Trace the historical and cultural ties between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka

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By T.Ramakrishnan/The Hindu Chennai, August 25: The recently dedicated Thiruketheeswaram Temple in Mannar, Northern Province of Sri Lanka has become a symbol of the close ties between Tamil Nadu and the island nation, thanks to the participation of the Government College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram, in the restoration of the temple. Considered one of the five important abodes of Lord Shiva in Sri Lanka, the temple, believed to be revered by the Saivite saint Thirugnanasambandar, was damaged during the long civil war that ended in May 2009. It suffered a new impetus after the decision of the Indian government to finance the renovation project and provide its technical expertise. The ‘maha mandapam’ was renovated with the support of Mamallapuram College and materials including granites were purchased from Tamil Nadu. While the Indian government provided a grant of LKR 320 million for the restoration, which ultimately cost LKR 900 million, the Archaeological Survey of India oversaw its execution. Beyond Thiruketheeswaram, the relationship between the two territories goes back to protohistory. Marks, similar to graffiti inscribed on potsherds discovered during early excavations at Adichanallur, Korkai and many other sites from the early historical period, have been recovered from places such as Tissamaharama, Kantarodai, Manthai and Ridiyagama in Sri Lanka, according to a 2019 publication by the Tamil Nadu Department of Archeology on Keeladi. Historians also refer to continued trade links between the two regions, citing discoveries in Tamil Nadu of Sinhalese Prakrit inscriptions on pottery. In fact, veteran Sri Lankan numismatist, art historian and archaeologist Osmund Bopearachchi even recorded in a 2008 article on ancient Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu that Sinhalese traders were present in Tamil Nadu during the same period. where Tamil traders were active in Anuradhapura and Tissamaharama. in Sri Lanka. He also said that epigraphic and literary evidence of the “active role played by Tamil merchants in the early phase of Sri Lankan history is abundant”. In a conversation with this newspaper in 2017, Dr. Bopearachchi, former Adjunct Professor of Central and South Asian Art, Archeology and Numismatics, University of California, Berkeley, said: “The earliest coins found in Sri Lanka were Pandya and Chera coins. “In KA Nilakanta Sastri’s seminal work, A History of South India, one can find many accounts of battles between the rulers of southern India and Sri Lanka. A significant account of them concerns how Rajendra Chola-I (1012-44 CE) completed the conquest of Sri Lanka begun by his father Rajaraja Chola (985-1016 CE) and Mahinda V’s son Kassapa became the center of Sinhalese resistance to Tamil power. The eminent Sri Lankan historian KM de Silva, in his historical work A History of Sri Lanka, points out that the Nayakkars, who belonged to the Vaduga caste, “a Telugu-speaking group originating from Madurai”, established marriage ties with the royal family of Kandyan. during the 17th century. He adds that the accession of the Nayakkar dynasty to the throne of Kandyan in 1739 CE was “accommodated with the minimum of disturbance”. On the culture and religion side, Kataragama in the deep south, once considered by the people of Tamil Nadu to be one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga, has shrines for Muruga, Shiva and Deivanai Amman, allowing any visitor of Tamil Nadu to feel at home. . In a bid to attract more tourists from Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan authorities are planning to launch a Muruga trail, in addition to the old Ramayana trail. Rajaraja Chola had involved Sri Lankans in the construction of the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur, says Mr Rajendran, a former vice-chancellor of the Tamil University. GPV Somaratna, former head of the Department of History and Political Science, University of Colombo, in his article “Tamil Buddhism in Sri Lanka”, states that the presence of Buddhism in ancient Tamil Nadu had a “great impact” on Buddhist activities in Sri Lanka. and the northern part of the island in particular. Since the classical period, there have been significant contributions by literary personalities belonging to the Sri Lankan Tamils ​​to Tamil literature. Tamil scholar of yesteryear Mu. Varadarajan in his work on the history of Tamil literature (Tamil Illakkiya Varalaru) reports that Eezhathu Poothanthevanar, a poet from Sri Lanka, had composed seven verses in the Sangam anthology. Ayathurai Santhan, an award-winning Sri Lankan Tamil writer, notes that one of the Tamil classics, Manimekalai, refers to an islet, Manipallavam, which has been identified with present-day Nainativu of Sri Lanka. Dr. Rajendran observes that the Pathni cult, the cult of Kannaki, had spread to Sri Lanka from Tamil Nadu. Prominent scholars Arumuga Navalar (1822-1889) and CV Damodaram Pillai (1832-1901) had strong ties to Chennai. Tiruppur Krishnan, editor of Amudhasurabhi, refers to Vipulananda Adigal (1892-1947), who was known not only for his work in expanding the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission in Sri Lanka, but also for his contribution to the Tamil literature. He recalls how veteran writer-editors such as Ki. Go. Jagannathan (1906-88) and Naa. Parthasarathy (1932-1987) made a point of traveling regularly to Sri Lanka to mobilize subscriptions to their journals, Kalaimagal and Deepam. Mr. Santhan is of the opinion that K. Kailasapathy, Karthigesu Sivathamby, Dominic Jeeva and Se. Ganesalingan was among those who left a huge impact on the Tamil literary field. In recent years, social relations between the people of Sri Lanka and those of India in general, Tamil Nadu in particular, have only grown for various reasons. Whether it’s the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom or the current economic crisis, sections of Sri Lankan society have found Tamil Nadu a safe haven. But, given the historical, cultural and sociological factors, there are deeper reasons why the peoples of the two lands are closer than they have been. (The author visited Sri Lanka earlier this month at the invitation of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.)

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