Justice C.V. Wigneswaran MP
Someone asked me; you have made a sweeping statement that Tamil is the language of the original inhabitants of this Island. What benefit has it brought to you except that you have earned the wrath of the Sinhala People?
My response was: Not a sweeping statement! It was a well-studied statement. Any objective student of History, Sinhala or Tamil, Muslim or Burgher would accept my statement. I did not mean to annoy anyone. I simply stated a historical truth. But the fact remains that I have annoyed certain people very emotionally. Many of them are people who had a very good opinion of me. Now they are aghast! But Truth has to come out one day. If so, why not through me despite the consequences?
I used to listen to the late World-Renowned Philosopher J. Krishnamurthi in the company of Dr. E.W. Adikaram, Mr. Shanmuganayagam and many others in the sixties, seventies and eighties. One matter Krishnaji stressed was to be aware of our conditionings. Unless we are careful with ourselves, our conditionings will motivate us and many a wrong and lapse would take place due to our strong conditioning.
When Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka or Vice Admiral Sarath Weerasekera or Ms. Diana Gamage retorted so vehemently we witnessed to what extent they have been conditioned by this idea that Sri Lanka has always been Sinhala Buddhist and the Tamils are later and recent illegal immigrants. They just believed it to be so. They had no occasion to question the veracity of those beliefs. But the Truth as appreciated today is different especially after many recent findings of excavations, inscriptions, coins, DNA Reports after tests and so on. The fact is Tamils have existed from pre-Buddhistic times in Sri Lanka continuously in the North and East especially up to date. There had been an influx of Tamils during Pandyan, Chola, Chera times. In recent times Dravidians came during Arya Chakravarthies’ times. The last influx of Tamils was two hundred years ago during British times. Thus Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island and there had been later additions of Tamils, Malayalees and Telungars from time to time adding to the Original inhabitants and soon all of them spoke the Tamil language.
There had been Madurai Tamils who came for the coronation of Don Juan Dharmapala about four hundred years ago who were given cinnamon lands in certain areas in the South, who married here and their descendants now call themselves full-fledged Sinhalese. Lots of them fought the recent Thirty Years’ War feeling themselves as true blue-blooded Sinhalese!
Tamil language has been used in Sri Lanka for over 3000 years. When Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka the persons who received the same were Tamil speaking people. The Sinhala language is a very recent mixed language that came into use only in t14he 6th or 7th Century AD. It grew out of Pali, Tamil, Sanskrit and other dialects then prevailing here. I am aware as to how Professor Malalasekera when sent as High Commissioner to Delhi in the fifties he borrowed lots of Hindi words then in use in Delhi, Sinhalacised them and introduced them into the Sinhalese language. Many Sinhala words used in Courts now owe their origin to Hindi words derived from Sanskrit. All these have no doubt enriched the Sinhala language and we are happy about that.
How did this idea that the original inhabitants of this Island were Sinhalese come about, you may ask?
Mahawansa written in Pali, does not refer to the Sinhalese language anywhere since there 14was no such language at that time. If there was no such language it follows there were no people speaking that language at that time to be identified as Sinhalese.
Mahawansa was written for the glorification of Buddhism and it is stated so at the end of every stanza. The identity of Dutugemunu as a Sinhalese was a later innovation. He was called Dushta Kamini (the evil Kamini) since he did not follow his father’s advice not to go to war with the noble King Ellalan who ruled from Anuradhapura for over forty years. But the young Kamini not yet 30 years of age went to war. When he had to fight King Ellalan 78 years of age then for three continuous days and could beat him only because his elephant was bigger in size he was full of respect for the King and built the Ellala Sohana, a monument for the King. I had seen people getting down from their cycles to pay respects to the noble King’s Sohona in Anuradhapura where my early life was spent not far from the Sohona.
Thus Mahawansa was a mixture of then known facts and Mahanama’s fanciful Buddhism oriented fiction.
Even though the Mahawansa refers to the people who lived here at the time of the coming of fictitious Vijaya as half-humans that was not so. There was a flourishing Tamil (Naga) civilization here.
Kuveni whom Vijaya is said to have married must have been half-human if Mahawansa was authentic and true. If she was half-human why did he marry her? Of course, it could be argued Vijaya was half-human, being a descendant of a Lion and therefore he married another half-human! Kuveni is said to have been a nature worshipper (Iyakkar).
No Buddhist would ask the question as to how Buddhism had to be first introduced by Mahinda centuries later when the Buddha had already visited Sri Lanka three times and the people had identified him as the Buddha at the time of his visits during his mundane existence then. Surely Buddhism would have been flourishing at the time of the arrival of Mahinda if people had known that the Buddha had visited us here. These visits were included in the Mahawansa for the glorification of Buddhism by the author of the Mahawansa.
Buddhism, therefore, was received by the Tamils. Devanampiya Tissa is a Sinhalacised form of the Tamil name Devanai Nampiya Theesan – One who believed in Divinity. His father was not Mottai Siva but Mootha Sivan! The Westerners had difficulties in pronouncing Tamil names and often made a mess out of their translations. The wrong understanding of our history and our local names by Westerners contributed to a lopsided view of History. The Historians among the Westerners had equated Buddhism with the Sinhalese not realizing early converts to Buddhism were Tamils. Professor Sunil Ariaratne rightly referred to Demala Baudhayos (Tamil Buddhists). The Saivite Tamils were the early converts to Buddhism. The Shivalingas at Naguleswaram, Thiruketheeswaram. Thirukoneswaram, Munneswaram and Thondeswaram (at Dondra) were pre Buddhistic Shiva Lingas.
The Sinhalese language came nearly a thousand years after Buddhism. All this will annoy acutely my Sinhala Buddhist brothers and sisters. I am not asking anyone to accept what I say. In the true tradition of the Kalama Sutta let an independent Commission consisting of well known Internationally recognized Historians make a study of all available evidence and give their opinion. Professors Indrapala, Pathmanathan, Sudarshan Seneviratne and others are Internationally reputed Historians.
Meanwhile, it is best our people do not get excited and become emotional. Let us remember our emotions are different from historical facts. Hitherto some pseudo Historians have fed our people with false facts and conditioned them accordingly. I don’t blame Field Marshall and others for getting emotionally affected. After all, what I am saying is equivalent to someone saying your father is not the person whom you believe to be your father. None will take that lightly. But the time has come for us to understand our history properly. I have been a student of history has done it as a subject for my General Degree.
You asked what benefit my outbursts could bring. Suppose the Historians agree with what I say look at the difference in perception it would bring. We Sri Lankan Tamils would not be kallathonis in the eyes of the Sinhalese. We would receive a recognition hitherto not given to us. Maybe the Sinhalese would consent to give us equal status and allow the Tamils of the North and East to mind their own business within a united Sri Lanka giving way to reconciliation, peace and prosperity.