Do the Jaffna Tamils have a culture?
Posted on February 17th, 2016

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The Tamils have a great culture. One of the best. But that is not found in Jaffna – the so-called heartland of the indigenous Tamils. Though they crow about their culture loudly and interminably, there is no significant evidence of great cultural achievements in Jaffna because they have been, at all times, merely mediocre imitators of S. Indian culture. To find the great Tamil culture one has to go across the Palk Straits to Tamil Nadu – the one and only homeland of all Tamils. The original and rich treasures of Tamil history and culture were forged in the creative anvil of Tamil Nadu. The Jaffna Tamils lacked the innovative genius to make their history shine with the splendour of any remarkable cultural icons to get anywhere near the magnificent achievements of Tamil Nadu in the north, or the Sinhala-Buddhist culture in the south. Unable to produce anything great, they were quite content to bask in the reflected glory of S. Indian culture. Focusing on the failure of the Sri Lankan Tamils to establish a cultural identity of their own, Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam, the Tamil historian, wrote: No original artistic tradition grew in Tamil Ceylon. Culturally, the Tamils looked upon their arts as part of the Dravidian tradition of south India. When any major work was to be undertaken, craftsmen would be brought from Tamil Nadu. Geographic proximity and political relations made this possible.” (p.115 – CEYLON, S. Arasaratnam, Prenctice Hall Inc., New Jersey, USA).

As the nearest outpost of Tamil Nadu – the motherland of all Tamils wherever they may be — the Sri Lankan Tamils continued to use Tamil Nadu as their spiritual, geographical and historical homeland. That is one advantages that the other Tamils spread out in far-flung domains do not have. To be next door to the motherland instilled in the Sri Lankans an affinity which was missing in, for instance, the Tamils of Malaysia, S. Africa or the Caribbean. Their nearness made accessibility so easy that they did not even feel the need to establish a permanent settlement in Sri Lanka. After all, in the pre-TV era, it was the common practice among the Velvettiturai Tamils, to dash across to the other shore, see a post-prandial Tamil film and come back to have a good night’s rest. There was no necessity for them to establish another homeland in Sri Lanka when they had the genuine and only homeland just next door. How many homelands do the Tamils need to prove that they are Tamils? Or that they are somebodies and not nobodies?

The northern coastal belt of Sri Lanka was only a temporary base for their fishing or trading expeditions, mainly. Though they claim to have been inhabiting the island before anyone else they evinced no interest in making Sri Lanka their permanent home. It was nothing more than a transit point in the Indian Ocean. It took a long time for them to settle down in Sri Lanka as their new home. It is true that they came as brides, priests, traders, mercenaries, craftsmen, fishermen, invaders and marauders but not as permanent settlers initially. It took a long while for them to settle down as permanent stake holders in Sri Lanka. What we can say with certainty is that by 1325 the Tamil kingdom had come onto the historical scene,” says Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam, (p.104 – Ibid).

Unlike the Sinhalese they neither acquired nor developed a sense of belonging to the land. The Sinhalese severed their connections with India and went their own way to develop a new identity of their own. The Jaffna Tamils, on the contrary, never cut off their umbilical cord. They remained tied to S. India with the primordial urge to go back into the womb. Their comfort zone was S. India and not an alien patch which was divorced from their motherland. With Tamil Nadu near at hand, there was no necessity either for them to uproot themselves from their homeland and transplant themselves in some alien land. Without sending their roots deep into Sri Lankan soil, they opted to live on the surface, as it were, as they derived their cultural/spiritual sustenance from the rich sources in S. India. This is natural. They were justifiably proud of their Tamil culture and it was there for them to claim without having to work for it.

There is no evidence of the Tamil culture rising to great heights outside Tamil Nadu either. Besides, being overwhelmed by the greatness of the S. Indian Tamil culture anything that the Jaffna Tamil could produce would have a been nothing more than a third-rate imitation. So Jaffna, which was held aloft as the heartland of the Tamils, remained as a pale imitation of the S. Indian culture without any notable achievements. But with the typical Jaffna Tamil predisposition to pose as being superior to everyone else, they had the brass to claim that their culture was of a higher grade, and therefore, superior to that of even Tamil Nadu simply because (S)ome archaic forms that are lost on the mainland have been retained in Jaffna.” (p. 115 – Ibid). Example : Om” (yes) is used in Jaffna for Aaam” (yes) in Tamil Nadu. And they take great pride in this speech pattern to claim superiority over the Tamil Nadu Tamil. Their pride reached the peak when the purists of Jaffna pleaded with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, when she was Prime Minister, to ban the import of Tamil pop culture from Tamil Nadu, particularly its cheap magazines, to save the superior quality / purity of the Tamil language in Jaffna.

Undoubtedly, one way of judging a culture is by the calibre of its icons. For instance, Shakespeare stands out as the unchallenged icon of the English culture/ language. He had the genius to borrow heavily from other sources and enrich his own culture. All cultures achieve their greatness by interacting with each other. It is the openness of the Sinhala culture that let other cultures come in and mingle freely to make it great. The Jaffna Tamil culture was more like a billabong – a stagnant water hole where no new waters flowed in. It was a closed society that was not open to fertilising forces from outside. Like the Aborigines of Australia, for instance, a closed society stagnates while an open society flourishes with the new and invigorating input of outsiders.

Consider, for instance, the great cultural icons of Jaffna. There are only two noteworthy figures recognised by the Tamils : Arumuka Navalar and C. W. Thamotherampillai. They are elevated to the highest rank because they are considered to be revivalists” of the Tamil language. Note the word revivalist”. It does not mean creative innovators. Both are known not for producing any original or classical works of art of their own but only for digging up the buried Tamil literature in S. India and reviving them. Thamotherampillai is known for going round houses in Madras, as it was known then, and virtually begging to get hold of the old texts buried in boxes. Arumuka Navalar brought the first printing press and introduced the text unknown to the wider Tamil public. This then is the extent of the great Tamil revivalist movement of Jaffna. None produced any original or outstanding works that could add to the glory of Tamil culture. The narrow field in which they worked too reveal the failure of the Jaffna to produce a worthy culture of their own.

The history of the Sinhalese and the Tamil began to diverge from the time the original settlers began to discover Sri Lanka. The critical point in the Sinhala settlers came when they severed the links to their land of origin. The tyranny of distance made sure that there was no going back to their homeland. Historical and geographical circumstances did not give the Sinhalese any option. They had either to make it in their new homeland or perish. Severing of the umbilical cord made all the difference. They had no fall back position like the Tamil settlers. Their was no neighbouring motherland to run to for cover. This made all the difference to the two settlers. The Sinhalese were forced to toil on every grain of sand and channel every drop of water not only to survive but to turn it into a glorious civilisation. Above all, they fertilised the soil with their blood. This is why the bonds of the Sinhala people to the land are far more stronger than the latter-day claims to a homeland of the Tamils.

With or without the Mahavamsa the Sinhala-Buddhists had a rightful and historical claim to the land because it was they who made both the history and the land. History and the land belongs to those who make it and not to those who come to destroy it. The Mahavamsa is the literary embodiment of the spirit and the soul of the people who created the monumental history recorded in it. It has been a bonding agent, no doubt. It affirms that the destiny of the land and history is inextricably intertwined with that of the Sinhala-Buddhists who are its traditional and anointed caretakers. Eminent scholars read/study it with respect it deserves. Frustrated female canines who have no other way of letting off their pent up Freudian steam – and their male counterpart — bark at it like the way they bark at the moon that sheds benign light on all living beings. It records how the Sinhalese, driven by their creative energy, gave the world a new culture and a new civilisation.

On the contrary, the Tamils who migrated to the north were floating in an out of the island without a fixed permanent abode. The irony is that the Tamils whose claim to the land is based on the questionable assertion that they came here first never bothered to make it their home. If they came here first and if they were committed to make this their homeland why did they allow the Sinhalese to take over the island? They could have done it then quite easily without Chelvanayakam leading the Tamils to their death in Nandikadal! The tragedy is that each time they tried to take over it was not only late but beaten by the superior forces of the Sinhalese. This is not a triumphalist proclamation but only a simple clarification of known history.

Besides, what were their Mahalingams, Panchalingams, Pothalingams and all the others endowed with lingams doing to overcome the demographic dominance of the Sinhalese? Since they claim to have come first they had all the opportunities to flood the island with Tamils. But when the time came to go to bed they ran to S. India. It was quite late by the time they woke up to the fact that there was a land called Sri Lanka. By the sixteenth century, the Tamils were established as a people of the island,” says Prof. Arasaratnam. They had ceased looking to the original homeland except for cultural inspiration,” he added. (p.115 – Ibid). Clearly, they found it superfluous to create anything new of their own because everything that had to be made was already there in S. India. They were quite content to be second-rate imitators wearing the borrowed clothes handmade in S. India.

At one point Prof. Arasaratnam argues that the Tamils could not create a grand civilisation on the scale of the Sinhala-Buddhists because they lacked the natural resources gifted to the Sinhalese. But this is puerile argument for an historian. Had he not heard of the great Pharaohnic civilisation built on the burning sands of arid Sahara desert?

Influenced by third-rate imitators Jaffna bred a shallow Tamil psyche that took pride in illusions of grandeur and superiority. The Tamil Tiger flag is a typical product of the imitative and debased culture of Jaffna. Running parallel to the illusions of grandeur that haunt the Jaffna psyche (example: Radhika Coomaraswamy talks of Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy, one of her ancestors, parading as a prince of Ceylon in St. James Court in colonial London) is a more grim aspect to the Jaffna culture. It is a beastly culture that made Jaffna the darkest and bloodiest chapter in Sri Lankan history. Details can be read in the next article.

24 Responses to “Do the Jaffna Tamils have a culture?”

  1. Christie Says:

    Here we go. There are no different breeds of Tamils. I am sure you know that.

  2. SA Kumar Says:

    “Do the Jaffna Tamils have a culture?” ohh my God !!! Modaya want to know have we got a culture. Velu where are you????

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Tamil higher Hindu culture had been hijacked by Tamil Leaders (Violent Separatist Eelam culture through Vaddukoddai Resolution 1976 & Prabhakaran’s LTTE), thanks to Colonisation, Cold Wars & Tamil Caste wars, all of which culminated in Tamil Separatism.

    The true Tamil high culture is in the Four Yogas of Hinduism, with the highest place for the great Raj Yoga, akin to Buddhism. Practice of the Four Yogas is what will bring honor and respect for Tamil folk of Lanka.

    Continued practice of wonderful Buddhism (Dhana, Seela & Bhava, the short version of Buddhism), will bring honor and respect for the Sinhale of Sri Lanka.

    Comments welcome.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    Jaffna has NO culture. It is TAMIL NADU culture.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    While Buddhism is being practised in Lanka together with the Hindu core teachings in the Four Yogas, SECURITY issues too will have to be addressed.

    Best teach PATRIOTISM through a daily Oath of Allegiance to Lanka by all students and also all office workers, etc. at least once a week.

    Best maintain the conventional Armed Forces plus a civilian army as done in Switzerland.

  6. sena Says:

    Nevertheless it looks like they have a better work ethic – LTTE had lot of technically innovative people even building aircrafts which we have failed to see in our 80 year history of publicly funded higher education. If they are rehabilitated the government should use them in building a knowledge based economy

  7. Christie Says:

    Fran the Indian colonial parasites were the real colonists and imperialists in all tropical dominions of the British-Indian Empire from Fiji to Guyana.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    The culture of Killing came to Jaffna with the Vadukoddai Resolution leading to the LTTE. That became the culture in the North. In addition to the Tamil Nadu Dalit Caste based culture of animal sacrifice, low self esteem etc. the Killing Culture was added on.

    Sri Lanka has turned herself into a sitting duck for Tamil low end culture which is coming from Tamil Nadu ? That is what has been encouraged by Tamil Leaders, isn’t it ?

    With the Tamil Language in place in Lanka this is a dangerous situation to National Security. None of the sub-states adjoining Tamil Nadu viz Kerala, Andrapradesh, Karnataka, allow the Tamil language as a sub-state language. That is how they protect themselves from huge influxes of Tamil folk of Dalit origin mainly. Lanka will have to do the same for permanent protection. Also have permanent Armed Forces with a civilian Army as in Switzerland. An Oath of Allegiance to Lanka must be taken by one and all.

    Is the weak Government, as at present, capable of protecting Lanka ?

  9. vyasan Says:

    I am one of the Jaffna Tamils, and as such I get to know some details of the Tamil culture of Jaffna that had been prevalent there until the time of the Tamil Nadu media invasion in Sri Lanka. First as H.L.D.M. says, the invasion of the print media in the forms of various Tamil magazines, newspapers, and then the movies and later on the TV channels, made a great impact on the life style of the people of not only Jaffna but throughout the Tamil regions. People slowly and steadily adopted the dressing pattern, use of language, the way people address each others and so on, thus loosing their own identical cultural marks. I believe, for centuries, the Jaffna culture had been more similar to that of the people of Kerala as many customs/traditions, method of food preparation etc. between the two peoples were more similar than they are between the South Indian Tamils and Jaffna Tamils. Even the (Tamil)language used in the spoken form until some 70 years back was similar to the Malayalam language, vocabulary and accent etc. Having a good grasp of the Malayalam language, and have been familiar with the language spoken by our elderly people back in the fifties, I could confidently warrant to the above fact. Finally the politics of Tamil Nadu also has made a great impact on the style of politics in Jaffna with the exception of the armed struggle.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    What about the proposed Ranil Chunnel or Tunnel to TAMIL NADU, (not Kerala) ?

    What about the Tamil Language as a National & Official language in place in Lanka ?

    Repeat : Is the present weak GoSL capable of protecting Lanka ?

  11. Jag Says:

    This is simply superb. HLDM has replied to all those hypocrite Jaffna Tamils who say that Singhalese copied everything from them.

    I have never seen or heard liars like Jffna Tamils. They are born to lie. They are the ones who say that Singhalese copied everything from them. To see, they are the same coolies who were brought down by the Dutch for tobacco farming.

    If they refuse to learn the language of the land and sing the National Anthem of the country they are in, then what is the use of having them in our country at the first place.

    History has proved with facts that Jaffna Tamils were never patriotic and they will never be. Their allegiance is for Tamil Nadu. When the govt of the day cannot govern the country to include all its citizenry with the same laws, rules and regulation, how can anyone expect our country to be ”one nation”..??

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    Who are the ENEMIES of SL? What is the LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR in all?

    Lets honestly ask some questions.

    There are PLENTY of enemies of SL but there is ONE ENEMY that RUNS THROUGH all.

    (Please note I’m looking from SL’s point of view. When looked from Tamil point of view, these are VICTORIES!)

    1. ALL invasions of SL before 1505 except a handful were by TAMILS.
    2. WHO KEEP GLORIFYING Ellalan, Cholan, Magha, invasion of SL? TAMILS.
    3. Who JOINED the Dutch to advance its colonization campaign in SL? TAMILS.
    4. Who ROBBED Jaffna peninsula land from Singhalese to cultivate TOBACCO? TAMILS.
    5. Who joined the BRITISH plan to PLUNDER SL? TAMILS.
    6. Who ROBBED Singhala land in UPCOUNTRY in MILLIONS of acres to help British earn trillions? TAMILS.
    7. Who did the British bring to kill Singhalese in BARBARIC manner in UVA? TAMILS.
    8. Who were the FIRST from SL to take the British side to be awarded knightships? TAMILS.
    9. Who were FAVORED by the British (as well as Ellalan, Cholan, Magha, Portuguese and Dutch)? TAMILS.
    10. Who called Singhalese MONGRELS in 1930s and started trouble? TAMILS.
    11. Who demanded DIVIDING SL since 1949? TAMILS.
    12. Who went from KACHCHERI to KACHCHERI with a bucket of HOT TAR to DEFACE Singhala letters in 1958? TAMILS.
    13. Who passed the VADAKUNDI RESOLUTION starting a needless war with SL? TAMILS.
    14. Who DISCREDITS (and keeps discrediting) SL abroad to get asylum? TAMILS.
    15. Who calls SL WAR HEROES, war criminals? TAMILS.
    16. Who killed 35,000 Singhala army and civilians in war? TAMILS.
    17. Who took up WEAPONS to divide SL? TAMILS.
    18. Who side with foreign interference against SL ALWAYS? TAMILS.
    19. Who keeps blaming PEACE WINNING ARMY of GENOCIDE? TAMILS.
    20. Who keeps demanding a SEPARATE unit of governance within small SL? TAMILS.
    21. Who PREVENT Singhalese and Muslims from settling down in Jaffna, Vanni, Batticaloa districts? TAMILS.
    23. Who joined REGIME CHANGE agents head first in 2013 to bring an ANTI-SL regime to power? TAMILS.
    24. Who IMPORT dirty, anti-SL, anti-Singhala and Tamil racist FILMS, SONGS, etc. from SL’s ENEMY NATION TAMIL NADU? TAMILS.
    25. Who keep pushing the country’s military OUT? TAMILS.
    26. Who is WORKING AGAINST SL’s best friends CHINA and PAKISTAN in SL? TAMILS.
    27. Who is CREATING ethnic problems in their MINDS when there is NONE? TAMILS.
    28.Who attacks SL cricket supporters abroad? TAMILS.

    It is NOT by chance TAMILS are the answer to all these questions. TAMIL NADU is on a mission to create DRAVIDISTAN. SL (not parts of SL but ENTIRE SL) is part of DRAVIDISTAN (according to TAMILS). When faced with such an important project from the Tamil Motherland which Tamil will turn his back on it!

    You Singhalese can keep AVOIDING the OBVIOUS but remember it will NOT avoid you!

    (The list is based on FACTS. This is not an attempt to DEMONIZE anyone or any community – as Tamils do to SL’s image.)

  13. Fran Diaz Says:


    Good summary there. Accurate, and to the point. Painful, but to the point.

    That is why, if a permanent peace is required in Sri Lanka (for peacefull use of Ports for trade route purposes, as stated by Mr Shannon, US official), the Tamil Language (N&O) and the PCs too must be removed through removal of the 13-A, and an Amendment to remove the Tamil Language (Special Prov) Act of 1958, for which SWRD paid for with his life.

    INDIA will have to comply re removal of the 13-A etc., as the rest of the west led by the US wants internal peace for peaceful use of the Ports of Lanka for trade purposes.


    If there are any other bloodless ways to remove the division of Lanka or take over of Lanka by Tamil Nadu to form Dravidastan, then do please write in.

  14. Dham Says:

    Please go back to Sri Lanka and create some force to implement what you recommended. Currently there no single person who will agree to remove PCs, 13A let alone removal of Tamil as an official language.
    Please read the 2015 ( latest) UPFA election manifesto which promises implementation of LLRC recommendations in 1 year. This was prepared with the recommendation people you think who can fulfil your wish. Then read LLRC recommendations again.

    After doing that reading please come back and answer me. This is why I say , ALL POLITICIANS in the parliament now cannot be trusted.

    What you said is perfectly true. But it should be done tactfully, like LKY did. Everything should be done in an unofficial way. Tamils are great cheaters. We should beat the cheats.

  15. Fran Diaz Says:


    It is the Peoples Movements that will have to get important things moving and done. They have to push the MPs from their slumber. Now Ranil intends to get the Sectoral Commitees going in the Parliament to communicate usefully (we hope this is the goal) with the LG folk. This is an ideal opportunity to exchange ideas and do things gracefully and to cover everyone concerned so that their pocket books are looked after with education and jobs.

    Somethings have to be offered to the masses, Sinhala and Tamil, to bring them together. Job & English Language training institutes such as Polytechnics, Community Colleges where all students mix in, a must.

    Job Creation is the most important item. GoSL has to do that, not much will come out of the private sector, as usual. Private sector moves only when sure of profits.

    If jobs come with the right languages, then the Tamil language is not of much use in Lanka.

    Lanka will have to solve her own problems, but perhaps know also what LKY did too with S’pore.

  16. Dham Says:

    JHU is openly opposing government. A good sign. Opposition should unite with noble principles. That is not happening. past mistakes shall be acknowledged and corrected. Without that cannot win.

  17. Fran Diaz Says:



    As expected, if GoSL goes on blundering – all opposing parties Unite and correct past mistakes. May have to be done, anyway.

  18. Lorenzo Says:

    Instead of fighting with Champika and Ratana MR and team should REJOIN them and get rid of VASUTHEVA.

    Champika should KNOW MEGA DEALS of the YAAPA(LA)NAYA govt. from the INSIDE.

    Don’t trust every dirt that end up at MR and don’t discount everything that opposed MR. We need even the RIRIYAKA to get rid of this govt.

  19. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Racist Vellalar of Jaffna were the founders of the fascist culture in Jaffna. Despite the civilized veneer presented to the outside world, Jaffna Tamils ran a fascistic regime reducing the depressed Tamils to slaves. Jaffna Vellalar’s cruel caste system has no other parallel in any other part of Sri Lanka. Jaffna Vellalar virtually had a free run of the Jaffna peninsula because the colonial rulers turned a blind eye to the subhuman Jaffna Vellalar culture of violence. Thesavalamai legitimized slavery and the Jaffna Vellala slave-owners ruled the peninsula with an iron fist, with the Portuguese, Dutch and English colonial administrators often refusing to interfere in the laws and customs of the ruling caste and class. Thesa (land) walamai (laws and customs) legitimized the land-owning Jaffna Vellalar as the slave-masters of Jaffna peninsula. From feudal and colonial times until May 18, 2009 when the Tamil cult of violence sank in Mullivaykal, Jaffna peninsula was under the jackboot of, first, Vellala fascism followed, second, by their equally brutal fascists – Velupillai Prabhakaran led LTTE. Both Vellalar and Velupillai Prabhakaran led LTTE oppressed and subjugated Tamils 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 Jaffna Tamils to subhumans.


    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.
    Do 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.

  20. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Tamil speaking Sri Lankans had shown almost an inexhaustible capacity to produce engineers, doctors, accountants, clerks and shopkeepers but the Tamil political culture failed to produce an enlightened political leadership that could rise above their Jaffna peninsularity of mind and lead the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans towards realistic and attainable political goals. Not since Sir Pon Arunachalam left the Ceylon National Congress, rupturing hopes of communal harmony, has Tamil speaking Sri Lankans produced a political leadership which has had the vision to accept co-existence in a multi-ethnic society as the most natural, viable and peaceful path for the welfare of all communities in Sri Lanka. Blind to the future, the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans have grown up during the past several decades in a self-made political culture of resistance to reform.
    Tigers were a reflection of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. Tigers emerged from among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, and shared the same Jaffna peninsularity of beliefs.
    Tigers did the most to destroy the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. In counting on gains through its strength as a conventional military force, and dragging out the war for 25 years Tigers missed opportunities to even entrench their own position. Tigers’ singular focus on military strength, to the detriment of political gains and support from the people on the ground, all while ensuring their emergence as the dominant Tamil armed force was the cause of their demise.
    Tigers wanted more than 100,000 Muslims in Jaffna Peninsula to get out within 3 hours, leaving their belongings and treasured valuables – that was a text book example of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Tigers made Idi Amin look like an angel as Idi Amin had a heart to give the Asians in Uganda three months to leave the country and not 3 hours.
    Tamil speaking Sri Lankans suffered the most in Sri Lanka because of their leaders’ blind refusal to co-exist in a multi-ethnic society sharing the land in common with the other communities. Their suicidal political ambitions, arising from an exaggerated view of their self-importance and superiority, drove them to an end on May 18, 2009 at Mullivaykal, they never thought would come.

  21. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Though Jaffna Tamils claims to be the heartland of Tamil culture it has yet to produce something significant, or classical to stand out of the other varieties of Tamil, either local or abroad. It has yet to produce masterpieces of value to be recognized as the fountain of Tamil arts, architecture, music, literature and other creative activities. If Jaffna Tamils put to the test and asked to cite one piece of literature, drama, poetry, music, architecture etc that could match either the Tamil culture of South India or the Sinhala-Buddhist culture of the south they would withdraw into a stunned silence like the thuthiri creeper. In other words, they have come to believe that they have a great culture with nothing to back up their claim.The failure to produce a significant Tamil culture debunks the mythology which leads them to believe that they are the creators and owners of Sri Lanka — at least a part of it.

    Unlike the Sinhala-Buddhist they, obviously, had no sense of belonging to the land , or sense of destiny tied to the land. This is understandable because they were always linked to their motherland and they regarded Sri Lanka as a convenient transit lounge to get back to South India as and when they please. The historical fact is that while the Sinhalese settled down as the inheritors of the good earth from the pre-Christian era the Tamils decided to settle down as permanent inhabitants only in the 12 – 13th centuries. If they had settled down from the time they claimed to have arrived — i.e, the pre- Buddhist era — and dedicated themselves to make the island theirs they would not have been passing the Vadukoddai Resolution in 1976 making spurious historical claims to a land which belongs to all communities. It is after the Sinhala-Buddhists transformed the natural wilderness into a glorious civilization that they set out to grab a share of it claiming that they were founding fathers of Sri Lanka.

  22. Lorenzo Says:

    “Tigers were a reflection of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. Tigers emerged from among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, and shared the same Jaffna peninsularity of beliefs.”

    100% true.

    This is why they were so successful. They were beaten MILITARILY.

  23. Fran Diaz Says:


    Thank you very much for these pieces of writing which throws a clear picture of Jaffna politics & caste.


    We still await an enlightened Jaffna political leadership. Why does it not happen ?

  24. Fran Diaz Says:

    I showed Nalliah’s above comments to my friends, and asked them if they would vote for Nalliah if he came as a political candidate from the Tamil side. They all said they would vote for Nalliah – and so would I !

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