Tissa did not speak Tamil and certainly, he is not a Tamil

Tissa did not speak Tamil and certainly, he is not a Tamil

Veluppillai Thangavelu

This country at one time in History was majority Buddhists. But the Country was never Sinhala Buddhist. Those who received Buddhism into this Country were the Tamils. Devanampiya Theesan was certainly a Tamil. His father was Mootha Sivan.

This above claim by Wigneswaran is not supported by historical facts. Devanampiya  Tissa did not speak Tamil and certainly, he is not a Tamil. His father is named Mootha Sivan only denotes he was a follower of the Vedic (now Hindu) religion.   

The Buddhist epic Manimegalai narrates the story of a trader named Saathuvan, husband of Aadirai,  who loses all his family wealth on a  woman of easy virtue. After squandering his wealth he returns to his wife. Fired by his inordinate zeal for riches, he joined a band of merchants engaged in overseas trade. The ship was caught in a storm and sank. Saathuvn managed to cling to a plank and the waves cast him ashore

in a land inhabited by Nagas. Tired and fatigued he slept for a long time.  He was noticed by the natives who were savages. cruel and fierce. They thought that this well-built man could serve as a good meal. 

It so happened that Saathuvan had a mastery of the language spoken by Nagas through systematic study. So when he was brought before the Chief he spoke to him in Naga language which warmed the heart of the Naga Chief in no time. The natives step aside, paid him respects and conversed with him.

Very pleased, the Chief ordered his men to provide him with a young woman to keep him company in addition to warm toddy. Saathuvan who was a Buddhist said he does not want any of those. He then delivered a sermon on the Buddhist principles that leads people to lead a virtuous life. The Chief first defended his way of life, but ultimately he was convinced about the new philosophy profounded by Saathuvan. The chief gave him precious gifts and arranged for his departure.

Thus it will be seen that Nagas spoke a different language that belonged to the Dravidian language groups.

The Nagas in Lanka spoke their own language.  Duttu Gemenu who fought Elara  (205 BC – 161BC) was not a Sinhalese. He was a Naga prince both from his paternal and maternal sides. He marched to fight Elara not because Elara was a Hindu, but because he wanted to regain the Anudradapura kingdom ruled by his ancestors. Duttu Gemenu’s father (Kavan Tissa 161 BC) was the great-great-grandson of Mahanaga, son of Mootha Sivan and brother of Devanampiya Tissa. Maganaga’s son was Yalata Tissa and his son was Gotabhaya (205 BC) and his son was Kavan Tissa (161BC).

Duttu Gemenu’s march northwards in his campaign against Elara was along the right bank of the Mahaveli River. During his march Duttu Gemenu had to defeat 32 Tamil chieftains.

During the war between Elara and  Duttu Gemunu, there were Tamils in  the latter’s army and Nagars in the Elara army. There were no ethnic divisions at this time of history. Any division was along religious lines.

The Theravada Bhikkus of Mahavihra who were at loggerheads with Mahayana Buddhist bhikkus of Abhayagiri vihara wanted to give a separate identity to Buddhist Nagars.

They invented a  new language in the 7th or 8th century AD called Sinhala and the people who spoke Sinhala were called Sinhalese.  What happened to the Nagars who were Hindus? They were assimilated by the Tamils.

After the demise of  Vijaya, those who ascended the throne were Hindu Nagars who formed the majority of the populace. According to Mahavamsa Nagas occupied the North and West of Ceylon.

The New Year and the attendant rituals are common to both Buddhist Sinhalese  and Hindu Tamils since the former are descendants of Hindu Nagars!

Strangely, the Sinhalese Buddhists do not now consider themselves as descendants of Vijaya who was a settler from Bengal. They have started tracing their origin to Ravanan, the Yaksha king who ruled Lanka during pre-historical time. More than 300 books have been produced in Sinhalese within the last two decades to prove their ancestry!

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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