18 MADURIKA RASARATNAM political leaders, in both states, and the stability and security of their respective support bases.
COMPARATIVE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL TRENDS IN INDIA AND SRI LANKA There are important similarities and strong connections between many of the social and political trends that have shaped the processes of Tamil accommodation and secession in India and Sri Lanka respectively. The Tamil, Buddhist and Hindu revivalist movements that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century in India and Sri Lanka made comparable ideological claims, and there was often a great deal of contact and exchange of ideas between revivalists from the three movements. All three movements claimed that their respective religions and languages had undergone a period of decline that had to be arrested and reversed if Tamil, Buddhists and Hindus were to make progress in the conditions of the modern world. The Buddhist revivalist movement is often seen as an important precursor to Sri Lanka’s later ethnic tension and consequent civil war. It began in the late nineteenth century as a reaction to the Christian missionary activity and gained its fullest expression in the life and work of Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933). In many ways adopting Christian missionary condemnations of “heathen beliefs and practises,” Dharmapala sought to purify Sinhala Buddhist society through a process of reform that has been labelled “Protestant Buddhism” (Tambiah 1992, 6-7). He produced a code for the lay conduct that outlined a puritanical and austere life “suited for the emergent Sinhalese urban middle class and business interests,” whilst rejecting popular village level practices and beliefs in favor of a return to canonical norms. Most importantly Dharmapala revived and popularized the Mahavamsa, a medieval chronicle that celebrated the ancient Sinhala Buddhist civilizations on the island. According to Stanley Tambiah, Dharmapala’s revival of the chronicles was important in “infusing the Sinhalese with a new nationalist identity and self – respect in the face of humiliation and restrictions suffered under British rule and Christian missionary influence” (Ibid., 7). The chronicles were used to support the claim that the Sinhala Buddhists were the original inhibitors of the island and its true inheritors, with the minorities seen as more or less deserving later immigrants. This claim lay behind the 1956 mobilization demanding that Sinhala be made the only official language of the country, and has subsequently been used to resist efforts to resolve the ethnic conflict through a devolution of power to the north-eastern Tamil speaking areas of the island.