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70% of Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka live in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Although Sri Lankan Tamils are culturally and linguistically distinct, genetic studies indicate that they are closely related to Sinhalese ethnic group in the island.

Excavations in the area of Tissamaharama in southern Sri Lanka have unearthed locally issued coins, produced between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, some of which carry local Tamil personal names written in early Tamil characters, Two of the five ancient inscriptions referring to the Damedas (Tamils) are in Periya Pullyakulam in the Vavuniya District, one is in Seruvavila in Trincomalee District, one is in Kuduvil in Ampara District and one is in Anuradhapura.

Mention is made in literary sources of Tamil rulers bringing horses to the island in water craft in the second century BCE, most likely arriving at Kudiramalai.

Cultural similarities in burial practices in South India and Sri Lanka were dated by archaeologists to 10th century BCE.

Historical records establish that Tamil kingdoms in modern India were closely involved in the island's affairs from about the 2nd century BCE.

Kudiramalai, Kandarodai and Vallipuram served as great northern Tamil capitals and emporiums of trade with these kingdoms and the Romans from the 6th–2nd centuries BCE.

Since Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, relations between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities have been strained.

Rising ethnic and political tensions, along with ethnic riots in 1956, 1958, 1977, 19, led to the formation and strengthening of militant groups advocating independence for Tamils.

The archaeological discoveries in these towns and the Manimekhalai, a historical poem, detail how Nāka-Tivu of Nāka-Nadu on the Jaffna Peninsula was a lucrative international market for pearl and conch trading for the Tamil fishermen.

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