From the collection of *VANAKKAM FOLK TALES*
*Tamils for Justice (T4J) of Yore*

compiled by Asoka Weerasinghe, Ottawa, Canada

Once upon a time, long, long time ago, there lived in a small village in a remote northern part of a little island in the Indian Ocean called Sree Langa a group of people who one day got together to talk of how they wanted to fight for their freedom and honour from the high caste people of their Tamil community who happen to be their oppressors.

The year was 1908, the village was called Mirrorsuvil, and the people were Tamils who had come to Sree Langa in boats from the south of the massive landmass to the north of Sree Langa called Indthya. These people were called ‘Kalla-thonies’ by the rest of the Tamil community who claimed they were indigenous to the island. These Tamils looked down on the “kalla-thonies”.

The Tamils were of a caste-based Dravidian culture. The high-caste were the Brahmins, and lowest caste were the Parayars and there were other castes in between. Mostly, Mirrorsuvil happen to be the ghetto for the Parayar caste.
However, in this village of Mirrorsuvil also lived a few families of the Brahmin caste.
One of the members of this Brahmin caste was also the Poosari of the only Hindu Kovil. People went to this temple to worship and ask for favours from the Hindu deities who were painted on the four inner walls beside the three statues of Vishnu, Ganesh and Paththini.

What irritated these Parayar caste people was that they had to take off their shawls from their left shoulder and look down when ever they passed a Brahmin Tamil on the street. They were not allowed to come over the threshold of the Brahmin Tamil houses where they go to do some menial work to earn a few paisa. If they had been working in the garden under the hot noon-sun and were thirsty and asked for some water from the Brahmin Tamils of the house, they brought the water in a brass chalice and poured it into the cupped palms of the Parayar Tamils to drink and not in a cup. And the worst irritation was that the Parayar caste Tamils were not allowed to go inside the Hindu Kovil for worship. They had to say their prayers standing outside the Kovil while the Brahmin Tamils were allowed to go inside to worship. By then they realized that they have been discriminated by their own Tamil people of Mirrorsuvil.

This is when the trouble started. Skanda Raja of the Parayar caste took the lead.
He earned more paisa among the Parayars by cleaning the latrines of all the Brahmin homes. So he was looked up as a potential leader of this ghetto community. He wanted to fight for his and his family’s freedom as well as that of the other Parayars of Mirrorsuvil. They wanted respect. They wanted honour.

They wanted to be accepted as normal human beings among their Tamil caste oriented communities. So he called a meeting for a Sunday afternoon after lunch. They met under the shade of a mango tree, and the gathering was animated and loud.

A very dark, short, gargoylesh looking man, in a black robe and a starched white collar was passing by. When he noticed this animated gathering, he approached them and being nosy said, “You all look agitated on a Sunday afternoon, why, didn’t your wives cook you all a decent meal?” I am Father Xavier Assisi Francis, a God’s man, a Catholic priest from the church in the neighbouring village of Asokagama.”

No sooner he heard the problem from Skanda Raja that they were from a the Parayar caste and were not treated properly by the Brahmin families of this community of Mirrorsuvil, Father Francis stood straight, looked towards the sky for a moment, and then with one sweep of his right hand he waved over the heads of the gathering from left to right and from north to south said in a loud voice, “Jeeeesus loves you, all of you are the children of God and Jeeeeesus loves you.” This reaction from this gargoylesh looking holy-man in a black robe and a starche white collar took the Parayar people by surprise.

“I know that my own Tamil people could be cruel sometimes and you don’t have to take these insults anymore. I will suggest to you the solution”, he said. The Parayars shuffled their bodies where they were squatting to listen to Father Francis intently.

“If you go up north about five miles on this paved peninsula road you will come to a junction where another road crosses this one. There will be a sign with arrows pointing to the east to your right and west to your left. The sign is written in English by our colonial masters. The one pointing to the right will say, NIRVANAPURA. The one pointing to the left will say BANDULAGAMA Turn right and travel about two miles and you will come to NIRVANAPURA and a road sign will tell you that you have arrived at NIRVANAPURA. There are about 200 houses made of bricks, mortar and clay tiles. The people who live in this village are called Singalayos. They are the original people of this island. They are very nice people. They are humble, genteel, and kind people.
They are Buddha people. Tell them that you want to meet with the village Chief Sudu-Appuhamy.
Once you meet him tell him all of your hurt because of being treated badly by your own Brahmin people.

I can promise you that he will tell you, ‘That is not nice treating your own people like that. Don’t travel any farther. Break your journey here and live in this village with us. There are a few empty houses down the road. I will show them to you. You all can live in them.
We are a farming community
Our crops are paddy and kurakkan. Become farmers and become part of our happy Nirvanapura family. Tell him that Father Francis encouraged you all to meet Chief Sudu-Appuhamy.” I know him well.

The following day all 30 Parayar caste families took the few belongings they had ever possessed in bullock carts and headed towards Nirvanapura. What was amazing was what transpired after meeting with Chief Sudu-Appuhamy was exactly what Father Francis told them would happen. The Singalayos were genteel and kind people.

“We too want to become Singalayos, Chief Sudu-Appuhamy. How can we become Singalayos too”, Skanda Raja asked.

The Chief chuckled a bit and said, “That is extreme my friends, you don’t have to become Singalayos to be accepted into our village. Be what you are, as in our hearts we are all human beings and we should be able to love each other. Our families love all of you and I hope that in return you all will love us too,”
was his response.

The last straw that made the Parayar people to hate their own Tamil people was when they went to the Buddha peoples temple and met the chief monk in a yellow robe. When he came to know that they were Hindus, “Come with me”, he said, and walked them to a little Kovil in a corner of the temple garden where a Kapurala was blessing some people.

The Kapurala invited the Parayars into the temple and blessed everyone of them and invited them to come over any time to worship. That was it, and the Parayar people rejected their own Brahmin Tamils and embraced the Singalayos as a group of wonderful and kind people.

So the meeting under the mango tree in that hot sunny Sunday afternoon seeking *Justice for Tamils (T4J) *finally arrived when these Parayars entered NIRVANAPURA and were embraced by the Singalyos headed by their Chief Sudu-Appuhamy, who showed them they too were human beings, where they can drink water out of cups, don’t have to slip the shawls off their left shoulders when passing a Singalayo on the street other than greeting the person saying “Ayu-bowan” and the Singalayo will return the greeting by saying “Vanakkam”, could go in and out of the homes of the friendly Singalayos, and most importantly they can worship their Hindu deities by entering the Kovil in the village Buddha temple.

This was indeed a joyful ending for Parayar caste Tamils of Mirrorsuvil where the Singalayos of Nirvanapura rescued their hurting souls by massaging them with the Singalayo brand of love.

The End

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