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INTRODUCTION

Sri Lanka has had its own distinct community of Tamil people for thousands of years. As with all the people of the island, the Ceylon Tamil community originates in India. The earliest Tamil settlers came from the the very far south of India in prehistoric times. Early historic records show that further Tamil groups moved to Sri Lanka from a very large part of India, from the areas now covered by the current Indian states of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. In ancient times, these states were part of the Dravidian Chola, Pandya and Chera kingdoms, and as these kingdoms expanded southwards, Tamils made the crossing into Lanka and established a foothold on the island. The first of these incursions pre-dates written records and a great deal of information about the earliest Tamil settlement of Sri Lanka is conjectural, quasi-mythical or legendary. Subsequent movements of South Indian people are better documented, including the Chola and Pandyan invasions of the island, and the migration of families from the chettiar caste from South India in the 1700s. The most recent migration of Tamils to Sri Lanka took place in the 1800s under the British administration of the island. These most recent migrants have had a sad history of exclusion from previous Tamil arrivals on the basis of caste discrimination. As a consequence of these periodic migrations, some documented, some not, heated debate still continues about the origins of the Tamils and their place in modern Sri Lanka.

 

 
 
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