by By V P Lingajothy Esq, August 25, 2021
After writing the above historical essay on Vanni on the 25th of August 2013 in order to commemorate the 210th year anniversary of the capture of Mullaitivu fort by Pandaravanniyan and allied forces led by two other Vanni chieftains, I felt that I must delve deeper into the connection between Panadaravanniyan and his successor, Pariyari Velar. I use the word successor because according to available records on Vanni history, Pandaravanniyan also known to his adversaries as Pandara succumbed to his injuries in 1811. At least from June 1807 the details of another chieftain emerges from the English colonial records on Ceylon. Pariyari Velar or Velon escaped from captivity after having been arrested for the death of an Englishman and subsequently joins Pandaravanniyan’s forces in 1809. According to intelligence information passed onto the British colonial rulers, namely to Mr Turnour, the collector of Vanni by a treacherous local chief Kadirgamanayaga Mudaliar of Melpattu East, it becomes clear that these two chieftains/kings were of equal stature and had a rendezvous at Vattuvakkal near Mullaitivu fort sometime in September 1810. It becomes clear that following the death of Pandaravanniyan it is Pariyari Velar and his descendants who were carrying the torch of freedom and were fighting for the liberation of Vanni. That is why I said Pariyari Velar was the successor to Pandaravanniyan.
Although Pariyari Velar’s history goes into obscurity after the second decade of the 19th century, in 1877 his son emerges as a rebellious leader in the Mullaitivu district and his exploits against the British leaders have been sung in the form of a folk song entitled ‘Kamugam Sandai’ meaning ‘Battle for the arecanut trees.’ This is the last rebellion of Vanni Ceylon of any significance and it clearly tells that the Vanni chieftains’ families have continued to hold sway even well into the latter quarter of the 19th Century. There are also records to confirm that the Vanni Kings had direct links to the Kandian King. The last Kandian rebellion was in 1848, known as the Uva rebellion. It is worth noting that the last Vanni rebellion was only about 30 years later in 1877 led by Pariyari Velar’s son, Pariyari Vinnayar also known as King of the Jungle (Kaadu Raja in Tamil).
In pursuance of my search into the connection between Pandaravanniyan and Pariyari Velar, I went to Canada in 2014 April. I wanted to meet Dr Vallipuram Pararajasingam who was then living in Canada in retirement. Apart from being a medical practitioner, Dr Pararajasingam was educated at Jaffna Central College where he spent some time as a teacher before he took to medical education. He is also very fluent in English and Tamil languages; he was elected to the District Development Council for Vavuniya and also had written a number of articles on the history of Vanni in Sri Lankan newspapers. I, therefore, felt he would be the most appropriate person for me to discuss the connection between these two leading Vanni personalities, namely Pandaravanniyan and Pariyari Velar.
When I met him, I very carefully phrased my questions in order to make sure I did not lead him into giving an answer one way or the other as he was quite elderly in his middle eighties but with a sound mind and ability to recall things from the past. I first told him that I had read about the capture of Mullaitivu Fort by Pandaravanniyan forces on the 25th of August 1803 in the manual of the North Central Province written by R. E. Ivers the Government Agent of the province in 1899. In that record Mr Ivers had mentioned that Pandaravanniyan was assisted by his brother-in-law, who was a chief in charge for Nuwarakalawiya by the name of Kumarasinga Vanniyan. In the same document there was a mention of a third force led by another chief containing forces from Jaffna Vanni. Dr Pararajasingam without being prompted straight away mentioned that the British forces garrisoned in the fort at Mullaitivu panicked when they saw Kulasegran’s forces and decided to abandon the fort because of the ferocity of the attack of the combined forces. He also informed me that Kulasegran was Pandaravanniyan’s father. I then asked Dr Pararajasingam, who was Pariyari Velar? To which he answered unhesitatingly that he was the second son of the Vanni King, Kulasegaran. He then went on to say without being asked that Pandaravanniyan was the oldest son of Kulasegran by a woman from Nuwarakalawiya district. He mentioned incidentally that the people in that border district have now become Sinhalese-speaking due to Sinhalisation. He added that that is why the Sinhalese in the border regions are calling Pandaravanniyan as Vanni Bandra in their language. Whereas, Pariyari Velar was the son of Kulasegran by a Tamil woman from the village of Kanukkerny in the Mullaitivu district.
I had previously mentioned in my essay that, although I had noted that Pariyari Velar in August 1803 would have been very young and that instead of him it was his father who would have led the third forces in the attack on Mullaitivu fort. Dr Pararajasingam, while talking about R E Ivers’ narrative in the manual of North Central Province, informed me that the third forces were actually led by Pariyari Velar and Pandaravanniyan’s father, King Kulasegran and that he, being mounted on a horseback, valiantly fought the Dutch and Malay mercenaries who were defending the Mullaitivu fort and it is his fighting skills and bravery that made the English administrators withdraw and retreat from Mullativu fort by boat to Jaffna. It was a eureka moment for me as I have been looking for the third chieftain who led the attack on Mullaitivu Fort leading the forces known as ‘people from Jaffna Vanni’. As I had already figured out this was none other than Pariyari Velar’s father, the name of Kulasegran made absolute sense to me, as there is mention of Don Juan Kulasegran, a Vanni Chieftain, in the English records as someone who had assisted Pandaravanniyan in the battle against the British. Due to this the British sacked him and tried to repossess his territory. This subject must be discussed separately to understand the Vanni history in more detail.
[My conclusion is that the 3 leaders who attacked Mullativu fort were Kulasegara Vanniyan, Pandara Vanniyan and Pandara Vanniyan’s cousin’s sister’s husband, the Dissawa of Nwarakalaviya KumarasingaVanniyan. Although in the original article which I wrote in 2013 I mention that Pariyari Velar’s forces (later I qualified this statement by saying Pariyari Velar’s father’s forces) were involved in the attack on the fort along with Pandara Vanniyan and KumarasingaVanniyan. I was able to understand from the chronology from various records at the time Pariyari Velar came to prominence for the first time in June 1807 he would have been only in his late teens. I felt it therefore stood to reason that in 1803 he would have been too juvenile to participate in the attack on the Mullativu fort. Going by the hereditary nature of our leadership, I presumed that his father (at the time I did not know his name) would have been in the battlefield along with the two other leaders whose names have been mentioned above.
By V P Lingajothy Esq
LLB (HONS) (Soton), LLM (Northampton) Msc, DFMS, ACILEX
Member of International Bar Association (1441167)
Registered with Care Quality Commission (UK) (CQC 1-15 90355448)
Fellow Member of the Royal Society of Medicine (London) (00535783)