Midweek Review
An attempt to reveal the identity of Ravana


book.jpg (23465 bytes)
Book: Sri Rawan Puwatha
Author and publisher
Bhadraji Mahinda Jayatilleke

by Pankaja Gunasekera
After some two thousand years since Valmiki wrote Ramayanaya, the story of the heroic prince of India, a Sri Lankan author has written a sequel, but somewhat differently.

Bhadraji Mahinda Jayatilleke’s "Sri Ravannapuwatha - Hela Yak Parapure Kathawa" is about Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.

The story is not only about the birth and upbringing of a royal prince, who became a powerful king, but tells us about a civilisation that flourished, and its people, who lived in the same land which we live in today, a few thousand years before.

The author describes the Yaksha (demon) clan that ruled Lankapura in the south, as a peaceful tribe.

They co-existed comfortably with others such as Raksha, Naga who were in different parts of the island. They practiced a nirmansha - vegetarian lifestyle. They worshipped only the supreme power which all of them including the plant and animal lives depended upon, the Sun.

Astrology played a main role in their lives. Birth of a child, marriage and even the time of having sex, was decided according to it. Ravana’s father, king Vishrawa, was a keen follower of these traditions, and ensured that his kith and kin also followed suit.

Ravana’s teacher and mentor was his grandfather, Pulasti Irshi. Being put under his guidance at young age, Ravana learns many secrets of the world. These teachings are not confined only to politics, state-craft and warfare that a future king has to learn, but goes beyond to religion, music, literature as well as the creation of the universe, and its plant and animal life.

But Ravana’s main interest is Deha Dhamma - the art of curing the sick. His ambition is not to conquer and expand the kingdom, but to see to the health and well being of his people. He travels to places, treating the sick. He puts up hospitals and ensures his people are provided with proper medical care and guidance. However, he is worried about the Brahmi influence cast upon his people from the neighbouring country, who call themselves Sura.

As time passes by, a clash between Sura and Asura people seems inevitable. With betrayals from his own side, Ravana has to fight a battle, to protect his country, his people, and his dignity.

However, the ending of Jayatilleke’s story is different from the ancient epic. It appears that at the end, though the villain king is defeated, the heroic prince and the princess do not live happily ever after.

Some places and events in this story, resemble actual occurrences in the island’s history, as well as names of places existing even to date. Names such as Wariyapola, Kadiragama, Kelani which are still in use, and the descriptions of Alakamandawa (Sigiriya), Pulastipura (Polonnaruwa) and Gokarna port (Trincomalee) and incidents related to these places, gives the impression that they were once part & parcel of a civilisation that existed, prior to the recorded history of the island.

One can find a relationship between the events described in the story, to the island’s archaeological history as well. The recent excavations made by Dr. Shiran Deraniyagala points out that, there indeed was an Iron Age civilisation in the island, long before the advent of Vijaya in late 5th century BC.

The excavations carried out in the citadel of Anuradhapura had unveiled evidence, that a civilisation as old as 900 BC, had existed there, long before king Pandukabhaya made it his capital . Horse breeding, paddy cultivation & iron production had existed in that era. Ancient scripts were also discovered, that dates as far back as 500 BC, whereas writings found closest to that time in South Asia, dates 250 years after. According to Deraniyagala, the main early historic civilisations in the island were in Anuradhapura in the North and Tissamaharama in the South.

Though the author of Ravannapuwatha does not make much of an attempt to convince the reader of the historical accuracy of the story, one feels that the events that had taken place, could have been a part & parcel of a civilisation that existed here long before.

Having read Ravannapuwatha, one cannot help start thinking about king Ravana and the civilisation that existed in this land some thousands of years ago, albeit a little differently.