5 February, 2023

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Book Review: Gananath Obeyesekere – Stories And Histories

By R S Perinbanayagam –

Prof. R S Perinbanayagam

Introduction

The sciences as well as the social sciences – not to speak of literary studies – advance by challenging and often replacing existing theories. Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg in physics, Mead, James and Dewey in social psychology and perhaps one can add  the Cambridge literary theorists Leavis and his cohorts to this list too. In sociology Parsons and Merton and their followers did this, only to be challenged by a new generation of scholars. In anthropology the burden fell on Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, and Evan-Prichard, et al.  

Gananath Obeyesekere has been doing his bit in this in recent anthropology with exemplary results causing controversies and approbations and indeed changing the face of anthropology in certain areas such as the relations between Europeans and indigenous people. Now he comes to do the same for Sri Lankan historiography in this challenging work. Sri Lankan historiography will never be the same again.

Writing History

“History is more or less bunk” once opined the industrialist Henry Ford no doubt wanting people to disregard the past and focus on the future. However, people keep writing histories and talking histories and using histories for one political purpose or another. Sri Lanka is no exception. People keep writing histories and our everyday politics is drenched with historical allusions. Yet one can ask “What is history?” or; What is passed of as history?” Indisputably what is passed of as history are narratives or stories assembled by an author who uses selected events from the past, to the extent that they are available in one form or another, to create a narrative –or a story—about what is presumed to be the past of a country or a nation, or even an individual  for that matter.

Insofar as the narratives that are passed off as history are based on selections made by an author, they are likely to be idiosyncratic ones and can be either reflections of reality and can also be deflections of reality. Kenneth Burke, the prominent linguistic philosopher put the conundrum this way:

Men seek for vocabularies that will be serviceable reflections of reality. To this end, they must function as a deflection of reality. With such conditions in mind, how might one best proceed to select a vocabulary (a perspective, a systematically interrelated terminology) that might lay claim to be central for the discussion of human affairs and human relationships, and for the placement of cultural forms? (1973:27).

In other words, all narratives, insofar as they are narratives undertaken by one agent or another, are both selective of reality, and as a consequence, deflections of reality. For example, it is possible, in writing the history of the United States, to underplay the role slavery played in its economic wellbeing in the early years—as in fact it has been done – or to slight the massacres and dispossession of the native Americans thereby deflecting reality.

Stories and Histories

In this work – a companion piece to his In Search of the Hunter Obeyesekere examines, not so much the ‘history’ of Sri Lanka of which there are many works, but how these works select the material they use as evidence and what they leave out. In so far as this is the case, what these historians produce are artfully constructed narratives or stories that deflect reality. In so far as such deflections are discovered, others can come to correct them but there is no guarantee that they will not be deflections too. This is the inherent pathos in creating narratives: they can be challenged and repudiated by others on the one hand or can be also be enriched by later writers. 

Obeyesekere, in this work as well as his other work on the Vaddas does both: he challenges some of the extant versions of history as well as enriches it substantially. He describes his aim in this work as follows:

In this work entitled Stories and Histories: Sri Lankan pasts and the dilemmas of narrative representation I emphasize, as in my other writings, I the tentativeness of historical knowledge. History in my thinking, as with some of my professional colleagues, is something in the making and it was Max Weber who with great insight mentioned the tentativeness of historical knowledge and hence its vulnerability.

Obeyesekere then goes on to claim rightly that some purported historical writings are really myths or stories concocted for give political purposes. He writes: 

For example, in Sri Lanka, as elsewhere, combatants in ethnic and civil wars have reiterated the idea of “homelands” and scholars and historians on opposed sides of the divide step into the breach and justify the idea of homelands through skewed historical and archeological research. The most unconscionable histories were written during the Nazi regime, but they too had the guise of empirical historiography. There is nothing to prevent scholars becoming card-carrying members of violent movements or fanatic nationalists employing modern methods of historical and ethnographic writing to justify their respective political stances.

These considerations lead him to argue:

I am critical of the way modern historians have dealt with Sri Lanka’s pasts, I will selectively deal with earlier periods of our history to elucidate some of the problems that beset us in our study of Sri Lankan classical texts such as the Mahāvaṃsas that provide us with a continuous history from the very founding of the nation to the reign of the last king of Kandy.

In Stories and Histories Obeyesekere continues with his radical reconstruction of the early history of Sri Lanka by relying on certain  folk records. These records are Bandaravaliya—the genealogical records of certain families—vittipots –records of given contemporary events and kadaimpots – notes on the boundaries of the provinces. These documents are clearly a rich source of reliable data. Obeyesekere presents his material in segments that he entitles as numbered “books”.I too will write my comments with his scheme. It is however not possible to present the extremely detailed material that one can find in these chapters and I will select certain significant elements. Will this constitute my deflections of reality? I hope not.

Book I – Topographies of Sri Lanka: Boundary Books: Kadaim pot 

After some introductory comments about the importance of these folk documents for reconstructing the early history of the island Obeyesekere selects two for further commentary:

They are the  Lankādv paye Kaḍaim ota (“The boundary book of the land [or Island] of Sri Lanka”) and Tri Sinhale Kaḍaim Pota (“The boundary book of the Three [divisions of d fifteen. The districts are contained within the three larger political divisions of the country, namely Maya-rata, Ruhunu-rata and Pihiti-rata, the last identified with the ancient Raja-rata, “the country of the kings” with its capital in Anuradhapura and later in Polonnaruwa. Studying these documents he unearths a great deal of detail about the peopling of the land its ethnic composition as well the governance of the relevant kingdom and its relationship to India. These works are ostensibly about boundaries but it really about how the boundaries of given provinces were constituted and about the people who lived in them.It turns out it was a mixed population with a dominant Sinhala one with an admixture of migrants from the Chola an Pandya provinces of what is now called Tamil Nadu, from the Chera provinces now called Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and even Vaddas.

Book 2 – Composition of the Event Books: -Vitti pots: Immigration Myths and the story of the Mallalas

In this book Obeyesekere deals with a variety of issues by getting his material from vitti potts which are records of events that occurred in given territories. He takes data from these texts and brings them into conversation with other documents such as the more official ones and draws various conclusions. In some cases there seem to some congruence between these texts and in others there is not. Nevertheless, these documents provide interesting dialectically related material from which powerful conclusions can be drawn. When the Bodhi tree was to the island by Mahinda and Sanghamita,they were accompanied by a group called the “Mallalas”. “Since that time, Obeyesekere observes “they have lived in Sri Lanka”. Who were these Mallalas?I t is in answering this question that Obeyesekere exposes the main thesis of his work: the tentativeness of conclusions about historical events and the conundrums involved in resolving them. Who then were the Mallalas and where have they gone? Obeyesekere writes:

The “Tamilness” of the Mallalas is never explicity stated even in the prose texts and indeed cannot be stated. The reasons are clear enough because the Mallalas, according to their myth of origins came with the Bodhi tree and therefore must come from the area of the Bodhimandala, what we would now know as Buddhagaya in the state of Bihar. Yet it is also clear from the prose text that the Mallalas fought with the Maravas or Maravaras who were in Ramnad way down in the South of India, but they are Buddhists which of course fits in nicely with their historical claims.  Nevertheless, the ambiguity of the Malalas – are they Tamils or are they not – remain and intrinsic to the Malala personae. Thus, when they land in Sri Lanka, they are confronted with the Vädda chief who asks them in the verse text, “O Damilas [Tamils], what is the language you speak?” Which is an oxymoron because if one in a Damila one must speak Tamil! To make sense of this statement, the term Damila is used by the Vädda chief as a generic term for South Indian speakers and hence it would make sense for them to figure out the actual language spoken by the Damila-Malalas which ofh of course could be a Kerala language. Kerala in Sinhala ideation is often known as Mallala!   

If that is one example of the conundrum that Obeyesekere erxmines. Here is another: Who are the Tamils why are mentioned often in these folk stories? Here is Obeyesekere’ s discussion:

Demala is on the one hand an exclusionary sign which is also another way of indicating their alien-ness; but when the demalas come to the aid of the Sinhala king as in the Ayothipattalama prose episode the Tamils are the good guys. This means that although the term demala has pejorative connotations it occasionally can have positive meaning. In these cases, it seems that the demala sign hangs on the Sinhala head! This is expectable because, historically speaking, many Sinhalas were erstwhile demalas. For the most part the exclusionary demala sign is also apparent in our historical chronicles, both Pali and Sinhala.That is, when invaders from South India are mentioned in derogatory fashion they are most often mentioned as demala or damila. But we will show in our discussion of these chronicles that when South Indians are referred to by their place of origin, especially Pandu (Pandya) or Soli (Chola) or even Kalinga there is much more ambiguity. Sometimes these Pandyans and Cholas are also demala but at other times they can be referred to without the demala sign attached to them. Thus, one of the famous Sinhala chiefs in the Kotte period was Vidiye Bandara whose mother married a man from Soli or Chola. In which case this man could be considered a demala from Jaffna although never referred to as such; and many good Sri Lankan kings had the term Pandu or Soli attached to them.

Clearly then the peopling of Sri Lanka was accomplished by agents from many parts of the sub-continent though the contribution from the Tamil country and the Kerala country was very significant as well.

This process of assimilation of various groups into the a Sinhala polity was also, Obeyesekere shows, dramatized in various rituals.Here is one:

These symbolic processes of inclusion and exclusion abound in the Sinhala Buddhist ritual traditions. In present day Western and Southern provinces there are many ritual dramas that symbolically encapsulate a historical process whereby aliens of various professions are, in the first phase of the drama, ritually excluded and then later included in the Buddhism of the Sinhala people. Like the Malala/Malla chiefs they are “naturalized” as Sinhala Buddhists in these ritual enactments. I shall briefly present a synoptic account of these kinds of ritual dramas often performed in large scale exorcistic rituals (tovil) for demonic afflictions or during communal thanksgiving ritual complexes (gammaḍuva) in honor of the gods. Here is the general scenario. In the ritual arena, there are two performers who play the role of the guardian gods or devas of the pantheon such as Vishnu and the Goddess Pattini. They hold a tape or a stick that represents a barrier. On the other side of the barrier are actors dressed as aliens, sometimes as Brahmins, or as alien deities or demons or merchants. The barrier is viewed as a kaḍavata or city gates at the entrance to a city, but in this case the entrance to Sri Lanka. The alien being tries to cross the barrier but is prevented by the guardian gods. The outsider speaks something like Tamil, really a kind of gibberish; in other instances, the alien speaks unintelligible Sinhala with a pronounced Tamil accent. The newcomer does not know Sinhala-Buddhist customs and insults the deities at the barrier by some horrendous action such as saluting them with his arse. The prim deities at the barrier are firm. Gradually the outsider begins to speak proper Sinhala and the proper ways of addressing the devas. In one common enactment the guardian deities at the barrier asks the outsider to bring a sannasa or letter of authority from the Buddha. But to begin with even this is not done properly. The outsider might place the sannasa on his foot and thrust it at the devas or perform similar outrageous actions. After much enjoyable horseplay of this sort, the outsider recognizes the superiority of the guardian gods and the Buddha. He pays homage to the guardian deities in the proper manner and with decorum gives them the letter of authority. The gods open the barrier and the outsider enters Sri Lanka, symbolically “naturalized,” as it were, as a-Buddhist.

Rituals are actually dramas that represent a chosen version of reality and one can see this only in various Sri Lankan ones but in many other traditions as well. Conversely, theatrical plays are often used to represent a chosen version of reality—such as Shakespeare’s historical plays and can be considered rituals. His Henry V for example then is ritual of patriotism.

Book 3 – Small Kingdome of Sri Lanka: Sitavaka and Kotte

In this chapter once Obeyesekere again brings in to the  conversation the various folk documents with other official accounts about events in Sitavaka and Kotte kingdoms. We are now in the period in the history of the island in which parts of which were under Portuguese control and the Portuguese themselves have provided texts for Obeyesekere’ s meticulous analysis. He is able compare different documents and provide a richly detailed account of the dynastic alliances of the various rulers of these kingdoms and significance of caste categories for royal marriages.

Book 4 – Brahmins in the Sinhala Varna Scheme:The Coming of the Brahmins in the Dambadeniya Period

In this section Obeyesekere, once again inter-relating a variety of texts to each other, examines the coming of the Brahmins to the island, They, it turns out were more or less indispensable in managing certain rituals in the various courts as well as in managing various temples that were scattered in the kingdom. The populace waws mainly Buddhist, of course, but worshiping the Buddha-associated Hindu god Vishnu and the Kataragama god Skanda or Kandasamy was also part of the religious life of the people—playing no doubt a version of Pascal’s wager! So, there were devales that needed anointed priests and they came. They were welcomed by the king as well as the people.

Obeyesekere further observes; Anothe aspect of the coming of the Brahmins is the problem of fitting them into the local absorbed caste system.In any case they were eventually,it appears, absorbed into the goigama sector, Obesyesekere fimds abundant evidence of their presence and functionality in the various texts with a number of villages identified with the “Bamunaga” – the Sinhala version of Brahmins– prefix is not clear how many of these Brahmins came but there is no doubt they did have both a presence and an influence in the kingdom.

Book 5 – Colonization Myths: Trade Economic Models and the Political Order 

This chapter entitled  deals with a number of issues. Obeyesekere demonstrates the intricate economic relations that Sri Lanka had with various counties and the important part its ports played it assisting these relations. He cites a work by Kenneth McPherson as follows:

“In the early centuries of the present era the most active South Asian ports were located in southern India and Sri Lanka: a host of small ports along the Malabar and Coromandel coasts as well as the great Sri Lankan port of Mantai which flourished until it was abandoned in the eleventh century after devastating wars between Sri Lanka and South Indian invaders.” The economic transactions the no doubt by accompanied the use of these ports  followed by social influences contributed to the emergence of a more of a more cosmopolitan culture in the island rather than insular one. Greek coins were often used as the currency in many transactions as gold imported from various parts of the world.

In the sphere of religion and culture too Obeyesekere makes an important point:

The Chola (Sinhala Soli) conquest of the Island has oft-times been unfairly castigated as contributing to the decline of Anuradhapura. It was certainly the case that the Cholas moved their capital to Polonnaruva, but this did not result in the abandonment of Anuradhapura and its great hydraulic networks. The Chola rulers were familiar with these systems of irrigation in their own home territories and surely knew the importance of maintaining them.  As Nilakanta Sastri rightly mentions the Chola administration of Sri Lanka, especially the northern Rajarata, was not an oppressive one, no more than it was in South India itself. As far as Buddhism was concerned it is likely that the Cholas did not interfere with the dominant religion because that again was not part of Chola policy here or elsewhere. It is likely that plunder of the wealth of monasteries, especially the treasures sequestered in stupas were the target of Chola soldiers and mercernaries but in no way comparable to the plunder of the monastic wealth by the Sinhala rulers in the generation of the descendants of Vijayabahu I. It was the latter who finally pushed the Cholas back to their own country and liberated the nationMoreover, the Cholas, although Shaivites, also patronized Buddhist places of worship….

Buddhism and Rajaraja I as well as his son Rajendra, admittedly through the sponsorship of the ruler of Sri Vijaya, had two great Buddhist monasteries constructed in the Tamil country. Thus, some inscriptions from the Trincomalee district that a Buddhist vihara known as Velgam-vehera in Sinhala “was renamed Rājarājaperumpaḷḷi after of the greatest of Chola monarchs, Rājarāja I. ”323  We will demonstrate later that even after the liberation of the Island by Vijayabahu I, Chola relations with Sri Lanka were cordial.

Book 6 – The Significance of the Interregnum in Sinhala Histories: Rajavaliya and other related texts

In this chapter Obeyesekere examines what he calls Various documents called rajavalias and relates them to others such pujavalias and the Mahavamsa.He notes both the conjunctions among them as well; the contradictions and propose spome way of resolving themThis chapter in fact deals with that period in Sri Lankan history in which the Portuguese had taken control of the Kotte kingdom and were engaged in converting people to Catholicism. They did succeed and created a whole new ethnic group to a great extent and even many members of the royalty were successfully converted. The Portuguese, Obeyesekere, observes were not racist as such and many of their men married local lasses and their descendants  became a new ethnic group.The Portuguese occupation Obeyesekere observes resulted another profound social change, Here it is in his words: 

To be fair by the Portuguese one must note that they were not explicitly racist unlike the British and they married Sinhala women of different castes and degrees of nobility. Portuguese and Catholics welcomed many of the so-called inferior castes, especially the Karava (karā), the Salagama (hāli) and the Durāva (durā), all of whom in later times populated much of the low country coastal region and became leading entrepreneurs and pioneers of industry, intellectuals, political leaders and civil servants from the 19th century onwards. Some of them, especially the Salagama, became Buddhists but all of them, as the Rājāvaliya points out, upset the traditional order and in doing so, they challenged the hegemony and numerical dominance of the Goyigama, something that the Rājāvaliyas do not point out! Surely those castes mentioned earlier must thank the Portuguese Catholics for their current status, and this applies to those among the aforementioned castes who became Buddhists and indeed out-Buddhicized the traditional and often lax Goyigama Buddhists who took their Buddhism for granted. We must also reckon that it is these new Buddhists that brought about the rejuvenation of the Sangha in the 19th century with the two new fraternities from Burma, the Ramanna and Amarapura. Like their Karava, Salagama and Durava supporters these newer fraternities challenged the caste-exclusiveness of the dominant Siyan Nikaya. To put it differently: if the “cruel Portuguese” were not here, neither would there be the newer castes with their rich array of elites and the newer fraternities with their rich array of monks! In the context of our modernity we should admit that Buddhists owe much to the much hated Christian pratikāl!       

An interesting point that Obeyesekere makes about the relations between Sinhala Buddhism and Tamil Buddhism should be noted here: 

During the reign of Vijayabahu I the traditional enemies were the Cholas but the Chola hegemony of about seventy years was over in his reign and the brutal invasion of Sri Lanka was by Magha of Kalinga and not the Cholas or Pandyas. The latter, and especially the Cholas, were now friends of Parakramabahu II. The king adds that he dismissed corrupt monks who had flourished during the “interregnum” (the period of Magha) and then “sent many gifts to the Coḷa country and caused to be brought over to Tambapaṇṇi many respected Coḷa bhikkhus who had moral discipline and were versed in the three Piṭakas and so established harmony between the two Orders.”

This chapter is intricately detailed one and deals with many issues—dynastic alliances, territorial boundaries  relations between the local religion and the alien one and so on and I have only highlighted one of them here.It is once again a tour de force, of textual analysis and insightful interpretation.

Book 7 – Mahavamsa Histories and Narrative Fiction

In this chapter Obeyesekere delves into the Mahavamsa and relates it to various other documents. In undertaking this exercise he is able on the one hand to support some the Mahavamsa’s version of events challenge some others and important details to the narrative of the island’s story. He examines dynastic alliances marital connections and kin relations among the ruling families. Obeyesekere further examines in detail how knowledge of Kautilya’s Arthasastra was studied by some kings and this began to influence the  way the rulers ran both the country as well their relations with fellow rulers. 

Book 8 – Problematics of History: Buddhist Ideals and  practical reality: The Parricide as Hero: The case of Rajasinghe I

In this chapter Obeyesekere engages with the account in the Mahavamsa about Rajasinghe and challenges that version.

Conclusion

This work by Gananath Obyeyesekere is truly a masterly exercise in the hermeneutics of important Sri Lankan texts, some of them widely known and others rather obscure. Not however just a hermeneutic  exercises but exemplary critical hermeneutics. He examines the various texts at his disposal with meticulous attention to details, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, their plausibility, and contradictions, and then drawing his own interpretations and conclusions. In the course of doing this he also challenges popularly held stories about events from the island’s past and eviscerates stereotypes about the Sinhalese people and the Tamils and Muslims and the relations they had with each other.

All in all, a very creative and insightful work of great importance to the people, scholars and lay people living to day. History is not bunk, after all and even if they are at times deflections of reality someone else can correct them and create a new one.

Needless to say in this commentary I have highlighted only what I considered certain salient features of  Obeyesekere’s very complex and detailed work.

*Robert Sidharthan Perinbanayagam, Professor of Sociology (Emeritus), Hunter College of the City University of New York

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Latest comments

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    Kerala during this period was the Thamizh Chera country and they were speaking the western Thamizh Chera dialect called Malayalam( not modern Malayalam) but using formal Thamizh for official and literary purposes. There was no Kerala language it was Thamizh or a form of Kodun Thamizh( low Thamizh). The Thamizh on the eastern side of the ghats ( Chola, Pandian and Pallava lands) spoke the eastern Thamizh dialect which was more or less proper Thamizh. The Chera kings were ardent Thamizh and supported Thamizh poets in their courts. Many notableThamizh classics came from the Chera country(Kerala). Chillapadikarm was written by a Thamizh Jain monk Illanko( from Illanku meaning to see, clear, shining, resplendent, hence Illanko or Illankai) Atikal a Jain monk, who was supposed to be a Chera(Kerala) prince. It is written during the Pallava period and set in the three capitals of the three major Thamizh kingdoms. Pukar( Chola) Muthurai( Pandian) and Vanchi( Chera) Just like the way the Naga on the island spoke the proto or semi-Thamizh dialect Elu but by around 3000 years ago adopted proper Thamizh for formal purposes. Similarly, during this era, the people of Sothern Andhra and Karnataka also spoke Thamizh or a form of kodun Thamizh( Low Thamizh)

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      Interesting that Obeysekera states: “To put it differently: if the “cruel Portuguese” were not here, neither would there be the newer castes with their rich array of elites and the newer fraternities with their rich array of monks!”
      Quite different from the common daham pasal narrative that the Portuguese did nothing but pillage temples. Further, if the Portuguese didn’t turn up, Sri Lanka might have been more thoroughly converted to Islam, like Maldives. That might not have been a bad thing, as the Muslims too have no truck with caste.

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        OC
        “Further, if the Portuguese didn’t turn up, Sri Lanka might have been more thoroughly converted to Islam, like Maldives.”
        That is a little farfetched.
        Arab and Persian traders have been here for some centuries before the Portuguese. They never bothered with mass conversion.
        The island was a good trading centre and there was strong south Indian presence.

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          SJ,
          No, I wasn’t talking about Arabs. By the 18th century, Muslim rulers had penetrated well into Tamil country in South India. I think, if the Europeans hadn’t got in the game, they could have influenced things here too. Wasn’t there some story about a local king being offered a Muslim wife?

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            OC
            All of Tamil country came under the rule of Muhammad bin Tughluq in the 14th Century. The Mughals stopped half way across Tamilnadu in early 18th Century, and this island was beyond reach.Also, the Mughals did not have much of a navy it appears.
            Overall, the urge to convert was not strong, despite some zealots. But after 500 years of continuous Muslim rule barely a fifth of the population became Muslim.
            Similar things have happened in Cambodia (The Angkor Wat temple changed religious identity, overnight), and Thailand, where rulers were converted to Buddhism.
            We had our fair share of conversion of kings to Catholicism.
            Little of all this has to do with faith.

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              SJ,
              Yes, conversion has little to do with actual faith, though some convert descendants (like the Two Saraths) are more fanatic than the converters.
              If the Muslims took over South India, they might have started intermarriage with our royals, as they did with Northern Hindu royalty .

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        old codger

        “Further, if the Portuguese didn’t turn up, Sri Lanka might have been more thoroughly converted to Islam, like Maldives. “

        Probably Sri Lanka would have struck oil in the early 1960s. Don’t you think it would have been a good thing, like Middle East, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brunei, Kazakhstan, ………….

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          Native,
          Isn’t it strange that Allah seems to have hidden the oil under mostly Muslim countries?

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            OC
            Not really.
            He changed his mind a little and put quite a bit of it under Christian feet in Venezuela, Russia and even Nigeria.

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      “Illanko( from Illanku meaning to see, clear, shining, resplendent, hence Illanko or Illankai) Illanko( from Illanku meaning to see, clear, shining, resplendent, hence Illanko or Illankai) “
      What BS!
      ‘iLangkO’ meens young king. He was reportedly a prince who renounced claims to royalty.
      The twisting of the spelling from இளங் (iLang) to இலங் (ilang) is a clumsy porcine distortion

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        The common name இளங்கோ means young king, this was because of the legend he was the younger brother of the Chera King Cheran Sengutuvan, which is now considered to be a myth. However, the title இலங்கோ( knowledgeable ) is most probably the correct title that was given to him, due to his knowledge and that he was the author of one of the greatest Thamizh classics Chilapathikaram. Later the myth that he was the younger brother of the warrior Thamizh Chera king Chenguttuvan இலங்கோ ( knowledgeable) may have been changed to இளங்கோ( young king or younger king) a very common Thamizh name. Which do you think is a more accurate or more appropriate title for him? The myth of the younger brother of a great warrior king or the truth of a very knowledgeable learned Jain monk, who wrote one of the greatest classics in the Thamizh language? You decide. இளங்கோ( younger king ) is just a title or name, however, இலங்கோ( learned, knowledgeable king) is a respected title given to someone who has produced great literature. It is very common to mix up the meaning as most Thamizh, especially the ordinary ones, would not have been familiar with this old Thamizh word இலங்கோ but very familiar with இளங்கோ, as even now this is quite a common name and the pronunciation is more or less the same only the meaning changes in the written form.

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          Nothing to do with any legend.
          His name was always on record as இளங்கோ.
          The ல-ள distinction was carefully observed in Tamil since its inception.
          Substitution of one for the other distorts the meaning, with only a few exceptions.
          I wonder who taught you Tamil.
          If you do not know these basic things, avoid making pronunciations on the language.

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      Dear PK
      Thank you for your comment.
      Could you please give some refence

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        Hi Anpu, Ilangu(இலங்கு): To Make it visible/know well,( knowledge) Express well, Bright, Radiate. An important word that has cognates in many other languages and is related to words like Ilakkanam(grammar), Ilakkiyam(literature), and Ilakkam(Target). From this old Thamizh word, Ilanguthal (இலங்குதல்); or Shinning/Radiating, Resplendant or make it known, visible comes the name Ilankai(இலங்கை ) meaning the shining or resplendent island for Ceylon. I did not first post this but Siva Sankaran did and I then read, googled and checked this to see if this was correct.

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          That is the reference?
          Brilliant!

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            Yes, that is the reference google and read instead of constantly making smart alec comments to make you feel great in your dotage.

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              So any BS passes for the truth if it is on Google.
              Cite one Tamil work in which இளங்கோ is spelled இலங்கோ.
              *
              As a consolation:
              The Sinhalese would, for they generally prefer ල to ළ in transliteration.

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        Anpu here is the reference and link from the Tamil Agarathi. If PK could not give it I will give it to you, as I first mentioned in this forum. Moderator, please allow this, as some are deliberately stating this ancient Tamil word is nonsense and a figment of the imagination and trying to discredit it.

        https://agarathi.com/word/%e0%ae%87%e0%ae%b2%e0%ae%99%e0%af%8d%e0%ae%95%e0%af%81

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    Thank you Prof Perinbanayagam.

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    Thank you Mr,Pandi Kutti: Surprisingly enough I knew all this too! However,I must say that ” Illango” means young king or prince.

    • 9
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      Thanks. I am glad at least another person was aware of the old Thamizh word Ilangu(இலங்கு) and its meaning from which the Thamizh words Ilakiyam( literature) Ilakanam(grammar) and name for the island Ilankai( shining or resplendent arose. Lanka is the Prakrit version of Ilankai, just like Hela is the Prakrit version of Eezham or Elu, and Sinhala is the Prakrit version of the old Thamizh word Chingkallam ( meaning red or copper land) Chem/Cheppu+ Alam = Chingkallam. Not the other way around. All these words have a meaning in Thamizh and not the other way around. Sinhala has no meaning, this is why to explain this word, the story of Prince Vijaya and his half-lion origin myth was invented. As for Illango, I bow to the common opinion that it meant young king or prince and not learned knowledgeable king. If it is spelt in English as Illango then in Thamizh it is இளங்கோ. If it is spelt is Ilango then in Thamizh it is இலங்கோ.

      • 6
        0

        PK the இலங்கு, meaning knowledge, shinning, resplendent or making it clear/known and the tile இளங்கோ meaning the younger king or prince are different. Do not get confused with the English spelling of these Tamil words, in this case, Illango Adigal meant the venerable ascetic Prince. Illango, However, should be really spelt in English as Illango and not Ilango, in my opinion, as spelling with one l brings the lower la sound but this is really clutching at straws. As per legend or history, ( going to spell it as it is usually spelt) . Ilango Adigal was a Chera prince from a famous Chera Tamil dynasty, who lived around the 2nd century in Kodungalur, present-day Cochin, in present-day Kerala( Chera Tamil country). A gateway of many foreign religions to India. Judaism, Christianity, Islam. He is known as the author of one of the great five Tamil epics Chilapathikaram meaning the story of the anklet.

        • 6
          0

          Historians believe that Chilapathikaram was really written around the 5-6CE but there is no solid evidence. Ilango Adigal was a poet who believed in Jainism He is supposed to be the younger brother of the famous Chera king Chenguttuvan of Kodungalur also known as Cheralathana Chengutuvan, hence the title Illango( younger king or prince). However, there is no evidence as per the Tamil Sangam works that this famous Chera king had a brother and fewer facts are known about Ilango Adikkal. An astrologer predicted that he will rule the land and he felt that his older brother deserves to rule and renounced the world and became a Jain monk. The book tells the tragic story of an anklet and beautiful poetry revolving around three characters Kovalan, his loyal wife Kannaki and the courtesan Madhavi. It is a great asset to Indian/South Indian and Tamil literature and contains 5270 lines of poetry and is loved by all Tamils. The story of Kannagi became part of Tamil culture and gave birth to the Pattini cult in Kerala( Chera Nadu ) that was imported into the island.

          • 8
            0

            Yes, you made a mistake with regards, to the meaning of Illango Addikal but not regard to Ilankai, however, SJ does not have to be that nasty, but SJ being SJ will always be that, especially towards other Tamils, whom he likes to find fault and nitpick, he gloats over their mistakes and makes it a big issue. You always got the better of him so far and this was his chance to gloat and pounced upon it and became nasty in my view.

            • 1
              5

              When one amplifies trivia and makes theories based on falsehoods, someone has to cry out that the emperor is naked.
              So you agree that he has made an ass of himself using your theory about இளங்கோ.
              Nice confession though!

    • 2
      8

      rsp
      Someone is clutching at straws to defend a big howler.
      Pathetic, is it not?

      • 2
        0

        The conversion of Illango to some other version is a good example of what Burke called “deflections of reality” that I discussed in the early paragraphs of my review

        • 0
          6

          rsp
          Thanks.
          Such things are commonplace in Tamil scholarship, especially historical narratives.

          • 7
            1

            The only thing commonplace here is your vindictive nastiness, towards every other Tamil blogger’s comments. Constantly nitpicking and trying to find fault, with all sorts of petty idiotic arguments and smart alec comments and be nasty about it and 99% of the time you are proved wrong and back off with your tail between your legs but return again and again to attack another Tamil, and leap to the defence of China, the Bandaranaike family Sinhalese racists. They and their interests are far more important to you and the welfare of your own people. What sort of person are you? Now leapt on a mistake that PK made with regards to Illango, which in reality is trivial, compared to all the other information he provided with regards to the Kerala and the real origin/root of the name Ilankai in Tamil for the island.

            • 7
              0

              This information with regards to Kerala/Chera Nadu and the root word for the name Ilankai was the important information provided, on the comment and not whether Ilanko meant younger king/prince or learned, this was trivial and secondary information, Ilanko means in this case prince and not learned, it was not correct but read the comment properly. However, you cunningly leapt on the trivial and made it something huge in a very nasty vindictive way and completely and completely ignored the more important information as it did not suit your agenda, as you consider this information is beneficial to the Tamil cause, and you had a personal axe to grind with PK. From your comment, you are also trying to use this to discredit not only PK but all other Tamil bloggers and what they post, except you. You really are not a very nice person in my personal opinion. Again read the comment properly and do not try to highlight the trivial mistake made, so that others will only see this but not the rest of the information provided in the comment, which is more important and accurate. Very cunning and very nasty.

              • 1
                6

                R
                If the meaning of iLankkO was impertinent, why did PK dwell on it and even defend his not very clever claim?
                You can invent motives to people..
                But a distortion is a distortion and a stupid remark is a stupid remark.
                Nothing can change that.
                It is civilized to argue issues rather than character assassinating.

            • 0
              6

              RSS
              You are simply pathetic in your defence of pretentious BS.

              • 0
                6

                Sorry, R25
                That happened because RSS and R25 come out with identical nonsense.

  • 0
    3

    What an apt title! “Stories and Histories”.
    Of course, British writers who translated our history into English made us believe some distorted stories as our history. The best example is the “War between Rawana and an unknown Rama ”. “Ramayanaya” should be “Rawanayanaya – the history of ten Rawanans whose father was Vishmakarma Rawana (Wesamuni)”. Of course, there was a war where all 10 Rawanas were involved. It was the war that was called “Sura-Asura Yuddhya – the War between Gods and Irshis (Rishis, Sages)”. Of course, one Rawana abducted someone. But not a woman. The Chief God in the Sura-Asura War was “Indra” whose world was called “Indraloka”. In Buddhist texts, Indra was named as “Sakra”, and “Indraloka” was named as”Heaven “, “Swarga” or the “Paradise of Indra”. Both Indra and Irshis still exist. They are immortal. The Americans called them “Aliens”.
    Contd’…..

    • 0
      3

      I read many English translations before finally getting the actual history. This is it.
      Irshi Mahi Rawana (the Chakravarti King of the Earth, “Pruthivi”, whose kingdom – Pruthivi loka – is located deep underwater) attacked and invaded “Swarga”. (It is said that he built an underwater tunnel with stairs to come to the surface of earth). When he was surrounded by Gods, his son, Meghanada came to his rescue, defeated the Gods and made “God Indra” unconscious and abducted him. (After this, Meghanada was called “the Conqueror of Indra”. In Sinhala, “Indrajit”/“Sakrajit”). Together, Mahi Rawana and Meghanada took “God Indra” to their underwater kingdom, “Pruthivi loka” via Rawanadwipa (Lanka). (This entrance is meant to be activated soon for some reason.) Later, God Indra became conscious and together with his supporters attacked Rawanas. Meghanada was later killed in this war. One unfortunate victim of this war was pious Irshi Maha Bali Rawana a.k.a. Sahasramukha Rawana. God Indra regained “Swarga” and expelled all Irshis (Rawanas) from “Swarga” back to their underwater kingdom. It is living Irshis (Rawanas) who control the earth from their kingdom.
      Interestingly, the war between Irshis (Rawanas) and Gods had happened somewhere above Russia.

      • 0
        4

        Sometime ago, I mentioned a place in Russia which is to be “activated”. I finally found the name of this place. It is not in Siberia. I believe that, right above this place, there is an entrance to another solar system where “Indraloka” (Heaven/Swarga/Indra’s Paradise) is located. And, right under this place, there is an entrance to Irshi Mahi Rawana’s underwater Kingdom.
        A deadly weapon and a Vimana (plane) used by Rawana’s son Indrajit reminds me of Russia. The weapon is similar to Mr. Putin’s “Satan II”, and the Vimana is similar to his “Doomsday Plane”. Mr. Putin is the most religious Catholic/Christian leader in the world. I am sure, even the Pope will attest to it. The entire world revolves around him. He is currently engaged in a (war). His opponents are other Christian countries. What does this mean?
        Talking about Russia and Ukraine, the US led NATO has offered a new set of their redundant weapons to Ukraine, namely; Germany’s redundant Leopard 2s, America’s deadly Abrams M1A2s and Britain’s Challenger 2s. And, they say it is not a provocation! Well, it is partly true, until Russia decides to “welcome” Abrams M1A2s with a “gun salute” from its Kirov-class battlecruiser!

        • 3
          0

          Champa dear,
          “until Russia decides to “welcome” Abrams M1A2s with a “gun salute” from its Kirov-class battlecruiser!”
          You mean the one in the Black Sea which now has been converted to a submarine ? Has Putin fitted it with wheels so it can operate on land now? Amazing!

        • 2
          0

          Champo… you should better change your medicine.
          .
          European gas prices are increasing more and more… for so long the situation will remain the same… nothing will matter to anyone. People suffer from at least 30% increase in price of food items over all dairy products (cheese, milk, butter etc.).
          SRILANKEN inflation level is beyond discussionn, however, the situation world wide too is not neglectable.
          And srilanken situation was created by the very people.And they would remain as before, not correcting their own mistakes. Stupid people put the snake in their cloths and now suffer a lot…. looking back Good governance govt already predicted that 2022 and 2023 would be much difficult with our loans repayments and shrinking economy having studied the loans deliberatety taken by “medamulana barbarians” for their tamashas, having abused collosal amounts as no other previous leaders did….. however, COUNTRY #s media and mlechcha Rajapakshe supporters, painted the picture ” like sand castles”:

          That is their tradition. Whatever wrong doing they committ is explained by ” so called karma which is not familiar to europeans”:
          .

          • 0
            0

            You should advise SJ as well. His case is more acute than Champa’s. Chincohomopathy.

            • 1
              3

              hp
              How are you today? No improvement yet?
              *
              How is your love for your master race? Going strong I guess?

            • 0
              0

              Mr HP,
              .
              That’s no comparison at all. Heaven and earth difference.
              Champa as I know him/her is someone who knows nothing of what he/she is talking about.
              But s/he is boasting of doing more with research in Entrapology.
              .
              All of Sri Lanka is drowning, Champa speaks about her love for Putin. All of Europe is affected by gas prices.
              .
              Didn’t you notice until now? Champa didn’t have the faintest idea about the current problems in SRIALNKA.
              Sadu Sadu effect blinds Champa and Sinhala Buddhists.

        • 1
          0

          Champa,
          First time have heard the Russian orthodox church follower being backed by the Pope, head of the Roan catholic church!!
          Lo and behold, what’s happening in this world???!!! Amazing
          Never heard much of battlecruisers!!
          Presume, by name “KIROV-CLASS” must be special!!??
          The question is, what is the common point???? The former is land based and latter sea based unless one type or more is amphibious!!??
          Please clarify which one is that category!!!
          I am lost because my communication links were through the Russian embassy (which presume now is the SL Prime Minister’s Office) – during Nikita Khrushchev’s time, when Putin was never heard of, probably busy blowing up something or the other in the western world, for him to climb up the KGB ladder??? Thanks, in advance!

          • 0
            0

            Mahila,
            Be careful in discussions with Champa. In her universe, Putin and Ranil are Catholics, Buddha was born in Sri Lanka , and battle cruisers have to avoid flying pigs.
            Talk, but do not endanger your sanity.

      • 3
        0

        Champa
        Where did you find your “actual history “? Was only one copy printed, only for you?
        What a lucky person you are, with this ability to be stoned all the time, without using crystal meths.

        • 0
          3

          old codger
          Do your own research and find out by yourself.

          • 0
            0

            Like the one you did on Dr.. Shaffi. Thank God he is now suing all those who framed him.

            • 3
              0

              chiv

              “Thank God he is now suing all those who framed him.”

              You mean all the saffronistas, Jeyasumana, ……. DIG, ….

              • 0
                0

                Native, in Chimpa’s mythical world, Pissu Sira refused to stand in the court house dock but framed Dr. Shaffi to put him in prison for months. What an A. Hole.

    • 3
      0

      Champa dear,
      Even we have plenty of aliens. They are locked up in a camp in Mirihana. Most of them look just like us.

  • 4
    0

    OC, I sincerely hope the war will not last for more than a year in Chimpa’s mythical / alien world (what ever the person smoking seems potent)

    • 0
      0

      You have just a few weeks left.

      • 0
        0

        That is what you”ll said a year ago ??? Even passive smoking (partner) can be dangerous and potent.

        • 0
          0

          Do you want another year?
          OK. We can wait.
          *
          BTW
          Who smokes pot at home?
          That may explain your confused utterances better than your poor language skills.
          Will it also explain your ding-dong troubles?

  • 6
    1

    UOJ Saddampi Baby has to learn to walk on own legs, shame to ever be a tail wagging slave for every communist Tom, Dick & Harry. It is so childish that whenever one sees another communist, they just jump into their pouch for protection. Perinpanayagam only sells Dr. Obyeyesekere’s research. Dr. Obyeyesekere is a different historian within Sinhala Intellectuals. It does not mean that we must buy it. Do we buy every theory of Westerners, though they are more balanced in their works? Dr. Obyeyesekere postulates that Tamils and Sinhalese lived in the island together and both practiced Buddhism, though Tamils practiced Hinduism too. That is partially true but does not explain why there are five Eswarms and two Murugan temples in the shore lands, getting dated before the birth of Buddhism. Somebody like to tell Kathirkamam only Vedda’s temple, then but about Maviddapuram? How does one relate South Indian, Tamil Murugan temples with Ceylon Vedda temple? The Island was, once, completely occupied Tamil races. With the arrival Buddhism in north, Sinhala Language gave to birth. The Tamils lived at that time there, became Sinhalese and Buddhists. At the start it happened in the North, & middle, and later moved to the south. Watch the recent history, how Muslim Tamils lived with Tamils, in the past few centuries.

    • 2
      5

      Back to bad habits? Or never got off the un-prescribed stuff?

      • 4
        0

        What are you talking about? Is that why your parents named you as Savam?. Didn’t you say you won’t send me the Deva badu you market, any more?

        • 0
          3

          So the stuff seems pretty strong.
          Does the doctor know what you have on the sly?

          • 3
            0

            Do you think my doctor might be another UOJ Sadampi to struggle that much to prove himself? I don’t know; may be!

  • 7
    1

    Soon, all of them will be speaking Arabic, in imported language. Kalapriya ruling in Tamil Nadu gave a political clout to Ceylon to evolve into a new religion and Language. It temporarily cut off the ever-flowed Hindu Tamil influence on Ceylon. The life of Buddhists & Hindus became like how Tamils Christians and Tamils Hindus are living now. Minority migration of Bengalis can be explained by a temporary famine. The Kalinga war could have expedited that migration. It may be the reason Asoka selected Ceylon to send an entourage, a sincere attempt to reconcile with the Bengali migrants. In Later days, Jainist Thirunavukkarasar wiped out Jainism and Buddhism from Tamil Nadu & India. This caused hate to get exported into Ceylon around, 4th, 5th & 6th centuries. After the arrival of this hate mongering Buddhists Monks, Tamil Hindus received a second-class treatment from Southern Buddhist Kings. After the rise of the Chola empire, South Indian trading expanded in Ceylon. Traders started to get a foot in the North and expanded their horizon up to Kotte. By that time Kerala Muslims got into Seethawaka and Portuguese into Kotta. The self-surrendered Kotte became a Traitors’ Heaven and helped the Portuguese to run over Jaffna. The Kotte King, in return for sex with a Portuguese servant girl, handed over Kotte to a Portuguese-Dutch combination.

    • 7
      1

      Correct Mallaiyuran talking rubbish about a separate Keralan language and identity, which at that time was non-existent, their identity at that time was Chera Tamil and the language the western Chera Tamil. Did not like it when PK pointed it out and the actual source of the origin of the word Illankai, therefore jumped on the suggestion he made that the meaning of Ilanko could have been learned or knowledgeable and not the younger king or prince. It is a young prince. Funny very cunningly glossed over the bigger mistake and misinformation, that Kerala at that time had a separate language and identity from the rest of the Tamils, which is a bigger boo-boo or deliberate misinformation. Modern Malayalam language and identity came much later. They were still part of the greater Tamil identity at that time, like the Chola, Pandian, Pallva and others. To gloss over this and deflect criticism from this big mistake the author made, they made a mountain out of a molehill, with regards to the small mistake PK made and like fiddle de dee and dum, jointly started to attack him or her.

      • 2
        7

        Whether Malayalam existed seven or ten centuries ago is irrelevant.
        It is is much livelier modern language than Tamil, with a wealth of contemporary literature unmatched by Tamil. It can deal with demands of modernity far better than Tamil.
        Kerala achieved the highest literacy level in India almost a century ago, as a result of which the spoken and written languages are fairly close unlike in Tamil.
        What has happening to Tamil? It is clumsily anglicised and, thanks to TV more than the movie, Sri Lanka’s Tamil dialects are getting polluted beyond recognition.
        *
        மறைவாக நமக்குள்ளே பழங்கதைகள் சொல்வதிலோர் மகிமையில்லை
        There is no glory in sharing old tales among ourselves.

        • 5
          1

          Do not try to BS. Tamil Nadu is performing far better than Kerala in every way. Economically, educationally, industrially and in food production. Hundreds of thousands of Keralites rely on Tamil Nadu for their employment, education and many other needs and not the other way around. The 90% of the Tamils who live in Kerala are ethnic Tamils from Kerala, either from the border areas like Pallakadu, or Idduki, which should have been given to Tamil Nadu and not immigrants. There is hardly any industry in Kerala and its economy is entirely reliant on overseas, especially Gulf remittances. Kerala looks very green and rural as they hardly have any industry and agriculture there is largely subsistence agriculture or commodities like spices or tea. They largely rely on Tamil Nadu for their staple food like rice, vegetables, milk products and even meat.

          • 5
            0

            What makes you think Malayalam is livelier than its Tamil mother? It is also now equally corrupt and anglicised, and for your information, modern Malayalam really broke off from its Tamil mother only around 500 years ago and it was only confined to about 15-20 % of the population until the 1820s, the masses in Kerala, including the powerful Syrian Christian church, was still using the old Tamil Malayalam as their language, written in the Tamil Vateluthu script until the British banned it, at the request of their Namboothit allies and made the highly Sanskritised Grantha bhasha the Nambothothiris, written in the Tilgari script as the official language and cunningly renamed it Malayalam, the name given the ancient Tamil dialect of Chera Nadu and a sop to the Tamil masses of Kerala introduced a lot of Tamil works into this dialect. What you are posting is all irrelevant to the historical facts that were inaccurate.

            • 1
              6

              I was talking about the wealth of modern literature in Malayalam, and the ability of the language to deal with modernity.
              Tamil cannot even present correctly in writing a good fraction of the words acquired over the past few decades.
              There is no unified glossary of technical terms even within Tamilnadu.
              *
              We can pretend that we are better than this or that.
              The point is that Tamil is not good enough to deal with the modern world in many fields.
              So what we have is a part imagined ancient glory to intoxicate us.

          • 1
            6

            I was talking about language development.
            English increasingly rules Tamilnadu.
            Do not go at a tangent to duck the issue.

            • 4
              0

              The subject is there was no separate Kerala language or identity at the time when the author of this article is discussing. During this era the language of Kerala was Tamil and they were part and parcel of the Tamil identity. Even when the Portuguese arrived the masses of Kerala, were still identifying their language as a form of Tamil or Malabar Tamil. You are the one who has been caught out bullshitting and ducking the issue with irrelevant topics like modern Tamil diglossia in Tamil Nadu and modern spoken Malayalam, which is also equally corrupt and trying to deflect and turn the topic, just like the way you cunningly did for PK, as you did not like the core message in his comment, so caught hold of the trivial mistake he made, which really was a suggestion and went to town with it, to deflect everyone from the core message that was accurate. Everyone and everything is good other than your own Tamil ethnicity and language.

        • 4
          1

          What a stupid talk. TN opposed Hindi wholeheartedly and bent to use English. Even the non-school attended in TN’s truck drivers were forced to use English. Yes, nothing strange, in TN Tamil & English both are corrupted now. When, from time to time, Tamil got corrupted with Sanskrit & Pali, Marati, Kanada, Telugu, Sinhala, and Malayalam were born. Do you understand that, or you are obstinate to wash Siri Ma O’s back for a Tamil translator position with a mechanic education? When Britain was leaving India, Tamils were the coolies of the world. Now, TN is the 2nd flourishing State in India. They earned it by brokenly using English, instead, like Langkang bastard Tamil elite professors and executives, washing Siri Ma O for VC. It was a clerk, Kodeeswaran, in Ceylon who fought against Sinhala Only. TN brings northerners to fill up its jobs. Kerala is one of the poorest states in India; doing many times more Middle East cooli jobs than the “nation-less, stateless, government-less” Langkang Modayas. Because their communism misguided them. In the north, they call even Tamils as Malaiyalees, because Malaiyalees created that much hate for them and others, only after willingly surrendering to Hindi. Hopefully one day you will infuse some soul into that Savam and wake up to see the world, instead of keeping your eyes closed and singing Marx’s centuries old Thiruvasakam.

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