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Monks who traversed oceans

Title: “The Mahavamsa Illustrated -Paintings from a 12 th century Myanmar Temple”

Author: Dr. Hema Goonetileke

Reviewed by Hemantha Situge

The magnum opus entitled “The Mahavamsa Illustrated -Paintings from a 12 th century Myanmar Temple” by Dr. Hema Goonetileke published by S Godage and Brothers was released recently.

This opus is dedicated to ‘the monks of Sri Lanka and South East Asia who over the centuries for over one millennium traversed the oceans and difficult terrain to enrich each other’s cultures’.

The foreword of the book is written by Emeiritus Professor Y. Karunadasa and the introduction of the book is done by former Associate Professor of the University of Texas, Donald M. Stadtner.

Dr. Hema Goonetileke has turned a back in time embarking on a journey of historiography unfolds the pages of our epic Mahavamsa tracing the indispensable role played by the avid monks of Sri Lanka and the East Asia for their impact to strengthen the cultural ties in between Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

In the light of the publication:” The Mahavamsa Illustrated” this reviewer opines that the contents of the book should be viewed through the contemporaneous epigraphic evidence available on the era such as Polonnaruva: Slab Inscription of the Velaikkaras (circa 1137-1153 A. D.) Epigraphia Zeylanica Volume II No 40 (Reg. no 2) from pages 242 to 255 edited and translated by Don Martino de Silva Wickramasinghe London 1928.

From pages 248-50 of this inscription Dimbulagala (Udumbagiri) Maha Kassapa is mentioned and Goonetilke asserts at page 94 in her opus. At page 253-4 of this inscription: “ So His Majesty had Buddhist priest invited from Aramans [to Ceylon], an [with their aid] effected the purification of the Buddhist Order of the Nikayas [fraternities] “.

The other epigraphic account is on the Devanagala Parwatha Inscription by Parakramabahu the Great, the description is found in the Report of the Kegalle District XIX -1892 Archaeological Survey of Ceylon by H. C. P. Bell Colombo 1904 vide: pages 73 to 76 it is on the Burmese interactions of his times.

Dr. Rev Polwatte Buddadatta Mahathera wrote a book titled: Kalyani Shila Lipi in Sinhalese deciphered the Kalyani inscriptions, which was reprinted by Godage. This book would be another book to re-examine the episode of Burma.

Another account on the History of the Burmese Sect in Sri Lanka (Lakdiva Buruma Nikaye Ithihasaya) in Sinhalese found from pages 37-49 written by the Dr. Rev Polwatte Buddadatta Mahathero published in Paranavitana Felicitation Volume edited by Prof. N. A. Jayawickrama Gunasena in 1965 would be of some value that whets the curiosity of the reader.

Dr. Malini Dias’s ‘Historical Relations of Ancient Sri Lanka and Myanmar published in the Ancient and Medieval Commercial Activities in the Indian Ocean’ : Testimony of Inscriptions and Ceramic -shreds Report of the Taisho University Research Project 1997-200 Edited Noboru Karashima Taisho University 2002 pages 170-183 is another recent scholarly study on the subject.

It is the fervent view of this reviewer that Prof. G. P. Malalasekera in his splendid treatise entitled : ‘The Pali Literature of Ceylon’[1928] Buddhist Publication Society 1994 at page 196-7 sheds light to hidden saga of the the 12 th century Mahawamsa paintings found in the Myanmar temple Miyankaba Kubyaukgyi in Bagan .During the reign of King Parakramabahu 1 -the Great - a Burmese priest named Elder Uthtarajeewa from Pagan learnt the damma and sought upasampada -higher ordination from the celebrated Mahaviharaya along with his pupil the novice Chapata known in religion Saddammajothipala. Thereafter four Sinhalese monks set foot to Myanmar together with him and conducted Upasampada -the higher ordination- in Myanmar. Malalasekera has stated that this intercourse as the beginning of the lineage of- Sihala sangha - Sinhalese monks in Burma thus it unravels the tangled skein hitherto existed.

The visit of these Sinhalese monks bear ample testimony to the fact how episodes of Mahavamsa has steeped in Burmese Buddhist culture that left the hallmark of imprint by them at this temple. The paintings are drawn by an unknown artist in Burma who has associated with the Myanmar Temple.

The scholarly treatise entitled:” Mahavamsa Ilustrated”, is indeed a thought provoking book for the researches to further delve into on the significant religious intercourse as a landmark of the past.


Insight to Sri Lanka’s recent political crisis

Title: The Fifty Two Day saga – Political Crisis in Sri lanka

Author: Professor Ravindra Fernando

In a surprise move, President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26 last year, sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.

The events and decisions came to light in the days next fifty two days of this new appointment and how the legislature and the Judiciary reacted and responded is narrated by Professor Ravindra Fernando in his new book “The Fifty Two Day saga – Political Crisis in Sri lanka”.

The book details the roles played by the speaker Karu Jayasuriya, political parties, such as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the international community. The impact on the economy is also mentioned.

Professor Fernando describes vividly the unprecedented behaviour of the MPs in Parliament for three days. Eventually, sanity prevailed when the seven judges of the Supreme Court gave their unanimous decision.

This book will be a valuable document for all politicians, lawyers, researchers and historians.


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