Naga Era Legend
of Yalpanan Later
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”
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
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
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 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
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
The settlement at Rameswaram of a Colony of 512 Brahmins from
Benares, finds mention too in Tamil poem Devi Ula by Palappattadai Chokkanatha
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Kings of Jaffna - 1215 to 1618
|Vijaya Kulankai A.C, Segarajasekaram
| Kulasekara Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram
|Kulotunga Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
| Vikkrama Singai Aryan,
| Varothaya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
| Marthanda Singai Aryan,
| Kunapushana Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
| Virothaya Singai Aryan,
| Jayaweera Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
| Kunaweera Singai Aryan, Pararajasekaram
| Kanagasuriya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
|Sempaha Perumal Agent of Kotte King,
later King Bhuvaneka Bahu,
| Kanagasuriya Singai Aryan, Segarajasekaram
| Pararajasekaran Singai
| Sangili Segarajasekaram
| Puviraja Pandaram
| Periya Pulle Segarajasekaram
| Puviraja Pandaram, 2nd time
| His infant son with:
Arasakesari as Regent
| 16 15-1617
|with Sangili Kumara as Regent,
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
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
“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
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
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...
(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.