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History and origins of the Sinhala race

by Ranjit C. Dissanayake, Deputy President, Eksath Sinhala Maha Sabhawa

Origins of the 'Sinhala' race still remains an unresolved national issue. In primary school as students when we learned History, we were taught that we, Sinhalese, are descendants of a 'so-called' Vijeya who is said to have been deported from India for acts of grave crime and aggression against the people and government of that country some 2550 years ago.

Hence it is still widely believed in some quarters that we, Sinhala people are descendants from Indian origin. We, the original Sinhala people of this land most emphatically and vehemently deny this wild belief with responsibility.

As has been researched and prophesied by historians and scholars such as Professor Mendis Rohanadheera, Dr. Suriya Gunasekera, Dr. Nath Amarakone, Messrs J.R.P. Sooryapperuma, Arisen Ahabudhu etc. we firmly deny that the Sinhala race are descendants of any Indian origin. The question to ask is very simple. It is well-known and historically reported that India, the huge Sub-Continent, is a multi-national land.

Several races and tribes of people, may be numbering over a hundred, lived and still live on Indian soil. They speak several different languages amongst which, Hindi, Gujerati, Malayali, Bengali, Tamil, Pali, Sanskrit etc. are the most popularly used. But had the 'Sinhala' language ever been either used or spoken anywhere in India ? History indicates a stern 'No'.

Then how come we, the Sinhalese, who speak a specific language of our own 'Sinhala' come or descend from a deported criminal of Indian origin who would have certainly spoken some other language ? This a historical lie, a great myth probably thrust upon us by certain elements who authored the early History of 'Helaya' thousands of years ago for reasons better known to themselves.

Just because some lunatic or stupid writer mentioned through dreamy imagination and not on facts, that the Sinhala people are descendants of 'Vijeya', it will be the height of foolishness for us to blindly accept and believe so without any logic or reason. This is what all of us, we Sinhala people had done for several thousands of years, thanks to our history books of mythology, our history teachers back in school and the Buddhist clergy.

It is now time for us to, as a nation, resolve this issue once and for all. We cannot go on as a nation, with serious doubts cast upon our origin and for ever remain a nation of dubious beginnings. Although the past regimes, specially after the country gained independence from over 400 years of colonial rule, had miserably failed to resolve this most important national issue, it is now left in the hands of the present Government to step in and resolve this issue for good. Immediately appoint a 'Special Task Force' comprising scholars referred to in the preceding paragraph and any others as may be deemed proper and fit by the authorities and give them a definite time frame not beyond four (04) months to deliberate on this issue and report.

The findings of this Committee shall be final and the Government should immediately make a categorical statement to the world about the origins of the Sinhala race. I am sure there will be several pundits or bookworms who may not like this idea, but the stark truth has to emerge and cannot be kept hidden in the future history of the land. Further, before we talk of the territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence and unitary status of the country, which is the land of the Helayan or the Sinhale, the origins of the majority race must be resolved and determined.

The origins of the Sinhala race, it is believed, traces far beyond even King Rawana era and the Sinhala Royalty far beyond even King Pandukabhaya era. Hence it is imperative to trace our origins even to the nearest possible era and conclude this unresolved national issue. This little country, in the ancient past, was known as 'Helaya' or 'Heladiva'. There were at the time four tribes of people known as 'Yaksha', 'Raksha', 'Naga' and 'Deva' who lived on this land. Though named such, probably due to their behavioural patterns, their habits, their thinking and their way of livelihood etc., they were only human and no animals or mammals at all. Due to the existence of these four tribes Helaya, later became to be known as "Sivu-Helaya" which later turned out to be called "Sinhale". When the country was invaded by foreign traders and powers, it was known as "Sinhale".

Since the foreign invaders could not correctly pronounce the word "Sinhale", they started to call it 'Seylan' which later in use turned out to be 'Ceylon' and remained so until our liberation from colonial rule in 1948.

The name 'Lanka' which was later confirmed as 'Sri Lanka' by the Constitution of 1972 was probably introduced somewhere during the colonial era. It is time the authorities concerned give serious thought to the call to reintroduce the original name of the country, "Sinhale" instead of present "Sri Lanka".

The next most important issue is the subject of "History". History, the history of Sri Lanka though with certain myths and falsehoods were taught in our schools up to the year 1972, when in a very planned and subtle coup, the subject of 'History' was taken out of the schools educational curricula and a new subject called "Social Science" or "Samaja Adyana" introduced, which is a pickle of 'achcharu'.

Instead of correcting any discrepancy, wrongs, misquotes, myths and falsehoods in our old History books; shelving the subject of 'History' does not answer the problem, but only aggravates the issue. There appeared a number of arguments recently in the local media (specially the print media with pertinent editorials) of the importance of reintroducing the subject of History back to the educational curricula of the schools, specially from Grade VI to University levels.

The authorities concerned, who are well and truly dominated by the age-old, numb and dumb, lethargic government bureaucracy, 'kalu suddas' of the public service have so far been deaf and blind to these public outcries. Many a written appeal to the Prime Minister, Minister of Education has apparently, as is the usual case in the government service, gone to, we presume, the waste-paper basket.

We sincerely and in all earnest, in the best interest of this country, our Motherland, appeal and urge upon the authorities, the President, Prime Minister and Minister in-charge to act immediately and order the authorities to reintroduce "History" as a separate single subject and make it compulsory from Year VI to University levels. It should not be forgotten that we are one proud and hailed nation amongst the few countries of the world who have had a written history beyond 2000 years.

In America, which has a history not longer than only 250 years, the subject is compulsory even in University Science streams and is called "The Heritage". Anybody seeking American Citizenship will have to pass a paper on 'The American Heritage' before being even considered for such.

We appeal to all concerned, all Patriots of the Governing Party, the main Opposition Party, other Democratic Parties, all Sinhala Nationalist Parties, the Most Venerable Maha Nayake Theros and the Reverend Maha Sangha to unite with us to insist upon and compel the authorities concerned to take immediate action to reintroduce the subject of "History" as a special, separate and single subject into the Schools educational curricula and arrange to teach same in all schools, be the Government, Private or International as a compulsory subject from Grade VI onwards, as was done in our Schools prior to 1972. the 'achcharu' Social Science subject must be completely and totally separated from 'History'.

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