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Ramayana trail worries Lankan historians
Chandani Kirinde in Colombo

The promotion by Sri Lankan Tourism of a “Ramayana Trail” to attract Indian tourists has run into criticism from local historians and archaeologists who accuse the authorities of promoting a myth ignoring historical inaccuracies.

The criticism comes in the wake of the recent commencement of a series of events for Ramayana enthusiasts by the Tourism Authority of Sri Lanka.

Under the programme, which will continue till September, visitors are taken across the country to the sites having mythological importance, including the place were the King of Lanka Ravana kept hostage Sita, the wife of Lord Rama.

However, a group of historians and archaeologists who gathered for symposium “The Tourism Authorities Ramayana Trail” in Colombo recently, said they had investigated the so-called “Ramayana Trail” and found it historically inaccurate.

“We oppose the tourism board’s initiative in trying to promote the Ramayana Trail in the island. The information regarding the sites is historically and geographically inaccurate and such a promotion would not be favourable to the country,” one of the speakers at the seminar, Dr Susanthe Goonathilake, said.

The tourism authority, however, dismissed these accusations saying it was not their job to verify historical accuracies, but to encourage tourism.

“Sri Lanka is the proud custodian of more than 50 Ramayana sites from the place of Seetha Devi’s captivity to the battlefields where vast armies clashed, to the groves of exotic herbs dropped by the monkey god Hanuman, to the ultimate theatre of war where Lord Rama slew Ravana, the 10-headed demon-king,” the tourism authority says on its website.

Some of the criticism by historians seems to stem from the fears of a growing Indian influence in the country in the post-war scenario. Hence, historian Dr Goonathilake sees a danger in promoting an Indian myth as a fact. “The Indian population has nationalistic and religious impulses that could be used as a pretext for war, if the sites become threatened,” he said.

The number of Indian tourists arriving in the country has picked up after the end of the war with close to 10,000 arriving each month. The visa on arrival policy of the government has also led to increase in the number of Indians visiting the country.





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