By Sripali Vaiamon -
Dr. Sripali Vaiamon
Citizens in Sri Lanka comprised of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burgers and can’t possibly avoid Veddas; are all making every possible attempt to conglomerate and live in the island minus clashes deviating from divergent attitudes based on hegemony, chauvinism and claiming supremacy one over the other, historically or otherwise. We should be familiarized with every minute detail of the past to live in harmony.
The renowned journalist of yesteryear, the late Mr.H.A.J. Hulugalle, in 1947, in his ‘Information for tourists’ stated the Sinhalese are a mixed race, and the Sinhala language has been vastly enriched with words from the Tamil vocabulary. (Prakrit,Pali and Sanskrit added more.) Don’t get excited for what I am going to say. I have read several articles by the veteran journalist D.J. Devananda and hundreds of comments responded for and against which prompted me to initiate this article.
At the outset I wish to request our readers not to depend solely on our greatest chronicle, Mahavansa
relevant to ancient history of the country, where each and every account embodied in that colossal masterpiece of Rev.Mahanama is not exactly authentic. He had no intention to compile authentic history with evidence in every instance. He has stated very explicitly that he compiled it for the satisfaction of the readers. ( Ithi Sujanath Pasenda sangvegaththaya kathey Mahavansa ) Maybe because he had no confidence 100% on the historical date that he collected. The origin of the Sinhala race still remains an unresolved issue which is the most single viable factor in history. From the annals of the early history, quite a number of revelations by our eminent archaeologists have been made with, which we can have a somewhat clear picture of our past.
Mahavansa author has started the order of monarchies of the Island with Vijaya.543 B.C. Vijaya had met a yakka queen Kuveni who was spinning to weave cloths, from whom he learned there is a kingdom by the name Sirisawasthu and the king is Mahakalasena. If this is what Mahavansa author himself revealed, Vijaya cannot be the first monarch of the Island. Mahakalasena should come first in the list, as a local king. According to the depiction in Mahavansa Vijaya and entourage have come from Bengal ( Vanga dese) of the East of India, but in between he has said Vijaya touched a port, Barukachcha, which is in the western coast below present Mombai. Which is an unbelievable error of the author. According to Ceylon Historical Journal ,Vol 1,pps 163-7 Dr.A.L.Basham has conclusively shown that they had come to Ceylon from western coast and not from East of India. This affirmed further to say that they have come from Sihor in the Kathiyawar District of Gujarath. Dr.S.Paranavithana is totally agreeable with this revelation.
Another glaring point is, couldn’t we surmise from these two terms, Sirisawasthu and Mahakalasena, that the language used in that era was Sanskrit. It is quite evident that the inhabitants may have used crude Sanskrit as a local dialect which they have named it as Sinhala, as Sinhala is a Sanskrit term. It appeared first in Sabha Parva of Mahabharatha and several ancient Sanskrit books viz.Brahath Sanghitha, Markandya Purana, Bhagavatha. The compilation of Mahabharatha had started around 900 B.C.
300 to 400 years prior to the advent of Vijaya there had been a civilization in Anuradhapura. According to Dr.Siran Deraniyagala who conducted excavations couple of years back revealing that there have had paddy cultivation and horse breeding during this period. They were familiar with iron technology too. This period coincides with the era of commencement of the compilation of Mahabaratha. Several centuries later people have used a language Illu, Helu or Hela. Dr.J.T.Xavier in his ‘The land of Letters’, says etymological analysis proves that Gujarath was known as Illu.(p.12) By the landing of Vijaya or Vijesinghe from Gujarath could there be any connection to the discovery of Ilu,Helu or Hela as a language in ancient era. This should be left for the philologists to investigate.
Now let’s inquire into the list of foreign kings, particularly from South India who attacked the sovereignties and took over the regions to rule the people in the Island. Most of these foreigners to conquer Sri Lanka must have come with thousands of soldiers, all were males. e.g. Lanka was invaded by Magha in 1215 with a force of 24,000 Tamils from Kerala and Malabar. He was a prince of Kalinga.(‘Contacts and conflicts with SL’ by Dr.Nandadeva Wijesekara.) After their leader became the monarch they assumed various duties and settled down in the country with local women and sired children who also were most probably addressed as Sinhalese.
King Gajaba who had a dispute with the king of Kerala for taking 12,000 of his men during his father’s reign to build bridges in Kerala, went over there with his soldiers and brought not only his 12,000 but another 12,000 from them and he allowed them to settle down in few regions in Sri Lanka. They got married to local women and produced offspring who were invariably became Sinhalese.
Let’s have a glance at the list of foreign kings
Vijaya – 543 BC. Gujarathiyan an Aryan
Mutaasiva 367 BC. Pandyan
Devanampiya tissa –son of Mutasiva 307 BC. He may have become a Sinhalese by self conversion. (Mahavansa described him as being foremost among all his brothers in virtue and intelligence -but never reveals his ethnicity).
Utthiya – son of Mutasiva -267 BC
Mahasiva – 257 BC. Son of Mutasiva
Sena-Guththika 237 BC Indians
Asela -205 BC. Youngest son of Mutasiva
Elara -235 BC. Chola or Kerala
Pulahaththa -103 B.C. Tamil Chief
Bahiya – 100 B.C. Chief Minister of Pulahaththa
Paniyamara 91 B.C. Prime Minister of Bahiya
Piliyamara 91 B.C.Chief Minister of Paniyamara
Dathika 96 B.C. Chief Minister of Piliyamara
Siva 1 -47 BC.
Ilanga – 38 BC.
Chanda Mukha 44 AD.Son of Ilanga
Yasalalaka -52 AD. Younger brother of ChandaMukha
Pandu 436 AD. Pandyan invader
Parindu 441 AD. Son of Pandu
Kuda Parindu 441 AD. Younger brother of Pandu
Tiritara -447 AD. Fourth Tamil Ruler
Datiya -447 AD. Fifth Tamil Ruler
Pithiya 450 AD. Sixth Tamil Ruler
Kasyapa -479 AD. Son of Dathusena by a Pallawa woman
Siva 2 -524 AD.
Silakala 526 AD. A prince of Lambakarna
Dathppebhi 539 AD. Second son of Silakala
Mahinda 2 1187 AD.– aka Kalinga
Nissankamalla 1187 AD. aka Kalinga
Virabahu 1 1196 AD. Son of Nissankamalla
Vikkramabahu 2 1196 AD. Younger brother of Nissankamalla
Chodaganga 1196 AD. Nephew of Nissankamalla
Sahassamalla 1200 AD. Younger brother of Nisssankamalla
Kaliyamalla 1202 AD. Queen of Nissankamalla
Lokissara 1210 AD. Leader of a Tamil army
Parakarama Pandya 1212 AD.A Pandyan king
Kalinga Magha 1215 AD. A prince of Kalinga
Kirthi Sri Rajasinha 1747 AD. from Madura or Kerala
Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha 1782 AD. Brother of Kirthi Sri Rajasinha
Sri Wikkrama Rajasinha 1798 AD. Nephew of Rajadhi Rajasinha
These were taken from several sources. Almost all these monarchs are from South India, may be Chola, Pandyan,Kerala Hoysala, Kalinga, Tamil, Pallawa.etc. As such it is rather difficult to identify their authentic ethnicity. According to Encyclopedia of Britannica there were twenty odd Dravidian speaking communities in South India viz. Thelagu, population wise the highest, then comes Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Gonds, Kurka, Maito, Kui, Kolami, Purji, Gadba, Pengo, Kenda, Irula, Badaga, Thoda, Kata,Kadaga,Tulu,
Northern region of the Island was controlled by several Chola rulers from 1450. First Chola ruler was Arya Chakkravarthy. Thereafter several sub kings from South India ruled the region until Sapumal Kumaraya, a General of the Sinhala king of Kotte, ousted the last Chola king. He changed his name as Sembagapperumal, got married to a Tamil woman and settled down in Jaffna peninsula.
The term “ Walauwa “ used by our aristocratic people for their massive houses is borrowed from Chola’s “ Walauwa “.
Jaffna was occupied by the Sinhalese, according to Mudliyar C.Rasanayagam, prior to have been taken over by Cholas. This is not only seen in named places of Jaffna but also in some of the habits and customs of the people.
I wish to quote two instances from an article by Prof. H.L Senaviratna with curtsy to him, where he says, there is a fishing community in Negombo, where the whole village speak Sinhala during the day, and Tamil during the night.
Hendiyagala Seelaratana depicted a village called Kohombana in the Vevgam Patthuwa, in which inhabitants speak Tamil but their names are such as Ratnayaka Mudiyanselage or Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage revealed that they are Sinhalese.
Dr. Sarath Amunugama, a senior member in the present Cabinet, quotes two villages, in this article, in what might be called the border between the area occupied by Sinhalese and Tamils. When one village was formerly Sinhalese, now it has become Tamil. During the riots each fought against the other.
In Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka both Buddhist and Hindu statues are erected and in their rituals Hindu and Buddhist traditions are quite prominent. Devotees who worship Buddha statue first, next Bodhi tree and then Dageba and wish Nibbana. After, they go to the Gods, worship and pray to get fulfilled various things or get the Kapuwas to bless them in order to obtain material benefits from Hindu Gods Visnu, Katharagama Paththini etc. Hindus as well as Sinhalese Buddhists often pay homage to Katharagama or Visnu Devale at Devinuwara. Most Buddhists have colossal faith in God Katharagama.
During Gampola and Kotte periods Sinhalese were fluent in Tamil. So were the Muslims. At the British convention in 1815, in Kandy, Ratwatta Disawa signed that historical document in Tamil characters.
I read several articles in the Sri Lanka guardian written by veteran contributors such as D.J. Devananda and few other Tamil contributors where they have made various comments. One erroneous comment I noticed is that they had referred Naga kings who were in SL as Tamils. There were Naga tribes in several regions in India and Sri Lanka. It was from those who were in the Indus region Vedic writers borrowed the script Deva Nagari and terms such as Nagara, Nagarika etc.
Kalaniya was a Naga capitol where the niece of the king was married to a Naga king of Kanewaddamane, a hill near Rameswaram.
In Uraipur a Chola prince had married to a Naga princess of Lanka. Nagas in South India had similar connections with Nagas in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka there were Naga kings such as Mahallaka Naga,135 AD, Woharaka Tissa,141 AD, Kanittha Tissa 165 AD, Chula Naga 193 AD, Kuda Naga 195 AD, Siri Naga 196 AD, Woharaka Tissa 215 AD, Abhaya Naga 237AD, Siri Naga 11,245 AD Other than these, Kelani Tissa m Kelaniya was a powerful Naga king as well as Chulodara and Mahodara Rev. Mahanama created in his Mahavansa.
Among the four tribes that were living in Sri Lanka centuries ago, Naga tribe were living in Northern and Western regions. In Ptolamy’s map Jaffna region was marked as Nagadipo.( Vallipuram gold plate discovered from Vadamarachchi inscribed in Brahmi characters the entire Jaffna as Nagadeepa.) According to V.A. Kanagasabe, the author of ‘Tamils eighteen hundred years ago, Tamils are descendents of Nagas. He further says Tamil immigrants came to South India at distant intervals of time and in separate tribes and in fewer in number that they were aboriginal Nagas and then mixed with Dravidians. They had to adopt the Dravidian language and in course of time, they modified and refined into the language now known as Tamil. When DMK came into power in the Madras State In 1967 with Annadorai as the Chief Minister he got the state renamed as Tamil Nadu. I am reluctant to touch on the Tamil history more as what I have read in Tamil literature are somewhat different from what is appeared in today’s Web Sites. I’ll leave it to veteran like Mr. J.L. Devananda to elaborate further if necessary.
Prof.J.B.Dissanayake in his Sinhala book, ‘Nava Bimaka Nava Basmulbasi’refers to the four major tribes that were living in ancient era in the Island, that were Naga, Deva, Raksa and Yaksa. The late Mr.Arisen Ahubuda has elaborated on them more vividly. Yakkas were in North central and down South. Rakshasa were in North Eastern region but they deteriorated after the demise of Ravana. Deva tribe were in Sabaragamuwa and Kalutara District. The human fossils that were excavated in Beli lena, Batadomba lena and in Phahiangala lena in Bulathsinhala could be surmised as that of Deva tribe who were a major agricultural tribe that were in the Island.
Eco Team has already discovered 19 caves in those regions where these people supposed to have associated. Several agricultural castes were subsequently developed from their charismatic leaders and earned different caste names relevant to agriculture. God Saman also was one of their leaders treated as a deity after his demise. These Deva tribe inhabitants must not be mixed up with Devas who came over here with Rev. Sangamittha. Asoka’s queen was the daughter of a Situ in Videha-Deva nama kassa settee.(Social History of Early Ceylon by Prof Hema Ellawala). King Dharmasoka desired to send the Bodhi Saka through a reliable and noble people. He selected these people who were of Waisya caste. After coming over here they were entrusted with all the activities relevant to the Bodhi tree and were constantly expected to safe guard the Sri Maha Bodhiya. So they were ordered to reside in the ‘town itself’, as such they earned a name ‘Wahum Pura’. That is how the Aryans’ caste hierarchy was first introduced to Lanka. Mahavansa depicts in the 19th Chapter-Mahabodhi rakkanaththang Attarasa rathe sabo-
Devakulani dathvana atta machchakulanicha.
Due to South Indian invasions, time to time they were pushed down to areas like Kurunegala, Peradeniya, Kegalle, Kandy and ultimately to the Western province.
Tamil inhabitants did not observe the Vedic four-fold caste system. The word caste was introduced by Portuguese. Earlier terms used were, Varna or Jathi.
What I desire to stress in this article is that Tamils and Sinhalese from time immemorial were living together in the Island irrespective of caste and creed. But based on their theory South Indians developed different categories in their caste hierarchy. In Sri Lanka they had Vellalas got down from Tanjore by Dutch for tobacco cultivation. Later they started paddy cultivation and became land lords. Some of the land owning high castes are Mudalier, Maravan, Kowaelu, Palayachi, These high caste people treated the low castes maliciously. There was a very ferocious Tamil politician, Mr.Sunthralingam, who did not allow low caste people to enter their Kovils. I have well exploited this situation in my recent history book, Pre Historic Lanka to end of Terrorism. To prevent the ill-treatments by the high caste to these categories, Government had to issue the Social disability act in 1957.
Caste system has given rise to serious social evils. It denied certain civil and religious rights to large number of people and let to the oppressions and exploitations of one caste by another, which proved a constant source of discontent or unrest.(Kennath W Morgan in his The religion of Hindus.) However this was not so bad among Sinhala community presently except between two highest castes. The situation that of Dalit is abominable in India although the vast country is under the direct jurisdiction of Manmohan singh and Sonia Gandhi. Now Pranab Mukherjee is also in the scene. Only solution is to enact a strong clause to
the existing legal system and totally ban it.
The educated member seat, which was conducted in 1912 in Ceylon still has its repercussion among the two highest castes in the Island. The two candidates contested were Dr.Marcus Fernando of Karava caste with a Tamil politician Ponnambalam Ramanathan. Highest number of voters were Sinhalese in the Goigama caste. Mr.Ramanathan acquired 1645 votes while Fernando scored only 981. It was obvious Sinhala Goigama caste voters had cast their vote for Tamil politician. Here it was because of the caste rift among Sinhalese which is still alive in the country between the two highest castes. This is a monstrous hindrance for the nation building efforts of the government. The Americans and other Western countries are well aware with this tussle where an ex- major General is involved.
M.D.Ragavan in his ‘The Karave of Ceylon’ describes a onetime group of sea farers and fighting men, developed fishing as their main caste-occupation. They have since grown into a trading community of great wealth and enterprise. They were using ships with one mast called Doni to do business with South India by transporting goods. Incidentally Karava means ‘associating with the sea.’ Not necessarily fishermen but ship owners too. Latter became owners of graphite industry, arrack distilleries and proprietors of coconut lands in down South and became multimillionaires like the famous De Soyza families, some of them were also great philanthropists. Karaves have connection to Kuruksethra in Mahabaratha and some of them with names such as Adithya and Suriyas are descendants of Suriya clan.
On the other hand Most of the Goigama families who had close connections with the British Government got into high positions. Some of them possessed great wealth and earned huge names.
Now let by gone be by gone and do away with petty politics and age-old caste concepts. Take steps to shelter the harmony in the community for the sake of entire population in the country irrespective of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay or Burger. Don’t forget what Mr. Hulugalle enunciated; We, Sinhalese are a highly mixed community. We must not create caste or ethnic rifts within the communities. We should always take strides to move the country towards the prosperity minus vituperative media comments and destructive views by opposition party members.
The genealogy of Sinhalese could find up to three to six generations and not beyond. Sinhalese got mixed up during Portuguese era too. In the course of administration of Afonso de Alburquesque, it was the policy to encourage intermarriages between Portuguese soldiers and native women. Native women were seized, baptized and got them married to soldiers.(p24,Ceylon and his people by N.E.Weerasuriya.)
Sinhala New Year festival is an adaptation of Hindu New Year. Sectarian divisions of Sinhala Buddhist monks are primarily based on Brahamins’ Caste hierarchy which is quite contrary to the principles of his master’s doctrine . So many rituals of Kandy tooth –relic procession are borrowed from Hindu conceptions. BUT THESE ARE QUITE OKAY IN VIEW OF THE MULTI RACIAL AFFAIR WHICH HAVE BECOME NOW SOLID REALITY AFTER THE THIRTY YEARS WAR CROPPED UP DUE TO DISCRIMINATION AND HEGEMONY EXIST DURING THE PAST BUT WE SHOULD KNOW THE ENTIRE HISTORY and in this respect even this bit of information is not redundant.
Most of the personal names are concerned adaptations by Sinhalese such as Latha, Sunil, Asoka, Padmini, Deepika, Pushpa, Vije, Kapila and thousands more are Indians. Afonso, De Silva, Fernando, Perera, Don, Almaida etc are Portuguese. There are lot more directly from English names. Tamil names are almost all are South Indians while Muslim names are Arabic.
Muslims came to the Island in the 7th or 8th centuries. They were trading people. In Sri Lanka first lived in Pettah, particularly Bankshall street in compact houses. Commercial language in Pettah was Tamil as such they got used to speak Tamil. They are quite cordial with Sinhalese and Tamils, Malay and Burger communities who are now relatively small. Presently all of them live cordially in Sri Lanka. Only Tamils had a dissension mainly due to discrimination by the Government. In 1972 Constitution PM introduced Sri prior to Lanka and named it Sri Lanka. Lanka was a term exists from Ravana’s time for which Tamil used Ilangai. After this change Jaffna Tamils refused to get down even vehicles with Sri number plates. Refused to use the term Sri Lanka. Hitherto they use Illangai. Anyway now this problem has become staled. Let’s bid good bye to the animosity cropped up after the Independence. Now let us assume all the misunderstandings, discriminations are all over. Now let us create a friendly atmosphere all over the country. Let all the communities should live together as one nation, under one banner and under one legal system. So all are Sri Lankan. Sinhalese the majority with a long history has the pride along with other communities to use their ethnic names in loud and prominently in every personal occasion; weddings, cultural events, sports, rituals, language meetings, religious events, elections, heritage matters, parades etc. but in all official and general occasions, all the citizens should be addressed as ‘SRI LANKAN,’ collectively to avoid any possible enigma among communities which will apparently delay the activities relevant to nation building. I don’t wish to clarify on this vital matter further, if necessary, it is left to the authorities.
This will solve several problems in the country without much efforts and the Government could continue development activities according to the approved infrastructures with less troubles. Let Sri Lanka be a prosperous country within a decade.