Hindu procession

Tamil Hindu procession, Sri Lanka

From south India to northern Sri Lanka

Tamils are the descendants of different waves of immigrants from south India who settled in the northern parts of Sri Lanka. The early settlers included many soldiers who remained behind after invasions by the south Indian kings during the Chola dynasty (one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India).

Most Sri Lankan Tamils are from the Jaffna kingdom in the north of the island and the chieftaincies from the east. The Vannimai chiefs south of the Jaffna Peninsula and in the eastern Trincomalee district paid a tribute to the Jaffna king. Centered on the capital Nallur (now a suburb of Jaffna) the Jaffna kingdom thrived from the 13th to the 17th centuries and only came to an end in 1619 when the Portuguese took over the coastal regions of the island.

The last wave of Tamil immigrants, brought from south India to work on British-owned plantations as bonded labour, are distinguished as Indian Tamils. The Tamils speak their own language, part of the Dravidian language family. Tamils are predominantly Hindus and worshipers of the God Shiva, although a significant proportion of Sri Lankan Tamils are Christian.