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Wilhelm Geiger

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger in Sri Lanka

Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger and Sri Lanka
Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger
[1856-1943], a German Orientalist in the fields of Indian and Iranian languages, specialist in Pali and Sinhala languages, the professor of philology [1891-1920] at the University of Erlangen, Germany and the third translator of “The Mahavamsa” [the first translation was by illustrious George Turnour, a British Colonial civil servant in Ceylon, in 1837–Mahavamsa Part 1 ; the second translation was by Mudliyar L. C. Wijesinha in 1889- Mahavamsa Part 2] or “The Great Chronicle of Ceylon” in 1912, loved Buddhism, Aryan Sinhalese Race and Sinhala language. His first travel narration on Sri Lanka titled “Ceylon: Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen” testifies to his love.

“The time I spent in Sri Lanka brought me manifold joys. I was firmly in the embrace of the people, its ancient glory and the natural splendor of Sri Lanka. In reciprocity, I too felt as if I have become an integral part of its life and times under the tropical sky. I hope, my memoirs of my times in Sri Lanka that I narrate with a certain spiritual joy may bring as much a joy to the dear readers too.”

Wilhelm Geiger and Buddhism
(1856-1943) too was attracted to the merits and virtues of Buddhism that attract all, no matter the roots of him is in the east or the west; more he read on Buddhism, more he got attracted. Wilhelm Geiger’s thoughts on Buddhism were heartfelt and passionate. The Buddhist concept of “the man being his own master of his destiny” made him contemplate deeply. He wrote:

“The strong points and weak points of the Buddhist doctrine are clear cut. The strong point of Buddhism is the liberation of each one is in his own hands. It isn’t subject to the judgment of a higher being.”

Galle Sri Lanka

The south-western sea-port city of Galle, home to Sri Lanka Holidays attraction of VOC Galle Dutch Fort

It seems our Geiger [Is he not ours: he visited Sri Lanka three times; studied Sinhala; translated Mahavamsa to German from Pali; and we on our part commemorated him on a postal stamp in Sri Lanka in 1989 and still do pay homage to him as I, bunpeiris do now] had already been nourished by the ideas of his countryman Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche [1844 –1900]. Nietzsche refused to affirm the belief in a transcendent God and the man being subject to this higher being.

I hope that my condemnation of Christianity has not involved me in any injustice to a related religion with an even larger number of adherents: Buddhism. Both belong together as nihilistic religions—they are religions of decadence—but they differ most remarkably. For being in a position now to compare them, the critic of Christianity is profoundly grateful to the students of India. Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than Christianity: posing problems objectively and coolly is part of its inheritance, for Buddhism comes after a philosophic movement which spanned centuries. The concept of “God” had long been disposed of when it arrived. Buddhism is the only genuinely positivistic religion in history. This applies even to its theory of knowledge (a strict phenomenalism): it no longer says “struggle against sin” but, duly respectful of reality, “struggle against suffering.” Buddhism is profoundly distinguished from Christianity by the fact that the self-deception of the moral concepts lies far behind it. In my terms, it stands beyond good and evil.

Wilhelm Geiger in front of Ruwanweliseya stupa [Ruwanveli Seya Stupa] at Anuradhpuara
During his sojourn in scholarly and hardworking Sri Lanka Holidays, our Geiger must have been having the ideas of Nietzsche simmering in his mind. How he felt about Buddhism is best be quoted in his own words:

“I have come to realize that the loveliest flower even born in the human heart is Buddhism”

At Anuradhapura, having stood in front of the Ruwanweliseya stupa [Ruwanveli Seya Stupa], his heart must have bubbled with serene thoughts:

“In spite of the stupendous dimensions of the Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwanveli Seya Stupa), the great edifice contains a soothing being of lightness. The great stupa is a serene treasure that stands with majesty amidst the free environment. It rises in the skyline resplendent as if cloaked in a flame emanating rays of gold. Ruwanweliseya stupa’s [Ruwanveli Seya Stupa] stupendous yet serene presence seems to infuse, upon the onlooker, the very four sublime states of virtue outlined in Buddhism.”

Metta or caring, loving kindness displayed to all you meet;
Karuna: compassion or mercy, the special kindness shown to those who suffer;
Mudita or sympathetic joy, being happy for others, without a trace of envy;
Uppekha or equanimity or levelness, the ability to accept others as they are.

The lure of ancient ruins
Ancient ruins are bound to afford opportunities for intellectual enlightenment. The lure of the ruins are all-encompassing to those with an artistic or a literary bent, and to those with a sense of history as well as to the archeologists and the historians. It is said, of the artists, among the most enraptured by the grandeur of Roman Ruins was the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi [1720 – 1778] famous for his “Etchings of Rome”. In Rome from 1740-1743 and from 1745 until his death in 1778, his commitment in depicting resplendent antiquity was noted by a no less connoisseur than Horace Walpole or Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717 –1797), an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and British politician:

The sublime dreams of Piranesi who seems to have conceived visions of Rome beyond what is boasted even in the meridian of its splendor.”

Indeed, Walpole, overcome with rapacious consumerism, had portfolios crammed with prints of his favorite Roman ruins. He fervently wrote: “I would buy the Colosseum if I could.” Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger’s countryman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1749-1832], who wandered awestruck among the Roman ruins of Rome, Naples and Sicily by the moonlight, too, was overcome with admiration for Piranesi’s views of ancient Roman ruins. In conversations with German poet and author Johann Peter Eckermann [1792 –1854], Goethe effusively recounted how moved he was by Piranesi’s prints.

Nevertheless acclaimed writers have often confessed of their inability to express the strong emotions invoked by the grandeur of ruins of glorious civilizations. In his autobiography [1789], Edward Gibbon [1737 –  1794], the English historian and member of parliament and the author of “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, a masterpiece of a critical analysis of Roman history published between 1776 and 1788 in six great volumes, reminisced and revealed on his encounter with Roman Ruins:

“At the distance of twenty-five years, I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night, I trod with a lofty step, the ruins of the forum”

In the 1896, Geiger too found his words wouldn’t do justice to the grandeur of ruins and living monuments at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka:

“It would best be left to you to imagine how those historical sites, until then mere unknown destinations and mere fleeting moments of thoughts, came alive and stood vibrant.”

Geiger narrated in the same vein that a historian, upon being enlightened by the rich archeological and historical attractions of Greece was moved, he too was enlightened and moved at the summit of Mihintale which brought into view the monuments at pura in the land of Buddha’s heritage. Geiger’s narration reveals that it his very first visit to Sri Lanka itself secured the foundation and induction to all his scholarly works in time to unfold.

Stupas at Anuradhapura, a view from Mihintale: to the far left is Mirisavatiya stupa; at the center is Ruwanweliseya stupa; to the right, the blurred image is that of Jetavana Stupa.

Stupas at Anuradhapura, a view from Mihintale: to the far left is Mirisavatiya stupa; at the center is Ruwanweliseya stupa; to the right, the blurred image is that of Jetavana Stupa. Image by courtesy of Thorondo.

Wilhelm Geiger and Sinhala Language
Wilhelm Geiger had already studied Sinhala language prior to his first visit to Sri Lanka. His overwhelming enthusiasm in studying Sinhala language was revealed in an article titled “Singhalesiches” written by him in the year 1895 to the memorial issue “Gurupujakaumadee” dedicated to the Sanskrit scholar, Indologist and historian lbrecht Friedrich Weber (1825 –1901). Answering to a question posed by a reporter from Ceylon Independent of Sri Lanka, Geiger said that he was conversant in Sinhala language to a certain extent. Geiger was profiecent in Sanskrit. Buddhist monk Gunaratna of Mihintale who had been conversing with Geiger in Sanskrit language was taken by surprise to learn of Geiger’s knowledge in Sinhala language.

Geiger’s conclusions on the origin of Sinhala Language
was the one of the first scholars who concluded that according to etymology, Sinhala language is an Indo-Aryan language belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. In the year 1937 writing a forward to the work titled “The grammar of Sinhalese Languages”, Geiger once again found an opportunity to declare his earlier conclusion that Sinhala was an Indo-Aryan language.

Wilhelm Geiger and Sinhalese Chronicles
Even at the early times of year 1895, i.e. during his very first visit to Sri Lanka, Geiger’s in depth knowledge of the Sinhala Vamsa kata [Sinhala: Sinhalese chronicles, i.e. Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Chulaamsa, Thupavamsa, Sinhala Bodhivamsa] was of exceptional virtue. Geiger’s narration on the trustworthiness of the Sinhalese chronicles is especially noteworthy:

“If we pause first at internal evidence then the Ceylonese Chronicles will assuredly at once win approval in that they at least wished to write the truth. Certainly the writers could not go beyond the ideas determined by their age and their social position, and beheld the events of a past time in mirror of a one-sided tradition. But they certainly did not intend to deceive hearer or readers. This is clear from the remarkably objective standpoint from which they judge even the mortal foes of the Aryan race. That certainly deserves to be emphasized. It is true not only of dominating personalities 9such as, to all appearance, Elara was) but also of the two usurpers Sena and Guttika it is said, Dipavamsa 18.47 and Mahavamsa. 21.11; rajjam dhammena karayum. Besides, the obvious endeavor to make out a systematic chronology is such as to inspire confidence at the outset. Indeed, whole sections of Dipavamsa consist entirely of synchronistic connections of the ecclesiastical tradition with profane history and of the history of India with that of Ceylon.”

Mahavamsa or The Great Chronicle of Ceylon was translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger, Ph.D. in the year 1912. ISBN 955-8540-83-8 [2003 reprint] Some of the conclusions on the history of Sri Lanka were a gradual systematic evolution of his knowledge. For example while Wilhelm Geiger during his first visit wasn’t convinced of the historic significance of Mihintale in terms of spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. However in the year 1926, this doubt too being cleared, Geiger in his work titled “Concise History of Ceylon” said that he believed Sri Lanka Holidays Mihintale located 17km north east of pura, was the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Holidays Jungle River

A print from Ernst Haeckel's 1905 Wanderbilder (Travel Pictures). It is a chromolithograph by W. Koehler, after Haeckel's 1882 painting, depicting a jungle scene on the Kelany-Ganga (Kelani River) in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).

Wilhelm Geiger and the natural splendor of the tropical island of Sri Lanka
Geiger was at once a lover of joys, little and big and a lover of nature: his book titled Ceylon. Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen is splattered with the narrations of admiration of the natural splendor of the tropical island of Sri Lanka:

Up on a hill in Kandy, Geiger sees the River Mahaweli Ganga that loops around the hills of the medieval natural fortress, as if a strand of silver laid over the Dumbara plains.
Enjoying a view from the iron bridge at Kalutara, Geiger sees River Kalurtara ganga as if a wide road cut through the tropical jungle. Wherever Geiger visited, he narrated of the sceneries all round at all times.
He narrated loftily of the weather, climate, evergreen vegetation, wildlife and birdlife of Sri Lanka:

The tropical downpour reigned for two hours sans pauses. No clouds are seen anymore in the vicinity: all seems to have vanished off the horizon. The silver moon peeping though tall topical trees brought in a spectacle of resplendence: zillions of drops of rain water that drenched the coconut palm canopy made the tall trunks look like as if sunk in a bubbling river of silver. Seated in the verandah and recollecting thoughts on my home, I watched the dawn of the New Year.

Geiger narrated the loveliest of sceneries were seen in his boat ride over the River Kalu Ganga from the Sri Lanka Holidays attraction of Ratnapura [Sinhala: city of Gems] to Kalutara. He compared those tropical sceneries of Sri Lanka to the loveliest sceneries of the fairy tales that he heard during his childhood. Wilhelm Geiger and Sinhalese Buddhist scholars in Sri Lanka During his first visit to Sri Lanka Wilhelm Geiger made acquaintances with prominent scholars of the island: Buddhist Monk Sri Sumangala of Hikkaduwa, Buddhist monk Sri Subutu of Waskaduwa, Mudliyar Abraham Mendis Gunasekera and Mudliyar Simon De Silva. Geiger was called into an examination on Pali language at Colombo Vidyodaya pirivena [ Sinhala: Vidyodaya Buddhist Academy of Buddhist studies] by Buddhist Monk Sri Sumangala of Hikkaduwa. Following the success at the examination, Wilhelm Geiger was allowed make use of Buddhist books and manuscripts at the Colombo Vidyodaya Buddhist Academy at Peliyagoda, Colombo.

In his memoirs Geiger stressed that the close friendship that developed between him and Buddhist monk Sri Subutu of Waskaduwa wouldn’t be harmed by the geographical distances between their motherlands. True to his words, since his return to Gemany, the correspondence between them was profuse. Sri Subutu of Waskaduwa was also Geiger’s contact in Sri Lanka to secure books by post in Germany from Sri Lanka. Geiger found Sri Subutu of Waskaduwa was closer to western system in his research; he also found the Buddhist monk was closer to western ways in his general conduct.

Geiger was full of praise of Mudliyar Abraham Mendis Gunasekera, a leading literary light of Sri Lanka for his invaluable assistance in scholarly matters and research:

“Mudliyar Abraham Mendis Gunasekera was tall and slender. His lively eyes revealed his mental alertness and vibrancy in physical activity. In the time to come his name will be duly honored in all works of history, Buddhism, Sinhala languages and Aryan Sinhalese Buddhist civilization of Sri Lanka.”

Mudliyar Simon de Silva, a renowned scholar of Sinhala language and literature was instrumental in further development in Geiger’s knowledge of Sinhala language. The extensive and profound knowledge of Mudliyar Simon de Slva was a major factor in Geiger concluding eastern scholars were superior to western scholars in terms of innate wisdom. Geiger contemplated of combining eastern innate wisdom with western critical analysis.

Wilhelm Geiger and Sinhalese Buddhist renaissance of Sri Lanka
During Geiger’s first visit to Sri Lanka in the year 1895, Sri Lanka then called Ceylon was in social and political transition. The Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka, who had been battered for centuries by the colonial powers [Portuguese:1505-1658; Dutch:1656-1796; English:1815- 1948], were slowly raising their heads. Geiger was steadfast in his condemnation of the colonial powers in Ceylon:

“I should remind all that the atrocities committed by the Western Christen missionaries and so called civilized people of the western countries in Ceylon can be read only with utter disgust.”

Fortunately, during those days, the Sinhalese Buddhist Renaissance had begun with scholars of the caliber of Buddhist monk Mohottiawatte Gunananda and the great religious debate between the Buddhist and the Christian scholars called Panaduara Vadaya [Sinhala: The great debate of Panadura]. Theosophical Society, Colombo of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott [a well known American civil war veteran, much respected American lawyer and Buddhist revivalist in Ceylon] [1832 –1907] established several Buddhist schools in Ceylon, most notably Ananda College in Colombo, Dharmaraja College in Kandy, Mahinda College in Galle [home to Sri Lanka Holidays VOC Galle Dutch Fort, today a UNESCO World heritage Site], and Maliyadeva College in Kurunegala close to Sri Lanka Holidays Yapahuwa.

Wilhelm Geiger’s second visit to Sri Lanka
Following the end of the First World War, the government of British Ceylon invited Wilhelm Geiger to assist edit the second part of Mahvamsa called “Chulvamsa [Sinhala: The Lesser genealogy] Geiger having published more than 110 works on Sri Lanka, Sinhala Language, Pali language, Pali chronicles, Sinhalese vamsa chronicles had already earned a great reputation as a scholar of Indology. Geiger arrived from Liverpool to Colombo, Sri Lanka by the passenger vessel “Lancashire” together with his wife Magdalene, a scholar on 21st November 1925. Geiger narrated his wife Magdaleine was seduced by the ruins at pura, the greatest monastic city of the ancient world.

However, there were matters of great consternation to Geiger: some of the renovations to the ancient Buddhist temples weren’t to his liking. He was particularly disturbed that the medieval wooden veranda of Golden Dambulla Rock Cave temple was replaced by a white washed verandah built of brick. Furthermore, Geiger was disappointed to see Sinhalese Buddhists gradually becoming westernized. Geiger narrated:

“Sinhalese Buddhist have begun to betray their great social traditions, conventions, Sinhala language as if none of those of any value at all, I sincerely hope that Sinhalese would realize the value of Sri Lanka, value of its culture, value of Sinhala language, value of its civilization soon enough. Still it’s not too late.”

During his second stay in Sri Lanka, Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger received an invitation from Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali polymath, the noble laureate for literature [1913], the author of Gitanjali, the greatest poem ever, to visit India.

However, Geiger wasn’t able to make the visit. Having visited Borobudur Buddhist temple in Java, Geiger returned to Germany. I (bunpeiris), for one, mourn that Geiger wasn’t able to accept the invitation of Sage like Tagor and visit India, the heart of the ancient oriental fountains of humanity. Together those two stalwarts of humanity, Wilhelm Geiger and Rabindranath Tagor [1861-1941] would have made a still more [Tagor having already done and his name already written in golden letters in Indian annals] significant contributions in scholarly works on ancient glory of India.


Ancient stone cut Lotus Pond at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka Holidays

Wilhelm Geiger’s third visit to Sri Lanka
Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger’s third visit to Sri Lanka was on 18th December 1931. That was to assist Ceylonese statesman, educationist and diplomat Sir Don Baron Jayatilaka [1868 - 1944] to compile Dictionary of Sinhala. Subsequently Sir D. B. Jayatillake was assisted by the Ceylonese scholar, Julius de Lanerolle too. Being stung by a poisonous insect, Geiger suffered for about three months. However, such was the love of Geiger towards Sri Lanka, Sinhalese, Buddhism, language of Pali and language of Sinhala, he refused being treated at a hospital in view of the time that would be lost to his work on the Sinhala dictionary.
We Sri Lankans owe this German Scholar a great debt of gratitude to his immense contributions to our heritage.

Geiger ends his Sri Lanka Holidays travel narrative titled Ceylon: Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen saying

“I have eaten root bulbs of lotus. I have enjoyed the scintillating beauty of the Lotus flower.”

Lotus Pond Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre,Ananda Kumaraswami Mawatha, Colombo 7,Sri Lanka Holidays

A gift from China: Lotus Pond Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Ananda Kumaraswamy Mawata, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka Holidays

Lotus Tower Sri Lanka

The Colombo Lotus Tower, a multifunctional telecommunications tower will reach 350 meters in height and will be completed in 30 months. Under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), Beijing will finance the project for a total cost of 104.3 million dollars (80.9 million euros). In addition, the Aerospace Long-March International Trade co. Ltd (Alit) and China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (Ceiec) will be in charge of building the tower that will be constructed on the waterfront of the city's picturesque Beira Lake of Colombo.

Above article is inspired by “Asiritimath Lanka” [Sinhala: Splendorous Lanka] [ISBN: 978-955-656-164-7], the Sinhalese translation of Ceylon: Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen written in German language by Wilhelm Geiger. Translation of the Geiger’s memoirs in Sri Lanka was done by Mahinda Patirana of Division of Languages of Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka in the year 2003. Mahinda Pathirana acknowledges the assistance of  Dr. Anuradha Seneviratna, Professor of Sinhala Language division of University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

The German language memoirs of Geiger’s time in Sri Lanka titled “Ceylon: Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen” was found in a wayside bookstall in Germany by Dr. Anuradha Seneviratna, a distinguished scholar on the Sinhalese Buddhist civilization of Sri Lanka. Among the numerous books written by him are “Ancient Anuradhapura, The Monastic City [ISBN 978-955-573-791-3], Springs of Sinhala Civilization [ISBN 955-20-5319-6], Kandy Esala Perahera, Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla: caves of infinite Buddhas, Dalada Maligawa: the Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic in Kandy Sri Lanka.

German language edition of Ceylon: Tagebuchblätter und Reiseerinnerungen can be bought from while Sinhala translation [Suriya Prakashakayo, Colombo 10] can be bought in Sri Lanka.


Sinhalese Buddhist Heritage

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Sri Lanka’s Contributions to the World Heritage 1

Perseverance of Theravada Buddhism
“From its inception, the Tipitaka, the universal and sacred scriptures of the Buddhasasana [Sinhala: Buddhist doctrine], and Pali, its sublime language, enlightened the Asian civilization. It is through the Tipitaka and the bearers of the Tipitaka that both South Asia and Southeast Asia learned to read and write, found peace and prosperity, and developed cultural and friendly ties among civilized countries of the world.”
Don Percy Mahendra Rajapakse aka Prince Diyasena, the Hero of Modern Sri Lanka at the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Colombo on March 6, B.E. 2549 (2006)pali tipitaka

1st century BC
While the hoards of painted barbarians were still fighting the two legions of Julius Caesar at the beachhead (modern Wilmer) on the coast of Kent (55 BC) of England, Sinhalese of Sri Lanka had already emerged a civilized and highly literate nation.
The epitome of Theravada Buddhism, the Pali canon called Tipitaka (3 books) was committed to writing by 500 Buddhist monks on processed and polished Ola palm leaves in Pali language, a Middle Indo-Aryan language of north Indian origin, related to Old Indo-Aryan Vedic and Sanskrit dialects, at Aluvihara Temple in Matale, close to Kandy during 88 -76 BC, under the patronage of Sinhalese King Vattagamini Abbaya (Valagambahu) [108 BC, 89-76 BC] , the builder of Golden Dambulla Rock Cave Temple.
Until then the words of Buddha (6th century BC), the most profound religion ever, had been handed down by means of committing to memory and oral recitations for generations.Tipitaka
5th century AD
The most significant contribution in translation and dissemination of Theravada Buddhism was made by Indian Buddhist scholar named Buddhaghosa (Pali: Voice of Buddha), who arrived in Sri Lanka Holidays Anuradhapura in the 5th century AD. Buddhaghosa settled down to peruse his studies on an enormous volume of commentarial texts that had been assembled and preserved by the monks of the Mahavihara at Sri Lanka HolidaysSacred City of Anuradhapura, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Buddhaghosa presents his Visuddhimagga (P?li: Path of Purification), a comprehensive manual of Theravada Buddhism that is still read and studied today:  a panel of the murals at Kelaniya Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Buddhaghosa, a panel of the murals at Kelaniya Temple, Sri Lanka

While Tripitaka was preserved in Pali language (a literary form of the vernacular which the Buddha used in his discourses), the commentaries elucidating it were produced in Sri Lanka in Sinhala language. Having studied the text in its entirety, the indomitable Buddhist scholar sought permission to synthesize the assembled Sinhalese-language commentaries into an all encompassing, encapsulating single commentary composed in Pali language.
Taken aback with Buddhaghosa’s request, the Sinhalese Buddhist monks at Aluvihara put the Indian scholar to the test: he was assigned the task of elaborating the doctrine regarding two verses of the suttas (discourses). The result was an unparalleled classic: Visuddhimagga (Pali: Path of Purification), a comprehensive manual of Theravada Buddhism that is still read and studied today.
The Sinhalese Buddhist monks at Mahavihara, Anuradhpura, having reviewed the works of Buddhagosha and pleased to no ends, acceded to his request and provided him with the entire mass of their Sinhalese commentaries.

12th century AD
In the 12th century, during the glorious reign of King Parakramabahu the Great, the Sinhalese Buddhist monk Sariputta added his own interpretations imbued with literal accuracy as well as essential meaning to the works of Buddhaghosa enhancing the reputation of Theravada traditions of Sri Lanka throughout Southeast Asia.

20th century AD
2500th anniversary of the final extinction (end of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth-cause and result) of Shakyamuni Gauthama Buddha fell in the Vesak (May) month of the 1956 AD. In commemoration of Buddha Jayanthi, Myanmar rose to the occasion to host the sixth Buddhist Convention (Chatta Sangayana) in Myanmar, to recite the Pali Tripitaka (The Buddhist Canon).
Buddhists all-over the world drew up programs to contribute to the celebrate Buddha Jayanthi. Sri Lanka, the custodian of pure Theravada Buddhism in the world launched the literary project of translating Tripitaka Pali language into Sinhala language. Sri Lanka Holidays provides you the opportunity to visit Aluvihare rock temple, where the Tripitaka was first committed to writing.

Perseverance of an unparalleled Historical Chronicle of Sri Lanka: Mahavamsa
“One of the greatest contributions of the Sinhalese people to the cultural development of South & South East Asia & to world literature is the creation of a historic literature. It is well-known that on the Indian sub continent before the invasion of the Islamic conquerors virtually no historic literature had developed. Sri Lanka tells a different story. In the Dipavamsa & Mahavamsa & in various other Sinhalese texts, we are given an account of the political & cultural history of the island from earliest times until the present time’
(Wilhelm Geiger- His Life & Works, Heinz Bechert, 2nd ed., 69)Mahavamsa

The Sinhalese of Sri Lanka are adorned with the unrivaled distinction of being in possession of uninterrupted chronicled history of theirs exceeding monumental 2550 years, which commenced with the arrival of Prince Vijaya from Bengal, East India in 543 BC. No nation in the world, inclusive of India and China, has a historical chronicle comparable to Mahavamsa. The Mahawamsa is written in Pali-the lingua franca of the Theravada Buddhist world at different times in Sri Lanka’s history by a succession of learned and pious Buddhist monks beginning with Mahanama Maha Thera (sixth century AD). Buddhist scholar Mahanama Maha Thera is believed to be an uncle of King Dhathusena, whose flamboyant son Kashaypa (479-497 AD), who reigned in great splendor and aspired to be god king, is credited with the glory of Sri Lanka Holidays Lion Rock Citadel of Sigiriya.
Today, Mahanama seems a man ahead of his time: definitely he must have valued to no ends propagating the cause of fledging Aryan Sinhalese nation to the world. His medium of publicity was the language of Pali: his eye was focused on a wider readership, at least South-East Asia; he opted to make matters easier for would be touring scholars of the caliber of Buddhgohsa who had, first of all, to be proficient in Sinhala language to translate Sinhalese commentaries on the epitome of Theravada Buddhism, the Pali canon called Tipitaka (3 books) into Pali.
The first part of Mahavamsa narrates the era spanning the reign of 54 rulers of Sri Lanka from King Vijaya (543-505 BC) to King Mahasena (273-301 AD). The second part of Mahavamsa named Chulavamsa narrates the era spanning the reign of 111 rulers beginning with King Sirimeghavanna (302-330 AD) to the last King of Lanka Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe (1798-1815 AD).
It is believed Mahanama Maha Thera made use of Dipavamsa, a historical chronicle written a couple of centuries before and Sinhala-Attha-katha-Mahavamsa, composed in Sinhala from various earlier sources, which included Purana-style genealogies & lineages of the Buddhist order. Author of commentaries upon Mahavamsa called Mahavamsa Tika that was written between 1000 AD & 1100 AD is not known. Since Mahavamsa Tika contains information not found in Mahavamsa or Deepavamsa, it is believed that the author of Tika had access to Mahavamsa Attha-katha. From his narrations, it could be deduced that author of commentaries (tika) also supposed Mahavamsa Attha-katha to be known to his readers & accessible to all.

Authenticity of history of Sri Lanka chronicled in Mahavamsa is amply borne out by archaeological, epigraphical and numismatic evidence which corroborates supplements and clarifies the wealth of information recorded in it. The Aryan civilization in Sri Lanka, at least two centuries before the advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Third century BC) and emergence of learned Buddhist monks as historiographers, had already taken to record the dynastic history of the then fledging island nation of the Sinhalese. If such stuff is for the scholars and serious readers of archeology and history, we can make it much easier to the Tourists at Sri Lanka Holidays.

Ruins, renovated and restored monuments, thousands of restored ancient irrigation networks that consists of man-made rainwater reservoirs of epic scale, stupendous Buddhist stupas (dagobas) at UNESCO World Heritage Sites (cultural of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and numerous other cultural sites throughout the island bear tangible and living testimony to the records of Mahavamsa. Visits to Golden Sand Stupa (Ruwan Weli Seya) and The Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudraya) rainwater reservoir of Sri Lanka Holidays alone would give credence to your satisfaction as to the veracity of Mahavamsa.

Construction of The Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudraya) Quote Chulavamsa.
To put away the sufferings of famine from living creatures that most excellent of men hand many tanks and canals made in diverse places. By damming up the Karaganga river by a great barrier between the hills and bringing its mighty flood of waters hither by means of vast canal called the Akasaganga river, the Ruler created that king of reservoirs continually filled with water and known by the name of Parakama Samudra in which there was an island resplendent with a superb royal palace and which was like to a second ocean. He also built the great Parakrama Samudra with a sluice of a hundred cubits, and which was made fast by stone construction.
Unquote Chulamvamsa, being the more recent part of the Mahavamsa. Translated from Pali to English by Dr. Wilhelm Geiger, 1929, London. The hills referred above are Sri Lanka Holidays Central Highlands.

Construction of Golden Sand Stupa (Ruwan Weli Seya) Quote Mahavamsa.
When the resources were thus obtained he commenced the work for the Great Thupa as the Visakha constellation appeared on the full-moon day of the month of Vesakha (April-May). Having got the pillar removed, the ruler of the earth had the site of the thupa there dug to a depth of seven cubits so as to make it firm in various ways. He who knew the advantages and disadvantages, had round stones brought there by warriors and had them broken with hammers; then for the sake of firmness of the site, he had the crushed stones stamped by elephants with feet covered in leather.
The clay at the place where the celestial river descends-being ever drenched-is fine all around there for thirty yojans; on account of its fineness, it is called ‘butter-clay.’ Arahant samaneras brought clay from there. He had clay spread there over the layer of stone. The lord over the clay, rough plaster over it, quartz over that, network of iron over it and, above that, fragrant marumba brought by samaneras from the Himalayas.
Unquote “The great chronicle of Sri Lanka Mahavamsa chapters one to thirty seven. An annotated new translation with prolegomena” by Dr. Ananada W. P. Guruge. 2005, Colombo.

The identification of the most inspiring and stirring appeal to eschew war and violence
Mahavamsa’s comprehensive account resulted in identification of Devanam Piadassi narrated in the edicts and pillar inscriptions of Mauryan Emperor Asoka of India. The identification of great missionaries whose relics were found enshrined in the stupas of Sanchi Sonari of India could never have been made without the information recorded in Mahavamsa on the missions sent out to propagate Buddhism in the reign of Emperor Asoka. Edict attributed to Emperor Asoka are of no mean contribution to the world heritage and the future of the world: the most inspiring and stirring appeal to eschew war and violence ever by a king was made in the Kalinga Edict of Asoka the Great.
In the year 1815, the last king and the island nation was betrayed by king’s own ministers in Kandy led by Pilimathalawwe, to the heinous and hypocritical invader, the British ending the 2357 years of sovereignty of Lanka. The Kandyan nobles disinherited the tradition of the heroic lion-hearted kings of Sri Lanka who repulsed intermittent invasions from Southern India at Anuradahapura and Polonnaruwa of north central plains and then repulsed the Portuguese and Dutch at Sitawake and Kandy for 2357 years.

The modern extension (period: 1815- 1948 AD) at its best is disappointing; at worst is incompetent.
Each chapter of Mahavamsa ends with stating the objective for the compilation of the historical narrative: “for the serene joy and emotion of the pious”. In 2003, Mahawamsa was extended by a few modern historians to include the period from1815 AD to 1948 AD, the year of independence from the British. The modern extension brings about dismay and disappointment at the act of omission and commission contrary to the serene joy and emotion that was intended by the succession of its previous authors.

An acknowledgement
Some of the content above owe much to the narrations by Dr. Ananda P. Guruge:  The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahavamsa. Chapters one to thirty seven. An Annotated New Translation with Prolegomena. ISBN 955-20-8963-8


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