history for political purposes
by Haris de Silva
Retired Director - National Archives
Island Newspaper 2001
Name of usurper/invader
Number of Years
Period of Reign
1 Sena & Guttika -horse traders- 22 177-155BC
2. Elara, a nobleman from the Chola country 44 145-101 BC
3. 5 Damilas 14.7 103-89 BC
Cholas (during Valagamba’s reign) — 109-112 AD
4. 7 Dravidas 27 432-452 AD
Pandyas (during Sena I) — 833-853 AD
Cholas (during Udaya IV) — 946-954 AD
5. Cholas 53 1017-1070 AD
5a Vikkampandu 1 1042-1043 AD
5b Jagatipala of Oudh 4 1043-1046 AD
5c Parakramapandu I 2 1046-1048 AD
Tamils [Chola] (during Kalyanavati) — 1202-1208 AD
7. Parakramapandu II 3 1212-1215 AD
8.Magha 21 1215-1236 AD
Candrabahanu Malay and Pandyas
(during Parakramababu II) — 1235-1270 AD
Readers of your esteemed paper, are no
doubt, well aware of the view points held by some of those whose contributions
are very regularly published in your paper. Of such contributors, R M B
Senanayake (RMBS) and E A V Naganathan are on the almost regular category, while
the contributions of V L Wirasinha (VLW) are seen occasionally.
This being a democratic country, in the
modern sense of the word, every one has the liberty to express their points of
view. Today, the concept of democracy is far advanced from the times of that
great Athenian statesman, Pericles (490- 429 BC) - quoted by VLW. In Athens only
its ‘citizens’ had the right, or rather a requirement, to engage in the
activities of its polis, while the greatest aspiration for woman was to remain
Having said that, let me also say that
when a writer presents a point of view, he/she should not distort Facts and the
view points should be presented in their proper perspective.
I draw attention to just one of RMBS’s
statements [Island, 27/9/00]: he says, ‘our history is a record of invasions
from South India - the Cholas, the Pandyans etc. To those who may have not
studied the history of this island that statement would certainly convey a wrong
We have had a number of
incursions/invasions from the south of India up to the 13th century AD. That is
a period of about 1800 years from the time of
Vijaya [543-505] BC] - the person ( ? enonymous) shredded to pieces by
modern political writers - or about 1600 years from Devanampiyatissa (252-212
BC) - fortunately left alone - from whose time commences the recorded history of
During this rather long period of
recorded history the number of instances of incursions/invasions which had led
to a usurper orrupying the throne are shown below.
It is noted that during such periods, the
Sinhala resistance was almost always organized in the south, and when the
usurper was defeated, the throne was regained by the rightful Sinhala ruler.
Now, when I say Sinhala it is simply a matter of fact, an historical fact.
Additionally, there were also
incursions/invasions during that period, resulting in looting and destruction,
but not in the displacement of the king. The given Table, is based on the
chronicles and the University of Ceylon, History of Ceylon.
In the Table, those given consecutive
numbers are for usurpers who occupied the throne: those without numbers are the
periods when incursions/invasions had taken place.
The regnal years and the periods of reign
are shown, as this is one aspect, which is being constantly misrepresented,
either due to a lack of knowledge of the island’s history, or deliberately, to
The above Table shows that during a
period of almost 1500 years, i.e. from the time of Devanampiyatissa, foreign
invasions had led to usurpers occupying the throne on occasions for a total
period of c.170 years.
5 a, b, c, above were fortune seekers who
had arrived in the south of the island during the period of Chola rule, and had
been able to get some support for themselves during their short stay in Rohana.
The Chola incursions of the 2nd century
and of the 10th century had resulted in looting and destruction, but not the
displacement of the king. The similar Pandya incursion had been in the 9th
century, and once again in the 13th century, after the Malay, Chandrabhanu. The
history of the 13th century, is indeed very confused.
I have shown here as succinctly as
possible the foreign incursions/invasions of the island during a period of
around 12 centuries. It would, I presume, be sufficient to show, that the
history of this island is not a ’record of invasions’.
When commenting on the island’s
history, writers should conform to facts. General statements, not based on
facts, but, tailored to suit one’s points of view, apart from distorting
facts, reflects badly on the writers themselves.
RMBS has also drawn a distinction between
suzerainty and sovereignty, to imply that Sri Lanka was not an unitary state.
The administration of the country, during
the ancient and medieval periods should be looked at from an historical
perspective. Before the arrival of motorized transport, and rapid communication
modes, travel in the island was by foot, horse, and perhaps by bullock drawn
In such circumstances, the degree of
independence from the center, enjoyed by distant regions, or the degree of
control exercised by the center, would no doubt have been dictated by the
military prowess either in the region or in the center, as pointed out by RMBS
Whatever that degree of control may have
been, the concept of the king in the capital, as the overlord of the country,
had always been accepted. If, as noted above, one was fairly independent, say,
in Rohana, it would have been during periods, when the ruler in the center was
Even as late as the 16th c. when
Dharmapala donated the whole kingdom to the Portuguese, he donated it as the
King of Ceylon, and named all the other ’realms’ in the island as his
tributaries. Their successors the Dutch always addressed the king in Kandy as
the overlord of the island. The ground situation may have been different, but
the concept was that the king in the traditional capital, wherever it was, was
the overlord of the island.
During British times, Dyke, was known as
the uncrowned king of Jaffna. That did not mean that Jaffna was not under
The Apas and Uparajas, were the kings
nominees in the regions for the administration of the country, and even when
rebels held out, it was only an act of defiance against the center.
Thus, the oft repeated statement that the
concept of one country, ruled from the center came with the British, finds no
support in history. Of course, a greater network of roads, and fast transport
and communication, enabled the British to have a tighter control of the entire
island, as would not have been possible in the ancient or medieval times. That
does not mean that in the past, the country was not an unitary state.
As another writer - D G B de Silva - said
in a recent 2 instalment article to this same paper, if you want to argue for
federalism’ you may go ahead and do so, but please don’t seek support from
nun-existing historical facts.
Since, I’ve mentioned E A V Naganathan,
at the beginning of his article, I wish to point out, just one of his false
statements in his article published on 17/8/00.
His ’reading’ of the Trilingual
Inscription - discovered in a culvert in Galle, in 1911 was a complete
fabrication. The inscription has nothing to do with a message sent by the
Chinese Emperor to Parakaramabahu VI (1410-1468). It was only a votive and
dedicatory writing seeking the protection of Tenavarai-Nayanar (in Devundra).
Buddha and [Allah], in its three versions in Tamil, Chinese and Persian.
Allah is given within brackets, as the
scholar to whom the Persian version had been sent for decipherment had
suggested, that the word at a particular place in the inscription, which had
been difficult to read, may have been ’Allah’.
And, lastly, V L Wirasinha has once again
ridden his hobby horse [Island 27/9/00]. To him Buddhism is anathema, it is
undemocratic. That his hi¤ fundamental right to believe in whatever he wishes
to believe and also to publish it loud and clear, and also as often as possible.
Others may not agree with him: that is their fundamental right.
What I wish to point out here, is that
Buddhism was the acknowledged state religion of this country from
Devanampiyatissa (3rd c. BC} to Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798- 1815). During that
long period of almost 22 centuries only two kings had abandoned Buddhism:
Dharmapala (1551-1597) by force of circumstances became a Christian, and
Rajasinha I (1581-1593), embraced Hinduism for a while, with the hope of
expiating the sins of his crimes. These are verifiable historical facts.
The United Kingdom has an accepted state
religion. The State of Vatican, by the very nature of its founding is a Catholic
State. In all Muslim countries, their religion - even going as far as the sect -
is the state religion. Further, in some Muslim in countries, one may not even
publicly practice one’s own religion, if it is something other than the
accepted religion of the state.
Freedom to practice any religion has been
a hallmark of this country for the last 2500 odd years. It has never been
The 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka, has
given Buddhism only the status of primus inter pares. If that decision had been
taken on historical grounds and not on political grounds, Buddhism would have
been the state religion.
According to a newspaper report of not
too long ago, a State Minister is supposed to have said, that the place of
history is in the dustbin. Since it had been attributed to a person in the
highest echelons of society, and if it is true, it would sum up the position,
and show in no uncertain terms, the place accorded to history in this country.
So, history notwithstanding, even the
primus inter pares, status, is assailed by the Roman legions, of the present.
Here, one’s mind naturally goes back to the ‘Holy Wars’ of later date,
when Urban II, sought and received support for his crusade, perhaps in a very
’democratic’ way. Event, so far away, and buried in history, yet,
ironically, seems to be still with us.