If there’s a document that explains Sri Lanka today, it’s not the Constitution, it’s the Mahavamsa. Perhaps the chronicle of this era will be called the Chootivamsa.
The Rajapaksa dynasty emerged in the 21st century, unifying the island of Lanka.
Competing noble families ended with weak female or homosexual heirs while the Rajapaksas produced three strong brothers. They seized control of the country and defeated northern rebels who had foolishly angered the Indian dynasty that once occupied the island. The southern Rajapaksa family produced two generations of plentiful male heirs. They held the title of ‘President’, roughly equivalent to king.
This saw the resumption of ancient history, briefly interrupted. This history began with the Mahavamsa in 500 BC, the Culavamsa in 500 AD and the Chootivamsa in 2000 AD. Barring a 500 year colonial interruption, this history of Lanka has thus been rewritten every thousand years, including right now.
Indian invasion has been constant in this history. In the Chootivamsa, internal rebellion was fomented by the Indian Nehru dynasty until that ended with the death of their last male heir. The regency of an Italian female provided a respite during which Mahinda Rajapaksa took power. The power of the South Indian kingdom was contained within a Northern dominated Indian Empire. Left with only internal rebellion, Mahinda and his brothers conquered those rebels with support from the Chinese Empire.
In 1435 the Chinese Ming Dynasty burnt all its shipyards and retreated inward, beginning the inevitable colonial interruption. After experiencing a brief, violent paroxysm (like India and Lanka) China resumed stable dynastic rule around 2000 AD. They supported Mahinda with weapons and funds while the Indian regent remained on the sidelines.
Lanka then emerged as a stable kingdom balanced between the powerful empires in India and China, all of which emerged out of their colonial interruptions around the same time. South Asia resumed the broader strokes of history after 500 years in the European history books. All retained European technology, including elements of democracy.
The dramatic structure of the Mahavamsa, however, continued as if it had never stopped. The King remained all powerful, though in this case he was called the President. Mahinda V lost the stable Anuradhapura kingdom around 1000 AD and Mahinda won the stable Sri Lankan state around 2000 AD.
Power resumed its family/caste structure and male heirs remained vitally important. Mahinda V became Mahinda. Andaré (the jester) became Mervyn Silva. Feudal lords became ministers. Ministers gave tribute in the form of votes. While the language of democracy remained, much was lost in translation. This kingdom was for all intents Sinhala though Tamil and Muslim ministers received similar resources.
The era from 2000-3000 AD was effectively the age of hybrid democracies, more Singapore than Classical Athens (500 BC). These stable authoritarian states retained the technology of democracy but less of its spirit. They were, however, deeply integrated into global finance. This technology provided predictable checks and balances without threatening older dynastic trends. This global order — including media and technology — provided rising standards of living for all. Beneath the personal technology, however, was an ancient social order.
Rulers were not necessarily dynastic, but they usually were. This is dynastic in the sense of stable, internal transfers of power. Private property was less powerful than intellectual property, enabling party-based dynasty. While party brands were strong, family brands were often stronger. Under more and more technocratic rule, India effectively became a constitutional monarchy headed by the Nehru family, like the United Kingdom. A vital democracy brewed within its constituent states. Chinese communist rulers became a third and fourth generation elite.
In Lanka, Mahinda VI had enough male heirs to produce two generations of stable prosperity. Situated on the titanic fault line between India and China, however, things eventually began to move.