Onomastics of Tamil Personal Names – Part 2

by Sachi Sri Kantha, March 22, 2017

More than a year has passed, since part 1 in this series was posted on February 23, 2016. [see, http://sangam.org/onomastics-tamil-personal-names-part-1/]

I pick up the thread again now. In mid-1990s, I received an inquiry letter from Prof. Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson (1928-2000), soliciting the recognized names of literati and intellectuals among Eelam Tamils of the 19th century, other than the Ponnambalam brothers and Coomaraswamy family. I did respond to his request, with a few names in my collection.

Subsequently, Sanmugam Arumugam’s worthy compilation of Dictionary of Biography of the Ceylon Tamils (253 pages) was published in January 1997. Two decades have passed since then. This dictionary contained thumbnail sketches of 775 prominent Eelam Tamils who had contributed to the society at large. In his preface to this book, Arumugam had written, “…it is an attempt to remember those who deserve to be remembered and about whom I was able to collect information. It has no pretext of being a Biographical Dictionary of the Tamil Nation; that is beyond my scope and is left to the more competent and qualified to document.” Furthermore, Arumugam also noted, “ Obtaining biographical information has not been that easy, as we [underline, as in the original] Tamils are loathe to speak about our achievements, ourselves and even about our forebears. Humility has always been the traditional basis of our expression.”  About Mr. Arumugam, I did contribute a memorial essay to this website in 2012. [seehttp://www.sangam.org/2012/08/Sanmugam_Arumugam.php?uid=4814] I had inscribed this essay as Part 1. This contribution can also be considered as Part 2, to Mr. Arumugam.

With the spread of internet digital culture and google search, there is a vital need to upgrade and revise the clerical errors in the dates of birth and death of the entries presented in Mr. Arumugam’s dictionary. Thus, as a first step, I provide below the names of 19th century’s elite Eelam Tamils which appear in Arumugam’s compilation. Secondly, I note some omissions from this compilation as well.


Dr. Samuel Green

19th Century Eelam Tamil Names listed in Arumugam’s Dictionary

Technically, those who were born between 1801 and 1880, I consider as 19th century individuals. The only cut off criterion used here, is age maturity. In my view, those born since 1881, need to be included in the 20th century list. Around 180 individuals can be identified as 19th century Eelam Tamil elites, from Arumugam’s listing. This is definitely an underestimate. I provide the years of birth and death next to the names listed alphabetically, if they were provided. Even these vital details, need independent confirmation from other sources as well. Honorary titles are indicated [within parenthesis] as prefix or suffix. Those with unknown years of birth and death are indicated with a question mark.

Velupillai Akilesapillai (of Trincomalee) 1853 – 1910; Tamil scholar.

[Gate Mudaliyar] Rasiah William Allegakone 1857 – ?

Velautham Amarasingham (of Punguduthivu) 1850 – 1942

Arumugampillai Ambalavanar (of Vaddukoddai) 1855 – 1932; Tamil scholar

[Mudaliyar] Sinnappa Ambalavanar 8of Sandilippai) c1880 – ?

Kathiresapillai Udaiyar Ariacuddy [Maniyagar] (of Valikamam West)1879 – ?

Francis Muttyah Armstrong (of Vaddukoddai) 1830 – 1891

[Mudaliyar] Canapathipillai Arumugam (of Mullaitivu) 1872 – 1938

Kanthapillai Arumugam (aka Arumuga Navalar, of Nallur) 1822 – 1879; renowned

Tamil-Hinduism scholar and social reformer

Kathiravetpillai Arumugam 1880 – ?

Visvanathar Arumugam – mid 19th cent.

[Sir] Ponnambalam Arunachalam 1853 – 1924; Tamil scholar and pre-independent era


[Lady] Swarnambal Arunachalam (of Manipay) 1860 – 1940

Muthiah Asaipillai c1870 – ? ; horse transportation (owner of horse coaches) magnate of

19th century.

Kathiravetpillai Balasingam 1872 – 1952; advocate and Member of Legislative Council.

Joseph William Barr Kumarakulasinghe (of Tellipalai) 1826 – 1883

Kanaganayagam Charles Barr Kumarakulasinghe 1862 – 1903

Rasanayagam Richard Barr Kumarakulasinghe 1864 – ?

William Black (of Chakanai) c1850 – 1930

Christopher Britto (of Puttalam) c1879 – ? ; author.

Dr. Philip Sebastian Britto (of Puttalam) 1856 – 1906; colonial surgeon.

Subramaiam Vaidyanathar Buell (of Vaddukoddai) 1827 – 1905; Christian evangelist.

Arumugam Canagaratnam 1873 – ? ; journalist and Member of Legislative Council.

Sinnakutty O. Canagaratnam (of Karaitivu, Batticaloa) 1880 – 1938

[Gate Mudaliyar] Gilbert Hannah Canagasabai 1861 – ?

  1. Candiah (aka Balangoda Candiah, of Irupalai) c1875 – 1960; planter

[Mudaliyar] Simon Casie Chitty (Chetty, of Puttalam) 1807 March 27 – 1860 Nov. 5;

reputed Tamil author and Member of Legislative Council.

Visuvanathan Casipillai 1849 – 1936

Arumugam Cathiravelu 1861 – ? ; Crown proctor.

Suppiramaniyar Cathiravetpillai (of Navaly) 1824 – 1918; bank schroff.

Joseph Kathirkamar Chanmukam (of Pandattarippu) 1863 – 1930; educator.

  1. Chellapahpillai (of Vannarpannai) ? – 1902; eminent jurist and amateur astronomer.

Vaithilingam Chelliah 1880 – ?

Joseph Cherubim 1868 – ? ; businessman.

  1. Chinnathambiapillai (of Puloly, Point Pedro) c 1860 – ? ; educator and mentor of

C.N. Annadurai (Anna, the founder of DMK party).

Aloysius Mount Carmel Casie Chitty (of Puttalam) 1853 – ? ; proctor.

Chelliah H. Cooke (of Sandilippai) 1861 – 1951; educator and later, editor of ‘Morning

Star’ weekly newspaper.

James Prince Cooke (aka Sabapathy, of Vaddukoddai) c1825 – 1910; co-founder of

Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai.

Tambiah Strong Cooke 1873 – 1920; proctor and manager of ‘Morning Star’ weekly


Dr,.Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy 1877 Aug 22 – 1947 Sept. 9; son of Sir Muthu

Coomaraswamy and British citizen Elizabeth Clay Beebe, eminent scholar, art critic and author.

[Gate Mudaliyar] Arumugampillai Coomaraswamy 1783 – 1836 Nov. 7

[Sir] Muthu Coomaraswamy 1834 Jan 23 – 1879 May 4; member of Ceylon Legislative

Council and an author. Father of Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy.

[Mudaliyar] Ponnambalam Coomaraswamy 1849 Dec 7 – 1906 June 7; member of

Ceylon Legislative Council, and elder sibling of Pon. Ramanathan and Arunachalam.

Thambiah Henry Crossette (of Nallur) c 1865 – ?

Sinnathamby Cumaraswamy Iyer (of Aaraipattu, Batticaloa) 1879 – 1947

[Sir] Waithilingam Duraiswamy 1874 June 8 – 1966 April 12; served as the Speaker of

the State Council from 1936 to 1947.

Visuvasinga [Mudaliyar] Edirmanasingha [Mudaliyar] 1846 – ?

Marimuthu Sanmugam Eliyathamby c1880 – ? ; editor of ‘Hindu Organ’ newspaper.

Chinniah Ganesa Iyer 1878 – 1958; eminent Tamil scholar and author.

Rev. Fr. Swaminathan Gnanapiragasar 1875 Aug 30 – 1947; eminent Tamil scholar and


Cathiravetpillai Gnanasekaram 1861 – ?

James Mutiah Hensman 1849 – ? ; educator.

Daniel Moothathamby Joseph 1850 – ? ; planter.

James Joseph (of Suthumalai) c1880 – ? ; advocate.

John Houland Rasiah Joseph 1878 – 1932; proctor.

Thampoo Kailasapillai (of Nallur) 1852 – 1939; Tamil scholar, and nephew of Arumuga


Visuvanathapillai Kanagasabai Pillai 1855 – 1906; Tamil scholar and author of ‘The

Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago’ (1904).

Trincomalee Thambimuttupillai Kanagasuntherampillai 1863 – 1922; Tamil scholar.

Sithiawan Nagamuthu Kanapathipillai (of Sittankerny) 1876 – 1938; planter.

[Gate Mudaliyar] Thambipillai Karalapillai 1874 – ?

Kumaraswamy [Mudaliyar] Kathiravetpillai 1829 – 1904

  1. Kathiresu 1876 – 1950

Rev. Francis Kingsbury (aka Alagusuntharam) 1873 – 1941; son of C.W.


Ambalavanar Kumaraswamy Pulavar (of Chunnakam) 1855 – 1922

Vallipuranathar Kumaraswamy Pulavar (of Point Pedro) ? – 1925

Vannithamby Kumaraswamypillai 1875 – 1936

Swaminathan Kanagaratnam Lawton (of Manipay) c1876 ; pioneer photographer, who

set up the first photography studio in Jaffna in 1876.

Kanapathipillai Mailvaganam Pulavar (of Tellippalai) 1875 – 1918

Suppiah Mailvaganam c1880 – ?

Suppiramaniam Mailvagam Pulavar (of Mathakal) 1779 – 1816

[Mudaliyar] Kasinathar Vaithilingam Markandu c1880 – ?

Murugesu Maruthapph 1875 – ?

Velupillai Masilamani Pillai c1880 – ?

Edward Ponnusamy Mather c1880 – ?

William Kanagaratnam Mather 1851 – ?

Dr. Arumugampillai Mootootamby Pillai 1858 – 1917

Rev. Kathiravelu Samuel Murugesu 1870 – 1947

Poothapillai Murugesu Pandithar 1830 – 1896

[Chief Mudaliyar] D.V.C.J.T.T. Muthiah 1868 – ?

Chinnathamby Muthuvelu 1867 – 1947

Kasturiar Kathiravetpillai Muttucumaru c1880 – ?

Vaithianathar Muttucumaru c1870 – 1925

Seemampillai Muttutamby Mudaliyar 1874 – ?

  1. Nagalingam c1855 – 1897

[Mudaliyar] Thevar Nagalingam 1861? –

[Adigar] Naganathan 1850 – 1953

Dr. Nallathamby c1850 – ?

Cathiravelu Namasivayam ? – 1920

Rev. Daniel Poor Niles 1836 – 1915

Nathaniel Niles (aka Velauthar Kathiresan) 1803 – 1881; one of the first to be converted

to the Christian faith in Jaffna.

Wesley Duraiappa Niles 1873 – 1952

Kulasekaram Vairamuthu Pandara Vanniyan ? – 1803: Vanni chieftain

S.T.Muthucumaru Pasupathy Chettiyar 1856 – 1906

Dr. Samuel Chelliah Paul 1868 – 1942

Dr. William Thillayampalam Paul c1850 – ?

Pulavar Konamalai Perambalam (of Velanai) 1859 – 1935

  1. Periyathamby c1880 – 1953

Arunachalam Ponnambalam [Mudaliyar] 1814 – 1887

[Gate Mudaliyar] Vairavanathar Ponnambalam 1880 -1962

Nallur Saravanamuthupillai Ponnambalampillai 1836 – 1902

[Mudaliyar] M.Velmurugu Ponnusamy 1880 – ?

Vidvan K. Poopalapillai 1856 – 1921

[Mudaliyar] Phillipupillai John Rajah 1867 – ?

  1. Rajaratnam c1880 – ?

Chinniah Subramaniam Rajasingham (aka C.S.R. Singham) 1873 – 1945

Kandiahpillai Ramalingam 1880 – 1953

[Mudaliyar] Ramalingam c1880 – ?

[Sir] Ponnambalam Ramanathan 1851 April 16 – 1930 November 26

Solomon Kasinathar Ramanathan c1850 – 1923

Velupillai Ramaswamy 1880 – 1954

[Mudaliyar] Chellapah Pillai Rasanayagam 1870 -1940; author of ‘Ancient Jaffna’

(1926) book.

Dr. Eliathamby V. Ratnam 1876 – 1937

Dr. W.Sithiravale Ratnavale 1876 – ?

Dr. William Gabriel Rockwood 1843 – 1909

[Sir] Arunachalam Sabapathy c1860 – ?

Suyambunathar Pillai Sabapathy Navalar 1844 – 1903

[Mudaliyar] Sabapathipillai Sabaratnam 1858 – 1922

Thambiah Mudaliyar Sabaratnam c1880 – 1970

Srimathi Muthupillai ‘Sadai Amma’ (of Chunnakam) c1870 – ? ; a Hindu mystic

Sinnacutty Sampandar 1865 – ?

Ambalavanar Sandirasekara Pandithar ? – 1879

Henry Alexander Patrick Sandrasagra 1875 June 12 – 1940 September 29

Sivagurunathar Sangara Pandithar (of Chunnakam) 1821 – 1891

John Sangarapillai fl. 1880; author of ‘Yalpana Sarithiram’.

Nagendra Iyer Sangara Suppaiyar (aka Suppiramaniya Sachithanantha Rayayogi

1864 – 1944; lyric Hindu preacher (aka katha-pirasankam expert)

Vallipuram Sanmuga Chaddampiyar (of Koddai Munai, Batticaloa) 1831 – 1885

Dr. Muttuthamby Vetharaniam Saravanamuttu (of Uduvil) 1852 – 1912

[Sir] Dr. Ratnajoti Saravanamuttu (of Uduvil) c1880 – ?

Arunasalam Arnold Sathasivampillai (of Navaly) 1820 – 1895

[Gate Mudaliyar] Sandrasagara Saverimuttu 1805 – ?

Antony Peter Savundaranayagam 1880 – ?

Thamotharampillai Seevaratnam (of Trincomalee) 1866 – ?

[Adigar] Arumugam Sellamuttu (of Manipay) 1877 – ?

‘Thikkam’ Sinnathamby Selliah Pillai (of Point Pedro) c1880 – ?

Sithamparapillai Nevins Selvadurai 1863 Oct.15 – 1938 April 28

John Wirt Ponniah Senathirajah 1863 – ?

Nallainatha Mudaliyar Senathiraya [Mudaliyar] (of Irupalai) 1750 – 1840

Sinniah Iyer Senthinatha Iyer (of Erlalai) 1848 – 1924; author and publisher of Tamil


Rev. Robert N. Sethukavalar (of Batticaloa) 1846 – 1920

Cirupiddy Vairavanathar Sinnapillai c1840 – ? ; Tamil literary novelist and younger

brother of C.W. Thamotherampillai.

Dr. Murugesu Sinnatamby (of Anaikoddai) c1870 – ?

C.M. Sinnayah [Mudaliyar] (of Anaikoddai) 1854 – ?

William Nevins Sithamparapillai (of Sanguvely) 1820 – 1889; father of Nevins


Sabapathy Sivanantha Iyer 1873 – 1916; Tamil pundit.

  1. Sivapathasundaram (of Point Pedro) 1878 – 1953; Hindu scholar and author of ‘Saiva

School of Hinduism

Arulampalam Sivasambu Pulavar (of Udupiddy) 1830 – 1910

Dr. Canapathipillai Sivasithamparam (of Mullaitivu) 1877 – 1947

[Gate Mudaliyar] Ezekiel Somanadar (of Batticaloa) c1830 – ?

Rev. Canon Sangarapillai Samuel Somasunderam c1880 – 1967

Kadirgamar Somasunthara Pulavar (of Navali) 1879 – 1953; renowned Tamil poet.

Vaithiampillai Soosaipillai (of Mathakal) 1877 – 1955; poet of Roman Catholic faith.

Levi Ponniah Spencer (of Sanguveli) 1867 – ?

Dr. C. Sri Kantha 1872 – ? ; son of Ponnambalam Coomaraswamy.

Mailvagana Mudaliyar Subramaniam (of Trincomalee) c1870 – 1945

Dr. Sinnatamby Subramaniam (of Kantherodai) 1878 – 1964

Candiahpillai Suntharam (of Nallur) 1858 – 1924

Ambalavanar Ramanathar. Supiramaniam (of Karainagar) 1877 – 1960

Sabapathy Iyer Supiramaniya Sasthrikal (of Point Pedro) 1875 – 1950; publisher and

printer of Hindu astrological almanac Panchangam

Sinnathamby Suppiramaniam (of Udupiddy) 1870 – 1934

Santiagupillai Udaiyar Joseph Tambimuttupillai (of Atchuveli) 1857 – ? ; publisher of

Christian religious journal Sanmarka Pothini.

Capt. Dr. Thambiah (of Karainagar) c1880 – ?

  1. Thambimuttu Pulavar (of Atchuvely) 1857 – 1937

Dr. Thambipillai Isaac Thambyah (of Manipay) 1869 – 1941; eminent lawyer and

founder of ‘Ceylon Law Review’, and theologian.

Rev. Daniel V. Thamotheram (of Alvai, Point Pedro) 1856 – 1922

[Rao Bahadur] Chirupiddy Wairavanathapillai Thamotharampillai 1832 – 1901; eminent

Tamil language scholar and father of Rev. Francis Kingsbury

Thirujnana Sampantha Upathiyayar (of Chulipuram) 1839 – 1906

Pavalar T.Arulampalam Thuraiappah Pillai (of Tellipalai) 1872 – 1927; founder of

Mahajana College, Tellipalai.

[Mudaliyar] Namasivayam Tyagarajah 1859 – ?

  1. Vaithilingam [aka Maddaikalapu Vaithilingathar] (of Sithankerni) c1850 – ? :

shipping magnate and philanthropist.

Nagamuthu Vaithilingam 1878 – 1955

Ponniah Vaithilinga Thesikar (of Puloly, Point Pedro) 1878 – 1946; Hindu scholar.

[Mudaliyar] Susaipillai P. Vanderkoon (of Mannar) 1864 – ?

Thondaimanar Veerakathipillai c1860 – 1935; shipping magnate.

Rev. Canthiapillai D. Velupillai (of Atchuvely) 1861 – 1920; compiler of ‘History of the

American Ceylon Mission’ book.

Kandapillai Velupillai [aka Kalladi Velan] (of Vasavillan) 1860 March 7 – 1944 July 4;

renowned wit and Tamil journalist

Moses Velupillai (of Uduvil) c1880 – ?

Pothakar Vethanayagampillai (of Point Pedro) 1865 – ? ; Christian preacher, and

publisher of ‘Theepam’ and ‘Lanka Varthamani’ journals.

M.Kanapathypillai Vetpillai (of Madduvil) 1847 – 1930

Visuvanatha Sasthrikal fl. 1836 (of Araly); astrologer, Hindu almanac producer

Vairavanathapillai Caroll Visvanathapillai (aka Daniel L. Caroll) 1820 – 1880; Tamil

scholar of repute.

William Wadsworth 1875 – 1921

Yoganathan [aka Yogar Swamy] 1872 May 29 – 1964; a renowned Hindu mystic.

What is of interest is the influence of non-Catholic Christian names among the 19th century Eelam Tamils. Reasons for such name changes are: (1) Rebirth as an individual, devoted to a new (Christian) religion; (2) difficulty faced by Christian preachers in pronouncing the multi-vowel native Tamil names; (3) recognizing the benefactors to the Church, from UK and USA.  A glance at the Ebenezer Cutler’s book, ‘Life and Letters of Samuel Fisk Green, M.D.’, published in 1891, have the following entries on the native Tamil medical students trained by American medical missionary Dr. Green (1822-1884).  These names do not appear in Arumugam’s compilation.  Though many of the names have gained a standard form of English spelling now, I present the spelling as they have been printed in Cutler’s book.

Class of 1848-50: Joshua Danforth, J. Dennison, J. Waittilingam.

Class of 1851-53: J. Town, N. Parker, C. Mead, A.C. Hall, S. Miller.

Class of 1853-56: T. Hopkins, G.M. Reid, C. McIntyre, A. McFarland.

Class of 1856-59: J.H. Bailey, A. Blanchard, J.P. Harward, F. Latimer, J. Wilson, J.

Ropes, J. Flud, D.P. Mann.

Class of 1861-64: Kartthekaser alias M. Hitchcock, Ethernayakam alias C.T. Mills,

Swaminather alias S.W. Nathaniel, Kanakadattinam alias L.S. Strong,

Vaittilingam alias D.W. Chapman, S. Navaratnam, Sivappirakasam,

  1. Appapilly, William Paul, J.B. Shaw, L. Spaulding.

Class of 1864-67 (The first in the vernacular): K. Elyapillay, Kandapper,

  1. Sittambalam, A. Sivasidambaram, V. Sittambalam, S. Sinnappu,

Samuel David, Samuel H. Murugasu, Daniel Vettivalo, R.S. Welopilly,


Class of 1867-70: A. Appapillay, A. Appuckutty, Arumugam, S. Sarawanamuttu,

  1. Seenivasagm, S. Saminather, S. Kandavavam, Edward Lovell,
  2. Vannitamby, Visuvanathan, S. Vinasitamby.

Class of 1871-73: J. Amerasinger, S. Arunasalem, M. Ramalingam, V.Catheravaloo,

  1. Sadasivam Bates, S. Sarawanamuttu, S. Sinnatamby, S. Sinniah,
  2. Tilliampalam, K. Vaittilingam, K. Wellopilly.

Class of 1872-75: A. Amerasingam, R. Ambalam, T. Kanagasaphy,C. Kumaravaloo,

Richard S. Adams, Benjamin Lawrence, V. Sellappah, N.L. Joshua,

  1. Tambimuttu, M. Nannitamby, Abrabam V. Nitsinger, Joshua K.

Pereatamby, V. Ponnambalam, K. Ponnambalam, S. Ponnambalam,

Mutiyah S. Ropes, N. Mutatamby, V. Vetteawanam.


A Personal Note on the etymology of Sri Kantha

When part 1 of this series appeared last year, one wag (a Sinhalese with a pseudonym Vibhushana) had posted his criticism as follows:

“Well, your surname ‘Kantha’ has no meaningful equivalent in the Tamil lexicon. As with many Tamil surnames in Ceylon, yours is a Tamilised Sinhala name. I would presume ‘Kantha’ would have been ‘Kanda’ (or mountain) originally.”

To this comment, I had responded that I’ll answer in part 2 of this series. Here is my answer. Correspondent Vibhushana’s knowledge on Tamil language and lexicon is extremely poor indeed. I quote two relevant links or items to my name, from the authentic ‘A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary’ by T.Burrow and M.B. Emeneu, 2nd ed. (Clarendon Press, Oxford), 1984.

Item 2624: this refers to the prefix Sri component. Many misidentify the word Sri as derived from Sanskrit. But, there is a beautiful Tamil word ‘cir’ and its related equivalents cirmai. This root has numerous meanings as follows:

Ta: cir – to be excellent, be superior, be suitable, fitting (as an opportunity), fall into rhythmic movement. n: prosperity, wealth, beauty, gracefulness, goodness, greatness, excellence, superiority, paramount importance, esteem, regard, reputation, fame, nature, good normal condition…

cirmai: greatness, excellence, eminence, reputation, renown.

Item 1451: this refers to Kantha. In fact, the pronunciation is ‘Kaantha’ and NOT ‘Kantha’ (as correspondent Vibhushana had implied.).

Ta: kaantal: Malabar glory lily Gloriosa superba.

Kaantha can also be interpreted by the Sanskrit word Kaantham (meaning, magnet); i.e., magnetic personality. My late father wanted me to grow up as an ‘excellent, magnetic personality’ – one who can attract others by his knowledge and skills. Now, at the age of 63 and blessed with a bald head, I do derive some satisfaction that my father’s hopes have not been thwarted!



Though this is not fault finding, one singular criticism of Arumugam’s compilation of 1997 was that, many prominent Eelam Tamils who were born in 1940s and 1950s, have been omitted, probably for political reasons! Some who have died by 1996, have received entries. These include, Lt. Col. A. Thileepan (1963-1987), Dr. Rajani Thiranagama (1953-1989), and Sathasivam Krishnakumar (aka Kittu, 1960 – 1993). But, there are no entries who became more prominent internationally in 1980s, such as Anton Stanislaus Balasingham (1938-2006) and Velupillai Prabhakaran (1954-2009). It should also be noted that entries on the Tamil representatives who have been elected to the post-independent parliaments were also selective. No entries exist for Chelliah Rajadurai (b. 1927), Visuvanathar Dharmalingam (1918-1985), and Kathirithamby Thurairatnam (1930-1995) who had served as people’s representatives for over 20 years; but there exist entries for Ponnambalam Kandiah (1914-1960) and Alfred Thangarajah Duraiappah (1926-1975), who served in the parliament for less than 5 years. Even some Tamils who acted as ‘collaborators’, had also been omitted; this variety include, Chinnaiah Arulampalam (1909-1997), Arumugam Thiyagarajah (1916-1981), Chelliah Kumarasuriyar and Lakshman Kadirgamar (1932-2005). Also excluded are notable names in Eelam Tamil literary circle such as S. Ponnuthurai (aka Es.Po, 1932-2014), poet Kathamuthu Sivananthan (aka Kasi Ananthan, b. 1938) and poet Puthuvai Ratnathurai.

Part 3


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  1. Sharranya

    My comment is intended to be directed to the author, Sachi Sri Kantha. It’s as follows.

    In the previous post, part 1 of the onomastics series, you “suggest” that Sri Lankan Tamils use their place of origin as a middle name, much like the usage found in Tamil Nadu. I find this strange. Not because of the naming custom in itself, but that you suggest that SL Tamils do something not traditionally associated with them as it falls in line with keeping Tamil culture, Tamil culture here being what south Indians do.

    I’m a Sri Lankan Tamil, and I’m exasperated with that point of view. I’m not sure, but I feel that I had read an earlier article of yours, to which you believe that Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils are one in the same. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Tamil culture for Sri Lankan Tamils is a contentious issue. I genuinely believe that, we, SL Tamils are losing whatever we thought we knew about our culture, because we are lumped as south Indians. I am not south Indian, and I refuse to be lumped into that category, not because I have anything against Indians per se, but it’s a type of cultural “Tamil washing”, a type of cultural occupation of Indian Tamils on SL Tamils.

    Especially growing up in the diaspora, I am disillusioned by the lack of identity SL Tamils have. We borrow everything. We borrow and not because we necessarily want to, but because if we don’t we might not survive as a people. We borrow all our arsenal of cultural lexicon, as we have little to none of our own due to the persecution and/or lack of sense of individuality and legitimacy of SL Tamil identity.

    SL identity is seen as “hill billy” or not as good as Indian identity, by SL Tamils ourselves. Often we deride our own interpretation of Tamil and our unique language and its evolution for this belief and the fact that we don’t number largely. SL Tamil expression is stunted not only by the genocidal persecution by Sinhalese supremacy but by our innate feeling of lack and cultural assimilation of south Indian culture for survival and ignorance of our own history.

    In conclusion, I want to say, I’m quite disillusioned with the mindset that SL Tamils follow suit behind South indians and we are just Tamil Nadu people living in Sri Lanka, which is arguably false and laughable. We speak a mutually intelligible language and have similar customs in a lot of areas but that doesn’t make us south Indians. We have differing origins.

    “Tamil culture” is seen in a lense of a mainland Tamil people (India) with immigrant populations elsewhere, but with SL Tamils are not a typical immigrant population (all people in Sri Lanka are immigrants except the Wanniyalaetto). Our ancestors may have roots in South India, as do the rest of Sri Lanka arguably, so by that extension, but it’s erasure to simplify the extent of our people as south Indians.

  2. Sachi Sri Kantha

    I thank correspondent Sharranya for interesting thoughts, on the current plight of Sri Lankan Tamils, living in diaspora. I’ll provide my answer in detail, in part 3 of the series.
    Yes, I did mention in one of my earlier commentaries that Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian (Tamil Nadu) Tamils are “one in the same”. This relates to the ethnicity, of sharing the same language. But cultural traditions do vary, isn’t it?
    Until lately, Hindu Tamils, whether in Tamil Nadu or Sri Lanka, never practised the family name system. This is what, Robert Holmes, wrote about the naming system in his ‘Jaffna (Sri Lanka) 1980’ book.
    “The usual method of naming children in Jaffna is to give them their own name by which they will be known throughout life, with their father’s name as an initial. So Mr. Kandasamy’s children will be K. Nadarajah, K. Kandiah and K. Saraswathi. His friends and neighbours are expected to know these names and never to forget them, so they are not confused by the system as foreigners so often are. However, not all Jaffnese follow the Tamil system. Some, particularly Christians, keep the family name for generation after generation as is common in the West.”
    But, Tamil intellectuals, emigres and refugees (both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan) living in the diaspora have adopted the Western family name system in the post-1983 period for convenience, and not to cause confusion among record-keepers in work places.
    “Borrowing everything” is universal to many cultures. I can speak of American and Japanese cultures, because I have lived in these two countries, other than Sri Lanka (where I was born). This cannot be helped.