SINHALESE PLACE NAMES IN THE JAFFNA PENINSULA
By B. Horsburgh, C.C.S.THE CEYLON ANTIQUARY [VOL. II, Part 1] July, 1916
I AM told on good authority that there is no written record of any kind showing a Sinhalese occupation of the Jaffna Peninsula antecedent to the Tamil period.
The beginning of the Tamil period itself are shrouded in obscurity. Mootootamby Pillay's " Jaffna History"(1) states that the possessors of the country before Tamil were "Nagas," who were " caste of men." No authority for the statement is given, or for the further statement that these "Nagas" were conquered by Tamils form the Chola and Pandiyan countries who made their capital in Mantei
The current account of the founding of Jaffna is purely mythical,
whether we regard the tale of the blind lutist, or the still more
legendary story of Siva, Susangita and the lute of Ravana.
It should be noted that there is a Tamil word kamam meaning 'town' or ' village' stated by Winslow to be 'ex kiramam'. Now, Kiramam is from the Sanscrit grama, from which the Sinhalese word gama is derived; so that both kamam and gama came from anterior common stock. I am , however, of opinion that, where Kamam is found in place names of the Jaffna Peninsula, it is a Tamilized from of gama; because the Tamil word kamam is not used by the Tamils of the Peninsula, and is found only in place names which there is a every reason to believe are of Sinhalese origin.
The following are the place names ending in Kamam now found in the Jaffna Peninsula:-
Valikamam (Valigamam), Vimankamam, Kadikamam(Kodigamam) , Tampakamam
Valikamam is undoubtedly the Sinhalese name Weligama or ' sandy village.'
It has no meaning in Tamil, whether we translate vali as ' way' or
as " strength" or as " whirlwind".
Tampakamam may be either Sinhalese or Tamil, so far as meaning goes,
Chunnakam(Chunnagam), Mallakam (Mallagam), Pannakam(Pannagam), Karampakam(Karampagam)
Chunnakam, or as it is generally spelt, Chunnagam, can only be the Sinhalese Hunugama ("lime village"). It has no meaning in Tamil. Similarly Mallakam is the Sinhalese Malgama ("flower village"). Pannagama occurs five times in the last Census list. Karampakam is " the village of the Karamba tree." Though karambei is a good Tamil word, meaning "dry, sterile land." The combination Karampakam is meaningless in tamil.
A much larger number of names end in vil, the Sinhalese vila (Vl), a "pond"; though here again it must be remembered that vil is a good Tamil word, meaning "bow." There is also a Tamil word vil or villu meaning pond, which, however, is, I think , merely a form of the Sinhales word. It is not given by Winslow, through in common use in the Northern Province,
The following names ending in vil are found in the Pennisula :---
On these Kondavil is probably Kondavila or "pond of the water lily." Kokkuvil is, I have little doubt, the Sinhalese Kokkavila or "Crane pond"; Uduvil is Uduvila, the "upper pond"; Madduvil is Madavila the "muddy pond"; Mantuvil is Manduvila, or "pond of the mandu tree" (Cycas circinalis); Mirisuvil is Mirisvila, the "pond of the chillies"; Ittavil is Ittevila, " porcupine pond"; Muhavil is Mahavila " great pond"; and Malvil is the very common Malvila, " lotus pond." In almost all these cases there is no meaning in the Tamil names as they stand,
The Sinhalese word kalapuwa , meaning "lagoon," has been
Tamilized as Kalappu , itself a Tamil word for " shallow sea."
An excellent example of this is seen in the Tamil name for Baticaloa.
The Sinhalese is Madakalapuwa (" muddy lagoon"). The tamil
is Maddu-kalappu. The Tamil word maddu means " measure,"
" degree," "limit." It has nothing to do with
" mud" Cheru, while there is an exact equivalent for Kalapuwa
in the Tamil word kali, which is common use in the Peninsula where
there are so many lagoons. The true Tamil mane for "muddy lagoon"
would be Chettukkali.
In the volume I , Part III, of " The Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register," Mr. J. P. Lewis has a Note on Jaffna Place names ending in Pa'y, which he suggests is the Tamilized form of Sinhalese word pe (@P) meaning a " grove," found in so many place names. I think this is very possible, as there is no suggestion of "place" about the Tamil word pay, which means a "mat" or "sail".
The four place names in which this ending is found are:--
Koppai may be the Tamil from of the Sinhalese Kompe, or "grove
of Kon trees," which are also found in the Peninsula: Katirippai
is very probably Kadurupe, or "grove of Kaduru trees" (dogsbane
or Strychnos): Manippai is possibly Mampe. These are all existing
Sinhalese place names. Sandilippai (Chandirippai) I am unable to account
for. It does not appear to be Tamil; and the others. I would be inclined
to say, are certainly not.
The endings kandi in Polikandi, Koyilakandi and elu in Urelu and Achchelu are also probably Sinhalese.
From the forgoing it will be seen that, with respect to some thirty odd place names, a Sinhalese origin may be accepted as certain in the majority of the instances given, and as practically certain as regards the balance. These names are scattered all over the Peninsula, and prove a general Sinhalese occupation of the country before the advent of the Tamils.
We may now inquire whether, in the case of Jaffna itself, the chief
town of the Peninsula and capital of the Northern Province, there
is any reason for assigning a Sinhalese origin to its Tamil name.
It requires very little critical faculty to decide that such a story is pure myth, which has grown up round a name of which it suggested some explanation, though anything but the true one.
It is clear from the evidence of the place names already considered that the Sinhalese were in occupation of the Peninsula before the first Tamil invasion, and that the latter in the course of driving out the Sinhalese , took over a number of their place names and gave them a Tamil form, adapting, if possible, Tamil words as near the Sinhalese forms as they could get Valikamam of Weligama, Kodikamam for Godigamuwa. Etc.
Is it possible that the Tamil form "Yalppanam" is such
an adaptation to a former Sinhalese name?
We may get some assistance in the matter by considering the modern Sinhalese name for Jaffna which is " Japane" or "Yalpane." It is hard to say how much this modern name owes to European influence, i.e., how much it may be a Sinhalacised form of "Jaffna," but, again, it is hardly likely that all recollection or tradition of the old name would have entirely died out. If it had, then "Yalpanama" or " Yapanama" would have quite a Sinhalese flavour about it, and would please the ear even more than "Japane."
Mr. P. E. Pieris, of the Ceylon Civil Service, is may authority that in the XIVth Century the Sinhalese called Jaffna "Yapa Patuna."(2) This is an obvious hybrid, Yapa being pure Sinhalese and Patuna a Sinhalacised form of the Tamil Paddanam " town"--- the " Town of Yapa."
My own opinion is that the original Sinhalese name for Jaffna was "Yapane," the conversion of which into the Tamil "Yalppanam" is quite on the lines of the other similar conversions about which no doubt can be admitted.
"Yapa" is a good old Sinhalese word-used in some instance as a family name, and is found in place names such as Yapahuwa, Yapalana, Yapame; while ne is a place-ending, meaning "village" or "place," as exemplified in Habarane (village of the Habara or Veddas), Ranne, Balane, Dambane, Kolonne, Pilane, Thumpane.
There is other consideration which tells against "Yalpanam"
having been the original name of Jaffna. Original names are generally
simple, and have a plain meaning. Yalppanam is a highly artificial
and pleonastic compound, with a meaning so strained and inappropriate
to the place it is assigned to that an incredible story has to be
invented to account for it.
Yapane, on the other hand, is simple. Its meaning is plain. Its good Sinhalese, and appropriate as a place name. If the Tamils kept it and gave it a Tamil form, the most natural from they could give it would be "Yalppanam"
As regards the stone relics found in the Peninsula indicating a Sinhalese
occupation, I am aware of only two , and these are two statues of
the Buddha, cut out of the white limestone so commonly used for the
Anuradhapura images, but which stone is not found in the Jaffna District.
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