Buddhist Poetry and Colonialism: Alagiyavanna and the by Stephen C. Berkwitz

By Stephen C. Berkwitz

Many researchers have explored the influence of British and French Orientalism within the reinterpretations of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. much less spotted, although, and occasionally mentioned is the effect of Portuguese colonialists and missionaries upon Buddhist groups within the 16th and 17th centuries throughout Asia. Stephen C. Berkwitz addresses this subject matter by means of studying 5 poetic works by way of Alagiyavanna Mukaveti (b.1552), a popular Sinhala poet who participated without delay within the convergence of neighborhood and trans-local cultures in early smooth Sri Lanka. Berkwitz follows the written works of the poet from his place within the court docket of a Sinhala king, in the course of the cultural upheavals of conflict and the growth of colonial rule, and at last to his eventual conversion to Catholicism and employment below the Portuguese Crown. In so doing, Berkwitz explores the adjustments in faith and literature rendered through what used to be arguably the earliest sustained come across among Asian Buddhists and eu colonialists in international history.

Alagiyavanna's poetic works supply expression to either a discourse of nostalgia for the neighborhood non secular and cultural order within the overdue 16th century, and a discourse of cultural assimilation with the recent colonial order in the course of its ascendancy within the early 17th century. utilizing an interdisciplinary strategy that mixes Buddhist reports, background, Literary feedback, and Postcolonial experiences, this ebook yields very important insights into how the colonial adventure contributed to the transformation of Buddhist tradition in early modernity.

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Extra resources for Buddhist Poetry and Colonialism: Alagiyavanna and the Portuguese in Sri Lanka

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Thus, at the beginning of Alagiyavanna’s career, the idea that poetry had the power to effect change in the world was traditional and taken for granted. Near the end of his career, however, he began to abandon the traditional poetic concerns with aesthetic conventions, court culture, and classical forms in favor of a more simplified poetic style. 20 This is the stage at which vernacular poetry began to shed its affinities with Sanskrit kāvya and instead sought new avenues to influence contemporary political and social formations.

This sharpened sense of religious identity would soon be replaced, however, following Alagiyavanna’s conversion and his attempt to use Sinhala poetry to praise the Portuguese authorities and their Holy Trinity. However, even his embrace of Catholicism did not result in the complete rejection of his Buddhist background. Instead, one finds in Kustantīnu Haṭana a hybrid religious identity that combined and integrated certain Christian and Buddhist notions. 28 bu ddhis t p oe t r y a nd col oni a l ism When looking at Alagiyavanna’s sense of religious identity then, we are led to conclude that his conceptions of religious devotion and practice were subject to change and revision.

However, relations between Bhuvanekabāhu and the Portuguese were often strained throughout the 1540s due to continuing demands for his conversion and the assistance that the Portuguese were supplying Jayav īra, the king of Kandy in the central highlands. The jockeying for power among Bhuvanekabāhu, Māyādunnē, and Jayav īra led to various battles between the three kingdoms, with the Portuguese usually giving most of their support to the king in Koṭṭe, who supplied them with the tribute and trading privileges they coveted.

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