25 October, 2020

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The Tamil Homeland Issue: The Red Herring Of Ancient Possession

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka: A Haunted Nation – The Social Underpinnings Of Communal Violence– Part 8

The spirit of the times has been such that these homeland papers have been enthusiastically received by the local press and quoted ever since in a bid to block any political accommodation on the Tamil Homeland issue. It is partly to do with a flawed academic tradition, which has either supported or not been critical enough of official history. Historical pro- cesses are so varied that it is often notoriously erroneous to try projecting back into the past as G.H. Peiris had explicitly tried. Language and religious practices can change within a genera- tion. When it comes to ancient societies, records left behind by the ruling class (e.g. the Mahavamsa of Ceylon and parts of the Bible) tend to give a picture of homogeneity that is radically misleading of societies lacking the centralising machinery of modern times.

When ancient Israel in the time of King Solomon (circa 960 BC) was at the height of its power, there was indeed a Jewish state. A care- ful reading of the Bible would show, however, that Israel was not then a Jewish country, as modern Zionists would insist.

1 Kings 9:20 – 23 and 2 Chronicles 2:17 – 18 tell us much about the non-Jews in ancient Is- rael. Among them were the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They were sub- ject to a tribute of bond service and Solomon used them as ‘bearers of burdens’ and ‘hewers in the mountain’ during the building of the great temple. The Jews themselves were not subject to bond service, but were required to give military service and occupied all important positions in the Palace and administration. It was quite evi- dently a society in which the Jews were a minor- ity ruling class. Such were ancient societies in general, and what has come to us in the form of chronicles, inscriptions and archaeological re- mains have little to say about the different lan- guages and way of life of the commoners – the majority – who lived and died in obscurity.

Sri Lanka, which is separated from India by a very narrow strip of water and is a meeting place of traffic between West and East Asia must surely have been subject to a host of influences. In the debate about original possession, many articles have appeared in the press recently, pointing out that many place names in Jaffna have a Sinhalese affinity. There is no problem in that. But there are other surprises too and in the most unlikely places.

Several rivers which were used in small-tank irrigation in the south-east of this country have names suffixed by ‘Ara’ rather than ‘Oya’. The large reservoir known as Pandikulam was listed among the tanks repaired by Parakhrama Bahu I (AD 1153-86), but its location was long un- known, although known to the folk of the area. Its location appeared in a sessional paper placed before the Ceylon Legislative Council in 1867, titled ‘Dambavinne Ratemahatmaya’s Report on Ir- rigation Works, Wellawaya Division No.1′. The con- tour of Pandikulam was mapped and presented in R.L. Brohier’s Ancient Irrigation Works of Ceylon, Vols. I-III, 1934-35. This again lies in the Sinhalese heartland in the deep South. The first large tank in this country – Minneri – attributed to Maha Sena about the third century AD, is suffixed by ‘eri’ – a sheet of water – readily recognisable in Tamil.

The word ‘kulam’ in Tamil (Sanskritised as kula) is described by the Rt. Rev. Robert Caldwell (A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages) as being derived from the pure Dravidian root kulu – cold. The word ‘aru’ (ara- Sinhalese form) meaning river in Tamil (correlative root eri, a tank) is said to have Semitic (Coptic-jaro and Hebrew-yor) rather than Indo-Aryan affinities.

Arguments to claims of ancient possession are, thus unwarranted. The history of Sri Lanka, which represents the confluence of diverse in- fluences, cannot be strait-jacketed into Sinhalese or Tamil History. Indeed the small sketch above may suggest regular ancient contact between the Pandyan country in the modern Tamil Nadu and Magama, the ancient port of Rohana, in the south-east of this island. On the earlier references to Gokanna (Shrine of Siva) in the Mahavamsa, the internal evidence strongly sug- gests that this was located near Magama. (See Mahavamsa 45:58-59 where Gonnagama and Gonnavitti are in Tissamaharama and especially 57:5 to Gokanna Vihara, with allusions to the nearby shrine of Skanda-Muruga in Kataragama. Erakkavilla and Brahman Kalanda, both in Rohana, which occur alongside Gokanna in 37:41 (circa 3rd century AD) point to the South rather than to the East. The reference to the Gokanna (Shrine of Siva) in Trincomalee occurs much later in the Mahavamsa in the 12th cen- tury AD). Conventional academic scholarship locates the earlier references also in Trincomalee. Other links are perhaps evi- denced by the cult of Skanda-Muruga and the insignia occurring in the inscriptions of King Dutugemunu (e.g. Maha Tabowa tank inscrip- tion, 1A in page 5 of Taprobanian Vol. I, ed. Hugh Nevill, 1887). In the latter, rather than the lion, we have the Pandyan carp with a cross in the middle (the Mina) along with the torch (the Sula). (See also Sect.5.4.)

From the few records we have, which tell us very little in comparison with the vast spectrum of life that has vanished without a trace, it is futile to parcel out ancient South India and Sri Lanka into ethnic enclaves (e.g. Sinhalese, Tamil, Malayali etc.) which had no meaning then. All that we may say with certainty is that there was in this region a constant confluence of peoples, influences, ideas, words, technical terms, vo- cabularies and symbols, that were readily adapted to local needs.

To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power  – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Rajan Hoole,
    All you say is plausible. But the fact remains that the Sinhalese have no other Motherland, but Sri Lanka.

    The Sinhalese are very conscious of the fact that Sri Lanka, “is (only)separated from India by a very narrow strip of water”, from the Hordes of TamilNadu.

    You must be aware that even Sri Lankan Tamils do not want an Invasion from Tamil Nadu!

    • 0
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      Rationalist

      “All you say is plausible. But the fact remains that the Sinhalese have no other Motherland, but Sri Lanka.”

      If manufactured Aryan Sinhala Buddhist could rob my ancestral land and make it into an exclusive homeland for 17 Million stupid people, they should be able to go back to parsley populated Bihar and make it their permanent home.

      Neither Tamils nor Sinhalese have the right to claim this island as their homeland.

      “You must be aware that even Sri Lankan Tamils do not want an Invasion from Tamil Nadu!”

      The Sinhalese and Tamils should have thought about it when their ancestors invaded my land.

      The only final solution would be is for them to gracefully go back to their land.

      • 0
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        Native Vedda,

        Succinctly articulated. Thank you.

        Then Sri Lanka will be Great National Park environmentally maintained by the original Natives, the Atteo.

      • 0
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        Sorry Native Veddah.
        We will leave the Country for yourselves.

        That is why we are leaving in leaky boats to wherever we are welcome.

        By the way, what did you call it when you were the sole Occupants?
        I am compiling a new Map of the World.

  • 0
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    The shrine of Shiva named ‘Thirukkoneswaram’ was flourishing in the seventh century C.E as ‘thevarams’ or Hindu religious hymns in praise of same were composed by Thrugnanasampanthar who lived in the same period. So the Saivite patrons of the Temple who would have lived in the Trincomalee area of that period could have been none other than Tamils.

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
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    Your homeland is Tamil Nadu.Nevertheless keep on writing crap regarding your mythical homeland.Of course there are presidents and kings at Angoda nut house!

    • 0
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      History should NOT be allowed to stand in the way of his fantasy.

  • 0
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    “Arguments to claims of ancient possession are, thus unwarranted. The history of Sri Lanka, which represents the confluence of diverse in- fluences, cannot be strait-jacketed into Sinhalese or Tamil History.”

    Thank you . History is the past , its the future that matters .

  • 0
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    Look Rajan Hoole. Why waste your time. It is much easier to prove that Tamils belong to south india and they have been pillaging SLK for centuries. If your theory is vaid, all the civilized world should emigrate to Mars and return the land to the crabs and the sea to the fishes. Go get a life!

  • 0
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    Professor,

    Pls read below and write an article challenging

    There is clearly no justification for once racial group claiming proprietary , exclusive rights over the others within these two boundaries set artificially by the British merely because there are more members of that group over the others. If there is any validity in such contention it would follow with even greater force from the same principle, since there is and always has been within the natural borders of Sri Lanka, am overwhelming preponderance of Sinhalese, the entirety of Sri Lanka is the homeland of the Sinhalese.
    Whilst Tamils are an overwhelming majority in the North the same can not be said about the Eastern Province. Muslims and the Sinhalese together constitute about 64% of the eastern Province.
    Although the Sinhalese are about 25 % of Eastern Province, the Tamils and the Muslim settlements are largely confined to the coastal areas (Particulary in Ampara and Trincomalee) which are relatively thickly populated compared to the sparsely populated Sinhalese villages which are spread over a huge area.
    Thus of the 22 assistant government agents divisions in the Trinco and Ampara districts the Sinhalese constitute the overwhelming majority in in 10 namely, Padavi Siripura,Gomarankadawela,Kantalai, Moraweva and Seruvila in the Trincomalee district and wevgam pattu ,panama pattu and bintennepattu in Ampara district whilst the Tamils constitute majority only in Trincomalee town and Tirikkovil in Amara .
    Thus the Sinhalese constitute the overwhelming majority in about 60% of Trincomalee district and 78% of Ampara district.
    This spartial distribution of the population was not a recent phenomenon caused by so called colonisation but one existed long before any Sinhalese was settled in the North and the East with state assistance is borne out by the findings of Professor G H Peries professor of Geography at Peradeniya university in his paper entitled an appraisal of the concept of the traditional homeland in Sri Lanka.
    Following is part of what he had to say.
    “For the issues with which the present study is concerned, the feature of the crucial relevance borne out by our maps is that in the Eastern Province as a whole in 1921,all the Tamil settlements are confined to a coastal strip barely extending 10 miles from the coast o the interior. The Sinhala settlements on the other hand though comparatively few were scattered over extensive areas of the interior, covering the entirety of the admistrative divisions of Bintenna,Udapalatha,Yati palatha and meda plaltha of wewgam pattu and panama pattuin. In the northern part of the the batticalo and Trincomalee districs were mostly uninhabited /scattered Sinhala settlement.
    This must be taken in the context of the fact that the Sinhalese names of numerous abandoned village tanks marked in our source maps in the inhabited tracts bear testimony to earlier process of de population. Our maps show further that the only non Sinhalese population clusters that were located in 1921 even a few miles to the interior of the seaboard were those associated with the irrigation works restored in the preceding decades. We can also observe that the Tamil settlements nearest to the claimed southern boundary of Kumbukkan oya was a coastal town of mixed population about 35 miles north of that boundary”

    The pattern of settlement distribution assumes significance from several points of view. In the first place considered in the light of our earlier observations on the trends of demographic change in the Preceding centuries the pattern as it prevailed in 1921 represents what may be regarded as the culmination of a long drawn out historical process featured, on the one hand, by territorial advances of the Tamil population and on the other , retreat and recession of the Sinhalese population.
    This , in turn implies that the process of “Tamilization’ in the eastern lowlands of Sri lanka had not penetrated significantly into the interior even at its most extensive territorial spread.
    The second point of significance arise from the fact that, often the “Tamil Homeland” is being defined with reference to the modern administrative units. Given the spatial patterns of ethnicity borne out bu our maps the demand by one ethnic group for exclusive proprietary rights over Provinces and districts encompass extensive tracts of territory which it had never occupied (and much of it, in every sense is the homeland of the other ethnic groups) appears in its true light as one which lacks a rational basis.
    In a functional sense sparsely settled interior of the eastern lowlands of Sri lanka was not a hinterland of the settlement clusters of the littoral. Both the interior as well as the littoral were very largely rural.
    Hence, a core periphery concept is of no relevance to the issue. More specifically, there is no empirical basis for a theoretical assertion that because there was numerical preponderance of the Tamils in the coastal areas , hinterland, areas, regardless of the traditional rights of the other ethnic groups, should form a traditional hinterland of the Tamil areas.
    The fact that the eastern littoral itself is not ethnically homogeneous (Well known but purposely over looked) is also illustrated by our maps with a fair degree of superiority.
    The littoral is as much the traditional homeland of the Muslims as it is of the Tamils. And in many areas , the Muslims constitute the majority which has no common cause with the Tamils and in fact is bitterly opposed to the EAST being MERGED with the NORTH
    Unfortunately for the Tamil secessionists there is not only a Total absence of any shred of evidence any part of the East having being governed by a Tamil King, but does not even have a numerical preponderance which could provide them with the remotest justification that East is part of the Traditional Tamil Homeland.
    There is nothing these secessionist could do about the absence of a claim founded on history but to continue to LIE about it, there was nothing they could do about the absence of a numerical preponderance of Tamils in the east except to UNILATERLY DENY THE SEPERATE ETHNIC IDENTITY OF THE TAMIL SPEAKING MUSLIMS and equally UNILATERLAY ACQUIRE THEM AS PART OF THE FICTITIOUS TRADITIONAL TAMIL HOMELAND, just to give them the NUMERICAL SUPERIORITY; while at the same time alleging falsely that they had been made a minority in their homeland by the COLONISATION of the East with the Sinhalese state assistance

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    Tamil homeland is Tamil Nadu.

    Go there to live in dignity.

    • 0
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      and where is the homeland for you LORENSO (Fathima) is it north india (if your a sinhalese) or all the way back to lansi portugal or holland?

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