History of ancient Jaffna
Indeed in those far-off ages history was written under very different circumstances. There is no doubt that our earliest works were based on mere tradition. Tradition, as we all know, was handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, and, moulded and shaped into different forms in the process, it grows in the course of a few centuries into something not quite the same as the original. However, by careful sifting and analysis the truth can be ascertained. The Mahavamsa for instance, although composed in the 5th century A.D., speaksof events of a thousand years earlier known to the compiler only by tradition and hearsay. But with care, it can be, and has been used as material for the early history of Ceylon. We have only to follow the methods used by the critics and historians who made use of the MahavamsaIn order to reconstruct the history of Jaffna from its earliest times, it becomes necessary to examine critically our ancient traditions in the light of contemporary documents, and, in the absence of any local literature and inscription, to search for further information in the literature and chronicles of other countries. In this respect the Mahavamsa is most useful. It is a Court chronicle containing the annals of the Ceylon kings, and its writers who most probarly regarded the Tamils as a horde of cruel marauders pass over both them and their efforts in silence, except when they made themselves too unpleasant to go unnoticedHad the monastic annalists of the Sinhalese chronicle with the instinct of true historians depicted impartially the events that took place in the North from time to time, the task of the Jaffna historian of today would have been rendered much lighter.Considering how little we know of the political history of the country, and even of the dynasty of kings who ruled over Jaffna from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, it is not surprising that we should know still less about the allied branches of archaeology and epigraphy.But how long are we to remain in this listless if not disgraceful state of ignorance ? To a true son of Jaffaa, is it not galling to have to wait till some foreign scholar finds time and leisure to make investigations and enlighten him on the history of his motherland.
And although he may be willing to wait, the sources of information appear not to be endowed with eternal patience. The literature of the land unfortunately committed to such a fragile material as the palm leaf is fast disappearing.The archaeological remains have been almost fully depleted of their carved and inscribed stones which bave, in the march of civi]ization, either been turned to metal for the roads or hidden safely away in tbe foundations of new houses. The rapidity vith which the devastating tide of progress is washing away old landmarks is clearly apparent in every direction.Traditional beliefs, old legends, local folklore and manners and customs peculiar to the people of the country are fast vanishing. Every caste is giving up its own for the sake of the dress and ornaments, the speech and conventions of some other which is considered superior.National games and amusements are giving place to Western innovations, and in another generation their very names will be forgotten. There is little left of our ancient literature and even less of ruins and archaeological remains.These scanty sources of information should be made use of as early as possible; else our only links with the past will be gone for ever. If we therefore venture to interpret some of the dark problems of historical antiquity with the help of evidence now hidden away in obscure nooks and corners, and try to awaken a general interest in the history of our country, the certainty that in a few more years, these matters will cease to be heard of altogether, is our sole and sufficient excuse.”