Sunday, June 6, 2010
Caste origins of Sri Lankan Authoritarianism- Part 6
SUDRA ORIGIN OF ALL SRI LANKANS
[Editor's Note: An interview with Mr. Basil Fernando of the Asian
Human Rights Commission by Nilantha Ilangamuwa of the Sri Lanka
(June 06, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) That basis of social
organization of Sri Lanka, at least by Polonnaruwa Period was the
'caste system' is recognizing as a historical fact. However what has
not been revealed is the manner in which such social organization on
the basis of caste, was established. The analysis of history in terms
of caste has not yet been done. However analyzing from this point of
view can throw light on many of the problem still persisting on
contemporary Sri Lankan society.
There may be many reasons for undermining caste analysis. One of the
most important reasons is the romanticized view of nationalism, that
in its many varieties. The Sinhala nationalist narrative and Tamil
nationalist narrative want to present romanticized views of their
history as well as their problems. Bringing the internal conflict
within each ethnic group in terms of caste would undermine much of the
pain of nationalism that is made of its deferent varieties. This is
perhaps one of the very reasons why more attempt made to understand
the inner dynamics within societies in terms of its own internal
problems in which caste place a very important role within the Sri
Dr. S. Rathnajeevan H. Hoole in a very quite incisive analysis in a
paper entitle 'Caste as a Hate Crime: Reassessing Arumuka Navalar and
Vellala Dominance in Sri Lanka' which he wrote with E. Elilini Hoole,
speaks of 'Sudra''s origin on the entire Tamil community. Today Tamils
claims to belong to various castes among which 'Vellala' are the
dominant caste. More and more people have made claims to belong to
this caste in an attempt to claim some kind of respectability within
the community. Amusingly according to the Dutch records, numbers of
persons belong to Vellala were 30% of the populations while at present
this has increased into 50% of the populations, showing clearly
various kinds of migrations into this caste. But who are Vellala. Is
it a variety of Brahmin caste, which came from India as stated by
early historians during Portuguese and Dutch times the Vellalas were
themselves Sudras. Is that so, how did Sudras become Vellalas?
Certainly Vellalas are not originate from the Brahmin caste. The
Brahmins were forbidden by the 'rules of Manu' to travel by ship and
to go abroad. These rules were strictly upheld. Therefore the early
migrations from India could not have been from the Brahmins.
A very strict rule within the caste system is that Brahmin could marry
only within their own caste and therefore the question of some migrant
Brahmins coming and getting married in Sri Lanka and creating more
Brahmin was also not possible. In the natural cause of things, the
people who migrated early leave their lands when their once who face
greater difficulties in their societies and then from this point of
view it was the Sudra caste which could have been the early migrants
which settle in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.
Caste Among the Sinhalese
This same premise could be valid in terms of the Sinhalese. The early
migrants from India to Sri Lanka, who settle in Sinhala Speaking areas
and who latter created the Sinhala civilization would have been
Sudras. The creation of the myth attributing a princely status, to the
mythical person who is supposed to be the originator of the race is
quite understandable. In order to give some respectability to the
entire race this person has to be from a princely family or even as a
'Sinhabahu' legend goes, from a lion. While such attempts to give some
respectability to race is understandable. However,the fact that it was
originally the Sudras that would have migrated to Sri Lanka, is very
much more pausible. Therefore, Sinhala speaking people who settled in
Sinhala areas were also Sudras. Sudras gradually may also have married
into the 'Vadda' community and therefore combinations of Sudra and
Vedda communities would constitute the beginnings of the Sinhalese.
Clearly any kind of claims that the origination from the Brahmin has
to be excluded.
Anyway, in Indian status ladder famers are sudras. Therefore
,Govigamas like the Tamil Vellalas are of Sudra origin. Vijaya of
Mahawama, if there was such a person would have been a Sudra.
Therefore Sinhala Kings like the Tamil ones too, were persons who
originated from the Sudras .
Two questions that arise are, what kind of society did the Sudras
created at the begining and At what kind of relationship there was
among themselves? The next question is how does Sudra settlements
gradually developed the caste habits which belong to the Indian caste
traditions without there been migrations from the same Indian castes
to Sri Lanka? How does the social aspect of caste system ands
hierarchical structure, enter into Sri Lankan society?
Re-establishment of Caste system in India
In the Indian society after there was a serious setback of the caste
system due to the influence of 'Jainism' and 'Buddhism' in India,
there was once again a revival of caste system after few centuries.
The revival of caste system and the wiping of the Buddhism happened
more or less at the same time in India. There is some knowledge about
the manner in which this revival of caste system and the wiping out of
Buddhism took place in India. That was done by vigorous social
movements which were given a regious coloring, engaging in a
systematic repression and persecution of the Buddhists . This was
accompanied by a forceful replacement of the caste system, over a long
period of time with the support of the rulers of the time. After the
'Asokan' period which supported Buddhism, new dynasty established
itself, which was totally opposed to Buddhism and which replaced
Buddhism with the Brahmin religion together with the reestablishment
of the caste system.
There were village to village reorganization of caste, by Barahmins,
who were well instructed on the work of the reorganization and thus
virtually an enormous social experiment took place by way reorganizing
the society on the basis of caste.
Indian experiment brought to Sri Lanka
By the end of the 'Anuradhapura' period with the invasion of 'Kalinga
Maga', there was a period of social reorganization in Sri Lanka. The
similar type of social experiment which was carried out in India of
reorganizing villages on the basis of the caste principles would have
taken place during this time. This reorganization was also connected
with the development with the system of monarchy with absolute powers.
Thus the development of the monarchy and the development of caste
principle during this time transformed Sri Lanka into social
organization which was based on caste. Thus the Sudra communities
settled at the beginning was transformed into caste based new
hierarchy through social transformation which took place latter.
However the original populations which settled in the country were
Sudras and therefore it was a transformation of Sudra society into
caste system with new claims made by various groups for high states.
Thus, despite of false claims for new identities' all Sri Lankans
share common identity of being Sudras.
To be continued……
Previous Parts: PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE
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