Sinhabahu’s Oedipus Complex | Daily News

Sinhabahu’s Oedipus Complex

The mythological Story of Sinhabahu describes the origins of the ‘Sinhala’ race. The Sinhalese are an ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese speak Sinhala -an Indo-Aryan language (Lewis, 2009).The name Sinhala translates to lion people.

According to the Sinhabahu mythology, the Princess Suppadevi of Vanga Kingdom (a kingdom located in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent) was kidnapped by a ferocious lion and took her to the wilderness. While living with the lion she became pregnant and had twins. The newly born son was named Sinhabahu (means-hands like a lion’s paws / the lion armed)) and daughter was named Sinha Seevali. The lion kept them in a cave and used to cover the entrance with a mighty rock.

When Sinhabahu was sixteen years of age, he removed the megalith and escaped with his mother and the sister. They went to the Lala kingdom evading the lion. When the lion found that the family had escaped it became furious and attacked villages seeking Princess Suppadevi and two children. The desperate villagers pleaded the King to rescue them from the fierce lion. The king of the Lala kingdom requested Sinhabhu to stop the menace caused by the lion. Young Sinhabahu went in search of the lion and killed him with a deadly arrow.

The people praised Sinhabahu for rescuing them from the evil beast. He was rewarded as a hero. After killing the lion Sinhabahu becomes the Archetypal Hero. Joseph Campbell in Hero with Thousand Faces (1968) indicated that hero is “any male or female who leaves the world of his or her everyday life to undergo a journey to a special world where challenges and fears are overcome in order to secure a quest, which is then shared with other members of the hero‟s community”

Sinhabahu’s story was told through the generations. Oral-traditional stories detail their heroes’ growth through a narrative pattern of exile and return that places the heroes in situations repeatedly challenging their strength and resolve (Scot, 1990). Archetypes may find their way into narratives in the form of a typical character, story line, plot, imagery or themes and through their interconnectedness provide a platform for analysis. Hero and hero‟s journey is one of the archetypes that are almost always present in narratives in every culture.

Prince Sinhabahu built a city called Sinhapura (The Lion City) and married his sister Sinha Seevali. They had a son named Vijaya. According to Mahawansa Prince Vijaya was the first recorded King of Sri Lanka from 543 BC to 505 BC.

The lion or the beast was the father of Prince Sinhabahu who kidnapped his mother from her clan. The lion could have been a metaphor for a strong man with a monstrous strength or a man with a lion face (consider that fact that in Hansen’s disease lion-like appearance or leonine facies is evident).

Prof Gananath Obeyesekere postulates that Sinhabahu myth is the paradigmatic myth of the Sri Lankan Oedipus. In his outstanding publication, The Work of Culture Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology Prof Obesekara states that the Sinhabahu myth is striking for the absence of reference to remorse or any ethical qualms for father killing.

The Prince Sinhabahu’s father was a lion which was a symbolic representation of a strong male. All symbolic representation has its genesis in the social, ideological and political concept (Miller, 2011). Hence Lion became the symbol for the ‘Sinhala’ race.

Carl Jung believed that animals almost invariably represent instincts and each animal represents a different instinct. Lion is an archetypal symbol for the Sinhalese people. A symbol has at its kernel a breath of life energy, be it instinctual or archetypal, named libido or anima (Jutta von Buchholtz, 2000).

Obeyesekere explores what he calls “symbolic remove”–the process through which symbolic forms existing at the cultural level. Symbols thus created are regressive because of their ontogenesis in individual development and unconscious processes, while also being progressive, in that the unconscious thought transforms the archaic motivations of early experience and looks forward to their realization in experience of the sacred (Nuckolls, 1997).

Culture is a regulator of human life and identity. Culture arises from shared symbols, language, ideology, beliefs, rituals, myths, stories and dominant metaphors (Fischer & Dirsmith, 1995). Sinhabahu is a cultural symbol as well as a dominant metaphor. For the Sinhala’ race “Lion” became the totem animal. As Freud viewed the clan is celebrating the ceremonial occasion by the cruel slaughter of its totem animal. When the Prince Sinhabahu killed the lion people became over joyed and celebrated the slaughter. He was hailed as the king or the savior. However the lion symbol became the clan’s identity.

The Jungian Psychologist Barbara Hannah pointed out the archetypal symbolism of the lion, which entered the fourth class for it is becoming more and more divine. With its angry, roaring, fiery and passionate nature it is a wonderful symbol for the God of the Old Testament who has to be transformed by the doves of Diana.

Emile Durkheim (1915) proposed that animism and totemism were the primal forms of religion. In ancient Sri Lanka 4 tribes (Siv Hela) could be identified. These were Raksha, Yaksha, Naga and Deva tribes. Before the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka (before 250 B.C) these tribes worshiped trees and stone monuments. They believed that spirits, and demons inhabit the earth. Still totemism and animism prevail among the Veddas (‘forest-dwellers’) – the indigenous people of Sri Lanka.

The Prince Vijaya – son of Sinhabahu was exiled from the kingdom and he came to Sri Lanka with his 700 followers. Vijaya married a local prince from the Yaksha tribe. Kuveni bore him two children, a son and a daughter. Later Vijaya abandoned Kuveni and his two children. He married a princess from India. Kuveni’s children fled the palace and lived in the jungle. Veddas are descended from Kuveni’s children.

Jung recognized that there were universal patterns in all stories and mythologies regardless of culture or historical period and hypothesized that part of the human mind contained a collective unconscious shared by all members of the human species, a sort of universal, primal memory. There are many mythological stories like Sinhabahu that could be found in the ancient cultures. Dr Wijaya Dissanayaka, Consultant Psychiatrist and the eminent lecturer, was on the view that most of these stories narrate the killing of the beast or the dragon by the hero, which truly depicts the oedipal conflict.


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