Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism

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Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism is a political ideology which combines a focus upon Sinhalese culture and ethnicity with an emphasis upon Theravada Buddhism, which is the majority belief system of most of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. It mostly originated in reaction to the colonisation of Sri Lanka by the British Empire and became increasingly assertive in the years following the independence of the country.

Contributions of Anagarika Dharmapala[edit]

Anagarika Dharmapala was one of the leading contributors to the Buddhist revival of the 19th century that led to the creation of Buddhist institutions and Buddhist schools to match those of the Christian missionaries, and to the independence movement of the 20th century. He illustrated the first three points in a public speech:

"This bright, beautiful island was made into a Paradise by the Aryan Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals. Its people did not know irreligion... Christianity and polytheism are responsible for the vulgar practices of killing animals, stealing, prostitution, licentiousness, lying and drunkenness... The ancient, historic, refined people, under the diabolism of vicious paganism, introduced by the British administrators, are now declining slowly away."[1]

He called upon the Sinhalese people to rise. He strongly protested consumption of alcohol, killing of cattle and promoted vegetarianism [2].

Relationship with other religions in Sri Lanka[edit]

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has a fractious relationship with other religious communities like Christians, with protests often being organised by Buddhist nationalist organisations against Christians in the governance of the country through movements like Catholic Action.[3] Relations between Buddhist nationalists and Hindus are more peaceful and friendly, with numerous Hindu figures, including Kandiah Neelakandan and T. Maheswaran working with Buddhist groups on the anti-Conversion bill.[4] Also, D. B. S. Jeyaraj noted that both Sri Lankan Hindu nationalism and Buddhist nationalism rose as reactions to Christianity.[5] Hindu-Buddhist collaboration is growing more prevalent in Sri Lanka, with the rise of groups such as the Hindu-Buddhist Friendship Society.[6]

In recent times the relationship between Sinhala Buddhist Nationalists and Sri Lankan Catholics have improved over shared interests such as opposition to sterilisation and banning private tuition classes during religious holidays. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith also opposed secularism and supported Buddhism as state religion which received praise from Buddhist clergy. [7][8][9] However Evangelical Christians continues to be distrusted. [10]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guruge 1965:482
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sri Lankan Buddhist monks protest against proselytizing Christians AP Worldstream - January 22, 2004
  4. ^ Lanka Buddhists take on Church Daily Pioneer - June 9, 2009
  5. ^ Maheswaran threatens Tamil religious unity Archived 2009-03-04 at the Wayback Machine The Sunday Leader - January 18, 2004
  6. ^ Hindu-Buddhist Friendship Society soon Sunday Observer - May 30, 2004
  7. ^ "For Sri Lankan Buddhists, Card Malcolm Ranjith is a 'good leader'". Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Archbishop rejects secularisation ideology". Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Bodu Bala Sena Secretary General Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero Meets Catholic Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for Discussions". Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Sri Lanka: Bodu Bala Sena disrupts peace". Retrieved 2020-08-08.


  • Anagarika Dharmapala, Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala, ed. Ananda Guruge, The Anagarika Dharmapala Birth Centenary Committee, Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Ceylon 1965
  • DeVotta, Neil. "The Utilisation of Religio-Linguistic Identities by the Sinhalese and Bengalis: Towards General Explanation". Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Vol. 39, No. 1 (March 2001), pp. 66–95.
  • Tennakoon Vimalananda 'Buddhism in Ceylon under the Christian powers', 1963
  • Wijewardena 'The Revolt in the Temple', Sinha Publications, 1953

External links[edit]