Naga people (Lanka)

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Cobra symbolism in a Sri Lankan Hindu statue of Nainativu Nagapooshani Ambigai.
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 appear until the third century BCE as a distinct group in the early Sri Lankan chronices as well as the early Tamil literary works.[2] In the third century BCE they started to assimilate to Tamil language and culture, and lost their separate identity.[3][note 1] The Naga people were snake-worshipers. The word Naga was sometimes written in early inscriptions as Nāya, as in Nāganika which can be identified in the Nanaghat inscription of 150 BCE.

Origins[edit]

Until the third century BCE they appear as a distinct group in the early Sri Lankan chronices as well as the early Tamil literary works.[2] In the third century BCE they started to assimilate to Tamil language and culture, and lost their separate identity.[3]

Naga people[edit]

H. Parker, a British historian and author of "Ancient Ceylon" (1909) considered the Naga to be an offshoot of the Nayars of Kerala.[6]

The Oliyar, Parathavar, Maravar and Eyinar who are widespread across South India and North-East Sri Lanka are all Naga tribes.[7]

The Nagas lived among the Yakkha, Raksha and Deva in Ceylon according to the Manimekhalai and Mahavamsa and Ramayana.

Early Tamil literary works such as Kaliththokai[8] mention 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.[9] [7]

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.

Naga territory[edit]

There is a reference to the town Naka Nakar in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions belonging to 200 BCE, which is believed to be denoting Kudiramalai.[10]

An early copper coin discovered at Uduththurai port carries the name Naka bumi in Tamil, referring to the Naka Dynasty of the North.[11]

The ancient Sri Lankan history book Mahavamsa mentions a dispute between two Naga kings in northern Sri Lanka.[12]

History[edit]

Naga Nadu[edit]

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 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.

Cīttalai Cāttanār, the author of the Manimekalai reflected the perception at the time that Naga Nadu[13] 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.[13]

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.

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.

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.

Early Cholas[edit]

The Manimekhalai and archaeological inscriptions refer to the Chola-Naka alliance and intermarriage as being the progenitor of the Pallava Dynasty.[14]

Decline of Naga identity and assimilation[edit]

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, and the assimilation to Buddhism.

Alliances[edit]

The first two administrative centers of the kingdom of rajarata, namely Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara, were totally based on kings from Sinha clan in India.

In Pandukabhaya's era all native groups appear to be centralized into one administration center which later converted into the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Disputes between the Sinha clan and the local community were the onset to this centralisation. Pandukabhaya(437 BC), a prince who had both Sinha and Yaksha origins, was able to unify the tribes and battle with the Sinha rulers. Later Pandukabhaya was able to defeat the Sinha clan, and to establish a kingdom which could unify the natives and the Sinha clan.

Buddhism[edit]

In 250BC Arahath Mahinda came to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.[note 2] Sri Lanka was 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.

Culture[edit]

Architecture[edit]

The Naga used to have kingdoms and temples in Sri Lanka.[17][18] 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.[19]

Irrigation[edit]

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).[20]

Snake worship[edit]

Naga people were snake-worshipers.[citation needed] According to Rasanayagam,

The origin of their name cannot certainly be traced to serpents or serpent-worship, for they were so named long before the advent of the Aryans in whose language alone the word signified 'serpents'.[21]

The word Naga was sometimes written in early inscriptions as Nāya, as in Nāganika - this occurs in the Nanaghat inscription of 150 BCE.

The Mahavamsa describe the Nagas as super natural beings whose natural form was a serpent, but they could assume any a form at will.[22]

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][4][23]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to several authors they may have been a race of the Dravidians.[4][5]
  2. ^ 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)[15] 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".[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b Holt 2011, p. 73.
  3. ^ a b Holt 2011, p. 73-74.
  4. ^ a b Laura Smid (2003). South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Great Britain: Routledge. 429.
  5. ^ Chelvadurai Manogaran (1987). Ethnic conflict and reconciliation in Sri Lanka . United States of America: University of Hawaii Press. 21.
  6. ^ H. Parker (1909). Ancient Ceylon. New Dehli: Asian Educational Services. 7.
  7. ^ a b Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1903). The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Published for the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland by Trübner & Co. pp. 57–. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Mudaliyar, Singaravelu A., Apithana Cintamani, An encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature, (1931) - Reprinted by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi (1983), Pg 83-101
  9. ^ The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago By V. Kanakasabhai
  10. ^ Epigaphia Zeylanica VII, No. 82)
  11. ^ (Pushparatnam, P. 2002: 11, 30)
  12. ^ http://www.lankalibrary.com/heritage/naga.htm
  13. ^ a b Peter Shalk. SERENDIPITY - ISSUE 02 - THE VALLIPURAM BUDDHA IMAGE - AGAIN
  14. ^ Ordhendra Coomar Gangoly. The art of the Pallavas, Volume 2 of Indian Sculpture Series. G. Wittenborn, 1957. p. 2. 
  15. ^ Patrick Peebles (2006). The history of Sri Lanka. United States of America: Greenwood Press. 14.
  16. ^ "11 Years Since". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Wilhelm Geiger . (2003). The Mahavamsa. Available: http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/mahavamsa/chap001.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.
  19. ^ Paravi Sandeshaya verse 128/ Kokila Sandeshaya
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Rasanayagam 1926, p. 4.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 'Naga' Worship in India and. (2004). 'Naga' Worship in India and. Available: http://puthettusarppakkavu.tripod.com/id7.html. Last accessed 07 March 2010.

Sources[edit]

  • Holt, John (2011), The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Duke University Press 
  • Rasanayagam, C. (1926), Ancient Jaffna, Asian Educational Services (1993 reprint) 

External links[edit]