Misconception regarding the village of Manipay

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Misconception regarding the village of Manipay

There is a popular belief amongst the  residents of Colombo, that Manipay is the most prestigious village of Jaffna. This is a misconception as it is not mentioned in the Vaipava Malai either as one of the villages where the chieftains who accompanied the first Arya Chakravarthi Kings were settled, or as one of the villages inherited by the descendents of the last Arya Chakravarthi ruler.

The village of Manipay came into prominence as a result of the American Ceylon Mission setting up its operations there. The Mission opened the Manipay Memorial School, the “Green Memorial Hospital”, and the American Mission “Printing Press” which all contributed to uplift the  literacy rate, health and economic standards of the village. The English education imparted at the school, enabled many of the inhabitants to find employment opportunities in Colombo.

Manipay also became famous as it was the ancestral village of the late Ponnambalam Mudaliyar the father of the Illustrious brothers the late Ramanthan, Arunachalam and Coomaraswami, who became national heroes. Many of their relatives migrated to Colombo and found lucrative employment as brokers, Shroffs and Businessmen with residences in the fashionable Cinnamon Gardens area of Colombo. The village became prosperous as a result of the funds that were remitted back and was colloquially referred to as the “Cinnamon Gardens” of Jaffna. Over the years the affluence gained by the inhabitants gave the village prestige.

In addition to the above, Manipay inhabitants became known to scholars of genealogy as a result of  the publication of a book titled: “Maniyam Pathiyar Santhathi Murai”  (the genealogy of the residents of Manipay) by S. Vinasithambi, in the early years of the 20th century. This was perhaps the only work of its kind, at the time to have been published, where the genealogies of many of the inhabitants of a village had been traced. The book is well researched, and  goes back to Dutch times, the earliest period which has reliable independent records and documentation.

The information contained in the book are the names of the ascendant of each family who lived in Dutch times his spouse and their descendents right down to the time the book was written. The author does not mention the caste of the various families covered in the book, nor does he make any special claims about the village of Manipay. Contrary to popular belief this is not a directory of the aristocracy of Jaffna.



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A Manipay Resident  This article is typical of the the wide spread ignorance regarding the village of Manipay! It is interesting to note that in your preceding article you have mentioned the following

"It was also the tradition in Jaffna: that after the fall of the Jaffna Kingdom, many of the high caste families from the capital Nallur and Kalliayan-Kadu left these localities in order to avoid the close proximity of the Portuguese, not only to avoid any confrontation, but also to avoid ritual defilement.* These areas were subsequently populated by the lower castes such as the Chiviyar (who were either Palanquin bearers or Salt gatherers), the Kai Kulayar (Lime slakers), the Chaya Karar (dyers), and the Parayar (who were drummers and weavers) many of whom were in the employment of the Portuguese Administration."

But what you fail to understand is that this is where the aristocracy of Jaffna congregated when they moved out of Nallur and Kalliayan Kadur. It is for this reason that missionaries selected Manipay as their base camp as they found like minded and educated people living there. People who appreciated the intellectual stimulation that the Colonial Mission workers were able to provide. This was also an area that was most accepting of the message of Christianity as these people had already begun to examine and question some of the mindless rituals of Hinduism.

I would suggest that you check the works of Mr T. Sabaratnam who has done copious research on the history of Jaffna and infact, i believe he has published a book on your grand father.

I do not expect this from you sir!
Web Master Our intention in including the section titled “The Misconceptions about the Village on Manipay” was not to underplay the importance of the village of Manipay . This section tries to provide an explanation as to why this village, which has not been mentioned in any of the old chronicles, enjoys the reputation of being a prestigious village, especially in the South of Sri Lanka. Your claim that the aristocracy of the capital city Nallur moved to Manipay after the fall of the Jaffna Kingdom and that it was for this reason the American missionaries selected the village as one of their stations, cannot be accepted without any substantiating evidence. If you have any references to authenticate your theory we would be very happy to publish this information on our website.

During the course of our investigations we did not come up with any evidence that could support your theory. The American missionaries arrived in Jaffna in 1820 and setup their operations in Tellipallai. It was much later, around 1860 that they started a printing press and the first teaching hospital at Manipay. None of the publications covering this period, have any reference that the selection of the location of their stations were based on the nature of natives, or their respective castes. Evidence shows that Tellipalai, Manipay and the other villages into which the mission expanded to, were selected for their accessibility, location and the availability of inexpensive land.

Our research also indicated that the American missionaries were notoriously ignorant and at times purposely ignored the prevailing social structure and the caste system as they believed such practices to be heathen and un-christian! This attitude is also reflected in their early conversions. The theory that they selected Manipay because of “like-minded” natives from aristocratic or Royal backgrounds cannot be accepted without independent substantiating evidence.

Incidentally Mr Tissanayagam himself has close connections with the village of Manipay, as two of his great grandparents hail from this village. And over the years his family has made many marriage alliances with some of the prominent families of Manipay. His wife Rukmini too traces her descent from perhaps the best known family from the village, as she is a descendent of Ponnambalam Mudaliyar the father of the three Ponnambalam brothers. Mr Tissanayagam firmly believes that history has to be viewed dispassionately, without bias, and that his connections to the village in no way alters the facts.

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
From the desk of Mr Mohan Tissanayagam Dear Manipay Resident,

I am aware that the late James Rutnam, who was a resident of Manipay, and was distantly connected to my family. I am publishing herewith a letter written by him.

You refer to one Jerry Kanagarajah claiming relationship with my wife’s ancestors. I presume that this is the same gentlemen who is posing off as the pretender to the throne of Jaffna, which has been vacant for nearly 400 years! Even if his claims are legitimate (which in my opinion does not seem to be the case), he would have to contend with thousands of others who may in reality have connections to the Aryachakravarthi’s. To the best of my knowledge, he is not from any of the well known families of Jaffna, nor as he claims, is his family connected to Sankili-thoppu and Nallur. The name Karupaiyapillai and the association with Punduloya and Nawalapitiya points to a South Indian Estate Tamil ancestry. He also refers to some ancestors who bore the titles “Jamindar” and “Divan Bahdur” which once again are titles common in India and not in Sri Lanka.

Mr Kanagaraja states in his website, that he is connected to the Ponnambalam brothers. Incidentally, my wife is the great grand-daughter of the late Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, and through the her mother the great great grand-daughter of the late Sir Ponnambalam Ramanthan. Members of both these families strongly deny having any knowledge of Mr Jerry Kanagaraja, let alone having any family connections with him. If they had not refuted his claim earlier it was because they did not want to give him any undue prominence. When time permits, I intend to review his website, and discuss the claims made therein, on this web space.

You also mention that our website does not have adequate information about my wife’s ancestors; the late Ponnambalam brothers. The reason for this is our website has been dedicated to the Tissanayagam and the Kumarakulasinghe clans, and hence it focuses mainly on the members of these two families.

A Manipay Resident Dear Mohan,

Thank you for your detailed response also to the webmaster. Unfirtunatley I do not have an documents to authenticate my opinions and theories.

My views are based on the many discussions i have had with my parents and grand parents on the subject as well as members of my extended family.

Sadly they are no longer alive for me to check with and ascertain from where the information originated.

In absence of any proof I am compelled to agree that your premise for the article seems to be based on available information and documented evidence!

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