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The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity

The Tamils of Sri Lanka (C. 300 BCE - C. 1200 CE)


By K Indrapala


ISBN-10: 1511674121

ISBN-13: 978-1511674126


































This long awaited publication embodies the researches of a lifetime undertaken by Dr K Indrapala from the time he started his career as an academic in the University of Ceylon in 1960. It gives shape to his long held, though often controversial views that the Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are descended from common ancestors who lived in the country in prehistoric and protohistoric times and have a shared history going back to over two thousand years. He argues that through a process of language replacement the north Indian Prakrit dialects spread among the vast majority of the people paving the way for the evolution of Sinhalese while Tamil became the dominant language in some parts of the island leading to the emergence of Sri Lankan Tamil.


Buddhism, though at first common to both groups later became a religion associated with the Sinhalese. The rule of the Cola dynasty in the 11th century paved the way for the rise of Saivism among the Tamils. In the end Buddhism disappeared completely as a religion of the Sri Lankan Tamils and Saivism assumed dominance among them. The result was that religion in addition to language became a marker of ethnic identity.


This research covers the period up to 1200 by which time the process of evolution had more or less stabilized and the chance of one absorbing the other eventually had receded, although assimilation of elements of one group into the other continued.


About the Author


K. Indrapala took his first degree from the University of Ceylon (now University of Peradeniya) in 1960 and, from that time until 1975, lectured in history in that university. He took his doctorate from the University of London. In 1975, he was appointed Foundation Professor of History in the new Jaffna Campus of the University of Sri Lanka , which later became the University of Jaffna. In 1977/78, he was a Japan Foundation Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo. In 1984, he was appointed Foundation Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the Tamil University, Thanjavur. He now lives in Australia.
















The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity - The Tamils of Sri Lanka

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