Sri Lanka Table of Contents
The Sri Lankan Tamil community itself boasts an impressive mythology of cultural and religious uniqueness and superiority. This is particularly true of dominant-caste Vellala Tamils living in the Jaffna Peninsula, who regard their Tamil cousins living in India and the Indian Tamil residents of Sri Lanka, as well as the Sinhalese, as their less civilized inferiors (thus undermining, to some extent, the rationale behind Sinhalese fears of engulfment by the two Tamil communities). According to anthropologist Bruce Pfaffenberger, the Vellala Tamils place great importance on the correct observation of Hindu rituals, the chastity of their women, and the need to maintain precisely the hierarchical distinctions of caste. Pfaffenberger notes that the Vellala regard the Jaffna Peninsula as their natu, or country, and that states ruled by their kings existed there from the thirteenth century until the sixteenth-century arrival of the Portuguese. Although not all Sri Lankan Tamils were members of the Vellala caste, its members dominated local commercial and educational elites, and its values had strong influence on Tamils of other castes.
Data as of October 1988