Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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

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