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R A L H Gunawardana: His Life and Work

A tribute to the life and work of Leslie Gunawardana, the Sri Lankan historian, who oversaw a paradigm shift in ancient history of Sri Lanka.

Leslie Gunawardana, the eminent Sri Lankan historian died on 16 November. He had been ill for a long period and was undergoing daily dialysis and all of us knew, as indeed he did, that he would not last very long. Even though his death was expected, it is always sad to lose a friend who till the very end of his days continued his scholarly work unabated. Also unabated was his passionate commitment to social justice and the ills of ethnic discrimination that he critiqued in his writing. Although he was vice chancellor of the University of Peradeniya and for sometime a minister for science and technology, he was not a public speaker offering platitudes but someone who expressed his social and political concerns through his scholarly writing. That writing, an enduring monument to his memory, is extensive in length and wide in scope and contains over a 100 scholarly articles and books both in English and in Sinhala. They deal with Sri Lanka’s ancient and medieval past and the relevance of that past towards understanding the present. Let me present a few of the themes that animate his writing.

On Buddhist Monasticism

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