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 Post subject: “Kingdom of Jaffna”
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:31 pm 
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“Kingdom of Jaffna”

Kamalika Peiris
Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Jaffna was known as ‘Nagadipa’ in the ancient period. It was an island separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of water. It became linked to the mainland only in the 18 century. It’s geology differs from the rest of the Dry Zone. Jaffna’s land surface is composed of a block of porous limestone with supplies of underground water which make it suitable only for well irrigation. Jaffna’s soils are thin and poor and need careful tilling and manuring.

Jaffna was a part of the Sinhala Buddhist civilisation. There are remains of Buddhist temples at Kantarodai (Kadurugoda). A.D.N. Fernando points out that Delft also had ruins of dagobas and brahmi inscriptions.

Malini Dias says that in 1903, a stone image of the Buddha about 8 feet in height was unearthed near Vishnu temple in Vallipuram, together with ruins of buildings, pottery and coins. The statue was gifted to Thailand in 1906 by the British governor Henry Blake. It is now in Bangkok.

Jaffna peninsula was under the Sinhala king in the ancient period. The Vallipuram manuscript shows that during the time of King Vasabha, (67-111 AD) his minister ordered that a Vihara be built in Nagadipa.

Three coins which could be assigned to Sinhala kings have been found in Jaffna area. The coin found at Kadurugoda, (Kantarodai) has been assigned to Parakrama bahu I. The second coin, a massa coin of the Dambadeniya period is assigned to Parakrama bahu II. The third coin is assigned to Parakrama bahu VI.

P.A.T. Gunasinghe says that Jaffna was populated by Sinhalese in the medieval period as well. He says that the place names of Jaffna only make sense if they are seen as translations of Sinhala names. He points out that ‘vil’ means ‘bow,’ and ‘pay’ means ‘net’ in Tamil.

Therefore names like Kokuvil and Manipay only make sense when they are seen as the Tamilisation of the Sinhala words Kokavila and Mampe. Valikamam and Vimankam are meaningless in Tamil, but make sense if the villages originally bore the Sinhala names of Valigama and Vimangama. Some place names like Polvattai refer to the Sinhala used in 14th century.

The public have been told that there was an indigenous kingdom in Jaffna known as the ‘Kingdom of Jaffna.’ Jaffna has no historical records which confirm the existence of such a kingdom. S. Pathmanathan in his ‘Kingdom of Jaffna’ says that the local Tamil chronicles don’t give a clear account of the beginning of the kingdom or its rulers.

The main source for this bogus ‘kingdom’ is the Yalapana Vaipava Malai written in 1736 at the request of the Dutch governor. Pathmanathan says that this document is defective in chronology and genealogy. No specific contributions any king is recorded in it. Of the ten kings who are said to have ruled till 1450, only 4 are known in sources other than in Yalpana Vaipava Malai.

That is not surprising. Because instead of turning into a ‘kingdom,’ Jaffna had became a vassal state of the Pandya kings of South India. A Malay (Javaka) ruler, called Chandrabanu invaded Sri Lanka around 1247. He attacked the Dambadeniya kingdom at Yapahuwa with troops from Chola and Pandya kingdoms.

He was defeated by Parakrama bahu II. He did not return to Malaya but settled in Jaffna. Around 1258, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya attacked him and levied tribute. Then in 1263, Jatavarman Vira Pandya invaded, killed Chandrabanu and placed Chandrabanu’s son as a vassal ruler in Jaffna. Father and son ruled for a total period of about 55 years. Chandrabanu’s coins have been recently found in the North. There are place names such as Chavakaccheri in Jaffna peninsula.

In 1286, the Pandyas invaded again and placed the first of the Ariyachakravarti rulers in charge in Jaffna. Cinkaiyariyan, a powerful general from the Pandya kingdom ruled at Nallur. P.A.T. Gunasinghe pointed out that unlike most kings, the Ariyachakravarti rulers left no inscriptions.

The tradition of leaving inscriptions was there at the time, and there is one relevant inscription in Kegalle, but none in Jaffna, indicating that this kingdom was not an independent one but was a part of the South Indian Pandya kingdom. Jaffna became, according to Vernon Mendis ‘a Pandyan principality’.

Around 1364, the Pandya kingdom was taken over by the Vijayanagara kingdom of South India, ruling from Karnataka. Jaffna was made to pay tribute and when it tried to rebel, Prince Virupaksha invaded and brought Jaffna under Vijayanagara control. This is indicated in his inscription dated 1365.

Jaffna was under Vijayanagara in 1507 when the Portuguese entered Sri Lanka. In 1591, the Portuguese killed the Ariyachakravarti ruler and put their nominee Pararasa Sekeram on the throne in 1591. This was not satisfactory and in 1610 the Portuguese took over Jaffna. Jaffna also went under Sinhala rule for a brief period.

Parakrama bahu VI (1412-1467) sent Sapumal Kumaraya to conquer the peninsula. Jaffna became once again a part of the Sinhala kingdom. G.V.P. Somaratne says there were Sinhalese in Jaffna when Sapumal entered. Sapumal when he became king as Buvaneka bahu VI was not interested in retaining Jaffna and Jaffna reverted to Vijayangara. I think that with external trade moving to the Southern ports, Jaffna became unimportant.

I also think that the Pandyas were merely using Jaffna as a base from which to annex the Sinhala kingdom. We find that the Ariyachakravarti ruler successfully attacked Vikramabahu III (1359-74) and exacted tribute.

Rajavali states that Tamil agents were stationed at various places including seaports to collect the tribute. However, historians are definite that there was no territorial annexation of the Sinhala kingdom by Jaffna during this period. Gunasinghe says that this period of control by Jaffna did not exceed 29 years.

It was probably much less. Vickramabahu’s powerful minister, Nissanka Alagakkonara defeated Ariyachakravarti and took back all territory except Jaffna, in which he was not interested. The tribute ended. Ariyachakravarti invaded again in the reign of Buvanekabahu V (1374-1408) and was defeated.


(The writings of T. Abeysinghe, Malini Dias, A.D.N. Fernando and P.A.T. Gunasinghe, S. Natesan, K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, S. Paranavitana, O.M.R. Sirisena, W.I Siriweera, G.V.P. Somaratne and V.Vitharana were used for this essay).


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