Bull-headed arrogance of Vellahla politics and violence
Posted on July 14th, 2012

Continuing the story of what happened in the history of Jaffna By H. L. D. Mahindapala

Before proceeding any further it should be emphasized that the focus in these essays has been on the Vellahlas because no other factor or entity wielded the kind of power in northern — and subsequently in national — politics as this self-adulating and self-destructive caste. The Vellahla factor, incidentally, is the most under-reported, under-explored, under-estimated and marginalized force in Sri Lanka political science, ignored even by the leading social scientists who virtually claimed omniscience in their partisan analyses. Taking the Vellahla factor out of Sri Lankan history and politics is like removing the Prince of Denmark from Hamlet. The fury of its full force was felt in national politics in the post-Vadukoddai Resolution period and yet it was the Sinhala-Buddhists of the south who were blamed for the north-south conflict.

Political science in Sri Lanka has been concerned about Buddhism, Sinhala nationalism, Marxism, liberalism, southern casteism ( e.g: Karava by Michael Roberts), JVP fascism, Catholicism linked to the pro-Prabhakaran fascist wing of the divided Church, and a host of other “isms” related to the south without focusing on “Saivite Jaffna Vellahlaism” which outran all other forces competing in the political arena and emerged as the most formidable and ferocious power in the post-independence era. Compared to the impact of the Vellahla forces, seen particularly in the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War, all other factors fade into the background. Prabhakaran, it should be noted, is the first born child of the Vadukoddai Resolution which endorsed violence as the final solution.

Whether by design or ignorance the plethora of political theses and analyses skipped this Vellahla factor. It was generally buried under the generic term of Tamils. Vellahlas and Tamils, however, are two separate entities. For instance, the separatist movement was confined to the Jaffna Tamils because the peninsular was the epicentre of the Vellahlas. Vellahlaism is, therefore, the central and pivotal force in Tamil politics. It is the missing link in the political chain needed to complete the entire historical process that unfolded so explosively in the post-independence era. Since the better part of the independence period was engaged in the north-south conflict it was inconceivable that any rational account of the national crisis could be even broached without an analysis of the forces of the north that meshed with the south. But that is precisely how the partisan social scientists who dominated the national debate surveyed the Sri Lankan scene. They were maestros in orchestrating the vague and imagined sounds of a clap with one hand.

Even a cursory glance would have indicated that northern politics was nothing but Vellahlas politics. Only this caste/class had the educated talent, sophisticated political nous, the resources, the network, and influence in the commanding heights of politics and economics, both at home and abroad, to determine the main thrust of Jaffna politics. As stated by Murugar Gunasingham in this Ph. D thesis submitted to the Sydney University “social control was still in the hands of the Vellalars (sic)”and “the land-holding Vellalar caste became one of the most powerful, wealthy and influential groups in Tamil society.” (p. 79 — Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, A study of its Origins, MV Publications, Sydney, 1999). But in the post-independence period the thrust of Vellahla politics went beyond the borders of Jaffna to impact on the national scene. The Vellahla-dominated politics of Jaffna — there was no other kind of politics of any significance in Jaffna — triumphed as the decisive mainstream that steered Jaffna in the direction of Vadukoddai Resolution and, of course, to Nandikadal.

Profiling the Vellahlas, therefore, becomes a sine qua non in any public or private discourse on post-independence politics of Sri Lanka. But decades have gone by and rivers of blood have flowed without the Vellahla factor entering either the national debate or the decision-making process in any significant way. Of course, the Vellahla factor did not kick in because the history of Jaffna was hidden. To this day there is no comprehensive or substantial account of what happened in the history of Jaffna. In the Mark Twainian sense, everybody has been talking about it with no one doing anything about it. There has been the odd peripheral and superficial coverage of some aspects of its past. But it never reached the historical heights of the south. This vacuum enabled the “Saivite Jaffna Vellahlas” to impose their narrative and to project themselves as the victims of the Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarianism. Hiding the history of Jaffna made them look like the underdogs kicked around by “the Sinhala state” imposing and enforcing discriminatory policies. The most privileged community Sri Lanka acquired light years of political mileage by posing the victims of the Sinhala-Buddhist victimizers. Their mono-causal accusations spread far and wide and gained credibility and the upper hand in the ideological war simply by promoting their narrative of victimology.

But were they the victims of “the Sinhala state” as they claimed to be? Or were the Vellahlas the anachronistic, moribund and oppressive casteists struggling, under pressures of invasive modernity cracking up their fedual foundations, to protect and preserve the last vestiges of casteist and colonial power, privileges, positions and perks in the guise of being nationalist liberators of the Tamils? These are the some of the issues that will be dealt with later. But for the moment the focus is on how the Vellahlas, with their arrogant and intransigent political behaviour, contributed to their own downfall.

The political behaviour of the ruling elite of Jaffna was determined by some of the corrosive characteristics peculiar to the peninsular political culture dominated by the Vellahla supremacists. The first characteristic was identified as “insane fury” by Mylvaganam Pulavar, the 18th century historian who wrote the Yalapana Vaipava Malai (Garland of Significant Events of Jaffna). This “insane fury” bordered on irrational behaviour against any opponent or dissident of the tyranny of the ruling Tamil elite, be it pre-colonial, colonial or post-colonial. The second and third characteristics are (a) arrogance and (b) intransigence arising from arrogance. Parenthetically, it is not irrelevant to note that Shakespeare delineates these flaws dramatically in the character of General Coriolanus for his tragic downfall. The tendency of the Vellahlas to look down upon anyone who did not belong to their caste was one of the underlying factors that eventually bedevilled Sri Lankan politics and led to their eventual fall in Nandikadal.

Vellahla arrogance, which amounted to contempt for others, including their own Tamil people in particular, was a contributory factor for their narrow-minded politics that drove them into mono-ethnic extremism. The arrogance of the Vellahla elite also blinded them to the realities around them. They were prone to overestimate their power and glory and downgraded the strength and dignity of others. They tended to look down upon practically anyone who did not belong to their Vellahla caste. For instance, C. Suntheralingam, “a caste fanatic” (Prof. Bryan Pfaffenbereger), used to regularly run down the Sinhalese in the most derogatory terms. Often he would yell: “Sinhalaya modaya, kavun kanda yodaya.” It was most provocative coming from the background of Sunderalingam. This was not a schoolboy crack. Nor a throwaway line at a drunken revelry. This was a politically motivated insult coming from a Tamil professor of mathematics. A. J. Wilson, Professor of Political Science, New Brunswick University, Canada, viewed these attitudes as notable contributions to the worsening of inter-ethnic relations. He wrote: “On the other hand, sections of the Ceylon Tamil intelligentsia looked on the average educated Sinhalese as being ‘lazy and foolish’. Such an extravagant and self-defeating communalism could not but produce, as it did after 1955, an equally intense communal reaction from some sections of the Sinhalese intelligentsia. The deterioration of Sinhalese-Tamil relations in the years after 1956 can be largely attributed to this fact.” (p. 47, Politics in Sri Lanka, 1947 – 1973, A. J. Wilson, The Macmillan Press, 1977).

S.J. V. Chelvanayakam was no better. His contempt, though hidden under a veneer of civility, went to the extreme of not even buying a house in Colombo for his family, fearing that his children would be polluted by the cosmopolitan Colombo culture.His subcutaneous anger and hatred of the Sinhalese was expressed when this trousered Gandhian said: “A handful of cow dung thrown on Bandaranaike’s back would do far more good than volumes of reasoned argument.”(p.14. The Sri Lanka, Arrogance of Power, Myths, Decadence and Murder — Rajan Hoole, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), 2001). If this was the attitude of the Jaffna Tamils at the highest level it is easy to imagine the kind of hatred that brought forth Prabhakaran and his ilk from the Sangkili womb of Jaffna.

Chelvanayakam’s arrogance reached its peak when he proclaimed in 1958 that the Sinhala leaders were “not big enough to rule the Tamils”. (p.128 — A. J. Wilson, Ibid).

This raises a fundamental question that goes to the heart of the national crisis: are the Tamils fit to rule the Tamils? The best known example of Tamil rule was by Prabhakaran. Which political scientist — Tamil or otherwise — would agree that he was fit to rule the Tamils, or any civilized community in any part of this planet? In contrast, under whose rule have the Tamils found their basic rights, let alone the freedom to walk this earth with dignity, or the right of the innocent Tamil children to go to school and return home to their parents without being abducted on their way?

A comparison of the relative merits of both communities will reveal that, with all the infirmities of the south, the Jaffna Tamils of all layers — from the Vellahlas to the slaves legitimized under Thesawalamai — had a better deal under the Sinhala-Buddhist culture than under the political culture of Hindu-Saivite casteism. For instance, both communities had their respective caste systems and both communities owned slaves. But there was a world of difference in the treatment of slaves by the Hindus and the Buddhists. Dr. H. W. Tambiah, the best authority on the laws and customs of the Tamils of Jaffna (Thesawalamai) emphatically draws the clear distinction between the two. Citing “the inhuman practice of maltreating and killing slaves (in Jaffna) (which) was abolished by Proclamation dated 3rd January, 1821” he says that the southern “slavery was of the mildest form.” Emphasizing that “the institutions of slavery differed among the Sinhalese and Tamils” he quotes Dr. Hayley’s words: “It was the same type as household slavery in ancient Greece and Rome, not the bondage of the West Indian Plantations.” ( pp. 74 -76, The Laws and Customs of the Tamils of Jaffna, Women’s Education & Research Centre, Revised Edition, Undated). He also adds that “(T)hough slavery was abolished legally many of the depressed classes remained as de facto slaves of their (Vellahla) masters….” (Ibid – p. 85).

The difference in the political cultures of the two communities is vital to understand the dynamics and the direction of the mainstream politics that determined the divergent paths of both communities. The south was tolerant, mild and flexible. The north was intolerant, “insanely furious”, and rigid. In fact two of the top leaders of Jaffna — Sir. Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Sir. Ponnambalam Ramanathan, an acolyte of the casteist Arumuga Navalar , were in the forefront fighting in the Supreme Court and in St. James’ Court in London to preserve and protect Vellahlaism as a necessary factor for the survival of the Jaffna Tamils. For example, in the criminal and civil case of Queen vs. Ambalavanar Sir. Ponnambalam Ramanathan appeared to defend the right of a Vellahla accused of resorting to violence in order to prevent the burial of the wife of a low caste according to Hindu rites. (p.85 – Ibid). His brother, Arunachalam, went all the way to London to argue the case for retaining Vellahlaism without any state interference.

That was the conduct of the top lawyers of Jaffna: they never hesitated to defend the indefensible. In contrast it is ironical, if not hilarious, to find Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, the new “kalu koat” champion of Vellahla politics, opening his political tear ducts for Tamils who had no translators in the southern courts (even though he was there and did nothing to help them) when the history of Tamil leadership — the best of them — were defending in the courts the right of the Vellahlas to beat and obstruct the burial of the dead in Jaffna. This is typical of the bleeding hearts of the south. They see the mote in the southern eye but not the logs in eyes of the north. The tragedy of the north-south crisis is that the criminal activities of the north were compounded by the blinkered stupidity of the southern do-gooders who believe that they are in the frontiers of serving the Tamils, peace and reconciliation by regurgitating propaganda of the north to exonerate the Ramanathans and Arunachalams who failed to lift a finger for their own people oppressed, persecuted, burnt and slaughtered by their own kith and kind in the upper caste.

Besides, if Hemantha was conscience-stricken by this behaviour of “the Sinhala state” not providing translators to the Tamils in court why did he decide to represent the Sri Lankan state in Rome, with an added extension of tenure, paid by “the discriminating Sinhala state”? Did he leave his conscience in Hulftsdrop when he went to Rome? And how did he suddenly discover his conscience when he returned to Hulftsdorp?

Of course, it is not unnatural for lawyers to dance to the tune of the paymasters, most of whom are criminals of one sort or the other. In any case, that is the accepted practice in courts. But in the court of the public a higher standard is expected. When distinguished lawyers like Gomin Dayasiri and S. L. Gunasekera, etc., are defending the nation with all their legal skills and prowess it is indeed pathetic to see “kalu koats” mourning not so much for the Tamils per se but to serve the hidden agenda of TNA playing their never-ending game of Oliver Twists demanding more and more.

If Hemantha thinks that he can sway the public with his sob stories he is sadly mistaken. In Sri Lanka it well known that we don’t have 20 million citizens. We have 20 million politicians who can’t be deceived easily by tear-jerkers. It is sad to see Hemantha putting on his “kalu koat” again in a bid to serve the anti-national agenda after serving (?) “Mahinda chintanaya”. Can he serve both God and Mammon at the same time simply by changing his coats?


27 Responses to “Bull-headed arrogance of Vellahla politics and violence”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “Sinhala leaders were not big enough to rule the Tamils.”

    They have proven they are TOO BIG for Tamils and they can easily rule Tamils in whatever way they like!!

    Military leaders are also leaders.

    But when low caste VP ruled the Valla-alla-las, they were trumped!

  2. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    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 except Vellalar! Do Tamil speaking Sri Lankans need to be reminded that they did not allow low castes to enter any place that Vellalar frequented? Yet when a government directive on “equal seating” emerged violence broke out in 1929 against low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans sitting on benches as previously they had to sit on the floor! This was how Tamil speaking Sri Lankans treated their own! Continuous petitions were written pleading the Government to cancel the directive. Ponnambalam Ramanathan went to request the Colonial Office in London to encode caste into legislative enactments.

    It was SWRD 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 SWRD Bandaranaike’s plan was to penetrate into the “low caste” votes of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans.

    No sooner the Tamil speaking high castes and high classes realized the dangers of SLFP led by SWRD Bandaranaike courting the low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, they 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-high caste divisions among Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. It is important to note that the satyagrahas, the tarring of Sinhala letter “SRI” on vehicle licence plates launched by Vellala Veluppillai Chelvanayagam led Fereral Party and Vellala GG Ponnampalam led Tamil Congress 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.

    Similarly, when the Srimavo 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. Two districts enjoyed several times their fair share. Students of all ethnicity from Colombo and Jaffna who had been privy to education opposed opportunities that would be enjoyed by students from Vavuniya, Ampara, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Monaragala & 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 standardization.

    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!

  3. AnuD Says:

    If I am correct, I learned from this series of articles that Vellahalas are tobacco farmers. Initially, they did not want to settle in Yapapatuna until Thesawalamei was established. So, after that what led to make Vellalhas feel this powerful ?

  4. Dham Says:

    Thank you Thayabaran for you contribution here, as always, yours are valuable.

    One point:
    “Two districts enjoyed several times their fair share. Students of all ethnicity from Colombo and Jaffna who had been privy to education opposed opportunities that would be enjoyed by students from Vavuniya, Ampara, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Monaragala & other less developed districts. ”
    I came to do one of the two top courses you mentioned, from a top school in Colombo. I know that each every Sinhala Buddhist student thought it was fair, even though we needed at least two A’s to get in.
    I need not say what our Tamil brothers thought, it is well known. However, it was a Sihnala not Buddhist brother from far away village with one C and three S’s who because the top graduate. Why ? PundeLingum can answer.

    A lot of people hate Banda. Not me. My gratitude towards him immense. He is the one finally brought justice to commoners, both Tamil and Sinhala.

  5. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    “VELLALA” is the correct word and not “VELLAHLA”. HLDM, though a journalist, still struggle to figure out a correct spelling. Discrimination of high castes exists even today all over Sri Lanka. Sinhalese cannot tell only TAMILS have caste problems. What about Sinhala caste superiority?

    Many believe Gen.Fonseka was given the “treatment” by Rajapakshes because of the GOVIGAMA Caste superiority.

    Kandyan Laws, Muslim Laws, Low Country Sinhala laws are the same like Thesawalamai. All these laws were introduced by DUTCH rulers except the Kandyan laws.

    Chelvanayakam was not from any HIGH caste but his Christianity gave him the superiority like the Malayali cooli Jayawardenes of Colombo. When people became Christians and servants of the WHITES, their castes also changed to a HIGH caste.

    How did the Malayali Jayawardenes or Wijayawardenes become GOVIGAMA? Can Mahindapala explain?

    In Jaffna the Vellaalas were only <4% in 1830 at the first census by Simon Cassie Chetty. How can that miniscule population become a "MAJORITY" after 100 years? Many "LOW" castes too joined the ladder of Vellaala in the long run. That is the same case of the Colombo GOVIGAMAS. Many Malayalis and people from Thoothukudy joined the GOVIGAMA.

    S.W.R.D.Banadaranayake, a descendant of a Tamil Neelapperumal, is my hero always. He tried to forge a "SRI LANKAN" identity but the Sinhala racists claimed he was anti-Tamil and a fellow Sinhala racist. Tamil racists took the "Official Language Act" to fan out their anti-Sinhala sentiments. He was eliminated because he went against the WHITE CHRISTIANS. Sinhala coolies of the Christians killed him.

    Even we trace the history of Rajapakses, the same story will emerge like the Jayawardenes.

    Sinhalese always claim their BUDDHIST heritage but still unable to get rid of their OLD HINDU caste heritage. Buddhist Veharas are based on the CASTE. Asgiriya, Malwatte or Ramann Nikaya stands as the examples of the Sinhala caste bias.

  6. AnuD Says:

    As I have read, long ago, European missionaries who invaded India made Tamils anti-establishment (that is anti-Hindu, Anti-Brahmin, Anti-Hindi etc.). That mentality prevailed among Tamil Scholars and may have spread to Sri lanka too. Further, I heard, SJVC also was brought from outside as they could not find a better one to lead the “struggle”.

    I think Sri Lankan presidents are weak when they take decisions to legislate appointing translators. Elsewhere, I have seen English taught to immigrants and call it English as a Second language.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    I dislike addressing Caste issues as it is a sensitive issue, but as we have to go on addressing it as it has spelt the ruination of the North of Lanka especially and the violence it generates spreads to the rest of Lanka. So, let us address it once more.

    Jaffna Vellala groups (via the TNA) are tied to the ruling Vellala groups of Tamil Nadu. They are all just human beings same as the rest of us, but seeking top rung political positions on a forever basis. There are talented human beings from all over India & Sri Lanka, and talent is not caste based. Democracy demands that the talented rise to top, in any sphere of human endeavor. Therefore, Democracy demands that any talented individual in any nation is loyal to that nation where he/she claims citizenship.

    Caste is tied to the Hindu religion through the Laws of Manu. Manu is a mythical figure conveniently cast up by some elite human beings in India for the buttressing up of the ruling classes of ancient India on a forever basis. As the Greeks let go of their myth & mythology, so must India and Sri Lanka. May it be done gently, with no harm to anyone !


    As I understand it, caste among the Sinhala people is minimal nowadays, even though it played a role in politics in earlier times. Most Sinhala Buddhists judge a person through their acts. Caste was tied to a person’s profession, and not to the Buddhist religion. The Buddha rejected the caste base. He said : ” A person is high born or low born according to their acts”. Many erudite Buddhist priests have emerged from the different Nikayas and done wonderful work in Sri Lanka.

    Anyway, it is time to erase all Nikaya based temples and bring all the Buddhist temples under one central organisation. Whilst the teachings of the Buddha are eternal, the way temples are run and funded to ensure fiscal security, and the ways in which Buddhist monks and priests serve their lay public must change for the better (more practical) with the times. We need TIME to do this properly with care and thought, and with consensus. After all, the ratio of 500 yrs of Colonial rule to our times of Independence of 64 yrs is 8 : 1. Same with the Education system.

    We welcome written in Solutions to the existing problems. I write with good intent, and ill will toward none. May all be well and happy.

  8. David Appuhami Says:

    Mudali, You have to read Mahinda’s article fully to understand what he was trying to Say, Caste differences among Sinhalese are not as bad as among Tamils. Despite deferent caste system existed from the time of Anuradhapura and Pollanaruwas period, there were no hindrance for social and religious assimilation and association among Sinhalese people. Caste as we know it today appears to have been introduced to Sri Lanka by the Hindus from North India, even from the time of first know migration of King Vijaya Sinhe and his followers. But the original Prakrit-language-speaking or HELA inhabitant had no social division at all. The introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE blunted somewhat the remnants of these imported Hindu cast demarcations
    The later during Kandyan period, the caste demarcations have re-established as much through waves of ethnic migration from South India and delineation of occupation with the influence of south Indian dynasties. The most important feature of the old caste was rajakariya, or the `king`s work,` which linked each caste to a specific occupation and demanded services for the court. In traditional Sinhalese society , the majority were Govigama or the farmer Caste and most members were farmers in villages almost everywhere in Sri Lanka., Batgama or Padu caste was responsible for preparing rice for the palace, Hena or Rada were traditional washermen, the Berava, traditional temple drummers, the Navandanna or Acari types were traditional artisans, Vahumpura were traditional makers of jaggery (a sugar made from palm sap). But with the disappearance of these traditional trades demarcated for specific villages during colonial and post-colonial period and cross migration of professions among sinhala population, there is hardly any caste difference among Sinhala people today.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    I menat to say: “It is time to erase Nikaya as a base for Buddhist temples”.

  10. AnuD Says:

    I agree with Mudali’s argument. Generally, those who oppressed by the Casteism and associated violance,once they came over that, they are capable of using violence and claiming the eternal victimization. That may have happened to tamils as low castes became powerful they may have not given up their mentality.

    As Mudali says, Rajapakses are not GOVIGAMA if govigama are considered the highest caste. None of the former powerful Sri Lankan – political families are Brahmins or Khasthriyas and they are former muslims and Tamils who were mudliars aka Translaters to Colonials.

    I think the Hindu caste system (Brahmin, Khastriya, Vaishya, and untouchable) and another System starting from JAthi… etc., old systems. Out of that only the Brahmin exist. Tamilnadu Caste system and Sri Lankan Tamil caste systems are different.

    For those who go nuts, when I write the General Fonseka’s name; I think, General Fonseka also should be descending from Khasthriyas.

  11. AnuD Says:

    Fran Diaz:

    [I menat to say: “It is time to erase Nikaya as a base for Buddhist temples”. ]

    Even though Nikayas exist, when chief Sangha Nayakas take decisions, they always, – the FOUR GROUPS – get together and take decisions, and when they sign something all four Chiefs sign it.

  12. Fran Diaz Says:


    Well then, Nikayas are not a problem now, are they ?
    Even them it is best to bring all the Temples under one single Administration for funding, disciplinary and any changes due in serving the public, don’t you think ?

  13. David Appuhami Says:

    It is not nice to talk about caste. but because Anud raised it, I should give the real facts, Fonseka is not Khasthriya, he is a descendent of cinnamon peelers caste (Durawa) and his wife from Hakuru Caste ( relatives at Meerigama)

  14. Lorenzo Says:


    The correct spelling is Vall-alla-la (Dalit).

    Jayawardenes and Wijayawardenes are NOT Malayalis.

  15. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    Jayawardene’s ancestor came to Sri Lanka with the Portugeuse cooli army (Lascarins). City of Colombo was founded by Portugeuse with people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. That is why it was named as COLOMBO after COLUMBUS.

    Later Colombo lost contacts with Goa and the people started to move with the local or neighboring Sinhalese. That is why Colombo villages are still have Tamil and Sinhala names.

    Many residents who are Sinhalese now but with Malayali/Goanese/Tamil names.

  16. Dham Says:

    David Appuhamy and AnuD Fonseka,
    David is correct. I confirm this ( knowing them). AnuD does not know anything but just in love with Ponnaseka the backside donator to USA.

    MS Muu- Dalit welcome back friend ! Where have you been ? In Sri Lanka reseaching about races and languages ?

  17. Lorenzo Says:


    What rubbish!

    Colombo (Kolamba) is a Sinhala name. Columbus NEVER came to SL!!

    NO Colombo suburb name has a Tamil name. Wellawatta, Kotahena, etc are Sinhala only names where ONLY Sinhalese and Europeans lived until 1900s. Some illegal Tamil migrants have changed these names to suit their pronounciation in the last 20 years. Read the street names of Wellawatta, Kotahena. ALL Sinhala names!!

    Look for your homelands in Tamil Madu or follow Thalaivar to hell.

  18. Jayantha Says:

    Rajaratnam of the Asian Tribune should write about the arrogance of Vellalas. In his book he never mentioned this aspect of the two Ponnambalams Ramanathan and Arunachalam in his writings. I wonder why?


  19. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Traveller Ibn Batuta in the 14th Century referred Colombo as Kalanpu. The name “Colombo” was introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived either from කොලොන් තොට – port on the river Kelani or from කොල-අඹ-තොට Kola-amba-thota – Harbour with leafy mango trees. It is also suggested that the Portuguese named the city after Italian sailor Christopher Columbus who lived in Portugal for many years before discovering the Americas on behalf of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. His Portuguese name is Cristóvão Colombo. Cristóvão Colombo set sail westwards to look for India around the same time Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama set sail eastwards, landing at the Port of Calicut in India in 1498. Cristóvão Colombo landed in the Americas in 1492 and was already a famed sailor and explorer, celebrated both in Portugal and Spain by the time Dom Lourenço de Almeida accidentally landed in Sri Lanka in 1505.

    Bambalapitya and Milagiriya in the early 19th century were thick jungles infested with snakes. Vast tracts of Bambalapitiya were owned by the Senanayake family and descendants of this family still live in their ancestral home down Mary’s Road. Retired P.W.D Engineer Herbert Bartholomeusz bought 10 acres of land in Bampalapitiya for sixty rupees in 1896. Milagiriya was derived from the Sinhalised form of the Portuguese word “Milager,” or Miracle. The Portuguese built a Roman Catholic Church in Milagiriya. Kadju Pulang trees were common to this area and it was the belief that bandits hiding in this dense jungle would hijack and plunder bullock carts carrying produce between Galle and Colombo and murder these traders and hang the bodies on the Kadju Pulung trees, The song sung at school matches in Colombo, “we will hang all the Thomians on the Kadju Pulang trees … “ is said to have had derived from this legend.

  20. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    While typical Sri Lankan placenames of Sinhalese origin vastly dominate, toponyms which stem from Tamil, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Arabic also exist. In the past, the many composite or hybrid place names and the juxtaposition of Sinhala and Tamil placenames reflected the coexistence of people of both language groups. Sri Lankan place name etymology is characterized by the linguistic and ethnic diversity of Sri Lanka through the ages and the position of the country in the centre of ancient and medieval sea trade routes.
    Several Sri Lankan names including Perera (Pereira), Mendis (Mendez), de Silva (da Silva), Dias (Diaz), Corea (Correa), Tissera (Teixera), de Mel (de Mello) and Swaris (Soares) were derived from Portuguese. “Grand Pass” is the English rendering of “Grande Passo”, the name of a ferry established by the Portuguese, to cross the Kelani River.
    Popular Sri Lankan delicacies include lamprai and pilaf, frikkadelas and meatballs, pastellas (curry patties wrapped in crisp pastry), love cake, breudher and poffertjes were derived from the Dutch culinary tradition.

  21. Fran Diaz Says:

    The Portuguese could not pronounce the long Sinhala names. They called up batches of Sinhala people to the churches and re-named them, “the group at the back from today will be known as Pereras” and “the group in front will be known as Coreas” and so on. People have long forgotten why they carry Portuguese surnames and kept these names on for convenience. Since the Portuguese era was rife with cruelty toward the local people, it was natural that the local people wishes to forget and put it all behind them. But it is now good to dig up the past and face it, and remedy where remedies are due.

    The Tamil Caste Problems have only exacerbated the troubles brought in by colonists.

    It is a wonder that the Sinhala Buddhists have survived at all, considering the stresses they have been subjected to in the some 500 yrs of colonisation !

  22. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Dear Dham,
    A student with no A/L “B”s or “A”s was the batch top for all four years in our batch of 250 engineering students at University of Peradeniya. He was from a very under privileged district.

  23. Naram Says:

    THough I dislike writing about caste any historian has to acknowledge its existence in social relations of the feudal times and also in colonial times. I recall Prof Lorna Dewarajah’s history study from Dutch archives relating how Sri Lankan aristocrates went to Madurai in a Dutch ship in early 1700s to bring a ‘Royal’ bride for the King Narendrasimha whose claim for Royal blood wassaid to be weak as perceived in Kandy court circles. However the diplomats did not receive recognition from Royal clans of Madurai either. They had to do with a lady of Baddegas caste, tough tax collectors for the Royals. As part of the bargain the avaricious clan came to occupy what is now the Malabar street. King’s father in law amassed all the money from sale of Elephants, and gems; what is more his sons proved to be brilliant scholars likedby none other than Weliwitiye Saranankara Thera and eventually two of them succeeded N’simha to the throne one after the other.

    I am told Vallala caste is not one held in much respect in South India – where most influential folks tend to be of Brahmin caste, which led some to surmise the Jaffna Vellalas as the ones who came over as TObacco farm labourers and merged and married into the local farming families. One can see the Vallala have prospered in British times to get special rights in British times to populate parts of Colombo.

  24. myopinion24 Says:

    1. It is refreshing to have the author explaining why he is following particular line of thinking rather than assuming his readers have the nous to work out what his schizophrenic writing is trying to achieve/say. The analysis of the Northern Sri Lankan population and its historical behaviours around controlling economic resources including labour via a regimented caste system can be taken to be true. This is useful insight.
    2. Would it not be useful to also understand the behaviours of the Southern Sri Lankan brethren in terms of how caste/religion /occupational/geography also played a role in perpetuating a high degree of elitism, whether this be in terms of education or wealth by virtue 0f ownership of land and/or produce.
    3. How did the above two factors interact to produce the electric mix of Sri Lankan politics during the 1900s
    4. Can someone please explain the relevance of the last three paragraphs in the “essay “to the previous 13. This appears to contradict the reason for the article. Moreover it is just another example of the bombastic and derogatory writing style that the writer has evolved into with age.

  25. myopinion24 Says:

    Pl see below this is the sort of Government initiative and long term planning that that is most likely to bring lasting peace to the country . This type of initiative gives people an ability earn a living, improve living standards and reduce ones dependance on historical controllers of wealth. Hopefully this of type activity will make the country into one with hope and a place for all regardless of race, religion, caste etc.

    Press release SL goverment – source Lanka .lK
    “The government launched a massive development program in the Eastern Province on Sunday (15) in preparation for the next year’s Deyata Kirula national exhibition which will be held along with the National Independence Day on February 4th.
    The construction works relating to the 2013 Deyata Kirula of exhibition commenced yesterday under the guidance of parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa.
    Secretary of the exhibition organizing committee Udaya Seneviratne said that over Rs. 16 billion will be spent on these development projects. He said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the relevant authorities to initiate four main development projects in the three districts of Eastern Province – Ampara, Trincomalee, and Batticaloa – and in Polonnaruwa district in the North Central Province.”
    Senevirate said that the development plan of the 2013 Deyata Kirula National Exhibition has been formulated with the objective of providing extensive facilities to the people in the four districts and preliminary activities pertaining to the plan have been finalized.
    Senevirate also said that the 2013 National Independence Day ceremony will be held in Trincomalee while the Deyata Kirula Exhibition will be held in the Old Hardy Science and Technology Institute in Ampara.
    Meanwhile, construction of the Maha Oya – Aralaganvila Road in the Ampara District will commence today under the direction of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.(niz+)

  26. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    I came across the FULL names of some famous Sinhalese and wondered.


    Kongani is the language of GOA.

    SEMBU is still a place name in Kerala and people use the word with their names. I know many SEMBU KUTTY ARACHCHIS… among Colombo Sinhalese.

    Lorenzo is a peetha Parangia or a Malayali. He tries so hard to project himself as a Sinhalese by bashing Tamils. During the riots many Malayali and Muslim gangs attacked Jaffna Tamils. Once Late Prez Premadasa acknowledged this fact opnely how an Indian Tamil/Malayali lead a gang against the Tamils during the 1983 riots.

    Grand Pass – English
    Thotta Langa – Sinhala
    Palath Thurai -Tamil/Malayalam. I hope the CTB still use these names.

    Kotahena – Sinhala
    Kotansenai – Tamil/Malayalam. HENA is Sinhala. SENAI is Tamil. HA =SA. But both words denote the same meaning.

    I agree with you many entered university without A or Bs after the Standardization. I know a girl with 1C + 3 S from Vavuniya entered medical faculty and now a famous pedeatrician in Australia. Another one from kalmunai went to the medical faculty with 4S and he became a best surgeon in Scotland.

    Your explanation over COLOMBO is the right one. I know one Sinhala guy whose name was COLOMBAGE….. Later only I found his ancestors’ name was a Malayali name.

    Thanks. I was busy with some other issues but always it includes Race, Language and religion. Breaking the myths and telling the truths are my hobby always.

  27. myopinion24 Says:

    Bull-headed arrogance ……………
    Besides, if Hemantha was conscience-stricken by this behaviour of “the Sinhala state” not providing translators to the Tamils in court why did he decide to represent the Sri Lankan state in Rome, with an added extension of tenure, paid by “the discriminating Sinhala state”? Did he leave his conscience in Hulftsdrop when he went to Rome? And how did he suddenly discover his conscience when he returned to Hulftsdorp?
    Of course, it is not unnatural for lawyers to dance to the tune of the paymasters, most of whom are criminals of one sort or the other. In any case, that is the accepted practice in courts. But in the court of the public a higher standard is expected. When distinguished lawyers like Gomin Dayasiri and S. L. Gunasekera, etc., are defending the nation with all their legal skills and prowess it is indeed pathetic to see “kalu koats” mourning not so much for the Tamils per se but to serve the hidden agenda of TNA playing their never-ending game of Oliver Twists demanding more and more.
    If Hemantha thinks that he can sway the public with his sob stories he is sadly mistaken. In Sri Lanka it well known that we don’t have 20 million citizens. We have 20 million politicians who can’t be deceived easily by tear-jerkers. It is sad to see Hemantha putting on his “kalu koat” again in a bid to serve the anti-national agenda after serving (?) “Mahinda chintanaya”. Can he serve both God and Mammon at the same time simply by changing his coats

    I have had difficulty understanding the above in context of the whole article and think the message could be any one of the following
    1. Peoples point of view should be limited to only their own ethnic perspective. It is not normal to change ones perspective taking into consideration context and circumstances
    2. Conscience can be separated from ones physical state
    3. Lawyers normally dance when they get paid
    4. Paymasters of lawyers are criminals
    5. Point 2 has been accepted by the courts
    6. There is a parallel judicial system called the peoples court
    7. It is all linked to London in the 1800s, pickpockets, undertakers, and street kids
    8. the 20 million politicians in Sri Lanka are clever
    I should have heeded the advice of my partner and not enjoyed the last bottle of Arrack. Perhaps I should not have said that without understanding the ethnic origins of the tonic. Hell who cares it always makes me happy cheers

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