The King, the Pageant, and the Grape Juice

Authored by: Batuwangala Rahula

The Routledge Companion to Sinhala Fiction from Post-War Sri Lanka

Print publication date:  September  2022
Online publication date:  September  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367554682
eBook ISBN: 9781003094708
Adobe ISBN:


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This is an excerpt from the allegorical novel Ran Karanduwa 1 (The Golden Casket), in which a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk is going on a traditional pilgrimage in India with a rather mysterious Indian carter called Gupta (which, in Sinhala means “mysterious”), but is accosted from the very first day by historical characters of the Buddhist past, who require of him certain services – like taking the pure word of the Buddha (on a scroll inside a small casket) back to Sri Lanka, or relinquishing ownership of the casket itself. This excerpt is made up of two sections in the novel dealing with the activity of a king , who in the second half we know as King Ajasatta, a patricide in Buddhist lore, the first dealing with how the he tries to suppress dissent brought about by inequality (linking real time Sri Lanka to a mythic past in India) and the second with his role in the pageant organized by Reverend Devadatta to show that the King has indeed taken possession of the casket, which up to then had been in the care of the narrator monk. What the display of religious “ownership” in pageantry such as this can achieve is brilliantly shown by Reverend Batuwangala Rahula here.

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