gift to the needy
Wandering around Wanderers Park in South Africa
I took time off from the hurly burly of cricket to see the other
side of life there - the suffering the poor, especially the children,
have to face.
Nelson Mandela Children's Fund project office along with my friend
Joseph who was introduced to me by his boss Boyd Naidoo, I saw the
efforts to help children. Theproject strives to change the way society
treats its children.
chaired by Nelson Mandela, is now in its seventh year and continues
to make a difference to the lives of the children in S. Africa.
CEO Sibongile Mkhabela the task of transforming South Africa and
extending the country's political miracle into the economic and
social spheres has just begun.
leads by example by contributing a major portion of his income to
swell the coffers of this poverty eradication project. He is leading
from the front not with mere words but by action. Those who matter
- professionally, not figureheads - meticulously handle the plans
are children and youth from birth to 22 years. Much stress is placed
on the wellbeing of the children. To promote and support innovative
and community based responses to children in trauma and children
in need of protection. The objective; the integration of children
and young people with disabilities into broader society.
There is no
discrimination between the whites and non-whites now. All have joined
forces to lift the image of the have-nots. The Mandela Children's
Project has matured as an organization with a consolidated team
effort to meet the many needs of the children in S.A. The demands
may exceed the resources, but developing partnerships with communities
and other organizations from home and abroad has helped them immensely.
The main target
is to fight the effects of HIV/AIDS on children; to take and nurture
- namely the family as a solid family environment which is necessary
to pave the way of future aspirations of children. To fight against
HIV/AIDS and its subsequent effects needs far more than financial
resources. That's what Nelson Mandela is doing during the autumn
of his life. It's not a charitable grant giver, but a catalyst for
development via community service.
Here is what
one of the beneficiaries of the Fund wrote, according to CEO Mkhabela.
"Dear Mediba (Mandela),
You are brave
and strong like a lion. When you roared a few years ago the engineers
of apartheid decided to throw you in a cage. When they thought you
were old and useless, they released you, without realizing that
your spirit was as good as new, and when you roared again in 1990,
the people felt your presence, and reconciliation was constructed
while apartheid was abolished.
- Catherine Mentjies."
My visit to
the Foundation gave me much food for thought. No doubt life is a
long process of suffering. But still one could help a fellow- being
to overcome his problems.
was Kassapas palace, not a monastery
There is no doubt that history needs to be reviewed in
the light of new archaeological discoveries. Even the comparison
of different literary sources can be used to get a clearer view
of what happened in history. Such research is productive when carried
out without allowing preconceived notions or personal prejudices
to cloud one's vision.
excavations at Sigiriya helped Prof. Senarath Paranavitana to discover
the Lion Staircase mentioned in the Mahavamsa. The chronicle also
provides the information that this huge figure of the lion built
by King Kassapa I, was the origin of the name Sihagiri. The second
part of the name 'giri' has the double meaning of 'mountain' as
well as 'throat'. Only the huge paws of the lion have survived to
indicate that the stairway had actually passed through the gaping
mouth of the figure of a crouching lion.
at the summit of the rock to which this stairway led, uncovered
a vast building complex spread over three acres of the surface.
Strategically placed watch pockets dug out of the sheer rock face
just below the building complex were also found. The absence of
any trace of religious edifices on the summit also helped to confirm
the chronicler's statement that the buildings were those of a royal
palace. The spectacular view from the top shows the extensive and
elaborately laid out gardens below. The massive ramparts and the
wide moat on three sides unprotected by the rock gave added support
to the statement in the chronicle that the site was a palace complex.
of Archaeology Dr. Raja de Silva now challenges both Paranavitana
and the compiler of the second part of the Mahavamsa.
book was not available for reference at the time of writing, this
novel theory has been spelt out in detail in his paper on "Mahatmas,
Mahavihara and Mahayana read at the D.T. Devendra Memorial
Lecture - 1998. The text was published serially in The Island on
weekdays between May 18-22, 1998, and the comments that follow relate
to three principal arguments which support the new theory presented
there. We have no reason to think that his book presents a different
In the first
place, he says that because the earlier form of the name was Sihigiri,
it did not mean Lion Rock, but "Remembrance Rock". Secondly,
he says that Kassapa did not build a palace on top of Sigiriya.
But, he says, that the ruins at the top are those of a Mahayanist
monastery. In support of this he puts forward another theory that
the ladies in the Sigiriya frescoes represent the Mahayana Goddess
Tara. Thirdly, he questions the authority of the Mahavamsa and the
bona fides of the compiler of that section, for stating that King
Kassapa I built a palace on top of Sigiriya Rock. Now let us consider
each of his arguments, in turn.
The first is that Sigiriya was earlier known as Sihigiriya.
According to the author Sihigiriya really meant "Remembrance
Rock" and not Lion Rock. He may appear to have made a point
there. According to current Sinhala usage, it is difficult to show
semantically how Sihigiri is derived from Siha meaning lion. The
Pali form of the name is also Sihagiri (with the first 'i' being
pronounced as a long vowel) and not Sihigiri.
The fact that
this Rock was earlier referred to as Sihigiri is confirmed by that
name being used in two verses of the Sigiri Graffiti (20 & 62).
Therefore, he is correct in saying that the earlier form of the
name in Sinhala was indeed Sihigiri and not Sihagiri. But that by
itself is no proof that Sihi meant "remembrance" as in
modern usage, and not Siha or "lion". Saying so is to
ignore the fact that the usage of the language could have changed
during the twelve or thirteen centuries that have elapsed since
the incision of these graffiti. The fact that such a change had
taken place is confirmed by the meaning "Sinha" given
to "Sihi" by Sorata Thera, in the authoritative Sri Sumangala
Sabdakoshaya. Confirmation of this is found again in the Sikha Valanda
Vinisa (10th century), edited by Sir D.B. Jayatilaka in 1924. There,
lion-meat is referred to as 'sihi' mas. Similar use of the vowel
'i' to form an adjectival from a substantive ending in a 'a' is
found in 'gihi' meaning 'layman' from 'gaha' meaning a household.
We must also
remember that Lawrie recorded the folk tale that Sihigiri meant
''remembrance rock" way back in 1898. At that time, the Lion
Staircase at Sigiriya was not yet brought to light in order to confirm
the statement in the Mahavamsa that King Kassapa built such a staircase
and named the rock after it. Hence the very modern interpretation
of the meaning of "Sihigiri" as Remembrance Rock. Even
so, this folklore also says that the name Sihigiri was "in
Remembrance of King Kassapa", a view that is not being denied
by Dr. Raja de Silva. As we have seen above 'Sihi' is the adjectival
form of 'siha". Hence, "Sihigiri" really meant "Lion
Rock" and not "Remembrance Rock".
Dr. Raja de Silva identifies the relatively small figures of
the Sigiriya damsels on the rock face as the object to which the
huge staircase through the colossal lion's throat was designed to
lead to. But the stairway leads right up to the top of the rock
where no signs of a gigantic figure of Tara have come to light.
He denies that the staircase led to Kassapa's palace on the summit
of the rock, which he says is also an invention of the chronicler.
He maintains that the remains of the building complex at the top
of Sigiriya are those of a Mahayana monastery of the type known
as a Pabbata Vihara built by King Kassapa I.
Had he consulted
the authorities on the subject like Prof. Marasinghe, Dr. de Silva
would have come to know that the layout of edifices in Pabbata Viharas
conformed to a certain pattern. Not only were there twin meditation
terraces (separated by a moat and connected by a stone bridge),
but also buildings laid out according to a particular configuration
within such a complex. Prof. Senaka Bandaranayake who devoted a
long chapter to the subject of Pabbata Vihara in his doctoral thesis
did not say that the buildings on top of Sigiriya were those of
a Pabbata Vihara. Dr. Raja de Silva also does not say that he discovered
any such meditation terraces or a configuration of buildings atop
On the other
hand, even if indeed there had been a Mahayana monastery in the
inhospitable terrain on top of Sigiriya, that by itself is not enough
to disprove the statement in the chronicle that King Kassapa had
built his palace up there before that. In fact the chronicle says
that Sigiriya was given over to two Mahayana factions after the
fall of Sigiriya Kassapa. That cannot happen if King Kassapa had
already done so by royal decree.
That the frescoes
represent the celestial nymphs called ''apsaras'' (cloud nymphs)
is quite in keeping with the same place assigned to them in the
construction of royal places elsewhere, in Cambodia and Vietnam
for instance. The Pattirippuwa (Pati+irippuva, lit. 'Lord's Residence')
built in Maha Nuwara by Devendra Mulacharya for Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe
(another tyrant like Kassapa I), is an octagonal model of a traditional
Mahameru gala as the 'Cosmic Mountain' of mythology. There, the
curvaceous "Valakulu Bemma" or "Cloud Parapet"
below the Pattirippuva symbolizes the apsaras or 'Cloud Nymphs'.
The Cloud Parapet is skirted below by the "Diya-reli Bemmas"
(Ocean Wave Parapets) with the sharp crests representing the waves
of the primeval ocean that surrounded the Cosmic Mountain. To crown
the illusion, King Sri Wickrama insisted on naming the lake that
he built to the east of the Pattirippuva as "Kiri Muhuda".
Kiri Muhuda is the Milky Ocean to the east of the Cosmic Mountain
in South Asian Mythology (where it was churned up to produce Amrita,
i.e. Ambrosia or the food of the Immortals). It is a pity that there
was no scholar even among the Professors attached to the Cultural
Triangle project to recognize this symbolism inherent in the Pattirippuva
and explain it in one of their project reports. The fact is that
they were at a loss even to say why the tiny Kandy Lake was named
King Sri Wickrama
appeared atop his model of the Cosmic Mountain only on ceremonial
occasions or to watch the brutal executions in the Maha Maluwa.
Therefore, it is possible to think that King Kassapa also used Sigiriya
only for his appearance at the convocations of his forces, or even
as a country house (Gam Nuwara or Gannoruwa) when he wished to take
a holiday from the hubbub of city life. It is significant to note
here that even the Mahavamsa does not say that King Kassapa abandoned
the capital Anuradhapura and took up permanent residence at Sigiriya.
That should provide the answer to Dr. Raja de Silva's worries about
the hazards posed by monsoon winds at the top of Sigiriya. The king
could have timed his visits to suit the weather patterns on top
but not so any Buddhist monks if they chose to reside there.
If there had
been such a huge Mahayana monastery on top of the dry and treeless
summit of this spectacular rock, why is there is no mention of it
by any one of the numerous visitors who came to Sigiriya during
the four centuries after King Kassapa. They left their impressions
about the place in elegant verses written down on the Mirror Wall,
but made no mention of such a thing. In the 685 verses that Paranavitana
had edited and published, none refer to a monastery on top of Sigiriya.
Can Dr. Raja de Silva also point out a single instance where any
of those visitors referred to the figures in the frescoes as the
If King Kassapa
built a monastery complex and not a palace there "at tremendous
expense of time and labour" why did he not leave behind a customary
Act of Donation - a stone inscription to proclaim that event?
is the Mahavamsa?
brings us to the third point - that relating to the Mahavamsa.
Mahavihara compiler of the second part of the Mahavamsa be taken
as an impartial chronicler?" "The truth regarding the
summit was not mentioned in the chronicle because the idea of giving
any prominence to non-Theravada Buddhist activities would not have
appealed to the compiler of the Mahavamsa." "The gap of
seven centuries between the events at Sigiriya and the alleged recording
at the hands of the Mahavamsa compiler would have added to the facility
of misrepresenting the truth for the 'serene joy and emotion of
the pious' the stated purpose of the chronicle'' are some of his
It is due to
an error in the English of Geiger's translation that every chapter
in the chronicle ends with the statement that the Mahavamsa was
"compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious".
Dr. de Silva has not realized that this terse refrain at the end
of each chapter is a condensation of what has been more elaborately
stated in verses 3 and 4 of the very first chapter of the chronicle:
has been recorded here, as it has come down to us through tradition
(sutito ca upagatam,) giving rise to either pleasing or painful
emotion according as each incident may be agreeable or afflicting."
It is with
this (proper) meaning of the refrain that Turnour and Wijesinghe
placed the following line at the end of each chapter in their translation
of the Mahavamsa with greater accuracy than Geiger to show that
the Mahavamsa was meant to evoke both joy and sorrow: "...The
Mahavamsa... composed for the delight and affliction of righteous
There are many
other mistakes that are not a result of the translator's fault,
in Dr. Raja de Silva's interpretation of the text. A few of them
are mentioned here. He apparently overlooked the fact that a Sinhala
king was entitled to have other queens of a lesser rank than the
queen who was jointly consecrated with him. In interpreting the
statement of Kassapa's birth "by a mother of unequal birth"
he takes the unwarranted liberty of saying "As a bachelor Dhatusena
consorted with a woman of unequal caste who bore him a son".
Elsewhere, "without blame on her part" is rendered as
"incensed by some unmentionable misdemeanor" by him. His
good command of the English language coupled with a knowledge of
the idiom Buddhist texts should have shown him that the translator's
term ''house-owner'' (gihiya or layman) does not mean the same thing
as "owner of a house".
He has overlooked
the fact that it is with good reason that the chronicler refers
to Kassapa who ordered the murder of his own father as a "wicked
ruler". He also blames the chronicler for qualifying as "mighty",
Moggallana who was perhaps the earliest king in the history of any
country in the world to go on record as having established a Coast
Guard to protect his country.
Let us see
what just two of the many scholars of international repute had to
say on the same subject.
Chronicles would not suffer in comparison with the best of the Chronicles,
even though so considerably later in date, written in England. The
opinion of scholars as to the attitude to be adopted towards such
is quite unanimous. The hypothesis of deliberate lying, of conscious
forgery, is generally discredited."
Rhys Davids in Buddhist India p. 183).
of the Ceylon Chronicles: if we pause first at internal evidence
then the Ceylonese Chronicles will assuredly at once win approval
in they at least WISHED [Geiger's own capitals] to write the truth.
Certainly the writers could not go beyond the ideas determined by
their age and their social position, and beheld the events of past
time in their mirror of a one-sided tradition. But they certainly
did not intend to deceive hearers or readers. This is clear from
the remarkable objective standpoint from which they judge even the
moral foes of the Aryan race. That certainly deserves to be emphasized.
It is true not only of dominating personalities (such as to all
appearances, Elara was) but also of the two usurpers Sena and Guttika
it is said, rajjam dhammena karayum [i.e. ruled the land with justice]
Dipavamsa 18.47 and Mahavamsa 21.11". (Prof. Wilhelm Geiger:
Introduction to the Mahavamsa, p. xv).
has said about the objective treatment of the deeds of the "mortal
foes of the Aryan race" by the compilers of our chronicles
would be more valid where their attitude towards other Buddhist
sects who were not their "mortal foes" is concerned.
Dr. Raja de
Silva has forgotten that it is the same Dharmakirti, the compiler
of the second part of the Mahavamsa, who supplied him the information
that shrines were built at Sigiriya and donated to the monks of
the two Mahayana schools - the Dhammaruci and Sagaliya Nikayas.
Also, nowhere is it stated that these shrines were built on the
summit of Sigiriya Rock.
If the Mahavihara chroniclers were anti-Mahayanist, why did
they include in the Mahavamsa the whole story about King Vattagamani
Abhaya, cryptic though it was, clearly taken from the Uttaravihara
Atthakatha of the Abhayagiri Chapter? Dharmakirti has also recorded
the fact that King Kassapa, the supposed patron of Mahayana, refused
to give permission sought by his Senapati Migara to hold a consecration
ceremony for the Mahayanist Statue of Abhisekha Buddha that he had
built. How could King Kassapa have refused that permission if he
was indeed the devout Mahayanist supporter that Dr. Raja de Silva
makes him out to be? "As leave was not granted (by King Kassapa,)
he refrained with the resolve: I shall seek for it (again) under
the sovereignity of the rightful ruler," says the chronicle
(39.6). In fact it was King Moggallana (who has been accused by
Dr. de Silva of being the favourite of an anti Mahayanist chronicler,)
who finally gave permission for this Mahayana ceremony to take place
during his period of rule after Kassapa.
When the author
of this part of the Mahavamsa had recorded all this accurately,
how can Dr. Raja de Silva say, "The idea of giving any prominence
to non-Theravada Buddhist activities would not have appealed to
the Compiler of the Mahavamsa?" There can be little doubt that
what King Kassapa I built on top of Sigiriya Rock was not a Mahayana
monastery complex, but actually his own Summer Palace, as sharmakirti
had stated 700 years ago.