Vanniar (Chieftain)

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For other uses, see Vanniar.

Vanniar or Vannia (Sinhalese: වන්නියා) is a title of a chief in medieval Sri Lanka who ruled the Vanni regions as tribute payers to the Jaffna vassal state. Vanniar is not recorded as a name of a caste amongst Sri Lankan Tamils in the Vanni District of northern Sri Lanka during the early 1900s. It is no longer used as a name of a caste or as chiefs in Sri Lanka. There are number of origin theories for the feudal chiefs, coming from as an indigenous formation. The most famous of the Vanni chieftains was Bandara Vannia, known for his resistance against the British colonial power.[1]

Feudal chiefs[edit]

Following the rise of the Tamil Noblemen in the medieval period and demise of the Rajarata kingdom period post twelfth century AD, many petty chiefs took power in the buffer lands between the northern based Jaffna Vassal State and other Kingdoms based on the Southwest of the Island namely Kotte Kingdom and the Kandyan Kingdom. These petty chiefs paid tribute to the Jaffna Vassal State. Sometimes they were independent of any central control or subdued by the southern kingdoms during the European colonial era for strategical purposes. The ruling class was composed of multi caste origins. There were also number of Vannia chiefs of Sinhalese ancestry.[citation needed] Many kings and chiefs with titles such as Vannia had ruled in northern areas of modern Sri Lanka termed as Vanniya during the Jaffna Vassal State era.[2]

As a caste[edit]

In the 1900s it assimilated as part of the local Govigama and other similar positioned castes.[3]

Origin theories[edit]

Historians Sinhalese from the Sinhalese for forest, namely Vanna and a Vannia or Wannia as a person from the forest and Vanniya regions were large tracks of forest lands.[3] (see Wanniyala-Aetto)


  1. ^ Daya Somasundaram (2010). "Collective trauma in the Vanni- a qualitative inquiry into the mental health of the internally displaced due to the civil war in Sri Lanka". Int J Ment Health Syst 4: 22. doi:10.1186/1752-4458-4-22. PMC 2923106. PMID 20667090. 
  2. ^ Peebles, History of Sri Lanka, p.31-32
  3. ^ a b Karthigesu, Sri Lankan Tamil Society and Politics, p.7-9


  • McGilvray, Dennis (1982). Mukkuvar Vannimai: Tamil Caste and Matriclan Ideology in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, (Caste Ideology and Interaction). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Kartithigesu, Sivathamby (1995). Sri Lankan Tamil society and politics. New Century Book House. p. 189. ISBN 81-234-0395-X. 
  • Peebles, Patrick (2006). The History of Sri Lanka. United States: Greenwood Press. p. 248. ISBN 0-313-33205-3.