SINHALA PLACE NAMES IN ANCIENT JAFFNA
Posted on July 2nd, 2016

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

The place names in ancient Jaffna were Sinhala because Jaffna was a part of the Sinhala kingdom. The British administrators working in the Northern Province recognized this fact and said so in their reports.   Henry Parker, an irrigation engineer, presented a series of Sessional Papers to the Legislative Council in 1886 on the subject of irrigation in the Northern Province. In addition to irrigation, he had also looked into the historical information available on the places he was working in. He found that Tamil place names had been substituted for the original Sinhala names. Maha Kachchatkodi tank was originally Tittaveli, Maha Iranpaikkulam was originally Rambewetiya, Iluppaikkadavai was Sallariya, Kuruntur maai was Piyangala and Kuruntankulam was Kurunegama.

J.P. Lewis, of the Ceylon Civil Service, in 1896 presented a paper before the Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon branch, titled ‘The place names in the Vanni ‘. He said Vanni was colonized by the Tamils only recently. The original Sinhalese inhabitants had been driven out and new Tamil place names given. Some place names were Tamilised versions of the original Sinhala names. Galkandamadu became Kallukondamadu. In Tamil ‘k’ is used for ‘ga’ and ‘ha’. Many of the Tamil names in the Vanni had their exact equivalents in Sinhalese villages. ‘Mandukoddai’ was Manadukanda, ‘Uhanda’ was Okanda. Lewis found heaps of Puliyankulams in the Vanni. Kulam is Tamil for tank. The original name of one such Puliyankulam was Siyabalagaswewa. ‘Vilankulam’ was earlier Diwulwewa. Sinhalese tended to name places after trees, plants or incidents connected to the place, said Lewis.

  1. Horsburgh published an essay on Sinhalese place names in the Jaffna Peninsula”, in the Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, 1916. He said that the Sinhalese had earlier occupied the north portion of the mainland, which is now Tamil country. ‘There is ample evidence carried in stone all over Mannar and Mullaitivu district. In Jaffna the evidence is in the place names,’ he said. At least thirty of the place names in Jaffna were Sinhala in origin. He pointed out that Tamil place names which ended in ‘kalappu’, ‘vattei’, ‘palai’, ‘kam’, ‘pai’ and ‘vil’ were meaningless in Tamil. ‘Vil’ is bow in Tamil, ‘pai’ is net or sail. However the names made sense when they were seen as translation of Sinhala names. Valikamam and Vimankam have no meaning in Tamil but made sense as the Tamilised versions of Weligama and Vimangama. Chunnakam was Hunugama, Kokkuvil was Kokavila, Uduvil was Uduvila, Tanankalapu was Tanankalapuwa, Saravattai was Sarawatte and Manipai was Mampe.

Horburgh’s views met with a favorable response. Rev. S. Gnana Prakasar and S.W. Coomaraswamy wrote to the Ceylon Antiquary agreeing with Horsburgh and giving their own lists of Tamilised place names. S. Sabaratnam partially agreed with Horsburgh.  Rev. Gnana Prakasar   listed more villages ending in ‘vil’ such as Kandavil and Inuvil.  He drew attention to villages ending in ‘vattei’, such as  Polvattei and  Sittavattei, villages ending with ‘kumbura’ such as Markkamburei, villages using ‘yaya’ such as Moolay , ‘deniya’ as in Narandanei and  ‘eliya’  as in  Puloly.  S.W. Coomaraswamy said Manipai was not Mampe but Mampaya and Sandituppay was probably Sandurupaya.  J.P. Lewis gave Tamilised Sinhala place names from Mannar and Mullaitivu.

Paul  E. Pieris (1917) also observed that place names in Jaffna derived from Sinhala. He mentioned Valikamam (Weligama), Kodikaman (Godigamuwa), Kat pokkanari (Gal pokuna)and  Udupiti (Udupitiya). He stated that the 1645 Jaffna Foral of the Portuguese used the word ‘gama’ to describe the lands in Vanni allotted to Tamils for cultivation. Godakumbura ( 1968)  said Kantarodai was originally known as Kadurugoda. He thought that  Chunnakam  was not Hunugama, it could be Sulanagama from the Pali word  Cullanagagama

it could be Kannangara in his book Jaffna and the Sinhala heritage (1984) says Tisamalai was   earlier Tissagama,  Mallakam was Mallagama, Keerimalai was Mugatikanda and  Puloli was  Kaputota.  Tellippalai was Telipola. He observed that the Sinhala Nam Pota mentions Telipola. Sinhala Nam Pota  also gave the name Puvangu divaina to Pungudutivu. The place was also called Piyangudipa. Piyangudipa is mentioned in the Vallipuram gold plate which speaks of ‘Piyaguka tissa who built a monastery there…’ Kannangara  observed that at  ‘Gothamaluwa watta’ on Ponnali, on Point Pedro road,  the name is still in original Sinhala.

P.A.T. Gunasinghe said in The Tamils of Sri Lanka    (1984) that place names like Polvattai refer to the Sinhala used in the 14th century. They showed that Jaffna was populated by Sinhalese  in the medieval period. He added that in the east too,  place names like Mattakalapu are direct borrowings from Sinhala. Madakalapuwa in Tamil is Chattakuli. Somapala Gunadheera (2011) pointed out that Omanthai is from Omatta.

Present day commentators such as D.G.A. Perera  also point out that many Sinhala names in the north and east have been Tamilised. The list includes Dambakolapatuna (Sambilturai), Gangahistota (Kankesanturai) Girikande (Keerimalai) Girinuwara (Mutur) Meenipitya (Manipai), Nagadeepa (Nainativu), Somapura (Sampur) and  Udupitiya (Udippidi).

The name given to Jaffna peninsula today is ‘Yalpanam.’ The origin of this name is given as a fanciful legend. Simon Casie Chetty  in Tamil Plutarch (1859) says Yalapana Nayanar, a blind minstrel came to the peninsula, having had a quarrel with his wife in Tamilnadu. The Tamil king was pleased with his  playing and gave him a piece of land which turned out to be the Jaffna peninsula. The peninsula was uninhabited. Yalpana nayar cleared it and brought down a colony of Tamils to settle in it and called it Yalapana nadu. The Skanda Purana  gives a different story. It says that the king, pleased with the playing of a  musician named Susangita , gave him the name Yalpana since he was always with a lute in his hand. Susangita  cleared the land he was given, established a settlement and called it Yalpanam. (Denham 1911 p 71)

Horsburgh dismissed the legend as pure myth, saying it had no historical foundation whatever. He though that ‘Yapana’ had come from ‘Yapa’ which was a good Sinhala word and ‘na’ was used as an ending as in Habarana. ‘Yalpanam’ he thought was a later elaboration. E.T.Kannangara   said  that Yapane would have come from Yapapatuna, which means ‘town of the crown prince.’ Yapane, according to this, is not a name at all, it is a description.

Paul E Pieris  stumbled on the correct ancient  name for Jaffna, while researching the Buddhist ruins of Jaffna.  He wanted to find out the location of Nagadipa. According to the Mahavamsa the second visit of Gautama Buddha was to Nagadipa.   The main embarkation point to north India in ancient times was Jambukola in ‘Nagadipa’. From Jambukola it took seven days to get to Tamralipti, a port at the mouth of the Ganges. Jambukola therefore had to be in the Jaffna peninsula. Pieris   concluded that the name given to the Jaffna peninsula and its islands was ‘Nagadipa’.

Pieris read a paper before the Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon Branch,  saying that ‘Nagadipa’ was the name given to the Jaffna peninsula and its islands. John M Senaveratne present at the talk said that Pieris has ‘confirmed for us what was for long suspected and indicated’ by B. Horsburgh and J.P.Lewis that Jaffna was a part of the ancient Sinhala Buddhist civilization. The paper was published as ‘Nagadipa and Buddhist remains in Jaffna’ (1917).  The Vallipuram gold plate, found around 1936, settled the matter. It confirmed that ‘Nakadiva’ was the ancient name for Jaffna.  In 1968 C.E.  Godakumbura reiterated,  through the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society , Ceylon Branch,  that the ancient name for Jaffna peninsula was Nagadipa. (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=147882)

7 Responses to “SINHALA PLACE NAMES IN ANCIENT JAFFNA”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy as Governor of Central Bank- Man…. what happened to our TE dream .

    Hope at least this Governor will sign in Tamil instead of English in new money note ?

  2. Senevirath Says:

    ALL THESE SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS

  3. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    http://jaffnahistory.com/Northern_Province/Sinhala_Villages_of_Jaffna_1695.html

    Say national question, national question and Sinhala modayas will give you anything!
    Sinhala modayas, in their own country, not supposed to live in the north or the east while tamils own
    Colombo as well. They want to keep Colombo plus their ever-getting bigger drealam as well.

    They can write in tamil, marked up by tamil examiners and go to any university (medicine preferred please)
    while Sinhalese children are not supposed to go to universities in jaffna and the east. Still Sinhala modayas
    never say university through the back door while depriving Sinhalese children their share. But Sinhala modayas
    will give more and more. Remember the old mantra. National question, national question. It will give you anything
    including our drealam! Catholic run UNPatriotic party at the helm. So it’s easier and easier now!

    Everyone knows first tamils were brought by the dutch to work in tobacco plantations in jaffna. Upcountry tamils
    were brought by the british to work in tea plantations. Then the kallathonis in the 60s who swam/crossed to save
    their lives from the severe famine in tn. That’s why you can’t find an ancient brick older than 500 years in Sri
    Lanka. All these mythical tamil kingdoms exist in books and www. only. But Sinhala modayas never question
    these ridiculous claims. So they keep chanting the mantras ancient kingdoms, national question, national
    question get everything they want.

    All three sets (dutch lot, british lot and kallathonis) paying back handsomely now. Killed 100,000+ Sinhalese
    by catholic tigers of tamil drealam. Meanwhile diasporats rubbish Mother Lanka at every instance they get. Mother Lanka is very unfortunate to have these foreigners as her children who has become a cancer to her whick is
    eventually going to kill her off. Their ultimate goal is the drealam. Nothing short of it will do for the traitors
    whose heart and loyalty are in tn.

    Senevirath:
    There is no chance teaching these in schools anymore. Bandit queen stopped teaching history in schools for
    obvious reasons (it’s going to affect her children from her late catholic acttor husband). Then catholic run
    UNPatriotic party stopped teaching Buddhism in schools. More to come from the UNPatriotic party with the
    new constitution. Buddhism’s place as state religion going, national flag going, unitary state going. Meanwhile
    Sinhala modayas over the moon. They got YAMA PALLAN destroying Sinhalese, Buddhism and Sri Lanka.
    What more Sinhala modayas can ask for?

  4. Kumari Says:

    Can we please give more publicity to this article and actual government papers mentioned here. I have heard of bits and pieces from different sources but this clears any doubt. Thank you.

  5. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    The whole Southern Indian sub-continent has to be looked at, especially to understand megalithic settlements. Migrations from South India continued unabated bringing South Indians to the North and South of Sri Lanka.

    The arts of the South Indians came into intimate contact with those of the Sinhalese, at both the elite and folk levels, resulting in an interesting cultural dialogue that helped to shape the late medieval arts of the Sinhalese. This dialogue is markedly to be seen in dance, music and drama. In The Folk Drama of Ceylon (1966), Ediriweera Sarachchandra has shown us how two of the traditional forms of Sinhalese music, Vannam and Viraha, and two of the major genres of Sinhala drama, Nadagama and Kolam, arose as a result of contact with Tamil music and folk theatre. Bharatha Natyam had arrived in Sri Lanka in the 11th century. Evidence from sculpture and painting, Sarachchandra has argued, strengthens the view that Bharatha Natyam constituted the entertainment of royalty and the lay elite.

    A major contributory factor to this tragic state of affairs in South Asia is the dangerous tendency of those with ‘little learning’ in history to consider themselves superior to the specialists in the field. In South Asia, with its long and chequered history and multi-ethnic population, every other person with some education seems to consider herself or himself as an authority on history and tends to pay scant respect to the views of specialists, if those views do not agree with what she or he holds to be the truth. Through a process of selective quoting, with no regard for the nature of the source, favourable views are put forward.

    Sri Lanka has been, from time immemorial, the home of various ethnic groups. There have been political and social conflicts among them but the kind of ethnic consciousness and destructive prejudices that have surfaced in the twentieth century and continue to plague the island were not part of Sri Lanka’s pre-colonial history. The first kings that we know of in the centuries before the Common Era were not all of the same ethnic group or religious persuasion. Neither were the last kings of the island before the European invasions.

    The political ideologies espoused by competing groups in times of conflict affect not only ordinary citizens but also intellectuals, some of whom (mis) interpret history and archaeology to support the views they favour.

    Sri Lankans do not have a monopoly in this arena of pseudo-scholarship. We live in an era where in many countries history has become a highly dangerous weapon in the hands of political activists. History is the raw material for nationalist or ethnic or fundamentalist ideologies… If there is no suitable past, it can always be invented…The past legitimizes. The past gives a more glorious background to a present that doesn’t have much to celebrate.

    There were close relations between the pre-historic peoples of Sri Lanka and South India and that the Sinhalese ethnic group evolved in the island as results of Prakritic influences that spread among the pre-historic people.

    Buddhist engagement with the figure of the Buddha became more devotional and emotional in ways probably influenced by Saiva Bhakti. Where necessary, Sinhalese kings and other authorities used the Tamil language for their epigraphic records. A Tamil translation that exists on the same walls at the Lankatilaka Temple as does the Sinhala original of a record inscribed there. The Tamil language was taught in the Buddhist pirivenas. Some of the products of these institutions who became prominent scholar monks were well-versed in Tamil. Ven. Totagamuve Sri Rahula was one of the most reputed among them. Even in the mid-20th century there were erudite Tamil scholars among the Buddhist clergy such as the Ven. Hissalle Dhammaratana who read learned papers in Tamil at international conferences and seminars held in South India and elsewhere as H.L. Seneviratne has recorded in his The Work of Kings (1999:107).

    Alagiyavanna, a Sinhalese poet, who obviously felt very proud of his knowledge of Tamil (and other languages), has gone to the extent of sneering at those not as fortunate as him to acquire such multi-language skills. Alagiyavanna, in his Subhasitaya, has said that he composed this work for the benefit of the creatures who are ignorant of Tamil, Sanskrit and Pali (demala saku magada nohasala sata ta).

    Happily it was not all one way in the area of language and literature. There were Tamils, too, who showed their skills in the Sinhala language. The Tamil Buddhist monks who came to reside in the monastries of the Sinhalese kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries, were probably versed in Sinhala as much as they were in Pali, although their literary output was in the latter language. C.E. Godakumbura, in his Sinhalese Literature (1955), has informed us that a Tamil Buddhist poet named Nallurutu-mini wrote the Sinhala work Namavalilya (referred to usually as the Purana-namavaliya).

    Leslie Gunawardana (1990) considers the author of the Namavaliya to be a “Tamil prince who was married to the daughter of King Parakramabahu VI”. Gananath Obeyesekere has argued that there have been Buddhist migrations as well as migrations of merchants and folk specialists from South India to the Sinhalese kingdom.

    The moral of the above cited historical and cultural evidence surely is that it is wrong to speak of ‘racial’ purity or exclusivity or superiority in modern times. The reality based on such historical and cultural evidence is that from very early times Sri Lanka has been settled by people from all parts of India who mixed freely to produce a new and unique culture.

    The story of ethnic interaction becomes richer subsequent to the fall of Polonnaruva as a result of the emergence of a third major group, the Muslims. Their origins, we are given to understand, go back to the West Asian as well as Indian Muslim trade settlements at the ports and market-towns of Sri Lanka.

    Muslim traders married local women and, therefore, their descendants share the ancient ancestry of the Sinhalese and Tamils. Malay soldiers and the Portuguese who came later did not bring their womenfolk with them but married locally. Thus the Malay and ‘Portuguese’ Burgher communities, too, share the ancestry of the others. Such a fascinating story of ethnic interaction does make all of us Sri Lankans one, doesn’t it? Our rich past during which the southernmost parts of India, comprising mainly the modern states of Kerala and Tamilnadu and the southern parts of Karnataka and Andra Pradesh, together with Sri Lanka formed a single cultural region.

    Sinhalese and Tamils are ultimately descended from the Mesolithic people who occupied almost all parts of the island in pre-historic times.

    These Mesolithic people, spoke different languages, all of which were replaced as a consequence of ‘elite dominance’, in the Early Iron Age and the Early Historic Period, by a Prakrit language in most parts of the island, especially in the south and the centre, and by Tamil in the northwest, north and northeast.

    Prakrit, as the lingua franca of South Asian trade, had an edge over Tamil from the very beginning. The evolution of the two identities as Sinhalese and Tamil, assimilating many small social and cultural groups, reached completion by 1200, although further assimilation, development and changes would continue in the later centuries. From about 1200 onwards, there is a marked geographic division between the two identities.

    Severe limitations of 19th century writing of Sri Lankan history by British officials who based themselves largely on the uncritical acceptance of the Sinhala and Pali chronicles. It is as a consequence of this lapse that colonial historical writing came to subscribe to the view that the Sinhalese were the ‘proper inhabitants’ of the island in ancient times and that the Tamils were invaders.

    Before, long the Sinhalese were identified with the ‘Aryans’ and the Tamils with the ‘Dravidians’. With the exception of Early History of Ceylon written by G.C. Mendis, the other handful of Sri Lankan history books in use even as late as 1930 were authored by historians of British origin.

    These writings, based as they were on the Pali and Sinhala chronicles, sagacious Sri Lankan historians have told us, inevitably set the tone for the Sinhala-centrist approach that has remained the dominant characteristic of Sri Lankan historiography until recent years.

    We have to be mindful of and cautious about the manner in which history is ‘used’ in fighting contemporary issues. Prof. Amal Jayawardane, in his insightful introduction to Perspectives on National Integration in Sri Lanka has underscored the absolute need for discriminate and dispassionate assessment of history especially when seeking to understand complex present issues in the light of past experiences.

    The late E.F.C. Ludowyk, a former Professor of English in the University of Ceylon, is author of two general histories of Sri Lanka that any professional historian would be proud of. His words are apposite in the context of our present ethnic rivalries:
    ‘… the legendary heroes once created to satisfy the old needs are still resorted to in the entirely different circumstances of the present. That cultures have their mythical heroes is not surprising, indeed it would be strange if they should lack them.

    There is a slight distinction to be drawn, however, between this and the need for heroes… To have invented what was once required is surely the normal and economical satisfaction of desires, to be met with in the history of individuals and communities. But to insist on satisfying a recurring need at all times in the same old ways is surely an indication of deep-seated malaise.

    To be, at the present time, dependent on the mythopoeic creativeness of ages long past is to argue an inability to face up to the demands of the contemporaneous. When we continually cry for a cause, for a hero whom we could follow, when we need the sustenance of legendary forefathers, we are most probably showing symptoms, not only of angry unhappiness, but also retarded adoloscence (emphasis mine).

    (E.F.C. Ludowyk, The Story of Ceylon, London 1967:33)

    Similar sentiments, if more robustly expressed, are to be found in a piece written to The Island of 4 August, 2001, by Prof. Sudarshan Seneviratne.

    In it he warned us that the fields of archaeological and historical study in contemporary Sri Lanka are imperiled by certain unfastidious practitioners of these disciplines pursuing agendas of their own. Here is how Seneviratne acquainted us with this pernicious trend:

    The future of both historical and archaeological studies in Sri Lanka is at crossroads facing a dilemma of priorities, choices, resource persons, attitudes and, above all, quality of research.

    It is indeed reasonable to question the extent to which a new breed of charlatans and political animals in these disciplines are responsible for the emergence of an ahistorical attitude and an anti-historical bias in schools, at seats of higher education and the country in general.

    ‘Anti-Orwellian’ historians in this country who have slithered their way through ‘corridors of power’ have not only compromised the very fundamentals of intellectual decency but are now in the process of subverting the study of history for personal ends and political expediency.

    Another leading historian who has expressed similar concern about this unfortunate trend in some of our historical writings is Prof. Leslie Gunawardana: A trend which appears to be gathering strength is represented by some researchers in the field of archaeology and history who see in their work the fulfillment of a duty to highlight the splendour of the Sinhala or the Tamil group as the case may be, and to bolster the claims of one’s own group to disputed territory.

    While it has led to a growth of interest in research related to ethnic studies, this development has brought in its wake a noteworthy relaxation of intellectual rigour in research.

    (Gunawardana 1994)

    The deeper one delves dispassionately and scrupulously into Sri Lankan history the more one will find out how much the Tamils and Sinhalese have in common. They have a shared history and culture, and a common descent.

    Discussing one of the finest achievements in ancient hydraulics in his monumental work on the science and civilization of China, Prof. Needham has noted ‘that the achievements of the Indian civil engineers in ancient and medieval times are quite worthy to be compared with those of their Chinese colleagues,’ but concluded that ‘it was never in India that the fusion of the Egyptian and Babylonian patterns achieved its most complete and subtlest form. This took place in Ceylon, the work of both cultures, Sinhala and Tamil, but especially the former’ (Science and Civilization in China, IV, Cambridge 1971:368).

    We live in an era where in many countries history has become a highly dangerous weapon in the hands of political activists.

  6. Hiranthe Says:

    Very interesting topic. Thank you Kamalika for the work of putting together some of the information distorted due to the Ealam project. I totally agree with Ancient Sinhalaya’s comment.

    I also appreciate the factual write up of Nalliah Thayabharan. This is the type of dialogue we need from Tamils and Sinhalese being Sri lankans. His patient writing needs appreciation.

    Nalliah wrote about the influence of Tamil language and culture from ancient times. That may be very true. Sinhala kings were accommodating foreigners and also they were influenced by foreign traders. We never undermine the rich Tamil culture and Tamil literature. We have never said that we don’t want to live with Tamils in our neighbourhood. Our only concern is the Tamil Homeland issue of North and East of the Island, the blatant MEGA lie and also claiming for a part of the country as a Tamil home land, which was never there.
    How unfair it is to ask for a piece from Mother Lanka despite the Tamil community was having all equal opportunities to study, live, work, do business and flourish.
    Educated people like Nalliah should talk about all these so that we will get the knowledge of what happened in the ancient times and also the recognition it enjoyed. In the meantime, they should complete the picture by rejecting the MEGA lies created by the Ealam project and create harmony within the communities. We welcome you and respect you for the truth you speak.

  7. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Dear Hiranthe,

    From the 13th century when migration of Vellalar to Jaffna took place, Tamil Nadu has seen a decline in the traditional power of Vellalar. Successive colonial powers in Sri Lanka found Vellalar useful where Brahmins were not forthcoming. The Vellalar were not only cultivators, but a section of them which had developed scribal skills, provided the local officials, interpreters and accountants. Vellalar took the advantage of the situation and submitted themselves as slaves to the colonials and in return colonials were more kind towards their loyal servants. That is how Vellalar became the civil service force to help rule of colonials.

    In 1847, Kandar Arumukampillai(aka Arumuga Navalar) left the Jaffna Central College where he was a teacher because a ‘low caste’ Tamil student from the Nalavar caste was admitted to the school by the principal Peter Percival. Three decades later when a famine hit Northern Sri Lanka Kandar Arumukampillai worked tirelessly to provide food and medicine to Vellalar only. The lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lnakans were treated as stray dogs by Vellalar. Caste system among Tamil speaking Sri Lankans has given rise to serious social evils. It denied certain civil rights to a large number of people and let to the oppressions and exploitations by Vellalar, which paved a constant source of discontent or unrest. Vellalar were the founders of the fascist culture in Jaffna.

    Despite the civilized veneer presented to the outside world Vellalar ran a fascistic regime reducing the depressed loer caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans to slaves. Vellalar’s cruel caste system has no other parallel in any other part of Sri Lanka. Vellalar virtually had a free run of the Jaffna peninsula because the colonial rulers turned a blind eye to the subhuman Vellalar’s culture of violence. Thesavalamai legitimized slavery and the Vellalar ruled the land with an iron fist, with the colonial administrators often refusing to interfere in the laws and customs of the Vellalar. In 1871, Caste clashes erupted between Vellalar, Dhoby caste and Barber caste in Mavittapuram when Dhoby caste people refused to wash the clothes of Barber caste people. Vellalar were blamed for the violence. September 1923 in Suthumalai, Vellalar attacked lower caste people who had hired drummers for a funeral alleging that lower caste people had no right to employ drummers for their funerals as they were ‘low caste’. In 1931 a similar violent riot took place in Chankanai where Pallar were attacked by Vellalar people for hiring drummers for a funeral. Tamil speaking Sri Lankans need to be reminded that they did not allow low castes to enter any place that Vellalar frequented.

    In June 1929 caste riots broke out again in Jaffna in response to the ‘equal seating directive’ of the government which was applicable to grant-aided schools. Under this directive ‘low caste’ students were allowed to sit on the bench. Until then they sat either on the floor or outside the classroom. This was how Tamil speaking Sri Lankans treated their own! Resultant riots bunt a large number of houses mainly of low caste Tamils. Their children en masse were stopped from attending schools. Repeated petitions were made to the government by Vellalar begging to cancel the directive! Ponnambalam Ramanathan went to request the Colonial Office in London to encode caste into legislative enactments.

    Ponnambalam Ramanathan led the opposition to democratization by opposing universal franchise proposed by the Donoughmore reformers in the 1920′ on the ground that it would give the lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans the right to vote.

    When Vellalar initiated their extremist demands it was the British who rejected them and not the Sinhalese. The British cultivated Vellalar as subservient and pliant agents of their regime. But this protection given to the privileges of the Vellalar was beginning to erode under the relentless invasions of modernity. The arrogant Vellalar reacted convulsively when the encroachments of modernity began to undermine Vellalar’s feudal and colonial privileges. Vellalar were reluctant to challenge the British whose patronage had made them the most privileged community in British Ceylon. Vellalar preferred to go along with the British colonialists, covertly aiding their white masters as complying agents in the legislature and in the administration. This political ploy was a common tactic, both under the Dutch and the British, to win a nudge-and-wink from the colonial masters to siphon off a disproportionate share of the state’s resources to Vellalar.

    The Dutch records categorically identify the need to win the Vellalar’s consent to be in command of Jaffna. In 1931 the Vellalar attacked the lower castes for hiring drummers for funerals. The message of the Vellalar was clear – no low castes could hire drummers for funerals!

    Even after Independence, the Sinhala speaking Sri Lankans hardly knew of the existence of the lowwe caste Tamil speaking Sri lankans. As far as the Sinhala speaking Sri Lankan leaders were concerned the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans whom they met in Colombo, the leaders of Tamil Congress and the Federal Party, the Tamil speaking professionals and academics, and the Tamil speaking public servants were the real Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, indeed they were only Vellalar!

    G.G.Ponnambalam succeeded in burying the “aristocracy” of the old guard led by Arunachalam Mahadeva with his “50-50″ demand. Veluppillai Chelvanayakam buried G.G.Ponnambalam by taking “50-50″ to the next stage of separatism. And from the grave of Appapillai Amirthalingam rose Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran. Each death was a milestone in escalating racism. No other community has pursued and injected racism into an electorate as the Vellalar fighting for their survival, with Jaffna as their base.

    It was S.W.R.D Bandaranaike who opened the doors for low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans to attend schools & temples – places that were taboo to them by their own Tamil speaking brethren. The Social Disabilities Act No. 21 was passed in the parliament in 1957 giving lower castes of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans the right to attend schools & temples as the part of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike’s plan was to penetrate into the “low caste” votes of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. Lower castes Tamil speaking Sri Lankan children could attend school regularly only after this act.

    A reawakening happened in the north among previously marginalised lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. No sooner Vellalar realized the dangers of SLFP government led by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike courting the low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, Vellalar devised their response. It was to create the best division possible. A rift between the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans and Sinhala speaking Sri Lankans which would strike better success than low caste – Vellalar divisions among Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. It is important to note that the satyagrahas, the tarring of Sinhala letter “SRI” instead of English letters on vehicle licence plates launched by the Veluppilai Chelvanayagam led Federal Party and G.G Ponnambalam led Tamil Congress – both Vellala high class political parties happened a year after making Sinhala the official language.

    Why did Federal Party and Tamil Congress not cry foul over the Sinhala Only Act in 1956 but oppose the Social Disabilities Act on 1957 with such venom? It is because Tamil speaking Sri Lankans wanted to deprive their own. Wijeyananda Dahanayake who was the Minister of Education in 1957, gave teaching appointments to many lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans who had three credit passes in the S.S.C Exam (G.C.E O/L). Appapillai Amirthalingam who was an Federal Party MP then, opposed this move under the pretext that it would bring down educational standards.

    Similarly, when the Sirimavo R.D.Bandaranaike led SLFP Government introduced university standardization in 1973 those that opposed were those who were against equitable distribution. The schools in thirteen out of twenty two districts did not produce a single engineering or medicine student until 1974. Students from Colombo and Jaffna who had been privy to education opposed opportunities that would be enjoyed by students from Mannar, Monaragala, Vavuniya, Ampara, Kilinochchi & other less developed districts. While the composition of the ethnicity did not change entrance, for Tamil speaking Sri Lankans it meant not only the Vellalar but lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans too would gain university entrance. This was why Vellalar opposed the 1973 university standardization introduced by Srimavo Bandaranaike led SLFP Government.

    Tamil speaking Sri Lankans who cry “discrimination” may like to recall how in the refugee camps during the 1983 riots Vellalar refused to share common toilet facilities with the low castes and a lot of problems arose inside the very camps housing only Tamil speaking Sri Lankans!

    From feudal and colonial times until May 18, 2009 Jaffna peninsula was under the jackboot of, Vellalar’s fascism followed by their equally brutal fascists in the LTTE. Both Vellalar and LTTE oppressed and subjugated their own people and denied their victims the fundamental right to live with even a modicum of dignity and self-respect. The LTTE took over from where the Vellalar left and perpetuated the cult of fascist violence which reduced the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans of the North and East to subhumans.

    Though LTTE used Tamil speaking Sri Lankans as human shields, killed them, denied them food and medicines watched without a hum by the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil politicians, it was the Sri Lanka Army often referred to as “Sinhala Army” that braved LTTE attacks and mines to save 294,000 Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. These brave soldiers are the rightful owners of our motherland.

    Sri Lankans of all races love to live in multi-ethnic communities. As Tamil speaking Sri Lankans live in the South, Sinhalese and Muslims were living in the North until a few decades ago. Their numbers were small but sizable. This was before communal politics hijacked Northern politics. It was very unfortunate. Never would this have happened had the North was a vibrant multi-ethnic community like the Central, South, East & West.

    The Tamil Elam concept was finally officiated in 1949 with the formation of the ITAK (Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi which means Sri Lanka Tamil Kingdom Party). This catchy name was a ploy to fool unsuspecting Tamils. Its English translation – Federal Party – was another ploy – to fool the Sinhalese. Using aggressive communal politics ITAK rose to prominence winning seats at the 1952 Parliament election and later expanding at the 1956 election much the same way National-Socialists won increasing number of parliament seats in the 1930s in Europe.

    450 years of colonialism set the stage for ethnic friction during the post independence period. Do belief systems prevalent in Tamil speaking Sri Lankans from Jaffna, matter in affecting their social integration with Sinhala speaking Sri Lankans? Tamil speaking Sri Lankans from Jaffna who bring values that depart very substantially from those of the the majority of the country may always lead to the creation of social boundaries that are difficult to transcend. To pre-empt polarized ethnic enclaves ethnic integration must be promoted. By maintaining a multi-ethnic environment, the government can maintain social stability, communal harmony and religious tolerance, and keep Sri Lanka safe, secure and prosperous for all ethic groups.

    Given that millions of Tamils are living in the South and South is too cramped with people so we must say it is okay to allow new settlements (no matter what race are they) in the North and East.While population of the rest of the country increased rapidly, with some once small towns like Galle and Matara becoming mega cities with population bursting at the seams, the population in the North has dropped by more than half. Diaspora Tamils know that Sinhalese are great neighbours and even better than German, French, Italian or British. Tamils are living in harmony with Sinhalese in the South. In Sri Lanka there are many LAWS in the books. Kandyan Law, Mukkuwa Law, Islamic Law, Roman-Dutch Law, Low Country Sinhala Law and Thesawalamai.

    Why we have Islamic Law but no Buddhist or Hindu Law?

    “Thesawalamai” is not practiced much in Jaffna. If that is practiced people from Pungudutivu or any low castes cannot buy lands in Jaffna! Now that the Tamils are relocating to Canada, UK etc etc Sinhalese should relocate to the vacant areas left by the Tamils. In Singapore EIP – Ethnic Integration Policy – is enforced to balance ethnic composition.

    Any Sri lankan should be able to live where ever they want, as long as the law of the country is respected and follwed. When racists use “Tamil Areas” it implies that there are some areas exclusive for Tamils.

    This “Tamil Exclusiveness” concept is one of the roote causes for ethnic tension in our motherland. This is likesomeone saying that “Tamils are Tamilizing Sinhala areas of Wellawatta”. Mono ethnic enclaves should not be encouraged. That’s the reason to non-tolerance of other cultures. Everyone should have a common Sri Lankan identity. Sri lanka is for every son and daughter of the soil, whether speaking in English, Tamil or Sinhala. Equality,liberty and freedom to exercise one’s religion, language and culture is all that matters.

    Time has come to stop all this nonsense of being Tamil and Sinhalese. We are all Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka belongs to all its children. Every Sri Lankan citizen has to be treated equally, should be allowed to move around freely without any restrictions and when they do so they should be encouraged to procure these assets at market prices. If the Tamils can live other parts of Sri Lanka, then why Sinhalese don’t have the same right. Please do not create mono ethnic enclaves. There are no ethnic homelands in Sri Lanka… only Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka is a free country; Anybody from Dondra Point should be able to live in Point Pedro and vice versa as well. Co-inhabitant is the best solution to national integrity and makes different ethnic groups to understand each other.

    Hindi is the official language of the Indian Union (although it also recognises 15 or 16 other regional languages as official). Still, it is the native language of only about a third of all Indians. Those who don’t grow up speaking Hindi must learn it at school. Very little Hindi is spoken in the south of India, where the dominant languages are completely unrelated to those of the north.

    Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. It is also the official language of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and one of the two official languages of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

    Like Hindi, Urdu is not the native language of most Pakistanis. For only about 10% of Pakistanis, primarily those living in Karachi and other cities of the Sindh province, speak it as their mother tongue. The remaining Pakistanis grow up speaking Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi, Pashtu, Kashmiri or other languages and must learn Urdu at school. In fact, India has about ten times the number of native speakers of Urdu as Pakistan.

    But this situation is changing because the Pakistani state has so thoroughly suffused the country with Urdu. Many of today’s young Pakistanis for whose parents Urdu is not the mother tongue, have grown up speaking Urdu as though it was.

    Similarly a majority of Sri Lankan kids with Tamil speaking parents are now living in traditionally Sinhala speaking areas and growing up speaking Sinhala as well. Language will not become a subject of racist division in few years if all the Tamil speaking Sri Lankan children learn Sinhala.

    It has been the proud privilege of the Sri Lankans to live in harmony with one another. That has been the basis of Sri Lanka’s culture from the days of Asoka, 2,300 years ago. This has been repeatedly declared and practiced. Let us endeavour to rebuild the brotherhood that once existed between the Sinhala and Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. It is the only way forward to usher in peace and prosperity once more to this beautiful country of ours that has been torn apart by war and strife.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2018 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress