In publishing this article, Te Ao Hou does not show its support of the theory here advanced (see note at end of article), but wishes to show appreciation to Mr Bokala-mulla for his expressions of friendship.
Greetings from Lanka (Ceylon)
The caption may, perhaps, be puzzling to the reader of this article and some explanation appears necessary therefore at the outset. As two Colombo Plan students on a study tour in Rotorua, a colleague of mine and I were present at the reception accorded the Maori Affairs Parliamentary Committee at the Tamate Kapua Meeting House the other day. We were of course, not there on official invitation but at the personal invitation of a friend who took part in the concert at this grand function. My colleague and I were complete strangers at this colourful gathering and the only acquaintances were a couple of Maori Welfare Officers. After an eloquent welcome to the Parliamentary group, there came a thunderous roar of greetings from the distinguished guests, who spoke one after another. They made bold claims of their kinship bonds with their brethren in Rotorua in their utterances. There were greetings from Taranaki, Waitaki, Murupara and the distant corners of the South Island. But I wonder if anybody present could ever dream that the two strangers amidst them too had their kinship claims to the Maoris of New Zealand, just as much as any tribal member present. They did not for a moment think that we were so close to them in our blood and in the very origin of our race. We were lost to each other as a race for the last 3,000 years and it was most unfortunate that our cultural ties remained buried and obscure in the misty past. Let me crave your indulgence at this stage to enlighten you on our claims and bring you our greetings from Lanka — the land of the Lion Race.
Origin and Chronology
It is generally accepted that the Maoris are the descendants of a race that came from Asia to the Pacific Islands and from there to New Zealand about 1,000 B.C. India being the cradle of civilisation in the East, there is strong evidence to prove that the Maoris came from India too. Maybe they took thousands of years to complete their so-called ‘Great Migration’. Indian history is written and recorded in rock edicts, in the Vedas and the Epics, and proved in India's recent archaeological excavations. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with the Maori. However, the legends and traditions, the arts and crafts, the beliefs and customs of the Maoris bear a very strong similarity to those of North India. In Lanka too, we have a recorded history of over 2,000 years and the ruined cities of Ceylon with their wealth of historical remains bear testimony to this assertion. A study of contemporary events that took place both in Maoridom and Lanka (Ceylon) will make our similarities very clear.
Hawaiki refers to a far-off land in the west and the historians agree that the low-lying fields of Bengal with the mountainous terrain hinterland is the Hawaiki of the Maori. From about 1,000 to 500 B.C. the mainland of India was full of tribes and tribal strife. There were the Nagas, Yakkas, Arawas, Sooriyas or Sauris, Maullis, Mohanasa, Meena, Kuri and Mauriyas — the Maoris. Also in India there was a tribe called ‘Sinha’, or the Lions, in what was then known as Latarata. The popular place names like Karanasi, Ujjain, Bali, Rangagiri, Ava, Manupoori, Uri and Mandura, all correspond to some place names in Maoridom — viz., Taranaki, Urewera, Pari, Rangiriri, Hawaiki, Manapouri and Uri.
About 1,000 B.C., a General called Chandragupta of the Mauriya dynasty founded the empire of Mauriya in India and
all of India was brought under his rule; furthermore, the great Mauriyan King invaded Burma, Java, Sumatra and the islands in the far east. There were mainly two great ‘migrations’ that took place about 500 B.C. One was the great migration of the brave Mauriyas who were able warriors as well as navigators of the time. The religion at the time was Hinduism in India and the people were just beginning to organise themselves as a more civilised human race. They were mostly farmers and fishermen who possessed crude implements. With their crude implements and a faith associated with dances, songs and chants, the power of the deities (gods) and the dead, the Mauriyas drifted far east, finally to settle in New Zealand, cut off from the mother land. They probably did not take with them the art of writing or any written alphabet so they preserved and passed on their heritage by word of mouth.
Well now, by this time the Sinha tribe of Latarata too launched on their great migration, probably from the Bay of Bengal, and drifted down south until they landed on the coast of Lanka. Both Indian and Ceylon history has it that Prince Vijaya, son of Sinhabahu and Sinhaseevalee of Latarata went on looting and harassing the subjects of his own father and the king then summoned his son and his 500 followers and had their heads half shaven and put them in a canoe to drift and perish at sea as a punishment. Vijaya landed in Lanka with his followers; fought with the native Yakkas living there and then founded the Sinhalese race the island of Lanka, now called Ceylon. Legend has it that any new settlement peopled by sons of Hawaiki (sons of India) was placed under the protectorate of the god Vishnu or Hari. Lanka and Maoridom were both placed under the protection of this god according to some legends. Prior to the landing of Vijaya, the Yakkas and Nagas of Ceylon worshipped the sun and moon, trees and stones and their dead. This was so with the primitive Maori too.
About 240 B.C. the Mauriyas under the leadership of the great emperor Asoka, ushered in what is considered to be the ‘Golden Age’ of Indian civilisation. The Mauriyas, great warriors as they were, fought a thousand battles under Asoka, the great, and at the end the emperor was so filled with profound remorse that he no more wished to extend his empire by Dig-Vijaya or territorial conquest or by the might of the sword. He turned to Dhamma-Vijaya, the conquest by righteousness, and the whole of India including lands overseas, saw a period of prosperity and happiness in this period. The arts and culture flourished and peace and goodwill was even extended beyond man to the beast in that there were laws protecting the animals. He became a Buddhist as by this time Buddhism was at its best in India. This great emperor sent missions overseas to spread the teaching of Buddha and it was his own son, Mahinda Thero, who brought Buddhism to Ceylon during the reign of Devanampiyatissa the Sinhala king who was a bosom friend of the emperor Asoka.
With the introduction of Buddhism to Ceylon the people who were given to other forms of worship and steeped in superstition all became Buddhists and with it came the Great Aryan civilisation of India — Hawaiki — to Ceylon. This great religion has ever since been the biggest religious and cultural force in Lanka. The emperor Asoka's daughter, Sangamitta, later came to Ceylon with the sacred Bo-sapling (Bua trees considered a holy tree) to establish the order of Buddhist nuns (meheisasana) whilst Mahina Thero established the order of Buddhist monks. Thus it would seem
that it is again the Mauriya (Maoris of India) who brought civilisation and culture first to Ceylon. The Maoris of New Zealand left their Hawaiki (India) before Buddhism became the popular religion of India. Lord Buddha himself was a Mauriyan and Ceylon history has a line of kings of Mauriya dynasty.
Legend and Belief
The lay Buddhist in Ceylon had all along been influenced by the Hindu cult and he has faith in the deities of the Hindu pantheon of gods like Vishnu or Hari, Varuna, Yama, Ganesa or Kanesha (the elephant god) and the demon goddess Kali and in the belief that the first god who created the earth was Mnu or Manui. It is surprising that the Maoris too, did worship these very same deities and even today the story of these deities is reflected in their wood-carvings and meeting halls. The three-fingered Kali or the deity with the elephant's trunk are yet found and of special significance is the Maori carved ‘pare’ representing Vishnu and the Gadundas.
In both countries I find some rituals common. We in Ceylon perform a ceremony called ‘kapa’ by fixing a pole in times of drought, crop failure and disease. The Maori too did this and it is again called ‘kapa’. This is done to invoke blessings from the deities and is followed by offerings or sacrifices of meals, etc. The Banyan tree and the Bo-tree are held in high esteem in India and Ceylon and references are found that the Maori too has done this. Although there appears to be no caste system in Maoridom, there is a close semblance of it in the sub-tribal feelings of superiority over other sub-tribes. The word ‘Avichi’ means the hell below, and I read in the book called Who are the Maoris by Newman, that the very same concept of ‘Avichi’ with a scorching fire burning eternally leagues deep down below was a popular belief of the Maoris.
The concept that the superiors came from above and the personification of the sky, moon, sun and earth as deities, is still a living thing in Maoridom. The place given to the ‘cloud’ is significant and those who came from the clouds are called the sons of the cloud — Tama Te Kapua. In Ceylon and India too, the ‘cloud’ was associated with deities and superiority and ‘Megha Varna’. Megha Vana and Megha duta (megha meaning cloud) are significant. In the performance of demonological dances in Bali ceremonies in Ceylon, the marks worn by the dancers are almost the same as those figures of Maori carvings with rolling eyes, protruding tongues and fear-striking appearance. The colours used in these rituals are usually red and yellow in both countries.
Place Names and Words
Both Sinhalese and Maori languages appear to be the derivative of Sanskrit and Pali in India. I came across a host of place names common to Ceylon, India and Maoridom. It is most surprising to find that there are words common both in meaning and sounds in Ceylon and this country. The following will be ample proof:
|Karanasi||Saranath||Taranaki||Name of a place|
|Ujjain||Udeni||Uaine||Name of a place|
|Bali||Bali||Pari||Name of a place|
|Banga||Bangali||Panga||Bengal in India|
|Madura||Madura||Motuora||A place in India|
|Koshala||Kosala||Kohara||A place in India|
|Tapas||Tapas||Tapatapa||Celibacy or meditation|
|Avaha||Avaha||Awahana||Getting a wife|
Society and Customs
The ancient social structure in both countries appears to have been more or less the same. Ariya meant ‘noble’ and instead of the caste system in Ceylon, they had the tribal caste system which meant the same distinction in the social ladder. The family was an extended one, meaning a small blood group with close-knit ties and a law of its own and self-contained. Marriage was endogamous Both countries had a ‘group’ or ‘we’ feeling and did not think in terms of the so-called ‘individual’ or ‘I’. Some of the customs are strikingly similar.
Funeral (Tangi): All relatives were summoned from distant places and there was a great lamenting going on. The dead was either buried or cremated. Ashes or bones were preserved in tombstones built later.
Mana (Mana): This term means social prestige or power in both countries and is pronounced the same way. The kings of old conferred ‘mana’ on persons for bravery or service in the armed forces. A person was considered great who had ‘mana’ and those lower in rank had no access to his personal effects, etc. A district in Ceylon called Hathara Korale has five ‘manas’ conferred by the kings, and chieftains still claim a lot of prestige for having received ‘mana’. It has become synonymous with pride today.
Was (Tapu): This is a belief that some evil will befall a person who does a thing that he is not expected to or entitled to by custom. A person of lower rank wearing a crown or a ceremonial dress worn by kings or nobles is considered an act of this nature. This appears to exist in both countries in their folklore.
‘Pali’ (Utu): This means taking revenge for some injustice done. In Ceylon a king called Gajabahu hears the sad story of how 12,000 people were made captives and taken to India by a king who invaded Ceylon during his father's reign. The king, infuriated by hearing this, marched his mighty army across to India and brought 24,000 prisoners of war to Ceylon. In Maoriland ‘utu’ means much the same. I read in The Decorative Arts of New Zealand by Mr T. Barrow that the Rangatira, Te Rangihaeta of the Ngati Toa tribe had 22 European prisoners slain as ‘utu’, as his beloved wife was killed by the Europeans.
Finally, Newman in his book Who are the Maoris, says, ‘There was a caste in India called Tengalais. These Tengerese people are called Hindus by other writers. Their customs are distinctly Maori and they speak a dialect similar to Maori. With them as with the Maori, the head is sacred. They do not like any one to be higher on a hill than themselves.’ Does this paragraph refer to the Lion Race or Tribe (Sinha) of ancient India, the place of origin of the Sinhalese?
In conclusion may I mention that I do not worry about the exact place of origin of the Maori, be it Bengal of India, a place in Egypt, or South America. The fact still remains that we in Lanka (Ceylon) and you in New Zealand did have much in common in the past as shown by the foregoing facts. We had therefore, a common bond, a common culture before we set out 3,000 years ago in two directions. During the 3,000 years, much happened to erase and obliterate our identity or to alter it to a large extent. This was because the adaptation by both races to a new environment was inevitable in the struggle for survival.
Let us not lean on our past heavily, and, as somebody said, let us keep on making history the way we could. The Colombo Plan can and does not only yield mutual benefits to the participant countries in the economic sphere in aid and exchange of personnel, but in doing so it plays a vital role in bringing people of other races together who find that they have had much in common. This kind of feeling will surely help build up a peaceful international atmosphere for thinking in terms of universal peace and security in the world. May this be food for thought to my readers living today in a world torn to pieces by colour, class, race and religious conflicts.
And I bring you, my Maori brethren, greetings from Lanka — Ceylon.
Asoka Bokalamulla, Probation Officer, Ceylon
(The writer has used for his sources of Polynesian history some of the standard works of past authors. Recent archaeological and other research is beginning to fill
in some of the gaps in our knowledge in a most exciting way. There is growing evidence that the Polynesians may have lived in Fiji as long ago as 3,500 years and that they were there before the Melanesians. All over the South Pacific it is becoming apparent that the Polynesians have been in the area for very much longer than was thought.
The most popular theory amongst present-day scholars is that the Asian homeland of the Polynesians was probably on the South China coast and that they had left there before the first Mongolian people entered the region. So far as Hawaiki is concerned, only the east Polynesians, including the Maoris, refer to this as their homeland. Evidence is accumulating that the original Hawaiki was probably Savai'i, the largest of the Samoan islands. The ancestors of the Maori probably left Samoa over 2,000 years ago and settled in the Marquesas. From thence some moved south to Tahiti and neighbouring islands. Later other groups went to Rarotonga and thence eventually to New Zealand.—Editor.)