Research objectives of Buddhist monks questioned

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 March 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Three Sinhala Buddhist monk-academics who wanted to begin archaeological excavations at Kandarodai in Jaffna, were given a short shrift by the staff of the University of Jaffna at a meeting on Thursday, said sources in Jaffna.

kantharodai_archeaology.jpg
Archaeological excavations at Kandarodai
Dambulla Mahinda Thero of the Department of Sinhala of the University of Colombo, Pandita Polboda Mahinda Thero of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, another Buddhist monk whose name is not known and two officers of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) held discussions with academics from the departments of History and Archaeology of the University of Jaffna.

The Buddhist monks had visited Kandarodai before arriving at the Jaffna University campus, said sources.

The acting Vice Chancellor Dr. Rajendra Prasad told the monks that archaeological excavations should be conducted to increase the stock of human knowledge and strengthen humanism and not to propagate racism, religious intolerance or linguistic nationalism.

He said that Jaffna University had its own Department of Archaeology which was conducting its own research.

But it was hamstrung because there were no funds to continue research. Dr. Rajendra Prasad requested more funds for archaeological research.

Dr. S Krishnarajah of Jaffna University's Department of Archaeology told the Buddhist monks that the university was quite capable of undertaking archaeological research by itself and needed no expertise from the likes of them.

He told the visitors that they should not try to destroy Tamil culture by undertaking spurious research.

He spoke of an instance 25 years ago where artefacts unearthed at an archaeological site in the peninsula were taken to Colombo by a Sinhalese official working in Jaffna on the pretext that they were needed for research, but never returned them to the Jaffna University.

An academic who was present at Thursday's meeting who did not want to be identified, told the TN correspondent that the Government was not only deceiving the Tamils politically, but on matters related to archaeology as well.

Sinhala academics have used archaeological evidence to support the claim that Jaffna was orginally inhabited by Sinhala Buddhists.

Digs at Kandarodai have yielded evidence of an ancient civilisation which was Buddhist. There is also evidence of a megalithic civilisation predating the Buddha.

Certain archaeologists and historians have tried to use the evidence of the presence of Buddhism in the Jaffna peninsula to prove that the area was once colonised by the Sinhalese.

This is however disputed by other scholars who say that remains of a civilisation worshipping the Buddha does not mean that it was necessarily Sinhala speaking.

They point to the fact that the Tamils were Buddhists in the ancient and medieval period and that some of the great Buddhist logicians and thinkers were Tamils.

They say that the medieval Tamil epics, Manimekalai and Kundalakesi are Buddhist, the equivalents to which are not found in Sinhala literature. Archaeological evidence was first discovered at Kandarodai by Ralph Peiris who was a Government Agent in Jaffna.

Archaeologists and historians including Dr. Paranwitharana and Dr. Ragupathy have been among those who have excavated at Kandarodai.

 

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