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Sinhala Nationalism and Tamil Vellalas

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A Few Comments on J.L. Devananda’s Response –Part Two

By Bandu de Silva

3. Political Overview & Conclusion

3.1 Anagarika Dharmapala – the Villain!

For the purpose of this article, it is not proposed to engage in a discussion over present day thinking among some of the Sinhalese, whether they be Buddhists or otherwise, but suffice it to point out that this ‘post-modern’ argument of associating Anagarika Dharmmapala as the villain of the alleged present day Sinhala-Buddhist prejudicial perception of the “other” has gone too far. It is time to call off this misdirection and call for a reappraisal, pointing out that this idea of finding suitable candidates responsible for giving birth to revivalism/nationalism in Sri Lanka is the result of applying Western sociological models of the 19th and early 20th century, which started blaming the petty bourgeoisie for nationalist movements throughout Europe and other parts of the world. The subject will be discussed below to some extent and also under 3.3 –“Vellalas and Sinhalese Nationalism”.

For academics oriented by Western models, like S.J. Tambiah, R.A.H.L. Gunawaradana and others, Anagarika Dharmapala presented the most eligible candidate who would fit into this model in the case of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). The backdrop was the colonial environment, more particularly, that of British imperialism under which the new political model of ‘inferiorisation’ of the numerical majority, in this case, the Sinhalese, and uplifting the minorities, like the Tamils, went along with attempts to substitute an alien population (the Indian Tamils) in place. That was not just a model chosen for Sri Lanka (Ceylon) but one applied in all other colonies starting with Ireland. (UNESCO, Sociological Theories, 1980).

No one in international academic circles looked at an even more forceful personality within the Tamil community named Arumuga Nalavar, who mounted a different type of revivalist sentiment from the point of view of discrimination in respect of a section of the society, i.e. how he looked at the “other”, in this case, Non-Vellalas. Has anyone compared/contrasted Anagarika’s revivalist sentiments with those of Arumuga Nalavar in Jaffna; or of the Gandhiyan movement in India? I have not seen any so far except recent comments by Prof. Michael Roberts on Anagarika. So it would appear, the scholarly or any other interest for that matter rests only if it affects an ‘ethnic’ community and not a section within the same community. This seems to be a flaw in modern scholarship. The point is, there was no danger perceived to British imperialism by Nalavar when compared to the threat Anagarika presented. Nalavar’s preoccupation was consolidating the Vellala hegemony at the expense of other Tamils. (Read Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and others).

It is true that Anagarika Dharmapala engaged himself in trying to purify the Sinhalese thought from within, from the outside influences to which it had succumbed. He was not alone in that. Tamil intellectuals like Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy through his public letter addressed to Kandyan Chiefs tried to address it. So did Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan through his critical statements of the Sinhalese elite.

It is also true that Anagarika Dharmapala did not resort to such refinements but went down to grass root levels to address the problem. He did not engage the Sinhalese elite in direct dialogue, though he published much through pamphlets and through the newspaper “Sinhala Bauddhaya” which were never read by the Sinhala elite, and through lecture tours which the elite avoided. His platform was in old Maria-kade, “working class” as many of the IGP’s reports on his lectures at the time reveal. That is also what Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathhan wrote, when asking the Governor to permit Anagarika to return to the island when he was seriously ailing in Calcutta. Sir Ponnambalam could not have been joking when he wrote that Anagarika had no following among the Sinhalese and his influence was inconsequential; and the Governor, the recipient of his request, could not have been unaware of the same as many IGP reports were submitted to him.

Nalavar was different in the choice of platform, which was the Vellala supremacy. For him, the non-Vellalas, particularly the untouchables, were like the drum (Parai), meant to be beaten! That was the ethos that guided the later 20th century Tamil political leadership like the Sittampalams, Sundaralingams and Ponnambalms, who were not only in the forefront of Tamil politics, but also in the Vellala supremacist movement preventing temple entry and the use of wells by ‘low caste’ Tamils.

Not so in Anagarika’s programme, if what Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan told the then Governor is any indication. He had no elite following. Here lies a big difference in the influence of Anagarika and Nalavar in their influence over the respective societies. Whether the LTTE megalomaniac, Prabhakaran, succeeded in eliminating that difference in the Tamil society as Mr. Devananda asserts, I cannot say. That calls for in-depth examination. I will leave it to the Sri Lanka Tamil community to debate over it.

A point that should be explored further by future analysts is if the Sinhalese revivalist movement would not have taken place even if Mahavamsa was not there. How was it that a greater revivalist movement arose in India, where there was no national identity as presented by the Sri Lankan chronicles? That movement, in which Mahatma Gandhi and others were in the forefront, later arose in a country which then had a lesser claim to a national identity as a result of being divided into multiple ethnic and linguistic groups and having had no continuous political state as Sri Lanka could claim.

The answer to this has been provided by a number of Indian scholars, first articulated by D.D.Kosambi and commented upon by more recent historians/sociologists like Dr. S.Gopal, and historian Romila Thapar. Dr. Gopal wrote that though Hegel might have treated the countries of the East with contempt, and James Mill in the early 19th century regarded the religion and philosophies of India as decadent, there had been, more recently, acknowledgement by scholars like Max Muller, “of the depth and vitality of Indian culture and that these were the well-springs of Indian national consciousness”. Political subjugation could not destroy them, and changing circumstances were producing a novel expression of a perennial feeling. Dr. Gopal observed that “though unhistorical, this sentiment too had a long life, as it appealed to nationalist sentiments and nostalgic romanticism, subjecting even a liberal like Jawaharlal Nehru to subscribe to it in the 1940s when he realized that British might well stay in India indefinitely”. (Gopal UNESCO,p 87-91).

The issue for me for the present purpose is to what extent did Anagarika use the Mahavamsa to arouse nationalism in his time? As a polemic point, I have seen only a single reference, not in his addresses to the working class Sinhalese, but in a contribution to the elite publication, “Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon” where he cited the Elara-Dutugemunu story to argue that “the Sinhalese had for thousands of years remained loyal to Buddhism and that gave them individuality so full of vitalizing power that they were able to withstand the sledge-hammer of attacks levelled by persistent propagandists of other religions”. (Edited –quoted by Russell). Russell observes that he was attacking the Christian church which was identified as a fifth column of the British Imperialists but his precept to “let Mahavamsa be the guide” portended disaster to the Ceylon Tamil Hindu community. (Russell, p. 153). This despite the fact Anagarika was one who lectured on Hinduism and was friendly to the Hindu religion.

The issue calls for an in-depth study, rather than paying lip service to a view emanating from 19th/20th century Western sociological theories of the middle class or the petty bourgeoisie being responsible for nationalist revivalist movements. That is how the likes of Dr. S.J. Tambiah and R.A.H.L. Gunawardana have advanced their ‘superficial’ arguments, arguments that are now being repeated by Mr. Devananda, without even such declared scholarly credentials to back him.

I am not suggesting that the debate on Anagarika’s role in creating a so called ‘Mahavamsa mentality’ should be closed. On the contrary, it is good to open it with an open mind to remove/qualify present day simplified concepts attached to his role. It is only after we bring to the surface enough substantial evidence, can we bring in the ‘theory’ of the Mahavamsa as being the real spoiler of the ethnic pot in Sri Lanka.

As historian Rebeiroux whom I quoted in my first article observed, mere presence of certain forms of superiority referred to in texts did not point to superiority of “race”. There is no such situation in the Mahavamsa. If Anagarika borrowed such thoughts, as Dr. Gopal observed, even Nehru resorted to it. The point worth making is not the presence of such use in his utterances, but whether or not that made the society he addressed follow him, as the Tamil political/cultural elite followed Arumuga Nalavar’s infectious Vellala supremacist views.

Stanley Tambiah, in his ‘historical gaze’, has over-stated the case in his book “Buddhism Betrayed” when he tried to find evidence of exclusion of the ‘Damila’ in the post 13th century literature including the 3rd part of Mahavamsa (complied during the Kandyan period), using the hypotheses that the trauma of long Cola occupation and oppression by Kalinga Magha marked the point of departure. During the late Kandyan period there seemed to be some conflict at the elite level over the Nayakkar domination, but there is no evidence of an animosity at the peoples’ level. That even the elite accepted Malabar culture is seen from them signing in Tamil.

The real situation was that many of the Kandyan chiefs were in financial debt to Nayakkar relatives of the king who practiced usury. So even the Kandyan elite’s response may have then had its genesis in economic factors than in racial/ethnic considerations.

3.2 Tamil Vellala Preoccupation

The preoccupation of a section of the Sri Lankan Tamil scholarship by and large, is to project the academic embodiment of Vellala supremacy, best described by Bryan Pfaffenberger observation that the “…position portrays a key element in Vellalar thinking: Jaffna is, by dint of tradition and history, a preserve for Vellalar culture and Vellalar privileges..”, rather than the Sri Lankan Tamil presence per se. The general migration pattern throughout history in the case of natural migration is for sea faring people like maritime traders and fisher folk to migrate seasonally. Land based migrations as one saw taking place in the central Asian Steppes was a different proposition. So were the situations created by land centred territorial aggrandizement.

In Sri Lanka, there were attractions like the pearl fishery nearby as well as natural sources like precious stones to attract seafaring people like fishermen and traders. Trade in beads had been common throughout the ancient world. In the gem mining lands of Sri Lanka, even today, earlier exploited deposits are still referred to as “Mukkara-walaal” which could point to earlier employment of an immigrant people known as ‘Mukkaru’ in the exploitation of precious stones.
What the chronicles reveal about the early migratory patterns of people into Sri Lanka was that they were predominately maritime folk like Vijaya and later Sena-Guttika, the horse-shippers. So is the evidence of early Brahmi cave inscriptions which refer to [foreign] elements like ‘Dameda’ and ‘Kambuja’. They were “Ga[ha]pati” (House-holder or leader), “Puga” (corporation or Guild), “Navika” and “Bata” (soldier).

But the history of these “other Tamils” is secondary to a section of the Sri Lankan Tamil scholarship. Even a scholar like Sitrampalam, who commented on the BRW pottery found on some pre-historic coastal settlements in the Jaffna peninsula, and tried to relate them to Sangam times – [which] points to the presence of a mobile population; but instead he was keen to argue that an agricultural base could have been there in the hinterland of these coastal settlements. His argument was that the low shrub vegetation and easy access of water in the peninsula was an attraction for agricultural settlement. The proposition of associating early agriculture in the Jaffna peninsula with people who were a mobile population is a mere hypothesis which is wanting in a scientific foundation. Nevertheless, it is clear to see that the emphasis on agriculture rather than other vocations associated with the sea was satisfying the Vellala supremacist stand which was an inherent need to associate a continuous permanent/settled antiquity to a Tamil identity (nascent Vellala identity) that went to the megalithic phase in the Jaffna peninsula.
Siran Deraniyagala’s conclusion that “the prehistoric Iron Age in Sri Lanka and southern India was probably not manifested in a mere scatter of small-village scale settlements [chroniclers’ version in Sri Lanka] based on rudimentary irrigated farming, as is generally assumed, but by an extensive and sophisticated network of settlements linked by trade in manufactured iron with West Asia and beyond” does not support an agricultural base for early visitors to the island.

Even Dr. Indrapala’s conclusion that the Megalithic remains in the North West could be those of who came for the pearl fishery (JRAS, 1969), which he since modified quoting Sudarshan Seneviratna’s research which accords the authors of these remains an earlier antiquity, also appears to be supportive of the Vellala presence by removing the [pearl] fishermen’s label from those human skeletal remains. Even if Dr. Indrapala may have not so intended, his revised idea could make the road clear for the Vellala supremacy theory but unfortunately even Mr. Devananda cannot pitch that presence earlier than the 13th century!

Mr. Devananda’s emphasis on Vellalar’s at the expense of “other Tamils” makes his own bias for Vellalar dominance clearer. Even the 19th century revivalist movement in Jaffna led by Arumuga Navalar emphasized Vellalala supremacy. So was Mylvaganam Pulavar’s 18th century Jaffna chronicle, Yalpana Vaipava Malai. The complaint of Mudaliyar Rasanayagam and Fr. Gnanapraksar was because not enough was said by Pulavar about Vellalar supremacy.

The first impartial evidence available for the presence of a group of people that can be identified as the Vellalar in Jaffna, is found in notes of Queyroz. This Portuguese historian made a rather frank assessment of this people “They are very poor people and extremely weak, because they are Balalaz, a race different from that of the Chingalas, and they are said to originate from Bramenes of the continent a people who never fared well at arms, because they never professed them … and neither in language nor in religion are they at all like the Chingalas, though they are equally superstitious…”. (Queyroz: Bk I, Chap.7, p.50). It is clear from Queyroz’s account that the Vellalas (Balalaz) during Portuguese times were not a ‘dominant’ community in the peninsula. They were then not a people considered capable of hard work and their later claim to successful agriculture could have depended on several changed factors. Which included, the importation of slaves from Southern India, land being made available to them; and the release of more local labour resulting from the Dutch land policy which deprived the chieftains and peasant cultivators (Goviyas) of their traditionally held land, e.g. It was noted that the chieftains left the peninsula threatening never to return except with a Sinhalese army when the Dutch commenced preparing land registers.

Mr. Devananda also takes up the Vellalar case of Jaffna when he tries to establish that from the 13th century the economy of the Jaffna kingdom had been based exclusively on agriculturalists, predominantly the Vellalar caste (note the caveat); and that they were the land owners and dominated the entire peninsula. The Portuguese records do not support this claim. Not only Queyroz but also Portuguese records of “Service and Castes” of Valikamam, point only to non-Vellalar’s like “Carears, Timilas, Chandas, goldsmiths, potters, muccuvas, weavers [of Nalur], carpenters and iron smiths, pareas, ulias, native and paradesi chetties, Moors, milkmen and washers”. If there were Vellalar’s, there had to be a reason for their absence in the records of the important administrative district of Valikamam for exclusion/exemption from paying rent? If so, was it because they were so “poor and weak” to engage in any occupation including agriculture as Queyroz observed; and they did not possess land? Or did they escape taxes because of higher caste they claimed? What this indicates is that the idea of a landowning Vellalas in Portuguese times becomes difficult to maintain not to speak of their being a “dominant people”. (see Portuguese records: Queyroz and P.E. Peiris: The Kingdom of Jaffnapatam, p.49 – “…….Recoveryship in detail according to the services and castes of the various races”)

Mr. Devananda’s claim of the Vellalar’s as the “dominant people” then could not have arisen until tobacco gold earned in Tanjore made them rich. The prospects of the Dutch increasing their ranks by inducing the Vellalas of Tinnevelley (Irunkal [be seated] Vellalas), as the Cambridge social anthropologist, Prof. J.H. Hutton observed, to migrate in large numbers and assigning them land taken away from the Vanniyar chieftains and inhabitants and introduced them to the Egyptian/Persian system of well irrigation and while providing them with slaves imported from Tinnevelly cannot be overlooked as ‘pure myth’. It can be then assumed that it was when the tobacco brought gold from Tanjore where the Raja held the lucrative monopoly of the trade that made the Vellalar’s rich and assume predominance and supremacy over other inhabitants in contrast to their “poor and weak” status under the Portuguese.
Before going any further, does Mr. Devananda mean that the Jaffna slaves have now merged with the Vellala in recent times? Is that the reason that he argued that Prabhakaran eliminated the caste differences? It is not the myth created by the ‘Educated’ Sinhalese about the recent large scale migration of the Vellalas that has become the problem for defenders of Vellala supremacy but the problem of providing evidence of predominant early Vellalar presence. A point that was highlighted by Bryan Pfaffenberger in his paper ‘The Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism: The 1968 Temple-Entry Crisis in Northern Sri Lanka’,“…Vellalar’s found it more difficult to prevent subordinate castes from liberating themselves – or changing their identities. One result was that the ranks of Vellalar’s swelled significantly: from 1790 to 1950 the proportion of persons claiming to be Vellalar rose from 30 to 50% of the regions population…”. It is clear from Mr. Devananda’s conclusion that what is paramount to him is defending the early Vellala presence (from the 13th century), however weak the evidence, rather than the earlier presence of Tamil traders and fishermen in the island from the early historical period. He also accuses ‘Educated’ Sinhalese for making myths about the Dutch inducing Vellala migration in the 17th and 8th centuries when even foreign scholars who have made special studies on Jaffna observe the increase in the Vellala population from the 18th century onwards. .

The paper presented to the Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon in 1908 by V.J. Thambipillai (English Tr. of Essay by Raghava Ayyar) did not try to establish such an early presence but the burden of that writer was more to argue the ‘Kshatriya’ origin of the Vellalar’s. The paper was down graded as unscientific.

Whatever little evidence that there is about Vellala presence is that they were migrants, first from a trickle to later large scale movement, and not indigenous people, as Mr. Devananda would wont to say, with no history earlier than the 13th century.

Indians from Coromandel coast continued to be settled even as late as the 19th century and early 20th century in the Tank country and in the East as Governor McCullum’ 1911 Durbar with Tamil chieftains indicate and earlier as Administration Reports of the Govt. Agent of Trincomalee have documented.

3.3 Vellalas and Sinhala Nationalism
The Tamil political scientist and son-in-law of the Federalist leader S.J. Chelvanayagam, A.J. Wilson once argued that Tamil nationalism was defensive and rose as a result of Sinhala chauvinism.

However, a more thorough and inclusive reading of Sri Lanka’s political past will reveal that the undercurrents of extreme Tamil Nationalism, although claimed to be defensive and a reaction to Sinhala Nationalism, were there well before Sinhala Nationalism of the kind seen in 1956, surfaced in Sri Lankan politics.

The awakening of this nationalism within the Jaffna Vellalar ranks can be seen in the decade preceding 1931, or the Donoughmore years, ushering in a new chapter in Sri Lanka Tamil politics. Led by G.G. Ponnambalam, the Colombo lawyer from the Vellalar community in Jaffna, this nationalism was based directly on a sense of “Dravidianism” designed to copy and yet counter the “Aryan” nationalist politics that was raging the European continent in the 1930s. Thus G.G. Ponnambalam, and following him Natesan, declared in the State Council that they were “proud Dravidians” (Hansard 1934, Column 3045). G.G. Ponnambalam carried this “Tamil-superiority” politics to the public platform, beginning with the attack on the “Mahavamsa”, as well as the Sinhalese people, calling them a “mongrel-race”, descendent from the Tamils. Several books re-writing the history of Jaffna, and Sri Lanka, claiming a long historical domination of the land by Tamils had already come into print. G.G. Ponnambalam’s “Mahavamsa bashing” was the public face of what was brewing among Tamil intellectuals who sought to nullify the Sinhala-majoritarian reality of Ceylonese politics.

The reasons for singling out the Mahavamsa can be seen in the observations of the British historian Dr. Jane Russell, when she said that “Ceylon Tamils had no written document on the lines of the Mahavamsa to authenticate their singular and separate historical authority … a fact which (they) found very irksome”. (Russell). The many stone inscriptions and Buddhist ruins attesting to this irksome history was also very inconvenient. These were the primary reasons that inspired the early campaigns of G.G. Ponnambalam against the “Mahavamsa”, which later developed into the extensive territorial claims regarding which K.M. de Silva says “in less than a decade of its enunciation in 1949, [this] theory became an indispensable and integral part of the political ideology of the Tamil advocates of regional autonomy and separatism”.

It is this “irksome” feeling of the Sinhalese possessing a written record going back at least to two millennia that started the Mahavamsa bashing. At the end of the day, the Mahavamsa stood in the way of the Vellalar Tamils showing the British they were an equal majority with the Sinhalese and hence power should be split 50:50. It would not be far from the truth if one says that the Mahavamsa did not feature in Sinhala politics until G.G. Ponnambalam brought it into the forefront with his brand of confrontational Sri Lankan politics. So if such a thing called “Mahavamsa Mentality” does exist today on some level, it’s a direct result, or rather a defensive result of a campaign of Mahavamsa bashing that began with G.G. Ponnambalam, not the other way around!

It is then wrong to isolate the Mahavamsa as being responsible for Sinhala nationalism. The root of Sinhala nationalism has been construed as a fear of being engulfed by a much larger South Indian presence across the straits, and if the memory of the story in the chronicles was rekindled, for which G.G. Ponnambalam was no less responsible (Russell), there were far greater reasons which affected the people directly. Even if the demographic changes that British colonialists effected by introducing South Indian labour to the central heartland of the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries which accentuated the problem of landlessness among the Kandyan peasantry, the point was brought to the fore especially during the economic depression in the 1930s which created mass unemployment among the Sinhalese (Kodikara/Russel), the importation of South Indians as ‘scabs’ in the early 20th century to break Sinhalese trade union action saw the Sinhalese working class taking to the streets against Indians, both the traders and others.

There was also the emotional environment caused by the British imperialist policy of supporting missionary activity which saw the rise of the 19th century response to the Christian missionaries and other agents of western civilization. The oppression during 1915 Martial Law sealed the situation. I pointed out in the early section under Anagarika Dharmapala how the Tamil revivalism took place and Indian nationalism grew without an influencing factor like the Mahavamsa. Anagarika Dharmapala did not create these situations. The causes for the rise of Sinhalese nationalism were inherent in the British imperial policy which Sri Lankan Tamil elite “eagerly welcomed…….. as it elevated them to the [junior] ranks…..” (Terminology in Italics borrowed from Mr. Devananda) in British administrative hierarchy and brought other benefits like the offer of land in the Tank country and the Eastern province. Even land at Gantalawa was offered to South Indians and Jaffna Tamils in preference to hapless Sinhalese peasants in the most difficult parts of Nuwarakalaviya. (Records of Governor McCullum’s Durbar with Tamil Chieftains, 1911, and Administration Reports of the Govt. Agent of Trincomalee).

True, some scholars like Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa have tried to trace roots of Sinhalese nationalism even to the Mahavamsa, but these are argumentative scholastic propositions more than popular acceptance of actual situations and have not resulted in a mass response to exclude the ‘other’, far from taking the people to the streets. Only a very few even among educated Sinhalese even know about the existence of such literature.
As Dr. Jane Russell noted the Tamil politicians have exploited the Elara-Dutugamunu story even more than the Sinhalese. It was G.G. Ponnambalam who brought the Mahavamsa into modern politics in the 1930s, claiming that it was a false piece of propaganda, and in the next instant claiming that it was really a history of the Tamils, with the aboriginal ‘Veddas’ taken to be Tamils, Vijaya transmuting into Vijayan, Kasyapa into Kasi-Appan and Parakaramabahu a 66% Dravidian. His utterances went to incite the Sinhalese in Navalapitiya for the first Sinhala-Tamil riot in 1939! (Russell).

The literature of the early Sinhala nationalism emphasized the fact that the Sinhalese were being marginalized in their only home. The attempt to attribute Sinhala awakening to the influence of Mahavamsa as Mr. Devananda and others have done is an over exaggeration which does not take in colonial period developments.

The following comments by Jane Russell and Bryan Pfaffenberger are worth noting:

“…the Ceylon Tamil community perpetrated a social system whereby a significant proportion of the population were regarded as outcastes. These people were considered by the high caste (and the socially acceptable non-Vellalar castes) to be so intrinsically unworthy that they could be deprived of the most basic rights of citizenship without any compunction whatsoever. This social system encouraged an attitude of innate superiority among the Vellalar’s, the highest caste, and the majority community in the Northern Province. As most of the Ceylon Tamil elite were drawn from this caste, the attitude of the elite was permeated with this sense of superiority”

“As they were unwilling or unable to recognise the democratic rights of certain members of their own linguistic-religious community, their inability to recognise the legal sanction of a democratic majority was therefore not wholly unjustified” – Dr. Jane Russell, ‘Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution, 1931-1947, Tissara Publishers, Colombo 1982

“…The tradition that Ceylon Tamils wish to preserve is redolent of the ancient patterns of caste and regional discrimination favouring the powerful and conservative Vellalar caste of Jaffna, a caste that has for centuries dominated the political and economic affairs of Tamil Sri Lanka. While Tamil separatists no means aim to renew the ancient forms of Vellalar predominance, it is nonetheless true that the cultural conservatism that helps to justify the separatist drive is insidiously tied to the legacy of Vellalar domination…”– Bryan Pfaffenberger, ‘The Sri Lankan Tamils: Ethnicity and Identity’, Boulder: West-view Press, 1994

The push for separatism is therefore influenced by a rather deep-seated insecurity amongst a section of the high-caste Sri Lankan Tamils that sustained Sinhala domination after independence will result in the erosion of their culture and the inter-communal dominance of the Vellalar elites. It is on the same basis of Vellalar supremacy that the Sri Lankan Tamil scholarship’s refusal to recognise the “distinguishing features” of the Sinhalese culture can be justified.

3.4 Twisting History across Palk Straits

Dr. Shinu Abraham’s observations quoted at the beginning are relevant in this connection. She observed how Tamil historians had not only treated archaeology as secondary which, curiously enough, is a charge, that Sri Lankan Tamil scholars like Dr. Sitrampalam, now joined by Mr. Devananda, are re-levelling against Sri Lankan [Sinhalese] historians. Unscientific cliché like “must have been”, “couldn’t have been otherwise” and “there are enough evidences” (Devananda in “Section on Tamil Presence”) are often found in the vocabulary employed by Tamil scholarship when concrete evidence is wanting.

At another level, the proximity factor between South India and Sri Lanka is often exaggerated, overlooking situations around the world, like for example, that Mongolian races had migrated to both North and South America, and Melanesians could have travelled to East Africa and formed impressive civilizations in Malagasy and now as research has revealed, African Palaeolithic age man had actually crossed a long stretch of sea and travelled to Crete (Ministry of Cultural affairs, Athens,7 Jan.2011).

The effect of such negative thinking that only close proximity was the determining factor in influences over the island ignores the oceanic factor which had been of primary importance even as observed by early foreign observers like Ptolemy and Pliny. Such negative thinking has even been employed to question the veracity of traditional accounts in Sri Lankan chronicles that the primary influences that affected the island in the pre-historic and early historic period came from the Northern part of India while Sri Lanka’s foremost contemporary historian, K.M.de Silva, like a few others earlier, has confirmed that “beneath the charming exercise of myth making, lurks a kernel of historical truth – the colonization of the island by Indo-Aryan tribes from northern India” and even K.S. Sitrampalam, a strong critic of the origin story found in the chronicles of the Sinhalese, after using the evidence of the Mesolithic and Megalithic phases to construct a Dravidian phase, himself seems to agree that a “super-imposition of the North Indian cultural penetration associated with Buddhism took place in the third century B.C”.

While accusing Sinhalese scholarship of North India oriented Sinhala-centicism, Tamils scholarship in its own pursuit of Tamil-centricism and over-zeal to record scoring points for the “Tamil homeland” theory, has gone to the extent of refusing to recognize what Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa pointed out as ‘distinguishing features’ of another culture. This is evident in the claim now that the hydrological work and monuments built by the Sinhalese as substantiated not only by chronicler tradition but also lithic inscriptions in situ as the work of a common South India-Sri Lanka (SISL) cultural zone, (Indrapala) and more crudely put by Mr. Devananda as the work of [Tamil] Nagas and Tamils!

As such, Mr. Devananda’s pious declaration that “we in Sri Lanka have had the benefit of several waves of cultural influences and that it is necessary that we should assess them with a certain amount of objective impartiality and admit the contributions made to our country by others; that our culture in the past has been a synthesis of different cultures, and in evolving a new culture these influences have to be taken into consideration” remains hollow. While asking for recognition of the benefit of the influence of others, it is obvious that there is no evidence of preparedness to recognize the contribution within the country itself, the ‘distinguishing features’ of the Sinhalese civilization, in this case. The case of the hydrological network is one such. There is no study of the similarity presented by hydrological work in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, two countries which have had long historical ties. (Cambridge scholar, Prof. Statrgaart’s Research). There is also no recognition of the fact that Sri Lanka was the centre of Buddhist influence from very early Christian centuries in China and countries in South East Asia which recognized the ‘distinguishing features’ of the Sinhalese-Buddhist civilization.

3.5 Conclusion

The arguments used by Mr. Devananda were presented by Sri Lankan Tamils in different forms in the first part of the last century too (see Russell). As such, today’s interpretations of Sinhalese chronicles by Sri Lankan Tamils/allegations are nothing new. Some of the Vellalar Tamils even formed what was called the “All Ceylon Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jaffna” (Hindu Organ, May 13, 1940), which not only reflected an imaginary situation of Sri Lankan Tamils being reduced to “Veddas” but also emphasizing their claimed “older ancestry”.

The Sinhalese too speak of prospects of their extinction. That is what would have happened if the British succeeded in completely substituting south Indians for Sri Lankans under the colonial thesis presented by men like Huntington and Locke (UNESCO: ‘Sociological Theories’, p.293/4) and the favouritism shown to minorities at the expense of the Sinhalese throughout British rule.

The present paper was written as a response to Mr. Devananda’s mis-construction of the history of the island, especially, his perception that Sri Lankan chronicles are responsible for creating a certain mind-set among the Sinhalese. It does not in any way deny the great contribution made by Tamils and other Indians for the evolution of the Sri Lankan society, language, culture and even to religion as the great Cola Buddhist scholars did. The Sinhalese contribution has been recognized in countries like China, Myanmar, Thailand, Kampouchia, Vietnam and Indonesia and even in Kashmir where according to the 13th century Kalhana’s ‘Rajatarangani’ (modelled after Mahavamsa), Sinhalese engineers were invited to undertake irrigation work.

Even the compiler of the Mahavamsa part II and III (Culavamsa as Geiger called it) from the reign of Mahasena to Parakramabahu II is thought to be a Colan Bhikku and not a Sinhalese! (B.C. Law, Chronicles, p 17). That possibility cannot be excluded when one finds both the style and the knowledge of Kautilyan strategy in describing Parakramabahu’s warfare, as well as such details of his long protracted campaigns in Pandya and Cola country with such elaborate accounts of every battle fought along with names of adversaries, intrigues and reversals. The account even included such details as the Sinhalese General, Lankapura, having to withdraw his troops finally because they were afflicted by a social disease called “Upsagga” (Upadamsa”?). Not even in Herodotus’ or Xenophon’s ‘Persian Wars’ doe’s one find such details!

The Tamil contribution has to be placed in the proper perspective not undermining the ‘special characteristics’ (Dharmadasa) of the Sinhalese contribution to culture, religion and technology. This cannot be done through envy against them or on the contrary, through ‘Vellalar supremacist’ perspective which even refuses to recognize the contributions of “other Tamils” to the society. Mr. Devananda has to recognise the relevance “the Vamsa chronicles have for many contemporary Sinhalese; by granting that they contribute to some cherished values and serve as an anchorage that stabilises the sense of collective Sinhala being; and yet noting their mythological moral-making character”. (Prof. Michael Roberts: Vijaya Myth).

Such reinterpretations of the Sinhala past, will encourage a similar readiness among extremely pro-Sinhala spokespersons to abandon claims to extreme-majoritarian supremacy based on primordial originality. Hopefully, this will enable their equally ardent opponents, the non-Sinhalese (Tamil) scholar-patriots – Devananda et al- to disengage themselves from combative historical warfare. It would then be easier for the latter, these non-Sinhalese, to accept the historical evidence that indicates:

(1) that the state civilisation in the 5th century A.D. was predominantly Sinhala in complexion;
(2)that the religio-symbolic mythology of the Vamsa chronicles is meaningful for the collective identity of the Sinhalese.

To sum up, “…..the Sinhala spokespersons, hopefully, can respond in kind and take note of the ways in which Tamil, Hindu and Islamic peoples or streams of consciousness entered into the making of Lanka’s history over the last two millennia.” (Roberts). Once the worth of their respective pasts is identified and recorded as meaningful, then – and perhaps only then – can the respective protagonists discard their battles over history and address their contemporary differences.

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  1. Pingback: dbsjeyaraj.com » Sinhala Nationalism and Tamil Vellalas | Tamil Blogger

  2. To be honest, reading history book is boring thing in the world, could be because most of us don’t have the good grasping power or have good attention span. This is where DBSJ stand on the top, with simple English and direct facts to prove his own arguments, make reading enjoyable. When I read DBSJ, I can see the clear picture.

    From a readers’ perspective, I find, J.L. Devananda & Bandu de Silva seems like good scholars but both seem to be lacking the presentation skills. These articles look like a thesis paper to me. You both have the knowledge but I finding unease to grasp you both. Please simplify for us to read, understand, grasp or even to enlighten.

    I agree Mahavamsa was used (by ??) as important tool for all the chaos in the Island. I disagree in some aspect that Sinhalese are Aryan or outsiders. I strongly believe Sinhalese and Tamils have the same ancestor or root. Sinhalese may claim Aryan decent because of the Indo-Aryan linguistic category. As I commented earlier, Malayalam injected more Sanskrit and Sinhala injected more Prakrit/Pali/Sanskrit but we all veddhar’s children.

    Sinhalese are not Aryan because of Bila music or Portugese’s last names. Both are brought by Portuguese and African Kafirs to western cost of Island and spread toward south and central, together with Arabs and Malays from the East cost.

    If you take them away, Sinhala and Pandiya Kingdom has same root/characters. I strongly believe, it is the Buddhist missionaries and Pali played vital role in Sinhala formation, not Vijay or his 700 crew. It is Mahavamsa/Chulavamsa portrait Vijaya as such.

    Just because some of us practice Islam, we are not from Middle East. May be 5 or 10 Arabs and 50 Malays back on those days, but they sure have married to same Veddar’s (Tamil/Shinhala) children, but continue to practice Islam and converted some of their veddar friends also to Islam. The same way Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity came to the Island. [Brahmins in Sri Lanka are not Aryan but Tamil blood. Those Brahmins keeping the varnam title as some of our Tamils/Shinhalese keeping the Sir title giving by British]

    In the beginning we didn’t have any religion, as a veddar, we were respecting and living with the nature. Then there came Hinduism [Arya invaders studied/stolen our practice/philosophy but simply document them in Sanskrit and presented us back with Varnam as Hindu scripts/Veda] through Sanskrit/Hindu missionaries and Buddhism through Pali/Buddhist missionaries, Christianity through Dutch/Portuguese/British/American/French invaders & Missionaries, Islam through Arabs and Malays.

  3. Thank you Mr Bandu De Silva for a very interesting perspective. I am glad that you touched upon the importance of the Tamil cast system on this situation. This is something that I have commented on many times on this blog, albeit very unscientifically. I am glad that you have brought in some solid arguments.

    The contribution of the Tamil cast system to the ethnic troubles of Sri Lanka is an issue that most educated Tamils are desperately trying to hide. The fact of the matter is that the caste based discrimination that is being dished out by the high-caste Tamils towards their low-caste compatriots is much worse than any Sinhala-Tamil discrimination. It is a form of apartheid practiced under the guise of religion.

  4. #3 Ranjan

    Thank you for recognizing the Tamil caste system’s contribution. It was obvious to the thinking Sinhalese, even during the 80s and 90s that there was something amiss with the LTTE claims, there was never any inclusion or even mention by them of the low caste Hill Country Tamils, conveniently called “Indian Tamils,” nor even of the Eastern Tamils. There was an obvious ring of “Tamils=Jaffna Tamils and nobody else,” to everything that came out of the LTTE complaints. It seemed to us, Sinhalese that Jaffna Tamils considered themselves so superior, that they saw it fit to completely disregard any other Tamils, as not even worth mentioning, and equate themselves as the only Tamils worth talking about.

    The high caste Jaffna Tamils had, and have even today, the exact same superiority attitude towards the Sinhalese. Just as they would have been incensed if low caste Tamils asked for equality, they were equally incensed and intolerant of Sinhalese asking for equality in education opportunities and employment opportunities. If this was purely a race issue, I cannot imagine how we would have ended up in a war. I do not think Tamils (by which I mean the high caste Jaffna Tamils who wanted to keep the education and jobs their sole entitlement) would have been so enraged, or so intolerant of the Sinhalese majority’s demands for equal education and employment opportunities. If it had been a race issue, there would have been some resistance, as there usually is with change, but it is unlikely that they would have felt the desire to militarize. Militarize after only a few short years after independence, and do so even as Tamils had a higher proportion of jobs than their proportion of the population, even as they used the reduction in jobs for them, as a primary reason for their fight/cause. Consider here, that all the jobs were held by Jaffna high caste Tamils, but the proportion of the population is calculated by using “all” Tamils. Since the jobs weren’t distributed among all Tamils, but concentrated among the Jaffna high caste Tamils, it is safe to say that their employment opportunities were still very high, and certainly the highest of any race, class or sect in Sri Lanka at the time. But what they believed was that as they were superior they should be the “only” people to have them. They couldn’t tolerate Sinhalese having an equal share. They wanted the situation to remain that, if you are born into a high caste Tamil family in Jaffna, you are pretty much guaranteed Government employment as your birth right. You had the job in the bag from just being born. It is this situation they did not wish to see changed. This attitude may seem unbelievable to some, but for anyone familiar with the how all pervasive caste systems can be in India (like for readers of the Tipitaka) it is not hard to grasp the mentality of a high caste person, and their intolerant attitude toward those they consider low caste. Worse, usually low caste people don’t make demands, they found it demeaning to even deal with the Sinhalese demands for equality, so preferring to war with them instead.

    I find it fascinating even today, that Tamils (again I mean that one section of Tamils) started a war, not because they were asking for equality, but because they were not willing to give equality to the Sinhalese. Why else would anyone want to go to war, when as a minority you have more than your share of access to education and jobs, even as they claimed these were the primary issues.

    The university quota system benefited the Hill Country Tamils and the Eastern Tamils along with Southern Sinhalese, while along with Jaffna Tamils, it hurt Colombo Sinhalese and Muslims. While it is presented as discrimination against the Tamils, the truth is that it hurt Jaffna Tamils (as it did Colombo Sinhalese and Muslims), while it helped Hill Country and Eastern Tamils along with the Southern Sinhalese. This was never recognized by the LTTE because of their view of equating Tamils as just the high caste Jaffna Tamils, and disregarding the low caste Tamils as not even worthy of mention. The quota system is fair because the Government pays for tertiary education and it’s free, and so the Government has the right to use a quota system to compensate for Districts with lower education standards and opportunities. Jaffna was not singled out, Colombo and Kandy also paid the price and they are not Tamil Districts. Even Universities like Harvard and Yale consistently apply different criteria for applicants from different backgrounds. If you are a student from a underprivileged inner city background, or an international student from the third world, they certainly evaluate you differently in the application process than a privileged suburban applicant.

    It is my belief that while we would have all tangled in our quest to find our feet on firm ground after Independence, and as with any human process, we would have had hiccups and some bumps, we would not have had a war if not for the superiority complex of the Jaffna Tamils. One needs only to look toward the Muslims in Sri Lanka, to see that within 50-60 years of independence, the Tamils too would have enjoyed the same position, sans a war, sans thousands dead on both sides, sans hurt feelings that will need nursing for decades to come on both sides, if not for the superiority complex of the high caste Tamils and their intolerance toward the Sinhalese. And 50-60 years a very short time, most Western societies, took centuries to award even nominal equality to their minorities, and anyone living in the West, can clearly see that racism in the West, is truly worse, even today, than anything in Sri Lanka.

  5. Sorry I did not read the long essays. But I must say I belong to the majority in Sri Lanka.

    In case if I were a Tamil, I would have followed the same path which most other Tamils followed; toeing the inevitable line of VP, unlike DBSJ did.

    This may be due to the “swamp behavior” of following the leader; for good or bad. I have no enmity against Tamils.

    I only hate the Terrorists for the destruction unleashed upon the fellow citizens.

  6. is there any hope for reconcilliation??

    2 extreme view points( Devananda & Bandu) with no sight for common understanding.

    how can we look at the future when some even a minority are unable to get over their egostic view points.

    The best understanding a lay person have about this island nation is that it has always remained one country. Its evident from all historic records of naming this island with one name ( ceylon, thprobane, lanka, ilankai, ect). However there is enough evidence to prove there were at least 3 different regions ruled by 3 kings at certain period of the history.

    Also there were times it was ruled by a single king with his subordinates ruling other regions.

    It is also a proven fact that there were original inhabitants of this land and invaders/traders too.

    Budism surely played a historical role to change the culture and rule of this island. Even after 3 clonial invasions budism remains the relegion of the majority.

    Todays inhabitants of this island are surely a mixture of the original inhabitants and invaders/ traders. Also the european clonisation too changed the history and made many more mixtures in to our genetic composition.

    what matters today is how should we live our present day realities. We are a unique nation tiny as it is it had remained independent for many years overcoming foreign invasions.

    Are we reverting to war again or are we prepared to live with tolerance?
    Todays reality is the corruption of the politicians and lack of their sincerety. We have no one in the calibre of mahathma Gandhi or Martin Luther king junior. In the past there were few intelligent leaders but they were unable to prevent the war & destruction.

    All citizens of this country should voice the the need for equal rights to citizens and rulers to be the same. The public money is wasted on the maintenance of the parliment and it members & ministers.

    Can the media highlight the money stealing from its citizen ? The nation’s wealth is duely to its people not for the luxuary life for the rulers ?

    devision in ethnic lines will bring more suffering to masses not relief.
    There should be a right direction to the society as a whole. To get rid of destructive and corruptive ways and laws.

    work with concensus to bring forth justice and prosperity to all its people should be the aim of the watchment of this nation.

  7. Root is here .it will be continued…

    Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814–1891) was a Colonial Era Evangelist Missionary who used native languages as a tool to proselytize the Colonised in Southern India. To aid his mission, he nativised Christianity by adopting a teleological approach to re-classify Indian languages inspired by scientific racial theories that was popular amongst the European intellectuals in the 19th century.
    Unsurprisingly, Fridrich Hegel(GERMANY) thus favoured the “Geist in temperate zones”, and finally wrote an account of “universal history” chronicling the Oriental World, the Greek Antiquity, the Roman, the Christian World, and the Prussian World. In the same Lectures he said that “America is the country of the future”, yet “philosophy does not concern itself with prophecies”, but with history.Hegel’s philosophy, like that of Kant, cannot be reduced to evolutionist statements, nevertheless, it justified European imperialism until the First World War (1914–18). Likewise, some of Montesquieu’s œuvre justified “scientifically-ground” Negro inferiority consequent to the climate’s influence. Moreover, this racialist and evolutionist philosophy was developed by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), who naturalistically attributed civilizational primacy to the white races who gained sensitivity and intelligence via the refinement consequent to living in the rigorous North climate; to wit:
    The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste, or race, is fairer in colour than the rest, and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmins, the Inca, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention, because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers, and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want, and misery, which, in their many forms, were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature, and out of it all came their high civilization.
    Scientific Racism and The Immigration Act of 1924:
    The Immigration Act of 1924 is an example of how scientific racism may have played a role in how intelligence testing was used to discriminate against different racial groups. M. Synderman and R.J. Herrnstein reviewed congressional records and attempted to dispel the idea that intelligence testing done at Ellis Island influenced the decision to pass The Immigration Act of 1924.
    Max MÜller was against the racialist motivations eventhough he was the advisor of INDOLOGY for British Queen.He also opposed DARWINISM.But Colonialists and Caldwell used Darwinism to craete “Genetical divisions among Languages” and Thus among people!.

  8. Bandu-3.1 Anagarika Dharmapala – the Villain!

    His original name Don David Hewavitarne. He is not the Villain. But later his theories hijacked by Villains!

    Can any on know the meaning of the name ‘Anagarika Dharmapala’?

    ‘Protecor of the homeless Buddha Dharma’

    ‘Dharmapala’ means ‘protector of the dharma’. ‘Anagarika’, a term coined by Dharmapala, means “homeless one.” It is a midway status between monk and layperson.

    As such, he took the eight precepts (against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harmful speech, intoxication, eating after noon, entertainments and fashionable attire, and luxurious beds) for life.

    Now days whoever deny others homeland and pretending to ‘Protecor of the Buddha Dharma’ and the
    whole island not following his eight precepts (against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harmful speech, intoxication, eating after noon, entertainments and fashionable attire, and luxurious beds) but doing everything to make others homeless .

  9. This is a hackneyed cliched view. I simply could not read the long drawn retort. Brevity is a virtue that ethno nationalist writers such as Bandu de Silva need to learn.

    A few points in response.

    We need more analysis on caste, region and religion in the Sinhalese response to the Tamil presence in Sri Lanka. We have the Govigama caste, the Karave caste, the Durave caste and countless others in Sinhalese society. Whether one had a Portuguese last name or a more indigenous last name suggested the caste affiliation of many a Sinhalese.

    There was a Kandyan sense of superiority vis-a-vis the low country Sinhalese.

    There was the Buddhist Christian divide that is now often concealed. These factors were just as relevant in Sri Lankan ethnic politics than the so-called Vellalar attitudes in Tamil society.

    The author attempts to contrast Navalar and Anagarika Dharmapala on their alleged attitudes towards caste. This appeared simplistic. Navalar lived two to three generations before Dharmapala. He was one of the first to leverage the printing press for religious purposes and established denominational schools in response to Christian missionary activity. He traveled no further than South India where he was also active. The author is not qualified to critique Navalar without having read his works!

    Dharmapala on the other hand was widely traveled, having been to Chicago, no less and was sponsored by American members of the Theosophical society such as Olcott. He lived at a different time.

    They were two different persons altogether. What we do know is that Anagarika Dharmapala articulated blatantly bigoted anti-Christian, anti-Muslim and to a lesser extent, anti-Tamil views. In 21st century terms, he could be described as a chauvinist.

  10. I have read with interest about this “VELLALA CASTE”

    Actually these fellows are farmers who worked inFarm Lands owned by “MUKKULATHOR – Kallar/Agambadiyar/Marawar/Thevar) the REAL RULING CLASS PEOPLE AMONG TAMILS as they wre the KINGS CASTE . The velllar (meaning Velalar means farming caste) slowwly accum,ulated wealth and then left farming jobs and became traders and built up Vellala Caste.
    The sinhalese copied this Vellar caste as GOVIGAMA and that’s the truth.
    BUT in both communities there are parayas/rodiyas/dohbis/wannana/barbers/etc. the low caste created by these people and mainly by Brahmins who created untouchables. These Brahmins were from Iran (aryan race)who were against Dravidians.

    so please understand these facts.

    The Chettiars also came from farm workers like vellaras and then accumulated wealth and gave money on interest and migrated to all parts of asia.BUT one good thing these Chettiars did they built Hindu Temples whereever they lived and were religious too.

    awaiting your comments.

  11. Bandu-“Nalavar was different in the choice of platform, which was the Vellala supremacy”

    So Navalar, not a begining of the Tamil Nationalism which later play the leading role in the de-casting system? (Read Phd research papers of Murugar Gunasingam about Srilankan Tamil Nationalism: Begning and Growth)

    But , Anagarika Dharmapala programme and actions against British Christian missionaries,is Sinhalese nationalism ?

    What a comparison?

    You are denying the Tamil History in SriLanka before 13th century.

    Have you ever heard about “”Akathiyar Lanka (or The most Ancient History of Ceylon, – Lanka)” by Akaththiya Maha Munivar? (Akathiyar the great Ascetic) gives the description about the Tamil kingdom of the pre-historic time.

    The book was published by V. Nathar, Notary Public, Puttur, and Jaffna. The date of publication is not given, but according to a calculation, it must have been published, around 1910.


    Bandu says”Was it because they were so “poor and weak” to engage in any occupation including agriculture as Queyroz observed; and they did not possess land?”

    Please ask Father Fernao Dequyroz when (The Temproral and Spritual Conquest Of Ceylone) Tamil King Sankili was chalanging them , was his citizens of jaffana Kingdom(including Vellalar)’ Poor and week ‘ like Sinhalese?

    Bandu de Silva ,why are you only refer certin Portuguese records? Because portuguese colonization created you sinhalese as majority. Isn’t it?


  12. It’s very easy to allocate the cause of the ethnic conflict to the caste system but that would be simplistic and far from the truth. The caste system did play a role in the conflict but there were other decisive factors as well. Mobile peoples have always been the cornerstone of history studies. It’s rather pointless to contest who came here first or boast ethnic pride. Fact is that genetically many Sinhalese and Tamils are share common origins. The world is on a high-speed train called globalization, increasingly sidelining immutable ethnic identities such as Tamil and Sinhalese. Get with the program.

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  14. Bandu,

    Tamil race is a language creator. When ever some foreign influence interacts with Tamils, Sections of the tamil society who are either outcasts or creamy layer at that part in time will absorb that foreign influence and practice it as their own highly discriminating their own brothers.

    Singala is nothing but the out come of Tamils under the influence of Buddhism. Similarly we have Aravi, Keralites, Kandadigas, Telugus, Tulu, Thai etc., under various other religious influences. All these people doesn’t want to see their true root but rather think that they are unique and jumped from heaven. They subscribe to Aryan theories, Jewish theories, capitalism, communism etc.,

    You are a good example to prove the above. Your last name proves the absorption of Portugese influence by your elders. Now your state of mind proves that your absorption of the singala only srilanka.

    You favorably argue that you see lot of stone writings only in prakrit or early singala. In this forum just because you, Devanand, DBSJ and I are typing in English doesn’t mean mythical south Asian English community is THE superior race who ruled the whole subcontinent.

    You try to divert the attention towards Vellalas and their usage of Mahavamsa as the root cause of the Singala uprising.

    Thanks DBSJ for showcasing this.

  15. Bandu and other sinhalese brothers,

    You need not to try hard to create a wedge between various sections of the Tamil society. GoSL and GoI try their best to do this. Leave the responsibility to them.

    Tamil fishermen across the palk strait (karayars of Eazham and parathavars of Tamil Nadu) have already started fighting. Do you know one thing? DMK and Congress organized struggles to release the fishermen of Tamilnadu. DMK and Congress who stood along with Rajapakse & co in war crimes try to project as if 118 tamil nadu fishermen were arrested and harassed by SL navy. They hide the fact that the arrest was carried out by the tamil fishermen of Eazham. Fishermen of Eazham did that for survival.

    This time 118 tamilnadu fishermen were treated well by the fellow fishermen of eazham. In course of time this may not be the case. When one side crosses the other they may be tortured. A permanent wedge may be created between the tamils of mainland and tamils of island.

    I suspect a foul play by DD, MR and MK(Karunanidhi).

  16. # 15

    Man, oh man are your racist and superiority believing not only against the Sinhalese but to South Indian non-Tamil races as well. “Outcasts and creamy layer of Tamils became other races!!” Now we know what high cast Tamils think of all the South Indian races you mention, and also know why you couldn’t stand the Sinhalese. You didn’t just believe we were low caste, you believe we used to be outcast Tamils!! No wonder you were so opposed to equality demands from the Sinhalese after Independence, which led to all of our present troubles and tens of thousands dead on both sides. You just couldn’t stand us low caste Tamils not knowing our place! It also explains why you want separation from India. You don’t want to be part a country with those low castes! Since Indian Army is just a wee bit difficult to fight, why not start by forming your own country in SL and then attack India. Now I see why you don’t want to be part of any country be it SL or India. You are so hight caste, you can’t bear to be part of a country with outcasts and creamy layers!

    Now you attempt to teach us, hoping that at last you can put us in our place.

    Why do so many Tamils care if we believe we descend from Aryans, Jesus, the Devil, aliens or God. What does it matter to you? How does it matter to you? Why do you care about our roots and what we believe about them? Ah yes, I forgot, if we believed we are bastardized, “outcast” “creamy layer” Tamils, then you can walk all over us like you do your own low caste people. I have never before in my life been glad to have not been born Tamil, as I am after reading your comment. I got a glimpse of what a low caste Tamils life is like.

    The Silva name does not prove your theory about outcast and creamy layer Tamils becoming other races. It just proves that Sinhalese people took up Portuguese names. No different to Tamils taking up Christianity during Dutch, Portuguese and British rule. Each invader had converted us to their religion. In addition, British used “divide and conquer” which we still suffer as a result of, today. The Portuguese and Spanish were out to squash, all religion, culture and language from their captives. If we had stayed under Portuguese rule, we will be a Catholic country today. Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam would be a thing of the past. We would also be Portuguese speaking country. Sinhala and Tamil languages will be ancient history in Sri Lanka. And yes, we will all have Portuguese names too, that includes you and all Tamils. Do you need more evidence than what’s happened to the entire South America? They have no religion but Catholicism, no language but Spanish or Portuguese, and all of their names are Spanish and Portuguese as well.

    The only reason Tamils don’t have Portuguese names is because they only ruled some coastal areas in the South before being ousted. Had they ruled the whole country, and not been ousted by the British, your name would not be what it is today. You think not? Take a look Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador or any other South American country for evidence of how the Spanish and Portuguese ruled crushing all religious, language identities.

  17. #9.

    It is true we have castes in Sinhalese. However they are nowhere near comparable in significance or influence to the Tamils castes system, as you say they are. And never was either. Tamil caste system is still holding strong, while the Sinhala caste system is disappearing rapidly. It has never been as rigid like the Tamil system to where we don’t offer a drink of water to a low caste, let them worship in the same temple etc.

    We didn’t get caste system from Tamils either. We have it because we descend from Aryans. Caste system was prevalent in North India as well. However, having lived separate from Indian for millennia, the Sinhala caste system is a very diluted system, than that found in India, and these days all but gone. Most people don’t even know what their caste is, and people freely inter-marry so most kids don’t have proper caste identity anyway. No one cares about castes in Sinhala community. Comparing it to your rigid system, today or in the past is ludicrous. You would know this if you had any real insight to the Sinhala society. Let me give an example. I don’t know the caste of a single friend of mine, nor do I care to know. It is just not something anyone asks about, finds out, speaks about or cares about. It’s remnant of our North Indian heritage that is all but gone now.

  18. # 16

    Whether SL Tamils harassed and arrested them or GoSL arrested them, Indian Tamils were breaking our laws by fishing in SL waters. And since this is their livelihood and what they do daily, unlike if they were on a once a year pleasure sailing trip, they obviously knew exactly what they were doing and that they had crossed into SL waters. They should be arrested and punished for breaking SL law and trying to steal from us. How exactly is this a plan my MR or GoSL to drive a wedge between Tamils. Are you saying we should allow Tamils of India to come to SL as they please, take whatever they please, migrate to SL as they please etc just because they are Tamil? The Tamils in Tamil Nadu alone are three times that of the ‘entire’ populatio of SL, with many more millions living in in other Indian States. We should all just allow them to come to SL just because they are Tamil and let them break our laws without punishment? Do you realize that we do not even have the room or space in the entire SL for that many Tamils. Either you belong to SL or you belong to India. You should choose. Of course even if you chose India, they don’t want you back anyway. If you are a Sri Lankan Tamil then act like it. And yes, that means, when Tamils of India break our laws we arrest them and punish them just as any other foreigner who breaks our laws. No special treatment for Indian Tamils. And the Tamil fishermen of SL, if they did what you say they did to Indian Tamils, were absolutely to right to do so and safeguard their natural resources from foreigners.

  19. #15 Nadan

    Though what you talk is total nonsense, it prompted me to note the following (some of which I have been saying for quite some time).

    Sinhala is a nation evolved with in this country and became a unique identity of the people inhabiting the country. It was a comming together of all tribes, yakka, naga, deva, rakshasa etc. who lived in this country for thousands of years. Sinhala nation may have absorbed early South Indian settlers too. It also absorbed other migrants from North India and elsewhere. Wijaya and his 700 followers being the most famous.

    The advent of Buddhism became a catalyst of unifying these tribes permanently and from then on Sinhala & Buddhist in this country becam so synonimous with each other that it described one and the same people (until the introduction of Christianity where now we have Christians among Sinhalese). It is this unique feature which provides credence to the notion that where ever there is ancient Buddhist monuments found, there would have been a very strong Sinhala presence in those periods.

    Prior to the formation of Sinhala nation, no other community had any significant influence over this country. There wouldn’t have any space for the emergence of Sinhala nation and for it to become the most dominant community & culture had there been a dominant nation already in place in this country.

    That evolution continues to this day. I can cite two recent personal encounters to illustrate it. Prior to the last presidential election I was having a chat with a prominant Muslim politician. He said he was supporting Mahinda Rajapakse because he thought that MR has the most potential to unify the country. The discussion lead to inter ethnic relations and at that point he said, he consideres himself as a Sinhalese of Muslim faith!

    On another occassion, I was attending a discussion where there was a Buddhist monk of European descent in attendance. He was very tall, white skinned & blue eyed. He spoke in Sinhala and said though he was of Anglo Saxon descent, he consideres himself as a Sinhala after spending 13 years in Sri Lanka as a Buddhist monk.

    So the evolution continues. This is an irreversible process that moderate Tamils must understand. Any artificial attempts to stand against the march of history does only lead to conflicts with devastating consequences and nothing else.

  20. 8. Thiru. Native Tamil | February 17th, 2011 at 12:04 pm
    Bandu-3.1 Anagarika Dharmapala – the Villain!

    His original name Don David Hewavitarne. He is not the Villain. But later his theories hijacked by Villains!

    Even today also there are so many ANAGARIKA s are in sinhala comunity.
    Anagarika Dharmasekara
    Anagarika Riter Thilakaratne ( passed away)

    Therefore it si no good to insulting on Anagarika. If you insulting them you are purposely insulting on Buddhism.

  21. 21. WATHSALA

    I am big fan of the ‘Original Buddha’ than you.
    But not ‘Sinhala Buddha’ that Mahavamsa and other megalomaniac created.

    If Buddha alive he will be shame about this. He threw his royal life ,all assets and land to become ‘Nirvana’ state.

    But so called followers of Sinhala buddhism involving in srilankan politics too much and implementing their own agenda aginst other race, specialy Tamils. (Eg: Jathika Hele Urumeya)

    Unfortunately Bandaranayaka was draged into this group and steer this country to dark era. Finaly he shot by the same group. This is the first political violence recorded as in srilankan history after independence.Still this is continuing.

    Buddha ever said to refuse other’s home land and make this Island only for sinhalese or Buddhism?
    Never, Why this ‘Bikus’ not following ‘Nirvana’ (True spritual way ) but fighting in parliament to make them ‘nirvanam’ (Un-dressed)?

    Thats why I said “He is not the Villain. But later his theories hijacked by Villains!”

    “Now days whoever deny others homeland and pretending to ‘Protecor of the Buddha Dharma’ and the
    whole island not following his eight precepts (against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harmful speech, intoxication, eating after noon, entertainments and fashionable attire, and luxurious beds) but doing everything to make others homeless .”

    Ankariga same like Arumuganavalar converted to christianity then both published lot of books and actioned against christian missonaries for ‘Buddhism’ and ‘Shivism’. (Note Arumuga Navalar never passed any ‘Vellala ‘ Ideoligy to achive ‘Tamil Eelam’ as Bandu de silva insulted)

    I am proud about Buddha ; he was born as Hindu and carried that wisdom through his own teaching ‘Buddhism’ to all other countries to follow ‘Ahimsa’ .

    I cannot accept ‘Sinhala Buddhism’ until they withraw their political involvement and recognise others rights and treated equily other religions and other languge speaking people.

    GoSL shouldn’t be prioritise ‘Sinhala only’ or ‘ Buddhism only’ as special if they say this is everyone ‘Government’.

  22. #19

    You don’t have any right or moral to claim about the real identity. You don’t have the guts to reveal your name. I have given my full name (including surname). You don’t bother about my identity. Look at the facts.

    Even I have told that what Indian fishermen did is wrong in the current scenario. It is very bad especially at this scenario when the fishermen of Northern Province of Eazham of SriLanka face their most difficult time in the history. But I doubt the basis on which Katchatheevu was handed over to SL. If it affects the livelihood of tamil fishermen of Tamil nadu of India, it is also bad.

    Learn to think beyond the artificial boundaries that have been created by men. As one of your fellow sinhalese says (Anon) if sinhalese who descend from Aryans of Central Asia can come to SL then why not Tamils? No other race except sinhalese talks as we have only one homeland. Everybody has only one homeland, that is the place where do they live.

    Whether I am an Indian or Sri Lankan is not the issue. I doubt a conspiracy that is being hatched at the national levels and the international level to create a permanent separation from the tamils of mainland and island.

    Pakistan and India have succeeded in separating Punjabies of West Punjab and East Punjab. Pakistan and India have succeded in separating Bengalis of West Bengal and East Bengal. I think India and Sri Lanka will succeed in dividing the Tamils of Eazham and Tamil Nadu.

  23. While reading the continuing articles and comments on ‘The Mahawamsa mindset”, I remembered an aspect of the ‘Pandai Thamilar (ancient Tamils)’ taught to us at school in the 1960’s. The text book was titled ‘Pandai Thamilar Panpadu ( Culture of the ancient Tamils). One sentence that I remember yet and has been frequently quoted in Tamil circles is, “Kal Thondri, Mann Thondra Kaalathay, Mun Thondri Mootha Thamil ( Tamil is ancient and appeared at an age preceding the appearence of rock and soil)”.

    What nonsence? How could Tamil have appeared before the formation of the earth as an entity capable of harbouring life? Tamil is no doubt an ancient language and a beautiful one. However, to have been taught that it appeared before life itself sprouted on earth, is sheer poetic exaggeration! To refer to a ‘Mahawamsa mindset’ , while ignoring the ‘Çultural arrogance ‘ of the Tamils is duplicity of the worst sort.

    We are debating what is totally irrelevant to our future as Tamils and Sri Lankans. What really matters to us is the here and now and how the present can be used to build a better future. I have just returned from a long visit to Jaffna. I was shocked at how degenerate life as a whole and the people generally have become, as result of what transpired over three decades. The rot is overwhelmingly visible and nauseating. We should be concerned about this and seek ways to remedy what is a self-perpetuating degeneration in all aspects of life that makes us human and hence capable of making a proud history.

    -Dr.Rajasingham Narendran-

  24. A correction to my preceding post. The quote should read, “Kal thondri Mann thondra kalathay, mun thondri mootha kudi’. Which refers to both Tamils as a people (kudi) and infers that Tamil was their language. I apologise for the error.

    -Dr.Rajasingham Narendran-

  25. **At another level, the proximity factor between South India and Sri Lanka is often exaggerated,**
    Dear Bandu,
    Please Go and see at Colombo harbor how catamaran propelled by monsoon winds sailed through palk straight and docked at Colombo fort. Can you tell the period of the beginning of this type of transport? Catamaran in English Dictionary it self Tamil origin. Don’t exaggerating things that is syndrome of Art graduates . Be little scientific.

  26. NON-Traditional security issue:
    Rameswaram(India-Srilanka) fishermen issue also constructed on “Aryan race theory” by “Henry Steel Olcott Buddhism” mindset of Srilanka and further nutred and benefited by ” Dravidian racism, which is dependent upon acceptance of the Aryan race construct” of Srilankan Tamils through western education!.LTTE of SRILANKA WAS AN UNFORTUNATE PRODUCT OF THIS “DRAVIDIAN RACISM(yalpana vaibava malai?),which is dependent upon acceptance of the Aryan race construct”!.— http://www.tamilhindu.com/2011/03/srilankan_hindu_history_an_intro/

  27. I agree with Dr. Rajasingham. It is futile to fight over history, the things that happened thousands of years ago. I am a sinhalese and i too beleived the sinhala ppl being an aryan race and the first group to make settlements in the island and to build a civilization. That was when i was a kid. Now i realise this theory has many loop holes. I am disheartened by the way most of the sinhala ppl reject to make a true understanding of this country’s history and where it went wrong. I have to say lets leave the task of understanding the history to the historians without everyone inerpretting their own version of “tale of the island”.

    What we should do now is to build harmony btwn the tamils and sinhalese. I have seen many comments by Mr. Rajasingham and would like to know his ideas about a power divolution. My idea is sri lanka should proceed as a multi ethnic and a multi religous country.

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