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Reading: Farming Songs from the Poet King: Translation and Explication of a Sinhala Janakavi Work

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Farming Songs from the Poet King: Translation and Explication of a Sinhala Janakavi Work

Author:

Alexander Mckinley

Graduate Program in Religion, Duke University, US
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Abstract

This article presents a translation of a Sinhala janakavi (“folk-poetry”) work called Laṅkā Vistaraya, or “Lanka Description.” An example of agricultural verse, Laṅkā Vistaraya depicted early-modern Sri Lankan farming as a communal event. During planting and harvesting seasons, the large amount of labor necessitated inter-village cooperation, and Laṅkā Vistaraya not only narrated this activity, but was perhaps the type of song sung to welcome visiting workers about to reap rice paddy. To this end, the second half of the poem was organized around a symbol standing for all of Lanka—Samanala Mountain (a.k.a. Adam’s Peak), a pilgrimage site and highpoint in the island’s watershed. These verses praised the riverine riches flowing off the mountain, touching all quarters of the island. Since the Samanala portion of Laṅkā Vistaraya is extant in two editions, a synoptic translation style is used to present both versions at once, highlighting the fluidity of composition and collectivity of authorship that characterize janakavi.

How to Cite: Mckinley, A., 2018. Farming Songs from the Poet King: Translation and Explication of a Sinhala Janakavi Work. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 41(1-2), pp.64–117. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v41i1-2.7245
Published on 15 Mar 2018.
Peer Reviewed

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