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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.
Beyond the broad fact that Tamil invaders from the South India gradually forced the Sinhalese southwards, and occupied the northern and north-eastern parts of the Island, we know very little of these early days. The process undoubtedly took a very long time, and of the first contact between the two races in the extreme north we have no historical record.
That the Sinhalese occupied the northern portion of the mainland, which is not Tamil country, there is ample evidence carved in stone wall over the Mannar and Mullaittivu District, but the fact that they were settled also in the Jaffna Peninsula before the Tamil came, depends for its poor mainly on the evidence furnished by the place names they have left behind them, corroborated by the very few stone relics that have been found.
One of the most common endings of Sinhalese place names is gama or gamuwa meaning 'village.' The Tamil from of this kamam, as is shown by existing places in the Sinhalese country which have also Tamil names, eg., Kathirkamam for Kataragama.

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".
Vimankamam also has no meaning in Tamil, whether we take Viman as " fearfulness" or as the name of the son of Pandu and supposed sone of Vayu, God of the wind.
There is, however, a Tamil village called Vimankallu not far from the Sinhalese village of Mamadu in the Vavoniya District of the Northern Province. When on circuit there recently I discovered that the Village was known to the Sinhalese of that part of the country as Vimangalla or " Palace Rock" on account of an outcrop of slab rock galla, (gLl) near the spill of the tank and is thus to be the Tamilized form of Vimangama or " village of the palace."
Kodikamam, there can be little doubt, is the Sinhalese Goidgama or Godigamuwa, of which there are several existing examples, though kodi is also a good Tamil word meaning "creeper" or "flag."

Tampakamam may be either Sinhalese or Tamil, so far as meaning goes,
In the following names the gama has become kam or gam:

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 :---

Kondavil Madduvil
Kokkuvil Mantuvil
Inuvil Mirisuvil
Uduvil Ittavil
Kerudavil Muhavil
Nunavil Malvil

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.
One example of this ending is found in the Peninsula, viz., Tanankalappu which has no meaning in Tamil, though tanam is a good Tamil word, meaning "gold" or "wealth." There can be no doubt that Tanankalappu is the Sinhalese Tanakalapuwa " grassy" or "reedy lagoon".
The Sinhala word watta , " garden" is Tamilized as vattei. It is found in the names Suravattei, a village in Valigamam North, and Kotiyavattei ("garden of the leopared"), the name of a land near Chunnagam, where a statue of Buddha was found. There can be no doubt that both these names are Sinhalese and Tamil.
The Sinhalese place name ending pala or pola meaning "place," has been Tamilized as palai, the meaning of which, as given in Winslow, is "(prov. Improp. for ) hole, den of a beast," which is obviously quite inapplicable. Besides the village of Palei (Pallahi) itself, the following village names occur:-

Tumpalai Vidattalpalai
Tellipalai Pulopalai
Varattupalai Periyapalai

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 Manippai
Katirippai Sandilippai

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.
Two examples are found of the place ending kadavai, which is the Sinhalese kadavata(kdvw), "post" or "station," viz., Perumakkadavei and Ankanakkadavei

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.
The Tamil name for Jaffna is "Yalppanam", made up of two Tamil words, yal, "lute," and panar, the name of the caste of lute players---the combined word meaning "the town or village or place of the lute player."
In a such a compound it is clear that if panam is given the meaning of " the place of the lute player" the yal ("lute") is redundant and unnecessary, because the literal meaning of the compound word is " the place of the lute player on the lute."
The commonly accepted explanation of the origin of the name is contained in the story of the blind lute player called Kaviviraragavan; which word itself is not so much a name as an attribution of accomplishments. He was native of the Chola country, who , after a quarrel with his wife about the fruitful source of matrimonial squabbles, some delay in serving his rice and curry, announced his intention of leaving her and going to Ceylon. She retorted with the sneer, " I suppose you mean to bring back a fertile country and a tusked elephant." " This woman has treated me with contempt," said he, and started for Ceylon, feeling his way by touch. In due course he reached Anuradhapura, where he played to King Elala, according to the story; who was so pleased that , quite in the maner of the kingly tradition, he asked the lutist to name his reward though it were half his kingdom. The minstrel then remembered his wife's sneer, and said he would have fertile country and a tusked elephant. These were at once given, the country being Jaffna Peninsula. He then returned to his wife, just to reduce her to a position of proper respect by relating his achievement, and started to colonise his new country with Tamils from South India, the Jaffna Peninsula being then uninhabited. To the chief town he gave the name "Yalppanam" to commemorate the manner in which he had obtained it.

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?
There is every likelihood that Jaffna, even in those days, was a place of some, if not of the chief, importance, which would have a Sinhalese name that the Tamils must have known, and would probably Tamilize, as we see they have done in other cases.

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.
Again, it may be said of it that, while its two components are Tamil words, the compound is not Tamil, or is , at least, bad Tamil.

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.
One of these was dug up at Chunnagam in 1902, and is preserved in "The Old Park," the grounds of the Government Agent's Residence in Jaffna. The other, a larger and finger figure, was found at Vallipuram in Vadamaradchi West, south of Point Pedro, and was given to the King of Siam by Governor Sir Henry Blake; thus leaving only one stone witness that the ancient Sinhalese in the Jaffna Peninsula before the coming of the Tamils were Buddhists.(3)
I close with a brief remark on this point. It is clear that the Sinhalese in the Jaffna Peninsula would receive their Buddhism from Anuradhapura. They would appear to have imported their images as well from that part of the country. From the fact that so few relics exist I would be disposed to infer that Buddhism had not been long established among them, when the Tamil invaders came, drove out the Sinhalese, destroyed the few Buddhist shrines there were, and practically blotted from the country all evidence of Sinhalese settlement, except that contained in some place names-one of these being Yalppanam, regarding the Tamil origin of which there has never been till now, I believe, the shadow of a doubt.


(1) A recent work in Tamil by a local author
(2) (Salalihini Sandesaya, stanza 28.-ED.)
(3) A letter to " the Buddhist," signed "Visitor" and dated "Kankesanturai,
3 July, 1916," mentioned the finding of the statue and the existence in ancient times of Sinhalese villages in this part of the country.




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