Sinhalese have their origins in Bengal, Odisha: Research

15 September 2016 02:01 pm - 59     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


When three years back, a Sri Lankan envoy sought Indian support on the basis of the claim that the Sinhalese people are descendents of Bengalis and Odias, there was an upsurge of perplexity and outrage among large sections of the Indian population.

However, subsequent research has shown that the Sinhalese, who make up about 75 per cent of the Sri Lankan population, might very well have descended from inhabitants of ancient East India.

The “Mahavamsa”, arguably the greatest chronicle of Sri Lanka, narrates an interesting episode that marks the origin of the Sinhalese people. As per the mythological record, the foundation stone of the Sinhalese community was laid by King Vijaya who had travelled there from North-West India in 543 BC and founded the first Sinhalese town by the name of Tambapani. One of the murals at the Ajanta caves carry an elaborate depiction of King Vijaya’s travel to the Sinhalese town.

King Vijaya was the son of Sihabahu the ruler of Sihapura in Gujarat. Sihabahu’s mother in turn was the daughter of the king of Kalinga in Eastern India. Legend goes that she conceived Sihabahu (etymologically meaning lion’s arm) with a lion that had kidnapped her.

The nature of origin myths is such that it can never prove or disprove a certain theory. However, by becoming part of local folklore, they do give some indication to the way in which the Sinhalese people remember their past. In the case of the hereditary lineage of King Vijaya, while the exact details of the story may or may not be true, what can be said with certainty is that the Sinhalese community does trace some connection to present day Bengal and Odisha. The legend gains particular currency when one realises the importance of the lion’s symbol in Sinhalese tradition.

In a recent book, “The ocean of churn: How the Indian ocean shaped human history”, writer Sanjiv Sanyal remarks that the symbol of the lion that is so important among the Sinhalese is equally revered among the Odiyas and Bengalis. While the Narasimha (God Vishnu as half man and half lion) is worshipped in Odisha, among Bengalis the image of Goddess Durga is incomplete without the lion upon which she rides. In the opinion of Sanyal, the image of the lion on the Sri Lankan flag and the religious symbolism of the lion in Odisha and Bengal have the same cultural origins.

But it is not just mythology that reflects upon this connection. In his study titled “Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan Populations”, Gautam Kumar Kshatriya found that 25.41 per cent of the genetic makeup on the Sinhalese population was contributed by the Bengalis. Linguistically too, scholars have for long remarked upon the Indo-Aryan origins of the Sinhalese speech.

In his celebrated account on the development of the Bengali language, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee comments upon the Indo-Aryan content in the Sinhalese speech in the following words: “The first immigrants who carried the Indo-Aryan speech to Ceylon seem to have been from the Western Indian coast. Later from 3rd century BC onwards Ceylon seems to have come in touch with Magadha through Bengal and traditions of intimate connections between Bengal and Ceylon are preserved in Bengali literature.”

Historically speaking, what further seems to corroborate the link between Odisha, Bengal and Sri Lanka is the thriving trade between the two regions. While Ceylon (old name of Sri Lanka) depended upon Kalinga for import of elephants, Kalinga imported pearl and silver from Ceylon. Records have shown that by the 5th century BC, a strong relationship had developed between the two regions as a result of the commercial ties that spread fast enough to have its impact upon the socio-cultural and political arena.

Over the years, Sri Lanka came to be inhabited by several different communities who went on to impact the genetic makeup on the population. The colonial encounters with the Portuguese, the Dutch and then the British had its impact on the local population. Genetic studies have shown that Tamils from South India have contributed to the majority of the genetic composition of present day Sinhalese.

However, the genetic, cultural and linguistic relation that the Sinhalese population shares with the Bengalis and Odiyas, though of scholarly interest, has remained largely ignored by the popular masses. (The Indian Express)

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  Comments - 59

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  • maria Sunday, 18 September 2016 05:33 PM


    Modawanse Thursday, 15 September 2016 09:27 PM

    Don't lie man We the Sinhalese are the off springs of that Lion and the human princes as per Mahavamsa.

    Arnold Thursday, 15 September 2016 02:49 PM

    So why is this big HO HAA about ECTA?

    Dee Thursday, 15 September 2016 10:05 PM

    Ah. Sinha Le lions. Indian Lions. Ha ha ha. Glad i don't call myself a Sinha Le.

    Aruna Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:07 PM

    Genetically Sinhalese are closer to Gujarathis and Punjabis.

    KAN Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:10 PM

    If this was known earlier, then India would not have created LTTE and help them resort to war. Let India and Sri Lanka come close to each other and enjoy better relationship in all sectors.

    Saliya Sunday, 18 September 2016 08:22 PM

    The greatest myth is that God created man. It is the other way round. Man created God.

    ANTON Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:22 PM


    Boonda Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:25 PM

    Now the Vedda's would tell all Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim to go back to where they came from.

    Silva Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:28 PM

    Because the book is written by RAW with a purpose ?

    Thanos Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:36 PM

    Excuse me! I am Sinhala-Buddhists but my ancestors came from Kerala 700 years ago. We are of Dravidian blood. For you uninitiated, Dravidian does not automatically mean Tamil.

    Ancient Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:52 PM

    Mahawansa a book of lies via DM Android App

    Sunil Thursday, 15 September 2016 03:57 PM

    modern humans originated from Africa, also called the "Out of Africa" theory (OOA)! So yes humans have been on the move all over the planet so drop all the "this land is mine and not yours business" let's learn to get along.

    Dayawathi Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:17 PM

    oh noo..what a shame .. i thought we are from planet Mars.. lol

    sigiriya Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:20 PM

    I thought we came from the Apes!

    REEZ Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:21 PM

    Gujaratis of course I don't know but Panjabis its joke. Funny

    Ranjan Fernando Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:24 PM

    There is no homogeneous race anywhere in the world. Same with the Sinhalese.All what you need is a random sample of singhalese and check their DNA markers. I won't be surprised to see even Indonesian, Portuguese and Dutch lineage in the population.

    sen Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:30 PM

    Ooops! those who yells at tamil to go to India, now seems all have to go?

    lokaya Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:37 PM

    now go to your home land Sinhalese people D jk via DM Android App

    SN Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:54 PM

    its clear that majority of the sinhalese genetics belong to Tamils. Though there maybe differences sinhalese and tamils pretty much the same origins. Then why so much fight in between via DM iOS App

    Sri Lankan Thursday, 15 September 2016 04:58 PM

    "Genetic studies have shown that Tamils from South India have contributed to the majority of the genetic composition of present day Sinhalese."So Why fight each other ?

    waco Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:02 PM

    Sinhala people's origin is Sri Lanka no where else. Can you find sinhala speaking people in any part of India? It is not difficult to find a matching or similar word or two even in western languages as well.Vijay was a criminal and further he did not have children. At the time of Vijaya's arrival in Sri Lanka. there were people living in Sri Lanka. There were the original Sinhala people. Sinhala people are the pure natives of Sri Lanka.

    Real Gene Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:06 PM

    The writer use old research which are not valid anymore and he is not a anthropologist .

    usuf Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:15 PM

    what do we gain by worrying about d past based on mythology & fairy tales we shud be worried about d present & d future via DM Android App

    Sudda Friday, 16 September 2016 08:35 AM

    Even Americans are from India via DM Android App

    Dayawathie Friday, 16 September 2016 08:52 AM

    The further we get from India the better for us, no matter what the history says.

    Dayawathie Friday, 16 September 2016 08:56 AM

    Just look from the mirror and you can find out.

    Dont change facts Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:25 PM

    Sinhalese no way near to Gujarathis. The facts are they are mix of abrojinis and PORTHUGESE and Tamils are mix with abroginis and Dutch.

    Ajith Friday, 16 September 2016 08:59 AM

    Interesting article!

    srini Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:33 PM

    Then who were the people who fought war with Rama. Who was Ravana? Who abducted Sita and faught with Rama and died? The Lankans of the RAMAYAN time are also from Bengal and Odisha?Not convincing.

    Shan Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:35 PM

    If the politicains explains these facts to the masses , there wom't be any hate speeches agianst tamils or against Sinhalese

    Top Hat Friday, 16 September 2016 09:18 AM

    Do not tell the GMOA as they will start an Island wide strike!!!

    Sri Lankan Friday, 16 September 2016 09:19 AM

    Does it matter as long as we know where we are going?

    ralahamy Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:40 PM

    Well said. Don't let anyone fool you to believe that Sinahala came from India. Sinhala was born through sex between a lion and a human woman. That is the end. Now where are lions of Lanka? Are they only on the flag?

    Farook Hamid Friday, 16 September 2016 09:21 AM

    You are right

    lal Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:44 PM

    most originated from Orissa state. some from Karnataka which is a Dravidian state. via DM Android App

    Bingo Friday, 16 September 2016 09:27 AM

    Bullshit!..if we all comes from India, who is kuweni then?

    Gandhi Thursday, 15 September 2016 05:48 PM

    Wow!! Jai Ho!!!

    Kathir Monday, 19 September 2016 10:34 AM

    We need not to read all these article to determine from were do we come.Since This small island is separated just only by a narrow distance of 40kms the Sinhalese ,Tamils are all immigrants from India.Be it Gujarat,Bengale or Kerala.

    Sri Lankan Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:18 PM

    I met Bangadeshis when on training in Canada. They had also joined the training program like the three of us Sri Lankans. This was as far back as in the mid 70s, Believe or not - all of the 5 of them (Bangladesh Muslims) had similar face cuts like us Sri Lankans.

    Piranha Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:24 PM

    So, the Sinhalese are actually Tamils by the fact that their genetic composition is largely made up of Tamil genes. So the claim that the Sinhalese are a distinct race if pure fallacy.

    SL Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:29 PM

    who has funded the project?

    SL Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:31 PM

    not only genetically ,even with the language Sri Lankan Tamils are related to Indian the way Who has funded the project ? Hope no LTTE black money behind it

    sigiriya Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:35 PM

    waco is 'cracko'!

    CG Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:48 PM

    Well said waco

    Vinus Friday, 16 September 2016 11:00 AM

    We Sinhalese are from Mars. Nowhere else. This is a RAW conspiracy

    Sam Sunday, 18 September 2016 10:02 AM

    So this country belongs to no-one. Cool.. We all are fighting to claim a guest's house..

    Reader Friday, 16 September 2016 11:05 AM

    What can our history scholars and others like Gunadasa Amarasekara, JBDissanayaka say.

    John Viagra Friday, 16 September 2016 11:22 AM

    Sinhalese are more like Mallus' mistake here..

    Priya Friday, 16 September 2016 11:27 AM

    @ SriniRamayana was only a myth. I am looking for Rawana's descendants with 10 heads. so far i could not find.

    Ebis Wednesday, 18 April 2018 10:33 AM

    Oi Gase/Gache - Bengali - In That Tree, Oya/Ema Gase/Gahe - Sinhala - In That Tree -- Same Meaning, Andha Maraththil - Tamil; Infact Sinhala is more similar to to Bengali than it is to Gujarati :- Gase/Gache - in the tree - Bengali, Gase/Gahe - in the tree - Sinhala, BUT in Gujarati it is "Jhaad man" and not 'Gase' or 'Gahe'. And in fact Sinhala is more similar to Bengali than its to Oriya :- Nun - Salt - Bengali, Lunu - Sinhala, But in Odia it's 'Nomok'. To be contd..

    RM Thursday, 15 September 2016 08:01 PM

    looks like we are all Tamils... ha ha... now what do we do... via DM Android App

    Pillai Friday, 16 September 2016 12:17 PM

    Kuani was a tamil lady. Now get ready to go to east india.

    seat Thursday, 15 September 2016 08:21 PM

    I thought they are more closer to BIHAR

    Hisham Tuesday, 20 September 2016 08:51 AM

    Sniffed too much sugar !

    Wise Donkey Friday, 16 September 2016 12:40 PM

    So we are all one time immigrants in Sri Lanka, whatever community we call ourselves now! So, why are we fighting each other?

    adwani Sunday, 18 September 2016 04:48 PM

    You were and are 100% right, we are created by GOD and are scattered all over the world.

    Harith Friday, 16 September 2016 12:50 PM

    I thought we came into existence through the creation of God.

    Puka Sunday, 18 September 2016 05:29 PM

    Why not Tamil ?

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