By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to the article under the heading “Angampora – 5000 Years Of Combat Tradition” by Mr. Dishan Joseph (DJ) in the Sunday Observer of 10th March. I wish to express my contrary views to his proposition that Angampora is a traditional “indigenous Martial Art of Sri Lanka that has withstood the test of time”, as stated by him, for following reasons:
1. By the word “indigenous”, it is presumed that he implies that it is an original Sinhala Martial Art form and it has 5000 years of combat tradition. This contradicts ancient historical facts. 5000 years would mean, either inclusive of the CE (Christian era) or 2500 years BC (before CE). Considering the claim of the Mahavamsa that the Sinhala race was founded by Vijaya only in 500 BC, then, Angampora could not be an indigenous Sinhala martial Art form, because there was no Sinhala race in existence, at that period of time. Therefore, those who practiced Angampora martial art could only be non- Sinhala inhabitants of Lanka from pre-Vijayan time. DJ also says that “some say that King Ravana was well versed in this defensive art as well as being a practitioner of Ayurveda”. This is quite true. Ravana was, additionally, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, and a Hindu Tamil. Even Ravana’s grandfather King Pulasthi, his brother Kumbarkarnan, King Moothasive and his son Devanambiya tissan, were all Dravidian Hindu kings.
2. Therefore, it is clear that the so-called “Angampora” martial art was practiced by the ancient Dravidian Tamils and/or the Telugus. In the post- Devanambiya period , this martial art form would have been continued by the converted Hindus to Buddhism, who adopted the ethnic label, Sinhalese.
3. DJ gives the etymological break-up of the word Angampora. The word “Angam” he says means the body and “Pora” means fight. He presumes this is a Sinhala word. DJ states that Angampora “has a 5000 years of combat tradition”. The claim it is a Sinhala word and 5000 years of combat tradition, are self-contradictory. Because, there was no Sinhala written language, alphabet and grammar, then. Sinhala language evolved only around 7th century A.D. Further, the Sinhala race is said have been founded by Vijaya only in 500 BC, as per the Mahavamsa chronicle. Thus the name of the martial art “Angampora” is an adaptation of the Tamil word “Angampor”. Tamil meaning of the word “Angam” is limbs of the body (not the body) and the word “por” means fight. The word “por” has been transmuted to “pora”, by the Sinhalese. That is, fighting with limbs (legs and hands). The truth is that, this martial art form is not indigenous to Lanka, but a South Indian Martial art form. Since the indigenous inhabitants of Lanka, since the time of King Pulasthi to King Devambiya tissan were a mix of Dravidians (Tamils,
Telegus, Malayalees, Kannada etc), Angampor, as a martial art, was practiced by them, from the time Lanka separated from the mainland, South India. Moreover, the existence of another variation of this South Indian martial art, called “Angampudi, which is a form of combat using limbs in “Pudi”, meaning ,“holds and locks”, which is akin to modern day Indian Wrestling, reinforces the proposition that “Angampora” referred to by the Sinhalese, is in actual fact, is of South Indian origin.