Many of you would have read part one of JL Devananda’s article posted on my blog under the heading “I DID NOT SAY MAHANAMA THERO WAS A RACIST OR THE MAHAVAMSA WAS A RACIST DOCTRINE”.
I am now posting the second and concluding part of the article with the expectation that the process of unlearning and re-learning would continue in the ensuing debate
Here is the second part –DBS Jeyaraj
“NEITHER EPIGRAPHY NOR PALI CHRONICLES SAY DUTUGEMUNU WAS A SINHALA”
By J.L. Devananda
(A Response (Part 2): “Mahavamsa Mentality”; Can the charge of “Racism” leveled against the chronicle be sustained?)
3. Imagined ‘Tamil Presence’ or ‘Sinhala Presence’?
Mr. Bandu De Silva begins by saying; I have presented a picture of an ‘imagined Tamil presence’ in the country in the past comparable to the weight of preponderant evidence of the existence of Sinhala element to this day.
3.1. Tamil Presence
Even though I only commented about the presence of Dameda in Akitti Jataka, Dameda is the most mentioned ethnic group in the ancient epigraphy of Sri Lanka. These inscriptions refer to the Dameda Vishaka (Tamil merchant), the Dameda Samana (Tamil householder), and Dameda Navika (Tamil sailor). There are enough of ancient archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka such as Brahmi stone inscriptions, cave writings, etc where the terms ‘Dameda’, ‘Damela’, ‘Damila’, ‘Demel’ are mentioned as a group of people living in the island. During Sena I ((833-853) and Kassapa IV (899-914), there are definite epigraphic reference to Tamil villages and lands, Demel-Kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demelat-valademin (Tamil lands), Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages & lands), Demal-Kinigam, Demelin-hetihaya, etc. The presence of Tamils in the island Sri Lanka in the early historic period is not denied even in the Pali chronicles.
The present day historian Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne says, “there is no mention of the word Sihala or Sinhala ethnicity in the thousand odd short inscriptions that come to us from this period, but on the contrary, a vast majority of the host of clan names and titles that we come across in these inscriptions only show affinities with the clans of the ancient Tamil country”.
3.2. Lack of Sinhala Presence
As I clearly said in my article with sufficient reasoning, thousands of Prakrit (Sanskrit) stone inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered during the early period, but not a single archaeological/epigraphical evidence has been found within or outside Sri Lanka to prove ‘Hela’ or ‘Sihala’ or ‘Sinhala’ existed until the 8th/9th century AD. Most probably, the Hela/Sinhala race would have started evolving (assimilating the Buddhist Nagas, Damelas, and others) only from the 5th/6th century AD after the foundation was laid by the Mahavihara Buddhist monks and the Theravada Buddhist kings. Since there was NO Sinhala in Sri Lanka until the Mahavihara monks mentioned it for the first time in the 5th/6th century AD, in order to create the Sinhala identity (to sustain Buddhism in Lanka) the term Sinhala may have been adopted from the Indian epic Mahabharata which predates the Mahavansa by many centuries. The Mahabharata talks of Sinhalas as the barbarous mlecchas, the natives of Lanka in its Book 1, Chapter 177, in Book 2, Chapter 33 & 51, and in Book 7, Chapter 20. However, the Sinhalas mentioned in the Mahabharata is totally different from the Sinhalas that the Mahavihara monks created (Lion myth) in the 5th century AD. A Tamil inscription found in a Hindu temple in South India during the Rajaraja Chola 1 (10th/11th AD) also has a very similar statement like what was found in the Mahabaratha with a slight variation, referring to Lanka it say, ‘the land of the warlike Singalas’.
This is what B. C. Law says referring to the authors of these Chronicles –
“They offer a cheap fantastic explanation for the origin of the name of the Island ‘Sinhala’ because of Vijaya’s father Sihabahu since he had slain the lion”. (B. C. Law, ibid. p. 49). The probability is that this ‘fantastic explanation’ is the result of an interpolation crudely effected during the period the Tika was composed (circa XIII C). Besides this single Ola manuscript, ‘not more than 200 years old’ we have no other copies to check the authenticity of its contents.
Strangely, Buddha did not direct Vijaya to the Nagas who had been so friendly to the Buddha when he visited the island just a few decades before Vijaya’s landing? Soon after arrival, Vijaya and his followers were among the Yakkhas. But they did not mix with the local tribes, instead brought brides from Pandiya kingdom. Therefore the Sinhalese cannot be called Boomiputhra (sons of the soil) as some of the present day Sinhalese claim. Buddhism was introduced to the island only two centuries later. Ven. Mahanama does not seem to have noticed the contradiction.
Some historians and scholars have noted that some sections of the Mahavamsa deviates from the rest of Ven. Mahanama’s work in style and content. The manner in which it is introduced gives the impression that it is a later interpolation. They believe that, the version of the Mahavamsa that the British found in the 19th century and translated into English, German and finally to Sinhala was the modified/revised version composed during the period when Tika was composed and the original Mahavamsa what Ven. Mahanama composed is either lost or destroyed.
Mahavamsa has written 11 chapters to praise the Buddhist King DutuGemunu, but unfortunately not a single word ‘Sinhala/Hela’ was found where as his Naga ancestral relationship is very clearly given. Before marching against Elaro he declared his object to be ‘the restoration of the religion’ and proclaimed ‘I fight not for dominion but for the sake of the religion of Buddha.’ The kingdom of Anuradapura was never known as Sinhala kingdom and none of the kings of Anuradapura called themselves as Sinhala.
The early foreign traders from Arabia, Persia, Rome, China and so on called Sri Lanka by many different names but NONE of them mentioned about the existence of a Sinhala Kingdom or a Sinhala nation. Not a single stone inscription/rock edict of neighboring India (either South or North) that was always associated with the island’s history mentioned about a Sinhala Kingdom or a Sinhala nation in Sri Lanka.
There is no doubt that the ethnic identity ‘Hela/Sihala’ found in inscriptions for the first time in 9th century AD evolved in Sri Lanka and nowhere else, so did their language ‘Elu/Helu’ and later ‘Sinhala’ but as I said, before 9th century AD, the term Hela/Sinhala was not found in anywhere.
Therefore, the concepts of a fully evolved ‘thoroughbred Hela/Sinhala race’ and a ‘thoroughbred spoken/written Elu/Helu/Sihala language’ before the 9th century AD are pure assumptions and cannot be proved. The form Hela appears for the first time for the geographical identity of the island in 8th century AD Sigiri Graffiti and Elu/Helu for the name of the language only after the 9th century AD Sinhala literature. The earliest Elu/Helu writings such as Siyabaslakara and Elu Sandas Lakuna do not lead us beyond the 9th Century AD. There was NO Elu/Hela/Sinhala literary work (other than Pali) found before this period. (Elu Bodhi Vamsa, Elu Akaradiya, Elu Hathvanagalu Vansaya, Elu Umanda, Elu Daladavansa Kavya, Elu Silowa, Elu Silo Sathakaya, Helusuthra etc were all written very much later).
On the other hand, the Sri Lankan Tamil writings/literature was all done after the 13th century AD. Vaiya was a historian who penned the poem “para-rasa-sekaran-ula” and the chronicle “Rasa-murai”, written in the reign of king Seka-rasa-sekaran. Another known work was Vai-iai Padal and later work Vaipava-Malai and Kailaya Malai. Most of them were written as ala books made of Palmirah leaves. The writings in many cases were indistinct and were waiting for a proper interpretation and translation. They were carefully preserved in the Jaffna library until the modern Dutta-Gamini burnt them to ashes.
For those who believe in the weak argument by Prof. Paranavitana (a Sinhala biased researcher whose views were always one sided) who assumes that the dominant group of the kingdom ruled by the Anuradapura kings were all Sinhalese and that any ruler other than a Sinhalese in control of Anuradapura was a foreigner, in other words, he assumed like every other present day Sinhalese that since antiquity, Sinhala happened to be the norm in the country and no one bothered mentioning it. Very strangely, after the 9th century AD, they kept mentioning the word ‘Hela’ at many places (after it appeared in inscriptions) and after 12th century AD the word Sinhala is mentioned everywhere, and today they are the dominant group but they keep on mentioning it all the time (as I said in my article, not only Sinhala Vedakama /medicine or Sinhala Avurudda/new year but even roof tiles are labeled after Sinhala).
3.3. Sinhala and Demela
Until the 10th century AD, the people in the island irrespective of their racial background were scattered all over the island with the Tamil settlements (Demel-gam-bim) more towards Rajarata (North of Anuradapura and close to Polonnaruva). According to the historian Dr. M. Gunasingham, from around 10th to 13th century A.D, (Subsequent to the Cola domination of Sri Lanka in the 10th century A.D), people who identified themselves as Buddhists and Hela/Sihala shifted their seats of rule from the ancient kingdoms of Anuradapura/ Polonnaruva towards South, West and Central Sri Lanka while the people who identified themselves as Saiva and Demela moved their ruling structures from these same regions to the North and East of the island.
With the archaeological findings till today, the historians believe that the permanent Tamil settlement in the North & East and the permanent Sinhalese settlement in South, West and Central started taking place only after the 10th century AD. According to the research done by the historian Prof. Leslie Gunawardane, the Sinhala speaking people were considered as a nation only after the westerners came to this part of the world.
Since, there was neither a separate Tamil Nation/kingdom nor a separate Sinhala Nation/kingdom in Sri Lanka (neither North nor South) before the 13th Century AD; it is meaningless to talk about a continuous existence of Sinhalese/Tamils or a separate ‘Sinhalese-Buddhist’ or ‘Tamil-Hindu’ identity in Sri Lanka in the pre 12-13th century AD period. Tamils may have lived in the North & East and many other places in Sri Lanka for many thousands of years just like the Veddhas but, the Northern (Jaffna) kingdom was established only in 1215 AD by Kalinga Magha who adopted the name Segarajasekeran Singhai Ariyachakravarthi on coronation. Similarly, the Southern kingdoms (Gampola, Dambadeniya, Kotte, Kandy, etc) were also established during and after the 13th century AD. Only after this period that the Southern kingdoms such as Kotte and Kandy (not Jaffna) were known as ‘Sinhale’ (not the whole country) even though some parts of the Tamil areas in North and East also came under the Sinhala kingdom of Kandy. (Kandy was mostly ruled by the foreigners, the Kalingas of South-East India and the Nayakkars of South India). Also, the term ‘Sinhale’, appeared only in the 12th Century AD Chulavamsa and not in Deepavamsa or Mahavamsa.
In the Dutugemunu-Elara episode, the Mahavamsa says, Dutugemunu had to conquer not just one Tamil king (Elara) but 32 Tamil Chieftains around the Anuradhapura principality alone. He also killed around sixty thousand Tamils in the war. How could there be 32 Tamil chieftains in the area of Anuradhapura alone. Even if the Dutugemunu-Elara war is a myth, his writing proves (did not deny) the Tamil settlements (Demel-gam-bim) in Anuradapura? Similarly, King Valgambha had to fight seven Pandian chieftains to reassume sovereignty at Anuradhapura.
The Sinhalese Nampota dated in its present form to the 14th century AD suggests that the whole of the Tamil Kingdom, including parts of the modern Trincomalee district, was recognized as a Tamil region by the name Demala-pattanama (Tamil city). In this work, a number of villages that are now situated in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts are mentioned as places in Demala-pattanama.
Even during the recent past, in 17th century AD (colonial period), Rajarata (Anuradapura) was inhabited by Tamils as per the book written by Robert Knox who was the prisoner in Kandy. When he escaped from prison, he had to go through several places and when he came to Anuradapura, he says it was fully occupied by Tamils (NOT Sinhalese).
This is what Robert Knox says, when he visited Anuradapura in 1679,
“The people stood amazed as soon as they saw us, being originally Malabars, though subjects of Kandy. Nor could they understand the Sinhalese language in which we spake to them, and we stood looking one upon another until there came one that could speak the Sinhalese tongue who asked us, from whence we came? We told them from Kandy, but they believed us not, supposing that we came up from the Dutch from Mannar. So they brought us before their Governor. He not speaking Sinhalese spake to us by an interpreter.” (Robert Knox in the Kandyan Kingdom, Ed. E.F.C.Ludowyk, p 50).
When the Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch and British) arrived, what all of them clearly observed and experienced during their period was that, there were two different ethnic groups (Sinhalese and Tamils) having two different languages, religions, cultures, and living in two well defined and clearly and naturally demarcated (thick jungles, lakes, river, etc) land areas with their own kingdoms within their lands. The Tamils lived as a majority within their land area (North & East) and the Sinhalese also lived as a majority within their land area (South, West & Central). The Portuguese and the Dutch ruled Jaffna as a separate entity (as they found it) without amalgamating it with the Sinhalese areas. The British, on seeing the naturally existing borders of the two ethnic groups used their technology to demarcate them as two separate regions (occupied by two separate races) and created the maps for the first time somewhere in the 1800s.
The British also maintained the separate entity of the Tamils until 1833 at which year they unified the Tamil and Sinhalese regions for the purpose of administration.
There are many proofs to establish that Tamil was the main language even during the time the Portuguese landed. For example, the king of Kotte, Bhuvanehabahu VII signed the treaty with the Portuguese in Tamil. H.W. Codrington has stated that “there can be little doubt that the Jaffna Kingdom was for a time paramount in the low-country of Ceylon (his book short history of Ceylon) and the Tamils “had been the court language of the Kings of Kotte” Scholars like H L Seneviratne pointed out that many of the Kandyan chieftains signed the 1815 Convention (treaty with the British) in Tamil.
Based on the fact that there is no archeological evidence of a permanent Tamil kingdom or settlement in the North East before the 12th century AD, while rejecting the Tamil claim as a myth, the Sinhalese who also do not have any evidence of a permanent Sinhalese kingdom or settlement before the 12th century AD are trying to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic (unitary) state based on a mythical doctrine right from the day we gained independence.
In this never ending process of learning, I will be one of the happiest persons if someone can enlighten me by disproving the above with some archeological/epigraphic facts/evidence (not assumptions/hypothesis) to prove the existence of Hela/Sinhala before the 9th century AD.
Strangely, the learned gentleman Mr. Bandu De Silva says, I have presented a picture of an ‘imagined Tamil presence’ in the country in the past comparable to the weight of preponderant evidence of the existence of Sinhala element. I will leave it to the intelligent readers to decide.
4. Mahavamsa Myth and its Implications in today’s context
Mr. Bandu De Silva’s main argument was how Mahavamsa can be connected to the present ethnic issue/debate and how it can be attributed to the present day ultra-nationalist chauvinism in Sri Lanka. Even though I have said enough on this issue (above) and in my article, how the present day Sinhala-Buddhists accrued the Mahavamsa mindset (the fusion between Mahavamsa and the present day Sinhala-Buddhists), let me further elaborate on how the fusion took place.
4.1. Imaginary Buddha
More than thousand years after the Parinibbana (passing away) of Lord Buddha the Mahavamsa has created an imaginary Buddha (Mahavamsa Buddha) who
1. Made three magical visits to Sri Lanka paving the way for his Dhamma to prevail in the island in the future for a full 5000 years. (Today, the Sinhala-Buddhists believe, Sri Lanka is a ‘chosen land ’and ‘thrice blessed’ by none other than Buddha).
2. Confirmed that Vijaya and his followers (convicted criminals and non-Buddhists), the ancestors of today’s Sinhala community, are said to have landed on the island of Lanka (Promised Land), exactly on the day he attains Parinibbana (his passing away).
3. Made arrangements for the safety of Vijaya and his followers. He calls on Sakka (Indra), who in turn calls Vishnu (Upulvan) for divine intervention and help to protect his chosen people (Sinhala Jathiya) and their promised land (Dhammadeepa) and his Dhamma (Buddhism) for a full 5000 years.
Even though Siddharta Gautama was from a Hindu background, the concept of God in Hinduism (Brhama, Vishnu, Siva) is completely different from the (Brhama, Deva) in Buddhism, Buddha never mentioned about any Hindu Gods (Tripitaka). By introducing the above myths and attributing it to Buddha, the Mahavamsa is not only perverting Gautama Buddha’s peerless Dhamma, but also making it an orthodox Theravada Buddhist doctrine of Sinhala-Buddhism in Sri Lanka which ultimately has transformed the Gautama Buddha into a special patron of Sinhala (Mahavamsa) Buddhism, an ethnic religion (political) created in Sri Lanka. The outcome of the above is the Jathika Chinthanaya or Mahavansa-mindset [Rata (Sinhala Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion] which has manifested into Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-nationalist chauvinism today.
4.2. Racial Factor
The fourth important step, Mahavamsa justifies (Non-Buddhist/Tamil killing) by attributing it to a [Buddhist] Arahant who equates the killing of sixty thousand Tamils by DutuGemunu to a mere one and a half human, indicating that it is no crime in killing thousands of Tamils. Mr. Bandu De Silva says, as a frequent reader of Bhagavad Gita, Ven. Mahanama must have adopted this concept from the Gita. Of course, as I mentioned in my article, he has adopted many concepts from the Indian epics but unfortunately the present day Sinhalese do not know the stories in Gita, they only believe the Arahant’s words as the gospel truth that killing sixty thousand Tamils is equal to killing only one-and-a-half human (the reason why others/non-Buddhists think that Sinhala-Buddhism is somewhat of a violent barbaric form of Buddhism where killing Tamils is justified). This demonstrates that there has been substantial anti-Tamil (Saiva) sentiment for centuries and it provides ready fodder for contemporary Sinhalese propagandists. Even the great Buddhist/Pali scholar Dr. Walpola Rahula thero uses this incident without questioning its veracity in his defense of Sinhalese nationalism. If an Arahant can utter such racial statements, it is not rocket science for us to understand why the present day Buddhist monks are engaged in racial politics. Still I do not consider Ven. Mahanama was a racist or his doctrine was racist but it has definitely influenced racism in today’s Sinhalese society.
Here is what we read in the Dipavamsa, (Ch. XVIII, vv. 47-50).
v. 47. “The Damilas, Sena and Guttaka, capturing Sura Tissa, ruled righteously for twenty-two years.”
v. 48. “Prince Asela, son of Mutasiva, killing Sena and Guttaka ruled for ten years.”
v. 49. “The Prince named Elara killing Asela ruled righteously for forty-four years.”
v. 50. “Avoiding the paths of desire, hatred, fear and delusion, he ruled righteously being incomparable.”
Of course, Prince Duttugemunu killed Elara and ruled after him. Curiously enough the Dipavamsa, the earlier of the two old Pali Chronicles, makes no mention of a war between Elara and Duttugemunu, (a tale apparently fabricated to counteract the Saiva revival that was fast spreading through the Tamil country during this period). The graphically and romantically described campaigns occupying a large section of the Mahavamsa were written a century later than the Dipavamsa, and about 900 years after the time of Elara. It was evidently invented for the edification of the pious in Sri Lanka and to protect the faith from Saiva (Tamil) revivalists. Unfortunately today, it is considered as a Sinhala-Tamil war. Neither the Pali chronicles nor does the epigraphy say Duttugemunu was a Sinhala. Why abuse the good old Tamil Kings when our Sinhalese brethren, who lay exclusive claim to this Island, have a feeble case to support their make-belief?
If we turn to the later chronicles the Pujavali (13th century A.D.), the Rajaratnakara (16th century A.D.), and the Rajavali (18th century A.D.), it is not likely that these writers had read either the Dipavamsa or the Mahavamsa. The names of the kings of Sri Lanka, the order and the details of their activities in these Chronicles do not always agree with those found in the earlier Pali Chronicles. The writers of these chronicles had probably heard by word of mouth of a war between the Tamil Saivite king Elara and Duttugemunu whom the Buddhist priesthood had traditionally held to be an early champion of Buddhism.
These chroniclers, themselves priests, give a totally different picture of Elara. They represent him as a desecrator of Buddhist monuments and a destroyer of Buddhist temples. The author of the Mahavamsa, without doing any harm to the character of Elara as represented in the earlier Chronicle, the Dipavamsa, guilds his hero Duttugemunu with a fabulous account of a long and glorious campaign (religious war of liberation) against the Tamil king, a campaign about which the Dipavamsa was totally unaware.
4.3. Sinhala-Buddhist Only
As I have explained in my article, the concept ‘Rata (Sinhala-Buddhist Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala-Buddhist Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion)’ the three are attributed to Sri Lanka with an inseparable fusion (trinity) derived from Mahavamsa as I have listed above (Jathika Chinthanaya/Mahavamsa mindset) and its primary outcome is the Sinhala-Only, Buddhist-Only, unitary state. All others are secondary, considered as from outside (migrants, invaders, etc) who are allowed to stay but they should not demand anything.
From a very young age, the innocent Sinhala Buddhist children are brainwashed by their parents/grandparents, teachers, Buddhist priests (some members of the Maha Sangha), media personnel, text book writers, and some of the Daham Paasela (Sunday school) teachers in the Buddhist temples by engraving the Sinhala-Buddhist Mahavansa mindset and Sinhala Buddhist racism into their sub-conscious minds. They are taught to believe that the non-Sinhala Buddhists (Tamils) are invaders who do not belong to Sri Lanka. All the Tamils should be chased away to Tamil Nadu (where they belong) just the way their ancient Kings like Dutugemunu did. The country (Sri Lanka), Sinhala race and Buddhism should be protected from the Tamils. Now, from recently, they have also included the Christians in those needing to be thrown out. Due to the above conditioning, the Sinhala-Buddhist majority believes that the entire Sri Lanka belongs to them and the minorities are aliens.
When the Mahavamsa author Ven. Mahanama Thero created the above myth during the early period when there was a threat to Buddhism (mainly from South India), he would have never imagined that after 15 centuries, his myth would (misinterpreted in a political context) influence an ultra-nationalist/chauvinist mindset in the group of people (Sinhalese) that he created to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and that he will become an unfortunate victim for the ethnic crisis that manifested from his creation.
To be precise, a mythical mindset to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic (unitary) state that in turn influenced/created another mindset among the Tamils to create a separate Tamil state. For those who have misunderstood my article, I repeat that, by considering the era in which Mahavamsa was written (turbulent period), Ven. Mahanama cannot be blamed because his only motive was to protect Buddhism.
For the Sinhala Buddhists nationalists, who have become myopic over the years of misinformation or lack of information, the Mahavamsa constitutes a sacred unquestionably legitimate proof of their original Sinhala Buddhist heritage and ownership of the island. According to the Sinhala nationalism the Mahavamsa mythology provides proof beyond doubt that the Sinhala race was the chosen people, the predestined custodian of the island and the guardian of Buddhism.
The entire body of claims of Sinhala chauvinism, and the Sinhalese and their entire historical perception, all their inflated claims are based on this cooked up and concocted historical work called Mahavamsa.
5. How Sinhalese becoming Majority and the Tamil ‘Vellalar Migration’ theory
The ethnic Tamils have found themselves in Sri Lanka in a political culture that promoted Buddhism from the beginning of written history. As a consequence, Tamils have assimilated into the Buddhist tribes at varying rates. During the last 2500 years, more Tamils and South Indians mixed with those who call themselves Sinhalese today than anybody else. If a comprehensive genetic study is conducted on the Sinhalese population, it will reveal this fact.
5.1. Colonial Aided colonization
In the 16th century, the Portuguese colonized a large number of South Indians (mainly from Cochin in the Malabar coast/presently Kerala and from Tutucorin in the Coromandel Coast/presently Tamil Nadu) in the entire western coast of Sri Lanka from Mannar to Matara. Of course, those settled in Mannar remained as Tamils but all others got converted to Sinhala Buddhists and Sinhala Catholics and today their descendents (6th generation from the South) have become distinct, ‘North Indian Vijaya’s Lion-blooded Sinhala Aryans’, the Nationalist Patriots and guardians of Sinhala, Sri Lanka and Buddhism, the job that Lord Buddha assigned to the Hindu God Vishnu as per the Mahavamsa. If these so called “Sinhaputhra/Boomiputhra of Heladiva” had remained as Tamils, (without assimilating with the Sinhalese) today the Tamils would have been the majority in Sri Lanka or if they had assimilated with the Veddas instead of Sinhalese, today the Veddas would have been considerably a large population in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Bandu De Silva accepts the fact that the Tamils and the low-country Sinhalese are heavily mixed but strangely he leaves out the up-country Sinhalese. The last four Kings who ruled Kandy from 1739 – 1815 were Nayakkar from Madurai (Tamil Nadu). During the 75 years period how many of their people (close associates and others), would have come from there and mixed with the up-country Sinhalese. It is said; the King had them married to Kandyan Sinhalese women of distinction (a royal affair). In fact the Kandyan rulers had close ties with Tamils than with low country Sinhalese.
5.2. Dutch and the Vellalars
A few Sinhalese pseudo ‘Intellects’ talk as if they have witnessed the Dutch bringing Vellalars to Jaffna from South India (Vellalar migration). While the Tamils ridicule such cheap His-story created by some charlatan for the serene joy of a few non-rational gullible and bigoted Sinhalese chauvinists, even the majority of the Sinhalese do not believe in such stories. This myth was concocted by those who are totally ignorant about Vellalar and the Jaffna society. I am really surprised that Mr. Bandu De Silva, once a diplomat who represented our country at international level believing in such myths.
The theory (myth) fabricated by a Sinhalese pseudo-scholar Gamani Iriyagolla, (Lawyer cum civil servant), without any recorded proof was “Many Tamils in Jaffna were brought in the 17th century by the Dutch to work in the tobacco plantations”. Later his theory was further modified by naming those imaginary migrants as ‘Vellalar’ and the reason behind the introduction of Thesawalamei Law (adopted from Malabar Muslim Customary Law) by Dutch was to encourage the Vellalar of South India to come and grow tobacco.
It was Markus Vink, a Dutch historian who first mentioned quoting a Dutch Record, in an article published in the ‘Journal of World History’, the Slave trade was flourishing during the Dutch period (17th century AD). There was a famine in South India during that period and slaves were brought to Sri Lanka and to a few other countries from the Coromandel Coast in South India in 1658-1663, 1670/71-1689/90. Although he mentioned that, ten thousand slaves were settled in the South of Sri Lanka (Colombo, Galle and the entire South West) where cinnamon grew to perfection; he did not say how many were settled in Jaffna.
5.2. Cinnamon Trade
From the time of the Portuguese, who had a monopoly of trade in spices, they developed the cultivation of spices in Sri Lanka and established a lucrative trade. Cinnamon was the staple export. It was ‘the Helen or bride of contest’ (as Baldaeus called it) for whose exclusive possession successive European invaders had in turn contended. Dutch Governor Rijckloff van Goens Jr. (1675-80) stated cinnamon is said to be the bride around whom they dance in Ceylon. If not for cinnamon, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British would not have taken such interest in this tiny island of Sri Lanka.
Other than for Cinnamon, coffee and coconut plantation in the South, the Dutch also used them for domestic purpose.
Let me quote from the report of the Dutch writer Markus Vink:
“In 1661, 10,000 slaves had been put to work by the company and by private individuals on the lands in South-western Ceylon, including 2,000 company slaves. In 1694, the city of Colombo alone had a slave population of 1,761.”
The Sinhalese population increased exponentially and became a majority in Sri Lanka only after these people brought by the Portuguese and the Dutch assimilated with the local Sinhalese population.
Only those that the British brought in the 19th century AD and settled in the upcountry did not assimilate with the Sinhalese (even though they were highly discriminated by the Vellalar Tamils) because the British had a different policy/agenda and they maintained it till they left the island in 1948. (If given a choice, they will prefer to join with the Sinhalese rather than Tamils).
5.3. Vellalar Domination
When the last Tamil king of Jaffna, Cankli Kumaran was fighting decisively with the Portuguese forces, Jaffna was well populated with Tamils.
The ‘Cambridge History of India’ says,
“The Tamils formed the three kingdoms of the Pandya, Chola, Chera, where the ruling element was the land tilling classes, the Vellalars.” (ibid. p. 539).
“Even in the fifth century AD, the South seems to have felt little influence of Aryan culture but the Dravidian Society was still free from the yoke of Brahmin caste system” (p. 540).
In other words, the Vellalars were the dominating caste among the Damelars (Tamils) and not the North Indian Brahmin caste.
From 13 Century AD, the economy of the Jaffna kingdom had been based exclusively on agriculturalists, predominantly of the Vellalar caste. The Vellalars were the land owners and they were dominating the entire peninsula. It is true that the Dutch also settled some of those slaves in Jaffna in the Tobacco fields to help the Vellalars but it is ridiculous to assume (without any proof) that there are considerable amount of recently migrated Tamils in Jaffna brought by the Dutch for Tobacco plantation or to say Vellalar community of Jaffna was brought from South India during the Colonial period. The Dutch did not bring Vallalar from South India; they brought labourers/slaves from South India to help the Vallalar with Tobacco cultivation and those labourers/slaves remained as a distinct caste until recently. Encouraged by the ambiguities in Dutch law which interpreted the bonded status of landless labourers as slave labour, vellalar landowners claimed ownership of these landless labourers, similar to western slavery.
The people of Jaffna knew very well right from the beginning, who is an original inhabitant and who were those tobacco cultivation laborers/slaves. They only ridicule at such myths created by the so called ‘Educated’ Sinhalese. Right from Ven. Mahanama, it has become a tradition for the Sinhalese-Buddhists to create myths whenever they feel there is a threat to [Rata (Sinhala Country) – Jathiya (Sinhala Nation/Race) – Aagama (Sinhala Buddhist Religion]. It is so contiguous that it has spread to some Sri Lankan Tamils as well who in turn have come up with another myth that there was a permanent Tamil kingdom in the North/East for 3000 years. (Myth creating more and more myths).
5.4. Tobacco Cultivation
Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam published an article on the very subject in 1994 where he took Markus Vink’s article and further elaborated on the Jaffna issue. According to him, the Dutch fully supported the local Vellalar farmers to grow Tobacco which was extensively cultivated in Vadamarachchi and in parts of Valikamam. The Dutch helped the Vellalar by bringing in workers/slaves from South India. He also says, these vellalar elites were able to command the labour of untouchable castes, who were migrating from south India until the 18th century. It is also very clear from his article that, the tobacco cultivation labourers/slaves were none other than the untouchable castes from South India who remained in Jaffna until recently as low castes.
Even Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam does not say how many were settled in Jaffna. What he said was, consequently, due to this settlement, the populations of the already densely populated provinces of Valikamam and Vadamarachchi increased and the older villages, with their intensively cultivated and subdivided land, recorded populations of as much as 5000 each (those already living plus those settled).
The Dutch Predikant Philippus Baldaeus in his famous 1682 historical account ‘A True and Exact Description of the Island of Ceylon’ says he first landed in the Malabar Coast (presently Kerala), stayed there for a very short time moving along the Malabar Coast to Coramandel Coast (presently Tamil Nadu) up to Nagapatnam, and then to Galle, and finally Jaffna (presently Sri Lanka). He was living in Jaffna during the period when the Dutch slave trade was flourishing, when tens of thousands of slaves were brought to Sri Lanka from Coromandel. He was preaching Christianity in the Tamil language (he learnt Tamil just enough to preach) to the people of Jaffna.
With regard to the similarity in the languages spoken in both Jaffna and Coromandel, this is what he said,
“I have HEARD it often asserted by the inhabitants of Jaffna Patnam that, that part of the country was TIMES PAST peopled from the Coromandal coast and hence the dialect of their fatherland.”
This statement is usually quoted out of context (misquoted) by the Sinhalese scholars. If we analyze the above statement, this Dutch officer says, he has only heard the peasants of Jaffna talking that the similarity in language is because, in the past history, the people of Jaffna were from Coromandal He did not say anywhere that he saw/witnessed people from Coromandal settling in Jaffna (Dutch settlements/Vellalar settlement). Without reading such historical accounts in full and without analyzing them, these pseudo-scholars not only misinterpret them but also make assumptions and come to wrong conclusions.
5.5. Tesavalamai Law
The adherence of special laws such as Tesavalamai by the Northern Tamil society in Sri Lanka is NOT due to any South Indian Vellalar or any Tobacco cultivation. It was only a customary law that governs property rights among the Tamils of Jaffna, codified by the Dutch in 1707 under the heading ‘The Malabar Laws and Customs’, under which not all property could be given away. A person could give away only the tetiatettam, i.e. property acquired by either husband during the period after married life and or the priests acquiring from such properties. Even of the tetiatettam property, the husband cannot alienate the whole property; the wife is entitled to half of it. Those properties inherited from the parents cannot be given away according to ones own wish. The Thesavalamai is part of some ancient customs of Tamils in Sri Lanka and India on the matrimonial rights and Inheritance with respect to property and intestate succession and has no relationship what so ever with the Malabar Muslim Customary Law of India.
As the rulers of Jaffna, the Dutch accepted the customs of the Northern Tamil society and by the order of the Governor Simons in 1706 it was promulgated by the Dutch Government as a customary law of Jaffna and codified it under the heading ‘The Malabar Laws and Customs’. These Sinhala pseudo-scholars have totally misinterpreted the customary law of Jaffna Tamils (Thesawalamai) by comparing it with the Muslim Customary Law of India. Not only Thesawalamai Law, it should be noted that the colonial rulers also accepted Kandyan Law, Muslim Law, Buddhist Law and Hindu Law in Sri Lanka in addition to their Roman-Dutch Law and English Law.
5.6. Converting to Christianity
Like the the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonial powers who only dealt with the Vellalar who were so powerful within the Jaffna Tamil society, even the Sinhala dominated governments in the South continued the same practice after independence.
The Portuguese went about converting the remaining members of the royal family and the Vellalar Tamil aristocrats of the Kingdom of Jaffna (after its fall) into Catholicism. They made them the headmen of Jaffna and give them the Portuguese title Don. These titles continued into the Dutch period as seen in the names of signatories of the Thesavalami laws and customs of Jaffna which was codified under the Dutch.
The signatories of the Thesavalami laws and customs of Jaffna were, Don Philip Villaivarasa Mutaliyar, Don Anthony Narayanan, Don Frnscisco Arulampalam Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chantirasekara Mana Muthaliyar, Don Martino Manappuli Mutaliyar, Don Franscisco Vanniyarasa Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chayampunata Mutaliyar, Don Juan Chutukavala Chenathirayan Mutaliyar, Don Louwys Putar, And Don Francisco Rasarathina Mutaliyar.
During the Dutch rule, in an attempt to control the powerful Vellalar elite, all the holders of Muthaliyarships were asked to present their letters of appointment and prove their titles. The census indicated that in the four provinces of Jaffna there was a total of 516 Mudaliyars. However hard they tried, the Dutch could not break the dominance of the Hindu Vellalar land owners. Finally, the Dutch introduced a legislation, no native could have title to land without becoming a Christian (Protestant) and being baptized. As a result, most Vellalar families who were agricultural land owners in Jaffna accepted baptism but behind closed doors they still practiced Hinduism. Dutch religious leaders lost hope and departed from Jaffna. As a result, the local Christians (Protestant) had no religious leadership and many of them converted back to Hinduism. Even though the Dutch could build Forts, they could not establish a Dutch Reformed Church in Jaffna like what they did in many places in Colombo and Galle. The British who succeeded the Dutch were also unsuccessful, unlike in the South; their mission could not establish a Church of England in Jaffna.
The first Christian missionary; American Mission (Congregationalists), under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, landed in Ceylon in 1812. When the American missionaries first arrived in Jaffna, they found that the greatest impact they could make on the powerful Tamil Hindu Vellalar community was through education. They put up well equipped Schools, hospitals, etc and established the Church of South India. Some of the Vellalar Tamil families became Christians and took American names permanently when they were baptized.
Murugesar Ramanathar became Francis Asbury, Ambalavanar Chitampalam became Nathan Strong, Ethirnayagam Murugesar became Cyrus Mills, Muttukumaru Sithamparapillai became William Nevins, Arumugam Nannithamby became Robert Williams, Vairavanathar Sinnathamby became William Cotton Mather and many others followed.
After the Americans established their mission schools, churches and hospital with the help of the powerful Vellalar, they deviated from the system by taking in “low caste” Tamils, and started baptizing them giving them Christian/Western names so as to erase their “low caste” identities. The Hindu Vellalar Tamil nationalist Arumuga Navalar launched a campaign to deny “low caste” Tamils access to missionary schools but failed.
5.7. Tracing the Tamil Ancestry
Mr. Bandu De Silva goes on to say, the Tamils do not have a continuous history going back to a date beyond the seventeenth century. I do not know how he came to such a conclusion? In the case of the Sinhalese, their family name/surname is constantly carried forward from generation to generation (Eg, Ratwatte, Don Hewavitharana, De Silva, etc), where as the Tamils do not carry forward a constant family name/surname and their ancestors are not known beyond three generations. (Eg, we do not know who Don Philip Villaivarasa Mutaliyar’s forefathers/decedents are). Only a very few Vellalar families opted to constantly carry forward their family name/surname and therefore their ancestors can be traced back up to the 17th century and not beyond.
5.7. Colonial Lackeys
It was neither the Dutch nor the British but the Americans who built those leading schools in Jaffna which helped the Tamils to receive an English education, an advantage they had over the Sinhalese when it came to white collar government jobs under the British. There is no truth in the Sinhalese claim that the Tamils collaborated with the British against the Sinhalese. Very similar to some of the Sinhala rebellion against the British rule even the Tamils have rebelled. Pandara Vanniyan (Kulasegaram Vairamuthu Pandaravanniyan) was known as one of last native Tamil chiefs to challenge British rule.
In fact it was not the Tamils but the Sinhalese who collaborated with the British. Unlike the Indians (Mahatma Gandhi, Jawalhal Nehru, Mohd Ali Ginna, Subash Chandra Bose, and others) who suffered for their Independence, the Sinhalese whom Anagarika Dhammapala termed as ‘Kalu Suddho’ collaborated with the British (not a bad move anyway), who gave us Independence on a platter (without shedding a single drop of tears, sweat or blood) and made them leaders to rule the entire country.
5.8. Yarlpana Vaipava Malai
Just like Dhatusena invited Ven.Mahanama to compile the Mahavamsa, the Dutch Governor Jan Maccara may have had an interest in knowing the history of the people who were dominating one part of the country and he invited Mayilvagana Pulavar, the right person who could compile it. This has nothing to do with tobacco cultivation as some of the Sinhalese charlatans are trying to misinterpret. Just like the Mahavamasa written by a the poet monk Ven. Mahanama in 6th century AD who glorified the Theravada Buddhists, the Yarlpana Vaipava Malai is a book written by the Tamil poet Mayilvagana Pulavar in 1736 AD and he glorified the supremacy of the Tamil Hindu Vellalar. Like the Mahavamsa, it also contains folklore, legends and myths mixed with historical anecdotes, most of them cannot be proved.
The only good thing that the Tamil militancy did to the Sri Lankan Tamils was, getting rid of the caste system and the Vellalar supremacy but in doing so, they got rid of most of the well educated Vellalar Tamils.
5. Saivism and the Ancient Hindu shrines
I am not going to comment much on the antiquity/existence of five recognized ‘Eeswararms’ of Siva before the arrival of Thero Mahinda because until now, even with all the latest advanced technology, there is no proper archaeological research conducted on them.
The worship of Siva was prevalent in Sri Lanka from even before the mission of Mahinda in the 3rd century BC, the mission that resulted in king Tissa of Anuradapura and many of his subjects being converted to Buddhism. After all, the father of this Anuradapura ruler was Muta Siva and his brother was Maha Siva whose names imply association with the worship of Siva. The numerous occurrences of the personal name Siva in the early Brahmi records and also in the early Pali chronicles leave us in no doubt that the cult of Siva was prevalent in the island, unless of course some etymologist/linguist comes up with a different meaning for the term Siva in the early Sri Lankan/Indian languages.
The earliest reference in the Pali Chronicles to the Saiva Shrine at Trincomalee is found in the Mahavamsa (Ch. XXXVII, vv. 40-44). It states that Mahasen‘built also the Manivihara and founded three viharas destroying the temple of the gods the Gokanna, Erukavilla, and another in the village of the Brahman Kalanda’. In a note below Geiger the official translator of the Mahavamsa, states, “according to the Tika, the Gokanna Vihara is situated on the coast of the Eastern sea, the two other Viharas in Ruhuna, the Tika also adds everywhere in the Island of Lanka he established the doctrine of the Buddha having destroyed the temples of the unbelievers, i.e. having abolished the Phallic symbols of Siva and so forth”. In his foot note quoting the Pali version of the Tika Geiger clarifies that King Mahasen destroyed symbols of Siva:
“Evam sabbaththa Lankadipamhi kuditthikAnam Alayam viddhaamesetvA, SivalingadAyo nAsetvA buddhasAsanam eva patittahapesi”
If what the Tika says is to be accepted, Ruhuna and the Eastern coast would appear to have been early homes of Saivaism, the Tamil religion par excellence. The authors of the Pali Chronicles and the monk author of the later 13th century AD Tika were Buddhist priests, who at that time were the bitterest opponents of Saivaism and those who supported it in Sri Lanka, as we see from their writings. The truth and accuracy of the statements made by the commentator cannot be verified. It has however been pointed out that the unknown writer of the Tika (who also mentioned about the mysterycal ‘Vamsa texts’ known as ‘Sihala Atthakatha’) had used his piety and his imagination rather than verify facts to explain the allusions found in the Mahavamsa.
Coming over to historical data furnished by Dr. Vigneswaran, it is his view having examined many sources that the original Thirukoneswaram temple is under sea. The original temple now under sea was a rock cave temple built around an earlier existing Shivalingam.
What is important is not what is said in the ‘Mahavamsa’, or Tika or the thevaaram that the ancient Tamil Saiva poet, Thirignanasampanthar sang on ‘Theiruketheesvaram’ and ‘Thirukoneswaram’ or the reference to Siva temple in relation to Raavana in Ramaayana or what Dr. Paul E. Peiris declared at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society or the remains of several Saiva shrines unearthed at Anuradapura, or king Sena1 (833 – 853) getting converted to Saivism or even what Dr. Vigneswaran furnished. What is needed is an extensive archaeological research that is still pending.
Professor C. Pathmanathan suggested that systematic excavation done in the Trincomalee district could bring valuable historical evidence to establish not only the existence of the ancient symbols of Siva but also the history of Tamils in the country.
Regarding Buddha’s three visits, another creative imagination of the great poet Ven. Mahanama, Mr. De Silva says, let it remain in the realm of belief just like many other myths. With the modern technology, it is not a herculean task to find the antiquity of the three ‘chaityas’ despite its renovation/embellishment but who would want to shoot themselves on their own foot? It is easy to rule/preach the masses if they remain gullible.
Today the Sri Lankan Tamils have lost everything and are reduced to refugees in their own land. It is a bitter historical truth that, it was not only the colonial rulers who were responsible for this state of affairs but also the competitiveness, superiority complex, caste discrimination, disunity, jealousy, lack of co-operation and lack of patriotism among the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is unlikely this situation can be changed until the Tamil politicians and officials truly realize the gravity of the situation and apply themselves sincerely to solving these urgent problems which still exists within the Tamil community.
Let me quote the powerful saying “United we stand, divided we fall”. The divided Tamils who were struggling for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka do not even deserve a federal solution. The unity and solidarity among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans (North, East, Upcountry, Colombo and the Tamil speaking Muslims) is the number one priority. Unless and until all the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka unite, they do not deserve any political solution. These people (leaders) have to decide whether or not the Tamils are to continue living as refugees. The best lesson they can learn is from their own Sinhalese brethren with whom they have lived for many centuries. Their unity (irrespective of their differences) in defeating the LTTE should be admired.
The fall of LTTE is one good thing that has happened to Sri Lankans and especially to the Sri Lankan Tamils. If it had continued for another few decades, it would have reduced the Sri Lankan Tamils (Demelas) to the state of Veddas, another indigenous population that lives in the island from pre-historic period. What development have they done to the land/people of Vanni within their 25 years of self rule with millions of dollars they received from the Tamil Diaspora, other than fighting a losing war and making the people refugees in their own land?
Unfortunately, the present government has also succumbed to the Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-nationalists (obsessed with Mahavansa mindset) masquerading as Patriots with their hidden agenda to establish a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic state. By encouraging certain myopic actions such as erecting Buddha statues in places where there are no Buddhists, Sinhala Only National anthem, and so on and by delaying the political solution, they are only aiding to spawn another Prabakaran. For the Tamil speaking people, Sri Lanka still remains as a land of broken promises and shattered dreams. Let us not repeat the bitter history again by falling back to the 1956 era.
These are some of the important and critical issues that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) have to look into if the government is genuine in working towards finding a lasting solution for an ethnically peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.