Why should we Lankans have an ethnic issue?

By Ramanee Seneviratne

We had great ties with South India. According to the history of the Kandyan Kingdom, lots of Sinhala youth were absorbed into the palace “ettulkattale” as Appuharmys.

Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had a lot of connections with Sinhala nobles and commoners. He was a devout Buddhist. According to the book, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe worshipped the Tooth Relic of the Buddha twice a day. Kneeling beside and bent head as a mark of respect.

[Last king of Kandy, and he put more sculptures in the caves at Dambulla, Pic By: Jason Turgeon]

During Nayakar period the Maligawa was renovated and decorated, maybe to address people and make them feel happy for the devotion and respect that was shown by the south Indian kings towards Buddhism.

I would like to pay my highest tribute to my parents for giving me the birthright to live in a beautiful country like Sri Lanka. It is our fervent duty even in the humblest way to contribute something by penning a few lines to ease the pain of mind many of us have at the grip of loosing our nation from provocation and pressure from various forces.

After going through our history, I extracted the thought that with the introduction of Buddhism to our country about 300 B.C. a civilization emerged as Sinhalayo.

With king Vijaya setting his royal feet on this beautiful emerald land, he brought with him many followers to peoplelize his new found paradise.

With the advent of Mahinda Thero to this land, King Devanampiyatissa embraced Buddhism and ruled according to ‘Dasa Raja Dharmaya’. As a result our country produced great and brave men.

From time to time our kings brought princesses from South India as their “Aga Mehesis” (Chief queens) and along with them their relations and retainers and many others came to settle down here. They embraced Buddhism and merged into the Ariyan Community the ‘Sinhalayo’ and presented themselves as Sinhala Buddhists. This great merger and the emergence of an enduring civilization was the result of the Lord Buddha’s philosophy. This proved that the Sinhala Buddhists were a tolerant and a peaceful race.

My father, L.B. Ratnayake, a lawyer by profession was holding a responsible post (1950- 1962) in the Gal-Oya Development Board in Amparai. Our journey from Kandy to Amparai very often was through Valachchenai, Kalkudah,Batticaloa, Kalmunai, Samanthurai and Malwatte, There were quite a few spots my father loved to stop along this route.

The Tamils and Muslims who owned these shops and wayside boutiques loved my father and beaming with smiles offered their best! The balance that changed into coins always went into their tills or was distributed among the little brats who come round our vehicle. With shy smiles and huge grins! I was taken out of Hillwood College (Kandy) boarding and put to Carmel Convent in Kalmunai, as a weekly boarder.

The convent was run by the Tamil speaking Carmalites. The Carmalite sisters and mother superior looked after me and four other Sinhalese girls with such love and care that I still remember them with great respect and adoration.

During the communal riots (1954-1956) my father protected the Tamil community who were in Amparai from any harm they would face in our territories. It is sad to realize that these lovely people turned against the “Sinhala’ people.

My father’s maternal great grand father was the ‘Maha Mudiyanse’ of the pa1ace of Kandy during the Nayakar period. When Kirthi Sri the good King died, he went about the palace rituals getting ready for the King’s funeral in tears and with great loyalty. The cohesive qualities and his love of the king and the palace and his honesty and noble qualities give a message to the reader of the book titled “In the Days of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe’ written by Punchi Bandara Dolapihilla that the (ettulkattele people) loved and adored the king although he was a South Indian.

King Kirthi Sri revived Upasampada and gave a lot of patronage to Buddhism. He loved his people very much. According to Lawrie’s Gazzette; this Uduwela Mahamudiyanse’ later joined the rebels (1818) to oust the British rule.

We had great ties with South India. According to the history of the Kandyan Kingdom, lots of Sinhala youth were absorbed into the palace “ettulkattale as Appuharmys. Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had a lot of connections with Sinhala nobles and commoners.

He was a devout Buddhist. According to the book, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe worshipped the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha twice a day. Kneeling beside and bent head as a mark of respect.

During Nayakar period the Maligawa was renovated and decorated, maybe to address people and make them feel happy for the devotion and respect that was shown by the south Indian kings towards Buddhism.

According to the article written by S.B. Karaliyadde on Sunday February 13, 2005 in the Silumina, king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe the last king of Kandy had adopted the Maha Mudiyanse’s son Uduwela Karunathilake.

Rajapaksha Wasala Mudiyaase later was an R.M. and the king loved him very much. I cannot come into terms as to why his sudden change of attitude in the latter part of his rule turned him into a tyrant and disastrous events took place.

Thereafter he became a prisoner of the British Raj and the history of our laud took a turn altogether finally our freedom was lost and fell into the hands of the Western powers.

[King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, Dambulla sculpture – Pic By Stuart Hamilton]

King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had good qualities too. He sacrificed his birth rights as a Hindu and became a Buddhist and learnt Sinhala for the sake of the majority of the people.

His influence on my grand mother’s grand father would have being extremely unusual as the old gentleman’s influence was remarkable.

My grand-mother lived a life of great charm and dignity. Her early morning Pirith chanting reached our ears in cadences which moulded our lives accordingly. She had 14 children and everyone was brought up in the traditional Sinhala Buddhist way.

Her eldest son Mr. A. Ratnayake, was a minister in the first Cabinet of Ceylon. D.S. Senanayake as the Prime Minister along with S.W R.D Bandaranayake, a Minister at that time, pioneered free education and they were active members of the Sinhala Maha Sabha and brought in reforms and gave pride of place to Buddhism in parliament for a better Sri Lanka. They followed the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.

A. Ratnayake made arrangements to bring back the skull of the great hero Keppetipola from England, when he was the minister of Home Affairs during Dudley Senanayake’s regime.

The outcome of the Union with the palace and with Nayakkara kings being South-Indians, my ancestors learnt to live a life of charm, dignity and simple ways which won the hearts of many as they were a law-abiding people of this country.

From the time of the Anuradhapura kingdom our kings sacrificed by laying down their lives to protect this land.

Sri Sumangala Thero laid down his life for the sake of the country. Anagarika Dharmapala, F.R. Senanayake, D.S. Senanayake, Sir Ponambalam Ramanathan, Ponnambalam Arunachelem, T.B. Jayah, E.W. Perera and many others relentlessly fought without shedding a drop of blood to get back our freedom.

[Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi – Pic By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]

Therefore, we Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers must unite and join hands to protect this country. Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy that could be practiced by all irrespective of caste, creed or race. All this is every Sri Lankan’s heritage.

It is the duty of all Sri Lankans to protect it. Time has come to practice ‘Ahimsa’ and tread on the middle path for a better future for our new generation.

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