Devanampiya Theesan (BC 307-267) was a Tamil king?

Devanampiya Theesan (BC 307-267) was a Tamil king?

Wigneswarans’s claim Devanampiya Theesan (BC 307-267) was a Tamil king and spoke Tamil is not borne out by ‘historical’ facts. Devanampiya Theesan was a Naga king and spoke Prarkrit/ Hela/Elu/ and a follower of the religion (Hinduism) before conversion. Hela was a combination of Raksha, Yaksha, Deva, and  Naga. In fact, almost all the kings who ruled from Anuradhapura after the legendry Vijaya were Nagas, including Duttu Gemenu (BC 161-137) great-great-great-grandson of Mootha Sivan(father of Devanampiya Theesan. They used the suffix Naga/Tissa to their names till the 9th century AD.

The Kingdoms of Anuradapura and Polonnaruwa were NEVER known as Sinhala kingdoms and the Naga and Tamil kings who ruled these kingdoms never called themselves ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, or ‘Sinhala’.

The Buddhist epic Manimekalai clearly states that the Nagas were not Tamils. The Nagas spoke a different language, but at the same time,it is said some Tamils have mastered the language spoken by Nagas.

Dameda is the most mentioned ethnic group in the ancient epigraphy of Sri Lanka. These inscriptions refer to the Dameda Vishaka (Tamil merchant), the Dameda Samana (Tamil householder), and Dameda Navika (Tamil sailor). There are enough of ancient archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka such as Brahmi stone inscriptions, cave writings, etc where the terms ‘Dameda’, ‘Damela’, ‘Damila’, ‘Demel’ are mentioned as a group of people living in the island. During Sena I ((833-853) and Kassapa IV (899-914), there are definite epigraphic reference to Tamil villages and lands, Demel-Kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demela-valadem (Tamil lands), Demela-gam-bim (Tamil villages & lands), Demal-Kinigam, Demelin-hetihaya, etc. The presence of Tamils in the island Sri Lanka in the early historic period is not denied even in the Pali chronicles.

Therefore, Wigneswaran is right when he says the Tamils were Island’s original people.

If we go by Mahavamsa, Kakavanna Theesan (BC 210 – 205) asks his son Duttu Gemenu to promise he would not attack the Tamils who ruled land north of Maha Ganga. When Duttu Gemenu and his army marched to Anuradhapura to wage war against Ellara, he had to defeat 32 Tamil Chieftains enroute. This means Tamils were living in Lanka at least for 2,300 years or more.

The Kingdoms of Anuradapura and Polonnaruwa were NEVER known as Sinhala kingdoms and the Naga and Tamil kings who ruled these Kingdoms never called themselves ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, or ‘Sinhala’.

Even the Mahavamsa says, the missionary monk Mahinda Maha Thero preached Buddhism to the people of the island in Deepa basa (the language of the island) and not in Pali, not to speak of Sinhalese.

By the 9th century AD,  the Naga people had integrated with the Sinhalese and Tamil culture. The word Naga literally means ‘snake’ or ‘serpent’ in Sanskrit, and the Naga tribe was a totemic tribe of serpent worshippers who considered the serpent as a creature of great power. Since ancient times, the Hindus, too, have regarded the cobra as a divine being; a cobra can be found entwined around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva and has also been associated with the god Vishnu. Even in Buddhism, the symbolism of the cobra is ubiquitous. According to Buddhist scriptures, the serpent-king Muchalinda shielded Lord Buddha from the rain by coiling around him and holding his large hood above the Buddha’s head. These connotations may have been influenced by the culture of the Nagas, whose roots can be traced back to India as well.

The Buddhist monks of Mahavihara wanted to give a separate identity to Buddhist Nagas so they invented the Sinhala language which is a mix of Hela, Pali, Tamil and Sanskrit. The Sinhala language script is very close to the Telugu language because of the influence of monks from Andra.

In due course, the Hindu Nagas were assimilated by the Tamils.

Both Sinhalese and Tamils are Naga worshippers as evidenced by Naga Temples/Viharas. For example, Naga Vihara and Nagapooshani Amman temple both located in Nainathivu is important places of Buddhist/Hindu worship.

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

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