Buddhist Viharas and Eelam Part 4 D2

The Tamil Separatist Movement has cooked up the bogus idea of a separate Tamil Buddhism in the north to prevent Sinhala claims to those ruins. The claim of a Tamil Buddhist heritage in Jaffna is to prove their right to be in the north, observed historian G.V.P. Somaratne.

But this stunt has met with opposition within the Tamil Separatist Movement itself. Tamils in Sri Lanka are either Hindu or Christian.No one is Buddhist .Both groups, Christian and Hindu, oppose the idea of a Tamil Buddhist past in the north. A Buddhist past is unpleasant to many Tamils today, observed Somaratne. The paucity of research on the history of Tamil Buddhism in Sri Lanka is another drawback, he added.

In 1992, Peter Schalk was invited to speak on Tamil Buddhism to a predominantly Hindu audience in Jaffna. They view Tamil Buddhism as an insignificant phenomenon which does not deserve further attention, Schalk complained.

There is also the problem of proof. Chola rule in the medieval period is of no use .Velgam Vihara was there before the Cholas came and the Cholas and Pandyas built Hindu temples not Buddhist ones in Sri Lanka. One solution would be to say that all ruins found in the north and east are Tamil, the rest are Sinhala but that will be dismissed as absurd.

Tamil Separatist Movement argues that the reason there is no proof of Tamil Buddhism in ancient Sri Lanka, is because the ancient writers neglected to record the Tamil Buddhism that was visibly taking place around them. Most Buddhist texts written after the fifth century by Sinhalese Buddhist monks have not given attention to Tamil Buddhism, said Somaratne.

This is a weak argument. If Tamil Buddhism had existed, one or two at least of the 7000 odd inscriptions would have been on Tamil Buddhism. A donation to a Tamil Buddhist temple, perhaps. The vamsa writers were so focused on Buddhism that at least one would have made a mention of Tamil Buddhism if such a thing had existed. The logical conclusion would be that Tamil Buddhism is not mentioned because it did not exist.

There is plenty of evidence available even today on Sinhala Buddhism. Mounds, statues, pillars, bricks, necklaces, pots and so on. Why is there nothing on Tamil Buddhism? If Tamil Buddhism actually existed, artifacts would have appeared and they would not have escaped the notice of modern researchers.

Tamil Buddhism is hardly visible In Ilam, said Peter Schalk who set out to study this elusive subject. There is no historical evidence of any island-born Tamil Buddhists or the existence of Tamil Buddhists in ancient Sri Lanka said Dilrook Kannangara. If so, there is no historical justification for handing the ancient Buddhist shrines to Tamils. That must be prevented at all cost, Dilrook concluded.

Peter Schalk, Professor of History of Religions, Uppsala University, Sweden, did research on Tamil Buddhism. His doctoral thesis was on Sinhala Buddhism, (1972).There is no separate canon for Tamil Buddhism like the canons in Sanskrit, Pāli, Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, said Schalk who was looking, it appears, for a Tamil school of Buddhism. He also added that all the Tamil writings on Buddhism available today, in Tamilnadu, put together will only form one thick volume.

Schalk established a link between University of Jaffna and Uppsala. A research group was formed, with two researchers each from Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka researchers were S Pathamanathan and A Velupillai. The three publications that resulted from this project are:

Schalk and Velupillai Ed Buddhism among Tamils in Pre-Colonial Tamilakam and Īlam” pt 1 Uppsala. (2002)
Schalk and Vēluppiḷḷa Ed Buddhism among Tamils in Pre-Colonial Tami akam and Ilam. Pt 2 Uppsala: 2002.
Schalk ed. Buddhism among Tamils in Tamilakam and Īlam Part 3 Extension and Conclusions. Uppsala 2013.
The Tamil-speaking Buddhist communities of southern India and Īlam have been relatively under-studied, said Schalk The history of Buddhism in Tamil-speaking South India and Sri Lanka has only recently become a topic of serious academic study said Monius. Both writers speak of Eelam, which they spell as Ilam. They treat Eelam as a reality. They see Tamilnadu and Eelam as one geographic area united by Tamil Buddhism.

Buddhism among Tamils is a territorial concept, announced Schalk. It is not about doctrinal or ritual matters, but about possession of land. Tamil Buddhism was a political concept in the Tamil resistance movement.

Tamil Buddhism, when encountering political Sinhala Buddhism, transforms from a religious into a political category. It claims the right of possession and control over territory observed Schalk. Tamil politicians are pushing the notion of Tamil Buddhism to stop the re-conquest” of the north, by delivering historical counter arguments to Sinhala Buddhism

The maps in the third volume display the political nature of the book. There are two maps a) Provisional map of Tamilakam and Īlam and b) Map of the territory of the projected state of Tamil īlam as part of the island. Map made and distributed by the Tamil Resistance Movement.

The photographs are not on Tamil Buddhism either. They are all pro –Eelam and anti Sinhala. One photo is titledAn all-Sinhala road sign post located in Pūnakarijunction in theNorth” (2011)and anther is on Kantarōṭai changed into Kadurugoḍa”.( 2011)

Some photos are on the recent intrusion of Sinhala Buddhism into the north. There is one on a newly constructed stūpa at Māṅkuḷam junction. (2010), newly renovated vihāraya in Kiḷinocci town, (2011) a vihāraya built on the Iraṇaimaṭu river bank in Kiḷinocci covering a Caiva kōvil. (2010) and the newly constructed residence for the Buddhist monks in Tirukkētīsvaram. (2011)

There are photos of various aspects of the Eelam war. One photo is on destruction of LTTE cemeteries, with others on damaged hospitals (2011) and displaced Tamils. (2012) Photos show a war monument located in Āṉaiyiṟavu (Elephant Pass) (2011), war monument in Mantuvil in Putukutirippu (2011) and the plaque describing the significance of the war monument, war monument at Muḷḷivāykkāl, and the destruction by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces of a LTTE war monument. (2004).

Lastly there are photographs on post-war activities of the army in the north. A photo of military-run fruit cultivation in Utayārkattukuḷam (2011), a military-run restaurant at Parantaṉ junction on A9 road in Kiḷinocci (2010), and another one in Muḷḷaittīvu . (2011). The last photo is on war tourism by Sinhala Buddhists in Mantuvil in Putukuṭiyiruppu (2011). (continued)

Kamalika Pieris

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