To mark the end of the harvest season, the Tamils in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, celebrate the festival called Pongal (பொங்கல்) or Thai Pongal(தைப்பொங்கல்). The farmers in these regions thank the Sun, the principal energizer that helps to reap a bountiful harvest.
In Tamilnadu and Puducherry, Pongal is a four-day festival comprising Bhogi Pandigai, Thai Pongal, Maatu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal. The Pongal festivities begin on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi and culminates on the third day of the Tamil month Thai (January 13 to January 16 in the Gregorian calendar).
Cattle are important and are a form of wealth to people living in rural areas all over the world.
In Hinduism, the bull Nandi is the mount (Vahana), attendant (gana) of the god Shiva, and also the gatekeeper-deity of Kailashagiri, the abode of Shiva. According to a legend linked to Mattu Pongal, Shiva sent Nandi from the heavens to earth to deliver his message to the people on earth that they should have an oil bath every day and eat once a month. Nandi inadvertently advised delivered the message that people should take an oil bath once a month and eat every day. When Shiva came to know of his message related to food delivered wrongly, he was annoyed and in a fit of rage, banished Nandi to earth to live permanently among the farmers and help them to produce the extra food crops needed for the people to eat every day.
The rural folks in Tamilnadu and the Tamils in Sri Lanka dedicate the third day of the four-day-long Pongal festivities to their cattle and call it Maattu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்). Though the name Maattu Pongal seems specific to Tamil Nadu, it is also celebrated in other southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
According to the Gregorian calendar, Maattu Pongal is celebrated on January 15, the second day of the Tamil month Thai((தை ).
The rural folk show their affection towards their cattle by applying kungumam (kumkum) on their cattle’s foreheads and garlanding them. They then feed their cattle with a mixture of venn pongal (sweetened rice), jaggery, banana, sugar cane and other fruits.
The sport of Jallikkattu (bull embracing)
In many parts of Tamilnadu, the youths take part in the adventurous ancient sport of Jallikkattu (or sallikattu), also known as Manju virattu (chasing the bull), and eruthazhuvatal (bull embracing) to celebrate Mattu Pongal.
Proof of Jallikattu, as an ancient sport of Tamil Nadu, has been corroborated from rock paintings of ‘bull chasing sport’ discovered on massive rock surfaces at Karikkiyur in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, which are dated between 2,000 B.C. and 1,500 B.C.
Initially, and were a mild form of sport in the in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, particularly in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur.
The sport was held in the afternoon or evening of the Mattu Pongal day. After worshipping and feeding the bulls in the morning, their owners tied money in the form of coins or notes on the horns of the bulls and let them loose among the crowd. Young boys chased and lassoed the bulls to retrieve the money tied to their horns.
Nayak dynasties emerged after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. During the Nayak rule in Tamil Nadu, this traditional harmless bull-chasing sport transformed into the present form of Jallikattu, which is a bloodier bull-wrestling sport.
Nowadays, ferocious Bos indicus or Bos taurus indicus bulls, also known as indicine cattle or humped cattle, characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders such as the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are selected, trained, and released into a crowd of people. The youngsters to exhibit their valour endeavour to subjugate the bulls by attempting to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it attempting to bring the bull to a stop while it tries to escape. Participants who hold the hump for a long period are declared winners.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
– Mother Teresa
Born in 1981, Narayanan Krishnan, a former award-winning chef hails from Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.
In 2002, while working at Taj Hotels, Bengaluru, India, he secured a job as a chef in a five-star hotel in Switzerland. Before heading for Europe, he went to his birthplace to see his parents. There, on his way to a temple, he saw a distressing scene. Narayanan recalls:
“I saw a very old man, literally eating his own human waste out of hunger. I went to the nearby hotel and asked them what was available. They had idli [rice cake], which I bought and gave to the old man. Believe me, I had never seen a person eating so fast, ever. As he ate the food, his eyes were filled with tears. Those were the tears of happiness.”
Narayanan forfeited the job in Switzerland. From June 2002 onwards, using his savings of about $2500, he started distributing around 30 food packets a day for the destitute in and around Madurai City.
Narayanan Krishnan action reminds me of an incident in the Gospel of Mark:
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
In 2003, Narayanan Krishnan founded the nonprofit Akshaya Trust. In Sanskrit, Akshaya means “non-depleting.” In Hindu mythology, Goddess Annapoorani fed the hungry with the never depleting “Akshaya bowl”. Krishnan said that he chose the name Akshaya “to signify that human compassion should never decay or perish … The spirit of helping others must prevail forever.”
Narayanan Krishnan wakes up every day at 4 am and with his team, prepares a simple hot meal. After loading the cooked food in a donated van, the team goes out to feed around 400 destitute, mentally disabled, and elderly people in Madurai. He provides them breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Narayanan Krishnan shaves a destitute.
He not only feeds the needy, he has also acquired the skills of a barber. With the comb, scissors and razor he carries along with him, he cuts hair and shaves those he serves, transforming them into dignified persona. Krishnan says:
“I cut their hair, I give them a shave, I give them a bath. For them to feel, psychologically, that they are also human beings, that there are people to care for them, that they have a hand to hold, and a hope to live. Food is one part, and love is another part. So, the food will give them physical nutrition, and the love and affection which you show will give them mental nutrition.”
Narayanan Krishnan, born into the Brahmin caste says:
“Brahmins are not supposed to touch these people, clean these people, hug these people, feed these people. Everybody has got 5.5 liters of blood. I am just a human being. For me, everybody is the same. “
Many destitute people do not know their names or where they come from. Some, because of their conditions, are paranoid and hostile. They do not beg, ask for help or offer thanks. Even then, their attitude only helps strengthen Krishnan’s steadfast resolve to help them.
“The panic, suffering of the human hunger is the driving force in me and my team members of Akshaya,” he said. “I get this energy from the people. The food which I cook … the enjoyment which they get is the energy. I see the soul. I want to save my people.”
In 2010, Narayanan Krishnan was in “CNN heroes 2010” list. He was selected among the top 10 out of 10,000 nominations from more than 100 countries.
Narayanan Krishnan summarizes his goal:
“What is the ultimate purpose of life? It is to give! Start giving. See the joy in giving.“
Saint Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651, in the village of Benaulim, Goa, India.
In 2012, to commemorate the birth of the Saint of India and Sri Lanka., Rev. Fr. Anthony Hemantha Peiris of the Diocese of Badulla, Sri Lanka, wrote the Lyrics in Sinhala and also composed the music of the hymn sung in the following video.
Rev. Fr. Michael Rajendram Pillai of the Diocese of Galle translated the lyrics to Tamil.
The hymn is sung in both Sinhala and Tamil languages in the same Melody.
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” – Mark Twain
The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation about 1,200 miles (2,000 km) off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean. The country includes the island of Mauritius, island of Rodrigues, the islands of Agalega and the archipelago of Saint Brandon. Port Louis is the largest city and the capital of the island nation. Mauritius is also known as Maurice and Île Maurice in French, and Moris in creole.
Mauritius has a unique blend of different races, cultures and religions. People of European, African, Indian and Chinese origins have created a multiracial society. The various cultures and their traditions flourish in peace and harmony in Mauritius. Most Mauritians are multilingual. They speak Mauritian Creole, English, French, and Asian languages.
Mauritius had an estimated population of 1.26 million in 2013. Now around 15% of Indo-Mauritians are Tamils and form 10% of the total population of Mauritius. Tamil Mauritians are the descendants of Tamil migrants to Mauritius. The original immigrants from South India were craftsmen and tradesmen brought to the island during the French rule from 1710 to 1810.
During the French occupation, Mauritian planters imported slaves from Africa and Madagascar. After the French, the British ruled Mauritius from 1810 to 1968. When the British abolished slavery in 1835, the planters brought many indentured labourers from South India. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on the sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the island.
Though categorized as Hindus in the constitution, the Tamils are seeking a separate identity. They have been struggling for almost 30 years for this cause.
Though there has always been a Tamil as the Minister of Education since 1983, only 100 out of 200 primary schools teach Tamil. The situation is worse in secondary schools. Only 20% percent of the Mauritian Tamils speak Tamil now. Some can read and write Tamil to some extent. Literacy in Tamil has fallen from 60% to 20%. Most Mauritian Tamils now speak Mauritian Creole, introduced by the French settlers, that includes many Tamil words.
The Tamil community includes a Hindu majority (86%), Christians (12%) – mostly Roman Catholic, and the rest are Muslims.
Most Mauritian Tamils identify themselves as Tamil. Because they by mistake understand Tamil as a religion instead of as a language. Muruga is the Tamil god, and Cavadee is a Tamil festival. For them, Hindus are people from North India, while the Tamils are a race from South India, mainly from Tamil Nadu.
Tamil festivals in Mauritius are the Cavadee, Tami Puththaandu (New Year) in April, Theemithi (fire-walk), and Thai Pongal. Thaipusam, the Tamil Hindu festival, is a national holiday in Mauritius and on that day the Mauritian Hindu Tamils throng the temples.
Since 1727, Mauritian Tamils have constructed almost 125 temples. In earlier times, prayers were in Tamil. After the arrival of Brahmin priests from India, most prayers are now recited in Sanskrit.
In the banknotes of Mauritius the denominations are traditionally written in English, Tamil and Hindi scripts, in that order. On October 18, 1998, the Central Bank of Mauritius released a new series of banknotes upon which the order of the latter two languages was reversed, with Hindi appearing before Tamil.
The Central Bank of Mauritius reported, the reason for the change in the order. It claimed that the Tamil text would have encroached on the portrait of Sir Moilin Jean Ah-Chuen on the 25-rupee note if it remained in its original position on the note. But the Tamil community did not accept this explanation. Thousands of outraged Mauritian Tamils took to the street protesting that their language appeared last on the notes and their community had been slighted. “The controversial family of banknotes was a deliberate affront at the history of this country and more especially to the Tamil culture,” they said.
The Mauritian Tamil community is only about 10% of the population of Mauritius as opposed to the North Indian Hindu community, which makes up about 40 percent of the population. However, the Tamils claimed precedence on the banknotes based on traditional practices and to have arrived on the island before the members of the North Indian Hindu community.
During the protests, the Mauritian Tamil community burned effigies of the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius. Representations were made to the President of Mauritius. Tamil members of Parliament threatened to resign from their position if the new banknote design was not pulled out of circulation.
On November 18, 1998, a month after the release of the new banknotes, the government of Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam asked the central bank to withdraw the notes from circulation. The Bank of Mauritius complied. It was a victory for the Mauritian Tamils.
The reprinting of the banknotes cost more than 50 million Mauritius rupees.
Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.
But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others?
This brings to my mind two sayings in Tamil:
“இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”
(Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?)
Meaning: “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”
Meaning: “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investigate thoroughly.”
So, we must investigate thoroughly before condemning others. Also, we must learn to forgive those who displease us.
All of us have a right to our justified anger.
Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.
Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.
Martin Luther King Jr., said:
“First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.
The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.
For the Hindus, there are five important points to keep in mind:
Give with the heart not with the head.
Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance.
For the Buddhists,
Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).
In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.
Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).
True Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” — Luke 6:36-38
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. — Luke 6:41-42
The Veddhas or Wanniya-laeto (‘forest-dwellers’) of the wanni (dry monsoon forest) are Sri Lanka’s indigenous inhabitants. According to scholars, the Veddhas of today perpetuate a direct line of descent from the island’s original Neolithic community that dates back to at least 16,000 BC.
For the past eighteen centuries or more the indigenous Veddha communities have been forced to retreat deeper into the ever-shrinking forests pummeled by successive waves of immigration and colonization that began with the arrival of the north Indians in the 5th century BC.
According to their culture the Veddhas revere and venerate their ancestors. At present, the surviving dwindling Veddha communities still live in the dry monsoon forests with their uncanny knowledge of their jungle habitat. They still retain the memory of their prehistoric culture and preserve their cultural identity and traditional lifestyle, despite facing the many challenges and relentless pressure from the surrounding dominant Sinhala and Tamil communities.
In the North Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, a few Veddhas have been absorbed into the mainstream Sinhala communities and on the East Coast into the Tamil communities.
Ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa, relate the origin of the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka to the arrival of Prince Vijaya from an area either in the northeast or northwest India, and his later affiliation with people from south India. Students of Indian history argue that the lore of Vijaya should be interpreted to favour either one or the other of the northern origins, or a mixture of people from both areas.
W. S. Karunatillake (late), Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, a Sinhala linguist, supported the hypothesis that the Sinhalese people originated in Eastern India because over 50% Sinhala words resemble words in the Bengali language. Even so, the question: “Did Vijaya and his companions migrate to Sri Lanka from Singhpur, Kalinga in northeast India, or from Sihor, Gujarat in northwest India?” still remains unresolved.
Some scholars identify the Lála country, where Sinhabahu founded Sinhapur, with the modern Rarh region of West Bengal, India that is still called Lala/Larh. Sanskrit texts refer to it as Lata-desa. Al-Biruni, a historian, chronologist and linguist of the medieval Islamic era calls it Lardesh in the extreme hilly west of Bengal where the Hooghly district and modern Singur is located. However, some scholars identify the region as modern Gujarat.
References weigh more in favor of Vijaya’s origin to lower Indus, and Sihor, which was officially known as Sinhapur in Kathiawar peninsula in ancient times. Also, the only home to Asiatic lions (locally referred as ‘Sinh‘ or ‘Sinha‘) is Gir Forest in Kathiawar peninsula in Gujarat and the approach to core Gir territory is just a few miles away from Sihor. In fact, to date, lions are sighted in rural areas adjoining Sihor.
According to the history chronicled in the Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya and his wayward followers before landing at Tambapanni, first disembarked at the haven called Suppäraka, now identified with modern Sapporo, in the Thana district north of Mumbai. If Lála country was in northeast India, how could Vijaya and his companions dispatched from there, land at the port of Suppäraka in northwest India?
If we presume that the story of Vijaya narrated in the Mahavasa is historically correct, then, Prince Vijaya and his followers would have set sail from northwest India from a coastal harbour in Gujarat. Their contribution to the modern Sinhalese must have been erased by the long-standing interrelationship with people from Tamil Nadu for over 2,000 years.
According to the Mahavamsa, the population of Sri Lanka is heterogeneous – composed of diverse ethnic groups from India.
So far, most studies on the genetic affinities of the Sinhalese have been contradictory. Some investigators suggest a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil and North Western Indian contribution, while others point towards a predominantly Tamil origin followed by a significant Bengali contribution with no North Western Indian contribution.
However, it is emphatically proved that the ancient ancestors of the current Sinhalese people came originally from northeast or northwest India as shown by genetic, linguistic and religious connections. After their arrival in Sri Lanka, the ancients intermarried to a minor extent with the indigenous Veddhas. Population genetic studies on the Sinhalese undertaken by various investigators show that they certainly intermarried extensively with Tamils of Southern India than with the Veddhas.
For the most part, according to the Mahavamsa, the modern Sinhalese are related to the Tamils as far back as 543 BC, with some elements of ancestry connected later with Bengalis, Gujaratis, Punjabis and Indian Moors. This is also supported by a genetic distance study, which showed low differences in genetic distance between the Sinhalese and the Tamil, Keralite and Bengali volunteers.
Because Sri Lanka lies on important sea trade routes, it has from ancient times received a constant influx of people from India and from various parts of the world, especially from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Europe, and the far-east. However, the genetic studies on the Sinhalese do not seem to show any ancestry from China or Southeast Asia.
In the 1995 study, “Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations” by Dr. Gautam K. Kshatriya (Source: National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Munirka, New Delhi, India) published in Hum Biol. 1995 Dec;67(6):843-66, the author says:
Mythological and historical sketches of the Sri Lankan population indicate that it is heterogeneous and composed of diverse ethnic groups. Ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka relate the origin of the Sinhalese to the legend of Prince Vijaya, who arrived on the northwest coast of the island in 543 B.C. from northeast or northwest India. … Taking into consideration mythological, historical, and linguistic records of Sri Lanka, I attempt to study the degree of gene diversity and genetic admixture among the population groups of Sri Lanka along with the populations of southern, northeastern, and northwestern India, the Middle East, and Europe.
The genetic distance analysis was conducted using 43 alleles controlled by 15 codominant loci in 8 populations and 40 alleles controlled by 13 codominant loci in 11 populations. Both analyses give a similar picture, indicating that present-day Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to Indian Tamils and South Indian Muslims. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India and Bengalis of northeast India. Veddhas, are distinct because they are confined to inhospitable dry zones and are hardly influenced by their neighbors.
The study of genetic admixture revealed that the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka have a higher contribution from the Tamils of southern India (69.86% +/- 0.61) compared with the Bengalis of northeast India (25.41% +/- 0.51), whereas the Tamils of Sri Lanka have received a higher contribution from the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (55.20% +/- 9.47) compared with the Tamils of India (16.63% +/- 8.73).
In the 2009 study, “Prevalence of genetic thrombophilic polymorphisms in the Sri Lankan population–implications for association study design and clinical genetic testing services” by V.H. Dissanayake, L.Y. Weerasekera, G.G. Gammulla, and R.W. Jayasekara (Source: Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka.) first published electronically on July 8, 2009, is consistent with the notion that Sinhalese are closely related to other Sri Lankans. The frequencies of the alleles observed were very similar between Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Moors and they were also similar to those in some ethnic groups from southern India. Excerpts from the Abstract:
“We investigated the prevalence of genotypes/alleles of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and haplotypes defined by them in three genes in which variations are associated with venous thromboembolism in 80 Sinhalese, 80 Sri Lankan Tamils and 80 Moors in the Sri Lankan population and compared the SNP data with that of other populations in Southern India and haplotype data with that of HapMap populations. … The frequencies observed were similar to data from other South Indian populations; […]”
Both the above studies present almost a similar picture. Genetic distance analysis, despite the limitations imposed by the data, shows that modern Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Tamils and Keralites of south India and the upper caste groups of Bengal. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India.
Similarly, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Sinhalese because they were always and are near to each other historically, linguistically, and culturally.
Vijaya’s ministers were quite intrepid in founding their own villages around Tambapanni. After they had founded settlements, the ministers spoke to prince Vijaya.
“Sire, please consent to be consecrated as the ruler of this land,” they said.
In spite of their request, the prince refused the consecration for want of a maiden hailing from a noble house to be consecrated as his consort at the same time.
The ministers, sent emissaries entrusted with many precious gifts, jewels, pearls, and other valuables, to the city of “Then Madurai” (the modern-day city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu), in the Pandya kingdom of the Tamils in southern India, to woo the daughter of the Pandya king for their lord, and the daughters of others for his ministers and retainers whose wives got separated from them during their voyage from the Lála country.
Since then, there are several recorded instances of intermarriage between ruling families of Sri Lanka and the major royal South Indian Dynasties, in particular, the Pandya, Chola, and the Chera.
The messengers from Tambapanni, on reaching Then Madurai laid the gifts and letter of request before the Pandya king. After consulting his ministers, the king agreed to send his daughter to the island of Tambapanni to become the consort of Vijaya. So, he proclaimed with the beat of drums:
“Those citizens who are willing to let their daughter depart to the island of Tambapanni shall provide their daughters with a double store of clothing and place them at the doors of their houses. By this sign we will know that we may take their daughters to ourselves.”
The Pandya king thus obtained a hundred maidens. After compensating the families of the maidens, he sent his daughter, bedecked with all her ornaments and all that was needful for the voyage, the maidens whom he had fitted out according to their rank, elephants, horses, waggons, an so forth as dowry. He also sent craftsmen and a thousand families belonging to the eighteen trade guilds.
This multitude from Then Madurai disembarked at the port of Mahatittha (Mantota or Manthotam).
When Vijaya heard that the princess from the Pandya kingdom had arrived at the port of Mahatittha with her retinue he said to Kuveni: “Go thou now, dear one, leaving the two children behind; men are ever in fear of superhuman beings.”
When Kuveni heard this, seized with mortal fear of the yakshas she started wailing.
Vijaya then told her, “Delay not! I will give you a thousand (pieces of money).”
Kuveni implored again and again, but Vijaya did not relent. Outraged, Kuveni scorned Vijaya with words of wrath and cursed him and his city of Tambapanni. She then departed from the city with her son Jivahata and daughter Disala, for Lankapura, the capital of the yakshas, knowing very well that evil would befall her.
On reaching Lankapura, she left the children outside the city in the forest glades and went alone into the city. The yakshas in the city on recognizing her took her for a spy, and a violent yaksha killed Kuveni with a single blow of his fist.
A yaksha, an uncle of Kuveni on her mother’s side, saw the children waiting in the glades for the return of their mother. On learning that they were Kuveni’s children, he said: “Your mother has been slain, and if the other yakshas see you they will kill you also. So, go away immediately from here!”
They children trekked towards Sumanaküta (Adam’s Peak in the Ratnapura District). When they grew up Jivahata took his sister Disala for his wife. Their offsprings are the Veddhas of Sri Lanka.
The envoys of the Pandya king delivered their princess, the maidens, and the dowry to Vijaya. The prince offered his hospitality and bestowed honours on the envoys of the Pandya king. He distributed the maidens to his ministers and retainers according to their rank.
The ministers solemnly consecrated Vijaya as their king and the Pandya princess as their queen. King Vijaya bestowed wealth on his ministers. Every year he sent a valuable pearl to his father-in-law, the Pandya king.
Vijaya forsook his former evil way of life. He reigned Tambapanni for thirty-eight years from 543 BC – 505 BC, in peace and righteousness.
Sri Lanka has had a continuous record of human settlement for more than two millennia, and its civilization has been shaped largely by that of the Indian subcontinent. The island’s two major ethnic groups, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, and its two dominant religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, made their way to the island from India, and Indian influence pervaded such diverse fields as art, architecture, literature, music, medicine, and astronomy. – Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sri Lanka)
Geologically, Sri Lanka, also known as India’s Teardrop and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is an extension of peninsular India that got separated from the mainland. In consequence, the ancestors of almost all the communities now living in Sri Lanka migrated to the island at some time in the past from India. Scholars agree that the two major communities who now call themselves Sinhalese and Tamils migrated to Sri Lanka from India.
According to history, the Sri Lankan population of the past was not divided into two major races as Sinhalese and Tamils. In the past, in the two native languages Sinhala and Tamil, the word ‘Jathi‘ did not mean race but caste.
It was only in the 19th century, during the British period, consolidation of the population into two major races as Sinhalese and Tamils came into existence. As such, the various caste groups that now make up the Sinhala ‘race’ have their own stories of origin.
None of the Kings and Queens of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa has ever claimed that they were Sinhalese. But they have consistently claimed in their inscriptions to have descended from the Kshatriya race and the Indian Sun Dynasty and Lunar Dynasty. The Sun and Moon Flag (Sinhala: Ira Handa Kodiya) symbolises the Solar and Lunar Dynasty origins of the Sinhalese community.
The ancientMahavamsaor the ‘Great Chronicle’ of Sri Lanka is a historical poem, written in the Pāli language around 4th century AD, about the rulers of Sri Lanka. The first few chapters the Pālicover the period from the coming of Prince Vijaya of the Rarh region of ancient Bengal in 543 BC to the reign of King Mahasena (334-361). The Mahavamsa too refers to the ancient kings and queens of Sri Lanka, not as Sinhalese, but as Kshatriyas from the Solar and Lunar dynasties.
Though not considered a canonical religious scripture, the Mahavamsa is an important text in Theravada Buddhism. It covers the early history of the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka, beginning with the time of Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Every chapter of the Mahavamsa ends by stating that it is written for the “serene joy of the pious“.
It is said Lord Buddha visited ancient Lanka three times, but there were no following nor disciples in Lanka as a result of his visits. It was only after Arahath Mahendra, and his fraternal twin of Theri Sanghamitra, the children of Samrat Asoka born to his supreme consort and first wife Vidisha Mahadevi, brought Buddhism here, and the Lankans followed it.
From the emphasis of its point-of-view, one can deduce that Buddhist monks compiled Mahavamsa to record the benevolent deeds of the kings who were patrons of the Mahavihara (Pali: “Great Monastery”) in Anuradhapura. The Theravada Buddhist monks of the Mahavihara chronicled the history of Sri Lankan beginning from the 3rd century BC. In the 5th century AD, the Buddhist monk Mahathera Mahanama combined and compiled these annals into a single document.
The official story of the origin of the Sinhalese from a lion in India is not from the original traditions of any Sinhalese caste. Even in the Mahavamsa, the ‘Lion’ myth encompasses only Vijaya’s family and does not include the service castes that came along with him. The Lion story does not even relate to his ministers. The fact that most Sinhalese castes have their own origin stories proves this.
The Salagamas caste traces its origin in Sri Lanka to Nambudiri and other Saligrama Brahmins who came over from Malabar in Kerala invited by king Vathhimi Buvenekabahu of Sri Lanka.
The muni clan names of the Salagamas bear testimony to their Brahmin origins.
The Durava caste traces its origins from the Nagas and retinues of Pandyan consorts.
The Navandanna caste traces its origin to Vishwakarma.
The Deva Kula (also known as Wahumpura, Hakuru, etc.) descended from a deified ruler of Sabaragamuwa named Sumana.
The Sunnakkara Kula (Also known as Hunu) descended from the traditional architects and engineers of Sri Lanka.
The Kumbal Kula (also known as Badal, Badahela, etc.) descended from the first humans to graduate from wild men to humans who cooked their food in clay pots. From this initial quantum leap, developed cultivation and other occupations.
The Bathgama caste is descended from the original pre-Vijayan, Yakka (also called Yaksha) inhabitants of Sri Lanka.
The Govi Caste, according to the Janawamsayaa and other sources, sprung from the feet of Brahma. The modern Govigama caste is an identity created during the British period by the De Saram Mudaliar family of mixed origins. Many successful people of unknown provenance joined the Govigama group during the British period.
Several other castes trace their origin to the guilds that arrived with the sacred Bodhi tree.
So, not a single Sinhalese caste has an origin story connecting it to Vijaya or a beastly lion ancestor. According to the Mahavamsa, the term Sinhala could be applied only to the first royal family of Vijaya and not to the population at large. Also, according to the chronicles, Vijaya did not sire a successor.
Whatever it be, the lore of Vijaya as told in the Mahavamsa brings to light the fact that the Sinhalese ‘race’ is not indigenous to the island but descended from many ethnic groups inherent to India.
Actor Senthil, a popular cine comedian in the South Indian cine field particularly in Kollywood, Tamilnadu, India has acted in many popular movies with several leading actaors and comedians.
Senthil was born on March 23, 1951, in Ilanjambore, a small village near Mudukulathur, Ramanathapuram District, Tamilnadu. Since he was an unruly boy, he was constantly scolded by his father. At the age of 12, he ran away from home. He first worked in the shop of a cooking oil vendor. Later he worked as a bar attendant in a private wine shop. Interested in acting, he joined a drama troupe where he developed his acting skills. He received small roles in the Tamil film industry in Chennai.
The movie Malayoor Mambattiyan gave him the required exposure to propel him to stardom. He has about 185 Tamil movies to his credit. He has also acted in movies in Hindi, Malayalam etc.
He is notable for his comedy roles pairing with actor Goundamani in the vein of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy who were popular during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s
Senthil is one of the most-loved comedians in the South Indian film industry. His appearance on the screen enlivened the audience replete with claps and whistles; and, when he paired up with Goundamani, the cheering doubled.
Goundamani and Senthil ruled the comedy world of Tamil cinema for over two decades. They established a place for themselves in the heart of their audience by entertaining them with their perfectly timed dialogue delivery and unsurpassed body language, and witty, rib-tickling comedy.
Senthil opted to act in movies irrespective of their budget. Once he said: “I don’t believe in movies with small budgets are large budgets. There are only two types of movies – good and bad.”
Maariyamma is likely to be killed by her children because they cannot afford her. They will give her a loving oil bath. Several glasses of coconut water. A mouthful of mud. Perhaps a poison injection. She is just one of many old parents in Tamil Nadu dying in this way. But no one blinks at these ritual murders.
IN TAMIL, it is known as thalaikoothal. A leisurely oil bath. An exercise in love and health when given to newborn children, a ceremonial beginning to festivals, and the universal answer to pitiless summers. In Tamil Nadu’s small industry hub of Virudhunagar, however, it is the beginning of slow murder. The marker of the devastating poverty that makes a son kill his own aging mother.
Young family members of this district in southern Tamil Nadu have been pushing their infirm, elderly dependents to death because they cannot afford to take care of them. When 65-year-old Maariyamma suspected this might happen to her too, she moved out of her son’s house two years ago. “I’m not well enough to live on my own, but it is better than being killed by them,” she says. Amazingly, there is no bitterness in her voice. Or anger. “They’re struggling hard to take care of their own children,” says Maariyamma, of her sons. She places no blame. Her two sons and two daughters are farm labourers who travel to different villages every sowing and harvesting season. Seeing her children at pains to run their house, and feed and educate her grandchildren, Maariyamma knew she was a burden. She knew how it would end if she didn’t leave.
Maariyamma had seen it happen to other men and women of her age. Her neighbour, Parvathy, had been paralysed at the age of 76. “She had only one son,” says Maariyamma. “And he was working in Chennai, surviving on some menial job there. How could he afford to look after his bedridden mother?” One day, Maariyamma says, Parvathy’s son came, “did it” and went back to Chennai. “What else could he do?” she asks. Again, in place of anger or fear, there is helpless resignation. And a strange empathy for the person who might elaborately plan her murder.
Thalaikoothal works thus: an extensive oil bath is given to an elderly person before the crack of dawn. The rest of the day, he or she is given several glasses of cold tender coconut water. Ironically, this is everything a mother would’ve told her child not do while taking an oil bath. “Tender coconut water taken in excess causes renal failure,” says Dr Ashok Kumar, a practicing physician in Madurai. By evening, the body temperature falls sharply. In a day or two, the old man or woman dies of high fever. This method is fail-proof “because the elderly often do not have the immunity to survive the sudden fever,” says Dr Kumar.
OVER THE years, other methods have evolved too. The most painful one is when mud dissolved in water is forced down; it causes indigestion and an undignified death. Velayudham of Help age India says the families often take the mud from their own land, if they have any. “It is believed that this makes their souls happy,” he says.
Dorairaj, a farmer in Satur, confesses that Muniammal, a distant relative, had been killed four months earlier. She was 78, and too weak to fend for herself. She was given an oil bath, but somehow survived. After a few days, she was given the ‘milk treatment’. “When the milk is being poured, the nose is held tight,” says Dorairaj. This ‘milk treatment’ is often preceded by starvation. The household stops serving the parent solid food. “When milk is poured uninterruptedly into the mouth, it goes into the respiratory track. A starving person cannot withstand even a moment’s suffocation,” says 60-year-old Paul Raj, coordinator of a district elders’ welfare association.
Though everyone seems to be in the know, thalaikoothal officially remained unexposed until the death of 60-year-old Selvaraj, of Ramasamipuram village in Virudhunagar on 18 June this year. Selvaraj, who was bed-ridden due to an accident, died suddenly. Asokan, Selvaraj’s nephew in Virudhunagar, raised the alarm on his uncle’s death. He registered an FIR, and subsequently a woman named Zeenath was arrested for administering a poisonous injection. Prabhakar, the Virudhunagar Commissioner of Police, admits that it is hard to find any evidence. “The body was cremated and there is no scope for a re-examination of the corpse,” he says.
Zeenath has been released on bail and refused to talk to TEHELKA when we met her in her village, Ramasamipuram. Some villagers claimed that Zeenath was a ‘professional mercy killer’.
‘It’s difficult to view it simply in a legal or criminal framework,’ says district collector VK Shanmugham
A few days after Selvaraj’s death came to light, a newspaper published a report exposing more mysterious deaths in the district. When the district administration of Virudhunagar learnt how widespread the mercy killing was, it ordered an investigation. “It was shocking for all of us,” says V K Shanmugham, district collector in Virudhunagar. He soon realised that conventional state responses like arrests, warnings and interrogations would not even scratch the surface.
Thalaikoothal lay in the indefinable space between crime and desperate acts of poverty. It was social custom, a collective family decision, a ritual goodbye to a loved one who had lived a full life. Sometimes, it was the victim’s own idea. Shanmugham found that many called it a path to “eternal peace”, an escape from the violence of poverty. “It is difficult to view this simply in a legal or criminal framework,” he adds.
If thalaikoothal is seen as a crime, an entire village is accomplice. Community members and relatives not only support the practice, several even arrive a day before the auspicious oil bath to meet the aged parent one last time. Everybody knows the man or woman is going to die.
“Nobody questions or reports it to the police. They don’t even see it as a crime. It is a kind of accepted practice,” says Dr Lakshmi, a physician in Karyappetti village. Over 75, Dr Lakshmi recollects that she has been hearing of this practice of killing the elderly for 34 years.
The practice is not confined to a particular caste or community. “The poor do it, whatever their caste,” says Chandra Devi, the district Welfare Officer. Most residents are seasonal farm labourers, livestock shepherds or migrant workers in small factories in the nearby industrial hub Sivakasi. Their mobile lives make it virtually impossible for them to stay home to care for their parents.
Killing is indeed a brutal solution to financial burdens, but community members claim there is no alternative. “It does not mean that they do not love their parents,” says Chellathorai, the president of Paneerpetty village Panchayat.
Paul Raj, of the district elders welfare association, recently requested the district collector for government protection for the elderly. “The aged in these villages are highly vulnerable. We demand government’s immediate action.” Raj, however, realises that while police forces can protect an aged woman from her children, what they really need is protection from penury. “If the seniors had some income, they would not be considered so burdensome,” says Raj. “For example, if they got more pension, or at least got it regularly, it might give some respite.”
Kasi, a daily wager, moved out of his son’s house after his wife died. He’s not sure if he’s 65 or 70, but his shock of white hair, equally white handlebar moustache, and soil-black wrinkled skin are testament to his long and arduous life. Kasi had decided to leave when he watched his children grow tired of tending to their father’s every need. “I’m very fond of them, and can’t imagine they will try to kill me,” he says. “But anyway, I didn’t want to push them to any extreme step.” Whether he too would have been invited for that chilling oil bath some years down, Kasi doesn’t know. And he didn’t stick around to find out.
ACROSS VIRUDHUNAGAR, even as elderly men and women leave their homes, they make excuses for their children. “My son was struggling with his own life,” says Kasi. They put up a brave front. “I’m surviving fine with the ration rice at 2 per kilo,” says a reed-thin Maariyamma. They starve, and sigh, but do not complain. Thalaikoothal is to them not cowardly murder, but a brave farewell. Kasi and Maariyamma do not see how extreme it is, how dramatic. For them, it is a sort of practical love that is simply about survival.