In Memory of James Rutnam

by K.S. Sivakumaran

You might have heard of or even know Chandran Rutnam, the Hollywood based Lankan filmmaker whose fine Sinhala – English film, “Alimmankadala” based on the late notable Lankan English fiction writer Nihal de Silva’s novel “The Road from Elephant Pass” but not be familiar with his mother or father. Yes, Chandra is a progeny of a Thamilian man and a Sinhalaya woman.

Do we know that there is an institute named The Evelyn Rutnam Institute for Inter-Cultural Studies in Yaalpaanam .in memory of Chandran’s mother? I am not sure whether it is functioning now. But I knew that the historian Prof K Indrapala was one of the functionaries as Board Member of Trustees. A Librarian turned Editor-in-Chief of two Colombo dailies in Thamil (Virakesari & Thinakkural); A. Sivanesachelvan was a member of the Editorial Board of a publication titled “James Thevathasan Rutnam Felicitation Volume” (1975).The Volume was edited by Prof K Indrapala.

In this article I am talking mainly about the publication only.

The Front Page of the Felicitation Volume says the following:

The James Thevathasan Rutnam Felicitation Volume of articles presented by the Jaffna (Yaalpaanam) Archeological Society to its President James T. Rutnam on the occasion of the 70th birthday, 13th June 1975 was edited by the Society’s Vice – President Karthigesu Indrapala. The Editorial Board included Roland Silva, A.Sivanesaselvan,V.Sivasamy and S.K Sitrampalam

There are 18 articles, 2 appendixes and an index in this 158 page book that is worth reading to know the missing pages of the recorded Lankan history Please look at the titles:

The Thamil inscriptions from Nilaveli in Thirukoanamalai District (K Indrapala), On the Methodology of Indexing Inscriptions from Epigraphically Reports(A.Subramaniam), Sri Lanka in some Early Indian Inscriptions (Shobana Gohale), The Brahmi Inscriptions of Sri Lanka:

The Need for a Fresh Analysis (S K Sitrampalam) Early Interest in Archeological Studies in Sri Lanka (B. Bastiampillai) Sangam Literature and Archaeology (K Sivathambi)

The other contributors are: Basil Perera, W S Karunatilleke and S Suseendrarajah, Michael Roberts, K Kailasapathy, Kingsley M de Silva, Ashley Halpe, A Sanmugadas, V Sivasamy, Roland Silva and A Sivanesaselvan.

What is Epigraphy?

“Epigraphy is the science of studying inscriptions, especially those found on ancient buildings, statues and the like. Inscriptions found on the walls of religious edifices circumambulatory paths and mandapas of temples are the real archives of the annuls of ancient history” and they “constitute the nearest contemporaneous testimony of the events and occurrences” says A Subramaniam.

According to Karthigesu Indrapala the Nilavali Inscription-

“The record is inscribed in Grantha and Thamil characters The Sanskrit portion is entirely in Grantha and certain Sanskrit proper names in the Thamil portion are also written partly in that script. The writing, both the Grantha and the Thamil is earlier than that of Chola records of the island and seems to belong to the tenth century.”

“The practice of inscribing records partly in Sanskrit and partly in Thamil generally belongs to the Pallava and early Chola periods, although it is not uncommon in later in later times”.

“The importance of the record lies in the fact that it refers to one of the ancient temples of Trincomalee which has long been forgotten. It is also of interest because it supplies the earliest inscriptional reference to the place name Thirukoanamalai (Trincomalee). It also assumes importance s one of the earliest Thamil inscriptions so far (upto 1975) discovered in Sri Lanka.”

“Trincomalee has been renowned for centuries as a place of Saiva worship and pilgrimage. Hindu legends connect it with Puranic heroes and events. It is one of two places in Sri Lanka venerated by Saiva saints and hallowed by their hymns during the Ssaiva revival of the Pallava period (6th-9th centuries A.D.)

The volume also has many interesting articles on literature, grammar and the like. Take for instance the following essays:

A Century of Thamil Poetry in Sri Lanka: An introductory note (K.Kailasapathy), Sigiri Verses (Ashley Halpe), A Note on Murunkai (W.S.Kkarunattilleke and S. Suseenthararaja). Some aspects o the syntax of the Inscriptional Thamil in Sri Lanka (A.Sanmugadas), and Sangam Literature and Archaeology (K.Sivathamby).

Michael Roberts writes on “A New marriage, An Old Dichotomy: The Middle Class in British Ceylon”, Kingsley e Silva on The Trial and Execution of Kadhapola Kuda Unnanse: An episode in the Rebellion of 1848”, V. Sivasamy on “Some notes on the economy of Yaalpaanam during the Dutch period”, Roland de Silva on Bhattanava or Batoruwa” are also interesting read.

Students and teachers of Lankan History should also refer to this volume for their own benefit.

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