Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The beginning 4

Continued from the previous post

Prof Indrapala continued

“on the basis of the present evidence we could say that it was only by about the tenth century that permanent settlements of Tamils began…These settlements were by no means extensive but their importance lies in the fact that they formed the nucleus of the later settlements that covered the greater part of northern Sri Lanka”

“… on the slender evidence at our disposal it would be rather far fetched to claim that there were permanent or widespread settlements of Tamil trading communities in the first millennium AD.”

“But evidence for extensive settlement bearing the signs of a date earlier than the tenth century is lacking”

“On the Tamil side the chronicles that are extant are those written nearly three centuries after the foundation of the Tamil kingdom in the island in the thirteenth century.

These are the Kailayamalai, Vaiyapatul, Vaiya, Yalpana vaipava malai, and the Mattakkalappu- manmiyam......With the possible exception of the Yalpana vaipava malai, the other works cannot be dated exactly. But, as we shall see presently, certain references in those works make it clear that these were all written after the fifteenth century........The Yalpana vaipava malai is a prose chronicle of the Jaffna kingdom, as stated in its preface, when the Dutch Commandant Ian Maccara (Mekkarun) was administering Jaffna (A.D. 1736).

The sections of these works dealing with the period prior to the thirteenth century, i.e., the period during which the earliest Tamil settlements were established- are full of legendary material and are wholly unreliable. The Tamil works of South India have no notable allusions to the activities of the Tamils in Ceylon.”

After this spree of negativity a glimmer of positivity,

"…only by about the tenth century that permanent settlement of the Tamils began and the Cola conquest of the Anuradhapura kingdom in the late tenth century seems to have given an impetus to the migration of Tamils into the island.” Indrapala Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon pp 54-55

As stated in an above quote,

“…These settlements were by no means extensive but their importance lies in the fact that they formed the nucleus of the later settlements that covered the greater part of northern Sri Lanka”

However these settlements “became fairly extensive early in the eleventh century”

Apparently this was the first phase of Tamil settlement in Sri Lanka and their location was

“…still outside the Jaffna district. Of the present day Tamil areas only the upper half of the Eastern Province and parts of the western coast had Tamil settlers in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The main stage in the process of Tamil settlement which led to the transformation of the present Northern Province into an exclusively Tamil speaking area had not yet been reached in the twelfth century. That stage was reached with the conquest of Magha and it is doubtful that the Tamil settlements of the period before the thirteenth century would have resulted in the division of the country into two linguistic regions”

“second and most important stage of the Tamil settlements are covered by the whole of the thirteenth century”

“no genuine traditions of the Tamil settlement or invasions were preserved by the Tamils until they established a stable kingdom in the thirteenth century”

Then finally the Kingdom!

"The invasion of Magha (of Kalinga) with the help of Tamil and Kerala mercenaries was far more violent than the earlier invasions. It’s chief importance lies in the fact that it resulted in the permanent dislodgement of the Sinhalese power from north Ceylon, the confiscation of lands and properties belonging to the Sinhalese by the Tamil and Kerala mercenaries and the consequent migration of the official class and several of the common people to the south western regions. These factors more than any other helped the transformation of northern (Sri Lanka) into a Tamil region and directly led to the foundation of a Tamil kingdom there. In the second phase, with the foundation of an independent Tamil Kingdom, a deliberate policy of settling Tamils in the Jaffna district and the Vanni regions was followed by the first rulers of the Tamil kingdom. This led to a migration of peaceful settlers from the Tamil country (in Southern India). It was this peaceful migration that was largely responsible for the Tamil settlement of the Jaffna district. It was a deliberate and organized process…” Indrapala Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon p. 62

The beginning 3

Continued from the previous post

Then in ‘Myths and Scholars III’ http://www.kalaya.org/i990421.html Prof Nalin again quotes Prof. Indrapala to deal with Mudaliyar Rasanayagam,

“Unlike the early works, Ancient Jaffna is the result of an attempt to trace the history of the Tamils of Ceylon from the earliest times to the sixteenth century. It has been based on a wider variety of sources and much effort has gone into it. For the first time the Sinhalese sources as well as the South Indian inscriptions were consulted. It marks a leap forward in the research into the history of the Tamils of Ceylon. But despite its distinct merits, Rasanayagam's work suffers from several serious defects. The work has been marred by an earnest attempt to prove the thesis that the Tamils were settled in Ceylon from pre-Christian times and that there was an independent kingdom in northern Ceylon which existed from about the fifteenth century B.C. to the seventeenth century A.D. In his attempt to prove this thesis, Rasanayagam has used methods which are questionable and materials that are totally unrelated to the history of the Tamils in Ceylon. These have been briefly pointed out in our work."

Professor K.M.de Silva’s ‘A history of Sri Lanka 2005 edition also quotes Prof. Indrapala extensively about the period before 1000 A.D.

‘Looking back on the whole body of evidence that is available …we have to conclude that there was no widespread Tamil settlement before the tenth century. The settlements at Pomparippu and the possible settlement at Kathirvelu (on the east coast) have to be treated as isolated earlier settlements”. Indrapala, Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon p.24

Prof. K. M. de Silva says in ‘A History…’,

“Sri Lanka’s close proximity to southern India has been the basis for the assumption that there were Tamil settlements on the island in the early years of its history. Certainly Tamil and other literary sources point to substantial urban and trading centers in south India in the third century B.C. Very probably there were trade relations between them and Sri Lanka and it is also highly probable that the island’s trade with the Mediterranean world could have been through these south Indian ports. By the third century B.C. Dravidian intrusion into the affairs of Sri Lanka became more marked. In 177 B.C. two south Indian adventurers usurped power at Anuradhapura and ruled for twenty two years, to be followed ten years later (in 145 B.C.) by another, Elara who maintained himself in power for a much longer period-for forty-four years, according to the Mahavamsa- and earned an enviable reputation for justice and impartial administration. These Dravidian attempts at establishing control over the Anuradhapura kingdom appear to have been motivated partly at least by the prospect of influence over its external trade.

Apart from this there is evidence from archeological investigations conducted at Pomparippu in the north west of the island in 1956 and 1957 of a culture which bears some resemblance to the south Indian megalithic culture(on the Pomparippu excavations and their significance see S.P.F. Senaratne, Prehistoric Archaesology in Ceylon;pp.29-31;Indrapala, ‘Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon’, pp. 15-33) the similarities are most noticeable in the Adichchanallur site just across the water from Pomparippu(Since the Adichchanallur finds have been dated at around 300 BC, the same date is tentatively assigned to the Pomparippu complex which is regarded as being roughly contemporary with them.) There are striking similarities in the style of urn burials and the characteristics of the pottery and the associated objects found at these two sites.

The settlement at Pomparippu and a possible one at Katiraveli in the east of the Island need to be treated as isolated occurrences, not as evidence of widespread Tamil settlements. (Indrapala, Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon’, pp.23ff;Kiribamune, Tamils in Ancient and Medieval Sri Lanka’, pp. 9-23. See also P. Raghupathy, Early Settlements in Jaffna, pp.179-87.)These two settlements could be dated between the second century B.C. and the third century B.C. For many centuries thereafter there is no inscriptional or other archeological evidence, or literary evidence of Tamil settlements in the country. There were of course, Tamil mercenaries who were brought to the island occasionally from about the fifth century A.D, but more particularly from the seventh century AD onwards. Their presence in the early stages was for short periods and served a political purpose. They fought on behalf of aspirants to the throne and on behalf of rulers whose position was insecure. Thus, Sri Lanka from very early in its recorded history had seen groups of persons from southern India enter the island as traders, occasionally as invaders and as mercenaries but their presence was of peripheral significance in the early demography of the island.

To be continued

The beginning 2

Continued from the previous post

"In the first place, he has argued that the island of Ceylon as well as the language spoken there were known in ancient times as Ilam and that the name of the language was later corrupted to Elu. These factors, in his opinion, "should lead one to conclude prima facie that, at the earliest times, Ilam was occupied , at least in the main, by a Tamil speaking people”. This argument is far from logical. Presumably it rests on the fact Ilam is now used only in Tamil as a name for Ceylon. But the origin of this name, far from indicating that the island was occupied by Tamil speaking people in ancient times, shows that the people from whose name Ilam is derived were Sinhalese. The earliest occurrence of this name is in the Brahmi inscriptions of South India. In these inscriptions, from Tirupparankunram and Sittannavasal, occurs the Prakrit form of this name, namely Ila. Evidently it is from this Prakrit form that the Tamil Ilam is derived. It could be shown that Ila is derived from Sinhala through the Pali Sihala, or more probably through another Prakrit form Sihila………. Thus, Ilam could be derived from the name Sihala and would therefore, mean the land of the Sinhalese rather than indicate that Ceylon was originally settled by the Tamils. Gnanapragasar's arguments, on this score, will become groundless. The derivation of Ilam from Sinhala is accepted by leading Tamil scholars. (S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, Madras Tamil Lexicon p 382 & S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar in the Preface to S. Rasanayagam's Ancient Jaffna)"

"Secondly, Gnanapragasar has argued that the original inhabitants of Ceylon came from South India and that these pre-Aryan aborigines were Dravidians who seem to have spoken a Tamil dialect. He bases this on the assumption that the pre Aryan inhabitants of India represent an earlier wave of immigrants from the Mediterranean area and that no trace of any language other than Tamil is found in India till the arrival of the Indo-Aryans. Although the pre-historic relations between India and Ceylon are undeniable, the rest of his arguments are based on mere assumptions. It is not true to say that all the non-Aryan inhabitants of India were necessarily Dravidian. There were others as well, chief among whom were the Munda speaking people. The chronology of the Dravidian migration to India is itself an unsettled question."

"His third argument is that 'hundreds of Tamil place-names in Ceylon are pre-Sinhalese. He has given a few examples of elements of present-day Sinhalese place-names and what have been considered by him to be their Tamil origins. It is clear that this argument is based on superficial similarities and not on any historical study of the development or evolution of these names. This could be seen in the two sets of elements as well as from their phonological development. He has claimed, for instance, that the Sinhalese element dena, meaning 'low-lying land or valley', is derived from Tamil tinai, meaning corn. But dena and its more common variant deniya are derived from Sanskrit droni (=valley), through the Pali doni and medieval Sinhalese dona and deni.

The fourth argument that Sinhalese is based on Tamil and that, therefore, 'the original inhabitants of Ceylon' spoke Tamil is unconvincing. Gnanapragasar arrives at this conclusion by adopting unscientific methods in his linguistic research. One can only quote the views of Wilhelm Geiger on this matter:- 'Gnanapragasar's methods are not at all Indian; they are simply a relapse into the old practice of comparing two or more words of the most distant languages merely on the basis of similar sounds without any consideration for chronology, for phonological principles, or for the historical development of words and forms.' ".

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The beginning

How did prehistoric societies change? If you Wikipediate this you will see that over the years archeologists went through 3 theories to explain this. First they thought that prehistoric societies changed due to invasions. Invading hoards would come, wipe out or marginalize the existing native population and occupy the land and start a new chapter. Apparently this invasionist approach was discredited as unrealistic around 1960s when archeologists started asking themselves whether pre historic people were really that bloodthirsty. So they went for the migrationist approach; slow, for the most part peaceful, long term migrations into the land, settling among the native population, gradual interbreeding and the populations merging. Even this approach is now outmoded by the latest interesting theory; of packets of ideas traveling over distances through social and economic links bringing about the changes reflected in the archeological evidence. According to Wikipedia “Many of the changes in British society demonstrated in the archaeological record are now suggested to be the effects of the native inhabitants adapting foreign customs rather than being subsumed by an invading population”.

I don’t know if these idea evolutions actually had any effect on the way people looked at our own prehistoric incident; the Indo Aryan migration. But I have met people even recently who thought that Sinhalese were Indian invaders and I have seen web comments from people who thought the Sinhalese came from somewhere in India but they have now disappeared from India and are to be found only here and also web commenters who thought the Sinhalese are still there in India somewhere but because India is so large they haven’t been found yet but it’s only a matter of time before they are found.

It’s not that in Britain they don’t think the Anglo Saxon mass migration hadn’t happened. They have analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of the population, which is DNA you get exclusively from the mother and found that 21% and 51% of maternal lines in modern Britain came to Britain in the pre glacial and late upper Paleolithic periods respectively.

That’s because normally waves of migrations tend to be men mostly who find their women in the place they migrate to. So for evidence of mass migrations/invasions you have to look among the exclusively male Y chromosomes of the population. A study of modern British Y chromosomes has shown that a 50% to 100% mass migration of males have occurred in Britain during the past 2500 years. This is supposed to correspond to the Anglo Saxon invasion/migration because further studies have found that it’s only in Wales that a significant pre-Anglo Saxon Y chromosome population can be found and the English Y chromosome was indistinguishable from the Friesland chromosome in the Netherlands.

Fascinating to think what sort of secrets modern Sinhalese and Tamil populations must be harboring within their mitochondria and Y chromosomes. Then again I think they are not harboring secrets at all and what they can tell us has already been told to us by other things; archeological, inscriptional, linguistic and literary evidence. After all, the British didn’t need DNA evidence to tell them about the Anglo Saxon mass migration. It merely confirmed what was already known.

Early in the 20th Century at a time when DNA analysis of the population to investigate our migratory and prehistoric heritage was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, two gentlemen, Mudaliyar Rasanayagam and S. Gnanapragasar came out with theories that modern Sri Lankan Tamils are descendents of some of our prehistoric tribes. Regarding this Prof Nalin de Silva quotes extensively from Prof. Karthigesu Indrapala’s thesis in his article ‘TULF, BUDGET AND THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE’


"It has been claimed by certain writers on the history of Jaffna that the people of northern Ceylon at the time of the earliest Indo-Aryan settlements, called Nagas in the chronicles, were Tamils. ( S. Gnanapragasar, Ceylon originally a land of Dravidians) Some others have claimed that these Nagas were Tamil in culture and language, although ethnically they were not Dravidian.( S. Rasanayagam, Ancient Jaffna) These conclusions, as we shall see presently, are based on the legendary accounts of the Nagas in the Pali chronicles and the Tamil Buddhist epic Manimekalai as well as on the erroneous identification of some of the place-names mentioned in early Tamil literature. Gnanapragasar, a leading proponent of the theory that the Nagas of the Pali chronicles were Tamils, has put forward four main arguments in support of it."

To be Continued..

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The curious permeability of Sri Lankan History to little green men stories

It’s time to approach the whole thing from another angle because the road crew is getting stuck in a very small side alley paying attention to a small crack while there is grave structural damage to the highway. Let’s return to the highway for now. We will return to the crack in the side alley once the highway is done. By then most likely the crack shall have been sealed automatically.

I think the truth can be known. It may be impossible to find objective histories. History may be relative to the writer and to the reader but still the truth can be known. Not the whole truth maybe but close enough for government work. That was an idiom by the way. Let’s look for the ‘truth’ or the most consistent story with the highest incidence of collateral consistency across multiple disciplines, settings, sources and knowledge systems etc. It will be like a quest, a journey, a hunt, an investigation. Let’s play detectives among Sri Lanka’s historical record and in the process let’s try to keep an open mind and not be receptive only to theories and evidence that make us feel good .

I think as histories go Sri Lanka’s history is unique and I don’t say that for the usual reasons. I say that because despite having a written record going back 2000 years, extensive archeological evidence and so much research done on it still there are so many UFO theories and ‘I was impregnated by little green men’ stories flying around regarding it. For example I saw around one month ago, a commenter on one of the websites claiming that Portuguese archives contain records that clearly say that when they first landed in this country around 1505 they found a Tamil king in Kotte. This sort of thing would have been funny and charming if it were not tragic. But why does it happen? 1505 is not that long ago and in this enlightened age when knowledge is so broad based and accessible why does this still happen? I mean what is the probability of finding even among the rural dwelling, 100 year old persons in Sri Lanka someone who would still believe that the earth was flat? Still among the web commenting population all educated, progressive and opinion leaders according to statisticians we have this! Why is the history in Sri Lanka in the UFO realm?

Do you think there is controversy about who was king of England in 1505?(Henri VII or about his racial mix (1/2 English+ ¼ Welsh + ¼ French). Do you think there are arguments about who was King of England by 1067? (William the Conqueror) or his parentage (illegitimate) or where he is buried (France, Normandy) or who was his queen (Matilda of Flanders) or where she is buried (France, Normandy but a different church) or what her height was (apparently there used to be a bit of dispute about this. In 1819 when the bones of her incomplete skeleton was measured it was estimated as under five feet but when they were measured in 1959 the estimate was five feet) or who this William’s and Matilda’s still reigning descendent is (Elizabeth II)

But why is it that when it comes to our kings even as recent as the 16th century there is still room for UFO stories? Forget about his height or his queen or anything else why isn’t it general knowledge at least the simple fact that Dharma Parakramabahu IX reigned in Kotte between 1489- 1513?

Well I am sure there are various reasons for this and now is not the time to analyze them. (One reason could be the lack of continuity of the blood royal. If there had been genetic continuity between Pandukabaya and the last king The Family would have maintained their own records quite easily from one generation to the next and things would have been clearer from every possible perspective )

I just made this comparison to make the point that most of this uncertainty is really unnecessary. Even our history with all its uncertain, disputed aspects is still pretty much documented and supported and known and doesn’t deserve to pass into the UFO realm. It’s sad that even Prof Nalin De Silva (not purposely I am sure) is contributing quite significantly (not as much as Mudaliyar Rasanayagam, S. Gnanapragasar, Sachi Ponnambalam and Co but uncomfortably close for comfort) to giving our history a no return ticket to UFO territory. From which place we will try to rescue it.

He does this

1) By selectively citing as his authority only portions of Prof K. Indrapala’s unpublished doctoral dissertation ‘Dravidian Settlement in Ceylon and the Beginning of the Kingdom of Jaffna’ and his other related work ‘Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon’ that deal with the period before the 13th Century and leaving out all parts of the same articles that deal with the period after the 13th century. Prof Nalin De Silva it seems treats Prof Indrapala as an uncontested authority when it comes to the period before the 13th century but when it comes to the parts after the 13th century which is the result of the same Prof Indrapala following the same process of deduction and reasoning, Prof Nalin de Silva chooses to disregard his authoritative and honored source without even giving reasons for doing that.

2) By insisting that the Arya Chakravarthi Kingdom was a Vassal State of the Kotte Kingdom disregarding the events around 1380 which even Rajawaliya and Mahavansaya mention

3) By failing to mention anywhere at all the human beings called the Vanniyars

4) By engaging in historical revisionism (which is creative and beneficial done in the right way) without due regard to established sources and evidence and without citing his own new sources and research methods and processes (Which is not considered sound in certain circles. That is the lack of due regard and failure to cite aren’t considered sound )

Ok first things first.

Let me now quote extensively from Prof Indrapala without dropping him abruptly and without reason when he starts dealing with the 13th century.

“Until about the thirteenth century A.D., the history of (Sri Lanka) was the history of the Sinhalese people. From about the middle of the thirteenth century, it has been the history of the Sinhalese and Tamil people in the island. From that time for over three centuries the majority of Tamils were concentrated in a kingdom of their own in the northern part of the island. In 1620, the last of the Tamil rulers was executed by the Portuguese conquerors who brought the Tamil areas under their rule.”

- Dravidian Settlement in Ceylon and the beginning of the Kingdom of Jaffna-

This extract, which according to the 2005 Edition of ‘A History of Sri Lanka’ by K.M. de Silva, ‘conveys very effectively some of the essential features of the history of the island’ is just the beginning. It’s really fascinating to follow Prof Indrapala’s deductive process for coming to this conclusion. Next we will follow it along the quotes set out in ‘A History … by K.M. de Silva’ as well as through quotes given in Prof Nalin De Silva’s articles.