead designed to dissuade and restrict international travel as much as possible.
Applying for a visa to a western country in Sri Lanka has become such a complex, confusing and complicated activity that some people, especially old men and women, come down with the condition known as “visaitis“. This is a relatively new disease which emerged in Sri Lanka at the end of July 1983.
The symptoms include a certain dryness of the mouth, dizziness, and mild dementia. Patients afflicted with this disease also suffer from outrageously watery diarrhea and are in the habit of passing urine frequently, and in rare cases, may be subject to catatonic schizophrenia. They can be nervous, irritable and immune to therapy. The mere thought of going to a western Embassy or High Commission in Sri Lanka is so traumatic that one or two people have in fact died of a broken heart, following the mandatory medical check-up.
There is a particular Hindu place of worship known affectionately as the “Visa Pillayar Temple” (VPT) in Colombo where people go to break a coconut and offer a silent prayer to ensure success prior to their interview (or interrogation) for a visa at the Embassy. Visa aspirants from places as far away as Valluvettithurai (VVT) in the north come to VPT to collect the vipoothi (holy ash), which when applied on the forehead is supposed to confer divine protection during the inquisition at the Embassy.
The insults start at the gate of an Embassy where you experience the taste of what is in store for you in the country you plan to spend your hard-earned money.
At the French Embassy in Colombo, rated 9.5 in the “Richter Scale of Rude Shocks,” it is the illiterate gatekeeper who functions as Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to Hades, to whom one must give the sop to slip into the Embassy.
At the Japanese Embassy in Colombo, you cannot see the visa officer through the one-way opaque glass window when you submit your application. He can see you, but you cannot see him. The experience can be quite unnerving. It is a bit like speaking to an Oracle in Greece.
The application for a Canadian tourist visa is 10 pages long and has more than 60 questions, including the names, places and dates of birth of yourself, your wife, your siblings, parents, grandparents, your wife’s relatives, your in-laws and outlaws! All these details have to be submitted first electronically before you are given a date for the interview.
Once I went to the Bangladesh Embassy in Colombo to apply for a visa. The Embassy looked more like a tuck shop and I was the only applicant. Even then that bored consular officer rudely told me that it would take five working days to issue a visa!
In the Indian Embassy, one would witness the death of common sense. However, much you gather the required documents you need to substantiate your application for a visa, the officer will ask for the one that you forgot to bring.
By contrast, the US Embassy in Colombo offers one of the best services in the world. The US staff are extremely kind, helpful and patient and they genuinely try to assist the potential visa applicant to the best of their ability. The US evaluation process is very fair, thorough and proper. If you are a genuine visitor to the USA, you need not worry. You will get a fair hearing. All the US immigration officers are trained well to be civil and polite to the visitor. They would often engage you in small talk just to find out if you were a genuine visitor or not to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
Today, many embassies have subcontracted the TT Services to deal with the initial stages of processing the visa.
More recently, on arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand (the Land of the Long White Cloud), the immigration officer asked me, very politely and with a pleasant smile, what the purpose of my visit was? When I told him that I had come to deliver a talk on elephants at the University of Canterbury, the bewildered officer exclaimed, “But we do not have elephants!” and stamped my passport and wished me a pleasant stay. It spoke so well about the country of just 4.5 million people and 60 million sheep.
Once when I worked for WWF-International, I was a member of a small working committee planning the next International Theriological (= Mammal) Congress. Two countries, Australia and Colombia, were interested in hosting the event. The Australian delegate was interested in moving the Congress to Sydney, but cautioned us that the only requirement for the visa was that none of the foreign participants had any criminal record. On hearing this, the Colombian delegate jumped up in sheer joy and informed us that on the contrary, his Government would welcome delegates with a criminal record! The Congress was held in Sydney.
In the unlikely event of a visa being issued, it does not automatically guarantee that you’d be allowed to enter the country at the other end. That depends on the mood and the maturity of the immigration officer.
One of the most traumatic experiences one could have on arrival is at the Heathrow airport in London. You had been travelling 16 hours from Colombo and the flight lands at 9 am. It is supposed to be summer, but the sun is nowhere to be seen in the Land of Ceaseless Fog and Drizzle. Thus, even before the plane comes to a complete stop, you would get an idea of the weather that awaits you on arrival. Sometimes it appears that the plane had been taxiing through ginger beer or syrup. That’s the colour of the atmosphere outside.
On arrival I have to join the cattle class and then go to the queue reserved for aliens. No wonder I am often treated as if I am an extraterrestrial phenomenon!
Almost all British immigration officers are most unfriendly to non-Caucasian visitors, and often act liketinpotHitlers. They are as hard as nails and bored as the people who serve you at McDonalds. They look miserable knowing they are stuck in dead end jobs.
Right behind his shoulder you can read in letters big, bright and bold, the banner that reads, “Welcome to Heathrow”. The welcome you receive is frostier than the weather outside.
The first question the bored and grumpy immigration officer with a smirk on his face asks the hapless visitor is: “When are you getting back?”
If you ask for a three-month stay in England, you are more likely to be given just a month. On the other hand, if you were to request for only a week, just to attend a conference and get back home, you may be granted a stay for six months. More disturbing is the recent news from the UK that in the future, visitors to Britain from ‘high risk’ countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana coming to Britain on a six-month visit visa will have to put up a 3,000 pound (equivalent to Rs. 594,000 in Sri Lankan currency) bond as security, according to the Home Secretary Theresa May.
Sometimes things can go wrong. During myfirst visit to Australia in 1990, I flew into Sydney from Jakarta. Before the plane landed, we were given immigration forms to be filled. There was an additional yellow card that had to be filled as well, and one of the questions on it was: “Are you carrying live semen?” to which I promptly ticked the yes box, given that I had already fathered two kids.
As I cleared the immigration and moved to the customs, I was stopped and taken to a small room where I was interrogated by a big, bespectacled, Wagnerian white woman with a pair of enormous Bristols and a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. She waved a yellow card at me and exploded, “Is this a joke?”
I was genuinely clueless as to why she blew her top and asked her what was it all about, to which she pointed the box I had ticked off to say that I was indeed carrying live semen. I told her that I believed so, to which the human volcano erupted once more and thundered in no uncertain terms that it referred to livestock and warned me not to make a joke of it ever again! It was literally a seminal experience for me. The yellow card is no longer issued.
In the 1960s, we had a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) member from the United States who became friends with us while we were doing research on wildlife in Wilpattu national park with Dr. John F. Eisenberg from the Smithsonian Institution and his assistant Melvyn Lockhart. The VSO chap was a hippie who loved smoking ganja (marijuana). In his lucid moments he managed to learn a few words in Sinhala which Melvyn taught.
When he left Colombo, he was in fact carrying some ganja with him, and given his long hair and hippie demeanor, he was promptly stopped by a vigilant customs officer who wanted to see the contents of his handbag. In a flash of brilliance, despite the perspiration which had commenced its journey down his spine, he began to engage the customs officer in small talk, and told him that he had lived in Ceylon for a month and that he could even speak the local language a bit.
When the customs officer asked him to say something in Sinhala, he promptly remembered what Melvyn had taught him, and blurted out in a loud voice “මගේ පුක්කෙ මයිල් නෑ” (Transliterated: “Magey pukkay mayil naa“) meaning “my arse has no hair” in his native Texan drawl.
All the customs officers who heard him burst out in uncontrollable laughter and began to dance (a few even had tears of joy streaming down their cheeks). They complimented him on his language skill and wished him “bon voyage“. It was the hippie who had the last laugh.
Melvyn later received a “Thank you” note from Amarillo, TX.
As a Sri Lankan, I feel that we are treated abroad as if we do not matter, despite our education, ancient culture and proud heritage. We may be short on geography, but we are long on history. We deserve better treatment in the western countries. Unlike the ASEAN countries where citizens of the member states enjoy a 14-day visa free entry to each other’s country, we who belong to the SAARC cannot go to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, or Bhutan even for a short stay without a visa!
In the final analysis, given the limitations of our Sri Lankan passport, it is far better for us to enjoy a local holiday than be subject to untold indignities and interrogations at the hands of immigration officers. As Blaise Pascal once remarked, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.“
As commanded by queen Bhaddakaccānā, Ummada Citta’s woman-attendant placed the infant boy in a basket and carried him to Dvaramandalaka, the village situated near the Cetiya mountain (Mihintale), east of Anuradhagama.
Some brothers of Ummada Citta, on a hunting spree in the Tumbara forest, saw the woman-attendant carrying the basket.
One of them asked her: “Where are you going? What are you carrying in the basket?”
She answered: “I am going to Dvramandalaka. I am taking sweet cake for my daughter.”
The prince then said: “Take the cake out and show it to us.”
Just then, the two dead attendants of Dighagamani, Citta the herdsman and Kalavela the slave, who as yakkas were protecting the infant, caused a great boar to appear. The princes pursued the boar. The attendant immediately hastened from there with the child and hurried towards the Dvaramandalaka.
She handed over Pandukabhaya and a thousand pieces of money to a herdsman who was secretly entrusted by queen Bhaddakaccānā to take care of her grandson.
On that very day, the herdsman’s wife bore him a son, and he declared that his wife had given birth to twins. He brought up and protected Pandukabhaya along with his own son.
Pandukabhaya practised diving deep in the pond and secretively hid in the hollow of a large tree standing in the middle of it. When he had stayed long enough in the hollow of the tree completely hidden from his playmates, he would come out and be again among them. When his friends asked him where he had been, he would mislead them with evasive words.
When Pandukabhaya was seven years old, his uncles came to know that he was alive. They found out where he lived and the pond where he used to play with his friends. They ordered their men to kill him, and his playmates.
One day, Pandukabhaya seated on the edge of the pond while his friends were playing in the pond saw the enforcers approaching. He dived deep into the water with his clothes on and reached the hollow tree. The assassins unable to find out who their victim counted the number of boys in the pond and the clothes lying nearby. When the count tallied they killed all the boys. They then went to their masters and declared that they killed all the boys.
Pandukabhaya’s foster-father comforted him for the loss of his playmates.
When Pandukabhaya was twelve years old, his uncles again came to know that he was alive. Once again, they charged their assassins to kill him.
One day, a group of Dvaramandalaka herdsmen caught a deer and sent Pandukabhaya to the village to bring fire from there. He went home. Feeling tired and footsore, he sent his foster-father’s son with the fire to the herdsmen.
The assassins surrounded the herdsmen and the twelve-year-old boy with the fire who they assumed to be Pandukabhaya and killed them all. They then went to their masters and declared that they killed the boy and all the herdsmen of the Dvaramandalaka village.
Then, when Pandukabhaya was sixteen years old, his uncles once again discovered that he was still alive and plotted to kill him. On knowing this, his mother, Citta, sent him a thousand pieces of money and a squad of armed men to accompany him to a safe place.
Pandukabhaya’s foster-father told him his mother’s message, and giving him a slave and the thousand pieces of money, sent him to seek out the Brahmin named Pandula, a rich man, well-versed in the vedic lieterature, who dwelt in Pandulagamaka village, in the southern district.
Pandula honoured Pandukabhaya as his guest. He tutored him the knowledge needed by a reigning prince. With assistance from Pandula’s son Canda (or Candena cassa puttena who belonged to the sippam samapitam), Pandukabhaya mastered ‘the art’ in a short time.
Pandula then gave him a hundred thousand pieces of money and asked him to enrol soldiers. When five hundred men had been enrolled, Pandula appointed his son Canda as Pandukabhaya’s chaplain.
Before sending Pandukabhaya with his soldiers in search of his quest, Pandula gave him money and told him that he should consecrate the woman as his queen at whose touch leaves turn to gold.
By the time Pandukabhaya reached Pana, a city near the Kasa-mountain (Probably near the modern Kahagalagama ‘village of the Kaha mountain ‘, about 18 miles SE from Anuradhapura, and 10 miles WNW from the mountain Ritigala), he had gathered seven hundred more followers on the way and gathered provision for all. From there he and his one thousand two hundred soldiers marched to the mountain called Girikanda.
The Veddhas or Wanniya-laeto (‘forest-dwellers’) of the wanni (dry monsoon forest) are Sri Lanka’s indigenous inhabitants. According to scholars, the Veddhas of today perpetuate a direct line of descent from the island’s original Neolithic community that dates back to at least 16,000 BC.
For the past eighteen centuries or more the indigenous Veddha communities have been forced to retreat deeper into the ever-shrinking forests pummeled by successive waves of immigration and colonization that began with the arrival of the north Indians in the 5th century BC.
According to their culture the Veddhas revere and venerate their ancestors. At present, the surviving dwindling Veddha communities still live in the dry monsoon forests with their uncanny knowledge of their jungle habitat. They still retain the memory of their prehistoric culture and preserve their cultural identity and traditional lifestyle, despite facing the many challenges and relentless pressure from the surrounding dominant Sinhala and Tamil communities.
In the North Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, a few Veddhas have been absorbed into the mainstream Sinhala communities and on the East Coast into the Tamil communities.
Ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa, relate the origin of the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka to the arrival of Prince Vijaya from an area either in the northeast or northwest India, and his later affiliation with people from south India. Students of Indian history argue that the lore of Vijaya should be interpreted to favour either one or the other of the northern origins, or a mixture of people from both areas.
W. S. Karunatillake (late), Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, a Sinhala linguist, supported the hypothesis that the Sinhalese people originated in Eastern India because over 50% Sinhala words resemble words in the Bengali language. Even so, the question: “Did Vijaya and his companions migrate to Sri Lanka from Singhpur, Kalinga in northeast India, or from Sihor, Gujarat in northwest India?” still remains unresolved.
Some scholars identify the Lála country, where Sinhabahu founded Sinhapur, with the modern Rarh region of West Bengal, India that is still called Lala/Larh. Sanskrit texts refer to it as Lata-desa. Al-Biruni, a historian, chronologist and linguist of the medieval Islamic era calls it Lardesh in the extreme hilly west of Bengal where the Hooghly district and modern Singur is located. However, some scholars identify the region as modern Gujarat.
References weigh more in favor of Vijaya’s origin to lower Indus, and Sihor, which was officially known as Sinhapur in Kathiawar peninsula in ancient times. Also, the only home to Asiatic lions (locally referred as ‘Sinh‘ or ‘Sinha‘) is Gir Forest in Kathiawar peninsula in Gujarat and the approach to core Gir territory is just a few miles away from Sihor. In fact, to date, lions are sighted in rural areas adjoining Sihor.
According to the history chronicled in the Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya and his wayward followers before landing at Tambapanni, first disembarked at the haven called Suppäraka, now identified with modern Sapporo, in the Thana district north of Mumbai. If Lála country was in northeast India, how could Vijaya and his companions dispatched from there, land at the port of Suppäraka in northwest India?
If we presume that the story of Vijaya narrated in the Mahavasa is historically correct, then, Prince Vijaya and his followers would have set sail from northwest India from a coastal harbour in Gujarat. Their contribution to the modern Sinhalese must have been erased by the long-standing interrelationship with people from Tamil Nadu for over 2,000 years.
According to the Mahavamsa, the population of Sri Lanka is heterogeneous – composed of diverse ethnic groups from India.
So far, most studies on the genetic affinities of the Sinhalese have been contradictory. Some investigators suggest a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil and North Western Indian contribution, while others point towards a predominantly Tamil origin followed by a significant Bengali contribution with no North Western Indian contribution.
However, it is emphatically proved that the ancient ancestors of the current Sinhalese people came originally from northeast or northwest India as shown by genetic, linguistic and religious connections. After their arrival in Sri Lanka, the ancients intermarried to a minor extent with the indigenous Veddhas. Population genetic studies on the Sinhalese undertaken by various investigators show that they certainly intermarried extensively with Tamils of Southern India than with the Veddhas.
For the most part, according to the Mahavamsa, the modern Sinhalese are related to the Tamils as far back as 543 BC, with some elements of ancestry connected later with Bengalis, Gujaratis, Punjabis and Indian Moors. This is also supported by a genetic distance study, which showed low differences in genetic distance between the Sinhalese and the Tamil, Keralite and Bengali volunteers.
Because Sri Lanka lies on important sea trade routes, it has from ancient times received a constant influx of people from India and from various parts of the world, especially from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Europe, and the far-east. However, the genetic studies on the Sinhalese do not seem to show any ancestry from China or Southeast Asia.
In the 1995 study, “Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations” by Dr. Gautam K. Kshatriya (Source: National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Munirka, New Delhi, India) published in Hum Biol. 1995 Dec;67(6):843-66, the author says:
Mythological and historical sketches of the Sri Lankan population indicate that it is heterogeneous and composed of diverse ethnic groups. Ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka relate the origin of the Sinhalese to the legend of Prince Vijaya, who arrived on the northwest coast of the island in 543 B.C. from northeast or northwest India. … Taking into consideration mythological, historical, and linguistic records of Sri Lanka, I attempt to study the degree of gene diversity and genetic admixture among the population groups of Sri Lanka along with the populations of southern, northeastern, and northwestern India, the Middle East, and Europe.
The genetic distance analysis was conducted using 43 alleles controlled by 15 codominant loci in 8 populations and 40 alleles controlled by 13 codominant loci in 11 populations. Both analyses give a similar picture, indicating that present-day Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to Indian Tamils and South Indian Muslims. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India and Bengalis of northeast India. Veddhas, are distinct because they are confined to inhospitable dry zones and are hardly influenced by their neighbors.
The study of genetic admixture revealed that the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka have a higher contribution from the Tamils of southern India (69.86% +/- 0.61) compared with the Bengalis of northeast India (25.41% +/- 0.51), whereas the Tamils of Sri Lanka have received a higher contribution from the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (55.20% +/- 9.47) compared with the Tamils of India (16.63% +/- 8.73).
In the 2009 study, “Prevalence of genetic thrombophilic polymorphisms in the Sri Lankan population–implications for association study design and clinical genetic testing services” by V.H. Dissanayake, L.Y. Weerasekera, G.G. Gammulla, and R.W. Jayasekara (Source: Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka.) first published electronically on July 8, 2009, is consistent with the notion that Sinhalese are closely related to other Sri Lankans. The frequencies of the alleles observed were very similar between Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Moors and they were also similar to those in some ethnic groups from southern India. Excerpts from the Abstract:
“We investigated the prevalence of genotypes/alleles of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and haplotypes defined by them in three genes in which variations are associated with venous thromboembolism in 80 Sinhalese, 80 Sri Lankan Tamils and 80 Moors in the Sri Lankan population and compared the SNP data with that of other populations in Southern India and haplotype data with that of HapMap populations. … The frequencies observed were similar to data from other South Indian populations; […]”
Both the above studies present almost a similar picture. Genetic distance analysis, despite the limitations imposed by the data, shows that modern Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Tamils and Keralites of south India and the upper caste groups of Bengal. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India.
Similarly, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Sinhalese because they were always and are near to each other historically, linguistically, and culturally.
When the brothers of Bhaddakaccānā heard of their sister’s safe landing at Gonagamaka, they, except one, urged by their mother, departed to join their sister on the island. The six brothers were Rama, Uruvela, Anuradha, Vijita, Dighayu and Rohana. The seventh brother, Gamani, stayed at home.
After their arrival they visited their brother-in-law, king Panduvāsudeva, and their sister Bhaddakaccānā. They were hospitably received by the king and they having the king’s leave, went about the island and settled in different parts of the island.
Queen Bhaddakaccānā bore Panduvāsudeva ten sons and one daughter: the eldest of all named Abhaya, and the youngest child, a daughter, named Citta. King Panduvāsudeva consecrated his eldest son Abhaya as vice-regent.
When Citta the youngest child was born wise Brahmins well-versed in sacred texts foretold that her son would kill all his uncles. So, her brothers resolved to kill her, but her eldest brother, Abhaya, restrained them and saved her.
Citta grew up into a beautiful woman. People of the kingdom added an epithet “Ummada” to her name and called her “Ummada Citta”, because the mere sight of her beauty drove men mad.
In due course of time, they lodged her in a chamber built on a single pillar, with an only entrance through the king’s bedroom. They placed a woman-attendant within, and a hundred soldiers without.
When Dighagamani, the son of prince Dighayu, heard about his beautiful cousin Ummada Citta, he travelled to Upatissagama to see her. King Panduvāsudeva appointed him, his wife’s nephew, to serve the royal court together with his son Abhaya, the vice-regent.
Citta saw Dighagamani in the place from her window, and, her heart on fire with love, she asked her serving-woman who he was.
Her attendant, who was already in a league with the prince, told her that he was prince Dighagamani, the son of her uncle Dighayu.
Citta confided to her attendant her love for the prince. That night, Dighagamani entered Citta’s bedroom by fastening a hook-ladder to the window of her heavily guarded bedroom. They had intercourse until day break. From that day onwards Dighagamani came to Citta’s bedroom covertly at night. Their affair was not discovered for many days.
After some time, Citta became pregnant, and her attendant told her mother, queen Bhaddakaccānā about the clandestine affair. After questioning her daughter, the queen told her husband. The king took counsel with his sons and said: “We must acknowledge Dighagamani as one of us, and let us give Citta in marriage to him.”
His sons, except Abhaya, said: “We accept your proposal on one condition. If it is a son that would be born to Citta, we will kill the baby.”
King Panduvāsudeva gave his daughter Citta in marriage to Dighagamani.
When the time of her delivery was getting nearer, the nine brothers of Citta killed the two attendants on Dighagamani, a herdsman named Citta and a slave named Kalavela, since these two were accomplices to the clandestine love affair and would not fall in with their design to kill the baby boy who might be born. The two attendants of Dighagamani, After being killed, were reborn as yakkas and both kept guard over the child in the mother’s womb.
Fearing the fate that would befall on her son, Citta through her attendant found a woman who, like her, was near her period of delivery.
A few days later, Citta bore a son, and that woman bore a daughter. Citta gave a thousand pieces of money and her own son to that woman and laid that woman’s infant daughter beside her.
Citta’s brothers were happy when they heard that their sister had given birth to a daughter instead of a son.
Citta and her mother, queen Bhaddakaccānā, named the new-born baby boy Pandukabhaya by joining the names of his grandfather, king Panduväsudeva, and his eldest uncle, Prince Abhaya.
King Panduväsudeva died in 414 BC, after his grandson Pandukabhaya was born.
Prince Abhaya, the eldest son of King Panduväsudeva, was solemnly consecrated as king.
During the last years of his life Vijaya lamented that he had no male heir of royal blood to succeed him to the throne. He wished to bring his twin-brother Sumitta from Sinhapura and handover his kingdom to him. Consulting his ministers Vijaya sent a letter to Sumitta. After some time Vijaya died.
After Vijaya’s death which ended the Kingdom of Tambapanni, his chief minister a Brahmin chaplain named Upatissa became regent. While the wait was on for the coming of prince Sumitta, Upatissa ruled the kingless kingdom for a year from Upatissagama (or Upatissa Nuwara) founded by him in 505 BC on the bank of river Gambhīra, about 8 miles north of Anuradhagama.
Other noteworthy establishments around Tambapanni were Anuradhagama and Vijitagama.
Anuradha, a minister of Vijaya, founded Anuradhagama (‘Anuradha’s village’) near the Kadamba river, the present Malwatu Oya. In later years, it became the capital of Rajarata for over a thousand years under the name Anuradhapura (Anuradha’s city).
Vijitha, one of Vijaya’s chief followers, founded Vijithagama also known as Vijitha Nagara or Vijithapura, a fortress-city. Historians believe that the city may have been an important trade center during the early stages of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, connecting several trade routes.
When Vijaya’s letter arrived at Sinhapura, Sumitta after the death of his father king Sinhabahu was already enthroned as king of his country. Sumitta had three sons by the princess of Madda. When he had heard the letter he was unwilling to leave his native land. So, he spoke to his three sons: “I am old, dear ones; one of you must depart for the greatly favoured and beauteous island of Tambapanni belonging to my brother, and there, after his death, assume, the sovereignty of that fair kingdom.”
Sumitta’s youngest son Panduvāsudeva consented to sail to Tambapanni. After being empowered by his father for the success of his journey, Panduvāsudeva took with him thirty-two sons of ministers and sailed with them in the disguise of mendicant monks. They landed at the mouth of the Mahakandara river.
Sri Lanka’s foremost historian and pre-eminent archaeologist Dr. Senarath Paranavithana, in his essay “Aryan settlements and early kings” published in the Concise History of Ceylon wrote: “Panduvasdeva with thirty two followers, it is said, arrived in Ceylon in the guise of mendicant monks. They landed at the mouth of the Mahakandara River at the port of Gokanna, the modern Trincomalee according to the commentator of the chronicle (Mahavamsa).”
When people saw these mendicant monks they received them with due respect. Panduvāsudeva after inquiring about the capital, reached the city of Upatissagama, with his 32 followers.
The ministers at Upatissagama saw the mendicant monks arrive there, after questioning they recognized them, as prince Panduvāsudeva and his retinue from Sinhapura. The ministers entrusted Panduvāsudeva with the sovereignty of the kingdom left by Vijaya. Since Panduvāsudeva lacked a consort he was not solemn consecrated as their ruler.
In the meantime, Sakka Pandu, a Sakya king, who lived on the farther side of the river Ganges, in India, had seven sons and a daughter named Bhaddakaccānā. The princess was beautiful as if made of gold. The soothsayers had predicted that an auspicious journey would come her way that would result in a royal consecration. Seven kings competed in wooing princess Bhaddakaccānā. They sent precious gifts to king Sakka Pandu.
These seven rivals appeared so likely to fight among themselves, for the hand of the gorgeous princess. Unable to decide between her suitors, king Pandu after placing his daughter on a ship, together with thirty-two women-companions launched the vessel upon the Ganges, saying: “Whosoever can, let him take my daughter.”
None of the wooers was able to overtake her ship that sailed swiftly down the Ganges river and reached the ocean.
After a few days of sailing on the ocean, their vessel reached the haven called Gonagamaka (present Trincomalee harbour) on the east coast of the island where they landed, dressed as nuns.
In due course, princess Bhaddakaccānā and her companions reached Upatissagama, where prince Panduvāsudeva, who had heard the saying of a soothsayer, awaited their arrival.
Panduvāsudeva’s ministers, full of pious understanding, consecrated him as their king. He married princess Bhaddakaccānā and gave her women-companions to his
followers who had come with him from Sinhapura.
Panduvāsudeva reigned for thirty years from 444 BC to 414 BC.
Vijaya’s ministers were quite intrepid in founding their own villages around Tambapanni. After they had founded settlements, the ministers spoke to prince Vijaya.
“Sire, please consent to be consecrated as the ruler of this land,” they said.
In spite of their request, the prince refused the consecration for want of a maiden hailing from a noble house to be consecrated as his consort at the same time.
The ministers, sent emissaries entrusted with many precious gifts, jewels, pearls, and other valuables, to the city of “Then Madurai” (the modern-day city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu), in the Pandya kingdom of the Tamils in southern India, to woo the daughter of the Pandya king for their lord, and the daughters of others for his ministers and retainers whose wives got separated from them during their voyage from the Lála country.
Since then, there are several recorded instances of intermarriage between ruling families of Sri Lanka and the major royal South Indian Dynasties, in particular, the Pandya, Chola, and the Chera.
The messengers from Tambapanni, on reaching Then Madurai laid the gifts and letter of request before the Pandya king. After consulting his ministers, the king agreed to send his daughter to the island of Tambapanni to become the consort of Vijaya. So, he proclaimed with the beat of drums:
“Those citizens who are willing to let their daughter depart to the island of Tambapanni shall provide their daughters with a double store of clothing and place them at the doors of their houses. By this sign we will know that we may take their daughters to ourselves.”
The Pandya king thus obtained a hundred maidens. After compensating the families of the maidens, he sent his daughter, bedecked with all her ornaments and all that was needful for the voyage, the maidens whom he had fitted out according to their rank, elephants, horses, waggons, an so forth as dowry. He also sent craftsmen and a thousand families belonging to the eighteen trade guilds.
This multitude from Then Madurai disembarked at the port of Mahatittha (Mantota or Manthotam).
When Vijaya heard that the princess from the Pandya kingdom had arrived at the port of Mahatittha with her retinue he said to Kuveni: “Go thou now, dear one, leaving the two children behind; men are ever in fear of superhuman beings.”
When Kuveni heard this, seized with mortal fear of the yakshas she started wailing.
Vijaya then told her, “Delay not! I will give you a thousand (pieces of money).”
Kuveni implored again and again, but Vijaya did not relent. Outraged, Kuveni scorned Vijaya with words of wrath and cursed him and his city of Tambapanni. She then departed from the city with her son Jivahata and daughter Disala, for Lankapura, the capital of the yakshas, knowing very well that evil would befall her.
On reaching Lankapura, she left the children outside the city in the forest glades and went alone into the city. The yakshas in the city on recognizing her took her for a spy, and a violent yaksha killed Kuveni with a single blow of his fist.
A yaksha, an uncle of Kuveni on her mother’s side, saw the children waiting in the glades for the return of their mother. On learning that they were Kuveni’s children, he said: “Your mother has been slain, and if the other yakshas see you they will kill you also. So, go away immediately from here!”
They children trekked towards Sumanaküta (Adam’s Peak in the Ratnapura District). When they grew up Jivahata took his sister Disala for his wife. Their offsprings are the Veddhas of Sri Lanka.
The envoys of the Pandya king delivered their princess, the maidens, and the dowry to Vijaya. The prince offered his hospitality and bestowed honours on the envoys of the Pandya king. He distributed the maidens to his ministers and retainers according to their rank.
The ministers solemnly consecrated Vijaya as their king and the Pandya princess as their queen. King Vijaya bestowed wealth on his ministers. Every year he sent a valuable pearl to his father-in-law, the Pandya king.
Vijaya forsook his former evil way of life. He reigned Tambapanni for thirty-eight years from 543 BC – 505 BC, in peace and righteousness.