Half the Words of the National Anthem in Sinhala are Tamil, Making It Suitable for All
Posted on December 27th, 2010

Dilrook Kannangara

The national anthem debate still continues after over 60 years of Independence may be because the completion of Sri Lanka’s independence in 2009 with the victory over the armed separatist movement. Although keeping the Tamil version of the national anthem seems the good and sympathetic thing to do, further research into the matter proves it is not the right thing to do. Often the good thing is not the right thing. When the national flag was debated in the 1940s, top Tamil politicians including Ponnabalam, Sundaralingam, Chelvanayakam, etc. vehemently opposed it. They found many things in the current flag including the lion to be “controversial”. If their concerns regarding Chola Tamil symbol of the tiger and the so called Jaffna kingdom’s cattle symbols were to be incorporated, the national flag would have become something of a road sign of a nearby zoo. Thankfully sanity prevailed and the then government made a firm decision to adopt the current national flag which has now become a symbol of coexistence, peace, spirituality and harmony. Similar unnecessary complications can be created in the cases of the national flower, national tree, the name of the nation and anything that becomes a national symbol. As one people rallying around one flag with one self-determination and nationality, all Sri Lankans must sing one national anthem with words from both major languages used in the island nation.

 Two national anthems divide the people into the Sinhala national anthem singing group and the Tamil national anthem singing group. Even Tamils of Tamilakam (Traditional Tamil homeland as defined in the Tamil Sangam literature which relates to South India) today don’t have a Tamil national anthem. Sri Lanka should not become the odd one out. Singing one national anthem is essential for national integration and reconciliation as well as rallying around one national flag. 

 The current national anthem is perfectly alright to be sung only in Sinhala because half the words of the Sinhala version of the national anthem are Tamil as well. Therefore there is absolutely no reason for Tamils to complain about singing the national anthem in Sinhala. These words have a common Sanskrit origin. Although the Sinhala language has a predominantly north Indian Pali contribution, the second largest contribution comes from Sanskrit. Tamil language too has plenty of Sanskrit influence in it making the three languages have many words in common. In summary there are 60 words (some repeating) in the Sinhala version, which is the original version of the national anthem, and a good 29 of those words are Tamil too. In other words, almost half the words of the Sinhala version of the national anthem are Tamil too. Sri Lankan national anthem in its proper Sinhala version has the following words that are common with Tamil. Please note that some of these words repeat.

 Sri, Lanka, Matha, Namo, Sundara (sunthara), Soba (sobha), Dhanya (dhanyam), Danaya, Mal (malar), Palathuru (palam), Jaya, Bhoomiya (Bhoomi), Ramya, Jeevanaye, Bhakthi, Pooja, Vidya, Sathya, Shakthi (sakthi), Bhakthi, Aloke (alok), Anuprane (anupran), Jeewana (jeevan), Mukti, Karan, Gnana (gnanam), Weerya (veerya), Bhoomi, Prema.

 This makes the original Sri Lankan national anthem in par with South African and New Zealand national anthems. They contain words of major languages used in their respective countries. Today almost 95% of all Sri Lankans understand the Sinhala language. They could well sing the national anthem in Sinhala without any problem. The remaining 5% will understand most words of it. Therefore it is logical to use the Sinhala version of the national anthem by all.

 Certain sections of the Tamil community that complain about Sri Lanka’s national anthem in Sinhala, sing the British, American, Canadian, French, Norwegian, Swiss, German, Australian, etc. national anthems in totally alien languages. No Tamil words contain in these anthems! But Tamils don’t complain at all. Reason being these nations never yielded to communal demands forcing all their citizens to toe the line. However, the good news is, most of these Tamils who now sing national anthems in totally foreign languages abroad who cannot sing Tamil words in the Sri Lankan national anthem have left the country. There is no reason to entertain their concerns anymore.

 It’s the same fate for Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia and Singapore. They too must sing their national anthem in totally alien languages to them. Sri Lankan Tamils are highly privileged to have a national anthem with half the words in Tamil.

  Another advantage of one national anthem with a mix of Sinhala and Tamil words which is the case with the Sinhala version is it depicts coexistence complementing the national flag. By having everyone sing one national anthem enforces the concept of coexistence over mono-ethnic-enclaves mentality. Enforcing one national anthem makes it loud and clear to those who cannot accept coexistence to leave the country. They would not find a single nation on earth with so many Tamil words in the national anthem as Sri Lanka. Not a single nation that has Tamil letters in passport than Sri Lanka has and not even one nation with Tamil words printed on its currency notes apart from Sri Lanka. Let there be one national anthem in Sri Lanka as with one national flag. And it must be the one with both Sinhala and Tamil words in it which is the Sinhala version of the Sri Lankan national anthem.

11 Responses to “Half the Words of the National Anthem in Sinhala are Tamil, Making It Suitable for All”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Good analysis, Dilrook. Thank you.
    There is so much inaccuracy surrounding most religions. The pure Teachings of each of the Masters must emerge for wars & disharmony to stop.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    This comment should have gone into Dilrook’s other article on date of Christmas. Sorry.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    I would like to say that I also like this article by Dilrook. Smart and sincere thinking here, and we agree with all that is said.

  4. Ben_silva Says:

    Sri Lanka was the only homeland of the Sinhalese. Now they have lost most of the coast line, most of the hill country and now even most of the Capital. Apparently the economy is controlled by non Sinhalese. I would like to know how this happened. I realise Lanka is now a multicultural country and belongs to all citizens and all citizens need to pull together.

  5. De Costa Says:

    Dilrook,
    Think again. Have you frogotten aborigines of Sri lanka ?
    Shouldn’t we add some of our own wedda language as well ?
    Aren’t we not alienating people from races other than Sinhala and Tamil ?
    In my view it should be kept in Sinhala only.

  6. Sri Rohana Says:

    If half the words of Sri Lanka’s national anthem is tamil we are the first nation in this world had the national anthem in both languages more than 60 years. For 7% tamils our national anthem accommodated 50% words. Therefore why some pundits say it has to make to 100% tamil version?
    South Africa had to do it in 1997, as their countrywas originally multi tribal and created that country as a British colony to loot resources by British invaders. Therefore after so-called political independency (economic and social power is still with white racists apartheid) just to please native tribes they inserted some words to “God Bless South Africa” and made a national anthem salad.
    New Zealand implemented bi lingual national anthem salad somewhere in 2000 I heard. This also a British colony, they inserted some Maori words to “God defend New Zealand” as a cover piece. New Zealand also another white racist country and rejected the UN’s “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ” with U.S.A, Australia and Canada. Is there any means and meaning of having national anthem in two languages if the same country is not accepting rights of the Maori (indigenous) people? I noticed in the TV that Most Europeans don’t sing Maori part in New Zealand’s national anthem.
    Best example is Indian national anthem. They have more than 100 languages but national anthem is only in Bengali. One billions Indians including 60 million tamil nadians sing their national anthem in Bengali language. If tamils can sing Indian national anthem in Bangali why can’t tamils living in Sri Lanka sing national anthem in Sinhala.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    We think there are more similar Hindi words in our National Anthem than Tamil words. Hindi & Sinhala languages have the same Sanskrit base, whilst the Tamil language has other bases.

  8. Sri Rohana Says:

    Dilrook I happened to read your 27th December article about the same topic national anthem topic! On 13th December you said it has to be a tamil version for the Sri Lanka’s national anthem.

    “Please Keep the Tamil Version of Sri Lanka Matha, the National Anthem”
    13th December 2010 By Dilrook Kannangara

    “The former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike had walked out of a function when the Tamil version of Sri Lanka Matha was sung at a function. This is a very short-sighted move and must be resisted by all patriots”.

    “What’s the point in Tamil students singing the national anthem in a language they don’t understand? How can they inculcate patriotism and love for the motherland if they cannot understand their National Anthem?”

    “I humbly appeal to the government and the Cabinet to reconsider this decision and reinstate the Tamil version of the National Anthem with due respect.”

    “Sadly the proposal has come from none other than President Rajapakse and was defended by Wimal Weerawansa. …… It is unthinkable how they can come up with such an unintelligent thing.”

    “Those who propose one National Anthem also propose another jovial remedy” “The President entered into record books as the first and only leader to speak in Tamil at the UN. He also spoke in Tamil in election rallies. If so what’s the big problem in the National Anthem when sung in Tamil? “

    Some readers comments for your article:
    Kit Athul Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 8:03 pm
    Who gave you KAPAN, Karunanidhi?
    Nanda Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 8:42 pm
    I am shocked to see this from Dilrook,
    Siri Says:
    December 14th, 2010 at 1:30 pm
    “the National anthem should be in the National language which is Sinhalese. There is absolutely no need for a Tamil National anthem. This is divisive politics raising it’s ugly head”.
    Lorenzo Says:
    December 18th, 2010 at 3:59 am
    “On the outward it looks bad to abolish the Tamil anthem but if done it is a very farsighted move”.

    Here your 27 Dec article:

    “Half the Words of the National Anthem in Sinhala are Tamil, Making It Suitable for All”
    27 December 2010 By Dilrook Kannangara

    “The current national anthem is perfectly alright to be sung only in Sinhala because half the words of the Sinhala version of the national anthem are Tamil as well. Therefore there is absolutely no reason for Tamils to complain about singing the national anthem in Sinhala.”

    “Certain sections of the Tamil community that complain about Sri Lanka’s national anthem in Sinhala, sing the British, American, Canadian, French, Norwegian, Swiss, German, Australian, etc. national anthems in totally alien languages. No Tamil words contain in these anthems! But Tamils don’t complain at all.”

    “They would not find a single nation on earth with so many Tamil words in the national anthem as Sri Lanka.”
    “Let there be one national anthem in Sri Lanka as with one national flag. And it must be the one with both Sinhala and Tamil words in it which is the Sinhala version of the Sri Lankan national anthem.”

    Which article is yours? The 13th December or the 27th December. Dilrook why you made a “U” turn within 13 days?

  9. Dilrook Says:

    Sri Rohana,

    I did a U-turn on this. And I want Sri Lanka to do a U-turn as well on the Tamil version of the national anthem.

    Keeping the Tamil version is the good thing and the sympathetic thing to do. But having one national anthem is the right thing to do. On 26 December Tamil students in Jaffna sang the national anthem in Sinhala and there were no major protests or agitations from them. It proves that at least the younger generation is willing to reach out.

    I thank Charles and others who made a good case for one national anthem. I also thank my Tamil friends who pointed out that half the words in the Sinhala version are Tamil (as well).

    However, both articles are based on facts, irrespective of the recommendation of the former article. The change to how things were before the Tamil version should be done in a way that least hurt or inconvenience Tamils.

    Having one national anthem is going to make some people cross with the state. Decades later people will be thankful. Still, it got to be done with least damage to the Sinhala-Tamil relationship. We have to be mindful not to hurt them over this.

  10. Sri Rohana Says:

    Dilrook! Thanks and appreciated for your sincere reply. What my personal view is our national anthem doesn’t say anything against tamils or anyone. When every Sri Lankan sings our national anthem that itself is the first step towards unity of the nation.

    Now a days BBC is on loud propaganda against tamil version of Sri Lanka’s national anthem.
    But British national anthem has to sing only in English by English, Scots, Welsh and Irish nationals too. There aren’t any Scottish, Irish, or Welsh version for the British national anthem.

    The pommies should know that our national anthem is not to promote feudalism or propaganda on feudalist woman like in Britain. If you read some lyrics of pommie’s national anthem will you feel we live yet in 14th century? Those British who thinks, “whites are right and west is best” but still pleads to a man made god to save their feudalist woman. What a funny national anthem.
    God Save the Queen
    God save our gracious Queen,
    Long live our noble Queen,
    God save the Queen!

    The following lyrics are hatred on their enemies French, Germans etc. (but more suit us to sing against tamil nadu racists too).
    O lord God arise,
    Scatter our enemies,
    And make them fall!
    Confound their knavish tricks,
    Confuse their politics.

    Can anyone find any hatred against any human being in this world in our national anthem?
    National anthem debate is an issue for racist tamil expansionist politicians, tamil nadu political jokers, western dollar greedy NGO’s Jehan Perera and clique, BBC and other tamil propagandists. This is not an issue to ordinary Sinhalas or to tamils.

  11. Dilrook Says:

    Sri Rohana,

    Our national anthem talks good of everyone and everything unlike some others as you pointed out. But the problem is people generally don’t like anything taken away from them. Our shortsighted leaders introduced a Tamil version a few decades ago. We have to find common ground, help them with the singing of the original national anthem and use all soft approaches to encourage them to sing one national anthem as part of making one national anthem for all. It is for the ordinary Tamil people and to sustain their support. We cannot fully discount racist politicians. They won many seats at the 2010 general election which means still a considerable number of people in the north and east trust them. We have to bypass them by being sensitive to Tamil people’s concerns. Not to change the decision, but to help them as much as possible with soft moves as well. The right thing implemented wrong will not achieve anything.

    Even the Official Language Act could have been better implemented which would have reduced many unnecessary trouble.

    O lord God arise,
    Scatter our enemies,
    And make them fall!
    Confound their knavish tricks,
    Confuse their politics.

    Ditto.

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