Yaka and the Definition


‘Yaka’ is misunderstood, has multiple meanings, and refers to “a collective and a history, a way of life and a disavowal, a vilifying term and one embraced with pride!

An avid reader of Yakhanda, a bikini gusset designer from an English settler colony off Antarctica, cries:

“The concept of Yaksha needs definition. Yaksha are crucial. They are also Caliban, Othello, Tupac Amaru, Malcolm X, Ravana, Trickster, Monkey King Sun Wukong, and the revolutionary Aurobindho Ghose. The world is full of hidden Yaksha. We must bring them to light – a Yaksha network! Else ALL our life and work will be forgotten and youth will then stumble around truly bereft of traditional wisdom.”

Yakhanda gives voice to the Yaksha, yet we must confess we know but a handha! – a loving spoonful. 

Our neighbour calls the Yaksha, “the adhivasi of the adhivasi, the indigenous of the indigenous.”

My cousin, a PhD in English as a Sycophantic Language (ESL), defines any so-and-so gentleman as “not a Yako.” 

I told him: Yako are cool. Kalusuddho (whitened blacks) are way more ignorant than even suddhas. 

Kalusuddho (Importus Rilavensis Colombensis aka Kolombians aka Angoda Saxons), our united ‘multiethnic’ merchant party, are more like the “Yahoos” Gulliver met: obsessed with “pretty stones.”

Yahoo personifies the merchant capitalists, Gulliver‘s Irish author Jonathan Swift, endured in England: “The Yahoos appear to be the most unteachable of all animals….cunning, malicious, treacherous, and revengeful… Strong and hardy, but of a cowardly spirit, and, by consequence, insolent, abject, and cruel.” 

A bleached Yahoo, however, is now a search engine on NATO’s internet. Not Yako.

Ms. Understood

‘Yaka’ is misunderstood, has multiple meanings, and refers to “a collective and a history, a way of life and a disavowal, a vilifying term and one embraced with pride!”  The Yaksha, Naga, Raksha and Deva make up the  ‘Sihala’ or ‘Siv-hela’ or ‘the 4 helas,’ – giving rise to the land of ‘Sinhale’ and its later twist to ‘Ceylon.’ (After some Euros, ‘disoriental’ from being salted at sea for too long, spied a land luscious, calling it  ‘Sea Land.’ Going further, they saw another, and called it New Zealand! 🙂

Many are the tales about Yaka. Using the African Ptolemy’s ancient world map: Yaksha, who developed the hydraulic technology of our famed irrigation, are linked to the Iranians! Ptolemy calls the Mahaveli – Phasis Fluvius, the Persian River. Ptolemy notes Chinese merchants had warehouses at by the river Krishna in India. The snake-worshipping Naga, claimed as Ethiopians, presumably settled Eastern Ruhuna – tagged Nagadipa by Ptolemy. Herodotus says Naga also settled on the eastern Indus in India. 

Anti-colonial author Kumaratunga Munidasa writes, some Yaksha (such as Chitraraja and Kaladevala) mixed with migrants from India, from about 3,500 years ago, and began to form the nation of Sinhale during Pandukabhaya’s reign in 377 BC. Some Yaksha (such as Jayasena of Ritigala) fought the Sinhala, later allying with them. The deity Upulvan calls some Yaksha as evil spirits. Yet people view tragic heroine Kuveni not as evil but as a human who belonged to the Yaksha. 

The Lankika take on Yaksha is much more nuanced than the English aspersion of Yaka as “devils.” 

Two can play this devil card. In southern China, the old label for imperialists is ‘vuk gui’ – white devils. Indians (used by the English as soldiers to invade China) were classified ‘Red-haired Devils No. 3!’  

Malcolm X, African-American prophet, at first described white people as “Blue-eyed Devils,” genetically engineered from rats in a lab experiment, until he went to Mecca. Demonized and then assassinated by the US state, Malcolm X reminds us: “If you aren’t careful, the media will having you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Cunning Linguistics

The Yaksha Anti-Defamation League (YADL) was formed after the (in)greasy Yaka fiasco, to drive home that Yaksha is not that Euromanic hallucination of devils, demons, demimondes and pervs, etc. Yaksha may be that and more. For Yaksha can be both cause and cure. 

Yaka does not go from village to village, like salesmen of corporate pharma, first spreading diseases via televised toxic lifestyles, and then pushing drugs. Yaka is more an immunization booster: We expose you to a sprig of the truth to make you see beyond their crippling lies.

Yet it’s not only the Yako who endured English calumny. The US slave master’s trope “lazy,” for instance, is applied to the Sinhalas. It is a  word used to chastize the resistance of the original ‘Red’ Americans and the Africans enslaved, for not accepting slavery under the US plantation system. Tamils were also ‘lazy,’ in South India if they opposed English recruitment into slavery. Yessing the white man’s project across the Puvak Straits seemed to wash away the slight of sloth, but not always.  

We have a multiplicity of tags and nicknames for each other, not always accurate or just.  Yet none remains more endearingly enduring or evocatively nuanced than Yako!

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