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Home  > The Tamil History - History & Geography > Arya Chakravarties of Tamil Eelam

Arya Chakravarties of Tamil Eelam

in Tamil Culture in Ceylon, Kalai Nilayam Press

[see also The Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna - 
Early Beginnings to the Court of the Ariya Chakravartis - Dr.H.W.Tambiah

from the cover: Dr. M. D. Raghavan was educated at the Madras and Oxford Universities. He participated in field work with the Anthropological Expedition to India by the Saxon State Institute, Germany led by Prof. Egon von Eickstedt in 1928. The first Head of the Department of Anthropology, University of Madras, Dr. Raghavan was also President of the Ethnology and Folklore Section of the All-India Oriental Conference, 11th Session, held at Hyderabad. On his retirement from the Indian Service, the Government of Ceylon appointed him in 1946 to the post of Ethnologist in the Depart­ment of National Museums, where his work covered a wide range of assignments: Ethnologist and Assistant Director. National Museums Member, Advisory Board for the Welfare of Backward Communities and Tribes Member, Arts Council of Ceylon, Panel of Folk Songs and Dances and Hilda Obeysekara Senior Research Fellow at tile University of Ceylon for two years. 

Dr. Raghavan is an accepted authority on the ethnography of Ceylon. He is known for the scholarship and meticulousness of his extensive studies in this field .Among his earlier studies is his pioneering work on the ballads of Kerala published in issues of the Indian Antiquary, Folk-lore, Nature and Oriental Literary Digest. Dr. Raghavan is the author of a series of monographs in the Ethnological Survey of Ceylon that appeared in the Spolia Zeylanlica journal of the National Museums of Ceylon. He has published several articles in Ceylon Today, the journal of the Department of Information, Government of Ceylon, in New Lanka and other Ceylon journals.

First Phase  Naga Era Legend of Yalpanan Later Period Foot Notes

First Phase

Friendly relations between South India and Ceylon progressed in the post-Vijayan epoch steadily contributing to the build-up of the Tamil edifice of Jaffna. With growing familiarity, the more enterprising were tempted to exploit the opportunities Ceylon offered for an adventurous career.

That the first of such enterprises should have stemmed from business relations, shows how trade spear-headed political adventurism. Sena and Guttika. sons of a trader in horses, were the first to stage an invasion of Ceylon. Coming with a great army, they siezed the Sinhalese kingdom from the reigning king, Sura Tissa (187 - 177 B.C.) and reigned together for twenty-two years (177 - 155 B.C.) justly.’’ (Mahavamsa XX, 10-11).

Elara, “ a Damila of noble descent,” was the next. Landing in the vicinity of Trincoinalee, Elara advanced over Rajarata and seized the throne of Anuradhapura from the reigning king Asela (155 - 140 B.C.) and ruled 44 years (155 - 101 B.C.) “with even-handed justice toward friend and foe, on occasions of disputes at law (Mahavamsa XXI, 13-14).’’ As alreatlv narrated. the youthful prince, Duttagamini, ultimately triumphed over the ageing Etara and restored the Sinhalese monarchy.

In concluding this episode, from the fact that, as the Mahavamsa says, “ When he had overpowered thirty-two Damila kings, Duttagamini ruled over Lanka in single sovereignty,” (Mahavamsa. XXV, 75), we have an insight into the formidable nature of the task Duttagamini had to face to overcome the Tamil resistance.

Decades later, seven Tamils occupied Anuradhapura. Five of them, Pulahatta, Babiya, Panayamara, Piliyamara and Dhatika, reigned in succession for a total of 14 years and seven months (44-29 B.C.). (Mahavamsa XXXIII, 87-61). We are also told in Rajavaliya  "that during the reign of Vanka Nasika Tissa (168 - 171 A.D.) a Chola king descended on Ceylon and carried away 12,000 Sinhalese as slaves to work on irrigation works on the Cauvery River banks. Gajabahu I (171 - 193 A.D.), the son and successor of Tissa, avenged the outrage by invading the Chola country, redeemcd the captured Sinhalese and brought to Ceylon a large number of Tamils. These are considered to have been established in a number of villages in Alutkuru Korala and got assimilated in the Sinhalese population.

This Sinhalese tradition of a counter invasion of the Chola country by Gajabahu, is not generally accepted by the South Indian historians.

Directly and indirectly these series of Tamil incursions considerably swelled the Tamil strength of North Ceylon already occupied from early ages by colonists from Tamilnad.

The trail of Tamil invasions apart, kings and leaders of factions enlisted  Tamil mercenaries to fight their causes. The first of these to be chronicled was King Ila Naga (95 - 101 A.D.), who went to South India for reinforcements to assert his power over his rivals, the Lambakarnas. (Mahavamsa XXXV, 26 - 29).

Later Abhavanaga (285 - 293 A.D.) did likewise, going over to "the other shore", where he recruited many Damilas, and marched to do battle with his brother, Voharika Tissa, (Maha. XXXVI, 42-50). A succession of six Pandyan chiefs occupied Anuradbapura in the course of the year 438 A.D. The invaders were repelled by Dhatusena (460 - 478), but dynastic rivalries followed his death. The rightful heir, Mugallana, betook himself to India and returned with reinforcements after a stay of 18 years, and won back his kingdom from the usurper Kassapa, who ruled as king from his rock castle of Sigiriya.

Dynastic disturbances and civil strife increased during the succeeding years. Kings Silamegha Vanna (614 - 623), Agbo III (626), Datopa Tissa (628 - 641), Datopa Tissa II (650 - 658) and Manavamma (676 - 711), each in turn went over to South India for Tamil mercenaries. Manavamma, in his endeavours to keep his throne, turned to the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I, whom he helped against Pulakesin II, and was in turn helped by him to regain his throne at Anuradhapura.

While scenes such as these filled the annals of the monarchy at Anuradhapura, what was the state of Jaffna? In the ages following the dramatic entry of the Buddhist mission from India and the ceremonial coming of the Bo-tree, nothing much is known of Jaffna. It is reasonable to presume that Jaffna of these ages, was very much left to its own devices.

When Aggrabodhi died in 781 A.D., we are told the “chiefs of the districts of northern territory with the dwellers in the provinces seized the land by force and refused tribute to the king” (Mahavamsa XLVIII, 83 - 85). This statement sheds light on this obscure phase of Jaffna history.

Two facts seem to stand out clear from this revealing observation - that there was no central authority in Jaffna and that the chiefs lorded it over themselves, with little or no interference from the central authority in Anuradhapura, having had an easy time of it, paying an annual tribute to the kings at Anuradhapura. Mahinda II, successor to Aggrabodhi, the chronicle continues, “ crushed all the chiefs of the districts together with the dwellers in the province.” This latter claim is not borne out by what happened subsequently, for the local chiefs of Jaffna gave support to the Pandyan king, Srimara­vallabha (815 - 862), on his invasion of Ceylon in the reign of Sena I (846 - 868).

Tradition preserved in De Queyroz, tells us that “there seems to have been in the land a military order of government, composed of Vidanes, Arachies and Mudaliyars.” This confirms the pronouncement by “Mahavamsa” extracted above.

In this welter of political unsettlement, the story emerges of that much talked of romance of the time, the adventures of Uggira Simhan, adventures interpreted and misinterpreted by different writers. That the situation in North Ceylon was such that it could easily have fallen a prey to any political adventurer it is easy to see. “ Yalpana Vaipava Malai “ pictures Uggirasimhan as a prince of the dynasty of Vijaya himself. To link up Uggirasimhan with Vijaya might well have been just to give him a respectable ancestry. Whatever may have been his ancestry, there is no room to doubt his historicity among the most lively of the traditions of Jaffna. Despite the flights of fancy which have been woven round his deeds, we may rightly accept the simple proposition of Uggirasimhan as an adventurer prince from South India, making capital out of the fluid political conditions of the time, 9th century A.D.

The Kalinga ancestry attributed to Uggirasimhan is the basis of calling the line of kings he founded, the Kalinga dynasty of kings. The dynasty founded by Uggirasimhan steadily evolved in time into the dynasty of the Arya Chakravarties. The first king to assume this title, is regarded to be Kulankai Chakravarti also known as Kalinga Arya Chakravarti. We have now come to the threshold of the line of the Arya Chakravarties

Naga Era

Traditions narrated in the Mahavamsa and other Sinhalese chronicles, give us grounds to sustain an earlier epoch in Jaffna, preceding that of the Arya Chakravarties. In common with the ancient civilisations of the world, the legendary era of Ceylon is a transitional phase, a link between the unchronicled and the historic ages.

The Mahavamsa speaks of a strong Naga factor distributed in the different parts of Ceylon particularly significant in the North and South-west, ruled over by a line of Naga kings, with offshoots of the Naga over the North-west.

The Mahavamsa accounts present clear-cut images of the Naga kings of Ceylon, related to each other by kinship ties. Oriented to the Naga epoch of Ceylon, the Chronicle gives us colourful narrations of three visits of the Buddha to Ceylon. These legends of the three visits of the Buddha to Ceylon, are part of the Buddhist dogma of the Sinhalese. As positive reflections of the Naga traditions of Ceylon, particularly strong in the North and South-west of Ceylon, these have their import to students of history, and of the traditional culture of Ceylon.

I may here draw attention to an extension of the Naga cultural complex, further inland in the South . I refer to the Narimana Tamil Inscription  “ The purport of the record is to register the grant by King Parakramabahu VI, of the pleasant village of Nayimana and adjacent lands to a Sattra (Chatram) of the Devalaya, for the maintenance permanently of charity to twelve Brahmans, at the alms-hall of the Devalaya.”

The first visit of the Buddha was to the wild region of North Central Ceylon, corresponding to the modern Mahiyangana, a stronghold of the ancient Yakkas and Nagas. The second visit of the Buddha was to Nagadipa, a name which the Mahavamsa applies to the entire Jaffna Peninsula. This visit was to settle a growing strife between the Naga King Mahodara, reigning at Nagadipa and his nephew, Culodhara, reigning at Kanda­madanam, near Rameswaram, for a gem-set throne. The Buddha appeared on the scene, and seated on the throne of the Naga Kings preached a doctrine of reconciliation. As a result of this sermon, eighty Kotis of Nagas embraced Buddhism, in the words of the Mahavarnsa. The third visit was to Kelaniya, at the personal invitation of Maniakkhika, the Naga King of Kelaniya.

Merged with the Sinhalese kingdom, Kelaniya progressively shed the Naga complex, though Naga traditions are a live factor of Kelaniya to this day. Nevertheless as a separate Naga kingdom, Ke]aniya ceased to exist, and nothing more is heard of it in the subsequent periods. Against this silence, may be contrasted the heritage of the Naga kingdom of Nagadipa, Jaffna Peninsula, the Manipa]lavam of the Tamil epic Manirnekalai.

The past few decades have witnessed a revival of interest in the history of Jaffna. Mudahiyar C. Rasanayagam set the pace with his Ancient Jaffna, 1926. This and subsequent studies have given us the probability of a succession of Naga rulers. Subject to new light that may be shed in course of time in the wake of archaeological or epigraphical explorations, the studies so far done, give us a line of kings, with the Naga suffix. Such are the names, Ila Naga (95 - 101), Mahalla Nag.a (193 - 199), Kuja Naga (246 - 248), Kaunca Naga (243 - 244), Sri Naga I (244-263), Sri Naga (244 - 263), Abhaya Naga (285 - 293) and Sri Naga II (293-295).

As we glance at these names, it is evident that a number of them, are the same as those of the kings of Anuradhapura, as given in the Mahavamsa. This would seem to justify the inference that some of these kings may have been rulers of both Anuradhapura and Jaffna, pointing to an era of co-ordination of relations as of administration.

As already told, the Naga kings were succeeded by a line of kings bearing the high-sounding title of the Arya Chakravarties of Jaffna. Noted for the all-round progress of the land and its peoples for several centuries, of particular interest, is their link in the early stages with Rameswaram, a relationship which reveals the very genesis of this line of kings and in particular of the title Arya, which these kings assumed early. Rasanayagam’s studies of a few decades ago almost for the first time revealed to us that the Arya title would seem to be based on the claim of this line of kings that they are descended from two Brahmins appointed by Sri Rama, on his sojourn in Rameswaram after his encounters in Ceylon and the establishment of the Rameswaram Temple. The two Brahmins, tradition has it, exercised supreme authority over a colony of 512 Brahmins brought over from Benares and settled at Rameswaram, at the instance of Sri Rama.

The tradition finds conspicuous mention in a number of poetical compositions. One of these is the astrological work, Sekaraja Sekaran, Siruppayiram. Verses 3 to 5 relevant to the present purpose, have been freely translated by Rasanayagam in the following lines

“When Rama with his vast army like unto a dark ocean approached the Kandamadannm Hill, the shadow of the Rakshasa of great iniquity (Ravana), which had haunted him, vanished from his presence. Having noted this peculiar experi­ence, he related the same to the learned Rishi (Agastya) of the Potiya hill. The latter revealed to him, the sacred importance of the place and llama was impressed with its sacredness.”

Sri Rama thereupon established on the sacred spot the worship of Siva, and involuntarily gave the God and the sacred place his own name and sent for from Benares 512 Brahmins of the Pasupata sect well versed in the Vedas.

He gracefully directed them to officiate at the temple and invested two of them with the authority of sovereignty, granting to them the wreath of the sweet smelling tulasi, the title of the spotless Vedic Arya King, the beautiful parasol, the single spiralled sacred conch and the victorious Nandi flag.

The settlement at Rameswaram of a Colony of 512 Brahmins from Benares, finds mention too in Tamil poem Devi Ula by Palappattadai Chokkanatha Pulavar.

These and other evidence from Tamil literature, testify to the establishment of a colony of Brahmins at Rameswaram under the administrative control of two chiefs vested with sovereign powers. To round off the picture of sovereignty, is the allusion to the royal emblems conferred on the chiefs - the parasol, the sacred conch, the flag of the sacred bull and the emblem of the Sethu.

As to the first king of Jaffna who assumed this title, opinions differ. The views alternately held are that one of the kings of Jaffna married a Brahmin woman of the Rameswaramn family or a Brahmin of Rameswaram married a Jaffna princess, and the descendants assumed the Arya title by virtue of the Brahmin descent. 

That the tradition of Brahmin descent swayed different historians, is seen from the statements of De Queyroz, the historian of the Portuguese times and of Simon Casie Chetty of the Colonial days. Each speaks of matrimonial relations between a Jaffna king and a Brahmin woman of Rameswaram lineage. Casie Chetty bases his version on the traditions collected in the Yalpana Vaipava Malai by Mylvagana Pulavar, published in 1730. The first Arya king of Jaffna according to the latter was a Chola prince, and according to the Kailaya Malai, an earlier composition, a Pandyan prince.

These traditions apart, is the contemporary evidence of the Tamil poet Puhalendi of 12th century, a court poet of the Chola king, that on a visit to Kataragama in Ceylon, the poet had an audience of the King Arya Chakravarti, Singai Arya Sekaran. The King received him graciously and gave him rich presents worthy of a king. Later at the news of the death of the King the poet sings his noble qualities in eloquent verse.

The Brahminical status of the Arya Chakravarties indeed so much animated the Tamil poets that the sacred thread did not escape them, stressed in the line “Like unto the sacred thread on the breast of Sekaraja Sekaran.”

So far as the overlordship of the Arya Chakravarties over Rameswaram is concerned, an obvious pointer is the title Sethu Kavalan or Sethu Kavalavan borne by these kings and the adoption of the Sethu as their emblem. An illustration of this is the Sethu crest at the head of the inscription at Kotagama in Kegalla in Ceylon, the inscription which speaks of the encounter of the army of the King of Jaffna and Sinhalese forces commanded by the heroic Alakeswara. The Sethu legend is also one that occurs in Jaffna coinage of the times.

With the changing politics of the later ages and the ineffective hold of the kings of Jaffna over Rameswaram, a new institution came into being in the year 1604, with the chief of Ramnad as the new Sethupati during the reign of Muthu Krishnappa Naik of Maciura. The title Sethupati thus passed from the hands of the Jaffna king to the Raja of Ramnad.

Reminiscent of the intimate ties that subsisted over long ages between Jaffna and Rameswaram, are these observations of Rasanayagam: 

“It would appear that a Pararaja Sekaran was reigning at Jaffna in 1414 A.D., for there were inscriptions on the base of the chief shrine of Rameswaram which recorded that the principle shrines there were built by Pararaja Sekaran in Saka 1336. The stones were hewn at Trincomalee, numbered on the spot ready to be put together and then transported to Rameswaram. Most of these inscriptions were either destroyed or removed and forged ones inserted during a suit between the priests and the Raja of Ramnad about 1866 A.D”

Legend of Yalpanan: the Panan Minstrel

Uggirasimhan (795 A.D.), the reputed founder of the Kalinga dynasty, shifted his capital from Kadiramalai to Singai Nagar. Uggirasimhan was succeeded by Jayatunga (Jayasinga) whose reign gains in interest from the legend that the King was visited by the blind Panan minstrel, the Yalpanan of the legends. Pleased with his music, the King rewarded him by the grant of a sandy waste land.

Vaipava Malai calls the Panan minstrel, the blind poet Veera Raghavan. The story is one that occurs too in other folk-lore collections and poems as the Kailaya Malai, Vaiyapadal, Trineoma lee KalvelIu and Dakshina Kailasa Puranan, as Rasanayagam tells us. In these legends, the Panan is not referred to by any name. In the telling and writing of it through the ages, the legend took several extravagant forms. One of these confuses the Jaffna capital Singai Nagar with Sengadagala Nagar, or Kandy; and the King, with the King of Kandy. Such extravagances apart, the core of the story, of the King of Jaffna presenting a tract of waste land to the minstrel, pleased with his singing, has come to be accepted as not devoid of historical interest. 

Rasanayagam himself would seem to take it so, as may be surmised from these observations of his (1) -:

 “The Panan returned to India and probably induced some members of his tribe as impecunious as himself to accompany him to this land of promise, and it is believed that their place of settlement was that part of the city of Jaffna which is known at present as Pasiyur and Karaiyur, settlements in remembrance of the lutist Yalpanan. Coming to be so known to the mariners and traders who called at the ports close by, it would have lent its name in course of time, particularly among such strangers, to the chief town and ultimately to the district itself.” But the name did not become popular among the inhabitants of Jaffna until the Portuguese built the town close to the Panan settle­ment and called it Jaffnapatam and the English called it Jaffna. To the man of the place “ Jaffna town is still Pattinam” in the words of Paul E. Pieris,(2) who observes too that “the Portuguese settlement is ‘Parangi Teru’ in Vannarponnai.”

The name Yalpanam (3) or Yalpanapattinam, gains in prestige in its occurrence in literature, as in the Kokila Sandesaya, a Sinhalese Sandesa Kavya of the middle fifteenth century, in which it is referred to under the name Yapapatuna:

Enter thou, Yapapatuna, graced with stately buildings
Emblazoned with golden flags;
Gems and stones shedding brilliance transplendent,
In charm and splendour vying with Vaishravana’s City, Alakamanda.”

The name also appears in certain Tamil inscriptions, as in a copper plate grant of Hiranya Garbhayaji Raghunatha Setupati Katta Tevar of Saka 1607 (Arch. Survey of South India, Vol. IV).

Whether the blind minstrel ever ruled as king or not, is not material. There is no justification to import any idea of sovereignty into the name and there is no evidence that he ever reigned as king.

The blind Panan may rightly be viewed as symbolic of an era of progressive infiltration of peoples from South India to North Jaffna. The story of early colonisations has been a favourite subject of Tamil poets of the middle ages of Jaffna. Among the more complete of these poetical compositions that have come down to us, stands Vaiya Padal by Vaiyapuri Aiyar, the court bard of King Segarajasekharan (1519 - 1565). The poem is outstanding for the first account it gives of the innumer­able hosts of peoples who swarmed into North Ceylon. A vast assortment of peoples finds enumeration in this poem. Representatives of the wandering minstrel, of the tribe of our blind Panan with the Yal, are:

Flutists, cymbal players and drummers,
Players on Vanka and other reputed instruments.”

The Panan today is a small group fast dying out, of physicians, singers and exorcists, mainly engaged in conducting the Naga cult in the Naga shrines of Southern Kerala.

In the colonisation of Jaffna, three main stages may be discerned. The earliest of these stemmed from almost all over Tamilakam, a name that signified the Tamil lands of peninsular India which included most of what is Kerala today. This phase of immigration may be traced to the early centuries of the Christian era. As already stated our main source of knowledge of this, the first well marked immigration movement, is the poem Vaiya Padal.

The next big event in the colonisation of North Ceylon, was the coming of the Vanniyar Chiefs and their retinue at different periods of the Chola and Pandya kingdoms of South India. Their first arrival centres round the epic recounted already of Marutapiravika Valli, a Chola Princess, who was on a pilgrimage to Keerimalai by the margin of the sea. The purpose of the pilgrimage was her resolve to get rid of her congenital horseface, by bathing in the holy waters of the sacred tirtha of Keerimalai, still valued for its curative virtues. Her deformity steadily vanished. In grateful remembrance, she built at the site the temple which stands today, the Temple of Mavittapuram, literally the place where the horseface disappeared, as already narrated.

Uggirasimhan, a Kalinga Prince who happened to be in North Ceylon at this time evidently on an adventurous career, fell in love with her and married her. Vara Raja Simhan, the son born to the union, in fullness of time sent for a princess from Madura, to be his wife. The princess duly arrived, accompanied by a retinue of sixty Vanniyar chiefs, an event ascribed to about 8000 of the Kaliyuga Era. This was the prelude to a wave of immigrations. The King of Madura himself presently arrived and with him came a number of Vanniyar colonists.

At this stage another element entered Jaffna. This was the Mukkuvar, under their chief Vedi Arasan. Confronted by these new arrivals, the Vanniyar organised themselves into well-knit settlements.

Yet another wave of Vanniyar colonists accompanied Kulakkodan, the Chola chief on his pilgrimage to Tiruconamalai. This in brief sums up the story of the Vanniyar colonisation.

We now come to the Colonisation in historical times. This more or less, synchronised with the break up of the Chola and Pandyan kingdoms, merging themselves in the Vijayanagar empire. This in turn succumbed to the dominance of the Muhammadan power in 1605. Of the reaction of this on the neighbouring Ceylon, Rasanayagam (4) observes :— 

“In times such as these, many respectable Vellala families may have emigrated to Ceylon. Some of these settled in Jaffna and others sought refuge under Sinhalese kings and having accepted positions of honour and trust, became the progenitors of some of the most respectable VelIala families of the South of Ceylon. Such a migration of Vellala chieftains is highly probable and there are hundreds of families in different parts of the Jaffna peninsula who trace their descent from one or other of these colonists.”

Later period

From Dictionary of Biography of Tamils of Ceylon by S.Arumugam: The Table of Kings shown below is based on what is found in the traditional Chronicles of Jaffna, "Yalpana Vaipava Malai" composed in 1736 and the "Kailaya Malai" written two centuries earlier. Mudaliyar C.Rasanayagam has, in his "Ancient Jaffiia", allocated a period to each "according to average" basis. However unsatisfactory that may be, it is of sufficient indicative value

Kings of Jaffna - 1215 to 1618

Vijaya Kulankai A.C, Segarajasekaram 1215-1240
Kulasekara Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram 1240-1256
Kulotunga Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 1256-1279
Vikkrama Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram 1279-1302
Varothaya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 1302-1325
Marthanda Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram 1325-1348
Kunapushana Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 1348-1371
Virothaya Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram 1371-1380
Jayaweera Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 1380-1410
Kunaweera Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram 1410-1440
Kanagasuriya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 1440-1450
Sempaha Perumal Agent of Kotte King,
later King Bhuvaneka Bahu,
Kanagasuriya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram 2nd time 1467-1478
Pararajasekaran Singai 1478-1519
Sangili Segarajasekaram 1519-1561
Puviraja Pandaram Pararajasekaram 1561-1565
Periya Pulle Segarajasekaram 1565-1582
Puviraja Pandaram, 2nd time  1582-1591
Ethirmanasingam Pararajasekaram 1591-1615
His infant son with:
Arasakesari as Regent 
16 15-1617
with Sangili Kumara as Regent, 1617-1618

The chronology of the Arya dynasty of Kings in its early stages, is obscure. During the occupation of Ceylon by the Chola, first half of the 11th century, Jaffna rulers were but reflections of the sovereignty of the Chola kings. The relations of Ceylon with the royal dynasties of South India, the Chola, Pandya and the Vijayanagar, are major events in Jaffna politics, separately narrated further on.

Vijayabahu I (1070-1114), the liberator of the Sinhalese monarchy, married a princess of the Kalinga dynasty, Thilokasundari,(5) and this brought about closer social contacts with Polonnaruwa. With Parakramabahu I (1153-1186), taking up the reins of administration at Polonnaruwa, Jaffna became subsidiary to his over lordship. This was an obvious corollary to his Tamil descent, apart from his own personal gifts as a ruler. 

In passing, the kinship relations may here be mentioned in brief. (6) Mitta, the sister of Vijayabahu I, was given in marriage to a Pandyan Prince. Manahbarana, Kitti Sri Megha and Sri Vallabha are the three sons by this union. Parakramabahu is the son of Manabharana and Ratnavali, daughter of Vijayabahu and his Tamil queen, Thilokasundari. Parakramabahu I thus coming of Tamil lineage, easily ingratiated himself to the Tamils of Jaffna. Sri Vallabha, the uncle of Parakramabahu, exercised authority in Jaffna in the name of the king.

The next monarch who exercised kingship over Jaffna was Kalinga Magha.(7). Jaffna chronicles refer to him as King of Jaffna under the name of Kalinga Vijayabahu or Singai Aryan (1215-1240). The Pujavali and the Culavamsa also rightly refer to Magha of Kalinga as a Tamil king. Gnanaprakasar clarifies that the name Kulankai Vijayabahu of the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, is very likely a misreading of Vijaya Kalinga Chakravarti. 

The latter was followed by Kulasekara Singai Aryan (1240-1256) under the throne name of Segarajasekaran. He was succeeded by his son Kulotunga Segarajasekaran (1256-1279). In general, the Arya Chakravarties were patrons of Tamil literature. The rule of Kulotunga Segaraja, is marked by the visit of a blind Vellala poet, Andakakavi Vira Raghavan Mudaliyar. The king gave him royal gifts. The work he composed during this visit, Arurula, is reputed to have become a standard work. 

The main political event of his reign was the dispute that arose over the rights to the Pearl Fishery at Mannar between the Arya Chakravarti and King Bhuvenakabahu I (1278-1284), differences which led to a resort to arms. In the developments that followed in the wake of these antagonistic relations, the name figures prominently of Kulasekara, the Pandyan King (1268-1309) who interceded on behalf of the Sinhalese. This and other related matters, complicated by the version of the Culavamsa (90: 48-47) which gives a different colour to the entire episode, are separately dealt with in the chapter, Ceylon and the South Indian Royal Dynasties.

Kulotunga was succeeded by his son, Vikrama Singai Aryan (1278-1302), known by the titular name of Pararajasekaran. The reign is noteworthy for the visit about 1298 of Marco Polo. In the account of his travels, Marco Polo refers to the King of Ceylon as Sandemain, who it is conjectured could not have been any other than the King of Jaffna, Singai Aryan.

His son, Varothaya Singai Aryan (1302-1325), succeeded assuming the name Segarajasekaran. His reign is significant for the first of the Jaffna Pandya relations, with Sundara Pandya soliciting aid of the Jaffna king against his rival Vira Pandya, events related in a subsequent chapter.

When Varothaya was away in India, the Vanniyar chiefs rose in revolt, a rebellion quelled on the King’s return to Jaffna. A man of letters himself, the period of Varothaya Singai is conspicuous for his encouragement of Tamil arts and literature. He founded an Assembly of Poets, an institution which was in later years of value to the advancement of Tamil culture.

Varothaya was succeeded by his son, Marthanda Singai Aryan (1325-1348), under the name of Pararajasekaran. Conspicuous in Jaffna history, is the visit to his court in 1344 of the Arab traveller, the scholar pilgrim, Ibn Batuta,(8) on his way to Adam’s Peak. The testimony he has left in his writings is rightly valued for the status it discloses of the sovereignty of the Arya Chakravarti: 

“The king of Ceylon Arya Sakarti by name has considerable forces by sea. When I was first admitted to his presence he rose and received me honourably and said:

“You are my guest for three days. Security shall be provided to the people of the ship, because your relation, the King of Malabar, is my friend.’ After thanking him I remained with him and was treated with increasing respect.”

 For the earlier ages, the 9th and 10th centuries, we have the testimony of a number of other Muhammadan pilgrims to Adam’s Peak, travellers who have left their own impressions. Among these are Suleiman and Abu Zaid, who speak of two kings in Ceylon, one of whom was the ruler of an island called Zapage. Masudi, another pilgrim, refers to a Maharaja of Zabedez, another version obviously of Zapage, referring to Yalpannam. (9

Marthanda Singai was succeeded by his son Gunapooshana Singai Aryan (1348-1371), who favoured the title Segarajasekaran. His reign is noteworthy for the visit of the Italian John de Marignoli who spent some time in Jaffna on his way to China. Jaffna of the days is considered to have been administered by the Queen Mother, Regent for her minor son, Gunapooshana. His reign witnessed remarkable progress in the country in the field of agriculture and education. The Vanniyars who rose in revolt during the period were subdued, with the aid of the Vanniyar Chief of Omuntai who was rewarded by elevation to the position of the first chieftain of the Vanni.

Varothaya Singai was succeeded by his son, Jayaweera, under the name of Segarajasekaran. His reign witnessed the greatest challenge to the Kingdom of Jaffna, whose growing power found resistance from Kotte, which from now on steadily rose to be the chief Sinhala ascendance. The immediate cause of action between Alagakkonara, the power behind the throne at Kotte, and the Arya Chakravarti arose over the payment of tribute which Jaffna claimed from the time of the arbitration by King Kulasekkara Pandya, in the dispute between King Bhuvenaka Bahu I and the Arya Chakravarti recounted already. 

Conscious of his growing strength, Alagakkonara, the chronicles tell us, did not hesitate to capture the emissaries of the Arya Chakravarti, sent to collect tribute, and had them hung up. Hostilities ensued. “Kindled with rage,” Arya Chakravarti sent his powerful army reinforced by troops from Chola by land and sea. The division overland was by Matale to Gampola and the division by sea made for Negombo, Colombo and Panadura. Both sides claimed victory. According to Rajavaliya, Alagakkonara met the Tamil forces at Gorakana and Dematagoda, and burned their ships at Panadura. A record of obvious interest is the inscription discovered at Kotagama by Bell which purposes to eulogise the Aryan King in the course of an expedition against the Sinhalese King in the 14th century. The inscription which is in Tamil reads: (11)

“The innocent women-folk of the chiefs of Anuradhapura who did not submit to Aryan of Singai Nagar of foaming and resounding waters, shed a flood of tears from their glinting pair of eyes and performed the funeral rites (to their deceased husbands) by pouring water on gingelly seed placed on the palms of their bejewelled lotus-like hands.”

The general political situation is summed up by Codrington in the words, “there can be little doubt that the Jaffna Kingdom was for a time paramount in the Low Country.” (12)

Political events in Kotte took a dramatic turn with the coming into power of Parakramahahu VI (1415-1467), the king who brought all Ceylon under one umbrella. At the head of the army he placed the valiant prince known to Jaffna as Sembaha Perumal, and to the Sinhalese annals as Sapumal Kumaraya. Sembaham and Sapumal are the Tamil and Sinhalese terms respectively for the same flower.

Intolerant of the independence of the Jaffna Arya Chakra­varti, the king sent two expeditions against Jaffna with injunctions conveyed through Sapumal Kumaraya. The Rajavaliya (13) pictures the situation in these words: 

“He (King Parakramabahu) considers it unseemly that the Arya Chakravarti should exercise kingly power in Lanka. He thereupon issued pay to the great army and despatched it with the Senanayaka Sapu Kumaraya. This destroyed several towns belonging to Yapapattuna and returned again to the capital. A second time the great army was collected and despatched with the Pannikkis and Walimuni people of the two Konnakkara castes. The forces which were encamped at various ports were repulsed and the Senanayaka Sapu Kumaraya mounted on his sable steed led the great army within Yapapattuna Nuwara. After this he captured the Aryas there in nets like to a herd of deer and won for himself the name of Arya Vettayarum Perumal. Taking with him a vast treasure, arms, elephants and horses, he appeared before Parakramabahu Maharaja.” 

King Parakramabahu VI, passed away after a reign of 52 years and was succeeded by Sapurnal Kumaraya, who in 1450 marched upon Jaffna at the head of his army and seized the throne of the Arya Chakravarti under the name of Bhuvaneka Bahu.

Jaffna’s independent existence thus experienced for the first time, a rude shock. In the process of the military exploits, the capital Singai Nagar was a mass of ruins. The new ruler thereupon lost no time to build a new capital, Nallur, literally the new town, glories of which are reflected today. The city thus founded filled its role as the capital of Jaffna from 1450, until replaced by the modern town of Jaffnapattanam by the Portuguese in 1620. Though speculation has been rife over Nallur, evidence is overwhelming that the city, as the capital of the Kingdom arose on the occupation of Jaffna by Sapumal Kumaraya, who assumed kingship under the name of Bhuvanekabahu. 

In the Sinhalese poem Kokila Sandesayal of the 15th century, which commemorates the Sinhalese conquest, the city is featured under the name Yappapatuna, a poetical version of the Tamil, Yalpana Patinam. That the name of the conqueror of Jaffna, finds a place in the Kattiyam chanted during the festival days at the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, is yet another positive testimony, of its foundation by King Bhuvanekabahu.

The Arya Chakravarti who was thus overthrown by Bhuvanekabahu, was Kanagasuriya Singai Arya. For a period of 17 years, from 1450 to 1467, the latter balanced his life between dedication to spiritual causes on the one side and preparations for regaining his throne on the other. Confident of his striking might after a long period of military strategy, Singai Aryan led his army with the reinforcements from South India and marched to the capital. Entering Nallur by its western gate, the Sinhalese ruler was taken by surprise. Vigorous fighting ensued. Well trained in military tactics, Pararajasekaran, the eldest son of Arya Chakravarti, showed both skill and mettle and inflicted a telling defeat on the Sinhalese forces and regained the kingdom of Jaffna. The line of Arya Chakravarties interrupted for a period of seventeen years, was thus re-established and continued in power for another long spell of rule, of a century and a half, until finally overpowered by the Portuguese in 1620.

King Kanagasuriya Singai Aryan (1467 - 1478), after his victory and reinstatement retired in time, handing over the kingdom to his son, Pararajasekaran (1468 - 1579). The new king in his new capital Nallur, interested himself in matters spiritual, and is remembered for his services to Saivaism. He built three new temples at Nallur. One of them is the Veerakali Amman Temple, a temple which gained prominence in the political events of the later days, as will be revealed in its place as we proceed.

The period of his reign is noteworthy too for cultural advancement, the foundations for which were laid by the King’s brother, Segarajasekaran, who revived the Tamil Assembly of Poets. Scholars of repute were recruited from South India and manuscripts collected and published. A great library was established at Nallur — the Saraswati Mahal Alayam. All this stimulated popular interest in Tamil literature. Two out­standing contributions of this period are the translation into Tamil of the Sanskrit classic Raghuvamsam, and the writing of Pararajasegaran Ula, a chronicle of Jaffna.

A tangled web of events followed in the reign of his successor, Sangili Segarajasekaran, who ascended the throne, over­powering and getting rid of his two elder brothers, the Crown Prince, Sinha Bahu and Paranirupasingam. How history shaped the destinies of Jaffna in the time of Sangily and his successors, and ushered in an altogether new era, will become clear when we follow the course of events which brought the closing phase of the Arya Chakravarties(15) into conflict with the Portuguese — the first of the Europeans to play their several roles on the chessboard of Ceylon politics — narrated in its place further on...

Foot Notes

(1) Rasanayagam, C.: Ancient Jaffna, Madras, 1926, p. 248.
(2) Pieris, Paul: The Kingdom of Jaffnapattinam, 1645; London, 1920, p 85.
(3) Though other suggestions have been advanced in the deriva­tion of the name Yalpanam, the simplest and the most direct is the derivation from Yalpanan, the Panan minstrel with the yal.
(4) Rasanayagam, C.: Ancient Jaffna, 1926, pp. 885 - 886
(5) “The charming young Princess of the Royal family of Kalinga,” Cul. 59, V. 29-80.
(6) "He (the king) fetched the Pandu king who came of an unblemished line, and wedded him his Royal sister Mitta by name. She bore him three sons, Manabharana, Kittisirimegha and Srivallabha. To Manabharana he gave his daughter Ratnavali,” Cul. Ch. 59; 49-51.
(7) Culavamsa. Ch. 80, pp. 182 - 184, Vol. II
(8) The Rehla of Ibn Batuta; Translation and Commentary by Mahdi Hussain, Gaikwad’s Oriental Series, No. C. XXII. Baroda, 1958. pp. 217 ff.
(9) Among the earlier chronicles we have the account by Cosmas who sums up Ceylon and its historical background of the days of the Arya Chakravarties in these words: "It is a great Island of the ocean lying in the Indian sea called Serendib by the Indians but Taprobane by the Greeks. The stone, the hyacinth, is found in it; it lies beyond the pepper country. Around it there are a multitude of exceedingly small islets, all containing fresh water and coconut palms. These (islands) lie as close as possible together. The great island itself according to the accounts of its inhabitants is three hundred gaudia or nine hundred miles long and as many in breadth. There are two kings ruling at opposite ends of the Island, one of whom possesses the hyacinth and the other the district in which are the port and the emporium, for the emporium in that place is the greatest in these parts The natives and their kings are of different races. The temples are numerous and in one in particular, situated on an eminence is the great hyacinth as large as a pine cone, the colour of the fire and flashing from a distance especially when catching the beams of the sun, a matchless sight.”
(10) Tennent, E., Ceylon, page 197.
(11) Bell, H. C. P.: Report on the Kegalla District, p. 85; and Navaratnam, C. S.: Tam its and Ceylon, pp. 182 - 188.
(12) Codrington, H. W.: The Gampola Period of Ceylon History, J. R. A. S. (C. B.), No. XXXII No. 88, 1938.
(13) Quoted by: Paul E. Pieris in The Portuguese Era, Vol. I, pp. 22 - 28.
(14) Perera, P. S.: Kokila Sandeaya, Colombo, 1908.
(15) An interesting dissertation on the Arya Chakravarties will be found in “The History of Ceylon,” (University of Ceylon, 1959- 1900), Volume 1, Part 2, Book 5, Chapter 5, “ The Northern Kingdom “, by S. Natesan.


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