South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - The Multiple Storied Lakegala and the Emerging Imaginations of Alternative Pasts and Genealogies

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

Within the process of Ravanization, by which I mean the current revitalization of Ravana among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka, the image of Ravana as king of Lanka (as known from the Hindu epic the Ramayana) is taken to a next level: Ravana becomes exalted as Lanka’s most memorable ruler. This presumed kingship also affects the way Lanka’s soil is looked upon in the contemporary Ravana-discourse: Lanka – in this discourse equated with Sri Lanka –  becomes storied with well-known ancient myths mixed together with invented stories corresponding to popular views on Ravana.
Sarbadhikary defines a ‘storied landscape’ both as “[…] a narrativised landscape and a layered geography, that is, a physical landscape concealing within it the essence of another imagined place.” (Sarbadhikary, 2013, 115). To Lakegala, a pyramid-shaped mountain located in the central highlands, multiple stories are ascribed: it is for instance believed to be the place where the Rama-Ravana war took place and, moreover, its current residents allegedly belong to the yaksha gotraya (Lanka’s most ancient, indigenous and highly-civilized tribe).
In my paper I focus on Lakegala as a geographical location to which multiple intersecting and conflicting narratives are ascribed. As a multiple-storied location, Lakegala recounts myths of former glory. Moreover, the imagination of the villagers as yakshas unfolds an emerging alternative story – competing with the generally accepted Vijaya-origin-myth – of Lanka’s past, which plays an important role in the self-understanding of the Sinhalese majority in post-war Sri Lanka.

Send Email for Deborah Dirkje Cornelia de Koning


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