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Indo-Ceylonese policy needs a friendly perspective

 

Posted Wednesday, March 31 2013

Odisha, India, Sri Lanka  
 

As per reports, 75 percent of the Sinhalese are believed to be of Indian origin of which 12% are Tamils and rest 88% are from the ancient Kalinga most of which is now known as Odisha and parts lying in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. So, presenting Tamils as the only community of Indian origin would largely hamper the interests and rights of the rest 88% of Sinhalese of Indian origin.

 
Swetaparna Mohanty  
 

Cricket and politics in Tamil Nadu are now revolving around the issue of Tamils in Sri Lanka. At the same time, the reaction of MDMK Chief Vaiko over issues of Sinhalese of Indian origin has turned further controversial and become a call for historians and intellectuals to rescan India’s Ceylonese link by re-interpreting Indian mythologies and revisiting the history of India, particularly the eastern India, since the days of Magadha and Kalinga under the rule of Maurya emperor Ashoka.

India's relations with its neighbour Sri Lanka dates back to ages as our puranas too refer to the island country. Historical evidences documented so far speak volumes about the Indian links with this island neighbour since ancient times dating back to 3rd century BC.

 

Most of the ancestors of the present Sinhalese had migrated from ancient Kalinga that, once, stretched from the Ganges in the north to Godavari in the south. Kalinga’s boundaries encompassed today’s West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.  Ancient Kalinga or present day Odisha's relationship with this island State is some 2,300 years old.

Post Kalinga War, in the third century BC, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, son and daughter of the Magadhan emperor Ashoka, who was converted from Chandashoka to Dharmashoka, accompanied by a few families from the ancient Kalinga sailed to Singhala, present day Sri Lanka, with the mission of propagating Buddhist religion and culture. The brother sister duo carried a sapling of Bodhi, sacred fig scientifically termed Ficus Religiosa, and planted it at Anuradhapura, the first known imperial headquarters of Sri Lanka. As this tiny sapling grew into a gigantic tree, the population of Kalingan Sinhalese grew simultaneously and the cultural ties of Kalinga with Sri Lanka went stronger with the evolution of a culture influenced by Kalingan Buddhism that has now become the Sinhalese culture.

Sri Lanka's history Mahabhasa written in pali language in the sixth century throws light on this relationship. It also says, Singhala or Sri Lanka's first king, Bijaya too hailed  from eastern India or Kalinga's Singhapura. It’s also believed that the name Singhala or Sinhala is derived from Kalinga's Singhapura. Also there are references in history that Lord Buddha's relic (tooth) was sent from Kalinga to Sri Lanka.

There is no doubt that Singhala's culture has been deeply influenced by Odisha or the then Kalinga. The Sadhavas or merchants from Kalinga had further strengthened maritime relation between the two States. These merchants used to make a stopover at Sri Lanka on their voyages to Bali, Java and Sumatra islands of present day Indonesia. With trade developed convergence and exchange of cultures. Ancestors of present day Sri Lankans mostly have their roots in Kalinga.

But, unfortunately, the politics with Tamil issue played by a few Indian leaders for some narrow political interest has threatened the rights of other communities of Indian origin.

As per reports, 75 percent of the Sinhalese are believed to be of Indian origin of which 12% are Tamils and rest 88% are from the ancient Kalinga most of which is now known as Odisha and parts lying in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. So, presenting Tamils as the only community of Indian origin would largely hamper the interests and rights of the rest 88% of Sinhalese of Indian origin. Even, while pressing upon the need for a strong Indo-Ceylonese policy for better political and business relations, many Sri Lankan Tamil leaders have opposed to such interference by some Indian leaders.

As most of the non-Tamil population have their roots in parts that are now in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, many urge that the chief ministers of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal need to raise their voice to safeguard the interests of 88 percent of Sri Lanka’s populace who owe their origins to these states. Probably, the combined voice of these states can steer India’s policy towards Sri Lanka in the right direction.

 
 

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