I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt. Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish descent from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) in 1940's, and built the first Evangelical church in the South. Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule (1500's), went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist. I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US. I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions. I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.
Something to keep in mind, an egalitarian/equal society is equally important to happiness of society.
Excerpts from Article
While the US ranks among the least equal and mobile countries in the developed world, recent work shows that it contains places that span the global mobility distribution.
Persistence in income from one generation to the next is higher in unequal societies like the UK and the US, and weakest in the relatively equal Scandinavian countries (the ‘Great Gatsby curve’)
Would would this map out similarly in South Asia, I think yes)
For example, equality and mobility are highest in the Midwest, where Scandinavian ancestry is common. The same goes for every group we study – for example, income mobility is lowest in areas where the population has Italian or British roots.
From Comments (read them too, please). One should point also out the common observation that all that Scandinavian solidarity is built on a great deal of ethnic homogeneity. The US problem has always been getting the melting pot to melt.
My mother, life-long Republican and descendant of Swedish grand-parents, blamed the “socialist” bent in MN on the dumb Ole-and-Lena’s who maintained their village mind-set of caring-through-conformity post-immigration. In her opinion, worldly-wise people knew better than to just hand money out to strangers. I thought about that a little when reading Tuesday’s piece about trust in society, and cat sick’s comment that keeping business (or wealth) within networks is a way to mitigate risk.
Sibi is a small rural town in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province and like many such places it has little to recommend it. It is occasionally the scene of terrorist attacks by Balochi separatists, it has no forts, palaces or ancient ruins that might attract tourists from outside, and it often records the highest temperatures in Pakistan. But as unlikely as it may seems this woebegone, dusty town was once the setting for one of Buddhism’s most enduring and beautiful legends.
In ancient times it was the capital of the small city state of Aritthapura and at one time was ruled by a king named Sivi or sometimes Sibi or Shibi. This king gets a mention in the Mahabharata and the Cholas of south India claimed to be descendants of him, a claim that had no basis in fact.
The earliest mention of King Sivi however is from the Jataka, in the Sivi Jataka, number 499 of the collection. According to this story the Bodhisattva was once reborn as King Sivi and he had made a vow to give anything if anyone asked it of him. Aware of this vow, Sakra decided to test the king to see how genuine his vow was. He manifest himself as a blind man and approached the king pleading; “Give me sight. Will no one give me sight?” Hearing this, filled with compassion, and determined to fulfil his vow, the king led the blind man to a surgeon and asked that his own eyes be taken out and transplanted into the sunken sockets of the blind man. At this point the Jataka increases the tension of the story by having the surgeon ask the king; “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” But the king is adamant and requests that the operation proceeds. What follows is a fairly explicit description of how the eyeballs were squeezed from their sockets, how the optic nerve (or is it the extraocular muscles?) is severed, and the pain this caused. Before the surgeon severs the optic nerve for good he again asks; “Are you sure you want me to do this? Once I cut it there is no turning back.” The king, now in terrible pain, begs the surgeon to hurry up and do the needful. The scene is so vivid that one is tempted to think that the ancient Indians may have actually tried to perform such an operation. As happens in most such Jatakas, the drama ends well with the king’s sight being restored.
In later Buddhist Sanskrit text there is another version of this story. Here King Sibi makes a vow that he will do whatever he can to save a life should the need ever arise. Saka manifests himself as a hawk who catches a dove within view of the king. Seeing this the king pleads with the hawk to release its prey but the bird retorts: “Then how am I to feed myself and my young?” The king thinks for a moment and then says; “I will cut some flesh from my thigh and give it to you if you let the dove go.” Driving a hard bargain the hawk agrees but says it wants the same amount of flesh as would have been provided by the dove. The king agrees, a pair of scales are produced and the process of slicing off a dove’s-worth of flesh is about to begin when Sakka reveals himself and expresses his satisfaction that King Sibi has had the courage to go through with his vow.
Although the imagery of cutting eyes balls out of their sockets or slicing flesh off a living person are disconcerting, even shocking, the purpose of both versions of this Jataka story is clear. A true hero will be prepared to sacrifice much of himself or herself for others. Jesus said pretty much the same thing in the Gospel of John: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The Sivi version of the story is depicted in a relief from Sarnath and Nagajunakonda in Andhra Pradesh, in a mural on the walls of the Mulkirigala temple in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
This version has had an unexpected consequence. Sri Lanka has the highest number of people willing to donate their corneas after death to be used to help restore sight to the blind. This is due to campaigning starting in 1964 by the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society and also because Buddhists in the country are familiar with the story of King Sivi’s gift. The society has 450 branches in the country and every year is able to provide thousands of corneas to be used in eye surgery around the world.
The alternative Sibi version of the story is depicted in the art of numerous Buddhist countries. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the depiction on one of the panels of the great Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java. In the middle of the panel a pair of large and impressive scales can be seen and in the right hand dish of the scales the dove is waiting to be weighed against the king’s flesh. This version of the story has had an influence too, although in literature rather than medicine.
In around 1597 William Shakespeare wrote his famous play The Merchant of Venice. In the play a young merchant promises to guarantee a loan his friend plans to take out in order to woo his sweetheart. The agreement is that if the loan, which is given without interest, cannot be repaid by a set date the moneylender will be repaid not in cash but with a pound (about 450 grams) of the guarantor’s flesh. The moneylender has made this stipulation because he secretly hates the guarantor and hopes that he will not be able to repay the money. The date passes without the loan being repaid and the moneylender demands his pound of flesh. The lender is soon able to repay the loan and even offers to double the amount rather have his flesh cut off, but the moneylender demands that the original agreement be kept. He does not want the money, he wants the pound of flesh. They go to court and the judges uphold the original agreement but they also decide that moneylender can have his pound of flesh but without shedding a drop of blood, which would be a criminal offence under the law.
This is one of Shakespeare’s most dramatic plays and the origin of the ideas in it have been explored in great detail. Its chief source was Giovanni Fiorentino’s llPecorone written in 1378. But where did Fiorentino get the idea of cutting off flesh of a certain weight to repay a loan? The simple answer is that no one knows. But the idea is so gripping, so iconic, so unusual, that one cannot help thinking that at some time before the 14th century, probably many centuries earlier, it may have travelled from India, through the Middle East and eventually filtered into Europe. If this is correct, it may be a small contribution Buddhist literature made to the works of Shakespeare.
The story of King Sibi endured for centuries despite the disappearance of Buddhism in India. In 1907 M. Longworth Dames published his Popular Poetry of the Baloches, containing English translations of verses, songs and poetry he had transcribed in the Balochi tongue during the previous decades. One of the poems he recorded in 1884 is immediately recognizable as the Jataka story, only the king is a Muslim named Ali.
But to return to the town of Sibi. In a semi-desert area to the south of the town is a collection of ruins. One of these looks suspiciously like it was once a stupa. We know that there was such a monument somewhere in or near the town because the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang mentioned one in his travelogue, erected “where King Sivika sliced his body to ransom a dove from a hawk, in order to acquire Buddhahood.” No archaeological examination has ever been done to determine the date and purpose of this monument, and probably never will be. But it is quite likely that it is what remains of the stupa erected to commemorate King Sivi’s noble deed.
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Charles Allen has written two books on The Buddha and the Sahibs and Ashoka—The Search for India’s Lost Emperor. The second book, written about a decade after the first one, is largely an expansion of the first.
Both are the stories of the “Orientalists” who discovered India’s lost history, the lost Emperor Ashoka, and the Buddha Dhamma that thrived in India during Ashoka’s time. Their methods of discovery were crude, sometimes outright criminal by today’s standards. However,there were honest“sahibs” who dedicated their whole lives to science and discovery; conversely, there were opportunistic and greedy “sahibs” whose only objective was wealth. Allen weaves his tale in a way to take the readers along with the discoverers while (mostly) permitting the readers to judge for themselves.
Among the most interesting are William “Oriental” Jones, who established the Asiatic Society of Bengal; James Prinsep, who deciphered Ashoka texts; George Turnour, who translated Mahawansa from Pali to English; Alexander Cunningham, who discovered many of the Buddhist pilgrimage sites; Dr. Waddell, who discovered Kapilavastu and Lumbini; and John Marshall, who finally introduced proper methods of archeological excavation.
Prinsep worked to decipher the lettering on the pillar known as the “Feroz Shah’s Lat” or “Delhi No 1” for four years. His breakthrough came when he examined two dozen brief inscriptions of the same lettering at the Great Stupa at Sanchi. Prinsep guessed that these short inscriptions could only be records of donations. He was struck by the fact that almost all short transcripts ended with the same word with two characters: a snake-like squiggle and an inverted T followed by a single dot.
Here, he observed that the language was not Sanskrit but a vernacular modification of it, which had been fortunately preserved in Pali scriptures of Ceylon and Ava, a nineteenth century Burmese kingdom.Prinsep’sassistant with Pali was a Sinhalese named “Ratna Paula” (quite likely a corruption of the name “Rathanapala”).Both in Sanskrit and in Pali, the verb “to give” was “dana” and the noun “gift” or “donation” was “danaṁ” sharing the same Indo-European root as the Latin “donare” (to give) and “donus” (gift). This led to the recognition of the word “danaṁ,” teaching Prinsep the two letters, d and n of Brahmi 1. The snake-like squiggle represented the sound “da”, and the inverted T with the single dot the sound “naṁ.”
Too, Prinsep noticed that a single letter (like an inverted y) appeared frequently before or near the terminal word. Prinsep determined this letter to mean “of,” the equivalent of Pali “ssa,” based on his earlier investigations of the coins from Saurashtra. If his hunch was correct, then the general structure of each sentence was something like “So-and-so of the gift.”Prinsep’s translation of one such Sanchi inscription is “Isa-palitasa-cha Samanasa-cha danaṁ” (The gift of Isa-Palita and of Samana.)
The opening sentence of Delhi No 1 had been observed to repeat itself again and again at the start of many sections or paragraphs of text in the pillar inscriptions and on the rock edicts. This,Prinsep could now read as “Devanampiyapiyadasi raja hevaṁ aha.” After conferring with Ratna Paula, Prinsep concluded that this opening phrase was best represented in English as “Thus spake King Piyadasi, Beloved of the Gods.” Prinsep published his findings in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in April, 1837.
But who was the author of these extraordinary edicts? Who wasPiyadasi? Prinsep couldn’t find a Piyadasi in all Hindu genealogical tables that he consulted. Only one possible candidate presented himself, one who had emerged from George Turnour’s translations of the Pali Chronicles of Ceylon: “King Devanampiatissa succeeded his father on the throne of Ceylon in the year of Buddha 236. He induced Dharmasoka, a sovereign of the many kingdoms into which Dambadiva was divided, and whose capital was Pataliputta, to depute his son Mahinda and his daughter Sangamitta, with several other principal priests to Anuradhapura for the purpose of introducing the religion of Buddha.”
In a letter sent to Prinsep on June 6th of 1837, Turnour excitedly revealed the identity of Piyadasi. “I have made a most important discovery. You will find in the introduction to my Epitome that a valuable collection of Pali works was brought back to Ceylon from Siam, by George Nodaris, mudaliar in 1812. This collection of Pali texts included a copy of the Island Chronicle, the original chronicle from which the later Great Dynastic Chronicle took its earliest historical material, but a less corrupted version—and with crucial differences. While casually turning the leaves of the manuscript I had hit upon an entirely new passage relating to the identity of Piyadasi … who, the grandson of Chandragupta, and own son of Bindusara, was at the time Viceroy of Ujjayani.”
King Devanmpriya Piyadasi of the Feroz Shar Lat inscription (Delhi 1) was not King Devanampiathissa of Lanka, as Prinsep had assumed. He was his Indian contemporary Ashoka Maurya.
After Prinsep’s death his work was continued. Alexander Cunningham relied on the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang to discover the Buddhist pilgrim sites. Faxian’s Records of Buddhist Kingdoms was translated in 1836, and Xuanzang’s History of the Life of Xuanzang and His Travels in India was translated in 1853. Faxian, who travelled to India in 400 CE, identified Ashoka as Wuyou Wang (The King Not Feeling Sorrow). Faxian visited Sankisa, and Lumbini, and from Lumbini travelled south to cross the Ganges at the point he describes as “the confluence of the five rivers,” just upstream of the capital of the country of Maghada: Pataliputra. Faxian describes Wuyou’s palace and his towering city walls and gates as being inlaid with sculpture-work. About two hundred years later, when Xuanzang arrived, the Buddha Dhamma was in decline and the Pataliputra was all but abandoned. Cunningham conducted his field surveys with copies of Faxian’s andXuanzang’s travels in his knapsack. He tracked down almost all sites visited by the Chinese pilgrims, including Sravasti, Kosambi, Ayodya, Sankisa, Taxila, and Nalanda.
However, Cunningham assumed that Pataliputra must have been swept away by the changing course of the Ganges. Dr. Waddell thought otherwise. Taking together both Faxian and Xuanzang accounts,Waddell prepared a chart of Ashoka’s palaces and other chief monuments, and his chart led him over a railway line that marked the southern limits of “old” Patna, to a series of mounds known as Panch Pahari or the Five Brothers. He wrote afterwards, “I was surprised to find most of the leading landmarks of Ashoka’s palaces, monasteries, and other monuments when reexamined so very obvious that I was able in the short space of one day to identify many of them beyond all doubt.” Around the modern village Kumrahar, Waddell found various fragments of sculpture and other confirmatory details and learned from the villagers that whenever they sunk wells, they stuck massive wooden beams at a depth of about 20 feet beneath the ground. Megasthenes, a Greek diplomat who stayed at Pataliputra for six months during the Emperor Chandragupta’s reign, had recorded that Pataliputra was surrounded by wooden walls.
As mentioned before, not all sahibs treated their objects respectfully. James Campbell, the Commissioner of Customs, Salt, Opium and Akbari in Bombay Presidency in the 1890s, excavated several sites in Gujarat. Among his early triumphs was finding a new Ashokan rock edict, which he had allowed to be taken to bits, mislaid, and lost. A relic subsequently identified by the accompanying inscription as a segment of Buddha’s alms bowl was thrown away. He then moved on to tear apart the “Girnar Mound,” a large stupa a few miles south of the famous Girnar rock inscription.
In spite of some irresponsibility, all of these men contributed to the rediscovery of India’s past. The books that tell their stories are excellent, and in this reviewer’s judgment both belong in any Sri Lankan’s private library.
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Life on the Outside: The Tamil Diaspora and Long Distance Nationalism by Øivind Fuglerud (1999).
Not a review of the book, just excerpts. I found the book unbiased in my opinion. The first chapters are a background of how the separatist movement evolved. The latter chapters are on the dynamics of the Tamil Diaspora in Norway. The excerpts are from that part of of the book.
Link to the pdf of the book at end of post.
YouTube video of life in the Tundra at end of post.
Vasanthan, Thank you very much for sending the book link
A more radical change in climate and nature than that between Sri Lanka and Norway is difficult to imagine and if one is going directly the journey may be made in less than twelve hours. One Tamil lady explained to me how, arriving in the middle of winter with the snowdrifts high against the houses, she believed that people in this part of the world lived in underground caves A refugee counsellor in the northern part of the country told me how a young Tamil boy due to be settled in the township where she worked had desperately clung on to the aeroplane steps, refusing to come with her into town. Seeing the barren, snow-covered environment he was convinced he was being banished to somewhere outside human habitation. When he was moving to another town I asked Sri, a moderate LTTE supporter, how he would go about getting acquainted if he met a fellow countryman at his new working place. He answered: I will begin by asking him if he has any news from home, that is our standard opening. Then I will ask him what he thinks about this or that of the recent development in Sri Lanka. If I understand he supports the movement I may invite him home. If he criticises the Tigers but is basically neutral, we may keep on talking at work. I am not a fanatic, I don’t mind that. If I understand he is a member of one of the other groups, however, I will break off. I don’t want to socialise with traitors. In dealing with fellow countrymen there is always the possibility that actions in Norway will have consequences in Sri Lanka. Tamil refugees are not fleeing a common enemy, the violence is within as much as on the outside. ‘They are here, don’t speak’, newcomers will be informed upon arrival. ‘LTTE is here, I cannot speak’ Even Wilson, a founding member of the LTTE who was permitted to leave the organisation after a dramatic escape from Batticaloa prison in the early 1980s, found that after finally obtaining a visitor’s visa for his mother she was being held back byhis former friends in Jaffna. ‘ Theyjust want to remind me that they know where I am’, he said to me. ‘They are afraid that after ten years in Norway I may be tempted to write a book or something.’ In fact, from 1990 this effort to execute control beyond their own borders has been institutionalised through a very strict exit control in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, which includes the obligatory signing of a ‘contract’ by a guarantor staying behind. As already indicated, in Norway many Tamil refugees have in fact violated the ‘first-country’ regulation on their way. To remain in Norwaytheymust make up a storyand stick to it. The idea that Tamils in exile tend to give each other away is part of the current self-understanding, a situation which prevents a communicative sharing of life histories. Most of my informants asked me not to tell their stories to other Tami Another man asked me to take care of his passport when he was kicked out by his wife and had to staywith friends for some time. ‘You cannot trust Tamils when it comes to passports’, was his laconic comment When the possibility of sending home Tamil asylum seekers came up for renewed discussion in 1994, a frenzybroke out in one of the small northern settlements. It incited people to go to the police on their own initiative and provide what little information they had about their neighbours. Within a few days local immigration authorities were able to establish that, of the 120 Tamils resident in the village, more than 40 had been living in Switzerland before coming to Norway. For example, it is a well-known fact among Tamils that in Norway the local LTTE people were for a number of years allowed to monopolise positions as interpreters for the immigration police. That interaction between a police officer and a refugee in a situation of interrogation is on unequal terms, defined by the context and scale of Western immigration, is readily understandable. But when the refugee is afraid of telling his story to the police officer because of the interpreter’s connections to the militant opposition in Sri Lanka and this interpreter is employed by the Norwegian police, where do we draw the boundary of the system? In terms of inter-personal relationships social fragmentation is not readily apparent to outsiders. To a Norwegian the first impression of Tamil life is one of dense sociality. the divide among Tamils in Norway has been on an LTTE /anti-LTTE basis. LTTE is today the only militant group with a properly working organisation in Norway, keeping offices in the main cities and having more or less official representatives in most Tamil settlements. Prabhakaran, lacking resources of his own, had temporarily joined the organisation TELO which was then under leadership of two militant leaders called Kuttimani and Thangathurai. Together with them he was supposed to have taken part in a famous armed robbery of the Neervely Bank in Jaffna. The second was that subsequently Prabhakaran had personally tipped off the Sri Lankan police on the whereabouts of Kuttimani and Thangathurai, this information leading to their arrest and, as a result of this arrest, their death in the Wellikade prison massacre. On 1 May 1994 the writer and publisher, Sabaratnam, was killed by unidentified gunmen at his home in Paris Critics of the LTTE in Norway pointed out to me that shortly before his death Sabaratnam had written an article in the Canadian magazine Thayagam. In this article Sabaratnam had observed that all who participated in the Neervely Bank robbery, except Prabhakaran himself, were now dead, killed either by the Sri Lankan authorities or by the LTTE. He implied that Prabhakaran saw it in his interest to remove the other participants in the action in order to conceal his own co-operation with TELO. Sabaratnam had promised to return with another article disclosing the real story behind the robbery and the capture of Kuttimani and Thangathurai, but was killed before this could take place – allegedly by the LTTE itself. By the adherents of the Thayagam version, the killing of Sabaratnam and Prabhakaran’s betrayal in the late 1970s were seen as closely connected events which should make people turn their backs on LTTE activities in exile. Not only did Prabhakaran’s tip-off constitute a collaboration with the enemy, but the killing of Sabaratnam reached the lowest possible level of human baseness. It was claimedby people familiar with the early history of the militant movement that in the mid-1970s, years before the Neervely robbery, when Sabaratnam himself was a political activist in Jaffna, he had taken Prabhakaran into his house while he was wanted by the police and had kept him in hiding for several weeks, putting his own life in danger. Repaying this old debt with murder constituted a breach with the militants’ most fundamental ‘code of arms’ and, by implication, left his organisation, LTTE, without any legitimate claim for support. Tamils are the group of immigrants with the highest rate of employment and with the lowest level of welfare support in Norway. One reason for this situation is the acceptance of the kind of work which is not in demand. In Oslo, according to a recent statistical survey (Djuve and Hagen 1995), only 1.3 per cent of Tamils’ income comes from welfare, as compared to, for instance, 41.7 per cen among Somalis and 37.5 per cent among Vietnamese. In fact, the Tamil level of welfare support is lower than among Norwegians (2 per cent). In this rather inhospitable area Sri Lankan Tamils have won a reputation as workers in the factories where fish is cut and packed. Even if the numbers are small, seldom more than 50 to 100 in one village, statistics will show that in several villages Tamils represent 5 to 10 per cent of the total population In the anthropological literature the dowry has generally been regarded as a pre-mortem inheritance to the daughters of a family (Comaroff 1980). In the prevailing war situation it is normally a chosen son who pre mortem inherits the realisable capital of the family and invests it in migration against taking further responsibility for his native family upon himself. This implies, inter alia, that he must procure his sisters’ dowries before establishing a family on his own. (my comment: This is one of the biggest differences between Tamil and Sinhalese culture, among the Tamils (and northern muslims) the house goes to the daughters, among the Sinhalese the house goes to the son)
most Tamil asylum seekers arriving in the early 1980s had been granted recognition as refugees while those arriving after 1986 had not. In their understanding this was related to the fact that most of these early applicants had been active LTTE-members, in other words that Norwegian authorities intervene and take sides in internal conflicts, caring less about the killed than about the killers. from people who have fled to get away from their dictatorship in Sri Lanka and have relatives still suffering under their rule there. It is here, at this precise point, that the spirit of selfsacrifice of the LTTE soldiers becomes important. The actual materiality of death makes it difficult not to believe the LTTE when they say that their fighters die on behalf of the Tamil nation. Even people who in public take upon themselves the burden of speaking against the LTTE may sometimes admit in private conversations that, emotionally, they are not able to free themselves from sympathy for the organisation and its cause. In 1903, for example, there were 2021 Jaffna-Tamils employed as functionaries in the federated Malay States Railways compared to 84 Sinhalese, 278 Malays and 1084 Chinese (Ramasamy 1988).In 1903, for example, there were 2021 Jaffna-Tamils employed as functionaries in the federated Malay States Railways compared to 84 Sinhalese, 278 Malays and 1084 Chinese (Ramasamy 1988). The main reasons why Ceylon Tamils were favoured by the British administrators were their recognised industriousness and their fluency in English. As noted in Chapter 2, at the turn of the century the Tamil community already had a long-standing relationship with English speaking missionaries. The acquiring of language proficiency was, however, not a passive process. Education was an asset seized upon by the ambitious, something that aspiring Jaffna families put their minds to without regard for the costs. Migration to areas like British Malaya was clearly one way of ‘converting . English education into cash’. The Money Order remittances returned to Ceylon in a good year like 1918 totalled 736,652 Ceylon rupees from the Federated Malay States and 289,651 rupees from the Straits Settlements, quite substantial amounts at that time. The importance of these remittances was such that on two occasions, with a twentyseven years’ interval, the government agent in the Northern Province found it necessary to point out that it was the money coming from Malaya which accounted for the relative prosperity of Jaffna (Ceylon Administrative Report 1903 and 1930).
Described as one of the worst since 1924 by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the rains in Kerala have left over 350 dead and rendered thousands of people homeless. According to the latest tally, 80,000 have been rescued so far. Over 1,500 relief camps have been set up across the state that currently house at least 2,23,139 people.
Now as India struggles with the catastrophic floods in Kerala, foreign disaster aid has again become an issue with India unwilling to accept the help it then gave. In 2005, as countries across the region struggled to cope with the Indian Ocean tsunami, India declined aid.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi initially welcomed the United Arab Emirates offer of $100 million in emergency aid for Kerala — a state whose workers have helped author that country’s economic success story. Foreign ministry officials, however, pushed back and India instructed its diplomats to politely decline foreign governmental aid.
Kerala has a relatively small public sector. The state’s economic review records that the government employs some 2,75,000 people and another 1,25,000 are with quasi-public institutions, to serve a population of 34.8 million. The state police, notably, has just 39,159 members of personnel — 113 for every lakh persons — or less than half the United Nations-recommended 250 per lakh.
Following the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a staggering 90 countries held out offers worth a combined $854 million. The United Arab Emirates alone pledged $100 million in cash and another $400 million in oil. Bangladesh promised $1 million. Thailand, which lost 8,150 people in the previous year’s tsunami, offered a team of 60 doctors and nurses. Even Cuba — subjected to sanctions by the superpower for decades — said it was willing to send 1,100 doctors.
There’s little doubt the foreign aid refused by the US could have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people, many of whom remained homeless years after the hurricane. The money could, for example, have paid for the construction of an estimated 8,500 homes, or substantially helped rebuild the $1 billion worth of transport infrastructure claimed by the hurricane.
“In all humanitarian crisis,” says former diplomat Vivek Katju, “the criteria for accepting aid should be whether it’s needed to alleviate suffering, not some false pride or national ego”. Every rich country — from Japan to the United States — has accepted aid where its own resources were wanting.
But truly great nations, it is time India’s leaders realise, don’t just know how to give but also to receive.
The last comment about give and receive, I really believe/practice as a person. One should have the humility to accept and give back. I do not (necessarily) have to give back to the same person who gave me. Neither should I want to some one who I gave, to give back. If whom I give, gives back thats just so much pleasure.
Excerpts Four of the top five states are from the south, with Kerala leading the list. Tamil Nadu is at number two on the survey which ranks states across a three-year period.
A notable inclusion in the top three is the state of Telangana, which was created in 2014, carved off from Andhra Pradesh/
The bottom spots of the survey were taken up by states from the north: Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
States in India have a wide remit with control over water, agriculture, land rights, public health and order, theatres and entertainment, even duties on opium and other narcotics, and in some cases are as powerful as an individual country in a continent such as Europe might be. Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people, would be the world’s fifth biggest country if it were an autonomous nation,
States are linguistically diverse, culturally and socially varied – for example, in the cluster of eight northeastern states which border China and Myanmar, people look eastwards for their cultural cues, eschewing Bollywood in favour of K-pop, and prefer soccer to cricket. Home to matrilineal societies, women are far more visible in everyday life than in the “cow belt” states of central India.
Kerala too, is markedly different from the north. It has the highest literacy rate in the country, at more than 93%, as well as a high life expectancy and the best gender ratio in the country. It also tops the UNDP-sponsored Human Development Index thanks to high standards in sanitation, health, education and poverty reduction.
But for all of its highs, Kerala – indeed, all of south India – is about as appealing to the central government as coconut oil in butter chicken. In north India, southerners are universally mocked with the pejorative “Madrasis” (a reference to the former name of the city of Chennai). South Indians are looked down on for their dark complexions, their mannerisms, even their diets. Keralites eat beef.
It might be worth noting that four out of the top five best-government states are not ruled by the Hindu-right BJP, but the party does preside over the three states that come last in the survey.
The history of the Buddhist clergy, in this country, has largely been a history of schisms, splits, and amalgamations. Over the centuries, certain points have been inferred with respect to this process. First and foremost among them, that the breakdown of Buddhist monastic orders in response to growing caste militancy was only a partial, and not complete, consequence of the political games played by the British. Insignificant though this may be, it is nevertheless important in that certain writers paint a rosy picture of caste-ism while forgetting that the rifts between different castes were exacerbated once the British realised it could harness them to its advantage. Caste-ism was, in other words, waiting to be harnessed by external forces.
When the annexation of Kandy was complete, assurances were made by the Colonial Office that steps would be taken to preserve the privileges of the traditional elite, which obviously included the monastic orders (the Siyam Nikaya). Until then, the politics of the Kandyan Kingdom had followed a largely cyclical process, with shifting loyalties and shifts in the regime (particularly after the Nayakkars began their reign). But with the advent of the outsider, this was destined to be succeeded by a largely linear process, in which that outsider, the imperialist, managed to concentrate hitherto traditional privileges within his bureaucracy. The traditional elite, naturally anxious to preserve those privileges, sought to preserve them through their faith. It was in this context that the Siyam Nikaya was guaranteed the continuation of its practices, in part through the much vilified, controversial Kandyan Convention.
The two (Governor of Ceylon, Robert Brownrigg and John D’Oyly, Chief Translator and later Baronet of Kandy) promised to undertake three practices which had been the duty of the King: providing food to the temples from the Maha Gabadawa, holding the pageant of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and maintaining the Dalada Maligawa.
Of the three, the first is the most interesting, since the adherence to and the abrogation of its practice is for me a good indicator of how the Colonial Office affirmed, and later derogated from, the practices of the traditional Kandyan elite. It took several decades for the British to abscond from taking part in the ceremonies of traditional society in India, and that was a consequence of the Mutiny, which took place in 1857. In other words, it took an entire Mutiny to turn the British away from Indian life and culture. In Sri Lanka, by contrast, only 17 years were needed for them to renege on their promises regarding that life and culture; by 1832, contrary to the provisions in the Convention, the Colonial Office had elected to do away with the provision of food to the monks, and instead replaced it with a scheme whereby an annual stipend of 310 pounds (or about 30,000 pounds, when adjusted for inflation) would be paid to the temples. This was an uneasy proposition from the start, and was doomed to stall.
those rebel sects were quickly coming up. Their emergence was conditioned by the regions they originated from. In the hill country, the dominant caste was Govigama; in the low country, the dominant castes were Salagama, Karawa, and Durawa. The Siyam Nikaya yielded to the pressures this soon necessitated, and years after its founding by Welivita Saranankara, it yielded to the dominant caste. Upasampada was restricted to this caste (which was not dominant in the low country, or along the coastal belt). This was true especially when considering how power was distributed in the bureaucracy, prior to the British annexation, between the different castes: while in Kandy the non-Govigama castes had their own headmen, the departments to which they were attached were overseen by Govigama chieftains.
In 1799, therefore, Ambagahapitiya Nanavimala, a Salagama monk who resided in Welitara (a Salagama stronghold), went to Burma with a contingent of five samaneras and three lay devotees. They stopped at Amarapura, where they were duly ordained in 1800, and from where they returned in 1803 to inaugurate the new sect at Balapitiya (another Salagama stronghold, in many ways more so than Welitara). This was the Amarapura Nikaya, and their trek to Burma was financed by a leading (Salagama) entrepreneur from the region, Dines de Zoysa Jayatilaka Sirivardana, most likely an ancestor of Cyril de Zoysa, who would lead the Buddhist revival in the 20th century.
It is a mistake to suggest that the British did away with feudal structures in the societies they colonised. Far from it. In societies advancing towards capitalism, as Marx correctly surmised, such archaic structures would give way to an industrial class, which is why and how the Tories yielded to the Whigs. Such a transformation did not come about in the colonies. The reason is obvious. The British did not want to be the catalyst for the sort of change that would empower a nationalist bourgeoisie in the countries they had conquered. The one link with the past that those countries had which would hold back such a transformation was those feudal structures. In India, Africa, and of course Sri Lanka, the conqueror resorted to them, and in resorting to them, he found the perfect way of keeping us locked in the past. Those who believe that feudalism is retrogressive would be surprised to learn that the British didn’t really combat it. Instead, they encouraged it. That was their game, after all. Divide and rule.
This is where we must credit the Amarapura Nikaya, because for the first time in the history of the Buddhist order, it brought forth (as Professor Malalgoda observes) “closer cooperation between the monks and their devotees.” This had less to do with an overt objective by those monks to erase caste distinctions than with the fact of their own meagre historical condition: given that it had no royal patronage, the Amarapura Nikaya was compelled to rely on the lay devotee. As an anthropologist once wrote, moreover, this had an impact on the way even the Govigamas saw it: “I know many villagers of the Govigama caste who prefer to give alms to monks of the Amarapura or Ramanya Nikaya rather than those of the Siyam Nikaya because they believe that the former are less worldly.” Here, then, was a Buddhism that promised people salvation in this present birth, as opposed to the more conservative Buddhism which gained prominence among urban followers in the latter part of the 19th century.