Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Myth or Legend ?
Salaams all ~ In this post I intend to show the spurious nature of a cornerstone Sri Lankan hypothesis ...in fact a mistake ...The Lion and how it has been misapplied as descibing the head of the Kastane Sword... which is in fact The Macara. If any emblem were to accurately descibe the historical nature of the nation then The Sun abd Moon or even The Macara itself would certainly fit the bill ! however ~
The Lion on the National Flag. In showing that this simply doesn't stack up I will then in my next post show how the Kastane developed originally ~but succumbed to similar mythology in being exported amongst other things as
a BELLY DANCING TOOL!!
Stage 2 The Myths...Quote
"1. The 'Lion' myth
(History and Myths)
Many modern myths have been spun around the Lion flag which was adopted in 1950 as the National flag of Sri Lanka.
The first myth is that Vijaya, the first King of Sri Lanka, arrived in Sri Lanka in 486 BCE, with a lion flag and that since then the Lion symbol played a significant role in the history of Sri Lanka. It is also claimed that the lion flag was used extensively by monarchs who followed Vijaya and it became a symbol of freedom and hope.
There is absolutely no historical evidence to justify such claims. On the contrary, none of the Kings and Queens of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa have ever claimed to be Sinhalese. But they have consistently claimed in their inscriptions to be from the Kshatriya race and the Indian Sun Dynasty and Lunar Dynasty ( proven by ancient Sri Lankan stone inscriptions in Sun & Moon symbols). The ancient Mahavamsa chronicle of Sri Lanka too refers to the ancient kings and queens of Sri Lanka, not as Sinhalese, but as Kshatriyas from the Solar and Lunar dynasties.
Accordingly their royal symbols were the Sun and the Moon. The Lion was not a royal symbol for these ancient monarchs and they used the lion image on foot-stones at entrances to buildings and on urinal-stones. The lion appears to have been an important symbol only for the Indian born Kalinga kings of Sri Lanka, particularly king Nissankamalla (1187-1196 ) who claimed to hail from Sinhapura (lion city). Nissankamalla and other Kalinga monarchs used the lion symbol extensively and popularized it's use during their reigns.
The Karava Singhe dynasty of Jaffna (which succeeded the Kalinga dynasty rulers of Jaffna) too appear to have used the lion symbol as evidenced by the name of the dynasty and the crest of their Karava descendants. Intermarriage with the Kalinga royal families could explain the transfer of their symbolism to the Karavas and explain the existence of ancient Karava Lion flags in Sri Lanka.
The lion was also the symbol of the south Indan Pallava kings. Pallava coins with the Pallava lion emblem are found in Sri Lanka too and these coins are knowingly or unknowingly mistaken by some as Sinhalese lion coins.
The Sinhalese word for "Throne' , Sinhasana is probably derived from Tamil Singasanam and could have been popularised by the Singha dynasty of Jaffna and the connected Karava Raja-Singhe kings of Kandy. It is interesting to note that Dona Catherina the sole heiress to the Kandyan kingdom is referred to in Sinhalese as Kusumasana Devi (ie queen of the Flower throne)
that all, or at least a majority, of the Sinhala speaking people in Sri Lanka are descendants of Vijaya and that their original ancestor was a Lion.
According to history, there was no such Mega Sinhala race in Sri Lanka until the British period. And the fact that most castes have their own origin stories proves this. For Instance the Salagamas caste traces it’s origin in Sri Lanka to Nambudiri and other Saligrama Brahmins who came over from Malabar (i.e. Kerala) at the invitation of king Vathhimi Buvenekabahu of Sri Lanka. The ‘muni’ clan names of the Salagamas bear testimony to their Brahmin origins. The Durava Caste traces its origins from the Nagas and retinues of Pandyan consorts. The Navandanna caste traces it’s origin to Vishwakarma. According to J. Kulatilleka, the Deva Kula (Also known as Wahumpura, Hakuru etc) are descended from a deified ruler of Sabaragamuwa named Sumana. (Ravaya 30 August 1998). According to Warnapurage Lal Chandrasena of Wellawatte, the Sunnakkara Kula (Also known as Hunu) are descended from the traditional architects and Engineers of Sri Lanka (Ravaya 13 September 1998). According to T. Jinadasa Fernando Municipal Councillor of Telawala Moratuwa, Kumbal Kula (Also known as Badal, Badahela etc.) are descended from the first humans to graduate from wild men to humans who cooked their food in clay pots; Cultivating and other occupations are breakaways from this first quantum leap. (Ravaya 18 October 1998). According to I. Gunaratna of Malvana, the Bathgama caste is descended from the original pre- Vijayan, Yakka (also called Yaksha) inhabitants of Sri Lanka; They were expert Artificers. (Ravaya 13 December 1998). The 'Govi Caste', according to the Janawamsayaa and other sources, sprung from the feet of Brahma as this fourth category was the lowest of the four caste groups. And the modern Govigama caste is an identity created during the British period by the De Saram Mudaliar family of mixed origins. (see Govigama) Many successful individuals of unknown provenance joined the Govigama group during the British period. Several other castes trace their origin to the guilds that arrived with the sacred Bodhi tree.
Interestingly not a single caste has an origin story connecting it to Vijaya or a beastly lion ancestor. And according the Mahavamsa the term Sinhala could be applied only to the initial royal family and not to the population at large. And according to the chronicles Vijaya did not father a successor.
that the legendary King Dutugemunu carried with him a banner with a sword bearing lion when he embarked on his campaign to defeat King Elara.
However although Dutugemunu is the hero of the Mahavamsa, that great chronicle says nothing about a lion flag or a lion race. Those who believe this myth refer to a mural at the ancient Dambulla cave temple but they fail to realise that although the Dambulla temple is ancient, the particular mural is only about 200 years old and from the British period !!
The fourth myth is that a Lion flag was the royal banner of the Kotte kingdom.
There is absolutely no evidence to support such a claim. A fake flag of a whip bearing lion is now being popularized as the ancient flag of the Kotte kingdom but there is absolutely no historical evidence as to the existence of such a flag in the Kotte kingdom.
On the contrary the literature of the period including the Sandesha Kavya say that the rampart of the Kotte kingdom was adorned with Tiger faces (Puli mukha in Thisara sandesha) and that Makara flags (Muvara dada in the Kau Silumina and min dada in the Thisara Sandesha) of victory flew over the city of Kotte. The Thisara Sandesha says that the Garuda flag was a royal flag of the Kotte kingdom. It is important to note that both the Makara flag and the Garuda flag are traditional flags of the Karava community.
The coins issued by King Parakramabahu VI for the kingdom of Jaffna did have a Lion on it. But that was because the reigning royal dynasty of Jaffna at that time was the Karava Singha (Lion) dynasty. The lion on the coins probably gave them more acceptability in the region. More importantly we need to note that the coins issued by Parakramabahu Vi for the Kotte kingdom didn't have a lion on them.
The fifth myth is that a Lion flag was the royal banner of the last King of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815). ~
1.Firstly, King Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe and the other Kandyan kings were not Sinhalese. They were Indian Kshattriya Vaduga kings.
2.Secondly there is no historical evidence to say that King Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe used a lion flag as his royal standard.
The royal grants of the king nor the literary work from the period talk about a lion or a lion flag. European eye witness accounts from the period say that the king’s banner was the Sun and Moon banner and that various other flags with animal motifs were also used. And indeed many flags with animal motifs (swans, peacocks, deer, bears, lions, elephants, leopards, cranes and numerous other birds etc ) have been found in Kandy and elsewhere… as "simply other miscellaneous items".
"Percival" writing in 1805 refers to flags with the sun emblem being carried before Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (AD 1798 - 1815), the last king of Kandy (Percival, Account of the Island of Ceylon, pp 267, 268). It is interesting to note that the lion flag which is now believed to have been the personal banner of the king is not mentioned by Percival or any others.
Going back a few centuries to 1639, the reign of king Rajasinghe II, which is a century before the Nayakkar dynasty inherited the Kandyan kingdom, we see that the Sun and Moon flag was the flag carried in the vanguard of royal pageants (Abeyawardana p 145)
Although the lion was not a heraldic symbol of the Kandyan kings, the Lion was indeed a very important heraldic symbol for the Dutch. The Dutch who were ruling the coastal areas during the Kandyan period. Their heraldic lion is to be found on almost all Dutch coins issued during that period (17 - 18thC). The use of lion imagery by the Dutch had nothing to do with a Sinhala race.
The lion was a prominent Dutch royal symbol and it was used by the Dutch also on coins issued by them in other colonies in Asia and even as far as America. Inevitably the Dutch flags of the period too would have had similar lions on them. As such the prevalent use of lions by the Dutch appears to have had an influence on Kandyan flags too. The Kandyan flags with lions and other animals with European style iconography might even have been drawn by European captives living in the Kandyan kingdom or done by local artists who were inspired by the novel Dutch designs.
The sixth myth is that the flag had bo-leaves at the four corners from its inception to represent Buddhism.
The bo-leaves in the four corners replaced the European style finials ('Banku Kakul' in Sinhala language) only in 1972. But this myth and the others appear even on government documents and web sites and have been repeated so often that they are now accepted as fact by many.
Development of the 'Lion flag' myth
The opportunities offered by the liquor trade in the 19th century had produced a new class of wealthy Sri Lankans. Some of the liquor dealers to amass large fortunes during this period were Don Spater Senanayake (see his details under Mudaliyars) the Father of D. S. Senanayake and Wevage Arnolis Dep (whose daughter Helena married timber trader Don Philip Wijewardene the ancestor of J. R. Jayawardene and Ranil Wickremasinge)
At the turn of the century, the second generation of these families were striving hard to gain power and status through divisive means such as religious controversies, temperance movements and anti-Muslim riots.
The older class of Dutch and British appointed Mudaliyars were disdainful of this class of new rich people who were clamouring to join the 'Govigama identity' (see Govigama) created by the Mudaliyar class. Sir Christoffel Obeyesekere the most prominent member from the Mudaliyar class referred to these new rich group; D. S. Senanayake, his two brothers F.R and D.C and others as “a few who are nobodies, but who hope to make somebodies of themselves by disgraceful tactics”. It’s this outburst by Sir Christoffel that gives Kumari Jayawardena the title for her insightful book on this period, ‘Nobodies to Somebodies - The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka'.
The search for a 'Sinhala' racial flag by this group led to E. W. Perera's so called discovery of three Kandyan flags in England. These were flags taken away by Captain Pollock in 1803, and hung at the Chelsea Royal Hospital alongside other captured flags, colonial trophies from many other colonies. Perera was neither a historian nor an expert on flags but had been sent to England by the Wijewardene / Senanayake cabal to promote their political agenda. However permission for Perera's trip to England had been obtained by saying it was for 'research at the British Museum' .
As such on his return, in 1916 E. W. Perera published the book 'Sinhalese Banners and Standards; with a commercially designed, spurious lion flag as it's frontispiece. The book promoted a concocted case to accept that flag as the national flag.
The three Kandyan flags "discovered" by Perera at the hospital were hopelessly faded and could be identified only by the name plates on the wall. Perera admits that the flags were too faded even to get a sketch from them. He says that he sketched the lion flag not by looking at the flag but from the identifying plaque on the wall. However the official colour copies of these flags procured by the crown agents for the Colombo Museum had been rejected by Perera saying they were inaccurate and useless. (Perera 3). In their place Perere chose the commercially designed and drawn spurious lion flag.
Bishop Edmund Peiris who also saw the flags confirms that that all three flags were hopelessly faded. According to him two of the flags hung by the second window on the left as you enter and the third hung from the organ loft which then contained lumber. In the office of the Chelsea Hospital Bishop Peiris had seen the record of colour sketches of all the flags in the Hall. This record had been titled “Collection of trophies deposited in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea / copied from the original book of Drawings and Descriptions arranged and compiled in 1841 by S. Ford, Captain of Invalids / 1861” (Peiris 271).
As such it is indeed surprising that E. W. Perera chose to reject the official colour copies of the lion flag procured by the Crown Agents and instead readily accepted an illustration privately commissioned by D. R. Wijewardene. A commercial artist had drawn it for a private firm in London and E. W. Perera used it as the frontispiece for his book on ancient flags and it was used as the Flag of Ceylon from 1948-1951.
It should also be noted that according to the wall plaques at the Chelsea Royal Hospital, the royal standard of Sri Vickrama Rajasingha was not the flag copied by Perera but the martial flag. Perera has totally omitted this flag and has not even included an illustration of this flag in his book.
Further, the lion on the Sri Lankan flag doesn't resemble any of the lion motifs from Sri Lanka’s history. The lion on the flag is clearly a design inspired by European heraldic lions. . As admitted by Perera himself in his book , it is a design drawn by a commercial British artist. As such the European nature of the lion is to be expected.
On March 2, 1915, D. R. Wijewardene issued a special edition of his Sinhala newspaper Dinamina, to mark the centenary of the so called ‘end of Sinhala independence’, and promoted this Lion flag in colour on the front page with portraits of the last King and Queen of Kandy. Ironically neither the king nor the Queen were Sinhalese. They were The Vaduga king Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe and his Chief Queen Rengammal. The main purpose of E. W. Perera’s ‘Sinhalese banners and Standards’ published in 1916 too appears to be the promotion of the spurious Lion Flag as the royal flag of Sri Lanka.
However, after preparing the background for adopting this flag as the flag of independent Sri Lanka, the Wijewardene / Senanayake cabal enlisted the obliging Muslim Mudaliyar , A. L. Sinnelebbe, the Member of Parliament for Batticaloa to move a motion in parliament calling for the adoption of this flag.
As such this was the flag hoisted by D. S. Senanayake at the independence festivities on February 04, 1948. This Lion flag has been a bone of contention from day one and is still an obstacle to national integration and peace.
• Abeyawardana H. A. P. 1978 Kadaim Poth Vimarshanaya (A critical study of Kadaim poth) Department of Cultural Affairs Sri Lanka
• Paranavitana Senerat 1967 Sinhalayo Colombo
• Perera E. W. 1916 Sinhalese Banners and Standards, Colombo
• Peiris Bishop Edmund 1976 The Drum Flag Malalasekera Commemoration Volume, Colombo" Unquote.