2006-08-21

Woman: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane

There are many instances in our past where the kings "imported" brides from the neighboring states. Not that the island lacked pretty women of suitable stature or the Kings got bored of their harems, they wanted to make some symbolic gestures. The Lankan women were a common topic of admiration, as evident in Sigiriya frescos, various temple paintings, carvings and literature.

The poets and writers ran out of words describing their beauty. The most memorable description of the Lankan beauty comes from a buddhist monk, who was also a great poet: Venerable Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula.

John Davy, in his Account of the Interior of Ceylon (1821) writes about the Kandyan damsels:

“The Sinhalese women are generally well made and well looking, and often handsome. Their countrymen, who are great connoisseurs of the charms of the sex, and who have books on the subject, and rules to aid the judgement, would not allow a woman to be a perfect belle, unless of the following character, the particulars of which I shall give in detail as they were enumerated to me by a Kandyan courtier well versed and deeply read in such matters...”

and he goes on to describe the courtier's interpretation of Venerable Sri Rahula's benchmark:

“Her hair should be voluminous like the tail of a peacock: long, reaching to the knees, and terminating in graceful curls; her eyebrows should resemble the rainbow; her eyes, the blue sapphire and the petals of the blue manilla (mānel) flower. Her nose should be like the bill of the hawk; her lips should be bright and red, like coral on the young leaf of the iron-tree. Her teeth should be small, regular and closely set, and like jasmine buds. Her neck should be large and round, resembling the berrigodea. Her chest should be capacious; her breasts, firm and conical, like the yellow cocoa-nut, and her waist small, almost small enough to be clasped by hand. Her hips should be wide; her limbs tapering; the soles of her feet, without any hollow, and the surface of her body, in general, soft, delicate, smooth and rounded, without the asperities of projecting bones and sinews.”

The young lady Prince Sāliya fell in love with was said to be a chandāla woman of exceedingly great beauty. The prince married her with the blessings of his father, King Dutugemunu, and renounced his right to the throne. I'm sure she must have been worthy of that sacrifice..!

Womanly beauty and grace often received the attention of the authors of ancient times. To them, the woman was an object of perpetual loveliness, glamour and was fascinating a being to every onlooker, charming, enthralling, endowed with golden skin, gifted with two rows of teeth resembling two lines of conch shell plates and possessed of childlike grace.

Sande'sa (communique) poets of Gampola and Kotte periods also admired women from an aesthetic point of view.With apt similes and metaphors, they created verbal portraits, which vied for clarity with the paintings of highly talented artists. The women these bards saw had faces like the moon or full blown lotuses, bosoms like frontal globes of elephants, broad hips like clean white sandy plains and rounded thighs like elephant trunks. In short, to these poets, the woman as an entity was a marvelous creation of nature in which all the most desirable features and qualities are accumulated.

2006-08-20

Love: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane
Love comes in to one's life, uninvited.

"In ancient Sri Lanka, parents usually arranged marriages of their children. But marriages based on love affairs were also not unknown... The pages of chronicles and literature are diffused with the stories of young lovers getting married without parental intervention. Some of these unions, such as those of Unmaada Citra and Diigha Gaamini, Pandukaabhya and Svarnapaali, Kaakavannatissa and Viharamaha Devi and Saliya - Asokamala have become immortal both in our traditions and written history.

"The Saliya – Asokamala love story is one of the most beautiful and sublime stories in the world. In this story, the culmination of this love affair speaks not only one of the strengths of the couple's attachment to each other, but also the magnanimity and rare greatness of the kingly father who granted permission for the union to take place. If the story of Dutthagaamini's marriage with the cultivator's daughter is authentic, his son Saaliya's affair was the third love marriage in three successive generations."

Saaliya had to give-up the right to the throne - that's the price he paid for his love. But, as we know, some royals and the people of the higher castes could get away with murder. It was "okay" for them break the norms of the society. Did the average man and woman have the same privilege?

"...like the lotus leaf to which drops of water cannot adhere, her mind does not adhere to no one except her lord. They, whose love for each other was immense, passed their entire youthful days like gold and quicksilver."

...writes Ven. Thotagamuve Sri Rahula in Kavyasekharaya describing a young couple in love. Looking back, we still have the evidence to show the grande status of the ancient Lankan civilisation. It was a far more "developed" society - people had a good life and extra time in their hands for indulgence. There were parks and entertainment. There was music and dance. Love must have flourished in abundance. The kind of parties king Kaasyapa must have thrown on top of the Sigiriya fortress would have been second to none, even in hollywood standards.

"The Mahavamsa has many examples to show that caste was not always the primary requirement in selecting a marriage partner. Nor did race play any insurmountable barrier to marriage. Several kings had their consorts from other races. Candamukha Siva (43 - 52 A.C.) and Mahaanaama (406 - 428 A.C.) had Tamil queens while Mahinda III (801 - 804 A.C.) and Vijayabaahu I (1055 - 1110 A.C.) married Kaalinga princesses. Vijayabaahu I married a Kaalinga princess particularly because she was a beauty with a majestic appearance and a delicate disposition.

"Other than the princesses of Royal birth, even girls from less august heritage enjoyed the privilege of marrying young men of their choice. According to a story in Rasavaahini, a young woman called Hema fell in love at first sight with a merchant and married him. Another maiden named Sumana married a counselor of king Dutthagaamini on her own accord. Commentaries state that a certain young woman hopelessly desired a monk. As the bhikku spurned her love, the lovelorn damsel became so inconsolable that she refused to take any food and died of starvation..."

Some gave up their kingdoms, some gave up their possessions, some sacrificed their lives for love. Love is blind. It has been, even then.

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

2006-08-14

The time is Now

So, what next...?

Scenario A - LTTE gains: Army loses Jaffna, LTTE bombs Palaly and handicaps SLAF air-power, LTTE gains the upper hand and they begin sporadic attacks all over the place. We will end up in one fine mess.

Scenario B - Things will cool down: Army maintains the defense lines, carries on with "missions" without any strategy as usual, the government calls for peace talks, unconditionally. (again, without a strategy, as usual.) And Chintaka says Ohoma Yan, please let me live my dream for the next 11 years..!

Scenario C - Army gains: What, I don't know.

Scenario D - Divine Intervention: The God has had enough and sends a message to Bush. Bush sends shiploads of ammo and thousands of white brats for a real life ps2 game. From Yala to Batti to Jaffna, the whole place is bombed to bits, nothing is left of the spotted kind. No LTTE, no war. We ride humvies in Colombo.

Scenario E - ......................................... (yours to fill in the blanks)

The truth is, the war in this country cannot be won with guns and bullets. The government must win the war in the hearts and minds of the discriminated Sri Lankans (I chose not to divide Sri Lankans in to Tamils, Sinhalese and other "races"). Then, and only then, will there be a lasting peace prevailing in the island.

We are one country, one nation. We have been intertwined for thousands of years, there is no blue-blooded pedigree left anymore in this land. Each and every one of us have a mix of Sinhala and Tamil blood running in our veins. We are inseparable, we have been inseparable for many, many centuries. It is like the four kovils in every Buddhist temple.

We have already seen far too many men, women and children being killed all around us. The "fresh" air in the Paradise smells of raw blood. The bloodbath has to stop, we have suffered enough, we have seen too much.

We have wronged each other for far too long, we have destroyed each other far too much. We have hurt each other far too deep.

It's time to give up one's pride - it's time to let go of the ego. It's time to say "I'm sorry..." and mean it.

The time is now. The time is now to bring back the smiles and touch each others hearts. We are one nation, we are all Sri Lankans.

It's that simple, and it's that complicated.

2006-08-12

News: Paradise Style

The news is unnerving. One of my Tamil colleagues has tears in his eyes. He is worried about his fiance who's stuck in Jaffna. The situation, as we hear, is not so good. It has become a numbers game between the government controlled media and pro-terrorist news groups.

No one knows what the reality is. No one knows where the truth lies.

The beauty in Sri Lankan media is that there is a newspaper for everyone. In paradise, every single news item is warped, skewed, and sugar-coated to your liking. They report what you WANT to hear. You just have to know which paper to pick.

Once, there was a protest march about a year ago, and it was passing the Bambalapitiiya Junction heading towards the city. The police had to break-up the march in order to accommodate the intersecting traffic. One television station showed those broken-up bits of the march and reported the whole thing was a failure; while the another channel reported it as a grand success and they showed the continuous rally that ran into miles and miles.

That is news, paradise style.

Majority of the newspapers are filled with partial and biased news reports. Between the pro and anti government propaganda, no one knows where to look. Local newspapers are just a plethora of depressing stories of people died, killed, or committed suicide around the country. The papers are more like extended obituaries - from cover to cover.

I'm starving for a good newspaper. I want to read some cheerful news. I want a papre that celebrates life. Where there's some flesh, trash, sports, cars, goss, and some political news from Romania, for example. I just want to see a paper that makes me feel good, and positive, about life. I just want to escape from this news trash. I've had enough.

2006-08-01

All we need is an alien intervention

Apparently there's positive proof that aliens are visiting the troubled isle, according to the latest newspaper reports.
- The Daily Mirror, Tuesday August 01, 2006

To succeed the Norwegians, perhaps..?

[See my previous posts on aliens: Part 1 and Part 2]

A new kid on the block

There's a (yet another) new publication in town. It's a Sinhala newspaper, called Mavubima (Mother-land) and carries a fascinating tabloid named after a machine gun.

Why, because it wants to be a weapon that shapes the future.

You could contribute your articles, views and opinions to the tabloid - but they'll be published without your name. No credit to the writer. They say, what matters is the substance and the contents of the feature - not the person who wrote the piece.

Pretty neat, pretty cool attitude, I thought.

And of course, I loved the design. In a country where graphic design and art direction is (pretty much) at its infancy, it is heart-warming to see a newspaper tabloid of such quality. I don't necessarily agree with the "new-age Sinhala language" they are using, but I love the design and the presentation. It reminds me of Loaded, and some of those weird German magazines where the new design trends are born. It reminds me of the work that I used to see from AUB and AUD graduates. Fresh, liberal and unconventional.

I hope the good work continues and the spirit never dies. I'm going to buy that paper next weekend.