Sunday, February 3, 2019

Review: The Buddha and the Sahibs and Ashoka—The Search for India’s Lost Emperor.

  


A review by my Uni batch mate, Sunil Koswatta

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 was Piyadasi? 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.

Sunil Koswatta

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Norwegian Tamil Diaspora

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

Excerpts

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).https://zodml.org/sites/default/files/%5BIvind_Fuglerud%2C_Oivind_Fuglerud%5D_Life_on_the_Outs.pdf

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Devadasis, Bharatnatyam and The Theosophical Society

How the Sadri dance of the Devadasis (temple prostitutes) became classical Bharatnatyam in 1935.

Devadasis were girls (age 7-36) "dedicated" to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life.  The Devadasi were trained in music and dance, and a veneer of religion covers prostitution and the supply of concubines to wealthy men.

The dance and music of the Devadasi's were erotic and considered vulgar. This style of dance was called sathirattam and left to nautch girls with no connotations of culture.

In around 1920 the wheels of motion for were setting in place.  Rukmini Devi at the age of 16 married 42 year old George Sydney Arundale who came from England at the invitation of Annie Besant to help with the educational programmes and other activities of the Theosophical Society in India.

Rukmini Devi born  29 February 1904 was the daughter Neelakanta Sastri and of  an upper class Brahmin family in Madurai. Neelakanta Sastri had come under the influence of Theosophical Society and its leader Annie Besant. Rukmini Devi came to the notice of Annie Besant, who saw in her the possible making of a World Mother, just as in J. Krishnamurti she had seen a World Teacher.  Within the Theosophical Rukmini Devi studied Greek dancing , acted in plays including Malini, a play by Rabindranath Tagore.

With George Arundale, Rukmini Devi travelled the world and was exposed to the finest of the arts - theatre, music, painting, sculpture, opera and ballet. She learnt classical western ballet  from the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.  Anna Pavolova persuaded Rukmini Devi to study the dance form practiced by women of the devadasi class, who were considered prostitutes, and a stigma attached to their art.

In 1933 after watching a performance by two Devadasi dancers, Rukmini Devi started learning privately the dance from Mylapore Gowri Amma, a well-known devadasi. This created storm and protest from conservative society specially at the time an anti-nautch movement was on against the revival of Sadir, the dances of the devadasis.

The rest is History as they say.  Rukmini Devi renamed Sadir the dance of the devadasis to Bharatnatyam, popularized the dance form and made it acceptable to  all.  The first presentation of the Bharatnatyam was in 1935 during the Diamond Jubilee Convention of The Theosophical Society
Rukmini Devi went on to establish the Kalākshetra dance academy.


Thanks to Vijay and Bharotshontan's comments which made this write up possible.
http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/09/20/coloniser-alert-cultural-appropriation-attack/



https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/21/devadasi-india-sex-work-religion
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/rukmini-devi-arundale-5490.phphttp://www.narthaki.com/info/profiles/profil44.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devadasi



Sex, Death and the Gods is a film about the devadasi system shown on BBC4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I78sW1iKs0k

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ananda Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)


Coomaraswamy.jpg
“The artist is not a special kind of person; rather each person is a special kind of artist” Ananda  Coomaraswamy, A pioneer historian of Indian Art and foremost interpreter of Indian culture to the West’.
Ananda  Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913) not really a review but excerpts from the book. Very readable and not just the art but the religious and philosophical background to art.  This and other books by AC are available free, link at end of the post.

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947)
Son of
Sir Muttu Coomaraswamy  the first Ceylon (and  South Asian?)  Knight and Elizabeth Beeby, who was a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. First class honours in Geology and Botany (1900) from University of London. The first Director of Mineralogical Surveys, Ceylon (1903). Doctor of Science degree from the University of London in 1906 for identifying and research on the mineral Thorianite.
In 1905 he founded the Ceylon Social Reform Society.  The Society was “formed in order to encourage and initiate reform in social customs amongst the Ceylonese, and to discourage the thoughtless imitation of unsuitable European habits and customs”. He claimed fluency in 36 languages, where his definition of fluency in a language is the ability to read a scholarly article without referring to a dictionary.
AC refused to join the British armed services in World War I and As a result he was exiled from the British Empire and a bounty of 3000 Pounds placed on his head by the British Government and his house was seized. Moved to USA in 1917 together with his extensive art collection, described as ‘among the finest in the Western world’. His entire private art collection was transferred to Boston Museum of Fine Arts,  and worked there as Curator and as Visiting Lecturer at nearby Harvard University for the next thirty years until he retired in 1947.
AC's first book major book Medieval Sinhalese Art was self published. Using his considerable inherited wealth bought the ailing Essex House Press and a small church called Norman Chapel in Broad Campden in Gloucestershire.  He used part of the premises as his residence and moved the machinery of Essex House Press to the rest of the building.  Hand printing of the book started in September 1907 and was completed in December 1908.  The layout of the book, which is a work of art in its own right, and the printing of the 425 copies were supervised by him. 
(more and much of above from In Appreciation of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy)

 Excerpts from Ananda  Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)

In the first place, almost all Hindu art (Brahmanical and Mahayana Buddhist) is religious. " Even a misshapen image of a god," says Sukracharya {ca. 5th century a.d.) "is to be preferred to an image of a man, howsoever charming." Not only are images of men condemned, but originality, divergence from type, the expression of personal sentiment, are equally forbidden. "(Animagemade) according to rule (shastra) is beautiful,no other forsooth is beautiful.

" the likeness of the seated yogi is a lamp in a windless place that flickers not"{Bhagavad Glta, vi. 19). It is just this likeness that we must look for in the Buddha image, and this only. For the Buddha statue was not intended to represent a man ; it was to be like the unwavering flame, an image ofwhat all men could become, not the similitude of any apparition (nirmanakaya).

A like impersonality appears in the facial expression of all the finest Indian sculptures. These have sometimes been described as expressionless because they do not reflect the individual peculiarities which make up expression as we commonly conceive it.

This ideal is described in many places, typically, for example, in the Bhagavad Gita xi. 12-19 : " Hateless toward all born beings, void of the thought of I and My, bearing indifferently pain and pleasure, before whom the world is not dismayed and who is not dismayed before the world; who rejoices not, grieves not,desires not; indifferent in honour and dishonour, heat and cold, joy and pain; free from attachment"—such an one is god-like,from attachment"—such an one is god-like,

BhagavadGita is also the chief gospel of action without attachment: change, says Krishna, is the law of life, therefore act according to duty, not clinging to any object of desire, but like the actor in a play, who knows that his mask {persona) is not himself. For this impassivity is not less characteristic of the faces of the gods in moments of ecstatic passion or destroying fury, than of the face of the stillest Buddha. In each, emotion is interior, and the features show no trace of it: only the movements or the stillness of the limbs express the immediate purpose of the actor.

This amazing serenity (shdnti) in moments of deepest passion is not quite confined to Indian sculpture: something very like it, and more familiar to Western students, is found in the gracious and untroubled Maenad furies of the Greek vases, the irresponsible and sinless madness of the angry Bacchae.
Maenad Satyr-Vase 480bc

There is no more remarkable illustration of the Hindu perception of the relative insignificance of the individual personality, than the fact that we scarcely know the name of a single painter or sculptor of the great periods: while it was a regular custom of authors to ascribe their work to better-known authors, in order to give a greater authority to the ideas they set forth.

This process of intuition, setting aside one's personal thought in order to see or hear, is the exact reverse of the modern theory which considers a conscious self-expression as the proper aim of art. It is hardly to be wondered at that the hieratic art of the Indians, as of the Egyptians, thus static and impersonal,should remain somewhat unapproachable to a purely secular consciousness.

Much later in origin are the definite Assyrianisms and Persian elements in the Asokan and early Buddhist sculpture, such as the bell-capital and winged lions.

Early Buddhism, as we have seen, is strictly rationalistic, and could no more have inspired a metaphysical art than the debates of a modern ethical society could become poetry. The early Sutras, indeed, expressly condemn the arts, inasmuch as ' 'form, sound, taste, smell, touch, intoxicate beings." It is thus fairly evident that before Buddhism developed into a popular State religion (under Asoka) there can hardly have existed any "Buddhist art,"

A confusion of two different things is often made in speaking of the subject-matter of art. It is often rightly said, both that the subject-matter is of small importance, and that the subject-matter of great art is always the same. In the first case, it is the immediate or apparent subject-matter—the representative element—that is spoken of; it is here that we feel personal likes and dislikes. To be guided by such likes and dislikes is always right for a practising artist and for all those who do not desire a cosmopolitan experience ; and indeed, to be a connoisseur and perfectly dispassionate critic ofmany arts or religions is rarely compatible with impassioned devotion to a single one.

The paintings of Ajanta, though much damaged, still form the greatest extant monument of ancient painting and the only school except Egyptian in which a dark-skinned race is taken as the normal type.
Ajanta Painting


Ajanta Painting



















Painting/fresco,  approx 500 AD Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
When a little later we meet with the excavated chatiya-houses, and, later still, the earliest Hindu temples of the Aryavarta and the Dravidian school, we are again faced with the same problem, of the origin of styles which seem to spring into being fully developed. . It is clear that architecture had not made much progress amongst the Aryans when they first entered  India; on the contrary, all the later styles have been { clearly shown to be developments of aboriginal and non-Aryan structures built of wood(posts and beams, bamboo, thatch), the intermediate stages being worked out in brick. The primitive wooden and brick building survives to thepresent day side by side with the work in stone, a silent witness of historic origins. Some of the details of the early stone architecture point to Assyrian origins, but this connection is, for India, prehistoric. How the use of stone was first suggested is a matter of doubt; none ofthe early forms have a Greek character, but are translations of Indian wooden forms into stone; while stone did not come into use for the structural temples of the Brahmans until so late as the 6th century A. D.

The Ceylon Shilpashastras preserve canons of form and proportion for six different types, called by such names as Bell-shape, Heap of rice, Lotus, and Bubble.

Chaitiya Hall (approx 50 AD), Karli, India
Another most important class of early buildings, and one purely Buddhist, is that of the chaitiya-hall (Buddhist temples).


The prototype perhaps survives in the dairy temple of the Todas. We are well acquainted with the structural peculiarities of the chatiya-halls, from the many examples excavated in solid rock. These have barrel roofs, like the inverted hull of a ship, with every detail of the woodwork accurately copied in stone. The earliest date from the time of Asoka(3rd century B.c.) and are characterised
by their single-arched entrance and plain facade.

Toda Hut

Reservoirs:  but it was only notably in Ceylon that there existed conditions favourable to the construction of very large works at a much earlier date. The largest of the embankments of these Ceylon reservoirs measures nine miles in length, and the area of the greatest exceeds 6000 acres. The earliest large tank dates from the 4th century B.C. What is even more remarkable than the amount of labour
devoted to these works, is the evidence they afford of early skill in engineering, particularly in the building of sluices: those of the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. forming the type of all later examples in Ceylon, and anticipating some of the most important developments of modern construction. The most striking features of these sluices are the valve pits (rectangular wells placed transverselyacross the culverts and lined with close-fitting masonry), and the fact that the sectional area of the culverts enlarges towards the outlet, proving that the engineers were aware that retardation of the water by friction increased the pressure, and might have destroyed the whole dam if more space were not provided.but

There is scarcely any Hindu building standing which can be dated earlier than the 6th century a.d. without any trace of historic origins. The explanation of this circumstance is again to be found in the loss of earlier buildings constructed of perishable materials; all the greatarchitectural types must have been worked out in timber and brick before the erection of the stone temples which alone remain. One point of particular interest is the fact that the early temples of the gods, and prototypes of later forms, seem to have been cars, conceived as self-moving and rational beings.

and in another place, the whole city of Ayodahya is compared to a celestial car. The carrying of images in processional cars is still an important featurej of Hindu ritual. The resemblance of the Aryavarta shikhara to the bamboo scaffolding ofa processional car is too striking to be accidental. More than that,' we actually find stone temples of great size provided with enormous stone wheels (Konarak, Vijayanagar) and the monolithic temples at Mamallapuram (7th century) (fig. 83) are actually called rathas, that is cars, while the term vimana, applied to later Dravidian temples, has originally the same sense, of vehicle or moving palace.

The greatest period of Indian shipbuilding, however, must have been the Imperial age of the Guptas and Harshavardhana, when the Indians possessed great colonies in Pegu, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, and trading settlements in China, Japan, Arabia, and Persia.

Many notices in the works of European traders and adventurers in the 15th and i6th centuries show that the Indian ships of that day were larger than their own ; Purchas, for example, mentions one met by a Captain Saris in the Red Sea, of 1 200 tons burden, about three times the size of the largest English ships then made (161 1).Many notices in the works of European traders and adventurers in the 151!^ and i6th centuries show that the Indian ships of that day were larger than their own ; Purchas, for example, mentions one met by a Captain Saris in the Red Sea, of 1 200 tons burden, about three times the size of the largest English ships then made (1611).

It is worth while to remark that a good deal of the material used for dagger-handles and similar purposes is not Indian or African ivory, but is known as "fish-tooth," most of it being really fossil ivory from Siberia. Old examples prove that there used to exist an overland trade in this material. Hippopotamus and walrus ivory may also have found its way to India by land routes.

The great majority of Indians wear cotton garments, and it is from India that all such names as chintz, calico, shawl, and bandana have come into English since the i8th century. Weaving is frequently mentioned in the Vedas. cotton, silk, and woollen stuffs in the epics. Silk was certainly imported from China as early as the 4th century B.C.,

Neither cotton-printing nor dye-painting are Sinhalese crafts. All the finer cloths found in Ceylon appear to be of Indian origin. There is evidence of several settlements of Indian weavers in Ceylon on various occasions.

The Mughal portrait style is scarcely clearly developed before the time of Jahangir (1605 to 1627). At its best it is an art of nobly serious realism and deep insight into~character7 at its worst, it is an art of mere flattery. Two works reproduced here, the Bodleian Dying Man (fig. 169) and the Ajmer portrait of Jadrup Yogi (fig. 170), stand out before all others in their passionate concentration. 
(my sbarrkum note; if some one can send link to modern colored images, very welcome)








List of free books by Ananda Coomaraswamy
https://archive.org/search.php?query=Ananda%20Coomaraswamy

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Numbers: Ethnic Cleansing and Diaspora of Lankan Tamils

There have been a few comments with accusations of Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils by the Sri Lankan Govt.
  • 35% Sri Lankan Tamils live in Sinhalese Majority areas..In comparison only 1% Sinhalese live in Tamil majority areas.
  • The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora is 22% of the Sri Lankan Tamil Population

Lankan Tamils Living among Sinhalese

35% of the Sri Lankan Tamils live in Sinhalese majority areas. 
The numbers are from the 2012 census.  The third column (in Sinhala) are the Indian/Upcountry Tamils.  In comparison less than 1% Sinhalese live in Tamil majority regions.


Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamils

A number that has been thrown is 30% of Sri Lankan Tamils live outside the country.   The numbers say that it is 22%.
Not all of the Diaspora are refugees
a) Some migrate for economic and education reasons
b) The LTTE one child policy.  The LTTE required one child per family to become cannon fodder.   If the family had money, the LTTE would arrange to smuggle the child out to a Western country as a refugee. Thereafter the refugee would have to make monthly donations too.
 
:
         


Mass expulsion of Muslims from Batticoloa, Mannar and Jaffna
http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/26412

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Philippines Genocide: 3 million Filipinos Killed

I guess "Holocaust Deniers" all over the world.

Just the excerpts from the reports during the period (Spanish American war of 1898).

General Bell
himself, who said “we estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people.”
(There is another Bell, George who also fought in the Philippines ).  Also see Gore Vidals reply on comment questioning the numbers.
20 dead filipinosThe Philadelphia Ledger November 1901 their Manila correspondent wrote “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…
Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

Another Marine officer described his testimony.
The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “everyone over ten.”

Mark Twain wrote

“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem… and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.”
On 15th of October 1900 Twain wrote the New York Times.
We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.” Mark Twain
 Please read the whole Post.  Interesting pictures.  Also President McKinley 's Christian reasons for the war.

https://britsinthephilippines.top/philippines-genocide-3-million-filipinos-killed/

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Bi Kidude, Sri Lankan Baila and Traditional Drums

Recently saw a music video by Bi Kidude (Little Granny) from Zanzibar.  I was struck by the similarities to Sri Lankan Kaffiringha or Manja music and old traditional music as in Panama Vannam and Yak Thovil.

Bi Kidude (Little Granny)
Fatma Baraka Khamis was Taarab singer from Zanzibar who was born around 1910. Bi Kidude won several awards including a WOMEX
Award for her role in the culture of the Zanzibar Island.  The iconic artist sadly passed away on April 17th, 2013.   She very well might have been a century old. (see more here and video documentaryAs old as my tongue – The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude” by director Andy Jones). In Bi Kidude's words, I smoke, drink and sing.  Not bad for a life to a hundred years.

So here is one music video by Bi Kidude. A few other links, DancingTraditional Drums, and her Voice range (Alminadura)



Manja Music of Sri Lanka
Its the music of the Kaffirs (not a derogatory word in Sri Lanka). They were brought mainly by the Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique. The Tabbowa/Sirambiadi community in the west coast is a mix of African descendants and Sinhalese.  Their music is now very much part of the Sri Lankan tradition.  Below the group Ceylon African Manja performing in their village.  This is youtube clip of the same group in a more formal setting.


Portuguese Burgers (Creoles) of Batticoloa (East Coast)
The Portuguese Burgers too sing and dance Kaffiringha music.  Its is unknown if they have African roots.



Sri Lankan Traditional Music
A gravel voice and rhythms (as against melody) define traditional music. Immediate below women playing the rabane,  a instrument played by women at village events, specially Sinhalese New Year.  This particular video is from a five star hotel !!.  

Second below the traditional Gajaba Wannama (dance of the King’s Tuske) with a modern dance ensemble.  More Wannamas here.

Unheard of a couple of decades back, upper middle class girls/women playing the drums, or for that matter a traditional instruments.  Now we have and all girl/women traditional drumming (watch it is good, their website http://www.thuryaa.lk/). The times are a changing. 





Also see
http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2013/03/music-papare-video-angola-or-brasil.html
http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2011/01/galle-heliwela-exorcism-and-yak-natum.html

Thanks Mohamed Rizwan for linking the Bi Kidude video, Anton James for identifying Bi Kidude.