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Naga people (Sri Lanka)

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Seerani amman

Cobra symbolism in a Sri Lankan Hindu statue of Nainativu Nagapooshani Ambigai.

Dambulla 06

Cobra symbolism in a Sri Lankan Buddhist statue. According to Buddhist scripture the Naga king Muchalinda shielded the Buddha from getting wet in the rain by coiling round him and holding his large hood above the Buddha's head.[1]

The Naga people were one of the four aboriginal people of Sri Lanka who ruled Nagadeepa or Naga Nadu; the coastal districts of Northern and Western Ceylon, particularly the Jaffna peninsula from the 6th century BCE to 3rd century CE

Naga people were snake-worshippers, a custom found in many tropical climes including the Amazon.[2] The interchangeable names Naga, Nāya and or Nāka, meaning Cobra or Serpent were applied to and self described by these snake-worshiping people from classical antiquity.[3] The word Naga was sometimes written in early inscriptions as Nāya, as in Nāganika - this occurs in the Nanaghat inscription of 150 BCE. Archaeological excavations and studies provide evidence of palaeolithic inhabitation in the Jaffna and Kerala region.

The Nagas lived among the Yakkha, Raksha and Deva in Ceylon according to the Manimekhalai and Mahavamsa and Ramayana. According to Ramayana Indrajit married to the daughter of Naga king. Time to time Anuradhapura Kingdom was ruled by few kings from Naga tribe.

Having several kings in Kingdom of Rajarata from Naga tribe, it seems there were significant of Naga power in country. H. Parker, a British historian and author of "Ancient Ceylon" considers the Naga to be an offshoot of the Nayars of Kerala[4] Ancient Sri Lankan history book Mahavamsa mentions a dispute between two Naga kings in northern Sri Lanka.[5] The Manimekhalai and archaeological inscriptions refer to the Chola-Naka alliance and intermarriange being the progenitor of the Pallava Dynasty. Many Buddhist temples in the south of Sri Lanka have assimilated the divine form of naga (Natha Deva) into a Bodhisattva.

Origins

It is evident that the History of the Naga people is gone far older than the era of Ravana. Indrajit, the most powerful son and a one of the greatest Raksha warriors found in Ramayana was married to a daughter of a Naga King in Lanka.

Early Tamil literary works such as Kaliththokai mentions that many Naga tribes such as Maravar, Eyinar, Oliar, Oviar, Aruvalur and Parathavar migrated to the Pandyan kingdom and started living there in the Third Tamil Sangam period 2000 years ago.[6] There is a reference to the town Naka Nakar in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions belonging to 200 BCE, which is believed to be denoting Kadiramalai.[7] An early copper coin discovered at Uduththurai port carries the name Naka bumi in Tamil, referring to the Naka Dynasty of the North.[8] Ptolemy in his 1st century map of Taprobane mentions Nagadiboi. By the time Buddhism had reached Tamilakam, the twin epics of ancient Tamil Nadu Silappatikaram (1st century CE) and Manimekalai (3rd century CE) were written, speaking of Naga Nadu across the sea from Kaveripoompuharpattinam, and their civilization which was even more sumptuous than those of the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas. Manimekalai speaks of the great Naga king Valai Vanan and his queen Vdcamayilai who ruled the prosperous Naga Nadu with great splendour and a rich Tamil Buddhist tradition. Their daughter, the princess Pilli Valai had a liaison at Nainativu islet with the early Chola king Killivalavan; out of this union was born Prince Tondai Eelam Thiraiyar, who historians note was the early progenitor of the Pallava Dynasty. He went on to rule Tondai Nadu from Kanchipuram. Nainativu was referred to as Manipallavam in ancient Tamil literature following this union. Royals of the Chola-Naga lineage would go onto rule other territory of the island, Nagapattinam and Tondai Nadu of Tamilakam. The Talagunda inscriptions of Kadamba Kakusthavarma also refer to the coastal Thiraiyar tribe as forming from this Chola-Naga alliance. The Oliyar, Parathavar, Maravar and Eyinar are all Naga tribes. Ptolemy mentions in 150 CE that King Sornagos, a descendant of this lineage, ruled from the early Chola capital of Uraiyur during this time. Kaveripoompuharpattinam received many adulatory comparisons to the Naga capital Kanderodai (Kadiramalai) in the classical period.

Cīttalai Cāttanār, the author of the Manimekalai reflected Tamilakam's perception at the time that Naga Nadu was an autonomous administrative entity, kingdom or nadu stretching across coastal districts, distinguished from the rest of the island also ruled intermittently by Tamil kings; Eela or Irattina Tivu-Nadu.[9] Naka Nadu included Mantai in the northwest, Thirukonamalai in the northeast and Mahavillachi in the middle of the island. The socioeconomic structure of this nation was built around its oceanic trade and agriculture, the inner trade and trade with the kingdoms of Tamilakam, Rome, Greece, Egypt, Kalinga and the far east being the mainstay of its economy. The Karaiyar tribe of these Tamils were coast-residing seafaring people and the oldest settlers of the Coromandel Coast and the coasts of Sri Lanka. The Ketheeswaram temple of Maanthai was built by this clan in the classical period. There is a reference to the town Naka Nakar in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions belonging to 200 BCE, which is believed to be denoting Kadiramalai.[7] An early copper coin discovered at Uduththurai port carries the name Naka bumi in Tamil, referring to the Naka Dynasty of the North.[8] Ptolemy in his first century map of Taprobane mentions Nagadiboi. By the time Buddhism had reached Tamilakam, the twin epics of ancient Tamil Nadu Silappatikaram (5-6th century CE) and Manimekalai (6th century CE) were written, speaking of Naga Nadu across the sea from Kaveripoompuharpattinam, and their civilization which was even more sumptuous than those of the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas. Manimekalai speaks of the great Naga king Valai Vanan and his queen Vdcamayilai who ruled the prosperous Naga Nadu with great splendour and a rich Buddhist tradition. Their daughter, the princess Pilli Valai had a liaison at Manipallavam islet with the early Chola king Killivalavan; out of this union was born Prince Tondai Eelam Thiraiyar, who historians note was the early progenitor of the Pallava Dynasty. He went on to rule Tondai Nadu from Kanchipuram. Nainativu was referred to as Manipallavam in ancient Tamil literature following this union. Royals of the Chola-Naga lineage would go onto rule other territory of the island, Nagapattinam and Tondai Nadu of Tamilakam. The Talagunda inscriptions of Kadamba Kakusthavarma also refer to the coastal Thiraiyar tribe as forming from this Chola-Naga alliance. The Oliyar, Parathavar, Maravar and Eyinar are all Naga tribes. Ptolemy mentions in 150 CE that King Sornagos, a descendant of this lineage, ruled from the early Chola capital of Uraiyur during this time. Kaveripoompuharpattinam received many adulatory comparisons to the Naga capital Kanderodai (Kadiramalai) in the classical period.

It was from the Naka people that the Aryans first learnt the art of writing; hence Sanskrit letters to this day are known as Deva-nagari.

However these finding questioning whether the Naga (Naina) Nadu or Naga thivu mentioned in Manimekalai refer to Sri Lanka or Maldives or any other Island. Naina thivu or Nagadeepa is a very small island in present day of Sri Lanka. It is very much clear that there was a stable kingdom - Kingdom of Rajarata in the North part of Sri Lanka to 5th Century of BCE to 13th Century of BCE. Mahavamsa, one of the great source use to find details about history events in Sri Lanka and south Asia doesn't reveal any significant Tamil power in North corner of Sri Lanka until 13th Century.. It is mentioned about several Tamil invasions and controlling the north power by capturing the capital of Kingdom of Rajarata, but there is no mentioned about Tamil power in north corner until Magha[disambiguation needed], Rajarata invasion. However, Mahavamsa has recorded about Elara and may other Tamil monarchs, marriages and settlement from the time of prince Vijaya signifying Tamil people. The Mahavamsa also talks of the displacement of the indegenous community and beastiality myths. Also, the Mahavamsa does not refer to Sinhala but Kamboja and Dameda at this period. Ramayana narates a history before that of the Mahavamsa.

Naga legends

The Mahavamsa describe the Nagas as super natural beings whose natural form was a serpent, but they could assume any a form at will.[10] The Mahavamsa also mentions that Buddha visited Sri Lanka on three occasions. On the second occasion Lord Buddha visited Nagadipa in 581 BCE to resolve a conflict between the Naga kings (Chulodara and Mahodara) in Kelaniya (Near present day Colombo)[11] and Wadenawagallaf (formerly Seven Korles) over a gem-set throne of gold. Eleven years in Ceylon. Comprising sketches of the field sports and natural history of that colony, and an account of its history and antiquities".[12]

Decline of Naga identity and assimilation

The Nagas are likely to have lost their identity over time, due to the formation of alliances with the other tribes like Raksha, Yaksha, Deva. First two administrative centers of kingdom of rajarata namely Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara were totally based on kings from Sinha clan in India. But natives didn't like foreign rulers. During this period, dispute was rising between Sinha clan and local community. Pandukabhaya(437 BC) a prince who had both Sinha and Yaksha origin able to unified tribes to battle with Sinha rulers. Later Pandukabhaya able to defeat Sinha clan and establish a kingdom which could unified natives and Sinha clan. In Pandukabhaya's era all native groups seems to centralized into one administration center which later converted into the Anuradhapura Kingdom. In 250BC Arahath Mahinda came to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism. Sri Lanka were officially converted to Buddhism. Yaksha,Raksha,Naga,Deva groups who were divided according to what they worshiped lost their identification after all converting to Buddhism. Similarly, Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus since ancient times have regard the Cobra as a divine being by the passing down of Naga traditions and believes. Further cobra can be found entwining itself round the neck of the supreme Hindu god Shiva as serpent king Vasuki. Cobras can also be found in images of Lord Vishnu.[1][13][14]

Naga Kings of Anuradhapura

Following Naga Kings ruled the Rajarata[15]

Culture

Architecture

The Naga used to have kingdoms and temples in Sri Lanka.[3][16] The Nagas built a temple in Medawattha, Mathara called Nagavila today. It used to hold a statue of Lord Buddha sitting on the Muchalinda, the Cobra. Naga maidens used to perform dances there.[17]

Irrigation

It is also believed they were great irrigation engineers who built water storages.[1] The Yoda Wewa dam and reservoir system in Mannar, Sri Lanka is considered by some (Such as Author, Mudaliyar C. Rajanayagam) to have been built by the Nagas based on the extensive ruins and the presence of villages with surrounding the port with Naga name (e.g. Nagarkulam, Nagathazhvu and Sirunagarkulam).[18]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Godwin Witane . (2003). The growth of the cobra cult in Sri Lanka . Available: http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2003/09/21/fea17.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  2. E. O. Wilson, Consilience, . Little, Brown, New York (1998)
  3. 3.0 3.1 WWW Virtual Library Sri Lanka. (2009). The original inhabitants of Lanka: Yakkas & Nagas. Available: http://www.lankalibrary.com/cul/yakkas.htm. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  4. H. Parker (1909). Ancient Ceylon. New Dehli: Asian Educational Services. 7.
  5. http://www.lankalibrary.com/heritage/naga.htm
  6. The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago By V. Kanakasabhai
  7. 7.0 7.1 Epigaphia Zeylanica VII, No. 82)
  8. 8.0 8.1 (Pushparatnam, P. 2002: 11, 30)
  9. Peter Shalk. SERENDIPITY - ISSUE 02 - THE VALLIPURAM BUDDHA IMAGE - AGAIN
  10. Prof. S.Ranwella. (2009). THE SO-CALLED TAMIL KINGDOM OF JAFFNA. Available: http://www.infolanka.com/org/srilanka/hist/hist4.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  11. Patrick Peebles (2006). The history of Sri Lanka. United States of America: Greenwood Press. 14.
  12. "11 Years Since". http://www.archive.org/stream/elevenyearsincey02forb/elevenyearsincey02forb_djvu.txt. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  13. Laura Smid (2003). South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Great Britain: Routledge. 429.
  14. 'Naga' Worship in India and. (2004). 'Naga' Worship in India and. Available: http://puthettusarppakkavu.tripod.com/id7.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  15. kings-of-sri-lanka-131ad-to-238ad mahavamsa.org
  16. Wilhelm Geiger . (2003). The Mahavamsa. Available: http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/mahavamsa/chap001.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  17. Paravi Sandeshaya verse 128/ Kokila Sandeshaya
  18. Lionel Wijesiri . (2009). The giant wakes up Revival of Yoda Wewa . Available: http://www.dailynews.lk/2009/10/20/fea21.asp. Last accessed 07 March 2010.

External links

Template:Ethnic groups in Sri Lanka Template:Sri Lanka topics



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