Knowledgeable literati would have heard of a Thamil epic poem called Silappadikaaram. It is one of the five major epics in that language. The other four are Manimekalai, Seevaka Chinthamani, Valayapathi and Kundalakesi.
A Chera Prince named Ilango, who turned a sage professing Jainism, was also a great poet during the Post-Sangam Period in Thamil Literature (4 -7 A.D.). He wrote the epic Silappadikaaram. Chera Naadu was one of the three kingdoms in South India in ancient times. The other two were Chola and Paandiya kingdoms. The present Kerala State was earlier Chera Naadu.
What the Sinhala community calls the Paththini Deiyo was really a reference to the heroine Kannagi in the epic Silappadikaaram. Those who have read Prof. Gananath Obeysekera’s essay on the Paththini Cult in Lanka would understand the significance of Kannagi.
In the eastern province people worship Kannagi as a deity. Kerala influence is very evident in the lives and culture of the people in the east.
This is evident by the fact that for the second year in succession some academics and intellectuals in Batticaloa held a two-day festival in honour of Kannagi on July 28 and 29 at Puthu Kudi Iruppu Maha Vidyalayam Hall. This was organised by Kannagi Kalai Ilakkiyak Koodal.
The objectives of this festival were (01) Introducing and spreading literature pertaining to Kannagi, (02) Recalling the mythology relating to Kannagi since ancient times till today. (03) Publishing literature on Kannagi who is a cultural idol of East Lanka, (04) and Researching into the commonalties between the beliefs regarding Kannagi in South India and Lanka, particularly in the East.
In a tightly and heavily lined up programme, the items included the launching of a conference souvenir called Koodal, a documentary in video format of last year’s festival, a poetry forum, talks, research papers and cultural items.
Those participated include Emeritus Professor S. Maunaguru, former M.P. Thangeswari (an archaeology graduate), S. Ethirmanasingam, K. Thurairajasingam, Pon. Thavanayagam, Ahalangan, Mandoor Asoka, Neelabaalan, Thuraiyoor K. Sellathurai, Aru Thirumurugan, Senior Lecturer K. Iraguparan, V. Gunabaasingam, K. Iyampillai, Lecturer Ruby Valentina Francis, Prof Chitralekha Maunaguru and others.
Cultural performances included Pushpanjali, Kannagi Amman Kulurthip Paadalkal, folk dance, Kannagi Amman Karagaatam, ballet, songs of the soil, yoga observation, Koalaattam, and Chembu dance.
Research papers were on Kannagi in Silappadikaaram, Kannagi in the court scene, Kannagi in the story of the anklet, Kannagi in the narrative of Kovalan, Kannagi in Vasanthan Paadal, Kannagi Kaaviyam, Kannagi Kulurthi.
Traditional and ancient cultural traits are abundant in the east. It seems that the East is now reawakening of its own culture rather belatedly for having been submerged by other domineering forces during the merging of the north and east as one province. It’s better to keep them separate.