Assamese and the Sinhala verbal communication are analogous, and exchange of literature between the two will enrich both the languages, eminent Sinhala language writer Jayaratna Banda Disanayaka, said.
“When I was flying from New Delhi to Guwahati, I heard some people in the flight were speaking Sinhala. But, soon I realized that they were not Sri Lankans, and were Assamese,” Disanayaka said in an exclusive interview with Northeast Now on Saturday.
Disanayaka, who is on his maiden visit to Assam, said, “Both the languages are really very similar because of the same Sanskrit origin. And, some good translation initiative at the primary level is going to be of great interest to the readers of Assam and Sri Lanka.”
“We (India and Sri Lanka) have similar culture and social values because of Buddhism,” the Sri Lankan writer said, adding that the translation works should begin as soon as possible. He inaugurated the 31st Guwahati Book Fair on Friday.
Disanayaka said it is natural for the Sinhala language to be “closer” to Assamese from other Indian languages because it is believed that the Sinhalese are descendants of the settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura (a place somewhere in now Bangladesh) led by Prince Vijaya.
However, scholars who believe the legend of Prince Vijaya to be semi-historical have tried to identify the legendary Sinhapura with several modern places in India.
“We know very little about the folktales and original writings of the people of Assam. It will be great if we can pick up some books for translation,” the Sinhala writer said. He picked up more than a dozen books from the Guwahati Book Fair to get the first hand understanding of the translated works of Assamese literature.
Disanayaka, who also served as the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos between 2007 and 2011, said he would love to come back to Assam again and again to meet more writers to widen his understanding on the region.