Artist Dhammika Ravindra has shown a great love for King Ravana. He believes this is the right time to talk and even do paintings about this historic figure, who is said to have lived in Sri Lanka about 6,000 years ago.
When the government’s war against the separatist terrorists concluded in 2009, Dhammika observed that Sri Lankans were emotional and wanted to dig into their past in search of their roots.
The Sri Lankans spoke of two figures after the war concluded. They were President Mahinda Rajapaksa and King Dutugemunu. According to Dhammika, Sri Lankans can see the depth of their history with regard to the subject of war through these two characters. “But if you want to see our heritage, then you need to study Ravana,” said Dhammika who lives and works in Pannala.
Dhammika has done many paintings on Ravana and did his maiden exhibition in 2009 in Colombo. Like all responsible artists, he gathered information from authorities on the subject like Professor Mirando Obeysekera, Manave Thera of Anuradhapura and even studied paintings of Thivanka Pilimageya and Vessagiriya to help draw this historic figure. But he also used ‘the artist’s imagination’.
“Ravana used the bow and arrow and went by foot so I drew strong arms and legs,” said Dhammika. He shows great affection for this historic person and portrays Ravana as a hero and not as a villain as depicted in Ramayana, one of the Hindu scriptures.
“All I wanted to do through my paintings was to place King Ravana in the history of Sri Lanka. I have not done enough research about how the battle between Rama and Ravana unfolded,” he said.
Dhammika is an artist, a man with a calm and collected mind who loves peace and not war. He imagined the bow and arrow in Ravana’s hand and the Dandumonara (The aircraft) the priest king used during his travels. “I think the Dandumonara would have been a light flying machine and would have been flown by providing air to it. Who knows, maybe the flying machine is still hidden in some cave in Sri Lanka or it could have been destroyed by the enemy. My focus has been only on drawing the aircraft and not the aircraft being used in a war,” he reflected.
Dhammika spoke about Rama being worshipped as a deity in Thailand. When thinking about the fact that Ravana kidnapped Sita and used weapons in war, room is left for people to compare these two personalities and figure out who the hero and who the villain was. “But Ravana never imposed his sexual will over Seetha. This shows his kingly qualities,” he said.
When he had his exhibition in 2009, about 1,500 to 2,000 guests witnessed his creations. A good number of his paintings were sold. “There is this habit among Sri Lankans to hang paintings of historic figures of their choice, like Ravana, in their homes. People feel proud when they do this,” he explained.
Through his research he has found that King Ravana made his presence felt in places like Lakegala, Wariyapola, Mirigama, Nuwara Eliya, Seegiriya and Matara. Historic research done by Catholic Priest Francisco Nigaro in the 17th Century reveals that King Ravana placed Lakegala as 0 latitude and made calculations about the world going up to 360. History also revealed that King Ravana specialized in the use of mercury, astrology, medicine, archery, combat and music among other knowledge.
Dhammika is often puzzled when archaeologist unearth caves which relate to the period of Ravana , but the findings aren’t made public. He pops the question whether information gathered from these excavations are kept secret because, if it is shared with the masses it would create a massive patriotic upwelling of emotions which might get out of hand.
Dhammika plans to conduct another exhibition of drawings on Ravana in March next year. He will use the same title as in the past ‘Ravindu Ravana’ for the upcoming exhibition. Artists like Dhammika put all these efforts using brush and ink because the mode of art affords people the opportunity to take a peep into our history. Through his brush strokes we can see a legend dear to us come alive.