Finding Sinhabahu -An Analysis of the early history of Sri Lanka documented in ancient chronicles – Ajith Amarasinghe

The interest he takes in digging up the past, at a time when the study of history is declining in our society, is commendable. In writing this book he has ventured into a highly problematic field. While gathering information to write his first book Dr. Amarasinghe has come across a booklet named “Outline of the history of Kalinga” by; R. C. Majumdar, which contained the following few lines: “Another kingdom of Kalinga lay further north, with Sihapura as its capital. This place has been identified with the modern Singupuram, a village near Chaicole. King Chandravarman, Umavarman and Ananda Shakthivarman issued their records from this city, Sinhapura was capital of Kalinga even as late as the 12th Century. The foundation of Sinhapura by Sinhabahu is told in the Mahawamsa. As Sinhabahu’s mother was the daughter of princess of Kalinga this city of Sinhapura may be an eco of the Kalinga capital, but the whole story is too legendary to be considered seriously.”

This indicates that Majumdar, himself, doubts the validity of this story as facts. In fact, a most distinguished Sri Lankan historian, Dr. G. C. Mendis, who examined the legends told in the ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka regarding the origin of the Sinhala has come to the same conclusion. In his book titled “Problems of Ceylon History” he states “that they yield evidence of any events that actually took place; they are a mere fiction of the mind produced by one or man? persons, subject to the knowledge they possessed of India and Ceylon at the time the story arose, and influenced by what they thought and believed with the human nature and human activity. Next from evidence available it is shown, it is more fiction, the legend grew into the form found in the ancient Pali chronicles of Ceylon.”

Withstanding these opinions of early historians, Dr. Amarasinghe ventures to reexamine the story of Sinhabahu. He visits Indian states of Andra and Orissa and explores many important archaeological and historical sites such as Danthapuram, Singapuram, Kalingapatnum, Salihundum, Mudhalingam, Udayagiri hills and Kandagiri hills. Using his discoveries from these explorations, archaeological, anthropological, genetic and anatomical findings Dr. Amarasinghe attempts to ascertain the historicity of the Sinhabaju story: in his opinion the early settlers came to this island not from North-West India as have been believed hitherto, but from North-East India.

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“Finding Sinhabahu: an analysis of the early history of Sri Lanka documented in ancient chronicles” is Dr. Ajith Amarasinghe’s new book on Sri Lankan history. His first book was on the historical interactions between Sri Lanka and China. Dr. Amarasinghe is a medical practitioner, a Consultant Paediatrician and a Clinical Allergist.

The interest he takes in digging up the past, at a time when the study of history is declining in our society, is commendable. In writing this book he has ventured into a highly problematic field. While gathering information to write his first book Dr. Amarasinghe has come across a booklet named “Outline of the history of Kalinga” by; R. C. Majumdar, which contained the following few lines: “Another kingdom of Kalinga lay further north, with Sihapura as its capital. This place has been identified with the modern Singupuram, a village near Chaicole. King Chandravarman, Umavarman and Ananda Shakthivarman issued their records from this city, Sinhapura was capital of Kalinga even as late as the 12th Century. The foundation of Sinhapura by Sinhabahu is told in the Mahawamsa. As Sinhabahu’s mother was the daughter of princess of Kalinga this city of Sinhapura may be an eco of the Kalinga capital, but the whole story is too legendary to be considered seriously.”

This indicates that Majumdar, himself, doubts the validity of this story as facts. In fact, a most distinguished Sri Lankan historian, Dr. G. C. Mendis, who examined the legends told in the ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka regarding the origin of the Sinhala has come to the same conclusion. In his book titled “Problems of Ceylon History” he states “that they yield evidence of any events that actually took place; they are a mere fiction of the mind produced by one or man? persons, subject to the knowledge they possessed of India and Ceylon at the time the story arose, and influenced by what they thought and believed with the human nature and human activity. Next from evidence available it is shown, it is more fiction, the legend grew into the form found in the ancient Pali chronicles of Ceylon.”

Withstanding these opinions of early historians, Dr. Amarasinghe ventures to reexamine the story of Sinhabahu. He visits Indian states of Andra and Orissa and explores many important archaeological and historical sites such as Danthapuram, Singapuram, Kalingapatnum, Salihundum, Mudhalingam, Udayagiri hills and Kandagiri hills. Using his discoveries from these explorations, archaeological, anthropological, genetic and anatomical findings Dr. Amarasinghe attempts to ascertain the historicity of the Sinhabaju story: in his opinion the early settlers came to this island not from North-West India as have been believed hitherto, but from North-East India.

A special mention should be made regarding the writing style of the author, which is different to that of the writers of history. He presents a large number of original quotations from primary sources and stories related to early history of Sri Lanka, which are well known to.”, reader, as in a collage art work, where various material are arranged to give an intended overall impression. In a way, this style of writing provides the reader with an opportunity for refurbishing his knowledge on many important events of the ancient history of Sri Lanka.

I am confident that the reader will be inspired, moved and excited by the discoveries that the author has been able to make. It is left to the professional historians to measure the validity of the theses of this book.

Dr. Sirinimal Lakdusinghe

Former Director of the Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka.

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