Vibrancy of classical Sinhala poetry
By Prof. Wimal Dissanayake
Ceylon Today Mosaic
It is with a certain measure of sadness that I am moved to state that informed commentaries on classical Sinhala literature are becoming increasingly rare. Scholars with the requisite understanding of classical Sinhala and a love of classical poetry are rapidly swindling, which is indeed a cause for alarm.
It is against this background that I wish to comment briefly on Pro. Rohini Paranavithan's new book on classical Sinhala poetry titled 'GiMimansa.' Meaning analyses of Gi poetry. Let me state at the outside that this is a well-written book that is full of important insights. The author is deeply knowledgeable about her chosen area of analysis and displays a remarkable sensitivity to poems such as Muvadevdavata, Sasadavata and Kavsilumina.
GiKavya Mimansa consists of a Preface and eight chapters. In the Preaface, Prof. Rohini Paranavithana has sought to explain the nature and significance of Gi poetry very lucidly and economically.
The first and second chapters are devoted to useful discussions of certain important facets of Sigiri poetry.
In the second chapter the author investigates the kind of imagination displayed by the diverse writers of Sigiri poems paying particular attention to the deployment of tropes. The second chapter is given over to a topic that is not often explored – the Buddhist ethos and discipline that characterizes a significant portion of Sigiri poetry. The Sigiri poetry, in my judgment, provides us with a rich resource for focused and sustained literary analysis. In an essay titled 'EnframingSigiri Poetry I made the following observation.
'The Sigiri graffiti constitute a very rich and important segment of classical Sinhala poetry. Written largely during the period from 8th to the 10th centuries, although some of the verses belong to an earlier period,this body of poetry is marked by a compression of form, wit, playfulness, an acute drama of argument and an imagination of a high order. The strength of these poems is to be seen in the way in which they work within the rubrics of inherited rhetorical frameworks. Many of the poems are responses,some spontaneous, some studies, to the beautiful figures drawn on the Sigiriya wall. The flawed innocence of the damsels depicted in the paintings, as refracted through the imagination of the Sigiriya poets,makes for lyrically intense and dramatically poignant poetry. Many of these poems are highly compact, where silences,suppressions o feeling,and half-articulated thoughts play a crucial role in poetic communication.'
The third chapter explores a very important classical text dealing with poetics – the Siyabaslakara.
Prof. Paranavitana has examined the importance of this work situating it in its proper historical and discursive context. Her analysis of this work is thoughtful and judicious.
She points out cogently why this text should not be regarded as a mere translation of Dandin's Kavyadarsha, which it is not. The fourth chapter addresses the important topic of poetry written during the Polonnaruwa period against the backdrop of Sinhala literary tradition and the evolving nature of social formations. The author's deep familiarity with the historical, social, cultural and political factors that gave rise to the strong poetic tradition in the Polonnaruwa period is clearly evident in the texture of the writing. The fifth chapter has as its focus of analysis a reading of the poem Muvadevdavata in relation to the trajectories of growth of classical Sinhala poetry.
This is a narrative poem that has got short shrift from most literary critics. To be sure, it does not contain the weightiness and achieved poetic brilliance of Kasilumina; it pales in comparison to the overpowering Kasilumina.
However, Muvadecdavata in his own way, has achieved a measure of success that needs to be recognized. As Prof Paranavitana accurately points outit is more compact and cohesive that the other narrative with which it is often linked, the Sasadavata. I am persuaded by the case the author makes for this poem while recording its deficiencies.
The rest of the chapters – three in all – are devoted to interpretations of the Sinhala mahakavya the Kasilumina chapter six discusses the imagery contained in this poem and the concepts that under ride them with understanding and discernment. Chapter seven contains a useful discussion of the complex and persuasive ways in which the author of Kasilumina has reconfirmed nature in his narrative discourse. Here Prof. RohiniParanavitana displays her skills as a close reader of classical poetictexts. The last chapter highlights the role of myths in the poetic discourse of this poem and how the deft use of these myths reveals to us an important aspect of the poet's sensibility. Reading Prof. Paranavitanas 'Gee KavyaMeemansa, I was struck by four indubitable strengths of the author. First, as I stated earlier, she is a very sensitive reader of classical Sinhala poetic texts; she is able to respond to the classical idiom classical locutions, turns of phrase with a remarkable adroitness. Second, she has a deep knowledge of the historical period in which the texts being analyzed were produced. Her deep historical consciousness serves to enframe her interpretations cogently. Third,she has the ability illuminate the complex interactions between texts and contexts – how texts influence the context and how the contexts in turn inflect the tests. Fourth, she writes extremely lucidly and compellingly without violating grammatical norms which is unfortunately a common practice in Sinhala critical writing today. One shortcoming I observed is that there is some repetition and overlap among the eight essays. This is, of course, understandable in view of the fact that these are occasional essays – occasional in the sense that they were dictated by specific occasions. So their genealogy helps us to understand this repetition.
Gee KavyaMeemansa by Prof. Rohini Paranavitama is a welcome addition to Sinhala poetic commentarial literature.
Personally, I would have liked to see her become more venturesome and interpret these classical texts in the light of modern critical theory.This is, of course, a common enough practice among Western scholars. Let me cite some texts that are relative easy to comprehend. Terry Eagleton, in his book titled William Shakespeare, examines the bard's plays using modern semiotic, Marxist and feminist theories to underscore the fact that in Shakespeare's plays there is a split between the ideas of social order that the plays endorse and the subversive and unsettling force of language. Catherine Belsey in her book on Milton adopts a deconstructive approach to point out the intersections of language and power in the poetic text. To cite a more complex essay, GayatriSpivak examines Wordsworth's The Prelude in the light of deconstruction. In my book titled Buddhist Confessional Poetry, I have sought to draw on modern critical theories in explication the importance of the Their Gatha. One can site many such instances. This fact connects interestingly with the idea of a classic as enunciated by such scholars as Frank Kermode. A classic is timeless, and one way in which it achieves this feat is by allowing and assimilating new interpretations of it in keeping with the zeitgeist. Evolving interpretations keep classics like the Kasilumina alive.
All in all, Prof. Rihini Paranavitana's GiKavyaMimansa can be recommended as a valuable addition to the corpus of critical literature on classical Sinhala poetry.
- Independent Trajectory for India-Israel Ties
- Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent Crown Prince bin Salman and stake to greatness
- Interpreting Germany’s New Grand Coalition Deal: A First Assessment
- India’s IT Minister in SL
- PCoI bond scam report Over 60 MPs could be exposed – SLFP
- Off duty soldier tracks hit-and-run driver Police send letter of appreciation to Army HQ
- Mohammad Shiyam murder case appeal Vass denies threatening CID Director
- 5th Indo-SL Defence Dialogue concludes in Delhi
- Further evidence on Gammanpila- Shaddock case on 26th
- Impressed with Kite Festival Minister promises new fishing harbour for VVT
- Muslim women should enter politics – Dr. Uthumalebbe
- SEUSL VC urges undergrads to focus on education
- LG elections Vote-buying could lead to removal CaFFE warns candidates
- Motorcyclists Association complains to CJ Accuses Mathugama Chief Magistrate of bias
- Singapore PM & Indonesian President due next week
- Justice Surasena appointed President of CoA L.T.B. Dehideniya elevated to SC
- Fmr NFF Member Premalal Fonseka joins MS/SLFP Maheepala Herath supports ‘Pohottuwa’
- Namal’s money laundering case postponed to 6 Feb
- Kuruwita prisoner alleged torture case Complaint to be handed over to UN
- Asia’s largest haul of cocaine destroyed President Sirisena oversees process
- Missing women & PTA detainees Sasitharan urges families to register
- SLMC rally attacked in Palamunai Hakeem blames Bathiudeen’s ACMC
- Tissa gang-rape victim dies Suspects could be tried for murder
- President’s confidants named in PRECIFAC report JVP
- Supreme Court decides President’s term is five years Presidential Election Next Year President’s term ends in December 2019
- Selection of volleyball coaches Law violators to attend Interview?
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-19 Schools Cricket Munasinghe scores century
- Tamim steers Bangladesh
- Louis denies creating a stir at meeting
- Jasprit Bumrah wickets follow Kohli century for India
- Houston Marathon in freezing weather Hiruni shatters SL record Qualifies for Commonwealth Games 2018
- “Nidahas Trophy 2018” SLC formally invites Bangladesh
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Bangladesh record second win
- Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Association Jamaldeen unanimously re-elected President
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-13 Division II Schools Cricket Mahanama, Henegama and Galahitiyawa advance
- Liverpool stun City
- Peterhansel rebounds as Sainz keeps Dakar lead
- Venus and Stephens crash out of Australian Open
- Suarez fires Barcelona nine clear
- I’m too old to be favourite - Federer
- Tri Nation series begins today Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Sri Lanka triumph by 7 wickets
- Premier League Tier A Milantha scores twin centuries Chilaw Marians register fourth win
- 700 wickets and 7000 runs Dilruwan reaches milestone in first class cricket
- Hathurusinghe savours new challenge
- Sri Lanka worst in Moody’s Asia Pacific ratings
- SL at 66th in WEF’s Manufacturing Index
- Kerawalapitiya-II gets greenlight
- Plans for multi-country trade hub in Sri lanka
- CEB picks swiss firm for vehicle charging network in Sri Lanka
- A tribute to a gentleman par excellence
- Brent crude oil rises to $70 on output cuts
- Airbus says A380 superjumbo production could end
- Asian shares gain as the dollar continues to struggle
- Slowdown in international trade and its impact on globalization
- Ford plans US$ 11 billion investment 40 electrified vehicles by 2022
- Sampath Bank engages with SMEs
- LB Finance crowned No 1 Finance and Leasing Brand in SL
- Hyundai Motor and Grab sign strategic partnership
- Mastercard holds Digital and Innovation Workshop in SL
- Zuckerberg aims to save Facebook from itself
- Is economic struggle driving North Korea to the negotiating table?
- Altair sponsors 146th AGM of Colombo Club
- From challenges to opportunities: The success of DSI Samson Group
- BMICH staff presents Carols
- The March of Folly Dr. Ranjith Atapattu, an exemplary figure
- Liberia’s development at risk
- Politicos’ image plummets to lowest ebb
- UN Agency says Losing US funds could be ‘catastrophic’ for Palestinians
- Central Bank Bond issue Opportunity to reveal true culprits lost
- ‘We don’t want to fool the Sinhalese and get our dues’
- Rohingya insurgents say 10 found in Myanmar grave ‘innocent civilians’
- Thalaivar’s New Avatar
- TNA: How better is ‘better’?
- Wi-Fi but no water: Can smart tech help a city's poor?
- No political solution for Tamil grievances in sight – Ananthy Sasitharan
- Division in SLFP main reason for UNP victory
- We don’t endorse Basil’s leadership
- Rogues in all Govts should be punished- Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
- EPRLF trying to create confusion – Thurairasasingham
- National Prosperity Turning the Tide
- Disposable coffee cups:British lawmakers call for “latte levy”
- If only we could crackdown on the root causes to effect sustainable solutions Herein lies a Nation’s progress
- Planetary combines that foreshadow misfortune for father
- Pirith chants for abundant harvest
- Venus into Capricorn
- Vastu and Domestic Animals
- Yoga for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Our children and our cinema
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- CMSC’s season finale concert
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Trump’s ‘madman’ ACT scared N. Korea to talks
- Calls for ‘revenge’ Israeli settler killed in attack
- Banning of Colombo Journal First English Newspaper
- Sri Lankan author publishes for the world
- Broadway brought to our own shores
- Celebrating the harvest