Thiriyai or Tiriyayi (Tamil: திரியாய் tiriyāy) is a small Tamil village in the eastern Trincomalee District of Sri Lanka and is an old seaport of the Jaffna Kingdom. It is situated about 25 miles north of Trincomalee town through Nilaveli. Thiriyai is among the ancient Tamil villages of the district and had over 700 families. But due to the ethnic conflict, most families fled the village and are now living elsewhere in the country or overseas. Several Tamil refugees returned to the village in the early 21st century during a ceasefire.
Thiriyai is referred to as Thalakori in the 2nd-century map of Ptolemy. Pre-Christian Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have been found in the area, the oldest belonging to the 2nd century B.C. Thiriyai formed a prominent village of Jaffna's Vannimai districts in the medieval period. The site is home to Mahayana Buddhist vatadage ruins worshipped by the locals during the rise of Tamil Buddhism in the area. During Paramesvaravarman I's reign, the famous Tiriyai Pallava Grantha Manipravalam inscriptions of 7th-8th century Tamilakkam were recorded in the village. The inscription refers to Tamil merchant mariners from Tamil Nadu, their seafaring and commerce to Trincomalee. It details their endowment of this shrine dedicated to the Buddhist deity Avalokitesvara and his consort Tara. Dvarapala sculptures found at the ruins are early contributions of the Pallava school of art to the island. The area has remained predominantly Tamil while the Sri Lankan government has attempted to establish Sinhala colonies near the village and monastery in the 20th-21st century. The famous Buddhist temple Girihadu-Seya is located close to this village.
The Vaiya Paadal, a 17th century Tamil historical text, refers to the Iyer Cupatittu who ruled Tiriyai, an Aanasingam who administered Kattukulampattu, a Maamukan who ruled Verukal and Thampalakamam, and a Mayilan who ruled over Kottiyaaram in the 1400s.
Thiriyai is home to the Neelan Panikkan Malai and Neelan Pannikan Kulam, the hill and tank named after the famous Neela Panikkan, a brave Tamil Vanniar Chief of the Vanni. Ruins of his fortress palace are found on the hilltop.
- University Teachers for Human Rights(Jaffna) Sri Lanka: Human Rights Report
- Meera Abraham (1988). Two medieval merchant guilds of south India. Manohar Publications. pp. 136
- Department of Archaeology - Sri Lanka:
- V. Navaratnam (1991). The fall and rise of the Tamil nation: events leading to the Tamil war of independence and resumption of Eelam sover[e]ignty