Sigiriya- Kassapa’s Homage To Beauty
A comment by… K.S. Sivakumaran
A beautiful and an exhaustive study on Sigiriya –Kassapa’s Homage to Beauty is the latest addition to the corpus of related material. The author is Siri Gunasinghe. The large sized book of 116 pages with colour photographs is a collector’s item. I like art and paintings having been a student of the arts and literature. But I am not willing to review the book for lack of knowledge on the subject. Instead, I will give information regarding the book so that based on such information, uninitiated readers will be persuaded to possess this historically relevant book.
First about the author: Emeritus Professor Siri Gunasinghe is a Lanka born Canadian academic. A linguist (Sinhala, French and English), he is a leading figure in the field of performing arts and literature, and a pioneer in modern poetry in Sinhala with his Nissanda Kavi. After having taught in the University of Victoria in Canada, he is now back in his homeland. His film Sath Samudra was one of the outstanding Sinhala films some decades ago. He has authored many books particularly on the history of Buddhist Art of Sri Lanka. His novel Havenella is translated into Thamil as well. He has many more achievements to his credit.
This illustrated book has been published by the reputed Vijitha Yapa Publications. The photographs in the book were taken by Vijitha and Lalana Yapa. Vijitha Yapa, as students of journalism would know, held Chief Editor post in three Lankan English newspapers before becoming a publisher. His articles and photographs have appeared in prestigious foreign journals like the Far Eastern Economic Review, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times UK, Gulf News Dubai, Asian Wall Street Journal, The Times London and Readers Digest. Vijitha Yapa has authored four books.
Apart from the elucidative descriptions and analysis of the author, the book also contains a valuable bibliography and a useful index.
The scholar’s thesis is presented under the following heads: Towards Sigiriya, Building Sigiriya – For what Purpose, Paintings: The Enigma of the Beauties.
Including the front cover, the back cover and the inside flap, there are about 45 photographs and a few drawings.
We must know what the writer is trying to say in the book. On page 10 he says that:
“It is perhaps time to demythologise Kassapa and his creation. My attempt here is to take a fresh look at the known historical and archaeological material on the one hand and, on the other, to search for historically valid information where nothing has been stated directly in the chronicle or in the epigraphic records. Reading between the lines in the Mahavamsa, I find that it is necessary and also possible, to revise our thinking about Kassapa and Sigiriya… I have advanced some thoughts that differ from the generally held views about Kassapa and Sigiriya.”
Read this book. It is a fascinating book in understanding oriental aesthetics.