Buddhist Poetry and Colonialism: Alagiyavanna and the Portuguese in Sri Lanka

ISBN : 9780199935789

Stephen C. Berkwitz
336 Pages
155 x 234 mm
Pub date
Apr 2012
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Stephen C. Berkwitz's Buddhist Poetry and Colonialism examines five works by a single poet to demonstrate how Buddhism in Sri Lanka was shaped and transformed by encounters with Portuguese colonizers and missionaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By following the written works of Alagiyavanna Mukaveti (1552-1625?) from the court of a powerful Sinhala king through the cultural upheavals of warfare and Christian missions and finally to his eventual conversion to Catholicism and employment under the Portuguese Crown, this book uses the poetry of a single author to reflect upon how Sinhala verse fashioned new visions of power and religious identity when many of the traditional Buddhist institutions were in retreat. Berkwitz traces the development of Alagiyavanna's poetry as a medium for celebrating the fame of rulers, devotion to the Buddha and his Dharma, morality and truth in the Buddha's religion, and the glories of Portuguese rule in Sri Lanka. Employing an interdisciplinary approach that combines Buddhist Studies, History, Literary Criticism, and Postcolonial Studies, the author constructs a picture of the effects of colonialism on Buddhist literature and culture at an early juncture in the history of the encounter between Asia and Europe.


Chapter 1 - Buddhist Literature and Culture in Early Modern Ceilao
Chapter 2 - The Aesthetics of Power and The Cock's Message
Chapter 3 - Longing for the Dharma in Poem of King Dhammasonda
Chapter 4 - On Love and Kingship in Poem of the Birth-story of King Kusa
Chapter 5 - Admonishing the World with Well-Spoken Words
Chapter 6 - Identity and Hybridity in War of General Constantino
Conclusion - Poetry and Buddhism

About the author: 

Stephen C. Berkwitz is Professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1999. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Sri Lankan Buddhism, including The History of the Buddha's Relic Shrine: A Translation of the Sinhala Thupavamsa and Buddhist History in the Vernacular: The Power of the Past in Medieval Sri Lanka.

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