Genetics and etymology go contrary to myths

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 November 2010, 06:38 GMT]
Kadugannawa, the Sinhala name of a key mountain pass in the Kandy district of the island of Sri Lanka comes from Dravidian etymology and is related to Kadu-ka’navaay in Tamil, reveals an etymological column in TamilNet. Meanwhile, genetic studies based on DNA conducted on Sinhala expatriates by a British medical institute 10 years ago showed that the Sinhalese predominantly carry M20, the Dravidian marker in them, says Subramaniyam Visahan who recently came out with an outline publication on the peopling of the island of Sri Lanka. Myths that obscure objective history about the peopling of the island could have been shattered had Colombo joined the DNA mapping programme, the Human Genome Project, said the UK-based writer, who formerly worked for the British National Archives.

M20 is a genetic marker that is largely found among the Dravidian speakers while M17 is largely found among the Indo-Aryan speakers and M130 is largely found among the Austro-Asiatic speakers. But in understanding the relationship between genetic markers and language groups one has to keep in mind the fact that language replacement was always possible among human populations.

Eezham Tamils and the Sinhalese are two sibling identities that evolved in the island through a historical process, was the observation of veteran historian K. Indrapala in his monumental work, The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka, which in 2005 was dedicated “to the innocents who lost their lives as a direct consequence of misinterpretations of history”.

“Their [Sinhalese and Tamil] political claims that have led to the current conflict are to be judged in terms of accepted universal human rights and not in terms of their past in the island”, Dr. Indrapala wrote in his book.

But deliberate and organized mutilation of the ‘past’ has become an effective weapon for the state sponsored genocide of one sibling by the other in the island and how the universal system is going to respond to it without conceding the model of nation-state protection to the affected is the big question.

Meanwhile, a public lecture recently organized in the Royal Asiatic Society in Colombo was on the place names of the North and East Provinces by Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana, former Vice-Chancellor of Sri Jayawardenepura University. The age-old institutions like the Royal Asiatic Society have become ‘All-Sinhalese’ nowadays.

The synopsis of the lecture said: “A brief introduction to place-names studies and what we have attempted to do will be described, with some reference to our methodology, and history of such efforts. We will introduce the audience to a website which reviews the result of our effort. If time permits, some recent claims of “Tamil-Brahmi” interpretations of place-names would also be taken up.”

A recent trend noticed among some Sinhala academics is that they care more in ‘interpreting’ Tamil place names in the North and East than caring the study of their own place names. The programme goes side by side with the colonisation of the ‘conquered’ land, construction of Buddhist establishments, military cantonments and an ideological justification that the island belongs to the Sinhalese.

If they care to look into their own place names they would find out that many of their popular toponymical components are Dravidian in origin and they bear them in their personal names too.

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23.11.10   Kadugannawa


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