Living Sinha-La or Sinha-Le? Which are you?

Sinha-La or Sinha-Le? Which are you?

2016 Apr 21

by Ashanee Kottage

The festering wound of racism only seems to grow in our little island nation, consuming the minds of the ignorant as if the 35 year civil war left us numb, and the same way the tsunami of ‘04 left us dumb and destroyed. Sinha-le is only an illusion, a façade of patriotism, masks of ignorance with cowardice and malicious hearts hiding behind. But everyone knows how bad the situation is- every other vehicle is proudly plastered, and every other wrist of every other dimwit is tattooed, but this still doesn’t constitute a majority. The majority of what is Sinha-la, and who, is Sinha-la.

Growing up in a private International school and in a privileged household in the hifi hub of Colombo 7, admittedly, exposure to the Sri Lankan culture was very scarce. We’d have a few assemblies in school, I’d converse in sinhalese with the domestics at home, few family, fewer friends. Avurudhu was just a celebration of good food and new clothes, Vesak was ice-cream stalls and lanterns, Poya (the best one) just means long week-end. I knew the most significant aspects, the stories behind the symbols and the reasons behind the rituals, just enough to get me by. But this doesn’t mean that I was/am an uncultured rich kid.

It’s only a matter of what we all believe culture is. In some minds- culture is strictly abiding by the religion of our country. Being modest, not speaking unless spoken to, worshipping elders, not interacting with those of the opposite sex, not discussing the 50 shades of taboo. It’s a misconstrued concept of culture. As much as our culture and religion are inter-twined, it’s not the same. A culture is a way of life of a group of people — the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. And the Sinhalese culture- at least in my opinion isn’t one that expresses views of racial purification. 

So let me tell you what I believe it is to be Sinha-la.

To be Sinha-la is to be kind. To everyone. Globally we are recognised to behappy people. Happy because we receive kindness from our muslim friends, Shakeel and Amana, from our tamil friends, Niluxsan and Divya, from our burgher friends, Sarah and Sebastian. Even our foreign friends, Tamara and Khwayri. Us Sinhalese are happy because we are lucky. We are lucky to havecollectively and collaboratively, overcome a 35 year war, and beat a vicious terrorist organisation, not the tamils, the LTTE. (Remember, there’s a difference.) We are lucky to be one of the only countries that celebrate the festivals of 4 religions. To receive biriyani on Ramazan, kavum and kokis on Avurudhu, sweets on Diwali, gifts on Christmas.To be able to fight alongside each other as opposed to against one another. To be Sinha-la is really, to be lucky.

For as long as I can remember we have been the one people to reciprocate such kindness. To have grown up in such an ethnically diverse environment, with people from all religions, creeds, to play on the same team, study in the same classroom, attend the same parties. We are known to disregard the irrelevant- so why is it that now, after centuries of harmony, we focus so much on these irrelevant, inane things? That we isolate those that are different to us? But then again, are we all that different? We all have the same blood- human blood coursing through our veins, and as much as you’d like to believe that yours is superior to anyone’s, science begs to differ.

I believe such hatred stems from the elimination of a common enemy, the lack of negative cohesion. When the LTTE were still a threat we all stood united, against them, and now there’s no one left to fight so we fight one another? What we fail to realise is that there is still a war. A new war of, the kind versus the unkind, the Sri Lankan versus the alleged Sri Lankan.

We have a responsibility to our nation, to our blood, to stand tall and strong against this hatred. To join forces in this war and fight. Not with arms and bloodshed, but with kindness, acceptance, preaching words of peace- to be real soldiers- Sinha-la soldiers, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher- Sri Lankan soldiers. whether you wear a kurtha, a burka, a saree, a pair of jeans, a sarong, is all insignificant, all that matters is the purity in your heart, the true Sri Lankan in your heart. 

If someone of a different religion or creed has hurt/offended/lied/cheated you, remember there are people of your religion or ethnicity that have done the same. And remember that there are hundreds of people of that same creed that have shown you nothing but kindness, that you have had an awesome time with, a good laugh with, has given you good advice, wished you luck, helped you…

So to be Sinhala is the same as it is to be Sri Lankan- to be kind, compassionate, loving, understanding, fun-loving, respectful, respectable.

So here’s a message to all my Muslim/Tamil/Burgher/Foreign friends, the stickers you see slapped across vehicles and walls, that’s not us. Us Sinhalese are more than happy to have you here, we’re glad you’re in our lives, adding to the beauty of not mine, but our island nation. We appreciate all that you have done for our country and all the tolerance and kindness you have endlessly shown. We are grateful.

.    .    .

To be Sinha-la is not to be racist. To be Sri Lankan is not to be racist.

It is to be..

Sarah Ozman. Sri Lankan Burgher.

| Peaceful.

Revon Daniels. Sri Lankan Burgher. 

| Compassionate.

Kushali Fernando. Sri Lankan Sinhalese.

| Accepting of everyone. 

Tamara Penfold. Sri Lankan-British 

| Welcoming. 

Minella Karunanayake. Sri Lankan Sinhalese

Fun and loving. 

Sivagami Deivanyagam. Sri Lankan Tamil.

Courageous and proud. 

Joy Thivianandan. Sri Lankan Tamil. 

Passionate in all we do. 

Ranali Perera. Sri Lankan Sinhalese. 


Thilan Fernando. Sri Lankan Sinhalese.


Shehaan Johaar. Sri Lankan Muslim. 


Udani Mahamithawa. Sri Lankan Sinhalese.

Friendly, even to strangers. 

Sandali Weerasinghe. Sri Lankan Sinhalese. 

Generous- Sri Lankans have a heart like no other. 

Banura Buddhadasa. 16. Sri Lankan Sinhalese. 

Love and be harmonious.

Shanilie Ranatunga. Sri Lankan Sinhalese.

Patriotic and united as one.

Sri Lankan love doesn’t discriminate. ❤

Sinha-la blood doesn’t hate. ❤

So tell us, by commenting below, what you think it is to be Sri Lankan!


  1. While, I do agree with the values that you advocate in the latter part of this article, I think this article looks down on people who are expressing their racial/cultural identity and unecessaryily harassessing them. While, I do concede that some people who use these stickers may have ulterior racist motives, it is a stretch to claim that everyone who does are ultra nationalist racists. It does not help that you attack their level of education by claiming them to be “dimwitted” from your privileged access to education. This either or proposition is at best childish. Why do we have to choose between our sinhala identity and peace. Why cant we just stop looking at the sticker so negatively and reframe it as a people valuing their history while simultaneously enriching our multi cultral society and harmoniously existing with others.

    A second criticism that I think should be stated is the attempt to separate religous identity from culture. Religion forms an important subset of culture anthropologically. In fact through relgious artifacts such as religious schools and folk tales, many Sri Lankans have learnt their values and beliefs. Blantantly disregarding this cultural identity is counter productive. Instead, look to our cultural identities for the values you advocate. Empathy is a principle tenant of the Theravada Buddhism prevalent in Sri Lanka. Why not utilize the status quo which is the Sinhala Buddhist majority to direct people to the goodness in their own identites rather than adopting western liberal ideals.
    On a final point, I suggest that the article stays concrete in the points made. Using your moral high ground to attack cultral practices and the way of life of the average Sri Lankan such as” not interacting with the opposite sex”, “Worshipping elders” and “modesty”, is cowardly at best. You can practice your liberalism but if people choose to stay true to their cultural values when they are not harming anyone else, who are you to judge?

  2. (Read to the end)
    First, I am not sure why this article composed with so complex structural English. Either it could be result of the author being born in English background where this is the best way he could express; or purposely made it complex to support the idea of internationalization. (Certainly this does not discuss about being proper ‘Sri Lankan’). But your targeting audience is Sinhala spoken people who very little percentage has English literacy.

    Secondly, Sinhalese are the only race who think, talking or naming their race as racism. This author may not know that our country was called as ‘Sinha-le’ before the ‘Sudda’ s arrival. In this ‘Sinha-le’ there were Tamils, there were Muslims (who were attacked by ‘Sudda’ in southern coast and made them secured in eastern coast by ‘Sinha-le’ King.)
    Thirdly, why you are not talking about the Tamil and Muslim racism, which publicly present with their demand for separate country. Why don’t you discuss the Jihad activities of Muslims in country? You all try to put those activities into “fair demands of minorities” while displaying label is “racism” of Sinhalese.
    Finally, These nice kids displaying some fancy words seems to be SL kids who lives in other countries. Being minority we silently adopt to their culture with no argument, like kids above. But on the other hand we talk to change our culture. We had a greatest culture that was clearly aligned with our great religion Buddhism. In Sinha-le culture, any other religion or race is safe unless they did not try to destroy ours. Just imagine, if SL was a Muslim country, how could be the situation of Buddhists? How may Tamils lived in Colombo without any harm, during the war, but were there ANY Sihnalese in Jaffna? Who is the racist? Still Sinhalese ?
    There are lot of things to say but it would not fit to a ‘comment’. Simply Sinhalese are NOT racists.

    Good thing about this article is you have discussed how our significant cultural celebrations are fading out, like Poya.

  3. Dear Prabath Pathirana

    You say:

    “Thirdly, why you are not talking about the Tamil and Muslim racism, which publicly present with their demand for separate country. ”

    The Para -8.150 of the LLRC Report says:

    “The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.

    The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    Please verify it through

  4. Sihala or Sihale is a Country Sinhalese is a language and is a race- to Japan is a country speaks Japanese , Malaya is a country speaks Malay, France is a country speaks french , Germany is a country speaks German, England is a country speaks English. Tamil Nadu is a State speaks Tamil.

  5. One simple answer to your entire question.
    Could you please tell me what is “Special Unfairness” suffered by Tamils in North because of they are being Tamils, other than the suffers caused by the war started by LTTE. Can you tell any point that is not common to Sinhalese?

    (I had asked this from my all Tamil friends came from Jaffna Mullative including my Uni batch mates, but no one could come up with single point.)

    Further …
    My friend if you were in SL, during war time do you know how many Tamils from North lived in South without any hassle? Can you tell me any Sinhalese lived in Jaffna? (certainly other than army) Is that because Sinhalese are racist? I know either many Tamils are not. Even you might not. But my whole idea of the previous comment was Sinhalese are not at all racist by heart, but foolish Sinhalese try to define the fact that being proud about the race as racism. In past three decades, the Tamils of SL were trapped by their Tamil politicians by showing a ghost of Sinhalese racism.

  6. This is a thought provoking article on how a Sri Lankan should be. Thank you.

  7. Well, your talking about War started by Tamil.
    But not why did the Tamil start the war. The Root answer for this question is the topic to this article.