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
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.