Bernard VanCuylenburg


by Bernard VanCuylenburg

“Not to know what happened before we were born ” wrote the Roman poet Cicero, (106 – 43 BC.) “is to remain perpetually a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history ?” Thus in my writings I have endeavoured to peel back the layers of time to give an honoured place to ancient Lanka which emphasizes so greatly the importance of  her history and traditions which have left a deep footprint on the worlds stage.

An alternate title I had in mind for this article was A DAY IN THE YEAR 478 AD.  It was a day which saw tremendous political upheaval and instability in the land, and the end of a dynasty. Before I get into the detail of this article, a flashback to the year 478 AD in other parts of the world, may  provide an interesting timeline to events of the period  although they have no direct  impact on the drama being enacted in ancient Lanka  that year. In the far east, the year 478 AD signalled the end of the Song dynasty in China and heralded the ascendancy of the Qi dynasty. In neighbouring India just one year before, the Gupta Empire held sway and King Budhagupta ruled the land. Two years before, in 476 AD the mighty Roman  empire collapsed , with the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustus  suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Odovacar the Goth.  Distant England was ruled by the  Anglo-Saxons except for Cornwall and Cumberland. In the Vatican in Rome, Pope Simplicius sat on the throne of St.Peter.  And in Lanka  that year, one of the greatest kings that ever sat on a throne was usurped in a palace coup and was to endure a sudden fall from grace and suffer the most barbaric death ever conceived by the human mind.  History is replete with numerous examples of kings and rulers being put to death by the most gruesome means even before Emperor Julius Caesar’s assassination, and right down the ages. In keeping with the subject of this story, I wish to cite three examples which come to mind.

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The Sigiriya Sagas by Bernard VanCuylenburg


Intro to the “Sigiriya-Sagas by Des Kelly

For any Lankan/Australian, in fact, for any Lankan, period, who has not visited this “Rock-Fortress”, in our Country, let me just say that you have missed seeing only ONE of Sri Lankas multitude of historical wonders. At the same time, I hasten to add that you have possibly missed the BEST. I can say, that from personal experience, I have not only visited the site, but climbed “our answer to “Ayers Rock” in Australia”, which is many times larger, broader & longer than Sigiriya, and “Uluru”is also well-known as a “sacred-site”to the Aborigines/First Australians, after “Mungo-Man”,(an entirely different story),so let us now stick to our “Lion-Rock”. Yes, folks, I did “climb” Sigiriya”, once, in the company of the most beautiful girl in Ceylon, at the time, whose name was Maureen Hingert, or Neliya, my first “puppy-love”. We climbed this Monolith together, through the huge set of “Lion-paws”which made the entrance, past the area with all the “fresco-paintings”of the half-naked Sinhalese maidens, higher & higher on a steep, narrow, rather dangerous climb (at the time), until we reached the zenith, to marvel at the sight of what must have been King Kasyapa’s “Mansion in the sky”, then walk around it,  to the very edge of “the Rock” to gaze in awe, at the surrounding Countryside, at least six shades of verdant “green” all around us. It was good to be alive, good to be in such a beautiful Country, good to be “in love” & good to be on top of Sigiriya Mountain.

     I need say no more, but leave it to my good friend & Co-writer for eLanka, Bernard VanCuylenberg to bring to our many thousands of “on-line” readers, a fascinating “history lesson” on “SIGIRIYA”. What this guy does not know, on the subjects he writes about, is not worth knowing. We are proud to have him on our eLanka team. Desmond Kelly.

The Sigiriya Sagas by Bernard VanCuylenburg


Scholars and students of  history and the academic world in general owe a debt of gratitude to the late great Professor Senerat Paranavitane for his epic tome, “The Story of Sigiriya”. Had he not undertaken this colossal task in a literary sense, the story of Sigiriya and the absorbing detail in which the drama of Sigiriya was enacted would have been lost to posterity. The chronicler who wrote the story of Sigiriya in the Culavamsa has barely scratched the surface. In fact, in the great chronicle, the entire story ends with two chapters !  

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by Bernard VanCuylenburg.

Source: By Kalpabas at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

My Dad was on Carolina Group, Watawala for 28 years, and before he retired, he planted in Bandarawela for four years. Carolina was a huge estate of 2330 acres. By a topographical twist of fate, the railway line from Colombo to Badulla ran  through one of the divisions of Carolina Group called Mt.Jean. In fact  the Watawala  railway station was located on Mt.Jean division, and on land which was owned by the Carolina Tea Company Limited. 

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Dear members & readers of eLanka, I have been extremely fortunate to meet, and, in turn, introduce all of you to Bernard VanCuylenberg, another good Dutch Burgher from Lanka, who, in my opinion, is a “Superb writer of Stories”, in poetic vein, “Bernard Van, is a man, who certainly can”.

There are not too many “writers” who are perfectionists.

Bernard is one of them and his expertise can now be shared by all of us. Every “story” coming in from Bernard will, of course, bear his name, as the writer. We are indeed lucky to have him write for us.  Desmond Kelly.


In contrast to the lyrical title of this article, I am compelled to refer to the writings of Celaleddin Rumi one of  the world’s greatest mystic philosophers who lived in the 13th century, in Turkey. His poetic and religious works mostly in Persian are some of the most beloved and respected in the Islamic world. He wrote “Jars of spring water are not enough. Take us down to the river !” In essence, what he was saying is that if you wish to get to the heart of the matter on any subject, go to the source. Do not be content with heresay or form your opinions and convictions by listening to others.

Growing up in that great educational institution by the river, Saint Anthony’s College in Kandy, my schoolmates and I were exposed to various genres of music   –  classical, pop, church music (particularly if one was a chorister) and oriental. Listening to the music of the day in college or at home during the holidays, and having read about the artistes and singers who influenced our musical tastes, and later played in bands after I left college, I harboured a desire to  – in some future time  –  go to the source where this music had its genesis. In October last year I gave wings to my dreams, literally.

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