Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
A Millennial Anniversary in Eelam
1 November 2000
"In two months time, we will be bidding good bye to the
year A.D. 2000. Thus, it is apt to remember a millenial event which has
not received due attention among the Eelam Tamils. This was a remarkable
event in the political history of Eelam Tamils....The Time Tables of
History [Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982] compiled by Bernard Grun
(1901-1972) lists the following the nine events in its History and
Politics column, for the year 1000... the event listed as number 5 is
'King Rajaraja of the Chola dynasty conquers Ceylon'..."
The Tamils - their
History & Geography]
In two months time, we will be bidding good bye to the year A.D. 2000. Thus,
it is apt to remember a millenial event which has not received due attention
among the Eelam Tamils. This was a remarkable event in the political history of
Eelam Tamils. Let me evaluate this event which happened in the year A.D. 1000 in
South Asia, in comparison to the simultaneous events which occurred in Europe
and in a new continent, which later came to be named 'America'.
The Time Tables of History [Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982] compiled by
Bernard Grun (1901-1972) lists the following the nine events in its History and
Politics column, for the year 1000, and check the event listed as number 5.
1. Bohemia and Moravia united.
2. King Olaf I of Norway killed in the Battle of Svolder; Norway becomes
3. Piasts rule in Poland.
4. Venice rules over Dalmatian coast and Adriatic Sea.
Rajaraja of the Chola dynasty conquers Ceylon.
6. Ethelred II ravages Cumberland and Anglesey.
7. King Stephen of Hungary receives from the Pope the title of Apostolic
8. Sancho III, the Great of Navarre.
9. Emperor Otto III makes Rome his permanent residence.
These were the nine events which shook the then civilized world. If there
were newspapers and other mass media 1000 years ago, these were the major events
which would have received prominent coverage. In addition, the Science and
Technology column of Bernard Grun's reference book lists the following four
1. Leif Ericson, son of Eric the Rred, is supposed to have discovered
2. Indian mathematician Sridhara recognizes the importance of zero.
3. Mention of several abortive attempts to fly or float in air.
4. Arabs and Jews become court physicians in Germany.
When the Indian master Sridhara was pioneering with the significance of zero
in the mathematical world, in the year 1000 (or Y1K, as it is now dubbed in the
popular science parlor), the peasant Tamils living in the prosperous Chola
empire recognized that year as only the 15th year of the reign of King Rajaraja
the Great. The Indian subcontinent had a population of approximately 50 million,
who did not identify themselves as 'Indians'. They were adherents to Hinduism,
Buddhism and Jainism. King Rajaraja ruling from Tanjavur was one of the policy
makers of the then civilized world. There were courtiers, scientists and
tradesmen traveling to his court from the lands of Arabian peninsula, China and
Southeast Asia. Tanjavur had a population of 90,000. It was the 15th most
populous city in the world then. [source: U.S.News and World Report, Aug.16-23,
1999, Special Issue on The Year 1000].
The island of Ceylon probably would then have had a population between 800,000
and one million at the most. Those living in the island also never would have
identified themselves as 'Lankans' or 'Sri Lankans'. All of them were adherents
of either Buddhism (a hybrid version of North Indian Buddhism, deeply influenced
by South Indian Hinduism) and Hinduism. One can guess that when King Rajarajan
made his conquest of Ceylon exactly 1000 years ago and
made the Tiger emblem a symbol of obeisance, 10,000 to 20,000 Tamils from
the Chola empire would have settled in the Northern and Eastern regions of the
Ceylon island. Undoubtedly, these pioneers from Rajarajan's Chola empire were
the ancestors for quite a segment of our contemporary Eelam Tamil population.
Make no mistake about this. I'm not stating that this is the first Tamil
settlement in the Eelam territory. According to archeological and historical
records, the first permanent Tamil settlements would have occurred in the now
Mannar region, then known as Maa-Thottam [Great Garden] or Maanthai, two
millenia ago or even before that.
King Rajarajan's conquest of Ceylon would have been akin to the 1849
Californian Gold Rush, which brought hundreds of thousands of White Anglo Saxon
Protestants to the American West territory. But one should remember that the
first permanent English settlement in America was established in 1607 at
I wonder what composition those 10,000 to 20,000 pioneers would have had. All
the known traditional jobs would have been represented; servicemen and sentries,
administrators and accountants, tradesmen and temple priests, musicians and
mariners, farmers and foresters, teachers and technicians. Included in this
composition would be quite a few hustlers, toadys and criminals as well.
Nevertheless, all of them were adventurers.
|"The Brihadisvara Temple or the Great
Temple, Thanjavur, built by Raja Raja Chola-I around 1010 A.D. is a
masterpiece of South Indian art and architecture. It has attracted the
attention of several distinguished historians and art critics and volumes
have been written on different aspect of its many splendoured greatness...".
Seshadri - Sri Brihadisvara : The Great Temple of Thanjavur)
They also would have brought the latest technical expertise to the island of
Ceylon. These accountants, architects, mariners, engineers and even hustlers
would have first introduced the concept of zero in the arithmetic calculation of
routine affairs to the islanders, including those living beyond the Wanni
forests in the regions of Uda Rata and Ruhuna.
1000 years ago, the Chola empire of King Rajaraja was vast - even by
contemporary standards. The exports from Chola empire included incense, spices,
gems, gold, cotton and timber, not to mention science and technology (especially
arithmetic and architecture). The ports in the Eelam section of the Chola empire
also would have been bustling with activities; people landing with dreams of
better life, and setting the international business world in motion with exports
such as cotton, timber and spices. For 1000 years, the activities in these ports
have captured the imagination of Tamils and other tribes in Eelam and elsewhere.
The Tamil names of some of these ports say them all; Paruthithurai [Cotton
Port], Valvettithurai [Tough Dock Port or Endurance Port], Kankesanthurai
[Kankesan's Port] and Oorkaavalthurai [Town Vigilance Port].
So, let us raise a 'thousand year cheers' and toast to the master-mind of Tamil
resurgence - the Chola King Rajaraja the Great, who lived 40 generations ago.
We, Eelam Tamils, owe one to him.