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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 sometimes 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 via studying 5 poetic works via Alagiyavanna Mukaveti (b.1552), a popular Sinhala poet who participated without delay within the convergence of neighborhood and trans-local cultures in early sleek Sri Lanka. Berkwitz follows the written works of the poet from his place within the courtroom of a Sinhala king, during the cultural upheavals of war and the growth of colonial rule, and at last to his eventual conversion to Catholicism and employment lower than the Portuguese Crown. In so doing, Berkwitz explores the variations in faith and literature rendered through what used to be arguably the earliest sustained stumble upon among Asian Buddhists and ecu colonialists in global history.

Alagiyavanna's poetic works provide expression to either a discourse of nostalgia for the neighborhood spiritual and cultural order within the past due 16th century, and a discourse of cultural assimilation with the recent colonial order in the course of its ascendancy within the early 17th century. using an interdisciplinary process that mixes Buddhist stories, background, Literary feedback, and Postcolonial experiences, this publication yields very important insights into how the colonial adventure contributed to the transformation of Buddhist tradition in early modernity.

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

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Like his previous work, Kusa Jātaka K āvya relates a poetic account of one of the Bodhisattva’s previous lives, and thus it serves in part to extol the greatness of the being who went on to become the Buddha. A distinguishing mark of this work is its 30 bu ddhis t p oe t r y a nd col oni a l ism relative disinterest in inserting purely descriptive verses full of aesthetic conventions and poetic sentiments. Instead, Kusa Jātaka K āvya devotes more attention to the content of the story and its sequence of events.

However, the Portuguese army was surrounded and completely routed by the Kandyans at the Battle of Gannoruva. The remaining Portuguese in the maritime areas thereafter had to contend with an alliance between Rājasiṃha II and the Dutch that was forged to expel the Portuguese from the island and win concessions for Dutch traders. In 1656, the Colombo Buddhist Literary Culture in Early Modern Ceilão 25 fort fell to a Dutch siege, and the last Portuguese presence on the island was removed in 1658 when Jaffna also fell.

Instead, most of the early Sinhala sandēśas narrate a story in which a bird is sent to deliver a message to a deity or a similarly virtuous figure and invoke blessings of protection and prosperity for the king. The importance of regal figures in these works invites the The Aesthetics of Power and The Cock’s Message 35 insertion of eulogistic verses, further reinforcing the close ties between culture and power in premodern Sinhala society. Yet these poems still trace a clear and identifiable route along the countryside, utilizing local geographical knowledge to provide a familiar and attractive setting.

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