The Ig Nobel Award



The Ig Nobel awards had been established as a reaction against the Nobel Awards. The aim was "to first make people laugh, and then make them think", probably because the Nobel Awards make us wonder if we should laugh or cry. Ig Nobel is organized by the bi-monthly magazine 'Annals of Improbable Research'. The Ig Nobel for literature had been awarded in 1999 to the British Standard Institute for its six-page specification of 'the proper way to make a cup of tea'. In 2009, to Ireland's police force for writing 50 traffic tickets to a Polish driver 'Prawo Jazdy'. Prawo Jazdy is the polish term for driving license, as reported by BBC.


If Alfred Nobel had not been called "a merchant of death", by a French newspaper, publishing his obituary before his death (mistaking the death of his brother Ludvig), and had he not read his own obituary, would he have altered his will to create the Nobel Awards?


Nobel stipulated in his will that most of his estate, more than SEK 31 million (today approximately SEK 1,688 million) should be converted into a fund and invested in "safe securities."


The original citation of this Nobel Prize has led to much controversy. In the original Swedish translation, the word idealisk can mean either "idealistic" or "ideal." In earlier years the Nobel Committee stuck closely to the intent of the will, and left out certain world-renowned writers such as Tolstoy and Ibsen for the prize because their works were not deemed "idealistic" enough. In later years the wording has been interpreted more liberally, and it is claimed that the prize has been awarded for lasting literary merit. (New World Encyclopedia)


On December 10th 1913, when the Nobel prize was awarded to Ravindranath Tagore, the presentation speech by Harold Hjarne, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, had begun with the words, "The Anglo-Indian Poet, Rabindranath Tagore", even though in terms of Nobel's will, "no consideration should be paid to the nationality to which any proposed candidate might belong". Thus there was no need to attach the "Anglo" to his nationality, or to insult him further by saying, "Tagore has been hailed from various quarters as a new and admirable master of that poetic art which has been a never-failing concomitant of the expansion of British civilization ever since the days of Queen Elizabeth."


Tagore did not attend the award ceremony. The award had been accepted by a British official which was later presented to Tagore in Calcutta. If Tagore was aware of these insults, why did he accept it?


In 1964, Sartre said "Literature functioned as a bourgeois substitute for real commitment in the world" and declined the Nobel Prize for Literature, stating that "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form." He was the only person to ever decline a Nobel Prize.


Boris Pasternak at first accepted the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature, but was forced by Soviet authorities to decline it because the prize was considered a "reward for the dissident political innuendo in his novel, Doctor Zhivago". Nobel Foundation had later awarded the medal to his son.


The Prize in Literature has a history of controversial awards and notorious snubs. Major authors have been ignored by the Nobel Committee, including James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, John Updike, Garcia Lorca and so many others, often for political or extra-literary reasons, while "inconsequential or transitional" writers won the prize.

Albert Camus when he won the prize in 1956, believed that Andre Malraux was more deserving. According to Burton Feldman, the Nobel committee sometimes "was against honouring too well-known writers....why bother to celebrate the celebrated?"

The 1974 prize was denied to Graham Greene, Vladimar Nabokov and Saul Bellow in favor of a joint award for Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson who were unknown outside Sweden, but happened to have served as judges of the Nobel committee. Bellow won it two years later, but neither Greene nor Nabokov took home the prize. There were also other members of the Swedish Academy (Which picked the Nobel Prize), and also won the prize, Verner von Heidenstam (1916), Erik Axel Karlfelgt (1931) and Par Lagerkvist (1951).


Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values" and he was "a Caesar who also had the gift of wielding Cicero's stylus". Who the other nominees for the 1953 Award were, have not been officially revealed yet, even though it could be held secret for 50 years after the award. That is transparency by the Nobel committee. Among authors shunted aside to award Churchill this prize probably were many giants in the literary world like Bertolt Brecht.


The "impartiality" of the Nobel Awards for literature is evident from their own published data that out of 107 winners to date, 80 have been from Europe (including Russia 5), raising the question, which is the real 'Ignobel' prize.


Daily News 03/08/2011 Life into Arts








Aug. 28, 2016, 6:08 a.m. » Tagged: Nobel , Ig Nobel

worship Tirupati at Kelaniya



Tirupathi is in Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the holiest places in India, Dedicated to an incarnation of Vishnu as Venkateshwara, with goddess Lakshmi residing on the chest of Venkateshwara. The god is also worshipped as Tirupathi Thimmappa by the Dalits, Adhivasis and the so-called 'Backward' castes in India. According to Wikepedia, the annual income is said to be over I.Rs 10 billion for a year!


It is claimed to be the most visited temple in the world, with an average of 50,000 pilgrims a day, or over 19 million a year, double that of the number visiting the Vatican.


Many devotees offer their hair, and also drop money and valuables at this temple. It is believed that all the offerings to Lord Venkateshwara count to repay the loan taken by the god from Kuvera, to pay his marriage expenses. This is probably how this temple has become the richest in the world. The hair that is offered is said to be exported, accounting for the largest human exporter of human hair in the world. The gold on the statue is said to weigh over 1000 kg, according to


It is on record that a devotee from Sri Lanka has gifted three diamond studded gold crowns in 1998. The gold metal cover over the granite canopy is made from 150 kg of pure gold. Businessmen could be thinking in terms of percentages, when they make their offerings, like they have to do when they look after politicians and officials. For some of the visitors to this temple, it could just be a payment for services received. Whether such payments are tax deductible or are never declared no one would know.


The rock arch at Tirumalai is said to be 1500 million years old, and the second oldest natural arch in the world, which fact may not have been known to the people who first began worship at this site, or decided to place the statue.


The statue is believed to have been created by some supernatural powers, 'Swayambhustala', and not by human hand. The legend has it that there was a huge anthill and a farmer heard a voice instructing him to feed the ants. The king himself had offered milk for the ants and as the milk was poured on the anthill the statue had appeared underneath. The legends are contained in the Varaha Purana and the Bhavishyotar Purana.


The eminent surgeon turned Indologist, K. Jamanadas has attempted to prove that the idol at Tirupathi is that of Avalokitheshvara Bodhisatva, in his book, 'Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine'.


In early Buddhism, the term Bodhisattva means a Buddha-to-be, and this is the term used by the Theravadins. The Jataka stories are about the previous lives of the Buddha. The Mahayana Bodhisattva have vowed to work tirelessly for the enlightenment of others and in the end they themselves to attain Buddhahood. Avalokitesvara is the personification of compassion and extends his ever helping hand to all those who seek him in distress.


Avalokitesvara means "on-looking", he is also the Padmapani, the lotus-born and lotus- bearing. He is believed to have refused to accept "nirvana' because he considers such acceptance as selfish. He shows infinite karuna and shares mankind's misery, always willing to help those in distress. He is the savior and protector from danger. The mantra used is "Om Mani Padme Hom".


Dr Radha Banerjee, reviewing the book, 'The Econography of Avalokitesvara in Mainland South East Asia' says, 'He is a lamp for the blind, a sun shade for those scorched by the sun, a father and mother to the unfortunate. He is also a physician with great healing powers. Avalokitesvara is also said to possess the traits of the Vedic Purusa, Siva, Indra, Vishnu and Surya, which has helped to bridge the gap between the Hindu and Buddhist faiths'.


It is believed that the cult of Tirupati was started by Raja Tondaman during the first century A.D., but Jamanadas claims that Tondaman represents more a people than an individual. And this legend had been created to justify the absence of weapons in the hands of the image originally. The explanation is that Tondaman had been given these weapons by the deity at the temple, which he used to defeat Vasudeva, and as he returned the Chakra and Sankha, he had begged the god to wear the weapons invisibly, and the weapons were invisible till Ramanuja prayed to the god to wear them visibly once again.


There are no inscriptions at Tirupati, from the Pallava period and even later during the 8th and 9th centuries when grants had been made to Shiva and Vishnu temples very near Tirupati (Inscriptions found at Gudimallam and Tiruvallam). Ramayana, Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana has no mention of Tirupati. Even Baghavat Purana compiled in the 10th century has not mentioned this temple, probably because it was not important to the Hindus at the time, or had been looked down upon as a shrine of heretics.


It is accepted by most Indian scholars today that the worship of icons, images and symbols had been revived by the Buddhists and Jains in India, although the origins could be traced to Pre-Vedic Harappan culture and which had disappeared during the early Brahmanic period. According to L. M. Joshi, visiting holy places (Tirtha Yatra) had also originated with the Buddhists. He says that the first image that was manufactured in India for the purpose of worship was that of the Buddha. Most of the Buddhist shrines in Andra Pradesh, as it happened all over India, had been converted for Brahmanical worship with the decline of Buddhism in India.


There are many such examples found all over India. In Badrinath "the original Buddha image is still worshipped as that of Vishnu". Even the temple at Buddha Gaya had been in the hands of Mahanta Shaivites till about the end of the 19th century. L. M. Joshi also claims that the Puranas were written mainly to claim Buddhist places of worship. He says "not only Buddhist holy places and shrines were occupied and transformed into Hindu Tirthas and devalayas and the occupation of non-Brahmanical places and sanctuaries were strengthened by invented myth or pseudo-history (purana), but the best elements of Buddhist culture, including the Buddha, were appropriated and homologized in sacred books". He also states that Tantrik Buddhism started in South India and Potalka Parvata as the early seat of the origin of Vajrayana (L. M. Joshi, Studies in Buddhistic Culture, 1977)


Swami Vivekananda believed that the Jagannatha temple of Puri (in Orissa) is an old Buddhist temple, though it is now claimed to have been built by Chodaganga Dev in the 12th century. Vithoba (or Vitahala) of Pandharpur in Maharashtra has been identified as the Buddha by R. C. Dhere. The image is accepted by many as the ninth avatar of Vishnu. Dr. Ambedkar also believed that Vithala was really an image of the Buddha. Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, a remote village on the Western Ghats in Kerala, is also believed to be an ancient Buddhist shrine, though the Ayyappans believe it to be of Hariharaputra, the son of Vishnu and Shiva. Yet the devotees still chant "Swamiye saranam Ayyappa"!


Draksharama, near Ramachandrapuram in Andhra, was originally a Buddhist chaitya, which was later converted into a Hindu temple. The Linga is said to be one of the Ayaka Stambhas of the original Chaitya. The Buddhist temples in Andhra have the five vertical pillar made of white marble, which are believed to represent the five major incidents in the life of the Buddha. In the Garbha Griha of the Amareswara temple of Amaraviati (Guntur district, Andhra), there is a typical white marble lotus medallion slab of this type.


The seven Rathas at Mahaballipuram had been built by Buddhists and the sudden abandonment of the unfinished Rathas could have been due to the persecution of the Buddhists, as the Kalabhras gradually lost their political power..


One more example is the temple of lord Mallikarjuna at Sirisallam in the Nallamalai hills, which is claimed by both Hindus and Buddhists, and is believed to be another Buddhist shrine in Andhra, pre-dating the Mahayana developments in the region.


The image at Tirumalai is a 'sthanaka' (standing) figure. How the Vishnu images are to be made is laid down in the Agama Shastras, such as Vaikanasa Agama and the Pancharatra Agama. When the image is self manifested, it is not expected to conform to the standards laid down in the Agamas. Or the self-manifestation is the excuse given when the image was not originally that of Vishnu. Jamanadas states that the chakram and the conch are not integral parts of the main idol. Pidatala Sitapati writes "the image bears some resemblance to the famous Bodhisattva Padmapani painting in cave I of the Ajanta Hills". Then Sitapati goes on to say that the Lord Venkateswara of Tirumalai is held to be Vishnu by Vaisshanavs, while Shaivas believe it to be Lord Shiva. Others believe it to be that of Skanda, Parasakti and still others as Hari-Hara and Paravasudeva.


However if the image is really of any of these deities, then it would never have been neglected for a long time, because neither the Saivites nor the Vaishnavites had to face any persecution and had never been helpless. It was the Buddhists who faced attacks by both Saivites and Vaishnavites and were forced to abandon their temples in the region. The two parties together would have conspired to retain the image for Brahmanic use, in their desire to wean away the masses from the 'heretic religion' of Buddhism. Thus it was considered as Vyakta Vishnu and Vyakta-Avyakta Shiva (manifested-non-manifested Shiva). Nalinaksha Dutta has stated "if an image looks like Vishnu, but is without weapons, it is an Avalokitesvara. If you put the weapons in the hands of an Avalokitesvara it becomes a Vishnu". Changing a Bodhisattva image to that of Vishnu was not a difficult task, when the Buddhists in the region were converted first to Saivism and then the Vaishnavism, and they were told that Buddha was really an avatar of Vishnu.


Jamanadas proposes that the pedestal of the image has been covered to conceal any engravings on the pedestal, as it would be if the image was of a Bodhisattva. There is a bow mentioned to be in one hand of the image, which could really have been the stalk of the lotus flower held in the right hand of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The crescent shaped mark on the crown of the image has been explained as the mark left when the Dhyani Buddha image which was characteristic of the Avalokitesvara image had been removed by the Brahminic cults.


L. M. Joshi believes that Potala mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, which is said to be the favorite resort of Avalokitesvara, is Tirupati, and at the time of Hiuen Tsang's visit Buddhism was in the decline and the conversion of the Avalokitesvara image to that of Shiva was in progress.


Another unique custom at Tirupati is the 'Tonsure ceremony', the devotees making a devotional offering of the hair on their head. The practice of shaving off the hair on the head had been a Buddhist practice, which would have been continued after the take over of the shrine by the Vaishnavites too. It could never have been a Brahmanic practice because even during this period, as it is today, a shaven headed women has been considered as inauspicious, and yet even young women do not hesitate to shave their heads at Tirupathi. Normally men shave their heads when someone elderly in their family dies and women when their husband dies. The Vedic tonsures were restricted to the 'twice-born' only and the lower casts were not permitted, which is not the case at Tirupati.


In India the worship of Avalokitesvara was wide spread from the 4th to 7th centuries, they are richly decorated and show Buddha Amittabha on the head dress. Jamanadas claims that the image at Tirupati had been sculpted between 3rd to 5th centuries in the reign of Kalabhras, who were Buddhists.


In Sri Lanka there is a statue of Avalokitheshvara Bodhisattva at Maligawila, at Buduruwagala, and the 'Kushtarajagala in Weligama is also accepted as a statue of the Bodhisatva. There is a more recent figure molded in cement by the late Solius Mendis, on the wall of the temple. The most famous and familiar figure of Avalokitesvara in Sri Lanka is the 9th century golden statue of the seated bodhisattva.


Today (26th Nov. 2006) a new statue of Avalokithesvara Bodhisattva has been erected at the Kelaniya temple. The statue is a creation of the stone carvers of Allagadda, in Andhra Pradesh, not very far from the Tirupahti temple. Probably the ancestors of these present day stone carvers would have carved the ancient statue. We hope that no one will take offence if we say that God Tirupathi can now be worshipped at Kelaniya, without making the journey to India! Let this statue be another symbol of unity between the Buddhists and Hindus.



Aug. 21, 2016, 10:47 p.m. » Tagged: Tirupati , Avalokitheswara ,

De-Anglicizing Tagore




De-Anglicizing Tagore could begin by calling him Gurudev Rabindranath. If we have accepted Rabindra-sangeet, instead of Tagore-sangeet, we are not creating a new precedent in calling him Gurudev Rabindranath, and his writings as Rabindrasahithya, and he too probably would have been happy to be accepted by this name. If we do not need a family name for Valmiki or Kalidasa, why do we need a family name for Rabindranath?


Anglicization of Rabindranath had probably begun with the adoption of the name 'Thakur'. Rabindranath's lineage dated back to the 8th century, to the first group of learned Brahmins that came from Kanauj and settled in Bengal in the eighth century. They served as priests, and were addressed as Thakurmoshai, and Thakur had then been anglicized to further convenience the British, by changing it to Tagore. In our country, Sarachchandra and several other writers always used the name 'Thakur' instead of Tagore. We are fortunate that Europeans did not try to change Rabindranath to fit their tongue. Had they done so, like the way Greeks changed Chandragupta to Sandrocottos, we would have had something like Robbingnuts for Rabindranath.


In his presentation speech Harald Hjarne, Chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy, introduced Rabindranath Tagore as an Anglo-Indian poet1 but there is no trace of any English or European blood in him. We do not find any record that Gurudev had objected to the statement. Fortunately for us, it is now almost forgotten.


One hundred and three years after Gurudev Rabindranath was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, we can still celebrate his greatness, as a leading literary giant of the 20th century in the world, and among all 112 Nobel laureates of the past 114 years. Some of the Nobel laureates never got into World Literature, and not many into Vishvasahitya. Many have been forgotten after a few years, but "Rabindranath had composed more than two thousand songs, thousands of poems, many novels, drama and short stories."2


What Karl Ragnar Glerow of the Swedish Academy said in his presentation speech on the award of the 1971 Nobel to Pablo Neruda is more valid for Rabindranath. "No great writer gains lustre from a Nobel Prize. It is only the Nobel Prize that gains lustre from the recipient - provided the right one has been chosen."3 We have to honour our Gurudev not because he won the Nobel, but because of all his contributions to the world of arts and for the well being of mankind.


Gurudev Rabindranath's third visit to Sri Lanka, in 1934, and the subsequent journeys by our artists to Santiniketan, resulted in their de-anglicizing their own names. In 1939 Baddeliyanage Joseph John, changed his name to Sunil Santha, within one month of arriving at Santiniketan. Eustace Reginald de Silva changed his name to Ediriweera Sarachchandra, George Wilfred Alwis became Ananda Samarakoon, and Albert Perera became Amaradeva.


Even if de-anglicizing the name may not be so important, we have to seriously think of de-anglicizing 'Tagore literature' as Rabindrasahitya, to fulfill Gurudev's dream of a Vishvsahitya. To Rabindranath, Vishvsahitya was not 'world literature'. It transcends geographical, racial, language and political boundaries.


Rabindranath wrote, "The word 'Sahitya' is derived from the word 'sahita'. Thus etymologically there is a sense of unity inherent in the word 'Sahitya'. It is not merely the unity of thoughts of language or books. Nothing but 'Sahitya' can create an intimate link between peoples, between past and present, between far and near."4 It is this togetherness we need and why we have to bring Rabindrasahitya to the world.


Unfortunately in India they translated sahitya as literature in the late 19th century, and we in our country too re-translated 'literature' as our Sahitya.


In our part of the world, we try to anglicize everything, like we now use the term 'Lord Buddha', probably because Europeans wanted to bring Him to an equal footing with YHWH, who became Lord God in English, even though Buddha does not need any epithet. Indians, while retaining the name India, instead of calling it Bharat Varsha, have been de-anglicizing the names of their cities, to Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangaluru, while we still retain our anglicized names for Colombo, Galle, Kandy. The only name we dropped, to my knowledge, is Kernigalle for Kurunegala.


While we Indians and Sri Lankans became anglicized in many ways, we in our country have been suffering a colonial mindset for over two millennia, when we became indianized. This indianization was disguised as aryanization very often, which was once again used by the Europeans who attempted to justify their invasion and occupation of our countries by showing ancestral links.


People around the world have a right to read Rabindrasahitya in their own language, without any deletions, distortions, misinterpretations. We in Sri Lanka need to read Rabindrasahitya in Sinhala and Tamil. To achieve this the writings have to be translated by committed writers, who have mastered their own mother tongue and Bangla, or Vanga, as we call it, but without anglicizing or indianizing them. The SAARC Cultural Centre started a very ambitious project, to translate the great literary works by South Asian writers, to share them first with all South Asians, and then the world. But unfortunately it has come to a standstill. They should take the initiative to translate Rabindrasahitya to all major South Asian languages.


A very sad situation is that we had to read Gitanjali only as Sinhala translations of the English prose translation by Gurudev. We in our country ended up with eight such translations of Gitanjali. It is only now that Prof. Upul Ranjith Hevavithanagamage has undertaken a translation from the original. The first verse from the original Gitanjali (which had not been included by Rabindranath in his translation), is published in the CCIS publication, 'One Hundred years of Gitanjali',. This should convince us of the need to translate all Rabindragita direct from Bangla, because of the similarities of the two languages and what we have in common.


Prof. Sandagomi Coperahewa has listed 50 translations of Rabindranth's works into Sinhala, which includes 7 translations of Gitanjali, and 4 of Gora. Some of them are said to have been translated directly from Bangla original writings.


It often comes to my mind, how rich our songs could have been, if our great lyricists like Mahagama Sekara, Dalton Alwis, Arisen Ahubudu had a real Gitanjali translation available to them for inspiration. Sunil Santha may not have been able to master Bangla well enough to read the original Gitanjali, as he had spent only six months at Santiniketan. But he was able to grasp the essence of Rabindra thoughts, and his music, that he was able to not only use Rabindrasangeet, but also develop his own Sunilsangeet.


Coming to the present day, I have been searching for a Sinhala writer who has also mastered Bangla, who could translate 'Purno Chobir Mognota' by the Bangla Academi Award winning Bangladeshi writer Selina Hossain, into Sinhala. It is a biographical novel woven around the time Gurudev Rabindranath spent in Shahjadpur, Shelidah and Patisara and the river Padma. It had been written after researching this subject for over ten years, reading all the stories and poems Gurudev had written while he was looking after the Tagore family estates, and also his notes and letters. It is the Padma river and the river basin which turned a Zamindari into the Gurudev and it is the story Hossain is telling us here. She puts these words into the mouth of the village postman, Gagan, "Padma flows inside my body....I feel the river coursing through my veins". It is the same river which flowed through Rabindra's veins, and that is what would have made him feel one with the people there.


I had the good fortune to read the English translation 'The Painter's Palette' by Dr. Debjani Sengupta. Even though she has done an excellent job, it is still not the original which Hossain had created. The original Bangla work, which in translation into Sinhala would be very much closer to 'Purno Chobir Mognota', than The Painter's Palette.


Thinking beyond this small island, still more unfortunate is that most of the Gitanjali translations into other major languages in India and Europe too had been from the English version and not from the Bangla original. In India access to his works was also limited. Gurudev wrote in Bengali, which is spoken only by about 8% of the total Indian population. The others had to read his work in translation in their own language or in English, and it would not have been the same as reading him in his own writing. There could have been many variations in the translations too, because translating Gurudev is not an easy task. There are 38 different translations of Gitanjali in Hindi, and 6 in Kannada.5 William Radice claims that not only the translations into German, Russian, French but even most of the translations into other Indian languages had been from the English translations and not from the original Bengali.6


One reason why Rabindrasahitya did not survive for long after the initial popularity with the award of the Nobel, could have been the not very successful translations into English.


In a way Gurudev became his own enemy, with his attempts to translate his own writings. But I believe that Yeats and other poets like Ezra Pound are also responsible. They praised, and promoted Rabindra translations, and then suddenly decided to drop him and criticize him. Harold M. Hurwitz, writing about Yeats and Tagore had said that Yeats had introduced Tagore to London literati, "I know of no man who has done anything in the English language to equal these lyrics". The same Yeats, two decades later had said "(Tagore) knows no Indian knows English. Nobody can write with music and style in a language not learned in childhood and since then the language of his thought". (quoted by Buddhadeva Bose in Kabi Rabindranath).


Whether this change in attitude was political or out of naked jealousy we would never know.


Michael Collins says that Gurudev had been thinking of translating his works into English for some time, and most interestingly he had been encouraged since 1908, by Ananda Coomarawamy, to translate his works into English.7


"....I do believe that the changes that Yeats made - to the order and selection of the poems, to the paragraphing, to the punctuation, and above all to Tagore's choice of words and phrases - would have contributed to Tagore's growing feeling over time that in the English Gitanjali, as presented and edited by Yeats, he had betrayed his true self....The subtle relationship between poetry and song; the careful way in which he had chosen representative poems from a number of contrasting books; and the creative pleasure that in a mood of confidence he described in a letter to J. D. Anderson of 14 April 1918 as 'a magic which seems to transmute my Bengali verses into something which is original again in a different manner'; all that had been spoiled." (Rothenstein)


William Radice, who translated Gitanjali, using the original Bengali poems and the Rothenstien manuscript, found that Yeats had made "many unnecessary and faulty changes in the manuscript", that Yeats had changed the sequence which Gurudev had carefully designed, that the sequence and punctuations "made it sound very biblical.....the published book has as many small paragraphs like the Bible....For one hundred years no one has objected to this text....All translations of Gitanjali have been based on this text. But actually it's a bad text, very bad text.....but Rabindranath's genius is actually there, in the manuscript."8


Partha Pratim Ray, librarian, Institute of Education, Visva-Bharati, had done a study of the different editions of Gitanjali. The first publication of the Gitanjali in Bengali was in September 1910. There were 157 songs and poems, of which 20 had been previously published 'Sharodutsav' (1908) and 'Gan' (1909). The other 137 poems had been written between August 1909 and August 1910. The English translation had only 103 poems, "These translations of poems contained in three books, 'Naivedya', 'Kheya' and 'Gitanjali' , but the collection had really been from 10 other books. Only 53 of the 103 poems in the English Gitanjali was from the original Bengali Gitanjali. 16 were from Gita-malya, 15 were from Naivedya, 11 from Kheya, the other 8 from Chaitali, Kalpana, Smaran, Shishu, Utsarga and Achalayatan. The Bengali Gitanjali had been reprinted 40 times from 1910 to 2007. 9


For the past 100 years, we have all been imprisoned inside the English Gitanjalie, translated by Gurudev for the Western reader, and claimed to be edited by a man who did not understand Gurudev or India.


Tagore is needed now, in the 21st century, perhaps more than when he wrote Gitanjali, or when he won the Nobel Prize. Sitakant Mahapatra and Prafulla K. Mohanty, sums it up in their introduction to 'Tagore and Nazrul Islam Vision and Poetry', where they write, "Tagore's poetry brought a humanist universalism with abundance and amplitude of the traditional soul of India...(p.14)...The 21st century reader living in the post-modern world encounters only demystification and decentering to lose hope in life. For such readers Tagore offers hope for life and confidence in living. p.21)


One probable reason for the failure of Gurudev's own translations could have been that he had first written in Bangla, and when he attempted to translate them into English, he would still have been thinking in Bangla. It is a very difficult task for a writer to attempt translation of his own writings which have been created in his mother tongue. Writing first in a second language could give better outcome, as the writer could think in the second language and put them into words. Translating such a work into the mother tongue would be easier because it would be easier to switch into thinking in the mother tongue. That is my personal experience too.


Ediriweera Sarachchandra has shown us how an author could translate his own works successfully. Sarachchandra improved on his original work, 'Heta Echchara Kaluwara ne' in 'Curfew and the Full Moon', and more so in 'Foam Upon the Stream', where he combined 'Malagiya Etto' and 'Malawunge Avurudu Da'. Gurudev Rabindranath could have done it himself, or he could have collaborated with a native English user with a good mastery of Bangla to do the translations. Rabindranath would have done all his creative writing, as the thoughts came to him, unmindful of who would be reading them. Sarachchandra would have done the same, when he first wrote in Sinhala, and also when he rewrote them in English, but Rabindranath had manacled his creativity in his English writing, because he wrote them for the western reader in mind.


Basudeb Chakraborti's study of Gurudev's play Rakta Karabi, (The Unrecognized Work of Tagore as Translator: An Assessment of Red Oleanders), covers most of the issues faced by Rabindranath himself, and other translators, in their efforts to bring the Bangla writings into English.10 He quotes Sisira Kumar Ghose, "the problem, hard to avoid, is that the 'Englished Tagore' is not the same as the Bengali Rabindranath."11


Most of the Indian critics only commented on Rakta Karabi, ignoring Red Oleander. The western critics, almost everyone, could not find anything noteworthy in the English translation.


However all the adverse comments by western critics affected Rabindranath very badly. Chakraborti sums up the situation, "The unkind comment on Red Oleanders by Western critics shocked Tagore so much so that after this translation, Tagore never ventured to publish anything in English for the West. Perhaps Tagore realized that it would be futile to make the Western reading public familiar with the imagery and symbols, which are interwoven with the themes of his writings, until the people of the West internalize the composite understanding of Indian life, religion and philosophy, which are intrinsically connected with one another. Perhaps Tagore realized the problem of an unhappy mismatch between the theme of his plays in Bengali and the rendering of those into the linguistic framework of English. Ananda Lal's comment in this regard seems to be pertinent here: 'Understandably, Tagore never published any other play in English translation in the West after this disaster".12


Radha Chakravarty quotes from Gurudev's own letter where he admits that he has misrepresented himself to the Western Reader, that he has done gross injustice to his original productions.13 This is not the place to discuss the fidelity of translation, or Vishva Bharati's attempt to ensure true to the original translations, or if an author could translate his own works.


Asru Kumar Sikdar, poses the question, 'Why did Rabindrnath translate his works to English?' in his paper published in 'Contemporarising Tagore and the world'. The first poem Gurudev had translated had been from his 'Manashi' at the request of an English surgeon, in 1888. Later he had started his historic translations while convalescing in Shiladaha. Many of his early works had been translated into English by fellow Bengali writers. Ananda Coomaraswamy, was perhaps the first non-Bengali to have translated Rabindranath into English. Sikdar mentions Maud MacCarthy as the first native English translator who had produced 'My Father's Home' from 'Tomari gehe palichho snehe', in 1911.


In the same article Sikdar writes, "these translation were made in unbelievable haste. The translation of 'Sharodotsab' as 'Autumn Friends' was done in less than two days. Rabindranath's English translations thus became a commodity. In the commercial interest of the publishing house the fact that the works were originally in Bangla was suppressed." Sikdar continues, "The publishers could continue with such irregularities with impunity because Rabindranath was a member of the subjugated Indian nation, and they were white men belonging to the country that had colonized India."14 And again, "In order to be acceptable to the western readership, he (Rabindranath) ended up presenting through his English translations only a pale and lacklustre reincarnation of himself. "(p312). "He wanted to reach out to them (western readers); to be accepted by them; to be understood by them. In order to be acceptable to the west, he failed to be faithful to his original works. He was unconsciously under the pressure of colonial 'cultural hegemony'. And as a result, he presented in English a denuded, meagre, mutilated form of his work." (p314)


Subas Sarkar gives one example, of the translation of 'Āji jharer rāte tomār abhisār'. Rabindranath "takes liberties with the original and spoils the poetic charm with the patent view of reaching out to the average English or European reader. Here Tagore was hardly a translator; he was more of a purveyor of his merchandise to customers of other lands who took a fancy to his wares." (P 164)

(Studies in Translation. ed. Mohit K. Ray. Tagor in Translation: A Case for Revaluation. Subhas Sarkar. )


One person from the west, who really understood Rabindranath was Alex Aronson, who came to know Bengal and Rabindranath so well, during his seven year stay at Santiniketan and later at the University of Dhaka. But the world and Vishvasahitya lost a great opportunity to have Rabindrasahitya translated into English, and perhaps German too, because Aronson had not made an attempt to learn Bangla. Yet the German readers are fortunate that Prof. Martin Kampchen has taken up the challenge to introduce Gurudev Rabindranath to them, in place of the 'Englished Tagore'. We in Sri Lanka are unfortunate that we could not produce our own Martin Kampchen, though many had been at Santiniketan, and learned Bangla, and admired and venerated Gurudev.


It is 75 years since Gurudev passed away. Copyright is over, but that should not give the liberty for anyone to translate Gurudev, anyway they wish. A translator should not be given a poetic license, specially if his interest is in riding on the fame of Gurudev or to earn filthy lucre.


'The Essential Tagore' edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarti is a good start to de-anglicize Rabindranath. However let such English translations be for the Western readers, but for us in South Asia, let us have our own translations in our own languages, which would be definitely much closer to the original works of Gurudev.


Rabindrasahitya does not need any awards, or any added publicity. But we need translations which will be with us even for many generations to come. It would be wonderful if we could all lean to read Bangla, if it is only to read Rabindranath. But we cannot all of us become polyglots.We have to depend on translations.


Our children today have an opportunity to learn many languages, but unfortunately not the Bangla language. It is time for India or Bangladesh high commission to set up a facility to teach Bangla to our children, and for our universities to include Bangla also as a subject, because our two languages have so much in common.


While de-anglicizing Rabindrasahitya, we should also ensure that we do not continue to indianize our sahitya and our culture.


What is needed is Rabindrasahitya to enrich Vishvasahitya.




reference -


Contemporarising Tahore and the World. ed. Imtiaz Ahmed, Muchkund Dubey, Veena Sikri. 2013


Alam, Fakrul, The Gitanjali in Translation: A Miracle of Transformation.


Collins, Michael, Misrepresentations of Rabindranath Tagore at 150, 2011.


Collins, Michael, Tagore, Englosnd and the Nobel Prize, (draft)


Das, Subrata Kumar, Stories Behind 1913 Nobel,


Goswamy, B.N. An Achievement and a Controversy.


Hallengren, Anders, Nobel Laureates in Sreacj of Identity : Voices of Different Culture. 2005


Mahapatra, Sitakant and Mohanty, Prafulla K., Tagore and Nazrul Islam Vision and Poetry. 2011.


Paul, S. K., The complete Poems of Rabindranath Tagor's Gitanjali: Texts and Critical Evaluation . 2006


Ray, Partha Pratim, Publication of Tagore's song offerings, the Gitanjali: A Study. 2012


Sen, Amartya, Tagore and his India,


Thompson, Edward J, Rabindranath Tagore: His Life & Work, 1921






4Rabindranath Tagore, Sahitya (Vishva-Bharati 2004) p. 112





9Partha Pratim Ray, Publications of Rabindranath Tagore: A Bibilometirc Study. 2015


11Sisir Kumar Ghose, Rabindranath Tagore. 1986 p.6

12Ananda lal, Rabindranath Tagore Three Plays, p. 74

13Chakravarti, Radha. Translating Tagore: Shifting Paradigms. Contemporarising Tagore and the World. 2013. p. 291

14Sikdar p. 306-7

Aug. 5, 2016, 1:11 a.m. » Tagged: Rabindranath Tagore , World Literature , Anglicization , Indianization

webinar phobia


Webinar or the web-based conference, and discussions in cyberspace is the future.


The webopedia defines a Webinar as "Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software. A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements -- the ability to give, receive and discuss information. Contrast with Webcast, in which the data transmission is one way and does not allow interaction between the presenter and the audience."


However, just as people still claim they like to feel and smell the paper and print when they read a newspaper or a book, that they prefer to write a letter on paper and send it by snail mail, they still like to travel around the world, to attend seminars and conferences. They even leave a huge Carbon footprint to attend conferences on reducing the carbon footprint and global warming.


We could say they suffer from Webinar phobia, yet it may not be a phobia but a reluctance to accept webinars, for various reasons.


People suffer from so many phobias. New terms are added every day to the list. Internet Phobia was coined long years ago, around 1997. Now we also have Cyberphobia, which is listed as the fear of computers, internet and cyberspace.


Even if they are not phobias, there are still many people who do not like to use electronic mail, social media, or read e-books. Some people even take pride in it. Such topics are discussed almost daily in cyberspace and print media. It is argued that a webcast or webinar is a one-way process. Even at most conferences and seminars it is usually one way, because due to time overruns, there is no opportunity for interaction, to question the presenter or discuss what he presented. Then even a webcast could achieve the same outcome.


Attending a conference or seminar somewhere in the world could mean many things to many of us. Since most such conferences are sponsored by the organizers themselves or other public or private organizations, they would be at no cost to the participants. They get free air tickets, free hotel accommodation and other perks. They get to travel to a new country, or a country they already have fallen in love with. They get to visit interesting places, do shopping for exotic items or items not freely available in their own country. They also get an opportunity to meet their colleagues from around the world and interact with them and learn from them.


For some of us attending a conference is also a means to feed our ego to some extent with the recognition of our skills and knowledge, and the honours bestowed upon us. For academics, sometimes attending such seminars, presenting papers and having them published, could help them score more points when their positions and promotions are considered.


It is not easy to find any other reason for us to reject webinars and insist on attending these events in person, however much it would cost us. We do not mind enduring long waits at airports, undergoing all the security checks, sit cramped for long hours, eating the tasteless airline food or drinking as much liquor as they offer. We do not mind listening to dull and uninformative presentations, trying not to fall asleep. We do not mind if no one listens to our own presentations. When the organizers have to resort to have parallel sessions, even if we are physically at the conference, we could only attend one session at a time. As far as the other sessions are concerned, it would be as if we had never attended the conference.


The advantages we have with a webinar are so many. As a lover of Mother Earth and promoting a greener world, to me the most important reason is the reduction of the Carbon footprint, by going online. Our contribution to global warming would be only the energy consumed by the digital equipment used to broadcast and receive the conference proceedings and power used for lighting and air-conditioning in the place we are seated.


We do not have to spend our own money, or money from some organization who sponsors our air ticket and hotel expenses. We do not have to be away from office and home. We do not have to put off all our work in the office, and we do not have to leave our family behind, even for a few days. We do not have to kill hours at airports in transit. We do not have to worry about terrorist attacks, highjacking or infections which erupt from time to time. From our own egoistic viewpoint, we get a much wider audience, worldwide, and responses. We also get so much more recognition.


The conference organizers do not have to find sponsors to host the event, for hosting the delegates, for all other expenses required to hold an international conference.


The benefits for the majority is that a webinar would include all of us, from anywhere, to attend the conference, to listen and participate in the discussions. We do not have to worry about obtaining visa approvals, or be disappointed when a visa is denied or the venue is in a country not deemed safe.


Since these conference could be recorded, we could attend them at our leisure, without disturbing our regular schedules. We can join in the discussions and ask our own questions and seek clarifications, even after the conference. Another great benefit is that the conference does not end at the second or third day, but would continue in cyberspace, as long as there is interest and the momentum could be maintained.


Let us grab the opportunities available in cyberspace now, get the maximum benefits to enhance and share our knowledge and experience, while making our contribution towards a greener Mother Earth.







Dec. 7, 2015, 12:04 a.m. » Tagged: conference , seminar , webinar

heritage marketing



Art into Heritage appeared in this column on January 22nd, 2014. The SAARC Cultural Center in association with the University of Peradeniya held a conference on April 28th and 29th, 2014, at the Peradeniya University. The theme was 'Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Sustainable Development'. Delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka presented their papers.


It was a gold mine of information, about the culture and heritage in South Asia, not only from the presentations and discussions, but also from the interaction with the academics from different parts of the region. Abstracts of the papers presented are available now we can all look forward to the publication of full papers at the SAARC Cultural Center website. ( Research proposal have been invited on these themes.


Pramod Jain, Joint-secretary of the Indian Ministry of Culture, presented the way how a heritage space could be successfully managed, utilizing available resources, and the income received from the pilgrims and the visitors, pumping it back to develop the space and infrastructure and also for the social welfare of the community, since the Jammu & Kashmir government took over the management. The religious/heritage space thus developed is the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu, with over five million visitors every year and increasing. Mr. Jain's presentation is food for thought for all of us, to persuade such management of most other religious spaces with a huge daily footfall count, and with such vast income.


The need of proper heritage management was further emphasized by the heritage architect Dr. Nikhil Joshi who presented, the situation of one of the holiest religious spaces for the Buddhists, which is also a sacred space for Hindus and Muslims too. The unauthorized buildings, unsanitary conditions of the surroundings, insufficient infrastructure facilities to cater for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims, are what we find in most religious and heritage spaces in South Asia. Funds are available, if properly managed and priorities are identified. Dr. Joshi's topic, 'From Sacred Landscape to Fractured Touristscape', supported my argument that we should never, never commodify our heritage treasures.


The research study launched by Prof. Ravi S. Singh and Dr. Anuththaradevi Widyalankara on the heritage shared by the followers of the Buddha and Hindu Dhamma at Varanasi would be of immense interest not only to the academics but also the religious devotees. About the same heritage space Prof. Anand Singh presented his paper on the interface between tourism and sustainability at Saranath, which is a great challenge in such an over crowded city like Varanasi.


Bangladesh for most of us is a Muslim land, but Prof. Mokkamal H. Bhuiyan introduced to us a major Buddhist heritage space, not known to even some of the tour operators in the country. About fifty heritage sites have been identified around Mainamati within a radius of 10 km. dating from 8th to 12th centuries. It represents a major religious and political center without parallel in the sub-continent, and probably was the religious center from which Buddha Dhamma was spread to South East Asia.


The very rich tangible and intangible culture and heritage of Rajasthan was presented to us by Dr. Neekee Chaturvedi, while Dr. Bina Gandhi Deori introduced the richness of North-East India, ranging from Arunachal, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.


Intangible Heritage, the Dynamic Art of Storytelling, which is truly sustainable and should be sustained, was what Dr Lopamudra Maitra Bajpai presented. South Asian folklore is finding a revival in all SAARC countries, which should be actively pursued and promoted by translating into other languages. This could be another project for the SAARC Cultural center.


Our children today have not heard of Saradiel and they do not have much of an idea about the period he lived in, even though these children would have heard of Robin Hood. Prof. Kalinga Tudor Silva, reminded us of Saradiel with a presentation of the Saradiel village built by Dr Ariyadasa U. Gamage, which depicts the life and times of Saradiel during the British occupation of this country.


The post conference field visit for the SAARC delegates was Sigiriya, which further supported my argument of the impracticality of heritage tourism to a space like this. The visitors realized they could not see or really appreciate the magnificence of the Sigiriya complex in about two to three hours. They also realized the importance of the visit to the Sigiriya Museum, which unfortunately is ignored by most of the visitors to Sigiriya, including the school children. On the way back, the SAARC delegates could stop at the Ibankatuwa capstone burial ground, just 0.5 km from the Dambulla highway. The most conveniently accessible cemetery of the period which we should call the history before history.


Tourism, like all other industries, leads to over consumption of natural resources and over production of waste. Tourism also demeans the local population, making them servile as drivers, waiters, cooks, cleaners, etc, and as prostitutes. We also torture innocent elephants by getting the tourists to ride them.


Since this conference also covered tourism, representatives of the tourist industry could have attended and presented their views. But they were conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they know all about culture and heritage and did not wish to waste their time. But they could have explained to us how, in their brochures and websites Avukana means "Sun eating" and Anuradhapura is identified as Ravana's capital.


Let us plan for armchair tourism when it comes to our heritage. Let us travel through cyberspace, to all heritage sites around the world, at virtually no cost, while also preserving the spaces and the environment. Virtual travel also is a solution to avoid any cultural or religious misunderstandings or conflicts, specially when a cultural or sacred space is claimed by different communities.


It may not bring us revenue, but it would preserve our heritage and it will also provide an opportunity for everyone around the world to see and appreciate them.





Dec. 2, 2015, 4:18 a.m. » Tagged: heritage , tourism , marketing ,

Going Down memory Train



We are one country, one nation, one people. Now we can travel by train from Matara to Jaffna like we used to do till 1983. Today Omantha is a small railway station and another calm little town on the A9. Let it always remain so, from now on. We do not need any more barriers or border check points within one country. Though we talk of the A9 now, a few decades ago very few would travel by road to Jaffna as the train journey was more convenient. All we could notice then was the 'Jaffna junction' in Anuradhapura. Still, even if A9 is popular now, the train is a more convenient, and greener way to travel to Jaffna.

One instance where we meet the culture of Jaffna which remains unchanged is where the Jaffna people prefer to travel at night, by train or by bus, so they sleep on the way, reach Colombo by morning, attend to their work and return the same night. This way they save two working days which they would have to use, to travel during the day, and also probably having to spend night in Colombo.

In November 2015, I traveled by the Yaldevi leaving Colombo at 6.25 a.m. to Kankesanturai (KKS), which reached Jaffna at 3.45 p.m. It used to leave Colombo at 5.45 a.m. in 1968 and reached Kankesanturai by 1.30 p.m. sharp. A little less than 8 hours to travel the 400 km. Today the return journey took 9 hours 30 minutes.

This was perhaps the first difference I felt. Four or five decades ago we could set our watches by the train schedule. People living close to a rail track did not need an alarm clock in the morning. They could time their early morning program by the trains passing by. I could take the Yaldevi from Colombo with the confidence that I could reach the cement factory at KKS for the 2.00 p.m. work shift. But then, who are we to complain about a little delay, when we are able to travel by train once again, to the other end of the country.

On this journey I saw the people of Jaffna, once again as the same people I had met 47 years ago. I would like to call him the Pragmatic Jaffna Person, because I have not come cross a term to their identity, and Jaffna Man would be doing an injustice to the more pragmatic Jaffna Woman.

I would like to repeat, people in Jaffna have not changed. At least the people from the north who I met on the train and in the town. The poet and academic who greeted me with his welcoming smile on my arrival in Jaffna, another great poet who writes in sinhala, who peddled his way to meet us in the rain, still using the Jaffna persons' most popular form of transport, and the bilingual writer who made arrangements for our most comfortable stay in Jaffna, who kept on checking with me from Batticaloa, all of them renewed my confidence in humanity, convincing me once more that we are all sisters and brothers, children of Mother Earth.

I had the good fortune to meet a group of students from the Jaffna University, who were studying Translation Methods. We need these bilingual, and some of them trilingual, students to narrow the gap which has continued to widen between us in this country, ever since we burnt down the only bridge which had kept us together, the English Language. It is not only their obligation, but their duty, that these students use their knowledge to bring the two cultures together, by translating from one language to the other. This is the only way we can understand, and thus appreciate, the culture and the values of the people using two different languages, but still remain as one family.

In the south we are now trying to encourage our farmers to give up using killer chemicals on their food crops, poisoning themselves very fast and poisoning the rest of the people slowly. What we could do is to forge a link between the farmers from the north and the south, so we could learn how to grow our food free of poison. This is one area where we can learn on a priority basis from the Pragmatic Jaffna Farmer.

Since our renewed social and cultural association has to work both ways, what we in the south could contribute is to give all our support for the people in Jaffna to retain and maintain their pragmatism, their strength and ability to face hardships, deprivations and suffering, even if their lot is much better today. We could also learn from the people in Jaffna, how not to be enslaved by consumerism, how not to let consumerism be our religion.

A change I noticed was the grand statue of God Hanuman on KKS road, towering over the gopuram of the temple behind and the Subramalai temple, in Jaffna now. This development could be the reaction of the people in Jaffna, who were forsaken by all their leaders, religious, social and political. However their faith, their beliefs kept them going, and keeps them going even today. While we admire them for it, this could be a golden opportunity for our academics to study the new religious trends in our country. One more path to better understanding.

My journey began simply as a journey down memory lane, but I have realized how much I could still learn from this journey of just 35 hours that brought back memories of 47 years. And I would have many more to write about.




Dec. 2, 2015, 3:33 a.m. » Tagged:

21st century Silk Route



A late 8th century poet wrote on the Sihigiri mirror-like wall about a "sina-pata beji [e] rana-vana", a golden skinned beauty wearing Chinese silk.


The silk cloth would have arrived in Sri Lanka from China by the "Silk Route". However the Silk route did not carry only silk on their ships. They carried other commodities, but more important were the intangible valuables carried and spread along the silk route. Sri Lanka which was on the maritime Silk Route played a major role in the East-West trade, with Mahatitta as a main port for trade entrepot. Cosmas Indicopleustes too mentions Sri Lanka about the trading activities. Godapavata (Godavaya) would have been the other port, where the custom duty charged was gifted to the temple in the 2nd century A.D..


Silk is said to be one of the oldest known fibers, and the invention is credited to Lady Hsi-Ling-Shih, wife of the Yellow Emperor who had lived around 3000 B.C. A cocoon of a silk worm had accidentally dropped into her cup of tea, and she had unravelled the silk fibre from it. It was only in the 3rd century B.C. that silk reached other countries. It was a monopoly of the Chinese till two monks smuggled silk worm eggs inside their bamboo walking sticks, for Justinian in 552 A.D., thus introducing sericulture to the west, and this is probably the first recorded case of industrial espionage.


The term "Silk Road" is said to have been first used by Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in the 19th century, to describe global highways of commercial trade that also led to cultural trade. The term silk is probably from the Old English 'sioloc' from Latin 'sericum' from 'ser' the silkworm.


The trade routes, by sea or by land, were used by human beings. In the same way silk made a new culture of the dresses and ornaments of the people in the west, China too received the technology of blow glass from Egypt and the Middle East. They received the art of landscape painting from the Buddhist murals in India. The Arabs introduced Cobalt blue-and-white tin-glazed ware to China where the technique was developed to glaze porcelain to be exported to Arabic countries.


Paper making, one of the most revolutionary developments in the field of literature, moved along the silk route to Europe, while the industrial innovation, the water wheel, moved from Roman Syria to China. The Silk Route opened the doors to multiculturalism. The sailors, caravan drivers, the traders and the travelers were able to surmount all the barriers of nation, race, creed and political power. They were received warmly, and with respect deserving a guest, and they too respected their hosts.


Today we see a revival of the 'Silk Route' for the 21st century. It has been initiated by China, and there have been mixed responses from the countries on the route and around the world. However if we look at the cultural influence of such a revival it is sure to fulfill a timely need to create a truly global village. We still depend on printed books, for our literature and newspapers. We still prefer live concerts and musical performances, we still prefer to travel around the world on pilgrimage, on pleasure and holiday visits. For that the New Silk Route, not only by sea, but by land or by air, would be of immense help.


A cargo train which left Yiwu in China on November 17th, 2014, arrived in Madrid, Spain on December 9th, completing a journey of 12,800 km. There were 30 containers carrying consumer goods from China, including children's toys and the train returned to China loaded with wine, ham and olive oil. Let this train, running on the longest railway line in the world, be a way to link the cultures, arts and literature along the route, China, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Germany, France and Spain. Let us hope soon the containers would carry books, music and film recordings, and works of art. They could run a passenger train, with facilities for passengers to stop in any city, any country they are passing through, and then hop on the next train. For travel by train would be so much more economical, and enjoyable. If we are to have such 'Silk Route Tourism', the trains should run at a leisurely pace, and the 'bullet trains', vying for speed, would not serve the purpose.


The New Silk Routes will also open more business opportunities and improve the income around the world. It would also bring in better and more equal distribution of food and other commodities and assist in greater development, through sharing of knowledge and skills. But what we need to be careful is not to let the basic human weakness, greed for power and wealth, drive away humanity from mankind. The Silk Route has to be open and free, for navigation, for trade and for cultural exchange, and should belong to the whole world. It should extend not only to Asia, Europe and the Middle East, but to entire Africa, Australia and the Americas.


The ancient silk route covered the old world around the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. Then it was the courageous and the privileged who were able to travel along the silk route. Now it is the wealthy and the privileged who are able to travel. The opportunity for the proletariat and the less privileged is minimal, unless they happen to be taken as paid workers, where they would still be the downtrodden underprivileged.


To provide equal opportunity for all, we need a Cyber Silk Route, encompassing the entire earth, where not only the intangible culture and arts, but also tangible material goods could be shared, exchanged, sold and purchased, when we become one human nation world over.






Nov. 14, 2015, 12:28 a.m. » Tagged: Silk Route , Cyber Silk Route

Many shades of Truth




Sigiri Graffiti No. 395 reads, 'Hama jene ran-vanun dut-mo yi boru kiyat". Pranavitana translation goes as "We saw the golden-coloured ones, thus everyone utters false words". Clough and also Carter translated 'boru' as 'lie', 'falsehood' and 'untruth'. Prof. Senarat Paranavitana explains the term "boru", which he translated as false wrods in his 'Sigiri Graffiti'. "The word 'boru'..may not, in the 9th century, have had so depreciatory a meaning as is attached to it in the modern language". He believed that it would have meant 'imaginary' because when the visitors saw the paintings of golden-coloured beauties, they could have imagined they were alive. In his opinion, it is a compound of 'bo' (Sanskrit 'bahu' - many) and 'ru' ('rupa'- form/image), then it means 'manifold image' or 'multiple image'.


Prof. W. S. Karunatilleke also gives the terms 'not true' and 'falsehood', and gives the etymology as 'Bahu-rupa' many forms, and that in Tamil it is 'Purai'. But there does not appear any connection with Pali, where falsehood is 'Musa'.


He quotes from 'Natya Sastra' that the manifold image is 'Rasa', and from Dandin, that erotic sentiment is 'by being united with the multiplicity of images'. With the first contact with an object, the mind could form its own continued images, which may not be based on reality, that is what could be considered as 'imagination' and the word 'boru'. Parnavitana brings up another example, 'keppa' (derived from 'kalpa') and says it originally meant 'fiction' (i.e. mental construction).


Alberto Moravia wrote L'attenzione in 1965, which was translated as 'The Lie'. It is about a novelist watching himself writing a novel. Times Literary Supplement said, "The Lie is concerned with truth, with reality...". Moravia is not the only author who used the title 'The Lie'. Chad Kuldgen wrote The Lie in 1997, describing "the wild and amorous universe of college today". Joshua Leonard produced the film 'The Lie' (2011) about a man who tells a lie to get out of work. The most recent is Helen Dunmore's love story titled 'The Lie' (2014).


Perhaps all works of fiction could have the title 'The Lie' because it is what writers create out of their imagination. There cannot be any truth in a work of fiction, or it becomes a biography or a factual report. But then there is also the saying 'Truth is stranger than fiction". It is not possible to draw a line between truth and a lie, not only in our fiction, but even in our history. Most of the history of the world had been written centuries after the events, and we do not have any archaeological evidence to confirm many of the incidents had occurred, or if some of the historical personages had ever lived.


There are even autobiographies which are far from the truth, but which we cannot consider as lies. Then it is difficult sometimes whether to group them with a work like Moravia's Lie. An autobiographer has to be careful not to offend the people around him, and not to harm the image he has built up, so he often avoids mentioning important events, or embellish others. Then there are other autobiographies, which read like their own works of fiction, like Mark Twain's autobiography, which was published one hundred years after his death. We do not know if he is still pulling our leg.


We face the same situation with paintings and sculptures of historical characters. Most often they had been first created very much later, only from the descriptions which had come down by word of mouth. In that sense such images would be nowhere near an 'Identikit' image created by a police artist, working on details given by a witness, and using most sophisticated computer software. Yet we do not consider them as lies. We do not consider as lies or falsehoods, even the recreation of pre-historic scenes like the diorama of the two people walking away from the volcanic eruption 3.6 million years ago.


Today many of us consider Wikipedia as the absolute truth, as the omniscient organism. Yet not everything posted on Wikipedia is true. The best example is the Bicholim Conflict. Wikipedia described a war in a region called Bicholim in Maharashtra, India, in 1640 between Marathi forces and the Portuguese. It was posted in 2007, and continued to be accepted as the true happening till end of 2012. When it was realized that there never had been such a war. Today it is listed in Wikipedia under the List of Hoaxes. Based on this incident, should we accept all the wars described in history books, like the Kalinga War by Asoka.


All religions declare the importance of the truth. "And ye shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free". (John 8:32). "Truth cannot be suppressed and is the ultimate victor" (Yajur Veda). "And whenever you give your word, say the truth" (Al-An'aam 6:152) The Fourth Precept undertaken by Buddhists the world over should be a precept to be observed by all humanity. We could all follow it, irrespective of our religious beliefs and faiths, because it is a guidance that would have been given by all founders of religions - "Refrain from incorrect speech".


'Incorrect speech', covers not only the lies, falsehoods and untruths, but also half-truths and distorting or concealing the truth. It is only when we use the terms truth and lie, that we cannot draw a line between them, because people could argue that truth comes in varying shades of gray. But incorrect speech is very clear and covers what is not true, what is half true and even harsh, violent, hateful speech.


Fiction, poetry, and art should remain within "Samma Vacha" (correct speech) even while stepping outside "truth", using 'boru' to mean imaginary.




Nov. 12, 2015, 11:58 p.m. » Tagged: Truth , Fiction , lies