What’s the RASSL’s Problem?


Ok – I have a lot of pending work to do but I will take time off from that to address an issue that has been troubling me ever since I saw this daily mirror article.

What exactly is the Royal Asiatic Society’s problem anyway? Hindu Fundamentalists? I don’t see any Hindu Fundamentalists around here. Do you see any Hindu Fundamentalists? Seems to me that these ‘highly educated and cultured’ folks badly need some rabies vaccine.

We’ve just recently come out of a long drawn out war due to ethnic strife. Does so eminent a body as the Royal Asiatic Society which is supposedly composed of highly refined academics need to come out with statements of ‘Hindu Fundamentalists’ and ‘Indian Intervention’ and ‘Threat to sovereignty of Sri Lanka’ and ‘Re-emergence of claims of a Tamil Homeland’ at a time like this, over something so innocuous as the Ramayana Trail being promoted by the Tourism Ministry? (All these words do not appear on the above article. Search RAASL and Ramayana Trail… They have been spewing hate for a long time now).

So the Tourism Ministry is promoting a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka. So it is bringing thousands of devout Hindu pilgrims from India every month. In the process, a lot of tourist money is flowing into the country – the main objective of the Tourism Ministry as they have openly admitted.

Why does RASSL have a problem with that? There is no archaeological evidence of Ramayana in this country? Just who is it who defines archaeological evidence here? Is there undisputed ‘archeological evidence’ regarding all the ‘Buddhist Circuits’ in this country?

I do not wish to offend anybody;as a Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu, I am deeply offended by some of the RASSL’s statements and I don’t believe in tit-for-tat, but seriously who defines the validity of archeology and its findings? Wasn’t this one of the original problems that led to the ethnic strife? Haven’t we learned any lessons at all? If this is how the ‘educated elite’ of this country is going to behave, then the future of this country seems pretty depressing.

Correct me if I am wrong but the Ramayana is a tale believed in by both the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils? Doesn’t Sri Lanka have its own version of the Ramayana? Aren’t there many places in Sri Lanka, traditionally occupied by the Sinhalese, where the local Sinhala people associate the passage of Ram, Sita or Ravana in their areas, through local folklore?

It’s hardly something made up out of whole cloth by the Tourism Ministry. So they stumbled on the fact that Sri Lanka has a lot of places associated with Ravana and Ram. So they decided to exploit that and lure in Indian Tourists. So the tourists pour in by the thousands, perfectly content to tread where they believe Ram and Sita had gone before although there might not be much archaeological evidence to support it. What’s wrong with that?

Ok, so for all we know, the Ramayana might be a myth. Who cares? Believers in the Ramayana like me would still like to see those places associated with that myth. What is wrong with that and how does it in any way affect the sovereignty or whatever else of Sri Lanka?

In one of the statements the RASSL came out with previously, they said that giving legitimacy to the Ramayana would mean that India could then claim Sri Lanka as its own!

Archeological and other expertise aside, could these acclaimed academics please just go read the Ramayana? They can read a children’s copy or an abridged version if they can’t be bothered to read the full one: the Ramayana very clearly states that Lanka was a sovereign nation of its own – one that was so developed and magnificent that the Indians of that time marveled at it.

There is no question of India claiming Sri Lanka as their own because of the Ramayana. Nor have any issues or claims been raised thus far by the Hindu community in Sri Lanka. Why bring us into this?

I fail to see the whole logic behind ‘not promoting Buddhist circuits but promoting the Ramyana Trail.’ By all means, promote the Buddhist circuits but why shouldn’t the Ramayana too?

I fail to understand the argument. Wasn’t Buddha an Indian? Didn’t Buddhism come to us from India? Didn’t the Sinhalese too orginate at some point from India? If promoting all that won’t bring in Indian intervention, why will promoting the Ramayana which talks of Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation eons ago, bring in intervention?

Finally the Ramayana of this country belongs to both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Can we please, please, please avoid bringing in an ethnic connotation to it? We have just come out from a long drawn out war. We do not need this right now.


5 Responses to “What’s the RASSL’s Problem?”

  1. 1 John

    Man that was one long article to read. Specially on a friday night! Anyway, I agree that the tone they put out is quite strong. I’ve no idea why they decided to attack it so strongly. If they dispute the historical evidence, all they have to do is insist that the tourism board admit that they trail may not be based on historical evidence. If there are Sri Lankan locations mentioned in the epic, the tourism board is doing the right thing in promoting the existence of these places regardless of whether the story itself is a myth.

    It’s just people walking around looking at places! It’s not as is if a horde of Indians are going to swim across the ocean and lay claim to these places. And even if they did, all those apartment developers can simply put up some new apartments in those areas and charge top dollar for them to stay!

  2. 2 Jerry

    Using the Ramayana to get tourism is perfectly fine, if you ask me. It’s kind of like going to the empire state building to see where King Kong hurled planes at other planes. If it turns out to be true, even better, because then you can draw in even _more_ visitors!

    The RASSL is just throwing a tantrum because they’re pedants. Ignore them, the rest of the country seems to be doing so.

  3. 3 Chavie

    Oh dear, I heard about this on the radio yesterday but I never thought the RASSL was involved in this. Some of the greatest Sri Lankan minds ever were members of this society, sad to see that it has deteriorated (like everything else in this country) to this level.

    Like you said, forget the Ramayana ever existed. Then how come there’s local lore among both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities about places that are tied to the tale, like Ravana falls or Rumassala? It’s as much a part of the myths (perhaps even the unrecorded history) of Sri Lanka as it is part of the Ramayana and India. For a country where Ravana seems to be the new idol of Nationalism, this sort of rhetoric seems really ironic. “We had a guy named Ravana here, but we wouldn’t want anyone from abroad coming to see the sites that he might’ve lived in.” Pathetic, and shame on a learned body like the RASSL for getting involved like this.

  4. There will always be elements attempting to cause disharmony… Maybe they actually believe what they broadcast over their soap box, maybe they don’t. I guess it’s up to the people to decide what is right and to counter anything they advocate that’s harmful. Blogging about it is one way to do that.

  5. It wouldn’t be perfect if some did not come and screw things up noh? frigging pricks! People will continue to do what they do to screw things up. Lets hope they get it into their heads. Great post.


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