Tamils of Sri Lanka: historical roots of Tamil identity

Source: Northeastern Herald
By: Professor S. K. Sitrampalam

The Northeastern Herald will begin serialising this week ‘Tamils of Sri Lanka: The historical roots of Tamil identity,’ by Professor S. K. Sitrampalam, professor of history and dean, faculty of graduate studies, University of Jaffna. It attempts to reconstruct the proto-historic period of Sri Lanka’s history using archaeological evidence.

I

Commenting on the peopling of Sri Lanka, nearly half a century ago Paranavitana,1 the doyen of Sri Lankan archaeology observed that “ the vast majority of the people who to-day speak Sinhalese or Tamil must ultimately be descended from those autochthonous people of whom we know next to nothing.” However archaeological studies during the last few decades have given solid data regarding pre – and proto-historical phases, which paved the way for the dawn of the historical phase. With regard to pre–history although available data show the presence of early man during the Palaeolithic phase around 125,000 B.P, we are on surer grounds regarding the succeeding phase, both archaeologically and anthropologically.

The beginning of this phase is dated to 34,000 B.P. 2 Besides their tool technology, especially the microliths, the physical make up of early man has now been identified as of the Austroloid group, progenitors of present day Veddas, Yakshas of Pali chronicles and speaking a language belonging to the Austric linguistic group. Besides the many cultural borrowings by succeeding people, their language survives in the names of plants, animals and place names. 3 For instance the terms of rivers with endings such as Oya, and Ganga are of Austric origin.

In the absence of tangible evidence for the presence of the Neolithic phase of pre-history, beginnings of the proto-historic phase is assigned to 900B.C., In archaeological label the culture of this phase is named as Megalithic or Iron Age. Megaliths are termed as tombs built with big stones in natural forms or roughly dressed or even a grave marked with a prodigious rude stone or an excavation in soft rocks containing human remains of the dead. Besides graves without any lithic appendage, but by virtue of certain other cultural traits, especially Black and Red ware and iron, commonly found in other types of Megaliths are also classed as Megaliths. Although the main focus of this culture, is Peninsular India, Sri Lanka is its southern most extension. 4 The Megalithic culture itself has four component elements habitations, burials, rice fields and tanks.

Excavations and researches carried out during the last three decades indicated that it was this culture which laid the foundation for the dawn of civilization in the Island. 5 This has been amply demonstrated in a recent article of Suddharshan Seneviratne, 6 where he made the following observations.

“Archaeological investigations at Proto-historic habitations and burial sites indicate that Sri Lanka formed the Southern most sector of the broader, Early Iron Age Peninsular Indian techno-cultural complex. The ecofact and artefact assemblages from these sites in Sri Lanka have established that rice-cultivation, animal domestication, the horse, small scale metallurgical operations involving iron and copper, bead production, village settlements, the Megalithic burial ritual, the ceramic industry involving the production of Black and Red ware and Black ware and post firing graffiti symbols were introduced to Sri Lanka from Peninsular, or especially from South India. This chronological context (largely) obtained in the form of radiometric dates, the techno-cultural elements and their region of origin, does not in any way agree with the descriptions of the peopling of Sri Lanka narrated in the middle historic chronicles of Sri Lanka… These Early Iron Age habitats continued throughout the Proto-historic and Early historic transition, and well into the Early historic period. The association of the earliest Brahmi inscription – bearing cave shelters in and around Proto-historic burial as well as habitation sites indicated the continuation of the descendants of the Proto-historic communities into a new cultural milieu”

The above observations sum up the role played by people of the Megalithic culture in the formation of early Sri Lankan Civilization. Besides archaeological data, genetic studies 7 coupled with other linguistic 8, sociological data such as kinship system, caste system 9 and folk religion 10 of the Sinhalese show that it is no longer possible to assert that authors of the Megalithic culture are the descendants of the Mythical Vijaya from North India.

Credit for the actual colonisation of the Island during the Proto-historic phase around 900 BC lies with the people of Megalithic culture who are none other than speakers of Dravidian Languages as in Peninsular India.

In other words what we hear of Elu or proto-Sinhala or Tamil are offshoots of the Megalithic culture as in the case of Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam emerging from a common cultural base in Peninsular India. In Sri Lanka people of Megalithic culture together with the pre-historic population namely the Austric language speakers developed Sri Lankan civilization. Their exposure to the outside cultural and other influences would have been the contributory factor for the emergence of civilization in Sri Lanka around 250 B.C. Of these, introduction of Buddhism played a vital role in giving a Sinhala identity. As aptly observed by Susantha Goonetileka 11 “Sinhalisation was fundamentally a cultural process associated with Buddhism and that migration even if it did take place was of a minor kind, so as not to have left a significant trace in the Archaeological data or in demographic terms on population.” In short Sinhalization came after and not before Buddhism.

The evolution of group identities and ideologies associated with social groups represents one of the fascinating areas of historical research. It is also important to note that even in European languages the word race dates only from about the Sixteenth century and that biological definition of the term as denoting a group as distinct from other members of the species by specific physiological characteristics, is of more recent origin. Hence terms such as ‘Aryan’, ‘Dravidian’ to denote racial groups is totally unscientific and can be used only in a linguistic context. The form Tamil, which has an affinity to Sinhala Dameda/Dema!a, Pali Dami!a, Sanskrit Dramida or Dravida, 12 is used in the Sangam literature and Tolkapiyam, the earliest extant grammar of the Tamil language in the context of language, people and the land. 13 It occurs almost contemporaneously in literary and epigraphical sources of Sri Lanka as Dami!a and Dameda respectively. 14

Interestingly the geographical proximity of Sri Lanka to Tamilakam is often reflected in references such as ‘opposite coast’, ‘further coast’ found in Sri Lankan Pali chronicles. However, unlike in the case of India, or Thamilakam or in the case of Tamils of Sri Lanka, our Island has a long history of Buddhist historiographical tradition as embodied in the Pali Chronicles, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa and Culavamsa. These being the works of Buddhist monks naturally enough, were permeated by a strong religious bias, encrusted with miracle and invention. The central theme was the historic role of the Island as a bulwark of the Buddhist Civilization. The reference to Tamils occur in instances where their presence affected the fortunes of the Sinhalese Kingdom. Thus they are depicted not only as people of ‘false faith’ but also as aliens, invaders, usurpers and adventurers. Unfortunately we have no sufficient data from the Sri Lankan Tamil chronicles which are datable to medieval times regarding the early Tamil settlements. Tantalisingly enough Tamil works of South India have no notable allusions to the activities of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

II

The earliest reference to Tamil presence in Pali chronicles is narrated in relation to the capture of political power in the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom by the Dami!as. These chronicles mention only the number of years they have ruled from Anuradhapura, the whole of the Island. In dealing with Tamil rule, one could see at least two views of the Pali chroniclers, namely of the Dipavamsa 15 and Mahavamsa 16 written in the Fourth and Sixth centuries A.D respectively. Dipavamsa refers to them without the slightest indication that their rule was unwelcome.

In dealing with the same events, the Mahavamsa demonstrates a major change of attitude. Here Buddhist ideology is stronger and importantly, it is tied up with racial prejudice. Tamil rule of the Pre-Christian period is viewed as a completely alien factor in the politics of Sri Lanka. Sena and Guttaka are said to have been sons of a mariner trading in horses (assanâvika), emphasizing their foreign origin. 17 As in Dipavamsa, the author of the Mahavamsa while referring to the rule of Sena and Guittaka admitted that they ruled righteously (rajjam dhammçna Kârayum) for twenty two years in the second century B.C. 18 Elara is decribed as a Dami!a who came from the Cola country and ruled for forty four years in Sri Lanka 19 The just and humane nature of Elara’s rule with popular legend is emphasised in the Mahavamsa. Although he was a non Buddhist, he is said to have followed the traditional practice of offering alms to Buddhist monks. He is also credited with repairs of a Buddhist Temple which he had damaged accidentally.

However, the author of Mahavamsa says that Tamils under him desecrated thupas and other places of Buddhist worship. Moreover a sizeable segment of Mahavamsa is devoted to Dutthagamani, who is the hero of the Mahavamsa. Dutthagamani during his campaign in Sri Lanka is said to have fought with Thirty two Tamil Kings. Mahavamsa asserts that Tamils were slain in large numbers. The account of the war is brought to a close with Buddhist Monks consoling the King who felt remorse at so much carnage. Only one and a half human beings have been killed, say the monks, for among them there was only one who had taken refuge in the “Triple Gem” and another who had observed the five precepts. 20 The rest who were non-believers and persons of sinful conduct are likened to beasts. Leaving aside the un-Buddhist nature of this view, here one could see total condemnation of the Tamils.

Thus the Mahavamsa story of Elara – Dutthagamani war makes it fairly clear that this pro – Buddhist, anti – Tamil attitude is super imposed on a situation which did not call for such an attitude. Elara was a patron of Buddhism and was not fighting a Tamil war. Sinhalese generals led his army and so also there were Tamil generals in the army of Dutthagamani. There was also no conceivable difference between troops fighting on the two sides. Dutthagamini’s war was a war of unification twisted to serve an ideology which was perhaps prompted by different circumstances. Moreover Bhalluka is mentioned in the Mahavamsa as a nephew of Elara and landed at Mahatittha with a force of sixty thousand men to help Elara in his battle against Dutthagamani Nevertheless he arrived only on the seventh day after the last rites of Elara were over and Dutthagamani had killed not only Bhalluka but also all his men. 21

Sixty years after Elara there came another invasion in the reign of Vaţţagamani. The Five Tamils rulers who dislodged Vaţţagamani temporarily are referred to as Dami!as who landed at Mahatittha with troops. 22 After dislodging Vattagamani, Tamil rule had lasted for fourteen years and seven months. They are Pulahattha, Bâhiya, Panayamâra, Pilayamâraka and Dâthika (103 –89 B.C). Two Tamils again figure during the rule of queen Anula (48 – 44 B.C) 23 One was Dami!a Vatuka, a foreigner (annâdçsika) who ruled for one year and two months. The other was Dami!a Nilaya, and Mahavamsa calls him as a palace priest ruling for six months only. Thus if we calculate the rule of Tamil kings at Anuradhapura, in terms of years from the reign of Devanampiya Tissa (250 B.C. – 210 B.C.) they have ruled nearly eighty two years, thus making one third of the early historic period ending with the beginning of the Christian Era.

Chulavamsa 24 again mentions Tamil rule in Anuradhapura by the Pandyas for a period of Twenty Seven years. They are Pându (429 – 434 A.D) his son Parinata (434 – 437 A.D) his brother Khudda P~rinda (437 – 452 A.D.) Tiritara (452 A.D.) Dâthiya (452 – 455 AD) and Pithiya (455 A.D.) There is no specific reference in the chronicles either to the faith of these rulers or to the monasteries that benefited by their donations but inscriptions which record these benefactions to Buddhist monasteries afford evidence that they supported the Buddhist religion. 25 They were overthrown by Dhatusena, another hero in the Sinhalese tradition. It was at this time that an anti – Tamil feeling entered Sinhalese nationalism, probably the result of a quarter of a century of Pandyan rule and probably restricted to the clergy. Dissatisfied Princes going to Thamilakam for military support to aspire for Kingship of the Island has also been recorded in Pali chronicles. Before seventh century, only three instances of mercenaries being invited to Sri Lanka are recorded in the chronicles. Each occasion was separated from the other by about two centuries. This practice is first recorded in the reign of Îlanâga (33 – 43 A.D.) who is said to have captured the throne with foreign mercenaries. 26 Two centuries later Abayanaga (231 – 240 A.D brought over Tamil soldiers to fight enemies. 27 Nearly two centuries later Moggallana I (491 – 508 A.D.) returned from India with mercenary troops to capture the throne from his brother Kassapa I. 28

Bibliography (for this excerpt only)

1. Paranavitana,S., 1959. (ed), History of Ceylon, Vol.I, Part I, (Colombo), p.96.

2. Deraniyagala,S.U.,1997. Pre and Proto - historic settlements in Sri Lanka, Economic Review, Oct/Nov. 1997. 3. Paranavitana.S., 1959. Op.cit., Chapters II-IV.

4. Sitrampalam.S.K., 1980. The Megalithic Culture of Sri Lanka, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pune.

5. Sitrampalam,S.K., 1988. ‘Proto-historic Sri Lanka – An interdisciplinary Perspective’, Paper presented at the 11th International Conference of Historians of Asia, (Colombo), Sitrampalam,S.K., 2000. ‘Tamils in Ancient Sri Lanka - A Multi disciplinary Perspective’, Prof.S.Vithiananthan Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Jaffna on 16.0.2000.; Sitrampalam,S.K., 2001. ‘Proto-historic Sri Lanka – A Retrospect’ Proceedings of Jaffna Science Association – Ninth Annual Sessions held on April 4–6, University of Jaffna, Thirunelvely.

6. Seneviratne, Sudharshan, 1996. ‘Peripheral Regions and Marginal communities towards an alternative explanation of early Iron Age material and social formations in Sri Lanka’, Dissent and Ideology, Essays in honour of Romila Thapar, (ed) Champaka Lakshmi .R. and Gopal,S., (Oxford University Press), pp.364-310.

7. Kirk.R..I., 1976. ‘The legend of Prince Vijaya – A study of Sinhalese Origins’ American Journal of Physical Anthropology,. Vol.40, No.1, pp.91 – 99; Papiha,S.S., Mastana,S.S and Jeyasekara.R., 1996. ‘Genetic variation in Sri Lanka’ Human Biology – Vol.68(5) p.735; Saha.N., 1998, ‘Blood Genetic markers in Sri Lankan populations- Reappraisal of the legend of Prince Vijaya’, American Journal of the Physical Anthropology, 76, pp.217-225.

8. Gunawardhana,W.F., 1918. The origin of the Sinhalese language (Colombo).

9. Ryan Bryce, 1953. Caste in Ceylon - the Sinhalese System in Transition (New Jersey) Karunatilaka.P.V.B. 1983 Early Sri Lankan Society – Some reflections on Caste, Social groups and Ranking, The Sri Lanks Journal of Humanities, Vol.IX, Nos. 1&2 1983 (Published in 1986). pp.108-143.

10. Bechert.H., 1973., ‘The Cult of Skandakumara in the Religious history of South India and Ceylon’, Proceedings of the Third International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, Paris (Pondichery), pp.199-206.

11. Goonetillake, Susantha, 1980., ‘Sinhalisation: Migration or Cultural Colonialism’, Lanka Guardian, Vol.3, No.1. May 1, 1980, pp.22-29: Vol.3., No.1 May 15, 1980, pp.18-19.

12.Paranavitana.S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon, Vol.I, Early Brahmi Inscriptions (Colombo), p.LXXXIX-XC.

13. Zvelebil, Kamil, V., 1987, The term Tamil, Journal of the Institute of the Asian Studies, Vol.4< No.2, March 1987, pp.1-10; Joseph.P.M., The word Dravida International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Vol.XVIII, No.2 pp.135-136.

14. Paranavitana.S., 1970. Op.cit.,

15. Dipavamsa, 1957, 1958 (Tr.,& Ed.) Law,B.C., The Ceylon Historical Journal, Vol.VII, July and October 1957 and January and April 1958 Nos. 1-4.

16. Mahavamsa, 1950. (Tr., & Ed), Geiger.W. (Colombo).

17. Mahavamsa., Op.cit., Ch.XXI. v.10-11.

18. Ibid.,Ch.XXI.v.13-14.

19. Ibid.,Ch.XXV. v.75.

20. Ibid., Ch.XXV. vv.109 –111.

21. Ibid., Ch.XXV. v.v.76-80

22. Ibid., Ch. XXXIII., vv.55 -61.

23. Ibid., Ch.XXXIV. vv.18-27.

24. Culvamsa, Vols. I-II 1973 (Tr & Ed) Geiger,W (Lond) Ch. XXXVIII vv ii. 29-34

25. Paranavitana.S., Op.cit. 1959. pp.293-294.

26. Mahavamsa.,Op.cit., Ch.XXXV. v.v.14-45.

27. Ibid., Ch. XXXVI. vv.45 –53.

28. Culavamsa.,Op.cit.Ch.XXXIX, v.v.20-22

(To be continued…)


Tamils of Sri Lanka: Historical roots of Tamil identity

By: Professor S. K. Sittrampalam
 

The Northeastern Herald serialises this week the second excerpt of ‘Tamils of Sri Lanka: The historical roots of Tamil identity,’ by Professor S. K. Sitrampalam, professor of history and dean, faculty of graduate studies, University of Jaffna.

In the previous excerpt Sitrampalam argued that the early peopling of Sri Lanka were by two groups: one an Austric-speaking people, who are referred to as the Yakshas in the Pali chronicles and who are the ancestors of modern-day Veddhas, while the other strand is that of the Dravidian-language speakers who created the Megalithic civilization in southern India. Sri Lanka was the southern-most boundary of the spread of these people whose traces are found from around 900 B.C. on the Island.

While this refutes the Vijaya myth of the north Indian origin of the Sinhalese, he went on to say that unlike in the Dipawansa (4th century A.D.), which does not comment on Tamil rule in Sri Lanka unfavourably, the Mahawansa (6th century A.D.) makes anti-Buddhist references about Tamil rulers, despite instances of their patronising Buddhism or ruling over their subjects righteously. “Thus the Mahavamsa story of Elara – Dutthagamani war makes it fairly clear that this pro–Buddhist, anti–Tamil attitude is superimposed on a situation which did not call for such an attitude,” he says.

III

Erliest epigraphic records namely Brahmi inscriptions dateable from 3 rdCentury B.C numbering more than thousand are scattered in most parts of the Dry Zone and are often quoted as concrete archaeological evidence for the early colonisation of the Island by early Aryan settlers. However the study of these inscriptions during the last few decades had necessitated a revision of this view. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, they are in close proximity to Megalithic cultural sites. Secondly, non-Brahmi symbols found on them offer a close similarity to that of the graffiti marks found in the Megalithic pottery. Thirdly, the study of the paleographical features of the Brahmi script, which is the mother of later Sinhala–Tamil script, exhibit two layers. 29

The earlier layer has forms similar to that of forms of Thamilakam such as a, i, ma, !a, la, l, ra, na which are designated as Tamil–Brahmi. Viewing the peculiarity of these forms in vogue in Thamilakam from those of North India as evident from inscriptions of Asoka, Buhler has classified this as Southern Brahmi. It was named as Dravidi or Tamili. 30 P. E. Fernando 31 while concurring with Buhler and Karunaratne, has argued for an existence of an earlier form of script in both Thamilakam and Sri Lanka before the introduction of North Indian Brahmi probably associated with Buddhism during the middle of the 3 rd century B.C.

Moreover, Fernando while claiming that “the Brahmi script of Thamilakam and Sri Lanka represent the earlier tradition of script said that these records were carved by scribes of one and the same school and if so, it has to be assumed that a school of scribes, differing in several respects from these who carved the inscriptions of Asoka was existing in South India and Sri Lanka and was practising its art in these regions even before the time of Asoka.” With the introduction of North Indian Brahmi forms, early forms were gradually supplanted as Karunaratne has indicated.

Excavations at Anuradhapura and Akurugoda have shown the presence of typical Tamil Brahmi form la which is not found in North Indian Brahmi. 32 So also another form na, peculiar to Tamil–Brahmi has been found at Akurugoda on the coins. 33 These are clear evidences for the presence of Tamil-Brahmi forms before it went out of vogue with the introduction of Northern Brahmi associated with Buddhism. This is clearly seen in palaeographical features where the earlier and later forms continued in usage for some time till earlier forms went out of use by the beginning of the Christian era. Early Dravidian forms too suffered a similar fate as that of early Brahmi characters by losing their identity around this time.

Use of early Brahmi in Northern Sri Lanka is also evident from the presence of Brahmi script on potsherds discovered at various places in the Pűnakari region 34 and Kantarodai. 35 The seal from Anaikkodai, with the title Kôvçta, Kôvçtam, datable to 3 rd century B.C. is again a proof for the use of Brahmi in Northern Sri Lanka. 36 Thus it is evident that the people of both the regions divided by the Palk Straits were in the same cultural zone so much so that they adopted a common script during pre–Buddhist days.

The distribution of Brahmi inscriptions do give a different picture from that of Pali chronicles which speak of a unified Sri Lanka with Anuradhapura as capital for many centuries. However, the find spots of these inscriptions show that there were as much as 269 minor chieftaincies all over the island. 37 Because of the resources Anuradhapura would have pre dominated, as evident from excavations. These chieftaincies remind us of similar state formation in Thamilakam where chiefs or Kurunilamannars ruled over various parts of Thamilakam. This is also further reinforced by the internal evidence of these inscriptions, which mention the role of Parumakaňs, Vç!s, Âys, Gamani and Raja as heads of these chiefdoms. Of these most important is the title Parumaka, which occurs in a quarter of inscriptions which number more than thousand.

Paranavitana 38 while acknowledging them as a class of nobility and pioneers of village settlements all over the Island, concludes that “The foundations of the economic, political, religious and cultural institutions which they laid stood firm for centuries and still remain so for those of the present and future generations to build up.” Sudharshan Seneviratne 39 would associate them with the earliest political elite of the country.

Now coming to the origin of the word Parumaka, Paranavitana 40 and others derived it from the Sanskrit word Pramukha which was adopted in Pali as Pamukho/Pâmokkho and Sinhalese Pamok. A linguistic analysis shows that the above Pali and Sinhala forms are derivations from Sanskrit Pramukha and not Parumaka of the Brahmi inscriptions. Because Sanskrit Pra becomes Par or Para and not Paru in the Prakrit language as in the case of Sanskrit Priya becoming Piya. This only proves that the Sinhalese Pamok and the Pali Pamukho/Pâmukkho are derived from the Sanskrit Pramukha. Hence it is very likely that Parumaka is the derivation of the Dravidian word Parumakan or Perumakan. 41 The antiquity of this term is vouchsafed in the earliest Sangam literature of Thamilakam where it occurs as a title meaning ‘chief,’ a leader. The feminine form Parumakal also occurs in these inscriptions. However, it is noteworthy that this form persists as far as the 10 th century A.D. as Ma Parumaka or Maha Parumaka as the title of the Sinhalese King. Thus the addition of ma to Parumaka again shows that the King himself was originally the primus inter pares among Parumakas.

Presence of the forms Vç!s 42 and Âys 43 is again a pointer to that as in Thamilakam, in Sri Lanka as well, a political hierarchy developed along similar lines. Similarly, as in Thamilakam, one would notice the presence of various clans such as Baratans, Utiyan, Cholas, Tiyan which occur in these inscriptions as Bata/Barata, Uti/Uttiya, Cuda, Tissa respectively. 44

Tamil identity is further evident in the study of place names of these inscriptions. Although many of the original Tamil forms were either Prakritised or got submerged in the development of the proto–Sinhala language, more than fifty percent of these place names in the Brahmi inscriptions point to their Tamil origin. 45 They are ati (place from where one hails), Kuţi (settlements), Kôţţai (fort), Maţai (stream), Pâţi (city/village), tiţţi/ piţţi (raised ground), Kâtu (place), Naţu (city/village), KÔţu (submit), Âvi/Vâvi (place with water resources), kam, kâmam (village), Karai (beach/boundary) kal (rock), kiri (hillock), kuţâ (territory surrounded by sea on three sides), kuďi (pit/water reservoir), vayal (field), maţu (pond), malai (mountain), talai(land/hilly region), toţuv~i (touch/reach), Nakar (town), paţţinam (city), Puram (Metropolis), Pa!!i (Buddhist/Jaina settlement), âr (human–settlement), Kaţavai (path/threshold), Vil (low shaped pond), pay (place), Kulam (tank), Kummi (cluster/heap), Tanai (pastures for cattle), Pukarani (water resources).

The antiquity of the Tamil identity is also borne out by the fact that some words of the Sangam period are still in common use among the peasantry of Jaffna such as aitu, atar, utu, uvan, vantârç, although they have fallen into disuse in Thamilakam. An endearing expression used in addressing a female child as Mahanç (son) which is mentioned in Tolkapiyam, is met with in ordinary usage among the people of Jaffna. 46 A Tamil poet from Sri Lanka is said to have adorned the Tamil Sangam of Madurai. He is Iďaţţupătan Tçvanâr. 47 Seven of his poems are included in the Sangam anthologies such as Akanânurű, Kuruntogai and Naşşinai. He may perhaps have lived in the first century B.C., as he appears to be one of the earlier poets of the Sangam age. 48 It is only in the above context one has to analyse the form ‘Dameda’ occurring in the earliest Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka in five instances dateable to 3 rd /2 nd century. They are two inscriptions from Periyapuliyankulam in the Vavuniya district, one in Seruvavila in the Trincomalee district, one in Kuduvil in the Amparai district and one in the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura in the Anuradhapura district.

When Paranavitana edited these inscriptions there were only four inscriptions mentioning ‘Dameda;’ subsequently one was discovered at Seruvavila. Paranavitana while referring to this form ‘Dameda’ made the following observations: 49

“All these inscriptions are in the old Sinhalese language, the vast majority of the persons who had them indited must have been of the community known as Sinhala.

“ But this name does not occur at all in them, for the good reason that as almost every one in the land was a Sinhalese, it was not sufficiently distinctive to refer to a person by that designation. But where a donor named in an inscription belonged to an ethnic group other than the Sinhalese, we find the ethnic name, associated with his personal name.”

Before going into the arguments of Paranavitana, it is necessary to mention about the inscriptions bearing the form Dameda. A Tamil trader Visakha is mentioned as Dameda Vanijha gapati visâka in the two inscriptions at Periyapuliyankulam. 50 An inscription from Seruvavila 51 mentions a donation of a cave to the Buddhist Sangha jointly by ‘Bata Mahasiva and Gahapati Dameda’. The inscription from Kuduvil, 52 although it is fragmentary yet mentions a cave of a Tamil lady named Tisa (Dameda Tisaya lene) who is said to be the wife of Tamil traders. They are ancient traders of Dighavapi as brought out by the reference as ‘Digavâpi porâna v~ni jhana’. A terrace used by the Tamil trading guild, ‘Dameda gahapatikana Pasade’ is mentioned in the inscription at Anuradhapura. 53 In this inscription names of five traders are also mentioned.In these inscriptions reference to ‘Dameda’ indicate their group consciousness, besides giving their linguistic identity. 54

They have used Prakrit, to inscribe these inscriptions, as Prakrit was the lingua franca of the regions where Buddhism spread. Even in Southern India especially, in Andhra (a Dravidian language speaking region) where Buddhism had its hold Prakrit was the language of the inscriptions. Hence in the light of archaeological evidences, it is no longer valid to argue that the name Simhala does not occur at all in them for the good reason that almost every one in the land was a Sinhalese. The real flaw in Paranavitana’s argument is the identification of the language of the inscriptions, more correctly the language of Buddhism with ancient Sinhala. The study of Brahmi inscriptions shows that monastic language of Prakrit gradually spread to the population over a period of centuries, a process similar to the process of Sanskritisation. 55 In fact, as Siran Deraniyagala 56 says,

“It is probable that elite dominance was the prime factor responsible for the suppression of the earlier base language of Sri Lanka by Prakrit.” Bilingualism is not without parallels and there are cases when the original character of the language had been changed or displaced through contact or bilingualism when the language is supported by political power and religion. 57 At this juncture it is pertinent to quote Geiger 58 who studied the Sinhala language in depth. He has divided its development into three phases.

They are: Sinhalese Prakrit (3 rd century B.C – 4 th century AD), proto–Sinhalese (4 th century AD – 8 th century A.D) Sinhalese proper (after 8 th century A.D). E!u, is the original language from which the later Sinhalese developed. However, data from the Brahmi inscriptions show that the Eďu would have been either old Tamil or a dialect of Tamil. In the light of the evidence from the Brahmi inscriptions it is now evident that the proto–Sinhalese speakers, namely the Eďu speakers came into contact with Prakrit, the language of Buddhism. This process of bilingualism gradually gave way to monolingualism, the development of the Sinhala language by 8 th century AD. This is corroborated by palaeographic features as well as the presence of Dravidian forms in these inscriptions as indicated above.

The above evidences show that the form Sihala/Simhala denoting a particular linguistic group was absent during the time of Brahmi inscriptions. Even in the Pali sources there are no references to ‘Sihala’ denoting either a totemistic group or a clan. Tantalizingly enough, it originally denoted the land and only later a particular linguistic group. Commenting on this form Sihala, G.C. Mendis 59 observed that “Thus it is clear that this name was not in common use in Ceylon either for the Island or for the people even up to the beginning of the Fourth century A.D., when both the chronicles (Dipavamsa & Mahavamsa) end. In fact the name Sihala or Simhala is popular in Ceylon only in later Pali and Sinhalese writings… Simhala was originally the name of the Island and people got their name from it many centuries later.”

Of the Sri Lankan sources, the form Sihala/Simhala appears as the name of the Island for the first time in the Dipavamsa dateable to 4 th Century A.D. 60 Among the earliest epigraphic sources, it appears along with Dami!a as the name of the Island in the Nagarjuni Konda inscription of India dateable to 3 rd Century A.D. 61 Hence the Vijayan myth of Mahavamsa is part of the process of the development of the Sinhala language acquiring a separate identity from that of Tamil language around 6/7th century A.D.

Bibliography (for this excerpt only):

(To be continued…)

Courtesy: Northeastern Herald
 


Colas introduced into Sri Lanka Saivism in its most developed form. The forms of ritual, temple worship and temple organisation in shrines set up in the Island were modelled on those of the Tamil country. With regard to the architecture of Siva Devale II, Paranavitana98 observed that, “Siva Devada II is the only monument at Polonnaruwa constructed entirely of stone and is in a satisfactory state of preservation. It is also the earliest in date of the monuments now preserved at Polonnaruwa and is the representative example of the Dravidian architecture at its best.” The Cola bronzes unearthed from ruins of structures include images of Nataraja, Siva as Somaskanda murti, Siva as Batuka Bhairava Visnu as Bhôgasth~na mărti, statues of Sarasvathi, Lakshmi, Chandrasçkarar, Pârvati, Sikhiv~hana Skanda, Ganesa Balakrishna and Saiva hymnists.

Sivaramamurthy99 citing an example from the jatâs of Nataraja, notes how meticulously artist had followed the ethos of Tçvâram and concluded by saying that “Ceylonese contribution to the study of Nataraja form has in quality far exceeded the quantity obtained by excavation or discovery.” Special significance is the bronze image of dancing Nataraja in Arthan~risvari form discovered at Abhayagiri vihara at Anuradhapura100 and the bronze image of K~raikk~l Ammaiy~r from Polonnaruwa.101 Stone images of Daksin~mărti, Saptam~trk~s, Ganesa, Nandi and Sivlalingas also have been found here.

Cola influence on the coinage of medieval Sri Lanka is considerable. Sinhalese rulers of Polonnaruwa period adopted some features of the Cola administration. Cola influence on kingship and administrative terminology was conspicuous. From the Cola conquest onwards Tamil became the language of official records and it retained that position until the establishment of the colonial rule. Mercenaries such as Vçlaikkârâs also began to play an important role during the time of the Colas, besides the Tamil mercantile communities such as Nanâdçsis, Valańciyar, nakaraththâr and Thicai âyirattu aijnjăttuvar. These mercantile communities participated in the internal and external trade of the Island and set up mercantile towns. 102

The overthrow of the Colas and reassertion of Sinhalese power did not mean the extermination of Tamil influence. Thus K.M.De Silva103 observed that, “the inevitable result of the Cola conquest was the Hindu- Brahmanical and Saiva religious practices, Dravidian Art and Architecture and the Tamil language itself became overwhelmingly powerful in their intrusive impact on the religion and culture of Sri Lanka.”

The increase in numbers of Tamil community, their general affluence and the influential positions they held in the militia and administration made this impossible. Indeed, Sinhalese royalty was intermixed with Tamil blood and Buddhism penetrated by Hindu influence. Parakramabahu I, the great architect of the Sinhalese revival, was a grandson of a Pandyan prince. Tamil and Kalinga queens were numerous and Tamil and Kannada mercenaries were widely used. The enthronement of the Kalinga dynasty was beneficial to the interests of Tamils. They were Hindus and closely connected in India and with the Colas by marriage. Activities of the Kalinga ruler Magha was partly responsible for weakening of Sinhalese power. This indirectly helped the establishment of the Jaffna kingdom.

Now, coming to events in North-Eastern Sri Lanka, they became predominantly Tamil-speaking regions with the withdrawal of Cola power in Sri Lanka. Referring to the areas of Tamilsettlements, Indrapala104 observed that, “Four main areas of settlements could be seen in this period. One is in the north-eastern littoral, another is in the western region or what is now known as the North Western Province and the other two are in the region of the old capital Anuradhapura and the new capital of Polonnaruwa. Tamil settlements appear to have been widespread in the western region and in the north-eastern littoral more than in the other two places.” Finally he added that, “The north-eastern littoral has yielded more Tamil inscriptions and Saiva ruins providing definite evidence of Tamil settlements in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In addition, Tamil chronicles furnish for the first time some information relating to these settlements. The transformation of the present Eastern Province into a Tamil area may well be said to have began in the eleventh century.”

Except for incidental activities of Vijaya Bahu I and Parakramabahu I, northern Sri Lanka was virtually free from any Sinhalese intervention in these regions. However the Magha invasion of Polonnaruwa in 1215 A.D. with 24,000 Tamils, Kerala and Kannada troops hastened the decay of Polonnaruwa kingdom and paved the way for the consolidation of Tamil rule in the North-Eastern provinces.

Disintegration of the Polonnaruwa kingdom during early years of the 13th century led to the rise of two kingdoms, the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna in the north, and the Sinhalese kingdom which embraced the central highlands and the south-western low lands and a number of autonomous or independent chieftaincies known as the Vanni.105 Magha who occupied Polonnaruwa consolidated his power with the support of mercenaries from south India and administered northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka for a period of 40 years (1215-1255 A.D.) The kingdom of Jaffna, which had its origin under Magha, soon came under Javaka rule. Chandrabhanu, an invader from Malaya peninsula, succeeded in gaining a foothold in the north and after the demise of Magha he conquered most of the territories formerly subject to Magha with the support of armies raised from the Tamil kingdom of south India.

The Javaka kingdom, which comprised the Jaffna Peninsula and the lands extending from Mantai to Trincomalee on the mainland, came under the orbit of Pandyan influence. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan under whom Pandya power attained the zenith of its splendour, claimed in the inscriptions issued from his seventh year to have levied a tribute of gems and elephants from the ruler of Sri Lanka - Chandrabhanu.106

Later when Chandrabhanu defied the Pandyas, Virapandya invaded his kingdom, defeated Chandrabhanu and raised his son to the throne. Javaka rule in northern Sri Lanka was of short duration and power soon passed into the hands of the generals and chieftains who came from the Pandya kingdom. This is evident from the recent explorations in northern Sri Lanka. Here many types of coins symbolizing emergence of independent authority have been collected. They have on the obverse the bull on a pedestal in between lamps and the crescent and on the reverse fish in between lamps. Some coins have fish on their obverse as well. 107


 

Tamils of Sri Lanka: historical roots of Tamil identity

By: Professor S. K. Sitrampalam

The Northeastern Herald serialises this week the fourth excerpt of ‘Tamils of Sri Lanka: The historical roots of Tamil identity,’ by Professor S. K. Sitrampalam, professor of history and dean, faculty of graduate studies, University of Jaffna.

In the previous excerpts Sitrampalam argued that the early peopling of Sri Lanka were by two groups: one Austric-speakers, who are referred to as the Yakshas in the Pali chronicles and who are the ancestors of modern-day Veddhas, while the other strand is that of the Dravidian-language speakers who created the Megalithic civilization in southern India. Sri Lanka was the southern-most boundary of the spread of these people whose traces are found from around 900 B.C. on the Island.

Epigraphic records, were erroneously interpreted as evidence of early Aryan writing, but was in fact Tamil-Brahmi, a script, which is the mother of both proto-Sinhala (Elu) and early Tamil. But with north Indian Brahmi (Prakriti) accompanying the introduction of Buddhism to the Island, Tamil-Brahmi was gradually assimilated.

The script and other evidence show that Sri Lanka was not under continuous centralised rule from Anurdhapura as postulated by the Pali chronicles, but that Anurdhapura had to contend with 269 chieftaincies all over the Island, many of which were Tamil.

Increasing trade and other ties between Tamilakham in south India and Sri Lanka around the early years of the Christian era led to larger Tamil settlements on the Island. Tamils eventually developed distinct cultural and social institutions, while also enjoying political authority in the Anuradhapura kingdom. It was during this period Tamils patronised Buddhism.

But the revival of Hinduism in the 5th and 6th centuries, which was championed by the Pandyas, Pallavas and Colas and dynastic instability in Anurdhapura, led to south Indian military interventions in Sri Lanka taking on a distinct ethnic and religious flavour.

The ninth century saw the first attempt by expansionist south Indian kingdoms to bring Sri Lanka under their direct hegemony. Power struggles in south India that followed, into which Sri Lanka was also drawn, ended in Sri Lanka becoming a province of the Cola empire in the 10th century.

This led to even greater cultural, linguistic and religious penetration through south Indian mercenaries, officials and traders who were mostly Hindu and Tamil-speaking. It was this process that began around the 6th century that led to the Mahawansa that was creating through the Vijayan myth a political ideology of the state, to identify Sinhala with Buddhism and presenting the Tamils as opponents of Buddhism. This progressive Sinhalisation was to resist assimilation by south Indian cultures.

Colas introduced into Sri Lanka Saivism in its most developed form. The forms of ritual, temple worship and temple organisation in shrines set up in the Island were modelled on those of the Tamil country. With regard to the architecture of Siva Devale II, Paranavitana98 observed that, “Siva Devada II is the only monument at Polonnaruwa constructed entirely of stone and is in a satisfactory state of preservation. It is also the earliest in date of the monuments now preserved at Polonnaruwa and is the representative example of the Dravidian architecture at its best.” The Cola bronzes unearthed from ruins of structures include images of Nataraja, Siva as Somaskanda murti, Siva as Batuka Bhairava Visnu as Bhôgasth~na mărti, statues of Sarasvathi, Lakshmi, Chandrasçkarar, Pârvati, Sikhiv~hana Skanda, Ganesa Balakrishna and Saiva hymnists.

Sivaramamurthy99 citing an example from the jatâs of Nataraja, notes how meticulously artist had followed the ethos of Tçvâram and concluded by saying that “Ceylonese contribution to the study of Nataraja form has in quality far exceeded the quantity obtained by excavation or discovery.” Special significance is the bronze image of dancing Nataraja in Arthan~risvari form discovered at Abhayagiri vihara at Anuradhapura100 and the bronze image of K~raikk~l Ammaiy~r from Polonnaruwa.101 Stone images of Daksin~mărti, Saptam~trk~s, Ganesa, Nandi and Sivlalingas also have been found here.

Cola influence on the coinage of medieval Sri Lanka is considerable. Sinhalese rulers of Polonnaruwa period adopted some features of the Cola administration. Cola influence on kingship and administrative terminology was conspicuous. From the Cola conquest onwards Tamil became the language of official records and it retained that position until the establishment of the colonial rule. Mercenaries such as Vçlaikkârâs also began to play an important role during the time of the Colas, besides the Tamil mercantile communities such as Nanâdçsis, Valańciyar, nakaraththâr and Thicai âyirattu aijnjăttuvar. These mercantile communities participated in the internal and external trade of the Island and set up mercantile towns. 102

The overthrow of the Colas and reassertion of Sinhalese power did not mean the extermination of Tamil influence. Thus K.M.De Silva103 observed that, “the inevitable result of the Cola conquest was the Hindu- Brahmanical and Saiva religious practices, Dravidian Art and Architecture and the Tamil language itself became overwhelmingly powerful in their intrusive impact on the religion and culture of Sri Lanka.”

The increase in numbers of Tamil community, their general affluence and the influential positions they held in the militia and administration made this impossible. Indeed, Sinhalese royalty was intermixed with Tamil blood and Buddhism penetrated by Hindu influence. Parakramabahu I, the great architect of the Sinhalese revival, was a grandson of a Pandyan prince. Tamil and Kalinga queens were numerous and Tamil and Kannada mercenaries were widely used. The enthronement of the Kalinga dynasty was beneficial to the interests of Tamils. They were Hindus and closely connected in India and with the Colas by marriage. Activities of the Kalinga ruler Magha was partly responsible for weakening of Sinhalese power. This indirectly helped the establishment of the Jaffna kingdom.

Now, coming to events in North-Eastern Sri Lanka, they became predominantly Tamil-speaking regions with the withdrawal of Cola power in Sri Lanka. Referring to the areas of Tamilsettlements, Indrapala104 observed that, “Four main areas of settlements could be seen in this period. One is in the north-eastern littoral, another is in the western region or what is now known as the North Western Province and the other two are in the region of the old capital Anuradhapura and the new capital of Polonnaruwa. Tamil settlements appear to have been widespread in the western region and in the north-eastern littoral more than in the other two places.” Finally he added that, “The north-eastern littoral has yielded more Tamil inscriptions and Saiva ruins providing definite evidence of Tamil settlements in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In addition, Tamil chronicles furnish for the first time some information relating to these settlements. The transformation of the present Eastern Province into a Tamil area may well be said to have began in the eleventh century.”

Except for incidental activities of Vijaya Bahu I and Parakramabahu I, northern Sri Lanka was virtually free from any Sinhalese intervention in these regions. However the Magha invasion of Polonnaruwa in 1215 A.D. with 24,000 Tamils, Kerala and Kannada troops hastened the decay of Polonnaruwa kingdom and paved the way for the consolidation of Tamil rule in the North-Eastern provinces.

Disintegration of the Polonnaruwa kingdom during early years of the 13th century led to the rise of two kingdoms, the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna in the north, and the Sinhalese kingdom which embraced the central highlands and the south-western low lands and a number of autonomous or independent chieftaincies known as the Vanni.105 Magha who occupied Polonnaruwa consolidated his power with the support of mercenaries from south India and administered northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka for a period of 40 years (1215-1255 A.D.) The kingdom of Jaffna, which had its origin under Magha, soon came under Javaka rule. Chandrabhanu, an invader from Malaya peninsula, succeeded in gaining a foothold in the north and after the demise of Magha he conquered most of the territories formerly subject to Magha with the support of armies raised from the Tamil kingdom of south India.

The Javaka kingdom, which comprised the Jaffna Peninsula and the lands extending from Mantai to Trincomalee on the mainland, came under the orbit of Pandyan influence. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan under whom Pandya power attained the zenith of its splendour, claimed in the inscriptions issued from his seventh year to have levied a tribute of gems and elephants from the ruler of Sri Lanka - Chandrabhanu.106

Later when Chandrabhanu defied the Pandyas, Virapandya invaded his kingdom, defeated Chandrabhanu and raised his son to the throne. Javaka rule in northern Sri Lanka was of short duration and power soon passed into the hands of the generals and chieftains who came from the Pandya kingdom. This is evident from the recent explorations in northern Sri Lanka. Here many types of coins symbolizing emergence of independent authority have been collected. They have on the obverse the bull on a pedestal in between lamps and the crescent and on the reverse fish in between lamps. Some coins have fish on their obverse as well. 107

VI

The rise of the imperial Cola line in the last quarter of the 10th century in Thamilakam is another landmark in the history of this country.97 The nature of their invasion was very different from earlier ones. Anuradhapura was sacked and the capital was shifted to Polonnaruwa, which was named as Janan~tha Mangkalam after the epithet of Rajaraja I. The Island became the ninth province of the Cola empire, named as MummudiccÔlamandalam and was ruled by the viceroy who according to epigraphic sources was Cola Ilankçsvaratçvar. Their rule lasted for nearly 70 years. The administration was modelled on the lines of Thamilakam. Tamil inscriptions discovered in various parts of the Island such as Polonnaruwa, Madirigiriya, Padaviya, Trincomalee, Kantalai, Manankeni, Nilâveli, Mântai, Kayts and Jaffna vouchsafe this.

However, the highest concentration of Tamil inscriptions is in the Trincomalee district. This shows that Trincomalee harbour played an important role in the activities of the Colas in Sri Lanka. During the period of the Cola rule Tamil influence on the politics, society and culture of the Island were felt in greater measure than ever before. A large number of officials, soldiers, merchants and artisans came to Sri Lanka. Cola officials and others set up several Hindu temples, which were endowed with revenues and other forms of wealth. Names of a few of these have been preserved in the texts of inscriptions. Râjarâja Isvaram and Thiruvirâ misvaram were the two temples that had come up at Mântai. One of the temples erected by the Colas at Padaviya was Iravikula mânikkâisvaram.

Vânavanmâthçvisvaram, identified as Siva Devale II is the finest and oldest of the surviving Hindu monuments in Sri Lanka. Among the Buddhist institutions in the Island Velham Vihara or Naththanarkovil in the Trincomalee district was supported and maintained by Cola officials and others.

 


Tamils of Sri Lanka: historical roots of Tamil identity

By: Professor S. K. Sitrampalam
 

VII

The withdrawal of Sinhalese power and its push towards the southwest having capitals at Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunagala, Gampola, Kotte and Kandy, the region between the kingdom of Jaffna and power centres of the Sinhalese kingdom led to growth of jungle.

This facilitated the growth of independent chieftaincies known as Vanniyas. Chieftaincies of the Vanni, primarily confined to the dry zone had evolved by the 13th century. These chieftains could be classified into five broad groups, namely: (1) The chieftaincies of Jaffna patnam. (2) The principalities of Trincomalee. (3) The chieftaincies of the Mukkuvars (4) Sinhalese Vanni. (5) The chieftaincies of the Veddas.

The first three of these groups were dominated by Tamil feudal chiefs called Vanniyas. Chieftaincies of the Vanni, which had their origins in the military and the administrative system of the Polonnaruwa rulers, began to play a crucial role in the politics and administrative management of the country since the dissolution of the Polonnaruwa kingdom. During the time of Magha, his allies and supporters secured power in most of these chieftaincies.

The Mukkuvar who served in his armies settled in the eastern and western coastal regions. Military fiefs granted to their leaders became the nucleus of the Mukkuva chieftaincies of Batticaloa and Puttalam. Pandya invasions of the Island during the late 13th century led to fresh migrations from south India and resulted in the conquest of the Vannies of Northern Sri Lanka by military leaders in the service of Ariyaccakkaravarthis

Towards the end of the 13th century, Ariyaccakkaravarthi who belonged to the family of Brahmin generals from Cevvirukkai Nadu in the Pandyan Kingdom became the rulers of the Tamil kingdom in Sri Lanka. His successors asserted their independence and consolidated their power as the Pandyan power declined during the early 14th century. Nallur was the capital of this kingdom.

This was also known as Cingainagar. At the time of their accession they bore consecration names such as Cekaracacekaran and Parar~jasekaran. They had a special emblem Bull ‘couchant.’ The figure of the Bull was designed on the flags and banners. The royal seal consisted of the Bull ‘couchant’ and the expression Cçtu. The legend Cçtu and the figure of the recumbent Bull were embossed on their coins as well. The capital city of Nallur was adorned with royal palaces and temples and is referred to in the Tamil, Sinhalese and Portuguese sources. 108

The Ariyaccakkaravarthis were powerful both in the sea and on land. For, Iban Batuta who visited the Island in 1344 A.D says that he had seen hundreds of ships of the Ariyaccakkaravarthis in the Coromondal coast.109 They controlled the pearl fisheries, and had a sort of monopoly over the foreign trade of their kingdom. As regards the political conditions in the mid-14th century, Sinhalese historical writings assert that in terms of wealth and military power the ruler of Jaffna was the foremost among the rulers of Sri Lanka.

The expansion of power of Jaffna kingdom in the 14th century towards the south is also confirmed by the Kottagama Tamil inscription.110 K. M. de Silva111 has the following comment on this state of affairs. “By the middle of the fourteenth century the Jaffna Kingdom had effective control over the north west coast up to Puttalam. After the invasion in 1353 part of the four Korales came under Tamil rule and thereafter, over the next two decades, they probed into Matale district and naval forces were dispatched to the west coast as far South of Panadura. They seemed poised for the establishment of Tamil supremacy over Sri Lanka and were foiled in this, primarily because they were soon embroiled with the powerful Vijayanagara Empire in a grim struggle for survival against the latter’s expansionist ambitions across the Palks Straits.

Indeed the impact of South India on the Tamil Kingdom of North was not restricted to culture and religion but deeply affected its political evolution as well, for it was drawn irresistibly into the orbit of the dominant South Indian state of the day.”

However, Alakakonara, a great dignitary of Dravidian extraction in the service of the Sinhalese king put an end to this domination. However, this kingdom was subjugated by Parakramabahu VI, in the middle of the 15th century and it came under the sovereignty of Kotte kingdom for a brief period of 17 years (1450 - 1467 A.D.) In the 16th century Cankili (1519-1561) allied himself with Sinhalese rulers in their attempts to resist Portuguese expansion in Sri Lanka. Under his successors the kingdom declined steadily and it became a Portuguese possession in 1619 A.D.

The administration of the kingdom of Jaffna was modelled on the lines of a similar system, which was in vogue in south India. The peninsula was divided into four provinces namelyValikamam, Vatamarâcci,

Tenmarâcci,and Pachilappalli. While the division of Pűnakary, PallavarâyanKattu, Iluppaikkadavai, Mâtoţam and the Island of Mannar came under its direct rule, the Vanniyar chiefs of Panankaman, Mçlpattu, Mulliyavalai, Karunâvalpattu, Karrikkattuműlai and Tennamaravâdi acknowledged the sovereignty of the kings of Jaffna. According to the Vaiyapâdal, the kings of Jaffna had their strongholds at Vâlveţi and Mullia Valai, the core of the Vanni chieftaincies in the mainland. 112 It is very likely that in case of difficulties in the Peninsula these would have been used as a safety valve.

However the Vanniyars and other traditional ranks werein the Peninsula these would have been used as a safety valve. summoned twice a year to Nallur for the ceremony of Varisai. The Vanniyars of Trincomalee were subject to the sovereignty of the rulers of Jaffna until the 16th century. In the subsequent period they came under the influence of Kandy. The Vanniyars of Batticaloa were mostly independent until the establishment of Dutch rule in the eastern coast. The chieftains of Puttalam were theoretically subject to the authority of the Sinhalese rulers.

It was during the period of the Jaffna kingdom perhaps that the Tamils of Jaffna developed their agricultural and trading activities ensuing a steady income for themselves and the state. This solid and stable political and economic structure led them to develop unified social structures and customs as evident from the systems of caste and the traditional law, land customs known as Thesawalamai codified by the Dutch in 1707 A.D. The strength of the Jaffna settlements has been the concentration of population and their density. This has enabled them to develop viable economic relationships among themselves and has encouraged regional specialisation and exchange of commodities and services. Thereby the economy of Jaffna, which was exclusively subsistence agriculture, became diversified and commercialised after the 15th century when Jaffna became incorporated into the expanding Indian Ocean economy. Kings of Jaffna being ardent Saivites patronized both Hinduism and culture. There was a Tamil academy at Nallur.

The political division of the country and the drift of the Sinhalese power towards the south during the middle of the 13th century paved the way for the two distinct systems of administration based on two languages namely Sinhalese and Tamil. Nevertheless, political segregation of the country did not result in total segregation of the two linguistic groups. Tamils continued to live under Sinhalese rule although they did tend to be concentrated in the north and the east for religious and cultural reasons. Besides, Tamil influence on the Sinhalese culture and vice versa from the beginnings of the history of Sri Lanka Tamil, influence was considerable with the occupation of the Island by the Colas. 113

Later developments have been summed up as follows114 “The author of the old commentary of the Sidatsangara, the only extant grammar of the Sinhalese language, says that the interpretation of one of its rules has to be made by the application of the method recognised in the Virasôliyam, a treatise on Tamil grammar which is ascribed to the eleventh century. We find the study of Tamil formed a feature of Pirivena education from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. Sri Rahula of Tôtagamuwa (fifteenth century) was an acknowledged master of the Tamil language. It is mentioned in Dambadeni period that a Sinhalese king included Tamil in the course of studies followed by him. Tamil influence was strong in the court of Parakramabahu VI (1412 - 1468) and later in the court of last four kings of Kandy. There have been instances of Tamil authors who were patronised by the Sinhalese kings. Sarajotimalai, a Tamil work on astrology was composed under the patronage of Parakramabahu IV. In Sinhalese works on astrology and medicine, Tamil influences are most clearly discernible.”

Sandesa literature and the Munneswaran inscriptions of Parakramabahu IV116as well as the Trilingual inscription at Galle117 testify to the role of Tamil in the western littoral.

By: Professor S. K. Sitrampalam
 

Bibliography (this excerpt only)

  • 97. Pathmanathan,S., 1980, Cola Rule in Ceylon (993 -1070), Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, January 1974, Vol - II. (ed), Vithiananthan.S., (Chunnakam), pp.19-35.

  • 98. Paranavitana, S., 1973. “The Art and Architecture of the Polonnaruwa period’, The Ceylon Historical Journal. Vol.IV, p.79.

  • 99. Sivaramamurti.C., 1974, Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature (New Delhi) pp.372-373.

  • 100. Lakdusinghe, Sirinimal ‘ A unique Ardhanari Bronze from Sri Lanka.’ Kalyani, Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Kelaniya, pp.56-60.

  • 101. Polonnaruwa Bronzes,(N.D) Published by Archaeological Department, Colombo.7, p.20.

  • 102. Indrapala.K. 1971, South Indian Mercantile Communities in Ceylon 950-1250., The Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, New Series, Vol.I., No.2 July - Dec.1981, pp.101-113.

  • 103. Silva.K.M.De, Op.cit.p.73.

  • 104. Indrapala,K.1970, Op.cit, pp.55-57.

  • 105. Indrapala.K.1970. ‘The Origin of the Tamil Vanni chieftaincies of Ceylon, The Ceylon Journal of Humanities’ (2) July 1970, pp.111-140.

  • 106. Rasanayagam, S., 1926, Ancient Jaffna (Madras), p.38.

  • 107. Pushparatnam.P.2002. Op.cit.

  • 108. Kailâyamâlai 1939 (ed) Jambulingam Pillai (Madras),Yâlppâna Vaipavamâlai, Op.cit., Kokila Sandesa, 1906 (ed) Perera.P.S. (Colombo), Queyroz Fernaeode, Op.cit.

  • 109. The Rehla of Ibn Battuta, 1953 (Tr & Ed), Husain Mahdi (Lond). pp.211-217.

  • 110. Rasanayagam, S., 1926 Op.cit., p.364. Pathmanathan,S., 1978, The Kingdom of Jaffna, Part I, (circa.1250-1450), (Colombo).

  • 111. Silva, K.M.De., Op.cit.,p.85.

  • 112. Vaiyâpâdal, (1980), (ed) Nadarajah, K. C. (Colombo), v.v.56-57.

  • 113. Vithiananthan, S., 1980. Op. cit.

  • 114. Paranavitana,S. 1959. Op. cit. p.44.

  • 115. Ratnaike. C. N. R., 1945, Glimpses of the Social, Religious, Economic and Political conditions of Ceylon from the Sandesas, M.A., Thesis, (Unpublished), University of Ceylon.

  • 116. Pathmanathan. S., 1974., The Munnesvaran Tamil Inscription., JRAS (C.B) N.S. Vol. XVIII, pp.66-69.

  • 117. Paranavitana,S. 1928-1933, The Tamil Inscription on the Galle Trilingual Slab, Epigraphia Zeylanica, Vol.III, pp.1928-1933.


  • The following is my response to an article written by a Sinhala zealot who attempted to re-write history. His article can be  read at URL https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/he-came-from-kankasanthurai-on-sinhala-hooliganisms-partners-in-crime/

    It is a historical fallacy to claim that S.J.V. Chelvanayakam took the first step towards secession.  It was not the first step, but the last step he took. What Chelvanayakam sought was a federal form of government where the Thamil people will enjoy autonomy in the Northern and Eastern Provinces where they were in a majority. That was not separation, but finding unity in diversity. Almost all countries in the world where the population is heterogeneous the form of government is federal. Example Switzerland is federal, Canada is confederal and India quasi federal. At the time of independence Don Stephen Senanayake took the Thamils down the garden path by giving gave false promises/assurances to the minorities to secure the 3/4th majority required to adopt the draft constitution formulated by the Soulbury Commission.

    Thamil leaders despite ample warning signals (J.R. moved a resolution to declare Sinhala as the only official language in the State council in 1944) fell for the machinations/manipulations of Senanayake. Senanayake gave the solemn promise that “Do you want to be governed from London or do you want as Ceylonese to help govern Ceylon? … On behalf of the Congress and on my behalf I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm need you fear at our hands in a free Lanka.” (Don Stephen Senanayake, Sinhala leader at the State Council of Ceylon (Sri Lanka); November 1945). The gullible Thamil leaders believed Senanayake and voted for the draft constitution not knowing just 3 years later he will disenfranchise a million Thamil inhabitants of the island. It took Chelvanayakam another 22 years to realise that campaigning for a federal constitution is an exercise in futility. After the enactment of the 1972 constitution which ditched even the meagre constitutional safeguard for the minorities guaranteed under Section 29(2) Chelvanayakam decided to vindicate his stand by getting a mandate from his electorate for the rejection of the Constitution. This is the text of the statement which he made on the Floor of this House after he resigned his seat in October 1972.   “I am resigning my seat in this Honourable House. I wish to state my reasons for doing so.  

    The History of the Thamil people in this country since 1948 has been one of deterioration. In the then Parliament of ninety five elected Members there were eight Thamil Members representing the estate Thamil population who are today not there. They have been replaced by Sinhalese Members now in double that number. The eight Thamil Members were there by the grant of the vote of the bulk of the workers on the estates. This was thought to be a just decision on the question of Thamils of Indian Origin by the United Kingdom Government.   As soon as Ceylon became independent the first thing the Sinhalese Government did was to deprive the Thamil worker in the estates of the vote. This was carefully manoeuvred through a citizenship law that deprived them of citizenship and by granting the vote to citizens only. The entire structure on which the Soulbury Constitution was based collapsed. It must be said to the credit of the LSSP and the CP that they opposed this move though they have now succumbed to a purely communal policy.”  

    The next blow to the Thamils was dealt in the form of the Sinhala Only Act enacted by the Bandaranaike Government in 1956. Even this was made possible by depriving the vote of the Thamil worker on the estates in 1948. Although the Thamil worker has been deprived of the vote, the seats that were allotted to them were not been removed but given to the Sinhalese voter. This has meant that from 1952 onwards the legislature has been a Sinhalese weighted body and all legislation thereafter has been communal and racial.  Had the vote remained as it was in 1947 the landslide in the election of 1970 would not have taken place.   The next move was to ditch the Soulbury constitution by the creation of a new Constitution by a legislature dominated by the Sinhalese. This Constitution has given everything to the Sinhalese and has given nothing to the Thamils. Buddhism was elevated as state religion. The Sinhala Only Act became part of the constitution.   

     The Sinhalese government claimed that it had the support of the Thamil people. To disprove this claim Chelvanayakam resigned his membership of the parliament. “Let the Government contest me on that position. If I lose I give up my policy. If the Government loses, let it not say that the Thamil people support its policy and it’s Constitution. Let not the Government deprive the people of their decision on the issues raised by postponing the by-election.’ (OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd October 1972; vol.2, cc.883-4)   Here is the text of a motion given by Chelvanayakam and other TULF MPs:   ‘Whereas the Sinhalese and the Thamils in Sri Lanka constitute two separate nations with their inherent right to self-determine, and whereas the Sinhalese nation and the Thamil nation who were shackled together by foreign rule remain to this day to shackled, and whereas all governments of independent Sri Lanka have always encouraged and fostered the aggressive nationalism of the Sinhalese nation culminating in the unilateral imposition of the present Constitution which has condemned the Thamils to the position of a subject nation, this Assembly resolves to recognize the verdict of the K.K.S. by-election as a mandate for the restoration and reconstitution of the free, sovereign, secular, socialist State of Thamil Eelam.’  

    After resigning he made the following statement.   ‘I am resigning my seat in this Honourable House. I wish to state my reasons for doing so.    The History of the Thamil people in this country since 1948 has been one of deterioration. In the then Parliament of ninety five elected Members there were eight Thamil Members representing the estate Thamil population who are today not there. They have been replaced by Sinhalese Members now in double that number. The eight Thamil Members were there by the grant of the vote of the bulk of the workers on the estates. This was thought to be a just decision on the question of Thamils of Indian Origin by the United Kingdom Government. 

    As soon as Ceylon became independent the first thing the Sinhalese Government did was to deprive the Thamil worker in the estates of the vote. This was carefully manoeuvred through a citizenship law that deprived them of citizenship and by granting the vote to citizens only. The entire structure on which the Soulbury Constitution was based collapsed. It must be said to the credit of the LSSP and the CP that they opposed this move though they have now succumbed to a purely communal policy.’

    The government afraid of losing the by-election kept postponing it for 3 years. After Chelvanayakam won a massive victory at the Kankesanthurai by-election held on 6 February 1975 he declared:   Throughout the ages, the Sinhalese and the Thamils in this country lived as distinct sovereign people until they were brought under foreign domination. We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon.

    It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese governments have used the power that flows from independence to deny us our fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people. I wish to announce to my people and the country that I consider the verdict at the election as a mandate that the Thamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Thamil people and become free. On behalf of the Thamil United Front, I give you my solemn assurance that we will carry out our mandate.”  

    A year later the historical resolution passed at the Vaddukkoddai demanded:   This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Thamil EELAM, based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Thamil Nation in this Country.     So this is genesis of the “separatist” movement.  Thamil people as a people are entitled to restore and reconstitute the state they lost to foreign colonial powers in the battle field. As a matter of fact the British should have restored the state to the Thamils before they quit Ceylon. They did not do it because the Thamils in their naivety didn’t ask for it. They trusted the Sinhalese which turned to be misplaced.    To the likes of  Rasika Jayakody  all I can say is it may take time – another generation – but we will restore and reconstitute Thamil Eelam with or without Sinhalese people consent. Thamil Eelam is good for Thamils, but  better for the Sinhalese. After all for 2,000 years the Thamils had their own kingdom and were never subject to Sinhalese rule.


    Duttu Gemenu was a Naga Prince and not Sinhala

    Thanks for enlightening me the fact that Nallur Kandasamy temple was founded in 948. You don’t say who founded it. Obviously the founder must be a Saivaite/Hindu Thamil king. Again thanks for reminding me that Sapumal Kumaraya disposed King Kanagasooriyan Singhaiariyan in 1450. But you don’t seem to know who is Sapumal Kumaraya. For your information, he was the adopted son of by Parakramabahu VI ruler of Kotte Kingdom in the south. Number of primary sources such as Rajavaliya and Kokila Sandesa written in Sinhalese vividly describe the planning and conquest of the Jaffna Kingdom. This battle to capture the Kingdom of Jaffna was in many stages. Firstly, the tributaries to the Jaffna Kingdom in the Vanni area, namely the Vanniar chieftains of the Vannimai were neutralised. This was followed by two successive conquests. The first war of conquest did not succeed in capturing the kingdom.

    It was the second conquest dated 1450 that eventually was successful. Kanagasooriyan Cinkaiaryan escaped to Madurai in South India with his two sons. Sapumal Kumaraya ruled Jaffna Kingdom as a sub king and even minted coins in the tradition of Setu coins, the native coins of Jaffna Kingdom. Although he was victorious and ruled as Srisangabodhi Bhuvanekabhahu he was unable to prevent Kanagasooriyan Cinkaiaryan and his two son’s return from Madurai with Thamil soldiers to wrest the Jaffna Kingdom from Kotte’s over lordship. After the death of Parakramabahu VI in 1467, Sapumal Kumaraya left Nallur the capital to Kotte to participate in an internal struggle to inherit the throne. Sapumal Kumaraya ascended the Kotte throne under the name of Bhuvanaika Bahu VI. (c. A.D. 1472–1480 at least). According to Rajavaliya having heard that Jayabahu (1467-1472 AD) ascended the throne, Sapumal arrived from Jaffna and killed Jayabahu to ascend the throne. He was succeeded by his son Pandita Parakrama Bahu VII.

    Your claim “The Thamil kingdom that was set up in the 13th century was under the protection of Sinhala king in Kotte at one time” is pure fiction. Please cite one source from history to substantiate your claim. On the contrary the expansion of power of Jaffna kingdom in the 14th century towards the south is confirmed by the Kottagama Thamil inscription. During the early and middle part of the 14th century, the Sinhalese kingdoms in western, southern and central part of the island also became feudatories until the Jaffna kingdom itself was briefly occupied by the forces of Parakramabahu VI for about 17 years. King of Jaffna pushed his authority to the South, controlled some of the West coast ports and even levied taxes in his own right in places close to Kotte. Arya Chakravarti, the king of Jaffna, attacked Vikrama Bahu III (about 1357 to 1374 at least), who ruled at Kotte, by sea and land, but was defeated Alagakkonara capturing his encampments at Colombo, Wattala, Negombo and Chilaw. According to Rajavaliya the war was brought about by Alagakkonara hanging Arya Chakravarti’s tax collectors.

    The very position of Kotte in the swamps near Colombo is a proof of the straits to which the Sinhala had been reduced, and there can be little doubt that the Jaffna kingdom was for a time paramount in the low country of Lanka; the Thamil inscription at Kotagama in Kegalla District, however, is almost its only surviving relic. K. M. de Silva has the following comment on this state of affairs. “By the middle of the fourteenth century the Jaffna Kingdom had effective control over the north west coast up to Puttalam. After the invasion in 1353 part of the four Korales came under Thamil rule and thereafter, over the next two decades, they probed into Matale district and naval forces were dispatched to the west coast as far South of Panadura. They seemed poised for the establishment of Thamil supremacy over Sri Lanka and were foiled in this, primarily because they were soon embroiled with the powerful Vijayanagara Empire in a grim struggle for survival against the latter’s expansionist ambitions across the Palks Straits.” (http://www.tamilcanadian.com/page.php?cat=403&id=1978&page=4)

    Now this Sapumal Kumaraya or Ariavettaiadum Perumal is no other than Chenpagap Perumal, a Thamil prince originally from Chera Nadu (now called Kerala). Parakramabahu V1 had a daughter Ulakudaya Devi (again a pure Thamil name) but no son. The latter had many Thamil officers of high standing working for him. The Kauvrava general Mannikka Thevan was married to a noble woman related to the king. When Mannikka Thevan was killed (probably in the battle “Mukkuva Hatana”), his two sons were adopted by the king. The younger son was called the “Kudaa Kumaraya”, while the older son was the “Sapu Mal Kumaraya”. The Alakeshwara family, for instance, belonged to a Kerala dynasty that grew very close to the royalty of the 14th century Gampola kingdom. Likewise, Alakeshvara (Alagakkonara) gained military prestige in the war against the King of Jaffna. Eventually, Alaheswara came to power and ruled Kotte under a puppet king from the previous royal dynasty.

    However, he finally usurped the royal throne of the kingdom. Many Kerala names were modified into Sinhala, for example the Marappan family became Marapana (Tilak Marapana). There were also many Muslim families, for example the Markar family (Bakeer Markar, Markan Marker and so on) are all from Kerela. Markar is a common name in Kochin / Ernakulam area in Kerala. Even the name ‘Maraikkar’ is actually a Thamil name. Because Sapumal Kumaraya was a Saivaite he renovated of Nallur Kandasamy temple. Now your claim “It was king Duttugemenu who first ruled the entire country from 161 BC to 137 BC (more than 2,000 years ago).” Advisedly you don’t claim king Duttugemenu is a Sinhalese. It would have sounded extremely ridiculous had you done so. The much adored and admired King Duttu Gemenu was a Naga prince both from his father’s side Kakavanna Theesan (Kavan Tissa) and his mother’s side Vihara Devi, daughter of the Naga King of Kelaniya and a direct descendent of King Uttiya. Mahanama Thero changed the name of Kakavanna Theesan (In Thamil: crow-coloured Tissa) to Kavan Tissa.

    They were of course, Buddhist by faith. “Neither Epigraphy nor Pali chronicles say Duttugemenu was a Sinhala” Devanampiya Tissa’s brother Maha Nagan who fled to Ruhuna ruled over Magama. He was also a Buddhist like his brother Devanampiya Tissa and the others. He was the first to construct places of worship for the Buddhists in the Ruhuna. He built the Kiri Vihare, Sandagiri seya, Vilipiti Viharaya, Menik Dagaba and the Kudorappu Vihara. Viharas built by the Naga kings were known as Naga viharas. His son Yatala Tissa succeeded Maha Nagan. He built the Yatala cetiya. Professor Mendis Rohanadeera says that port cities like Kirinda, Godawaya, Rekava, Beraganla, Tangalle and Ambalantota throw light on the reality of Ruhuna having been the home of the Thamils of the Pandyan country.

    Yatala Tissa was succeeded by his son Gothabhaya. Gothabhaya’s son was Kakavanna Tissa . Mahavamsa unwittingly admits that north of the river Mahaveli were peopled by Thamils. In the Dutugemunu-Ellara episode, the Mahavamsa says, Duttugemunu had to conquer not just one Thamil king (Ellara) but 32 Thamil Chieftains before his final battle with Ellara at Anuradhapura. Before vanquishing King Ellara, Gemenu had to fight thirty-two minor Thamil kings (Kshatriyas) in Ruhunu before ruling as a single sovereign over Lanka (101- 77 B.C.). So genuine was Gemenu’s admiration of King Ellara’s valour and bravery that he erected a monument in the latter’s honour at the very spot he fell. King Gemunu decreed that the tomb shall be always honoured, i.e. all persons passing by the tomb are to silence their music, get down from their vehicles/horses and walk in silence until they pass the tomb. Even if the Duttugemunu – Ellara war is a myth, his writing proves (did not deny) the Thamil settlements (Demel-gam-bim) in Anuradapura. Similarly, King Valgambha had to fight seven Pandian chieftains to reassume sovereignty at Anuradhapura. Between the reign of Duttu Gemunu and the next important sovereign Valgambha are Thulatha Nagan, (59 BC for forty days), succeeded by his brother Lanja Tissa (59-50 B.C.). His brother Khallata Nagan (50-44 B.C.) succeeded Lanja Tissa.

    Khallata Nagan was succeeded by his younger brother Vatta Gamini alias Valgambha, who within six months of rule was chased out by a Brahmin named Tissa, who revolted against him. H. A. J. Hulugalle, in his booklet ‘Information for Tourists, 1947’ says in the first paragraph on page one: “The Sinhalese are a mixed race, their language has been vastly enriched with words from the Thamil vocabulary.” Mudliyar W. F. Gunawardene says the Sinhala language is primarily a Dravidian language. The structural foundation of Sinhala is Dravidian while the super-structure is Aryan. 

    A careful examination of Gemunu’s pedigree will reveal that he was as much a Thamil as Ellara, with the difference being that Gemunu was a Buddhist, while Ellara was a Hindu. Ellara was no enemy of the Buddhists. He was in fact loved by the Buddhists. The strong hereditary Hindu element in Gemunu (present even today in all Sri Lankan Buddhists) made him a devotee of the Dravidian God Murukan at Kathirkamam. It is said in the Mahawamsa that Gemunu invoked the blessings of the Lord Murukan to endow him with strength to defeat King Ellara in battle. Gemunu declared war on Ellara for two valid reasons: (a) To take revenge on Ellara for having killed King Asela (son of Muttu Siva, a relation on Gemunu’s paternal side) and usurping the throne. (b) His desire to become the king of Lanka and sit on the throne of his ancestors at Anuradhapura. Many, fighting on Gemunu’s side were Thamils who had embraced Buddhism.

    There were Thamils of the Buddhist faith, fighting on the side of Ellara. One of the generals on Ellara’s side was Mitta a Buddhist. Mitta’s sister’s son Nanda Mitta a Thamil (Buddhist), was one of the generals fighting in Gemunu’s army. There was no Sinhala race in Lanka before the 10th century pre-Christian era. They were Nagas as evidenced by their names. King Duttu Gemeunu died in 77 B.C. The Ruwanwali Seya, the Brazen Palace and the Mirisaveti stupa stand in his memory. His brother Saddha Tissa (77-59 B.C.) succeeded him.

     In Saddha Tissa’s memory stands the vihara at Digavapi. Between the reign of Duttu Gemunu and the next important sovereign Valgambha are Thulatha Nagan, (59 BC for forty days), succeeded by his brother Lanja Tissa (59-50 B.C.). His brother Khallata Nagan (50-44 B.C.) succeeded Lanja Tissa. Khallata Nagan was succeeded by his younger brother Vatta Gamini alias Valgambha, who within six months of rule was chased out by a Brahmin named Tissa, who revolted against him. It may be of interest and value to note that all kings from Muttu Siva (307-247 B.C.) right down to the beginning of the Christian era (a period of 300 years) were Thamils and barring King Muthu Siva, others were Buddhist by faith. There is ample evidence that the districts of Hambantota, Galle, Amparai and Ratnapura were the home of Thamils of the Hindu faith who embraced the Buddhism during the 3rd –2nd centuries B.C. and adopted Sinhala as their mother tongue. The shrine dedicated to Lord Murukan at Kathirkamam and Lord Vishnu at Devinuwara is evidence of this.

    A shrine dedicated to Lord Chandreswara at Hambantota is no more due to the lack of patronage and subsequent neglect. Dr. Edward Muller, onetime commissioner of archaeology, in his “Records of Ceylon,” published in 1883 states, “There are Thamil Brahmi and Asokan Brahmi inscriptions on stones belonging to the 3rd century B.C. The earliest inscriptions in Sinhala are only of the 8th A.D.