Sri Lanka

Sinhala and Tamil traces in an Island’s history

Feb 23, 2017
Any discussion on claims which contain words such as ‘traditional’ or ‘historical’ can make sense only if assertions are backed by facts and not by myths. They should be buttressed by a corpus of evidence that are coherent and wholesome, and are not marked by the errors of selectivity. In an article where he sets himself the task of refuting an allegation that ‘the claim of traditional/historical homelands (of Tamils) is a load of balderdash, unsupported by any kind of evidence,’ (see ‘Wigneswaran and the puppeteering with ghosts) P. Soma Palan (PSP hereafter) appears to have inadvertently reinforced my assertion (see his article ‘Claim of traditional homeland: Not a load of balderdash’).
PSP dwells at length on the Vijaya Legend. He calls it a myth and yet by sleight of hand typical of Eelam myth-modellers and in contradiction of his own myth-claim insists that the real name is ‘Vijay’ or ‘Vijayan’ (a ‘Tamilization’ that has become ‘par for the course’ in creative Eelamist historiography). The reference to Vijaya is taken from the Mahawamsa of Mahanama Thera in the 5th Century. It is an epic narrative in Pali. We cannot as yet take it as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and we certainly cannot call it a total fabrication either; the veracity of certain parts have been established by archaeological excavation and by corroboration via other texts while certain other parts remain unsubstantiated. The Vijaya legend belongs to the latter kind.   
To make sense, it is useful to revisit the chronicler’s disclaimer. Mahanama Thera observes that the narratives (in text or other form) of the ancients (those who came before) are at times overly lengthy, at times all too brief and at times repetitive. He claims that his was an exercise of eliminating error and laying it out for easier comprehension and for the delight (of the reader). What was left out and what was added, we cannot be definite about as per available evidence. For the historian it is a useful document that provides a base-text and innumerable clues, nothing more and nothing less.  PSP asks me a bunch of questions, all based on the assumption that I’ve bought the Vijaya Legend. I have not. The ‘refutation’ of the Vijaya Legend that PSP offers is that ‘no race is founded by an individual’. This is absolutely correct, but he’s making too much of a symbol or a signifier. It is not that Vijaya descended from nowhere and founded a race of sons and daughters who inter-married and had children of their own and multiplied. What’s important is not the name, but the process.   
Read more at:

Daily Mirror, February 23, 2017

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