From Dravida Nadu to Eelam: Myths Vs Facts

The homeland quest of the Tamils is not an imported concept. It synchronizes with the Lands occupied by the Tamils for over 3000 years from ancient times long before the Sinhala language saw sunlight.

7 mins read
Aerial view of Jaffna Fort [Photo: Special arrangement]


A friend of mine sent a copy of the article by Journalist Shenali D Waduge by email. I read same. I think I had met her when I was Chief Minister. It appears to me that she like Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera M.P and others is not aware of a few historical facts recently confirmed by very cogent evidence.

The facts are –

  1. The Sinhalese language came into existence only in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Before that there were no Sinhalese living anywhere in this world because Sinhalese are those speaking the Sinhala language or those whose forefathers spoke that language. That language is very recent. Only 1400 years old. Its first grammar book is 700 years old. The first Sinhala inscription found is so many years after 7th Century AD.
  2. There is evidence that Tamil speaking people existed in this Island continuously for over 3000 years. The progeny of these original inhabitants of this Island and those who immigrated from the time of the Pandyans downwards added to the original Tamils. Thus the immigrant Tamils only added to the original Tamil inhabitants. It is wrong to begin calculating the period of Tamil occupation from the time of the Cholas (10th Century AD).
  3. The Tamil Speaking people have continued to occupy the entire Island for over 3000 years but they preferred to live in the Dry Zone. Gradually they converged on the North and East from elsewhere in the Island. Even 100 years ago there were only Tamil Title Deeds to the Lands in the Negombo – Puttalam areas. They were Tamils both indigenous and the Paravars from South India who emigrated here.

Many Sinhala-speaking people have many misunderstandings about our past due to the influence of the Mahawansa which was a fiction written by a Buddhist Priest to laud Buddhism. They think the Sinhalese are the original inhabitants of this Island, that this Country belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists. and the Tamils are immigrants during the time of the Cholas in 10th Century AD. All these are false and historically incorrect.

The Sinhalese could not have been the original inhabitants of this Island, since the Sinhalese language was born only in the 6th or 7th Century AD. This Country cannot belong to the Sinhala Buddhists since before 6th Century AD, there were no Sinhalese. Only Buddhists existed, and that too Tamil Buddhists. Tamils did come into the Country inter alia during Pandiya, Pallava, Chola and Nayaka times. But they only added to the original inhabitants of this Island who were themselves Tamils.

The Sinhalese Historians refer to Pali and other sources to say they were the forerunners to the Sinhala language. But both are different. One is the grandfather and the other grandchild. The grandchild cannot be identified as the grandfather. Both lived at different times. We must accept that the Sinhala language is very recent and those who speak Sinhala are also recent.

    Let me deal with the 5 questions posed by Shenali –

  • How can Tamil Eelam homeland lobbyists claim two provinces as their “homeland” making use of two provinces created in 1833 by colonial Britain?

Response: The two Provinces are what is left of the entire Tamil Speaking Sri Lanka. British only confirmed the Tamil speaking areas by identifying Northern and Eastern Provinces which were majority Tamil speaking areas. In these two Provinces the Tamils have been and are the majority still. Tamil Kings or Tamil Petty Kings have ruled these two Provinces apart from other areas outside those Provinces too. Apart from those who ruled, Tamil people have always continuously occupied these areas from 3000 years ago. The two Provinces are the traditional homelands of the Tamils (Vide Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987). Identifying Kings as Sinhalese and Tamil is a recent phenomenon. The genealogy of the Kings were more important then, than the language they spoke. In fact many Kings spoke many languages. They were not identified by the language they spoke.  

  • How can Malabars, rechristened as Ceylon Tamils in 1911, claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka?

Response: Those who came from the Coromandel Coast of India also added in numbers to the existing Tamils in this Island. Ceylon Tamils is a word coined recently due to the bringing in of recent Indian Tamils by the Britishers. The Sri Lankan Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island. But when the Indian Tamils were brought both being Tamils they were called Indian Tamils and the local Tamils as Sri Lankan Tamils.

  • The Tamil caste system originates from South India, and thus, if Malabars are from South India, Vellalars and the Thesavalamai Law is too, so how can customary laws applicable to foreigners become mandatory customary law in Sri Lanka?

Response: The Caste System did not originate from South India, to be followed by the Tamils here. Like the guilds in the West there were occupational segregations in ancient times. There were areas of residence for those involved in various occupations.  It is possible for example that Shenali belongs to a particular traditional occupational group. The surname “Waduge” connotes that. The Sinhala ‘ge’ names are a pointer to their Caste identification. But nowadays they drop their ‘Vasagamas’ or ‘ge’ names for fear of identification. JR’s ‘ge’ name was Mahamarakalage if I remember right.  When the Westerners introduced free education, members of every segregated unit received the same education and the need to continue to segregate into traditional occupational Castes became unnecessary. The Caste System in India had Brahmins at the top. In the Tamil areas here the landowning Vellalas claimed leadership while close to the sea the Fishermen Caste called Karaiyars (Coast people) claimed leadership. Caste Brahmins played a secondary role. Hence the Caste hierarchy in South India and North Eastern Sri Lanka are different. More on this are answered under question 5 here under.

  • If the Dravida Nadu term was coined by colonial missionaries, isn’t the Tamil Eelam quest (an offshoot of the Dravida Nadu movement) a similar missionary-infused agenda?

Response: The term Thamil Eelam has nothing to do with Dravida Nadu. This Country was part of the Seventh (Ealu) Country unit in the Kumari Kandam now under sea. From Ealu (Seven) came the words Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Both words connote the same land mass during the time of Kumari Kandam and thereafter. Present Sri Lanka was part of Ealu Nadu in Kumari Kandam.  The Tamil Sangam literature refers to the Tamil areas which went under the sea. Parts of Ealu survived. Ealu became Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Westerners refer to a Continent called Lemuria. The relationship between Kumari Kandam and Lemuria are being studied. Eelam was the name then given to this Island. The area occupied by Tamils now is called Tamil Eelam. Actually the  area which is majority Sinhala speaking should be referred to as Sinhala Eelam. Identification with Eelam has no connection to the Dravida Movement in South India. In fact politicians like Seeman distinguish between Dravidar and the Tamils.

  • If the Eelam area was borrowed from the colonial British map, if Global Church planted the Dravida Nadu movement and Greater Tamil Eelam initiative, if Malabars, Vellalars, and Thesavalamail were imported from South India, is it so difficult to realise that Tamil militancy was also exported from India to Sri Lanka to pass on India’s headache to us?

Response: This whole question arises from a totally muddled mind. In fact an ignorant mind. Eelam was the name of the present Sri Lanka in ancient times. This Island had several names including Serendip, Seilan, Ceylon and so on. The Eelam area was not borrowed from the Colonial British Map. Eelam was a fact even before the British came here. The British confirmed the areas of Tamil residency by creating Provinces which included the resident Tamils within them, who were majority in those Provinces. The Dravida Nadu concept is recent. It was the Dravida Kalagam within the past 150 years which referred to Dravida Nadu. The Church’s part in it is also recent. Eelam existed even before these concepts came into parlance.

 The Malabars from the Coromandel Coast came to this Island within the past 1000 years or so. They belonged to the Chera Nadu in South India. Now that area is identified as part of Kerala. They added to the number of existing indigenous Tamils. Since they owned lands and were powerful, the Dutch associated with them and got their advise to codify the laws existing then. The Thesavalamai is what the Chiefs among the Malabar Inhabitants explained to the Dutch. It has a matrilineal approach just like in the Coromandel Coast area. Just like the Roman – Dutch Law that was introduced into this Island by the Dutch, those Malabar inhabitants introduced concepts from the Marumakathiyam Law in the Coromandhal Coast areas and the Dutch codified them and called it the Law of Thesawalamai (the traditions of the Country).

Tamil Militancy in Sri Lanka is indigenous. India had nothing to do with it. Soon after Independence when the vast majority of the North and East of Ceylon was Tamil speaking it was wrong to have made Sinhala as the only official language of the Country overlooking the fact that the Tamil speaking people were the majority in their traditional living areas. Even now the Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East, despite so much of land grabbing and Sinhala colonization going on in the North and East with Government and Military support. The rights of the Tamils in the North and East were overlooked when “Sinhala Only” was brought as Law. When there was agitation by Tamils objecting to Sinhala being made as the sole State language, Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranayake realized his folly and brought in the Reasonable use of Tamil law.  But a few Buddhist Priests went to his house in Rosmead Place and had it torn apart. Finally it was a Buddhist Priest who killed Mr.Bandaranayake!

So agitation against Land grabbing in the East, passing of Sinhala Only in Parliament, forcing Standardisation in Education, using force on the Youth who agitated against these activities by the Sinhala Central Government, all contributed to Tamil Militancy. In fact the Sinhala Government turned to India to put down the Militancy of the Tamil Youths and thus IPKF was brought in. Our Youth militated against Sinhala Chauvinism, Sinhala brutality and their ethnocratic activities. There was nothing to export from India.

The homeland quest of the Tamils is not an imported concept. It synchronizes with the Lands occupied by the Tamils for over 3000 years from ancient times long before the Sinhala language saw sunlight. We Tamils ask for internal self-determination, which we are entitled to in terms of the principles of International Law, within a United Sri Lanka.              

C.V. Wigneswaran

Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, PC is a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer, judge, politician and Member of Parliament.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog