Thursday, September 29, 2005

Destination: Bihar, North India

Who owns this island and where do we come from anyway?

I think if anyone can actually say this island belongs to them, it's the Veddhas. But all us invaders have treated them pretty much like the 'Australians' have treated their natives. We've turned them into semi-animal being who have been denied the right to hunt in the forests, and to continue to live their lives as they have for for thousands of years. They have been forced to turn into showpeices who perform tricks for tourists who come to Sri Lanka with unassailable notions of orientalism.

Despite our collective attempts to stamp out the fact that both the Sinhala and Tamil people are as alien to this country as the British and the rest of the colonials were, the truth still subconsciously nags every Sri Lankan.

So, for all the Sinhalese who say that the Tamils should go back to where they came from, I'd say that's a damn good option considering the fact that the Sinhalese wouldn't really want to go back to where we came from. Bihar and Jharkand in North India aren't really the best places to live, if you can call survival in a lawless barbarian state life.

My favourite joke about Bihar is a one liner that goes like this:

The last intelligent man to come from Bihar was the Gautama Buddha, and that was over 2,500 years ago.

I suggest the Sinhala right wingers google Bihar and Jharkand and find out how things are back home. If we were all to get kicked out of this country by the Veddhas I'd throw in my lot with the Tamils and go to South India. At least I wouldn't have to hunt my own food there like I'd have to if I went back to North India with the Sinhalese :)

Lissen up y'all my Tamil brothas and sistahs! I'm catching your boat!

Note: Apologies for this slightly confused post. I'm a little out of sorts today.

And as anthropologists of the calibre of Tambiah and Obeysekere have stated countless times, the great degree of parallelism between the two communities' social systems can only be explained by a common South Indian ancestry as a large number of migrants to the island from that region assimilated and assumed robust Tamil and Sinhala identities throughout the centuries. We don't have to dig deep to find Kumaratunga's South Indian ancestry or even for that matter, Anagarika Dharmapala's. So, I'm sure it would be quite a small boat of Sinhalese who will be able to Bihar although that should not be an option at all of course.
Mephisto, man I'm talking about people who still think we sprang forth from the loins of a lion!

You can't really expect someone like that to know Gananath's work.

Yes I was thinking about bring a bit of Gananath's work into this but thought I would leave it for a later, more deserving post.

Have you read 'The Work of Culture'? I wanted to write a post about patricide. I've never wanted to kill my dad though. Maybe I would've if he had a throne. That would've been fun :)
agree with you. i think most of the people now living here came after 16th century. i posted something similar to what you wrote just now in 'being sri lankan' thread before reading this.

its about time someone did a comprehensive study.
I didn't find that post confusing - oops is that saying something about me???

I think this needs to be written up in the bpp - return of land rights to the Veddas. I wish they would field a Presidential candidate - I'd vote for them!

The other interesting point is that most S/Lankan Tamils can easily assimilate with Indians - not just Tamils from Tamil Nadu. I find that the minute I meet Indians I have so much in common with them. OK - again, I'm different I grew up with a lot of Indians but my parents didn't & this is where the very close friendships were made.

Some of these Indians would not mix with each other. They would not visit each other's homes nor share a meal but they mixed with us. Needless to say my father was an ardent peace-maker too :-)

Morq - the plight of Aboriginals in Australia borders on horrific. It is an utter disgrace with no change to the status quo in sight.

Why are you feeling out of sorts btw? Is everything ok?
I hope this motherfucker gets his faggot ass whooped in Bihar inside a Vihar.
I do hope it is a minority that still thinks it sprung forth from the loins of lions and so on. Those Sinhala friends of mine who do bring that up do so in jest and more of than not, it is after one too many rounds of booze and to circumvent the Tamils who start finding their own fanciful theories of ancestry or claims of possession at the bottom of the bottle.

Morq, I'm afraid I haven't read that one by Obeysekere. What is it about? I've read little by him and most of it related to village rituals such as on Goddess Pattini, Medusa's hair and that whole debate with Sahlin. Thought you might be interested in watching this interview of Obeysekere if you haven't seen it already:

sitting nut, I agree with you mate after reading those comments. A recent interesting and relevant development is the new book by the archaeologist K. Indrapala (yes, the same Indrapala which websites like SPUR and Sinhaya quote ad nauseum and some Tamil sites gloss over) in which it seems he has made important revisions of his UoL dissertation in light of developments and findings since its publication in the late 1950s. More information available at

A telling statement by him:
"The deeper one delves into Sri Lankan history, the more will one find how much the Tamils and Sinhalese have shared history and culture and common descent."
Well, the symbolism says it all does'nt it?

The Sinhalese use the lion in their flag, the LTTE use the tiger yet neither animal ever lived in the country.

Both, however, are native to India.

Is this some subconscious association with their real roots?
Re the high & mighty Jaffna Tamil - well no need to explain this to me - I happen to be one. Apparently the last descendant of the last King of Jaffna on both sides - Changali.

How I found out...
We were in the rural outskirts of Jaffna & it was a stifling night. So we went to the paddy fields and put our feet in the cool rice water - Hmmm - no one worried about snakes!! Anyway, as we were sitting there we saw 2, not 1, 2 shooting stars.

Hence in the middle of an impovrished Sri Lankan village just like any other I saw something that enriched my life & it cost nothing & I will remember that night forever...

As we finally got relief from the heart, we were told stories. One was about the wife of Changali. She gave a surviing son over to the Brahmin priests of the main Hindu temple in Jaffna to hide from the British & he survived. Once the British murdered Changali's wife the child was then sent to live with another relative who reared him, my supposed ancestor as a son....

Now - it is on the basis of these types of stories that all Jaffna Tamils stick their big noses in the air & say they will not mix nor marry with others - and they don't!
However, the Good Lord has punised them by dispersing them all over the planet. Now the so called high caste Vellala (which means white!!!) Jaffna Tamil has nothing but stories to cling to as they watch their daughters & sons happily intermarry with every other race in the world.

Yeah - I hear them cry in vain saying, "Aiyoo, if only my child would marry a Sri Lankan, i will be so happy." Too bloody late. My mother has even been asked to arrange an introduction between a Sri Lankan Sinhalese boy & Tamil girl, at the bequest of both parernts!!! Thats how the tables have changed.

So - Dugi - we are reaping what we sowed. But ... we are after all Indians. We also learnt "public service" snobbery & the class system from the Brits - we took to it like ducks to bloody water. We learnt to judge people on the basis of the colour of their skin - ie, how fair they are - hence the Vellahla rubbish. How I laugh when I look at Dextr's photo on his blog & he calls me an ugly black Tamil & I can see that I am fairer than him. That my father, mother & relatives are fairer than him. AND (sorry sittingnut) where the bloody hell do you think this "fairness" vellahla colour comes from - the bloody Dutch, Portugese & in my Father's opinion - Irish!!!!

To the entire Sinhalese race that walks the earth today - I apologise for the narrow-minded, backward, intolerant, attitudes of my people, the Vellalah Jaffna Tamil. This attitude belongs in the past.

I wish to keep my Sri Lankan Tamil identity not because I support this nonsense but because it ties me to my land. Without a physical connection to my land, I am nothing. It's not my religon but it is my physical connection with this planet. I will never let go of it and yes you will have to kill me first to take it away from me.

To my Sinhala brethern & sisters - especially the sisters I say, you apologise for your similar inherited bad habits and let us, please, let us not destroy what we all so dearly love, our country.

I want a seperation but I don't want an Indian Sri Lanka, I want a Sri Lankan Sri Lanka...
do stop apologizing for capitalizations please. others might think you are apologizing for the argument. :-)

gee you and that Ivap are soooooo hard to please :-)
MERCI :-) see i am pleased.
Are you guys seriously seriously Indian??
Ashanthi- Vellala does not mean "vellai(white)- ala". It is actually "Velala" which translates into farmer in Tamil. The Vellalas were originally farmers who eventually ended up being the land owners. The name has nothing to do with the colour.
Thanks Yaaro for the correction... I know that it means farmer but it is also defined by the colour.... Velala's are considered "white" & Karayan's are considered "black". Intrinsic racism is implied by merely calling someone Karayan... they are black & smell like fish...

whilst we waltz around this planet & many of us live in other parts of the world - I find it rather tragic how we continue to put people down in a racist fashion. And yet... if anyone dared call us coolie/curry-mucher? (don't really know what deroggatry terms are applied to "Indians" these days) or discriminated against us in anyway, we'd have the anti-discrimination board onto them in a flash.

In essence we are full of it. We know all about the workers, we never hesitate to crap on about our colonial masters - but just look how we treat each other - with the utmost hate!

As a consequence of the Tsunami let me assure you - the whole world knows now what an unsophisticated bunch of moronic barbarians we are...
By we I guess you're refering to the collective Tamil population hogging blogosphere.
to the dim sum blogger ... (sorry it's been a busy day :)

"we" - ie the inhabitants of the "tear drop of India" didn't come from anywhere else but India. It's about time that we dealt with that fact.

The raciscm that is shown towards Indians by Sri Lankans is an extension of the political agenda that has been running amok for decades.
Hi there Ashanti!Was curious abt the kind of racism Sri lankans show towards Indians?Do u mean that they just deny their roots or is it at some other level/
Its at evey level you can think of

The way we treat Indian Tamils - how we forcibly repatriated them, denied them their basic rights & make them work as virtual slave labour

The fact that before the Tigers supposedly assisnated Rajiv Ghandi - one of our army guys tried to do him in with the blunt edge of a rifle

The way that some people view the "Yellow Peril" - we view the "Indian Peril"

Either way - it's all crap - because - we are about as Aryan as pigs flying.

We are Indian. Some of us come from Tamil Nadu, some from Bengal & I for example have always been told that my ancestors actually come from Kerala.

Regardless of which part of India we come from - we have a strong sense of national identity & we have every right to exist under our own skies.

I'm franklly quite sick of India messing in our affairs - she should mind her own beeswax & stop interfering.
Thanks for all that! well, coming from India myself, I had no clue abt the inter-racial relations except in SL. Was informative...thanks!
i would say the tamils and sinhalese are distinct (contrary to the opinion of most people here). perhaps that' because im sinhalese. perhaps its also because i dislike people taking authors (obeysekera) out of context. obeysekera talks about a period when most of western europe was ruled by tribes. over time these people intermingled and formed the modern modern English, German and French 'races' (though the more correct term would be ethnicities). But this in no way breaks the distinction between French and English (for instance). in fact in western europe most of those states shared a common religion ie. roman catholicism. This is unlike the Buddhist-Hindu relationship which exists between Sri Lanka and mainland India. Even accounting for the diffusion of Hindu practices in Buddhism they are still quite distinct. The caste system is also different for Tamils and Sinhalese. So I don't believe we all belong to one race called the "Sri Lankan Race". There was no such thing except in ancient Sri Lanka when the country's native inhabitants were collectively known as Sinhala. This blanket term also included a significant number of naturalised tamils. But they were not known as Tamils, they were simply known as Sinhala; the native inhabitants of the island of sihela. On the other hand, whenever there is a reference to Tamils (Demala) in the Mahavamsa, its pointing to 'foreign elements' (usually hostile).

Also, there is no such thing as 'pure' vaddas in Sri Lanka anymore. It should be pointed out that whoever or whatever the Vadda was, their genes have now been absorbed into mainstream Sri Lankan society. So you could argue that the Vaddas are in effect "us". In fact Sinhalese words like "kukula" (leg)are Vadda words. There is a whole vocabulary of "hela" words in the Sinhalese lexicon. But what we refer to as Sinhalese has always been a vehicle for that extinguished language. Let me reiterate the point: the Sinhalese language is the last vestige of Vadda language. It is not simply a cultural borrowing from the Vaddas. Sinhalese people in rural areas (who tend to use a more archaic dialect) still use a lot of the hela terms.

During particular phases of the evolution of the Sinhalese langauge, ancient writers tended to use more or less of the hela terms. Sanscrit and pali borrowings from India often took precedence over the common language of the people. Nevertheless, despite these foreign intrusions, the hela language continued to be preserved through everyday usage. To the best of my knowledge I don't believe Tamil contains any Vadda terms? Perhaps someone here might be able to inform me otherwise.

So that, I hope, clears up my position on the debate. And yes, I believe Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese country. And if you think about it that makes a lot of sense. In Britain there are numerous ethnic groups: Celts (mainly Irish), Scots (who are a hybrid of Celt and Germanic tribes), Welsh ..etc. But what language do all Britons speak fluently? Yes you guessed it, English! The the ethnic group which now calls itself the "English race" (Welsh, Scot, English) is therefore a myth, but nonetheless the basis for a potent political concept: nationhood. If the English nation is founded on this 'myth', why is it that in Sri Lanka we denounce every counter argument to pluralism as 'racist' or discriminatory against minorites. One begins to wonder who the discriminated party really is.

Have a good one guys. A great site by the way.
have to disagree on several points
This is unlike the Buddhist-Hindu relationship which exists between Sri Lanka and mainland India- not so, there were times when buddhism was the dominant religion in india including south india at least politically.

The caste system is also different for Tamils and Sinhalese- not by much actually.

if veddahs have become mixed with sinhalese what makes you think tamils haven't? there certainly are more tamil words in sinhala than veddah language words. in fact current veddah language is probably a derivative of sinhala(not the other way round as you argue), their original language has probably died out.

racial purity is a myth everywhere on earth.
LOL, lemme know if u do catch the boat.... You always have a place!! ( unlike the singalese with thier barbarian brothers)lol!!

sorry for being anon my email is here so no worries.
Sorry, but your article doen't carry any reference of Singhalese beig Bihari and u firangi, better u know that all the IT hypes and best brains still hails from Bihar. For better intidimacy consult your any Indian friend and discuss about the different competitive exams reults (IIT/CAT/ Civil Services etc) of throughout, which is thought to be mother of all exams world over. pls, show toleration towards others while expressing ur views in the common forum. Mind it.......

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