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Kantarodai and the Tamil Buddhists of Sri Lanka


By Dr Siva Thiagarajah


ASIN: B00U52L926 (Kindle)






























For about a thousand years -- from the third century BCE until the seventh century CE -- both Buddhism and Hinduism were practiced by the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The tremendous popularity of Bakthi cult in Tamil Nadu between 7th-9th centuries helped the re-emergence of Saivite Hinduism which had its impact among the Sri Lankan Tamils as well. Hymns were sung by the Saivite saints of Tamil Nadu in praise of the Siva temple Thirukkethiswaram at Matota (Mantai) and Thirukkoneswaram at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. During the Bakthi period a myth was created that Saivite Hinduism is the religion of the Tamils.


In 993 CE King Rajaraja of the Chola country sent a large army which conquered the Anuradhapura Kingdom and added it to the sovereignty of the Chola Empire. During the reign of his son Rajendra Chola, the whole or most of the island was subsequently conquered and incorporated as a province of the vast Chola Empire. Several Hindu temples were built by them mainly in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and other places and this religion was actively propagated among the Tamils.


Kalinga Magha from the Kingdom of Kalinga who invaded Sri Lanka and ruled from 1215-1236 CE at Polonnaruwa is remembered primarily for his aggressive conquest and Hindu fanaticism. He is known to have destroyed many Buddhist temples in the north and thousands of Tamil Buddhists who were faithful to their religion migrated to the south to become Sinhalese just to follow their religious persuasion. By the dawn of the Jaffna Kingdom the entire Tamil population of northern Sri Lanka had become Hindus.


The political situation in Sri Lanka have polarised the Sinhala and the Tamil population so much so, that the Tamils cannot even envisage that a good percentage of their forefathers were Buddhists in the past. To the Sinhalese Buddhism among Tamils is a non-entity. As Professor Peter Schalk of Uppsala University, Sweden succinctly puts it:


“Martial Sinhala Buddhism today having left its ties to the Buddha is both exclusive and excluding. It is Sinhala, not Tamil. Therefore Buddhism among Tamils appears like an anomaly to it. Its existence in the past and present is denied or its importance is reduced to a triviality by Sinhala mercenary scholars.”


The two chapters in this book are extracts from “The Peoples and Cultures of Early Sri Lanka” which is available as a hard back book.
















Kantarodai and the Tamil Buddhists of Sri Lanka

This book is available for the Kindle from all Amazon stores worldwide