No Tamil Homelands – Part 3 – Sinhala Origin of the Word Jaffna, not Tamil
Posted on August 14th, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

The aim of the series of articles is to prove that there never were any Tamil homelands in Sri Lanka. Obviously Tamils lived in the island nation as long as the Sinhalese lived and every Tamil individual is entitled to the same rights as any other individual. Tamil racist websites and other propaganda machines are in full swing trying to prove there was a Tamil homeland in the island using hilarious claims. Although the truth is obvious, not encountering these hilarious claims gives them a walkover which must not be allowed. This attitude of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”truth shall prevailƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ or ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”truth will eventually winƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ or ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”truth needs no mentioningƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ has given Tamil racist elements a distinct propaganda advantage. It is time to state the obvious truths no matter how obvious they are.

The term Jaffna is at the centre of Tamil homeland claims. Fake historians claim the existence of a Tamil kingdom by the name the Jaffna Kingdom. Jaffna Kingdom did exist according to most accounts but it was far from a separate kingdom and it was not a Tamil kingdom. It hardly existed for a long time.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The word Jaffna is Portuguese. It was since used by the Dutch and British invaders. It has become the most popular term even among the locals today to refer to this place in northern Sri Lanka. In Sinhala this place is called ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ or ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and in Tamil it is ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YalpanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. Portuguese didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t invent a name for this place. They used the commonly used name to create their own name.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ So which was the locally used most common name that was used by the Portuguese? What was the named that was used in the 16th century to refer to this place?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Did ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ become Jaffna or did ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YalpanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ become Jaffna?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Interaction between the Portuguese language and local languages resulted in the emergence of disparities in pronunciation. For instance certain sounds in the local dialect corresponded to more than one sound in Portuguese and vice versa. Pronunciation of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-JƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ in Portuguese had two local corresponding pronunciations ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-JƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ itself and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-YƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. For instance, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JesusƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is alternatively pronounced and even spelt in the local languages as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YesusƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ sometimes. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JohnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ as Yo(ha)n and Johannes as Yohannes. This is common to both Sinhala and Tamil languages. This was how the first ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-YƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ in the terms ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢/ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢YapaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YalpanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ became ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-JƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Similarly, the pronunciation of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-FƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ in Portuguese had two local corresponding pronunciations ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-FƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ itself and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-PƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. For instance ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”FernandoƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ was pronounced as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”PranandoƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ in local languages. So was ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”FonsekaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ pronounced as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”PonsekaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. Once again this was and still is common to both Sinhala and Tamil languages. This was how the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-PƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ in the terms ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢/ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢YapaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YalpanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ became ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-FƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The resultant terms would have been ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JafanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢/ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢JafaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ corresponding to the Sinhala word and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JalfanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ corresponding to the Tamil word. It is obvious the Sinhala derivation (ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JafaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢) ended up as Jaffna. Had the Tamil word become Portuguese, it must have an ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-LƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-MƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ too. But the word Jaffna does not have an ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-LƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and/or an ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-MƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Franciscan Friar Fernao DeQueyroz, a Portuguese Catholic priest made very detailed accounts of Portuguese encounters in the island. The complete name given by him to Jaffna is ‘Jafana Patanaoture’. It is obvious Yapana became Jafana and then Jaffna.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This is incontrovertible proof that the northern city of Jaffna had a Sinhala name even when the Portuguese arrived in the island in the 16th century and it was converted to Portuguese. The word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ or ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapanayaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ has a longer historical use than the Tamil word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YalpanamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ which actually occurs first and foremost in Tamil Nadu, India, literature and not in Sri Lankan literature. However, that is another topic in itself. As for the argument that there was a Tamil separate kingdom in the north when the Portuguese arrived, it is simply untrue. If Jaffna was a Tamil area at that time, the Tamil word would have been converted to Portuguese which would have resulted in a name like ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”JalfnamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. However, instead, the Sinhala word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YapaneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ became Jaffna which proves the well known name for the city at that time was the Sinhala term.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ When the Portuguese, Dutch and British invaders captured the maritime provinces, border control of Sri Lanka went for a toss. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. There was absolutely no check to control their influx. In addition hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were brought to the island as labourers by colonial rulers. The rate of influx far surpassed the rate of integration creating a duplicate Tamil Nadu identity in the north and parts of the east. Before Sri Lanka lost control of its borders, the rate of integration was much faster than the tickle of influx and as a result there was no identity problem within the island. A separate Tamil history was documented only in the 18th century commissioned by the Dutch following their divide and rule strategy. The Holy Bible has an older history in Sri Lanka than ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Yalapana Vaipava MalaiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢! That was 15 centuries after the first documentation of predominantly Sinhala Sri Lankan history. Tamil historical poetry which was commissioned by the Dutch emerged at a time when the nation was subjugated by alien European invaders. A country cannot assert itself when under siege.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Tamil elements supporting the mono ethnic Tamil-only claim use twisted history and hilarious etymology to justify their racist claims and to force non-Tamils out of the areas they claim ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Tamil homelandsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. This insanity must be stopped before it once again snowballs into another war. Unfortunately even after the end of the war, the government is yet to take concrete action to make the separatist rage a thing of the past.

14 Responses to “No Tamil Homelands – Part 3 – Sinhala Origin of the Word Jaffna, not Tamil”

  1. gamunu6 Says:

    Thanks Mr Dilrook Kanangara
    Although I am not familiar with origin of Jaffna or its present situation. Jaffna has been a bastion of tamil community & have produced some noted interlectuals.

    We should embrace our minorities so that they feel welcome and as a constinuent part of Sri Lankan mosaic. Tamils, Muslims, burghers & other minorities have live in our country peaceful yfor many years.

    Introducing poltical parties with ETHNIC overtones always cater for limited number of citizens & thereby become RACIALLY based units. These in time react very unfavourably in enahcing unity & diversity of our country. I for one feel all political parties should aspire to get maximum number of individuals from all ethnicities, so that at least poltical parties DO NOT appear to be favouring groups or associations with some agendas & ulterior motives.

    Sri lanka is a small country & we all suffered enough within the last 30 years of some form or another rebel groups, terrorists and the like. Now its time to re-instate in minds of all peace loving population that SRI LANKA is UNITED, UNDER ONE FLAG, INDIVISIBLE, ONE NATION as the American oath says in their national anthem.

    Why it is that we as Sri lankans fail to unite & support the present Govt. how ever faults & inefficiencies or corruption it embodies. There is no country in the world FREE from bribery / corruption & freedoms.

    If we look at the so called Int. Community including India, corruption is much more rampart and so are in most Western Democracies. The very people who lecture small & fast developing countries about HUMAN RIGHTS have to solve their own problems before pointing fingures at others.

    I strongly feel Tamil commnuity specially should make every effort to reconcile & get their requests heard , WITHOUT demading and using words like OR ELSE.. giving ultimatums to duly elected Sovereign govt. Then maybe THEN ONLY even hardened Sri Lankans/ Sinhalese, would consider some requests and would yeild for the sake of keeping country united.

    Just expressing my views about our Motherland…Thanks again Sir for your valuable contribution.

    Gamunu Alahakkone. P. Eng (Canada).. C.Eng(UK)

  2. KingSasanka Says:

    In this context even the word ILAM (Eelam), today, being apparently used to connote the impression of “a land of the Tamils”.

    Instead the Tamil word ILAM was never used in earlier times in that sense at all.

    On the contrary, this Tamil word ILAM did not refer to Tamil land but to the “ Land of the Sinhala people”.

    This is confirmed none other than the Tamil lexicon published under the authority of the highest seat of Tamil learning, namely the University of Madras.

    If someone in doubt, I suggest him or she to refer the Page 328.

    Therefore if one were to ask for ILAM (Eelam), then what is being asked for is the establishment of traditional homeland of the Sinhala people in the North and East too.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Tamil people who wanted to leave Tamil Nadu due to Caste discrimination & poverty issues found that crossing over to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), was the best thing they could do. Approximately one & a half Million Tamil people came to then Ceylon as illegal migrants and indentured labor during the Colonial times spanning nearly 500 yrs. So the damage started then, and unfortunately, integration did not happen, as Dilrook points out. In fact, it has been recorded that the mere act of crossing Sea Water lost caste (see p.275, “Images of Sri Lanka through American Eyes”, Ed : H.A.I. Goonetilleke), and that caste was reinstated on the Tamil person who went back to Tamil Nadu, so that the incentive to go back was zero. Under the Srima/Shasthri Pact, some 200,000 Tamils of Upcountry origin opted to go back under the Pact, but never did so. Also, as Shenali Waduge stated in a recent article, there are many Indians (I add: presumably Tamils from TN), who are in Sri Lanka illegally, plus some 35,000 visa holders from India. Are these people identified and sent back ?

    Definitely, the number of Tamil people in the country have grown by leaps and bounds. Can Sri Lanka afford to absorb all these people, particularly when the main Tamil political party has yet not become a national party. Rather the TNA is just a narrow, ethnic bound political party, bent on divisive politics that is bringing about the ruination of the whole land.

    We think that GoSL should be firm and offer Development only if the Tamil leaders eschew separatism & violence (Vaddukoddai declaration should be publicly declared null & void by the TNA).
    At the same time, Tamil Nadu leaders & govt. should ensure good treatment to all Tamils, irrespective of their caste status. The burden of a true & lasting peace for Tamils lies first with TN leaders & TN govt.

  4. thurai Says:

    Tamil Politicians in Tamilnadu and in SL are not in the positions to fullfill their promises. The only way to keep
    their postion is incite Tamil community against Sinhalese. Until Tamils understand the real reason of the conflict
    there is no chance to avoid unnecessary unrest among SL politic.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thurai, you say ” Until Tamils understand the real reason of the conflict, there is no chance to avoid unnecessary unrest among SL politic”. Why does not the media in Lanka make public the REAL REASON OF THE CONFLICT so that both Tamils & Sinhala people truly understand the past traumas ? It is the duty of the Media to do so. Being shy of the truth will only create future misery for both sides. The matter should be openly discussed and put to rest once and for all, so that the two communities can live in harmony, peace & happiness. Who would not desire this !
    The same has been done in the case of Slavery issues in America, and in a sense that was a far more difficult subject to tackle. Why should not Sri Lankan intellectuals from all ethnic groups perform this very important duty and together with the media make public the reality behind the suffering ?
    I would reiterate that Development of any area in Sri Lanka should be withheld for deliberate life threatening conduct against the public organised by leaders of any particular area. Development could continue once the crime committed is admitted and sufficient punishment meted out. I am not a lawyer to decide on crime and punishment, but justice must happen in this land.

  6. andylingam Says:

    Dilrook Kannangara
    I ( Srilankan Tamil ) live in western coutry since 1983 thank to our Hon JRJ.
    Good article about Name of Jaffna, I am not against or support your ananys but I appriciate your supported argument for Yapanaya become Jaffna instead yalpanam.
    FYI , name Yalpam from Yal Bady ( Vailin (Yal) , Do you know how Yapanaya come from ?

    Just for your analys
    1) Please can you explin me How Nuvara in Sinhala & Kandy in Tamil but Kandy in English instead of Nuvara
    2) We have Five Sivan ( Saiva Esvarar – Shangar ) temple in end of North / South/ East/ West & middle of our Mother lanka these Temples name was in 12th century song ( Tevaram)

    As We all are Srilankan Whether We like or not We have to live together as we lived last 2600, for a argument if Tamil get Eelam still They need to live together .

    So no point on arguing Egg or Hen come first !

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    The Hill Country was called Kande Uda (in Sinhala, Kanda = Hill, Uda = top) by the Sinhala people in the times prior to the British colonisation of Lanka, and the British shortened Kande Uda to Kandy for easy pronunciation.

  8. andylingam Says:

    Ok , Thanks Fran Diaz
    In Tamil Kandy mean entry to Hill place so can I assume British colonisation use Tamil name as we all know last Kandy king was a Tamil (previuos Sinhala kings cousin- wife’s brother- malayalee?)

  9. Dilrook Says:


    1. I will.
    2. Like to know more about it. Can you please give us a translation of it.

    Re: Kandy

    Fran is correct. The long name of the kingdom was Senkadagala Kingdom. The word Kanda (and Kandaudarata) was used by the Portuguese and Dutch as well long before Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe the Tamil king. Although he was a Tamil king, he ruled in Sinhala.

    It is not about who came first. Sinhalese and Tamils were in Sri Lanka together, not separately. Ancient Tamils never demanded a separate federal or regional state/nation. They were happy as it was. It is proof of no Tamil homelands in Sri Lanka. But no one can dispute Tamil homelands in South India.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    The area around the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu should be made into a Homeland for all ex-patriate Tamils who are wishing for a true Tamil Homeland. That seems to be the just solution to satisfy the cravings for a Homeland for Tamil people, particularly the Tamil Diaspora. It would be in keeping with Hillary Clinton’s request to the Tamil Nadu leaders to think in an innovative manner to solve their problems.

    Fighting in Sri Lanka for a separate Tamil state using various underhand methods & ploys will only alienate the Tamil people further from mainstream life in Lanka. It would make good common sense to integrate into mainstream life in Lanka as Dilrook suggests. I would like to add that the only human traits of lasting value are honesty, decency, heartfelt kindness, & other life supportive attributes. All else will be rejected and scorned.

  11. andylingam Says:

    Hi Dilrook
    Ref: 5 prominent temples
    post 1505 AD colonial era. Hindus in Sri Lanka believe that the Island once had 5 prominent temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Namely
    Naguleswaram in the North
    Ketheeswaram in the North West
    Koneswaram in the East
    Muneswaram in the West and
    Tondeswaram in the South.
    All were destroyed by the Portuguese during the colonial period.

    Ref: Kandy
    I have feeling Nevara in Sinhala (from my dika dika sinhala knowlege) have same meaning Kandy in Tamil ?

    Thanks again Dilrook/ Fran Diaz for your reply , We need people like you for healthy conversation!
    Also Thank you to this web side modatrator.

  12. Ben_silva Says:

    The fact is, the Sinhalese have lost their living space in the North, East and the hill country. Many may not even realise it. The reasons for this decline need to be investigated and further decline arrested. My theory is that Sinhalese are not competitive enough due to their belief system. Now Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic country and we have to learn to live to gether. However, allowing mono ethnic areas in the North and East, where people can be manupulated by aliens, is extremely dangerous.
    Tamils are focussed and hard working. We could learn a lot from them.
    Could Dilrook investigate te cause of the decline and come up with ideas to halt the decline.

  13. Dilrook Says:


    Thanks. It cannot be a 12th century song. Three of these were built in the 15th century by a Sinhala king by the name Parakramabahu-VI. He unified the country for the last time before the Europeans invaded. There is no evidence these three temples were there before that. These are,

    1. Muneswaram
    2. Tondeswaram (Still in existence in Dondra Point, Matara)
    3. Nallur (possibly Naguleswaram refers to Nallur).

    All these are still there.

    Ketheeswaram is a very old temple still there around Mannar. Koneswaram is in Trincomalee.

  14. Dilrook Says:


    Doing some statistical research on that. Will publish once complete. Today the biggest threat is not from terrorism or even from colonialists but from economic terrorism. Of course the three are linked but the first two have been extensively written about.

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