TAMILS OF JAFFNA
The following are some useful extracts from Dr. Karthigesu Indrapalas PhD thesis on Dravidian Settlements in Ceylon, University of London 1965.
Until the ninth century, with the exception of the megalithic remains of pomparippu and the possible exception of those of Katiraveli, there is no definite evidence regarding and Dravidian settlement in the island. (page 51)
No definite evidence regarding any significant Tamil settlement in the Batticaloa district of the Eastern Province, or in other parts of Southern Ceylon has so far come to light. It is possible that there were some Tamil settlers in the Battialoa district from the thirteenth century onwards; we get archeological, epigraphic and literary evidence pointing to Tamil settlements in the area. (page 233)
It may be recollected that several writers on the history of Jaffna, basing their studies on the traditional legends found in the late Tamil chronicles, have put forward certain theories claiming the establishment of Tamil settlements in Jaffna in the period of the Anuradhapura rulers. These theories are not accepted by serious students of history as they are not based on trustworthy data. Many of these have been convincingly dismissed by scholars in recent years.
It is therefore, not our intention to analyze these theories and take serious notice of writings which at best could be described as popular. (page 266)
Jaffna peninsula does not help us to know anything about the identity of the people who lived there in the pre-Christian centuries.
The Pali chronicle informs us that the port of Jambukola
(Camputturai), on the eastern cost of the peninsula, was the main port
of embarkation to Tamralipti in Eastern India from at least the time
of King Devanampriya Tissa (250-210 B.C.). The two embassies from the
island to the court of Asoka embarked on their voyage from Jambukola.
Sangamitta arrived with the Bo-sapling at this port.
This may suggest that the Sinhlese were settled in the Jaffna peninsula, or in some parts at least, in the second century A.D. There were perhaps Tamil traders in the port of Jambukola but there is no evidence that points to Tamil settlements in the peninsula. (page 268)
The gold plate from Vallipuram reveals that there were
Buddhists in that part of the peninsula in the second century A.D. At
the site of this inscription the foundations are in the premises of
a modern Visnu temple. There is little doubt that the Visnu temple was
the original Buddhist monument converted in to a Vaisnava establishment
at a later date when Tamils settled in the area.
In the premised of another Visnu temple at Moolai were discovered some vestiges of ancient remains of walls and a broken sedent Buddha image. Again in a Saiva temple at Mahiyapitti a Buddha image was found under a stone step in the temple tank. A lime-stone Buddha image and the remains of an ancient dagaba were unearthed at Nilavarai, in Navakiri.
Among the debris were two sculptured fragments of shaped
coral stones with a stone railing design.
Buddha images have also been discovered in Uduvil, Kantarodai and Jaffna town. Kantarodai has yeilded very important Buddhist establishment in the region in early times.
Such artifacts as the glazed tiles and the circular discs discovered here have helped to connect the finds with those of Auradhapura.
The Sinhala Nampota, dated in its present form to the
fourteenth or fifteenth century, preserved the names of some of the
placed of Buddhist worship I the Jaffna peninsula, Kantarodai is mentioned
among these places. The others are Nagakovila (Nakarkovil), Telipola
(Tellippalai), Mallagama (Mallakam), Minuwangomu Viharaya (Vimankaram).
Of the Buddhist establishments in these places only the vihara and Dagabo at Nakativu have survived to this day. It is justifiable to assume that the Nampotalist dates back time when the Buddhist establishments of these places were well known centres of worship. This was probably before the thirteenth century, for after this date the people of the Jaffna peninsula were mainly Saivas.
The foregoing evidence points to the inevitable conclusion that in the Anuradhapura period, and possibly till about the twelfth century, there were Buddhists in the Jaffna peninsula.
Although it may appear reasonable to presume that these Buddhists were Sinhalese like those in other parts of the island, some have tried to argue that they were Tamils. While it is true that there were Tamil Buddhists in South India and Ceylon before the twelfth century and possibly even later, there is evidence to show that the Buddhists who occupied the Jaffna peninsula in the Anuradhapura period were Sinhalese.
We refer to the toponymic evidence which unmistakably points to the presence if Sinhala settlers in the peninsula before Tamils settled there.
In an area of only about nine hundred square miles covered
by this peninsula, there occur over a thousand Sinhalese place names
which have survived in a Tamil garb. (page 270-273)
Secondly, the survival of Sinhalese elements on the local nomenclature indicates a slow and peaceful penetration of Tamils in the area rather than violent occupation. This is in contrast with the evidence of the place names of the North Central Province, where Sinhalese names have been largely replaced by Tamil names. The large percentage of Sinhalese element and the occurrence of Sinhala and Tamil compounds in the place names of Jaffna point to a long survival of the Sinhala population and an intimate intercourse between them and the Tamils.
This is also, borne out by the retention of some territorial
names, like Valikamam (Sinhala- Valigama) and Maracci (Maracci-rata),
which points to the retention of the old territorial divisions and tell
strongly against wholesale extermination or displacement of the Sinhalese
population.. (page 276)
In the ninth and tenth centuries some villages in Rajarattha seem to have accommodated Tamil settlers but these were by no means numerous. it seems unlikely that there were many Tamil settlers in the Jaffna peninsula or in any part of the island other that the major ports and the capital city before the tenth century.
As we stated earlier, there were perhaps some Tamil traders
in the ports of Jambukola and Uratota, in the Jaffna peninsula. But
we have no evidence on this point.. (page 282)
The inscription is fragmentary and is engraved on a part of a stone door jamb. Among the decipherable words is the name Gokarna, the ancient name of Trincomalee and the root from which the name of the temple is derived (Gokarnesvara). (page 331)
These certainly indicate the existence or Tamil settlements
in those places in the thirteenth century.
The many scattered ruins of Buddhist monasteries and temples all over the Vanni region preserve the memory of the Sinhalese Buddhist settlements that once covered these parts.
Several of the pilima-ges (image houses) attached to the monasteries in places like Kovilkadu, Malikai, Omantai, Kankarayan-kulam, Iracentiran-kulam,Cinnappuvaracankulam and Madukanda were converted into Saiva tempels, often dedicated to Ganesa.
Buddha images or inscribed slabs from the Buddhist structures
were used to make the Ganesa statues (J.P. Lewis, Manual of the Vanni
Districts, pp. 297, 303-306, 311).
In the North Central Province too, we find evidence of such activities. On Minneriya Road, close to Polonnaruwa, were discovered a few Saiva edifies which were build of materials from Buddhist structures.
A door jamb from one of the Saiva shrines there was found to bear part of an inscription of Parakramabahu 1.
A broken pillar shaft with Sinhalese writing of the tenth century was recovered from the enclosing wall of another shrine.
In one of the Visnu temples of Polonnaruwa, fragments of Nissankamallas stone inscriptions were found. In the same place, two fragments of a broken pillar with Sinhalese writing about the tenth century served as steps o one of the Vaisnava shrines.
A pillar in the mandapa of Siva Devale No. 5 at Polonnaruwa was discovered with a Sinhala inscription of the eleventh century on it. In Siva Devale No.7 a square stone asana with an inscription of Nissankamalla was used as a base for a linga.
Another of the Saiva shrines unearthed at Polonnaruwa yeilded a pillar with a Sinhalese inscription of Jayabahu 1.
These examples leave us in no doubt that materials from Buddhist structures were used in the building of Saiva and Vaisnava temples.
The date of most inscriptions found on the pillars and
slabs is the twelfth century. The date of the construction of these
Saiva and Vaisanava shrines is certainly later than that. (page 361-364)
© 1997-2004 www.lankaweb.Com
Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.