The 86th session of the monthly lecture series of the National Trust – Sri Lanka will be held at the HNB Auditorium, 22nd Floor, HNB Towers, 479, TB Jayah Mawatha, Colombo 10 at 6.30 pm on July 28.
The Mahavamsa refers to the Yakkhas and the Nagas as the pre-Buddhist inhabitants of Lanka. They could be identified respectively with the people of the Mesolithic Culture who lived here in 28000 BC and those of the Early Iron Age Culture who arrived at the island in successive waves from south India since 800 BC, The Nagas who introduced and developed a mode of production, subjugated the Yakkhas and harnessed their services for constructional and agricultural enterprises.
During the course of time the two ethnic groups had intermingled and in this process the wide gap between them was closed. The ancestry of the Sinhala and Sri Lankan Tamils could be traced from their intermixture. The Brahmi inscriptions, most of which were edited by S Paranavitana, and the recently identified Tamil Brahmi inscriptions are the principal sources for studies on the Nagas that have the effect of generating innovative thinking on the problems of the early history of Sri Lanka and also finding new avenues of investigation.
The Nagas founded Principalities or chiefdoms and laid the foundation for the development of art and architecture. From the Brahmi inscriptions it would appear that the Nagas were the second largest community. But, they had exerted a dominant influence in developing a means of subsistence and establishing contacts with countries within and outside the South Asian region. In fact, they laid the foundations for the development of a tradition of art and architecture, which in its developed form was specific to Sir Lanka in the second half of the first millennium of the present era.
Prof S Pathmanathan is currently the Chancellor of the University of Jaffna. He has been the Vice Chairman of the University Grants Commission (1994 – 1999) and a Member of the National Education Commission (1991 – 2001). He held the Chair of History at the Universities of Jaffna (1986 – 1994) and Peradeniya (1995 – 2006). He obtained a special degree in History from the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) in 1963. He was appointed as a Teacher in the Department of History after graduation in 1963. Later, he obtained a PhD. Degree from the University of London in 1969. He has written a large number of books and around 200 articles on History, and Hindu Civilization in English and Tamil.