The question of group ideology among the Sinhala people has engaged the attention of scholars in recent times. How did the Sinhala identity originate? What were its transformations in the course of history? What factors influenced it through time and change? Only a few original studies have been made in this field. Among them R. A. L. H. Gunawardana's "The People of the Lion: The Sinhala Identity and Ideology in History and Historiography" stands out as a detailed exposition on the subject and it has become an important point of reference in this regard. The present study is an attempt to evaluate some of Gunawardana's conclusions in the light of historical sources and other studies on the subject.

Gunawardana argues that the Sinhala identity in the very early stages was only the identity of the ruling dynasty of Anuradhapura. At a second stage it was extended to cover the dominant social strata in society, deliberately excluding "the service castes" and the common agriculturists, thus assuming a class-character. He believes that it was only at a third stage, as reflected in the Dharmapradipikava of the 12th century, that the Sinhala identity encompassed all the Sinhala-speaking people in the island.

For Gunawardana the Vijaya myth represents the embodiment of a state ideology which sought to unite the dominant elements in society and to bring them under a common bond of allegiance to the ruling house. Chronicles such as eh Mahavamsa served as media for the propagation of this myth. But during _______________ *This paper has an unusual origin. I had submitted a monograph on the Sinhala language an the development o nationalism in modern Sri Lanka to a publisher abroad, His "reader" had commented that I seemed to have either ignored Gunawardana's article in my work or to have taken a totally different view from him on the themes of his paper. In the course of my response I had to explain why I rejected many of Gunawardana's conclusions in his essay. My criticisms were so many an so far reaching in rejecting his views that I thought it best to write an independent critique of these. Hence this essay.

I take this opportunity to thank the friends and colleagues of mine who have helped me with critical comments and observations. They are too many to be named here. The views expressed here are, however, entirely mine.

1. In the Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities Vol. Vnos 1&2, (1979)pp.1 - 36. the early stages there were tensions within the dominant social group, as reflected by four different versions of the "colonization myth".

According to Gunawardana, the period after the 12th century up to about mid 19th century was characterized by a cosmopolitan culture, where the Sinhala ideology, although it existed among certain sections of literati (such as the authors of Pujavaliya and the Culavamsa), was not propagated by the state. Nor did it possess a specific class-character as during the preceding period. Thus, the anti-Tamil invective found in works such as the Kirala Sandesaya and the Vadiga Hatana at the tail end of Sinhala kingship (1815), does not reflect an ideological current which existed in Kandyan society at the time.

Gunawardana argues that the Sinhala identity underwent a radical transformation and began to assume its current form in the 19th century under the influence of intrinsically racialist linguistic theories which originated in Europe. The most influential figure in this field was the great German Indologist, Max Muller. According to Gunawardana, scholars in late 19th century Sri Lanka took up Max Muller's theories and injected a racialist content into Sinhala nationalist thinking. Gunawardana believes James de Alwis as the most significant embodiment of this transformation, and he contrasts de Alwis's "hesitant" presentation on the origin of the Sinhala language in the Sidat Sangarava (1852) with his strident assertion of the Aryan theory in a later work, the "On the Origin of the Sinhalese Language" (1866).

Like most revisionists, Gunawardana has many original and interesting things to say. but, as with many revisionists, the question that needs to be posed is whether the theories propounded could be sustained on the basis of the evidence available.

I The use of the term "Sinhala" has been discussed at length by Gunawardana. Firstly, he refers to three words, Kaboja, Milaka and Dame da found in the earliest inscriptions in Sri Lanka, which seem to denote group-identities. He is keen to point out that "the term Sinhala is conspicuous by its absence" - inferring thereby that the Sinhala identity had not emerged by the time of these inscriptions, ie. circa 3rd cent. B.C. to 1st cent. A.C. He also points out that the earliest occurrence of the term Sinhala (Pali : Sinhala) is in the Dipavamsa (4th -5th cent. ) and that even in the Mahavamsa (assigned to the 6th cent, but, according to Gunawardana, possibly of a later date)it occurs only twice. With regard to the terms Kaboja and Milaka, he believes that they were possibly "tribal groups" and the term Dameda, according to him, means "Tamil" . He adds: "Whether the term was used in this period to denote a tribal linguistic or some of the group deserves careful investigation". We are not told why the same should not apply to the other two terms - Kaboja and Milaka. Indeed Paranavitana, who first drew our attention to these teams, listed three others, Muridi, Meraya and Jhavaka, and argued that they referred to "ethnic groups".( He gave reasons for thinking so. ( Gunawardana does not give us any reasons why Paranavitana's interpretation should be rejected.

When we come to the term Sinahala we have two problems. One concerns the numerical aspect raised by Gunawardana. He has highlighted the fact that the world is absent in the earliest inscriptions in the island. Here we must remember the fact that Paranavitana himself had made this observation in the University of Ceylon History of Ceylon and given a plausible explanation for this, viz. "for the very good reason that there was no need to distinguish any person by referring to him as such when the people as a whole were entitled to that name".( Gunawardana seems to have overlooked this. In fact the very absence of the term Sinhala can be used as an argument to show that only the "out-groups" Kaboja, Milaka and Demeda - were distinguished by specific reference to their group-identities, and that the identity of the "in-group", Sinhala, was taken for granted. (This, we may add here, further strengthens Paranavitana's opinion that these were "ethnic" labels). It should interest us to know that Paranavitana had identified Kaboja as Kamboja - a group of people in the Rajori region to the south of Kashmir.( Milaka, according to him, was derived from mlechcha, and referred to the autochthonous inhabitants of the island, ( Dameda meant ""Tamil";(7) Muridi was from skt. Murunda, Meraya from Skt. Moriya, and Jhavaka form Skt. Jhavaka.(8) In this context Paranavitana was keen to point out that "Where a donor named in an inscription belonged to an ethnic group other than Sinhalese, we find the ethnic name associated with his personal name".(9)

Gunawardana would have helped his readers greatly if he had only given them an indication of how many published inscriptions of the period 3rd century B.C. up to the 1st century A.C. there are. Let me supply the answer. It is a very substantial number - one thousand two hundred and thirty four in all. Only a person conversant with this very specialised field would know this, We can see the problem in its correct perspective if we ask how often, or in how many inscriptions the words Kaboja, Milaka, Dameda, Muridi Meraya. And Jhavaka occur. The answer is very illumination. Kaboja occurs in only five of these. Milaka in tow and Dameda in four. Muridi, Meraya and Jhavaka each occurs only once.(10) Had Gunawardana revealed this, as he should have done, the flimsiness of his argument would have been immediately obvious to the reader. The vast majority _________ 2. S. Paranavitana, Inscriptions of Ceylon, Vol. 1, Colombo, Dept of Archaeology (1970) p. 1xxix. 3. See the discussion below. 4. UCHC Vol. I, pt. i (1959) Chapter VI "The Aryan Settlements: The Sinhalese", p. 67. 5. "Inscriptions of Ceylon" Vol. 1, p. xci. 6. "Used without any stigma of inferiority", op.cit., p. xci. 7. op.cit., p. xc. 8. op.cit., pp. xci - xcii. 9. op.cit., p. 1xxxix. 10. op.cit., 1xxxix - xcii. of the donors referred to in the inscriptions were Sinhala ethnics, and , as Paranavitana pointed out years ago, there was no need to proclaim their identity.11 That was taken for granted. On the very few occasions when somebody who was not a Sinhalese made a donation, the distinct "ethnic" identity of the donor was indicated in the inscriptions.

The second problem with the term Sinhala is its meaning. Gunawardana himself has provided us with references to the occurrence of the term and its derivatives in Chinese, Javanese and South Indian sources, even going as far back as the 1st or the 2nd century of the Christian era. We know that there are so many Indian sources, northern as well as southern, including the epic Mahăbhărata, where the people of this island are called Sinhala.(12) As Paranavitana has pointed out, "it is by the name 'Sinhala' or its dialectical forms, that this island are generally referred to in classical Sanskrit literature"(13) The question is, what did it meant? Did it refer to the people of the island in general? Gunawardana does not think so; not at least until a clear reference to that effect in the Dharmapradďpikăva in the 12th century.

He believes that only a specific group among the island population, namely, the royal family of Anuradhapura, was referred to by this term initially. At a second stage, he thinks, the term reference was extended to cover the notables- "the most influential and powerful families in the kingdom". Gunawardana finds this dominant social stratum being referred to as Măhajana in the Vijaya myth. We infer from his conclusions that this period where the term Sinhala assumed a caste/class connotation, if we are to go by his conclusion.

To support his contention that the term Sinhala referred initially to the royal family of Anuradhapura, Gunawardana cites evidence from the Cülavamsa, where even as late as mid 10th century the term Sihalavamsa was used as a referent to the royal family. Let me quote the relevant extract from Gunawardana's article:

After describing the matrimonial alliance that Mahinda IV formed with Kalinga and his elevation of members of his lineage to high positions in t he Kingdom the Cülavamsa states that he thereby strength ended the Sinahala lineage (Sinhalavamsam)

Gunawardana's conclusion, following on this, is that obviously the term was being used here to denote the dynasty. ____________ 11. UCHC, Vol. I, pt. i, (1959) p. 67. 12. The Mahabharata of Krishana Dwaipaana Vasa, tr. into English by Pra tap Chandra Roy, Calcutta, Baharata Press, (1899) pp.61,100,155, 503, . The epic is believed to have assumed the pre-sent shape by about the fourth century A.D. See Krishana Chaitanaya, A New History of Sanskrit Literature, London, Asia Publishing House (1962) pp. 200-1. 13. UCHC Vol. I, pt.i, p.82 I find it difficult to agree with him. Since he has left out certain pertinent facts, let us get the complete story on this episode direct from the Cülavamsa:

vijjamanepi lankayam khattiyanam naradhipo

Kalaingachakkavattissa vamse jatam kumarika

anapetvana tam aggamahesim attanovaka

tassaputta duve jata dhita eka manorama

adipade aka putte dhitaram voparajinim

iti sihala vamsam ca patthapesi sa bhupati (ed. H. Sumangala and Batuvantudave, 1977, (54: 9-11)

"Although there were ksatriyas in Lanka, the Lord of men brought and made his chief queen a princess born in the lineage of Kalinga Chakravarti. And she begot two sons an one beautiful daughter. He appointed the sons as Adipadas and the daughter as Deputy Queen. The Sinhala lineage too was thus made secure by the Lord of the Earth."

The reference here is to Mahinda IV (956-972). He is known as the first Sinhala king to have contracted a matrimonial alliance with the Kalinga kingdom. The results of this move most probably a political alliance with the Kalinga kingdom. The results of this move most probably a political alliance as an extension of the Sinhala -Panday front against Cola, were far-reaching. It led to the establishment of a Kalinga faction in the Sinhalese royal family.(14) Sena V (972-982), one son of the above marriage, brought the country to chaos. The Culavamsa records how "the Damilas plundered the whole country like devils" during his reign.(15) Mahinda V (982-1029), another son of the same marriage, claimed to have descended from the Kalinga dynasty.(16) As recorded by the Culavamsa his was an inglorious reign. He himself was addicted to intoxicating drinks and behaved "like a wild beast gone mad" when drunk(17) He was the unfortunate ruler with whom ended the long line of Anuradhapura kings. He himself was captured by the Cola armies along with the queen and the royal treasures, and he died a captive of the Cola king.(18)

When one considers these background factors, it seems very unlikely that the author of the Culavamsa saw in the Kalinga marriage alliance a strengthening of the Sinhala royal family. The meaning of the word Sinhalavamsam in the above account has to be derived from the context in which it occurs. It is stated beforehand that this marriage with Kalinga was contracted in spite of the availability of Ksatriya maidens in Lanka. Thus, the author of the Culavamsa is keen to point out that the Sinhala lineage had not suffered as a result. It is eagerly reported that the security of the Sinhalavamsa had been guaranteed. The reference is thus to Sinhalavamsa as distinct from the foreign vamsas. Note the conjunctive particle ca after Sinhalavamsa. It is the ethnic affiliation of the royal line that is emphasized, not its exclusivism from the general populace, as suggested by Gunawardana. Indeed, as I shall presently ___________ 14. Sirima Wickermasinghe. The Kalinga Period of Ceylon History: 1186 -1235 A.D., M. A. Thesis, University of Ceylon (1956) unpublished, pp. 7-8 15. Culavamsa. tr. by Wilhelm Geiger, Colombo, Gove. Press (1953) 54: 66 16. Epigraphia Zeylanica, Vol.IV, pp, 61-2. 17. Culavamsa, 54:71. 18. Culavamsa,55:15-19,33. show, there is irrefutable evidence to support the exact opposite of Gunawardana's view. The Sinhala identity was considered as encompassing all the Sinhala-speaking inhabitants of the island long before Mahinda IV came to the Anuradhapura throne.

According to Gunawardana, evidence for the broad-based Sinhala identity, encompassing all the Sinhala-speaking people of the island, appears only by the 12th century. To support this view he refers to a passage in the Dharmapradipikava where he says "the view of dynasty > island > inhabitants > their language sequence indicates this stage in the evolution of the Sinhala identity". Gunawardana is either ignorant of , or completely ignores, other Sinhala sources which would place this convergence long before the 12th century.

Firstly, I would like to cite a passage from the Dhampia Atuva Gatapadaya, written by King Kassapa V (914-923).(19) This reputed work bears unmistakable testimony to the fact that, by the time of its compilation, the Sinhala identity in its widest implications was an accepted fact. Kassapa paraphrases the Pali word dipabahsaya, meaning "in the language of the island", as helu basin, which in Sinhala means "in the helu (Sinhala) language."

Next he proceeds to explain the origin of this term: "How do (we) obtain (the term) in the helu language? That is from the fact that the island people are helu. How does (the word) Helese (helaha) come about? King Sinhabahu having killed a lion was named Sihala... Since prince Vijaya was his son, he (too) was named Sihala... The others since they were his (Vijaya's) retinue (pirivara) (they too) came to be called Sihala"(20)

There is no mistaking here that "the island people" (dipa vasin) as a whole are identified as helu(Sinhala). The linguistic group is the same as the "ethnic" grouping. The reference is to all the island people and no sub-category, caste or class is excluded. This is irrefutable evidence that by the time of its writing the Sinhala identity encom-passed all the inhabitants of the island, except of course the Damila, the Veddas and any others who were by definition ruled out. The Dharmapradipikava, quoted by Gunawardana, was recording the same tradition two centuries later.

Moreover, it is very likely that there were other works, Sinhala and Pali, extant in the tenth century, which had similar things to say on this subject. Possibly the author of the Dhampia Atuva Gatapadaya was repeating something found in earlier works as well. Judging groom the Vamsatthappakusini, the commentary to the Mahavamsa, written during the eighth or the ninth century, there were many such historical works extant at the time. For example, the Uttara Vihara Mahavamsa, the Vinayatthakatha, the Dipavamsatthakatha, the Simakatha, the Cetiyavamsatthakatha, the _________ 19. There is general agreement on the authorship of the Dhampia Atuva Gatapadaya. See D.E. Hettiarachchi (ed), Dhampia Atuva Gatapadaya, Colombo, Sri Lanka, University Press Board; (1974) , pxviii; P.B. Sannasgala, Sinhala Sahitya Vamsaya, Colombo, Lake House (1960) o,65, G,E. Godakumbura, Sinhalese Literature, Colombo, Apothecaries, (1955)p. 31. 20. Hettiarachchi ed.p.6. Maha Bodhivamsakatha, the Sumedhakatha and the Sahassavatthu Atthakatha, all of which contained historical material.(21) In any case, we know for certain that the author of the Vamsatthappakasini, who used "Lanka", "Tanabapanni" as well as passage in the Dhatu Nidhana Paricceda" (The Chapter Dealing with the Enshrining of the Relics in the Mahathupa). Here the Buddha prophesying the construction of the Mahathupa. is recorded as telling one of his devotees,

Tvam Nanda anagate mayi parinibbute Sihaladipe Dutthagamini nama ranna Karapita Maha Thupasssa parahattthagatam Nagahavanao mama saririkam donappamanam dhatum aharitva dassasi(22)

"In the future, when I have attained Parinibbana, when in the Sihaladipa the king named Dutthagamini builds the Mahathupa, my relics amounting to about a drona, which are meant for it, will be in others' hands; and you, Nanda will bring them forth form the Naga Bhavana"

It is very significant that the author of the Vamsatthappakasini imputes the use of the word "Sinhaladipa" to Buddha himself. It can be taken as a clear indication of the coalescing of the Sinhala ethnic identity with the Buddhist religious identity.

Be that as it may, Gunawardana's contention that even by the time of Mahinda IV (956-972) "there is still no evidence to suggest that the service castes were now being considered members of the group" is baseless, since the Dhampla Atuva Gatapadaya was written several decades previously by king Kassapa V (914-923) and we have word from the head of state himself that the hela group included all dipavasin.

As suggested earlier, Kassapa no doubt was putting on record a fact which had been well established in his time. Hence, the question may be posed "How old are these identifications, Kihala (Hela) and Sihala bahsa (Helu basa)"? The available evidence would appear to suggest that the earliest reference to "the Sinhala language" is in early 5th century. Buddhaghosa, the famous Indian scholar, who translated the Sinhala commentaries to Pali, refers to Sihaladvipa as well as to Sihalabhasa. referring to the Buddhist commentaries he says that they were

"brought to Sihaladipa by Maha Mahinda (who was) endowed with self-mastery , and were made to remain in the Sihala bhasa for the benefit of the inhabitants of the island". (23)

It is generally agreed that Buddhaghosa worked in Anuradhapura during the reign of Mahanama (406-428).(24) Apart from identifying the language as Sihala bhasa, he pays tribute to it, calling it manoramabhasa "a delightful language".(25) ___

____________ 21. See G.P. Malalasekera (ed.), Vamsatthappakasini, London OUP (1935), pp.lvi-Ixxii. 22. op.cit. p.563. 23. See the prologues of Sumanagalavilasini (ed.) Dharmakirti Sri Dhammananda, Colombo (1923); Papancasudani ed. Dharmakirti Sri dhamananda, Colombo (1933)l Saratthappakasini, (ed.)Widurupola Piyatissa, colombo (1924). 24. For the date of Buddhaghosa see G.P. Malalasekera, The Pali Literature of Ceylon, London RASGB(1928), p 76; B.C. Law, A History of Pali Literature, London, Kegan-Paul (1933) 389. 25. See the eighth verse in the prologue of the work cited in. fn.23.

Thus we may say that the identity of the Sinhala language was acknowledged by the fifth century. This is corroborated by linguistic evidence. We note that by t eh time the earliest inscriptions appear, i.e circa 3rd cen. B.C. to 1st cen. A.C., the "Sinhala Prakrit" , as the earliest form of the language is called, had certain individual features, making it distinct form the Indian Prakrits, devoting much more from the norm of Sanskrit that any of them.(26) By about the third or the fourth century these peculiarities are more marked, leading to what language historians call "Proto-Sinhalese".(27) As the history of Sinhala literature indicates, there were many books written in it by the fifth century. We hear of a Sihalatthakatha Mahavamsa, Maha Atthakatha, Maha Paccariya Atthakatha, Kurundi Atthakatha, Sihala Dhammapadatthakatha, a Sinhala translation of the Buddhist Sutras, a Sinhala Dalada Vamsa and a Sinhala treatise on medicine. In fact adikaram lists no less than twenty eight works, mainly in Sinhala, which served as sources for Buddhaghosa.(28) Thus we see that by the fifth century Sinhala had emerged as a distinct ethnic identity. It is in that context that the statement in the Dipavamsa that the island was called Sihala "on account of the lion"(29) becomes significant as being suggestive of that identity. Furthermore. the fact that even people of a kingdom as far away as that of the Guptas in North India referred to the island as Sinhala(30) indicates how well established this identity was by the fifth century.

Gunawardana's opinion that at a certain stage the Sinhala identity encompassed only the dominant stratum in the island society, thus assuming a class character, is also peon to doubt. To support his view Gunawardana uses two arguments: (a) that there was at this stage a dominant social class who were known as Mahajana and (b) that the Mahavamsa and its commentary, the Vamasatthappakasini, "specifically exclude" the lower social strata from the group denoted by the term Sinhala. These two assertions need careful examination with reference to the sources in question.

Gunawardana tells us that the word Mahajana "In the ancient texts did not carry the meaning that its phonetic equivalent Mahajanaya conveys today, but denoted "great men". By "great men" he means a "ruling class." He proceeds to assert that "while the great men of non-ksatriya status may force the ruling family to govern ___________ 26. See K.R. Norman, "The Role of Pali in Early Sinhalese Buddhism" in Heinz Bechert(ed.) Buddhism in Ceylon and studies on Religious Syncretism in Buddhist Countries, Gottingen, Vanderhock and Rupert (1978)pp.28-47, esp.pp.30-31. Norman has a different view about the phrase manorama bahsa. But I agree with N.A. Jayawickrama, The Inception of Discipline and the Vinaya Nidane, Secred Books of the Buddhists, Vol.XXI, London, Luzac & Co.(1962) p,xx. 27. D B. Jayatilaka, The Sinhalese Dictionary Colombo, Govt. Press (1937).pp.ix. 28. E W. Adikaram, Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon, Colombo, Gunasena (1953) o,78; D. E. Hettiarachchi, "Sinhalese Literature" , in University of Ceylon History of Ceylon, Colombo, Ceylon, University Press (1959) p.394; P.B. Sannasgala, op-cit.p.35-6, 29. dipavamsa, ed. H. Oldenberg, London, Williams and Norgate (1879) ch.9,v.12, 30. The Allhahabad Inscript on of Samudragupta, J.F. Flcet, Inscriptions of early Gupta Kings and their Successors, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. !!!, Varanasi, Indological Book House (1963) p.8.

justly without harassing them they may not aspire to kingship". Next he cites different versions of the" colonization myth" to arrive at the conclusion that "the discrepancies between different versions of the myth, reflecting probable their different social origins, points to the tensions within the dominant social group and the problems of political power in the country at the time".

This contrived picture of ancient Sri Lankan society seems to rest on one crucial factor: the interpretation given to the word mahajana as it appears "in the ancient texts". What these texts are has not been specified, nor have we been given reasons for attaching the meaning 'great men", connoting social dominance, to the word. In any ease , the two most important texts, the Mahavamsa and the Vamsatthappakasini, do not seem to be of any avail in this interpretation. For example, note how the Mahavamsa records the arrival of the Madura princess and her retinue