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Thiriyaya or Tiriyai (Sinhalese: තිරියාය Thiriyaya, Tamil: திரியாய் tiriyāy) is a small 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 Several Sinhalese people has settled in the area as well.
The famous Buddhist temple Girihadu-Seya, an almost complete example of vatadage, is located close to this village. According to legend the Buddha after the 50th day of gaining Enlightenment, accepted alms from two Indian traders – Tapassu and Bhalluka, two North Indian traders who lived in a city of Pushkaravat. They offered him a porridge. Buddha accepted the alms. After partaking the meal, the two traders, requested the Buddha, to present them with some sort of a souvenir to remember the Blessed One. The Buddha very kindly offered the two traders a lock of hair from his head to them. Tapassu and Balluka, , hid the Hair Relics in a place in the mountain Girikanda. After they finished their Trade Mission they came back and tried to take the bowl containing the relics .The bowl where the Hair-Relics were kept could not be removed from the place as it was stuck to the rock. After that they decided with the locals build a Stupa on it to cover the relics and it is the Girihadu-Seya.
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 15th century.
Thiriyai is home to the Neelan Panikkan Malai and Neelan Pannikan Kulam, the hill and tank named after the famous Neela Panikkan, a Tamil Vanniar Chief of the Vanni. Ruins of his fortress palace are found on the hilltop.
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- Department of Archaeology - Sri Lanka
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- 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