Subsequent Publications on the History of Jaffna

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Subsequent Publications on the History of Jaffna

There was a renewed interest in the history of Jaffna in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, which resulted in a host of publications. Notable among them were “Ancient Jaffna” by Mudaliyar Rasanayagam, and works titled “History of Jaffna” by S. John, and by Mootha Tambipillai. These works were based mainly on the Vaipava Malai. Other works include “Notes on Jaffna” by John H. Martyn, the many publications by the two  outstanding scholars of that period Fr. Gnanaprakasar and Sir Paul E. Peiris. There have been many recent publications on the archaeology and history of the Jaffna peninsula as well. Those worthy of mention include publications by Dr Ragupathy, Dr. Indrapala, and Prof. S. Pathmanathan, which give greater insight into the history of the Jaffna peninsula. However the twilight years of the Ariya Chakravarti rule, prior to the Portuguese conquest of the Kingdom still remain unclear and hazy.

Publications on the Genealogy of Jaffna Families

The discovery and publication of the Yalpana Vaipaya Malai, at the turn of the 19th century also sparked off an interest in genealogy for some of the Tamil families. Many families were keen to trace their roots as far back as they could. Some of these genealogies were printed for limited private circulation. 

Most of these publications were not researched by independent authorities, nor have they been substantiated by any documentary, or historical evidence. Many of these seem to be attempts by families to aggrandise the lineage.

Of the books so published one of the best known and best researched was the “Maniyam Pathiyar Santhathi Murai” (the genealogies of the inhabitants of the village of Manipay) by the late T. Vinasithamby. The author was a paternal uncle of the scholar, and theologian the late Dr Isaac Thambiah, who had married Mangalanayagam, daughter of the late Mudaliyar J. W. Barr-Kumarakulasinghe.

In his book he has traced the genealogies of several families living in Manipay at the turn of the century, back to the Dutch period. Some of the families mentioned in the book even have their origins outside the village of Manipay.

The fact that he could trace back genealogies to Dutch times substantiates the fact that accurate, independent documentary evidence is available only upto the Dutch period.

“Maniyam Pathiyar Santhathi Murai” does not make any claims about the caste superiority or lineage of the families mentioned therein, nor does it claim any special status for the village of Manipay contrary to claims made by some of its inhabitants. In sharp contrast to the “Maniyam Pathiyar Santhathi Murai” which is a well researched publication, is the “Yalpana Vaipava Kaumudhi” by a poet Kallady Vellupillai. A major part of the book covers the history of Jaffna and is based on the “Yaplana Vaipava Malai”. Another section covers the genealogy of some of the Jaffna Tamil families of his time. It was current knowledge at the time that the ancestry published in this work depended on the size of the contribution made by the respective families, to the author.  We have published below a letter penned by no less a personage that the late Dr. Sabapathi Kulandran scholar and the first Bishop of the Ceylon American Mission of Jaffna who himself was an amateur historian, which substantiated what we have stated.


Letter Page 2

Letter Page 1

Transcript of the above letter:

Dear Mohan,

The habit of tracing ancestry though is certainly a western habit (the boast of heraldry) here it is different.

1. Because in the west it is done chiefly through church records.

2. We do not have the Aryan habit of continuous inheritance of surnames  (although we have an alternate inheritance: Grandfathers giving their names to the eldest grandsons)

The published records of Dutch times (The Portuguese records were destroyed by them before the Dutch took over) deal largely with administration and churches. They would not deal with genealogies. The genealogies depended on (tamil – samarakavihal) and some were based on traditions and therefore unreliable and probably cooked up.

Rasanayagam Mudaliyar gives the names of those chieftains who came from India and settled in Jaffna.

Kallady Vellupullai published a book in the early 1920’s dealing with genealogies besides the history of Jaffna, but he was willing to confer Mudaliyarships, liberally on those who paid him Rupees 50/-. The book will be in the Colombo museum. The names you seek will be  there and no-where else! Its name is Yalpana Vaipava Kaumudhi. There is a book on Manipay genealogies, but you would not be interested and they would not go as far as you want.

None the less apply Dr James Ratnam – Burroughs Court, Guilford Crescent. You may strike oil! He is an authority on what people need not know. He has files on many families. He is an antiquarian and deals chiefly with genealogies, and digs his authorities from title deeds, and old time records. He will probably have stuff about the Kumarakulasinghe family. If he cant help you nobody else can.


S. Kulendran


4 comments at the moment.
Comment By Comment
Sankili Kumara  Hillarious!!

And how true - typical of Jaffna families trying to make claims which that suit their newly acquired wealth!

I must say the letter by Dr Sabapathy Kulendran is spot on! I have heard that he was a no - nonsense type of character who spoke his mind and called a spade a spade!

Hope there will be more information and more articles to follow! Have enjoyed reading your articles tremendously!

Keep up the good work!
A Manipay Resident James Rutnam is another resident of Manipay - Please see the attached link

I also notice that Jerry Kanagarajah has claimed relationship to your wife's ancestors. I was surprised to find that there is very little or no mention of them in this otherwise detailed website.

Unfortunately the only mention of these great sons of Jaffna are in passing in the article on Manipay which is the one article i cannot accept from this site

WebMaster  Dear "Manipay Resident" your comment has been moved to the article titled "Misconceptions of the Village of Manipay"
Soma Jeyendren Webmaster, Where could I get a copy of “Maniyam Pathiyar Santhathi Murai” (the genealogies of the inhabitants of the village of Manipay) by the late T. Vinasithamby, please?
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