THE “KINGDOM OF JAFFNA”
Posted on September 7th, 2016

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

Jaffna was originally an island called ‘Nagadipa’ , separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of water. It became linked to the mainland only in the 18 century. It was a part of the Sinhala kingdom and under the Sinhala king till the 13th century. The Vallipuram manuscript shows that during the time of king Vasabha, (67-111 AD) his minister ordered that a vihara be built in Nagadipa.’ Tilak Hettiarachchy, examining the history of kingship in the early Anuradhapura period suggests that though ‘epigraphic data is not available for the north, the fact that the king built viharas in this area is proof of its being within the king’s territory.’

Three coins which could be assigned to Sinhala kings have been found in Jaffna area.  The first coin found at Kadurugoda, (Kantarodai) has been assigned to Parakrama bahu I (1153-86). It is considered to be an extremely rare coin. The second coin, a Massa coin of the Dambadeniya period is assigned to Parakrama bahu II (1236-70). The third coin is assigned to Parakrama bahu VI.  During British rule, the government agent, Mr. J. P. Lewis, on  a visit to Vallipuram learnt that the Police Vidane there was in possession of a gold coin which had been discovered in 1890. He obtained the ‘find’ and sent it to the Archaeological Commissioner,  H. C. P. Bell, for identification. It turned out to the Iraka or Daraka,  a Sinhalese coin of very debased gold.

Jaffna ports were used for  sea travel during the Anuradhapura period. ‘Jambukola pattana,’ (modern Kankesanturai)  was an important embarkation port for India. There was a high road from Jambukola pattana to Anuradhapura to facilitate this. ‘Uratota’ (modern Kayts) was an important commercial port in  the Polonnaruwa period. The Nainativu Tamil inscription datable to the reign of Parakramabahu I, suggests that foreign vessels laden with merchandise arrived at the port of ‘Uraturai.’ An inscription of 1178 declares that the Sinhalese were building ships and assembling troops at Uratota and other places in order to make a fresh invasion of South India.

Jaffna was a part of the Sinhala Buddhist civilization. There are remains of Buddhist temples at Kantarodai (Kadurugoda) and other places in the Jaffna peninsula. A.D.N. Fernando pointed out that Delft also had ruins of dagobas and brahmi inscriptions. Malini Dias says a stone image of the Buddha about 8 feet in height was unearthed near Vishnu temple in Vallipuram, in 1903, together with ruins of buildings, pottery and coins. The statue was gifted to Thailand in 1906 by the British governor Henry Blake. It is now in Bangkok.

P.A.T. Gunasinghe says the place names of Jaffna only make sense if they are seen as translations of Sinhala names. He points out that ‘vil” means ‘bow,’ and ‘pay’ means ‘net’ in Tamil. Therefore names like Kokuvil and Manipay only make sense when they are seen as the Tamilization of the Sinhala words Kokavila and Mampe. Valikamam and Vimankam are meaningless in Tamil, but make sense if the villages originally bore the Sinhala names of Valigama and Vimangama. Some place names like Polvattai refer to the Sinhala used in 14th century. Gunasinghe says that Jaffna was populated by Sinhalese in the medieval period, though the area between Jaffna and Anuradhapura may have had Tamil settlements in the medieval period.

Jaffna went under foreign rule very easily. A Malay (Javaka) ruler, called Chandrabanu, from Ligor ( present day Nakon Sri Tammarat , Thailand) invaded the Dambadeniya kingdom around 1247. Chandrabanu attacked at Yapahuwa with troops from Chola and Pandya kingdoms. His intention was to take over the whole country.Parakrama bahu II  (1236-70) defeated him. Chandrabanu  did not return to Malaya but ended up in Jaffna. Chandrabanu’s coins have been recently found in the north. Place names such as Chavakaccheri suggest that the Malays may have stayed in Jaffna peninsula for some time.

Around 1258,   Jatavarman Sundara Pandya  ruler of the Tamil kingdom of India, invaded Chandrabanu’s territory and levied tribute. Jatavarman Vira Pandya invaded in 1263, killed Chandrabanu and placed his son as a vassal ruler in Jaffna. Father and son ruled for a total period of about 55 years.  In 1286, the Pandyas again invaded and placed the first of the Ariyachakravarti rulers in charge in Jaffna.  He was Cinkaiyariyan, a powerful  general from the Pandya kingdom. He ruled at Nallur

P.A.T. Gunasinghe pointed out that unlike most kings, Ariyachakravarti left no inscriptions. The tradition of leaving inscriptions was there at the time, and there is one relevant inscription in Kegalle, but none in Jaffna, indicating that this kingdom was not an independent one but was a part of the south Indian Pandya kingdom. Jaffna became, according to Vernon Mendis a Pandyan principality”.

Later, succession disputes arose in the Pandya kingdom in South India and the kingdom became unstable.  Malik Kafur, a Muslim from Gujerat attacked and took the Pandya capital of Madurai in 1311.  This would have helped Ariyachakravarti  to strengthen his position in Jaffna. The area under Ariyachakravarti in Sinhaladvipa  grew in size and by 1344 the pearl fisheries around Mannar were in his hands. Gunasinghe says that the Jaffna principality probably extended along the north-western coast.

Ariyachakravarti  owned armed pirate vessels and a merchant marine service which operated as far as Yemen. He spoke fluent Persian. Ariyachakravarti was able to send Ibn Batuta safely to Adams Peak. Ariyachakravarti attacked Vikramabahu III (1359-74) and exacted tribute. The territory conquered by Ariyachakravarti included Colombo, Negombo, Wattala and Chilaw. Rajavali states that Tamil agents were stationed at various places including seaports to collect the tribute.

P.A.T Gunasinghe says that this period of control by Jaffna did not exceed 29 years. It was probably much less. Nissanka Alagakkonara, a powerful minister in Vickramabahu’s court, challenged the Jaffna king. According to the Rajavali, he did so by hanging the king’s tax collectors. Ariyachakravarti attacked by land and sea. Alagakkonara defeated him at Colombo and Kotte and pushed upward taking back all territory except Jaffna, in which he was not interested. The tribute ended.

Historians are definite that there was no territorial annexation of the Sinhala kingdom by Jaffna, though revenue was handed over. Gunasinghe says Vickramabahu III remained a sovereign, independent king, not politically subordinate to anybody, and moreover, claiming authority over the whole country. After Alagakkonara died, Ariyachakravarti invaded again His army advanced from Jaffna to Matale. The king, Buvanekabahu V (1374-1408) ran away, but the army took control without him and defeated Ariyachakravarti.

Jaffna then went under a new south Indian ruler, the Vijayangara Empire of Karnataka. The Vijayangara Empire  ruled over  the whole of south India from 1366 to 1646. Their capital was at Hampi and the language was Kannada. By 1364 they had taken over the Pandya kingdom of Madurai. Jaffna was made to pay tribute and when it tried to rebel, prince Virupaksha of the Vijayangara Empire invaded and brought Jaffna under control. This is indicated in his inscription dated 1365. Vijayanagara  also tried to invade the Sinhala  kingdom but was repulsed. Jaffna was under Vijayanagara in 1507.  Vijayanagara  continued to claim tribute from Jaffna  until the Portuguese arrived. Jaffna was  conquered by the Portuguese in 1560 . The  Jaffna ruler fled to Tanjore and returned with an army and was promptly defeated by the Portuguese who also had got reinforcements from South India.

The Sinhala king never abandoned his  desire to bring the whole island, including Jaffna under him. Jaffna  went  under    Sinhala rule for brief periods.  Parakramabahu VI  ( 1411-66) sent Sapumal Kumaraya to conquer the peninsula.  Sapumal  subdued the Vanni and  took over Jaffna  and  the island came under one king.  G.V.P. Somaratne says there were Sinhalese in Jaffna when Sapumal entered. The  Jaffna ruler ran away to south India and did not return for two  decades.’

Sapumal Kumaraya ruled Jaffna  for 16 years, after which he returned to  Kotte to take over the throne  as Buvaneka bahu VI ((1469-77). He was not interested in retaining Jaffna and Jaffna reverted to Vijayangara. However,  it may have paid tribute to Kotte because a sannasa issued by Dharma Parakrama bahu IX  (1489-1513)declared that he was the king of Kotte, Kandy and Jaffna (trisinhala adhiswara). Buvaneka bahu VII  (1521-51)had wanted the Portuguese to take  Jaffna  and give it   to him.  Senerat (1604-35)   arranged marriages for two of his sons, with the nieces of Jaffna’s ruler, Sankili. The nieces were living in Tanjore. Senerat invaded  and took Jaffna in 1628.  The Portuguese won it back in 1629.

There never was an independent Kingdom at Jaffna. Jaffna was merely a vassal state of the Pandya kingdom. University of Ceylon History of Ceylon described it as ‘none too strong and small in size’. K. M de Silva said that it  did not control ‘anything more than the Jaffna peninsula, some adjacent regions on the coast and some parts of the interior’ . Pathmanathan says the 7 principalities the Vanni paid tribute to Jaffna and that Queyroz had included them as part of the Kingdom of Jaffna. Other historians  say it did not control even the Vanni, which remained independent even during Dutch times. It  was  unable to resist invasions and  was  dominated by South India. It had had no significant achievements and  historians took  no notice of it. None of the Tamil kings, except perhaps Cankili ( 1519-1560),   compared favorably with the kings of Sitawaka or Kandy.

However, the  Tamil Separatist Movement  made much of the   ‘Kingdom of Jaffna’. A. J. Wilson states that ‘a  fair section of the island was in under Tamil rule’ (States of South Asia p 297). This ‘kingdom’ was the subject of S. Pathmanathan’ s book  ‘Kingdom of Jaffna’ ( 1978) ,  a revised version of his Ph. D, thesis. This work traces the history of the kingdom from the beginning to the mid-15th century. Pathmanathan observes that the first kings of the Kingdom of Jaffna were not even Sri Lankan Tamils. They were Arya Chakravartis from South India, who invaded Jaffna in the 13th century, and established a kingdom with the help of the Pandyan kings of South India. Thereafter, according to Pathmanathan, the Kingdom of Jaffna became a ‘maritime province of some importance’ and enjoyed some respite from foreign raids until the Vijayanagara conquest.

Pathmanathan’s research clearly indicates the limitations  within which any claims could be made regarding this kingdom. The main source for the history of  this ‘kingdom’ is the Yalapana Vaipava Malai written in 1736 at the request of the Dutch governor.   Pathmanathan admits that this work is defective in chronology and genealogy. No specific contributions any king is recorded in it. Of the ten kings who are said to have ruled till 1450, only 4 are known in sources other than in Yalpana Vaipava malai.

Jaffna has no historical records which confirm the existence of a formal kingdom at Jaffna. ‘Local Tamil chronicles don’t give a clear account of the beginning of the kingdom or its rulers, admitted Pathmanathan. They do not provide clear information on important issues, such as the origins, or even the date of the founding of the Ariyachakravarti dynasty. There is no proper chronology of its kings. Regnal dates for some of them are lacking. K.M.de Silva’s History of  Sri Lanka  lists  17 ‘kings of Jaffna.’ He provides dates only for the last four and these dates start from 1478. De Silva refuses to furnish dates before that and says that even from the 1478 onwards, ‘there are problems with regard to regnal dates’.

3 Responses to “THE “KINGDOM OF JAFFNA””

  1. plumblossom Says:

    In Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Tamils were not only provided fully language, religious and cultural rights as per the UN charter let alone citizenship, but going beyond the UN charter provided them political rights too (which is at the discretion of the country’s government only as per the UN charter, which means a government does not necessarily have to provide any political rights to a minority, especially not an immigrant minority). The Sri Lankan Tamils have provincial councils with all reasonable powers.

    What did these Sri Lankan Tamils, the TNA separatist terrorists and the LTTE do in return? Ethnic cleanse the entire North of Sinhala and Muslim people, deny the indigenous Sinhala people even the right to live in the North or even in the East and commenced a conventional war where even Sinhala villagers in their villagers were massacred.

    What in return did the US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India the US imperialists do? Supported the brutal terrorist group the LTTE and they are now busy trying the create Eelam or a separate state. This is a good lesson for Sri Lanka. We have gone out of our way to be just and fair by the Sri Lankan Tamils and look at what we have got in return, our country will soon even be partitioned as per the US imperialists demands. The only way out is to refuse to carry out the US resolution and tell the US imperialists to leave Sri Lanka alone and to get out of Sri Lanka for good once and for all and to leave us alone.

  2. plumblossom Says:

    Apart from highly commending you for taking legal action against the treacherous CBK (Chaura Rejina) regarding the defamatory and utter lies she keeps repeating to defame her rivals, legal action should be taken against her for stating that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial Councils within the new constitution. Does this evil woman CBK think she owns Sri Lanka and that she is the one who is going to draw up the new constitution of Sri Lanka (according to the wishes of the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists)? The constitution of Sri Lanka should satisfy first and foremost the majority of people of this island i.e. the Sinhala people and the Sinhala people firstly do not want to draw up a new constitution nor do they want any more powers whatsoever be provided to the provincial councils especially land, police and fiscal or to illegally merge the North and the East.

    Someone has to go to the supreme court and take action against treacherous CBK for suggesting that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial councils within the yet to be drawn up constitution since this means the treacherous Ranil, Sirisena, CBK and Mangala have already drawn up a constitution to satisfy the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists which is illegal.

  3. plumblossom Says:

    When looking at Sri Lanka’s history, it is extremely obvious that from 600BC to around 1400AD there were three kingdoms, all Sinhala Buddhist, Ruhuna, Pihiti or Rajarata and Maya or Malayarata. Rajarata encompassed today’s North Central, North Western, Northern and even the Central Province. Ruhunu rata encompassed today’s Uva, Eastern and Southern Provinces. The Kandyan Kingdom from 1400AD encompassed most of the island inclusive of today’s Northern and the Eastern Provinces except for the Jaffna Peninsula. Even the Jaffna Peninsula was invaded and occupied by force by Aryachakravarthi (Pandyan) and actually did belong to Rajarata earlier and later the Kandyan Kingdom.

    Today’s provincial boundaries were drawn up by the British colonialists as per their divide and rule policy and the Sinhala people were not consulted when drawing up these provincial boundaries. In the meantime, most Sri Lankan Tamils of today were actually brought over during Dutch and British times to the Jaffna Peninsula and elsewhere to work on tobacco and indigo plantations which were planted extensively in all the colonies since they were much sought after and made a lot of money for the colonialists. Therefore they are recent arrivals and cannot claim homelands or separate states whatsoever.

    The usual practice when a colonial power hands over their former colonies is to hand it over to its original owners. Therefore the British colonialists should hand over the Kandyan Kingdom to the Kandyan Sinhalese from whom they took it by force. Since the Kandyan Kingdom encompassed the North and the East, these provinces too should be handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese who are its rightful owners. Even the Jaffna Peninsula should be handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese since it was part of Rajarata and was forcefully occupied by Aryachakravarthi (Pandyan).

    Since this has now been done already, the TNA and other separatist terrorists or the US, UK EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India cannot demand that present day Northern or even the Eastern provinces be provided any more powers or be made into federal states since this is totally going against the history and archaeology of the island and totally going against the rights of the Sinhala people who also have fundamental rights to claim the entire island inclusive of the North and the East as their homeland first and foremost. Therefore, the TNA , the separatist terrorists, the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada and India has to respect the history and archaeology of the island and accept that the present day provincial councils are more than sufficient to run the affairs of the provinces. Sri Lanka must be a unitary state and no more powers should be provided to the provincial councils. In fact, when talking about the 13th amendment, the concurrent list subjects must be included in the national list. The provision where two provinces can merge should be deleted. The bogus claim of the North and the East being the homeland of the Tamil speaking people should be deleted. The entire island should be declared the homeland of all its peoples.

    Sinhala people should be resettled in the North in quite a large number if there is to be peace and harmony within the island since Sinhala people have every historical right to live in the North as well as the East. It is only due to ethnic cleansing of the North of Sinhala people by the LTTE and the other separatists that Sinhala people are not at present living in the North. Many thousands of landless elsewhere in the island especially Sinhala people should be provided land in the North since most of the vacant land in the country is in the North and in the East since both these provinces encompass over 28% of the land area of the island. Then only will there be peace since when people mix, there is more harmony. This is the only way towards peace and development in the island.

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