Tamil, Prakrit, Sanskrit etymology

Tamil, Sanskrit Etymology

Origin of the Names Eelam and Sinhala


TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2003 (ID. 2003-12-01)
Click here for MAIN INDEX to archived articles (main page)

Aboriginal inhabitants of the Sri Lankan Island were known in their native language as Elu or Elus (even according to the Sinhalese Maha Vamsa). According to the Tamil as well as Sanskrit naming traditions, the land of the Elu was called as Elam. (Compare: land of the Yavana was called Yavanam (ancient Greece); land of the Kamboja was called Kambojam (Cambodia)). Over time, the name Elam changed to Eelam.

Eelam refers to the entire Sri Lankan Island. Tamil Eelam refers to the northeastern homeland of the Tamil people.

In my opinion, the Elu were a Dravidian or Munda speaking people. They mixed with the later arriving Prakrit speaking, exiled aristocracy from Lada Desha and created a ruling house called Sinha-Elu, a title for the kings which meant the lion of the Elu people. Over time, Sinha-Elu changed to Sinhala. Eventually this name came to denote not just the ruling house but the entire race (Sinhala race) which is of Aryanized local origin. (Lada Desha is present day Gujarat in northern India, not Orissa in northern India, as many believe).


1. Ilankai, Eelam and Yazhpanam (by Inia Pandian), TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 1999

2. More Articles about Language including Etymology

FIS031129    2003-a1d


Your comments on this article or any other matter relating to Tamil are welcome

(e-mail to: tamiltribuneatasia.com Please replace "at" with the @ sign.)

Copyright Ó 2009 by TAMIL TRIBUNE. All rights reserved.