The Perahera in Kandy was permitted even with artistes catching Covid. The Nallur Thiruvilla was banned. Our terrorising police had parades at the temple for TV but shut down streets and diverted traffic although no one was worshipping. When robbers came 2 doors away (21.08.2021) during curfew, the police emergency number did not answer, and the normal number was hung up when I called. The police do not protect us. My Nellore is being robbed of its name and history.
Rick Grannis of UC Irvine found American racial populations being organized according to “who is down the street.” I address here the subtle fight over place names to suggest the dwellers’ caste. Nellore is the name of Nallur in early church records. Streets correlate to caste and land price.
We see street segregation in the Fifth Century Tamil Hindu Epic Chilappathikaram Canto 5. Streets are reserved by caste having their “respective localities.” Jewellers, copper/iron mongers, cobblers, grain-sellers, et al., had their reservations – even mutton vendors, fishmongers, and prostitutes. These places in the city went by the name of Maruvurppakkam (The Other Village Side). In Pattinappakkam (Town Side) dwelt highly renowned great men.
Nellore was the seat of the Jaffna Kingdom of the Aryachakaravarthies. Chekarajacekaramalai says their lineage was Brahmin (I doubt it). Our royals naturally upheld agamic Hindu culture; particularly caste.
Madurai’s practice was upheld in Nellore – see the street map from the Jaffna Public Library. The CMS St. James’ stands where the principal Hindu Temple stood at Nellore Centre. Guardian-temples stood in agamic fashion, namely Chattanaathar Kovil (North), a destroyed untraceable temple (West), Moothavinayagar Kovil (South) and Veyyilviluntha Pillaiyar Kovil (East). The map says what caste lived where. People who want a high-status buy into Vellala areas.
There is pushback. For example, North of Chattanaathar Kovil is where the Kaikular of middling caste live (palace guards). It was called Kaikulanj Chanthai, now renamed Kalviankadu. This area North of the Palace was occupied by the Portuguese garrison. Many Kaikular show admixture: physical stature (like TELO’s Srisabaratnam), pink skin, and grey eyes which are now ascribed to Brahmin admixture and used by Kaikulas to make claims to Brahmin-ritual, like shorter periods of mourning.
The upper castes lived on the main roads within the circle of the guardian temples centred on CMS St. James’, called Changili Thoppu (King Changili’s Garden). People in the bylanes were of lower castes – typically workers from the trades and musicians, whom the royals needed, and untouchables.
Old families from Changili Thoppu, the Hensmans and the Phillipses, may assert royalty through their lands there. Where the palace stood used to be Chettiar Thottam (the Vaisya Chetties are higher than the Sudra Vellalas). Chettiyar Thottam has been encroached on by powerful Kaikulas from the area who have built there and are able to prevent their eviction.
In India many Christians were untouchable. To avoid this reputation holding back conversions, the Church sought upper-stratum Tamils for the clergy. The Rev. John Hensman was a prize catch from royalty as the first Anglican priest from Jaffna. It is a shame that Dr. Victor Hensman of that family whose life we celebrated only on 15 Aug. 2021 through an international Zoom conference, abandoned that proud heritage and took on the name E.M.V. Naganathan, MP, SJV Chelvanayakam’s righthand.
The high-caste Circle stopped East of Veyyil Viluntha Pilllaiyar Kovil where Chemmany Road (leading to Chemmany) ends on the map. East of that is Nayanmaarkattu where field workers lived. The unnamed road at the top-right of the map was Nayanmaarkattu Veethi (becoming Aadiyapaatham Road) going to Thirunelveli Market. The short stretch of road from Kachcheri-Nallur Road towards the temple as Point Perdro Road curves toward Muththirai Chanthai was exclusively for Musicians, who could be heard practising their sweet music up to the mid-1960s. They have sold their lands to those seeking caste-upgrade by coming closer to the Nallur Temple.
Many new families have moved in buying land especially as the Christians left Nellore. Changili Thoppu where CMS St. James’ stands and the Palace stood, contains Muthirai Chanthai (Stamp Market, where stood a market to my times, and named so because the King’s tax collectors stamped in indication that taxes had been paid). That market is gone now so new-comers give away their late-coming status by calling it Muththirai Chanthi (Stamp Junction), although Church deeds refer to “Muththirai Chanthai.”
Chemmany Road, running by the old palace and central temple with the stretch of Point Pedro Road in front of the Palace entrance, was one of the most important roads. Fr. V. Perniola (The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka) makes occasional reference to the early church in Jaffna in Portuguese times. The early missionaries were Franciscans. King Changili martyred the first Franciscans and many Tamil saints, including his own son. The name Chemmany Road is commonly thought to have its etymology in chem (red) mani (stone, jewel). That, however, is far-fetched because there are no red stones or gems in the area. The likely etymology is chem (holy-red) munn (sand)-ee (the place that has red sand). Chemmany is the place where martyrs’ blood was spilt. As such, the church precincts and the Teachers’ Training College, with its associated CMS Practising School, are hallowed grounds for Christians, RC and non-RC.
The Rev. Elijah Hoole, ordained a year after Hensman, married a girl from Nallur and the Hooles have lived on Chemmany Road for generations. Because women gave up their surname at marriage, little is known of her family except that her dowry was big. Church deeds testify that our land belonged to my great-great grandmother “Mrs. E. Hoole.”
The significance of Nellore is that, following our kings, the Dutch Governor lived in his mansion by the Church which now is the Mission House. His path to work to the Kachcheri he had lined with Mahoganies. The Bishop on his visitations celebrated at St. James’. After St. John’s College founded in 1852 grew, Chundikuli became more important.
Nellore Temple History
St. James’s Church is built on the original Central Temple razed to the ground presumably in June 1619 when the Portuguese launched an expedition against Changili II. Changili took baptism in Goa before his beheading for his crimes, testifying “I would rather die a Christian Coolie than a Heathen King” and “uttering the sweet name of Jesus” (Queyroz, 690-1). His two Queens were preached to by Friar Antonio de Santa Maria (Queyroz 686ff); involving long debates about religious choices with the Queens showing appreciation for Christianity but not sufficiently to convert – until one Queen one day is moved to ecstatic tears and gets baptised and preaches to the other who too converts. She donated the land where the central temple stood to the Church. On that spot was built a Roman Catholic chapel occupying the St. James’ altar and vestry, and a schoolhouse. Thus St. James’ turned 557 years old in June 2019 when it had Mary as part of its name (citing Roman Catholic historian Rev. Dr. Fr. J. E. Jeyaceelan), although the 200th anniversary recently celebrated was only of the Anglican Church.
Following replacement of the Central Temple by a Roman Chapel, historic documents refer to the Nellore Temple having been built by Chembaha Perumal. There is deliberate spinning between the razed temple and the new to make the present temple seem old. The Wikipedia says, “According to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the temple was developed at the site (NB) in the 13th century by Buwaneka Bahu, a minister to the King of Kotte. Chembaha Perumal is credited with building the third Nallur Kandaswamy temple”. Where were the first and second? Other so-called encyclopedic sources say, “the Temple’s foundation was laid in 948 AD. … Due to invasion of foreigners, the temple had to be relocated several times in different places within [the] Nallur area.” Nonsense.
After 948 AD it was the time of the ardently Saivite Cholas, who never would have destroyed a Kandasamy Temple, and then of the Aryachakaravarthies who too promoted Saivism. So why did the temple have to be relocated several times within Nallur whereas those escaping invaders would have fled Nellore?
However, many writers blame Phillippe de Olivero – a Portuguese army commander – for destroying all Hindu temples in Jaffna in 1620. His expedition against Changili II was in 1618. So where was the Nallur temple he destroyed? Which? When? That account is doubtful. The actual destruction would have been in 1619 under de Olivero by when a Christian Chapel was already standing. That would have been where the original temple was. Stories of its relocation need clear proof of when and to where it was relocated.
The present-day Nellore Temple was really built (as a new temple, not rebuilt) when the Dutch allowed it. According to what I was taught in primary school and to India’s Jaffna Consul General’s web site, “It is believed that there was a shrine dedicated to an Islamic Sufi saint in the temple complex from 1734 to 1749 which was relocated in 1749 when the temple structure was built.” This relocation was presumably to the Burgher [Firangi in Hindi as in Parangi Theru] Quarter, Chinnakadai, where the Sufis had a centre on Bankshall Street. Many American disciples would come and stay therre. (When my wife gave birth to our eldest in 1985 in Philadelphia, the nurse wrote my daughter’s name in Tamil to show my wife. Strangely the Sufi Chief had been taken to Philadelphia where he had an Ashram and this nurse had been among the Parangis who fled to Australia and South Africa).
Clearly the present temple stands on “The Other Village Side” in the Muslim quarter with bad connotations for caste. The original Nellore (Paddy Village, Chemmany to this day having paddy fields cultivated by Palla field workers) had to be rescued and made Nallur, the place of good people. The Muslims were pushed further West into Chonaka Theru.
What was done to the Sufis was exactly what the Portuguese did to the Hindus, and the LTTE did to the Muslims in Oct. 1990.
So the Nallur temple cannot be older than late Dutch rule – late in the Eighteenth Cent. when the Dutch began giving permission to build temples. (The Portuguese never attacked Mosques because they contained no idols).
We see a lot of self-enhancing expansionist heritage history concerning Nallur. Wikipedia even claims, “Part of the original Shivalingam of the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was located in the Vicarage [of St. James’] till 1995 when it was destroyed during the recapture of Jaffna by Sri Lanka armed forces. Nonsense. I lived in the vicarage from 1956 to 1967. There was no Sivalingam.
Battle for Nellore
St. James’ is the centre of Nellore made into Nallur to claim high caste status which the temple lacked in “The Other-Village-Side”, although according to the map, several lower castes also live in Nellore outside the circle round St. James’. The temple too was outside this circle.
The new temple stands where Muslims and traders ejected from there lived; technically on low-caste soil. It was Maruvurppakkam rather than central Nellore in Pattinappkkam. Reclaiming “the Town-side” is a long-term project in progress. For that, the temple area must expand East and Nayanmaarkattu expand West, thereby eliminating the real Nellore.
I have begun receiving letters addressed to Nayanmaarkattu Road rather than Chemmany Road (our address for generations). St. James’ up to 1975 or so was dominated by Vellalas, but now only about 3 families remain. The other castes to the east (Nayanmaarkattu) and south (Ariyalai) outside the circle around St. James’ dominate the church, even though the Hindus among them have stone-throwing and fisticuffs when there is Paraya-Palla love. With all Wardens today non-Vellalas, they have lumped our family with Nayamaarkattu for administrative purposes arguing that Changilithoppu is now part of Nayanmaarkattu. Likewise, Paraya Street now has disappeared into St. Benerdict’s Street. The North-South Nayanmaarkattu Olungai leading to Nayanmaarkattu is removed and now runs East-West to Kanaharatnam Road leading to Ariyalai. However, the Provincial Department of Education has illegally encroached on the CMS Teachers’ Training College. The Vellalas (or aspiring Vellalas) there will not use the Nayanmaarkattu Road as address in preference to Chemmany Road. Therefore obliterating that Chemmany Road address is uphill.
The attempt to replace “Chemmany Road” with the name “New Chemmany Road” elsewhere is ongoing. A road by this name is seen as having been started from Kaikulanj Chanthai. It does not even reach Chemmany. The Nallur sub-Post Office was within the circle by Chattanaathar Kovil. That has been moved to Kaikulanj Chanthai diminishing the claims of the original Nallur.
When I returned to Sri Lanka and was looking for land close to St. James’, my Hindu relations told me my Hindu cousin in new Nallur was selling his land. When I inquired, he denied it. My relations said he was untruthful. Three months later he had sold it to a Hindu. There is an ongoing attempt to call the temple area Siva Boomi. So meat-eating Christians are not welcome (although I am vegetarian when most Hindus re not). Even the strict king of Kannaki’s, Pandiyan Nedunj Chelian, permitted mutton-vendors and fishmongers; but not the Velllalas of Nallur Temple. Eating-houses are vegetarian. A meat-eating German Shepherd on Siva Boomi has been switched to vegetarian.
The real Nellore is vanishing. The usurper Nallur stands on sufi soil and is in bad hands; the hands of people who use caste to attack others and try to enhance their caste, but will say to talk about the evils of caste is to practise caste.