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Yapapatuna / Jaffna Kingdom - 1215-1619

The Tamils or Damiloes as they are called in the native chronicles, from Southern India, founded a Malabar kingdom at Jaffna at a very early period, where their descendants still form the principal part of the population. The arrival of the Tamils at Jaffna is recorded in a Hindu history or poem called "Kylasa Mala," written in the Tamil language. It states they settled in the north (BC 250), but no reliance is to be placed on this fabulous production. The "Mahawanso" mentions several invasions of Tamils about the same period, but the Pandyan chronicles contain no notice of any Tamil invasion or settlement in Ceylon previous to the Claudian Embassy.

It should be noted that there is a controversy among scholars about the precise time and period during which the Jaffna Kingdom was founded, its boundaries, the nature and scope of its power and its level of independence. The Tamils are younger in the ownership of the island by some fifteen centuries than the Sinhalese, whom, after a thousand years of struggle, they finally overcame about the year 1215, only to share the land with them from that day to this. From the thirteenth century, Jaffna was the main center of a Tamil kingdom in northern. In the year 1215 the Kalinga king Magha (1215 AD - 1236 AD), from India, robbed the Sri Lankan throne and began to vanish many dagebas, temples, cities and many constructions. Magha the invader laid waste the kingdom and the royal city. It is not likely that Polonnarua ever recovered anything of its former grandeur after this.

During this time period, the power of native Sinhalese began to move to the south. During the thirteenth century, the declining Sinhalese kingdom faced threats of invasion from India and the expanding Tamil kingdom of northern Sri Lanka. According to two semi-historical Tamil works - the Yalpana Vaipava Malai and the Kailaya Malai - the Jaffna Kingdom was founded by a line of Kings who called themselves Arya Chakravartis. The name Arya Chakravart is found in Ceylonese history as the name of a great warrior who commanded an army sent by Kulasaikera, who is called King of the Pandyans or people of the Madura country, which invaded Ceylon in 1314.

Taking advantage of Sinhalese weakness, the Tamils secured control of the valuable pearl fisheries around Jaffna Peninsula. During this time, the vast stretches of jungle that cover north-central Sri Lanka separated the Tamils and the Sinhalese. This geographical separation had important psychological and cultural implications. The Tamils in the north developed a more distinct and confident culture, backed by a resurgent Hinduism that looked to the traditions of southern India for its inspiration.

Conversely, the Sinhalese were increasingly restricted to the southern and central area of the island and were fearful of the more numerous Tamils on the Indian mainland. The fact that the Hindu kingdom at Jaffna was expending most of its military resources resisting the advances of the expansionist Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565) in India enhanced the Sinhalese ability to resist further Tamil encroachments. Some historians maintain that it was the arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century that prevented the island from being overrun by south Indians.

For most of its duration as a political unit, the "Kingdom" or principality of Jaffna was de jure part of the dominions of the Sinhalese kings whether ruling at Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka or Kandy, during the course of its existence from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century, there were periods in which the chieftain of this remote province asserted his independence of the Sinhalese overlord. At the beginning he was a feudatory of the South Indian Vijayanagara Empire.

Out of a background of alternating fortunes, there emerged at the beginning of the 13th century, a separate Tamil kingdom, the territory of which has since been the homeland of Tamils. The territory of this Tamil State stretched from Chilaw in the north-west to the northern regions and thence to the Kumbukkan Oya in the present Yala Sanctuary in the south-east, to include the northern half of the modern Puttalam District, the whole of the modern Northern Province and the whole of the modern Eastern Province - one third of the territory of Sri Lanka. The rest of the island was "Sinhala land".

'Ibn Batuta, the traveler from Tangier visited Ceylon in 1344 [1347?] and found the contemporary Arya Chakravarti the most powerful potentate in the country. This was a period of confusion in the kingdom and the Sinhalese king was too weak to control his chieftains. Parakrama Bahu IV , came to the Sinhalese throne in the Saka year 1247 or A.D. 1325/6. He He was succeeded by Vanni Bhuvanaika Bahu III and Jaya or Vijaya Bahu, of whom nothing is known. About the end of this last-named king's reign or the beginning of his successor's Lanka was visited in by the famous traveller, Ibn Batuta, who found the north of the Island, including the port of Puttalam, in the possession of the king of Jaffna.

The Arya Chakravarti pushed his authority to the South, controlled some of the West coast ports and even levied taxes in his own right in places close to Kotte. Arya Chakravarti, the king of Jaffna, attacked Vikrama Bahu III (about 1357 to 1374 at least), who ruled at Kotte, by sea and land, but was defeated Alagakkonara capturing his encampments at Colombo, Wattala, Negombo and Chilaw. This campaign can hardly be other than that assigned by the Rajavaliya which at this period is very confused, to the reign of Bhuvanaika Bahu V. According to this chronicle the war was brought about by Alagakkonara hanging Arya Chakravarti's tax collectors. It is unlikely that this is an invention. The very position of Kotte in the swamps near Colombo is a proof of the straits to which the Sinhala had been reduced, and there can be little doubt that the Jaffna kingdom was for a time paramount in the low country of Lanka; the Tamil inscription at Kotagama in Kegalla District, however, is almost its only surviving relic.

For most of its duration as a political unit the "Kingdom" or principality of Jaffna was de jure part of the dominions of the Sinhalese kings whether ruling at Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka or Kandy. In the 15th century the kingdom of Jaffna was tributary to the great empire on the mainland. The Jaffna Kingdom was dominated by the South Indian Pandyan Empire, a Dravidian empire in the 13th Century after they defeated Chadrabhanu. But during the course of its existence from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century, there were periods in which the chieftain of this remote province asserted his independence of the Sinhalese overlord. Sometimes he pledged fealty to Portugal while acknowledging the Sinhalese king as his overlord. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the Jaffna Kingdom was under Sinhalese rule.

This precarious existence of the "Kingdom of Jaffna" ended in 1619 when a Portuguese general defeated the "Ringlet" Sangili at Atchuvely in 1619. when the Portuguese captured the Tamil State in 1619. Neither the Sinhalese king nor the Sinhalese people offered any assistance to the Tamil king Sangili against the Portuguese as it was the view of the Sinhalese that they had nothing in common with the state of Tamil Eelam.

The claim of Tamil separatists for a separate state was not founded, as many believe, on allegations of harassment and discrimination by the Sinhalese majority, but on a reading of ancient and modern Sri Lanka history.

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Page last modified: 05-05-2012 19:19:32 ZULU