The History of the Tamils in Ealam and
By Dr Mathi Chandrakumar
In contrast when the motive for record keeping is driven by Religious fanaticism detailed chronological records were kept by many civilisations. There are a number of examples. Jews kept detailed records and these survive as the old testament of the bible. Similarly the Buddhist priests in Ealam kept their version of the history in the form of Mahavamsa and Culavamsa. Like the Bible there is evidence to suggest that these were written long after the events described took place. Therefore these cannot be considered as accurate records of the events. These were written by priests who mainly tried to convey a religious message using the events to illustrate the importance of the Buddhist religion, hence a very biased version. The description of the events had a very heavy religious flavor and the history was modified to glorify those kings who patronised and supported Buddhism and those who did not were portrayed as "bad kings". There was also a tendency to remain silent on the issues which did not portray Buddhism or the Sinhalese race in a favorable light.
Tamils who were inhabitants of Ealam from the ancient times and the Tamil invaders from Tamil Nadu in South India were despised, and were always portrayed in the most unfavourable light possible. De Silva expresses the same sentiments when he states “The Mahavamsa and its continuation Culavamsa were the work of Bhikkus and, naturally enough were permeated by a strong religious bias, and encrusted with miracle and invention. The central theme was the historic role of the Island as a bulwark of Buddhist civilisation, and in a deliberate attempt to underline this, it contrives to synchronise the advent of Vijaya with the parinabbana ( the passing away) of Buddha.”
In spite of this silence, Mahavamsa and its continuation Culavamsa provides adequate clues to a strong Tamil presence in the Island of Ealam from the ancient times probably well before the arrival of the Sinhalese race. The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the history of Tamils in Ealam and to outline the origin of the Jaffna Kingdom. It can only be a brief summary which will give a glimpse of the glorious past. The discussions have to be left for further work as space does not favor a detailed analysis here.
There is evidence from archeological investigations conducted at Pomparippu in the North West of the Island in 1956 and 1957 of a culture which bears some resemblance to the South Indian Megalithic culture; the similarities are most noticeable in the Adichchanallur site across the water in South India. The Adichchanallur site is considered to belong to Tamil culture. There fore there is strong archeological evidence for the presence of Tamils in Ealam in 300 B.C in the North West of the Island.
De Silva recognises that several Kingdoms existed at that period in Ealam and the dynasty at Anuradhapura being one of them. He states “The account of these events in the Mahavamsa is at once too bold in its outlines and too simplistic in narration. While Mahavamsa treats all kings of Sri Lanka since the mythical Vijaya as rulers of the whole Island, the inscriptional evidence points to a quite different situation, with the Anuradhapura kingdom - tradition attributes its foundation to Pandukabhaya, the third king of the Vijayan dynasty - merely the strongest, if that, among several in the Northern plain and in the Malaya and Rohana regions, as well as in other parts of the country”.
It could be concluded that Tamils were a well established race in Ancient Ealam at least by 300 B.C. They probably had their own kingdom as research appear to indicate. It is regrettable that they did not leave a permanent record to prove this fact.
The Chola period
Under Rajaraja the Great (983 - 1014) the Cholas embarked on a aggressive and ambitious programme of conquest which brought the Sinhalese Kingdom under direct rule: the Rajarata, the heartland of the Sinhalese kingdom was attached to the Chola empire. Rajaraja’s son Rajendra in 1017 AD began the total reduction of the Island. The whole Island was brought under Chola rule. In the course of this expedition Chola captured the crown of the kings of Ceylon and those of their queens. A powerful army seized Sinhalese warriors , the wife of the king, his transport etc.; the queen and the daughter of the defeated king did not escape imprisonment. A significant change introduced by the Cholas was the decision to shift the Capital from Anuradhapura to Pollanaruva, which subsequently became the Capital for the Sinhalese Kings as well.
The Jaffna Kingdom
Thirteenth century was the period of Pandyan revival in South India. Under the Pandyan king Maravarman Kulasekharan (AD 1268 - AD 1308) armies were led by one Arya Chakravarthi who conquered the Sinhalese armies and brought the tooth relic of the Buddha from Ceylon to Madurai. The history around this period is confused by the only recorded South East Asian invasion by a petty King from Malay peninsula Chandrabhanu of Tambaralinga. However it is well known that Ariyachakravarti the leader of the Pandyan Army of invasion was installed as a ruler of Jaffna. When the Pandyan empire in turn collapsed as a result of Muslim inroads into South India, Jaffna became an independent Kingdom under Aryachakravartis.
In the second half of the fourteenth century the fortunes of the sinhalese were on decline. Jaffna under the Aryachakravartis was much the most powerful kingdom in the Island. As Sinhala power declined the Tamils moved southwards to exact tribute from the southwest and central regions. By the middle of the fourteenth century the Jaffna kingdom had effective control over the northwest coast up to Puttalam. After an invasion in 1353, part of four Korales came under Tamil rule and thereafter, over the next two decades they probed into the Matale district and naval forces were dispatched to the west coast as far south as Panadura. The Jaffna Kingdom was poised for the establishment of Tamil supremacy over Srilanka, and were foiled in this primarily because it was soon embroiled with the powerful Vijayanagar empire in a grim struggle against the latter’s expansionist ambitions across Palk straits.
 De Silva K M, A History of Srilanka, UK 1981.