(before 250 BCE)
Anthropologists and scientists claim that the species Homo Sapiens
first emerged in the Great Rift Valley area of East Africa approximately
3.6 to 3 million years ago. Researchers into the human genome have
posited that early humans expanded from thence to the Middle-East,
spreading across Asia Minor, into Europe, the Far East and on into
East Asia, across America, South Asia, South East Asia, Melanesia
and into the Pacific. Their studies are based on characteristics
of the mitochondrial DNA, which are passed from mother to child
and thus remain unbroken in the female line. From these studies,
we all descend from women who lived in the region of Africa and
the Middle East. Thus the inhabitants of South Asia are all migrants,
who entered the continent from the North West and moved southwards.
Some of them eventually reached Sri Lanka.
In mythology and religious teaching, a strikingly similar path
of origin for the inhabitants of South Asia emerges. The Epic of
Gilgamesh, a text of Sumerian origin written somewhere between 2,750
and 2,500 BCE, speaks of a great flood in Mesopotamia, with Gilgamesh,
the hero of the story, rescuing himself and his family through agency
of a boat. The great flood of Gilgamesh's Epic is matched by the
biblical story of Noah, who rescued his family from the waters by
building a boat. Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives escaped
the destroying flood and established a civilisation in Mesopotamia.
Ancient India has its own flood myth, with Manu as its central figure.
Manu was warned of the impending deluge by a fish, who bargained
for his life by warning Manu that he and his family should build
a boat to ride out the coming storm. Whatever the truth in these
tales, discussed at length elsewhere, the legends of the Tamil people
claim that the first Chola kings descended from Manu. Similar legends
among the people of Kerala claim that the first Pandyan kings came
from the sea.
Linguistic scholars add some credence to these stories, noting
that a 'trail' of Dravidian languages can be discerned from south
eastern Iran, through Baluchistan in Afghanistan and Pakistan and
across India into the region south of the Ghats, now associated
with the Dravidians. Indeed, modern studies into the pre-historic
I ndus/Saraswati valley culture of north western India and Pakistan,
centred on Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, suggest that the imperfectly
understood script of these cities is of a proto-Dravidian nature.
This leads us to conclude that the Dravidians are not indigenous
to South India, but moved there at some point in time after the
collapse of the Indus/Saraswati civilisation in about 1,500 BCE.
As the Indus/Saraswati script has yet to be translated, it is difficult
to establish who these people were and from whence they originated.
Fig 1: The enigmatic statuette of the 'Priest-King' from the Indus/Saraswati
culture. It is possible that this man's descendants are alive today.
Clues about the Indus/Saraswati people can be found in the contemporary
cultures of the world; the Sumerians, the Akkadians and early Elamites.
Ancient Sumerian texts refer to commerce and interaction with the
'Meluhans' (sometimes transliterated as 'Melahhans' or the 'Mlecchans').
The word 'Meluha' is a Sumerian rendering of a foreign word into
Sumerian syllables, and then by modern scholars into English. These
people were found somewhere to the south east of Sumer, the Sumerian
Fig 2: A cylinder seal in Akkadian cuneiform, dated to circa 2,500
BCE, depicts a bearded Meluhan accompanied by his wife and an interpreter.
The Meluhan carries an antelope in his arms. This is thought by
Dr S Kalyanaraman in his paper "Mleccha, Milakkha or Me-lah-ha people
and their language" to be a phonetic determinant, as the Sumerian
word for antelope represents several of the sounds in the word 'Meluha'.
At this time, the proto-Elamite culture, centred on Susa, south
east of Sumer, used a pictographic script that has never been adequately
translated, but bears a striking similarity to the Indus/Saraswati
Fig 3: A proto-Elamite tablet.
It is possible that the Meluhans of Sumerian records are the same,
or a closely related, people to the proto-Elamites and the founders
of the Indus/Saraswati civilisation. Under this formulation, the
original inhabitants of Susa were driven eastwards by the people
now associated with the later, cuneiform-using Elamite culture,
moving to establish a new centre in the fertile Indus/Saraswati
region. There are linguistic coincidences worth noting in this context.
'Susa' the capital of Elam, means 'purity' in Tamil. 'Ur' is Tamil
for 'town' or village. 'Melahha', is strikingly similar to 'Malayalu',
the name by which the people of Kerala, descendants of the Pandyans
who 'came from the sea', describe themselves to this day - a word
which has been transliterated in English to 'Malabar', indicating
how easily words change when moved from one language to another.
Most startling, and possibly conclusive, is the fact that according
to Professor Romilar Tharpar, in her seminal work "Early India,
From the Origins to AD 1300", the word 'Mlechcha' is still used
in India today by the Hindi-speaking, Aryan descendent northerners
to refer to those who are beyond the caste system, or ritually impure.
This clearly indicates that the Meluhans were not Aryan and inhabited
India before the caste structure brought by the Aryans was in place.
The Meluhans were described in Sumerian literature as being from
'a black land', or being a black people. This has led western scholars,
unaware of the close association between caste and colour, to look
in Africa for Meluha. Ritually as well as visually, the Meluhans
were beyond caste, and therefore 'black' to the Aryans - in other
words, they were Dravidians before the assimilation of those people
into the Vedic beliefs of the Aryans.
Fig.4: Three seals from the Indus/Saraswati culture. Note similarity
between characters from these seals and the characters in Figure
3. If the Indus/Saraswati culture and the proto-Elamite culture
shared elements of a common script, what else did they share?
If this construction is true, then a path from modern-day Iran
through to South India can be drawn indicating the migration of
the Dravidian people to their current area of greatest concentration
originated in Elam, in modern Iran.
The Bible describes Elam and Sumer as sons of Shem, the son of
Noah. The Elamite and Sumerian cultures are, from a Biblical point
of view, the descendants of these two post-diluvial figures. Those
genealogists who accept Biblical antecedents could thus construct
a family tree for the Dravidians that originates in Adam and moves
through Noah, Shem and Elam to the priest-kings of the Indus/Saraswati
culture. From this, and the identification of Noah with Manu, the
Chola and Pandyan kings who claim descent from Manu can be traced
to Adam. Genealogists who do not accept Biblical data might still
consider the possibility that the Chola and Pandyan kings, as descendants
of Manu, one of the most ancient mythological figures in Indian
culture, trace their ancestry to the Indus/Saraswati valley and
the Meluhans referred to in ancient Sumerian literature.
In searching for Indian sources on the origins of the Tamil people,
one must explore the Mahabharata, which is one of the most ancient
stories in Indian culture. It is believed to have been composed
in the first millennium BCE, as a series of separate stories and
poems. These were compiled into a single written Sanskrit document
in about 350 CE and handed down in both written and oral tradition
to modern times. The Mahabharata outlines the conquest of India
(Bharat) by five brothers (the Pandavas), who defeated the one hundred
Dhartarashtras, who were their first cousins. The story is often
seen as an allegorical remnant of the pre-historic conflicts accompanying
the movement of the Aryan people into Dravidian pre-historic India.
Much as Homer wrote the Iliad centuries after the war between Greece
and Troy and Moses wrote the Pentateuch long after the events described
in Genesis, the Mahabharata recounts events long past. If one accepts
even a kernel of history in the story, then the Dhartarashtras might
be seen as the Dravidians, cousins of the Pandavas or Aryans. This
kinship implies that the Aryans, who originated in the area Central
Asia to the north of Iran, were kin to the Dravidians, who might
be also found to originate from Iran. It should be noted that the
date of the original Mahabharata stories correlates with the fall
of the Indus/Saraswati civilisation. While the Mahabharata has become
associated with the Ganges River valley, and the city of Harastinapura,
the capital of Bharat, has been thought to be in north central India,
it is equally possible that the river was actually the Indus/Saraswati
and the city might equally have been Harappa, Mohenjo Daro or another
urban centre in the civilisation.
Thus the Mahabharata might hold the key to the reason for the movement
of the Indus/Saraswati people from their homes in the north west
of India down through the sub-continent. Interestingly, India's
second great epic story, the Ramayana, is also intimately connected
to the Dravidians, and parallels some aspects of the Mahabharata.
This time, it is not Bharat that is being fought over, but Lanka.
The hero, Rama, is goaded into invading Lanka to rescue his wife,
Sita, who has been abducted by Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka.
The "Akaththiya Lanka" by Akaththiya Maha Munivar, (Akaththiya
the great Ascetic) translated and published by V Nathar, Notary
Public, Puttur and Jaffna in about 1910, gives a genealogy of the
Kings of Lanka before the Ramayana. The genealogy shows that Ravana,
far from being a demon-king, was simply a human ruler.
Sayamban is listed as the first king of Lanka. Sayamban claims
his descent from Manu. He had his capital at Tirukonamalai (Trincomalee).
He ruled the country for 33 years.
Yalimugan Š the son-in-law of Sayamban, succeeded him to the throne.
He ruled from Tirukonamalai, for ten years.
Aethi Š YalimuganÕs descendant, ruled Lanka from Murugapuram (Kathirgamam).
He ruled the country for 28 years.
Vinthukesan Š son of Aethi, succeeded his father, had his capital
city at Sivanolipadamalai (AdamÕs Peak). He ruled for 29 years and
Sukesan Š succeeded his father Vinthukesan, was the king of Lanka
and ruled from Kathiravan Malai. He ruled for 41 years and 7 days.
Maliyavan Š succeeded his father Sukesan, built Ilankapuri, a beautiful
city and proclaimed it as his capital. He ruled for 21 years, 7
months and 9 days.
Sumali Š succeeded the throne of Lanka after the death of his brother
Maliyavan. He had dual capital cities Š Ilankapuri and Manthai.
He ruled for 5 years and 6 months before being deposed by a popular
revolt. Sumali's daughter Kaikesi was too young to succeed her father.
Kuperan Š became the king of Lanka. KuperanÕs father Vaichchiravakhu
found that there was no successor to Maliyavan; he made his son
Kuperan as the king of Lanka. In the meantime, Sumali gave Kaikesi,
in marriage to Vaichchiravakhu.
Vaichchiravakhu and Kaikesi had three sons, Ravanan, Vipeeshnan,
and Kumbkaranam, and a daughter named Soorpanakai. To wrest the
kingdom that rightly belonged his mother Kaikesi, Ravanan challenged
his half-brother Kuperan. Their father Vachchiravaku intervened
and settled the dispute in favour of Ravanan, who became the king
Ravanan - ruled Lanka from his capital city at Ilankapuri. He was
defeated by Rama and killed, as recounted in the Ramayana. There
are just over 168 years in the genealogy above,
Vipeeshnan Š was crowned king of South Lanka by Ilakumanan on the
orders of Rama and ruled the country from Kalyani (Kelaniya). According
to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, "Tradition adds that Vibhisana (Vipeeshnan),
who received the kingdom from Dasarata Rama, the conqueror of Ravanan,
continued to reign up to the early part of this Yuga." C S Navaratnam,
in his book "A Short History of Hinduism in Ceylon", adds, "Vibhisna,
the brother of Ravanan, is still worshipped in Kelaniya."
The origin of the Cholas, Pandyans and Cheras kingdoms of South
India predate the historical record. The Srimad Bhagavatam (Trans:
'The Story of the Fortunate One'), which tells to story of the Hindu
deity Krishna, presents a genealogy for Rama, which includes the
name Sibi, the son of Usinara. Sibi's sons are listed in the Srimad
Bhagavatam as being Vrsadarbha, Sudhira, Madra and Kekaya. The Chola
kings claim their descent from Sibi, whose name in early Tamil can
be also transliterated into English as Simbi or Chembi or Chembian.
Sibi is believed to have established the Tiruvellarai Temple near
Tiruchchirappalli in Tamil Nadu and is described in the Brahmanda
Purana as having campaigned against Ravana. If Sibi did indeed campaign
against Ravana, then he must have been a contemporary of Rama. The
dating of the battle between Rama and Ravana in the Ramayana is
problematic; estimates by historians suggest the invasion of Lanka
could have occurred any time between 1000 BCE and 500 BCE. Assuming
the most recent date, Sibi must have been born no later than 475