THE STATE WITHIN A STATE SIVAGIRIYEN SiGIRIYATA
By Shenal Rajakarunanayake
Though it is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world, still its enigma is un found. Bearing the majesty of 1000 years of Sri Lankan history, Sigirya stays vigorously showcasing its grandeur and splendor. Since ancient times, Sigirya is renowned for its controversies and it has never stopped.
Was the Sigirya a result of the conflict between the concepts of Therawada and Mahayana? Or was it an offspring of the conflict between the tribes of Sinhalese and Yaksha for power? Why nobody has paid some plausible attention on its economic, social and cultural developments? Why the poetry which carried a deeper sense of love and hope back then, cannot be used to spread humanity in today's world? These are yet to be answered and Sujith Akkarawaththa: the narrator of our story warmly behests us to join in hands with him to rediscover the serendipity of this state within the state through Sivagiriyen Sigiryata in a more innovative and creative style.
What inspired you to become a history lover?
My love for history starts since my childhood and it kept growing ceaselessly. Perhaps, it was much evident with the work I have done, and obviously it is my passion. In a world where history had been documented as chronologies of what had been said and found by few thought provokers, my stay has been marked differently with the ideology and rational interpretation I have brought into nuances with tedious ground work and commitment. Hence, it is acceptable to be called as a history lover in many ways. Personally, I am person who hardly get convinced with mere facts and I choose to be curious to break the stereotypes and norms of so-called perceptions to quench the deep hidden thirst for knowledge. Having said that none can deny the contributions that have been made by the experts to the field of history so far because those paved us the path to walk through. Networking and socialising with like-minded people, indeed ignited the flame within me for which I am truly grateful. Further, it could be much precise to call it as a rediscovery of my own self through the eyes of history. As a person who believes the philosophy of Buddhism, I consider my love for history is something beyond its collateral beauty.
Can history and literature survive being apart? Or how does it interconnect?
As far as I believe, literature is an art that reflects the works of imagination, aesthetics and creative writing which a distinguished for the beauty of style or expression. Or in other words, if we take the frescos of Seegirya, it is quite evident that those have been interpreted in different ways by different people ensuring the subjectivity and rational thinking. Yet, the validity of those interpretations are still questionable and subject to more thorough research. In a world where information is freely available in most of the times, subjective interpretations are no longer convincing. People are more thoughtful and avid hence it is hard to bombard an ideology on their minds. In such a context, history plays a pivotal role to bring more valid and reasonable solution. Or in other words, the truest and purest essence of an incident cannot be recognised without having a proper sense of its situational background.Therefore, a well-structured scientific way of learning history is essential to bring more depth to works of literature.
When history and literature interconnected, it creates a dialogue between two fields of study leading the society for betterment. A man without any sense for literature and history is a walking corpse and in return none could expect a productive contribution to the society. That's why it is much important to eradicate the typical report-like writing style especially in a context where history is discussed because none could possibly understand the deeper roots of human feelings in such way of writing and presenting. Hence creative writing is the bridge that connects literature and history. If I make it much simpler, as long as history is ghettoized from the scope of literature and vice versa, the survival of both fields become questionable. This has been the core reason for people being apart from literature and history. Nobody could sense the beauty of life and art or rather the value of humanity without being able to capture the truest essence of literature and history and needless to say its repercussions.
In today's context. are people ready to have a broader point of view across the past, present and future via history?
Of course, yes. People are much ready though there's a shortage of supply. Irrespective of time periods, people always have an urge to know their roots, their presence and survival, so it makes obvious that people are in need of knowing the truth in a broader perspective Yet the issue is with the quality of supplies. In today's context, our society has been shattered with various ideologies accompanied with political propaganda and the truth is hardly available. No longer available history can be considered as a representation of truth and reality since it has been polluted by so-called fake, deceitful history lovers because the ideologies they spread are more powerful and evil. In such a context, reliability and trustworthiness of information is hardly can be productive. Having said that none can deny the efforts of true historians who are committed to their work. Though they are limited by nature, their output transcends the barriers which hinder the effectiveness. On the other hand, it is sad to see people are less bothered to question the attitudes, skills and knowledge of the people who are being appointed as in-charges in these movements. Hence pragmatism can hardly be envisioned. This apathy narrows down the perspective and directs the society nowhere. Therefore, willingness is important given that there are essential ingredients to feed the need. Society must be educated to have a broader point of view covering all schools of thoughts including Maha Vihara, Abhayagiri, Chethavana and most importantly folklore. All these gurukulshas must be read carefully to create rational argument. Further the importance of learning Pali & Sanskrit should also be pointed out because most of the ancient books based on history had been written in Pali & Sanskrit. Hence, in general, it is critical to be equipped with many auxiliary aspects to have a multi dimensional point of view.
If we take a look at your recent book: Sivagiriyen Sigiryata, you have clearly argued that nobody had paid much attention on the cultural, economic, political importance of Sigirya. What were the reasons?
There were many reasons, I would say. As I said in the previous question, our history cannot simply be read or understood without a thorough practice and tedious work because it is blended with many thoughts of various gurukuls. If we take writers and their apathy towards not investigating on cultural, economic and political importance of Sigirya should have been result their fear of rejection. Usually, in Gurukuls, it is hardly possible to question the validity of their masters' opinions. In such a context, creativity and innovation is demotivated and repetition is the only output.
This issue is universal and the negative impact it creates can be hardly imagined. When new ideas are castrated, society would stay in the same point, therefore creativity and novelty can never be facilitated. This vicious circle still prevails leading the readers nowhere but into disappointment. In short, people are ready but the supplies are in short. So the progression halts.
Let's talk importance of using an appropriate language structure especially in a context where history is replicated. What are your thoughts?
It is truly a bliss to hear that people have embraced my work through my writing style. A more peculiar style of writing was purposefully used in this project with many budding hopes of reaching many hearts and minds of readers. As far as history is concerned, I do believe that language has to be more novel and attractive to avoid the unnecessary burden to the readers. Since childhood, the writer in me knew the fact of writing is not a mere way of arranging words but a strategic game where consciousness is much important.
Hence I was more into learning languages including Pali and Sanskrit apart from traditional mother tongue and English. Further, as far as I believe, my writing style got more polished-up with the understanding I had by dealing across various strata of social structure from top to bottom. This basic fact helped me to figure out the truest pulse of folklore and once it gets mixed-up with other languages, beauty is inevitable. All these were consciously made decisions and eventually it coloured my work and made it more glamourous.
To bring more nuance to the society, it is widely accepted that history should be studied in a more scientific manner. Yet, can we be satisfied about the developments in relation to this process?
Well, as far as I am informed and concerned, we are equipped with many facilities than ever before. We have all we need, basically all the facilities including proper onoffline media, library services and a structured tertiary education system to facilitate this need. Yet, history isn't a subject which could be fully studied by books. It needs some extra mileage of hard work and commitment to understand the unseen and unheard. Hence, it is needless to pin point what truly matters in this process to create better output. No matter how much you are being facilitated, there could be things which need to be understood by ourselves.
When it comes to reality, almost all the scientific studies on history so far have been done in a scholarly back ground mainly due to availability of resources. Yet unfortunately this system hasn't been able to facilitate innovation and creativity. Reproducing the same old concept over and over again would never facilitate multi-dimensional perspective to create a broader meaning. In short, we have all the resources and facilities, yet not the most important human resources to bring out the best.
Sivagiriyen Sigiryata, indeed a masterpiece which consumed a greater level of commitment, dedication and hard work. Let's talk about the memories you had while writing this book.
It was a pleasurable pain, I would say. Staying overnight on the top of the Sigirya rock bearing all other difficulties was truly unimaginable experience to me where I was able to enjoy the serenity of nature while watching the shades of Sigiri frescos in moonlight, starlight and dark. Though there are many who have done researches on Sigiri Frescos, nobody had ever paid any attention on researching the tribes which had contributed their entire lives to create this paradise on earth.
This was another aspect I was interested and I was so privileged to get to know those tribes and work closely with them while listening to their folk stories. Those indeed added glamour to the end product and perhaps that was one of the core reasons for its booming popularity.
On the other hand, writing a book which requires more research was truly a cumbersome task, yet my never ending thirst for knowledge and inborn curiosity paved me the way to complete this book. Though it carries few pages compared to huge novels, it basically consumed 11 years of my life to bring out the truest expression of Sivagiriyen Sigiryata to my beloved readers. Reading, re-reading, analysing, evaluating the gathered details while facing near death experiences several times was indeed an incredible, one of a kind experience to me.
Compared to other literary works on Sigirya, Sivagiriyen Sigiryata uses a unique way to re-address the concepts of history and ideologies of art. Can this create a new wave?
Well, as far as I believe, all my work so far had that essence of bringing the reader into an astonishment while leading them into discussion. As writers, this is what we need. It is not the mere fame, money or awards, but the positive shift. Further, as far as I believe, this must never be a mere commercial wave which has no depth.
People should be more authentic and honest to their works and eventually it would lead the writer to the deserved position. It is up to the society to protect the valuable aesthetic products and I believe any good book has its own way of surviving. No matter what comes and goes, the value of a good book would never get depreciated.
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