September 17

September 17th, a day to remember one of the greatest leaders of our time, the first Executive President of the country, Junius Richard Jayawardena - fondly known as JR.

Undoubtedly, he is my hero in politics. Clever, cunning and shrewd as a leader, kind and compassionate as a human being. He was a man who saw the future, and had a vision. A vision – had it worked the way he imagined and planned – that could have propelled this island in to the future.

I was too small to understand his politics then, but I remember him visiting our school, often. Receiving the class-prize from this great man is a memory I cherish, and so is the fond memory of him making a surprise visit and offering the whole school a treat of ice-cream. Nothing was impossible for him, except, in his own words, "turning a man in to a woman."

Once, we – the Royal College Cadets – were at a guard-of-honour to the President. He had this habit of spotting the students from his college and pausing for a chat. The cadets knew the protocol by heart – the drill, the salute and the whole works – and to reply beginning with a specific salutation Uthumaneni..!

So there we were, a few batallions of cadets, at the parade. JR, inspecting the guard of honour, passes me and my colleague, and, then pauses. He looks at the young cadet in front, and asks, "What is your name, son?"

Tap, tap, tap... after a perfect drill and a salute, and my fellow cadet screams, "Uthumanenie... My name is Ranasinghe, G. H. K...!" (not the correct name, for obvious reasons)

The whole parade had to grit their teeth to stop the laughter - my dear friend didn't realise "Uthumaneni" (Your Excellency) wasn't English!

JR nodded his head, patted my collegue's shoulder and continued with a grin on his face.

September 17th was declared the national tree-planting day to commemorate his birthday.

The Japanese erected a golden statue in his honour, for saving Japan and enabling her freedom from the allied forces after the war.

We issued a coin. And also plastered posters and painted graffiti all over the country: "JR maramu!" (Let's Kill JR!).

The Seven Wives: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane
Women. Can't live with them; can't live without them. Men declared war, built monuments, wrote epics and did the strangest of the strange – all because of them. And of course, our forefathers were no exception. According to one of the chronicles (Dhatuwamsa) a king called Giri Abhaya built a town in the name of his consort – Somadevi – and aptly named it Soma Nagara. King Vattagamini Abhaya aka Valagamba (89 - 77 BC) built a monastery in honour of his (second) queen Somadevi called Somaramaya.

Wifely virtues expected by the ancient Sri Lankan society were merely mainly centered on chastity, religious fervour, sagacity and affability in conversation. Mahawamsa eulogizes the virtuousness and other wifely attributes of the consort of king Parakramabahu the Great (1153 – 1186 AC), thus:

"a dear consort who has come forth, rejoicing the eyes of the poeple, as the moon (rises) from the ocean, from (the house of) the great king Kittisirimegha, who loved him, the highest of rulers, as Sita loved Rama. Amongst all the ladies of the harem, many hundreds in number, she was by far his best loved. She loved the frail of the jewels and beyond her own husband who was like to be the king of the gods (Indra), she cared for none even as much as grass whoever he might be. She did what the Lord of Men wished, had friendly speech, was adorned with the ornament of many virtues such as faith, discipline and the like, was skillful in dance and song, possessed an intelligence (sharp) as the point of the Kusa grass, her heart was ever cooled by the practice of the virtue of pity"

One must be extremely lucky to find a woman of exceeding beauty, as well as beauty within. Though there are many notes of women of such nature written all over the history of this island, the marriage brought out the true colours of most women (and men too, I suppose).

“Conjugal affinities, in the contemporary Hindu society of India, was fundamentally different from that of Buddhist Sri Lanka. The conduct of the Indian wife was based on a perpetual code that was considered sacred and inviolable. But the attitude of the Sri Lankan society, guided by the most rational liberal doctrines in the world, was that marriage was a union that bound two individuals physically and spiritually. The partners of such a union were not entitled satisfy their unfiltered whims. Just because his sex, the husband could not treat his wife as a slave. He provided for her and gave his protection and affection to her. They lived as partners of a union that was governed by mutual love and affection, trust and responsibility.”

The Sattabharya Sutta defines seven types of wives, based on their attitude towards their husband:

1. Vadhaka Bharya (executioner): a wife who's rough and inconsiderate to her husband.

2. Chori Bharya (robber): she who wastes her husband's wealth and indulges in surreptitious misbehavior

3. Ayya Bharya (master): a wife who lords over her husband

4. Bhagini Bharya (sister): she who's obedient and adores her husband as if he was her elder brother

5. Sakhi Bharya (friend): she who is trustworthy, concerned and attached - as if her husband is her good friend

6. Daasi Bharya (servant): a wife who never tires of working to please her husband

7. Maata Bharya (mother): she who is loving, concerned, attentive and protective as if her husband was her son

Motherly types and the friendly types have been the most popular. The three evil ones, I suppose wouldn't have been the topic of conversation much, even then.

Source: Sri Lankan Women in Antiquity - Prof. Indrani Munasinghe