Sri Lanka’s poetry of rebellion………..

Sri Lanka has had its share of rebellions and uprisings, youth unrest and civil unrest for which the country has paid a heavy price in the past. While it’s nice to refer to such matters in the past tense, it’s not something we can lock up and throw away the key thinking it will not recur. Until the social injustices  that  are so marked and blatant in  our society do not  even  out, the most optimistic among us will have to agree that  as long as a large segment  of the population are  being   deprived of  the right to live in a society that treats all its  citizens equally and allows them to live in dignity,  it’s not a question of if but when  another insurgency takes place.

These are just some thoughts that came to my mind as I was reading the English translations of some Sinhala poems that are rife with the voice of rebellion.

This is one by Parakrama Kodituvakku, a Sinhala poet noted for his radical poetry, many of them set in the background of the 1971 insurrection.

The World of a Disobedient   Son or Akikaru Putrayakuge Lokaya has been brilliantly translated by Ranjini Obeysekera.Here it is.

 (School Report)

Doubts all teachings.

Questions Continuously.

Thinks individualistically.

Disregards discipline.

Works as he chooses.

Conduct unsatisfactory.

 (Religious Instructor’s Report)

Disbelief verily, signifies a sinful mind.

His horoscope too indicates a lack of merit.

Choleric humours have become excited, turbulent.

Hath no knowledge of the doctrine of the gods.

I take refuge in the Buddha. He should do so too.

(Court Report)

  1. Attempted to break the law
  2. Destroyed the peace
  3. Should be given a whipping
  4. Be made into a good citizen

 (Statement of the Accused)

Mass rehabilitation

Turn me not into a snail

My feelers chopped off

Turn me not into a coward

By preaching of gods.

Turn me not into a buffalo

Burdened with false views.

Make me not a “good boy”

With hands and mouth gagged.

Allow me to question like Socrates

Doubt like Descartes.

Crash through like a gushing river

cut clean as a knife.

Let me rise, erect

Like a penis.”


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2 thoughts on “Sri Lanka’s poetry of rebellion………..”

  1. How good to know there is a poetry of rebellion in Sinhalese, and almost as good to know it’s being translated into English. A visitor, and occasional resident, these last twenty years, I’ve learned so much about your extraordinary country through reading your writers, but only those translated into English, which hasn’t included much in the way of rebellious commentary.

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