Tamil ancestry of Sinhalas


“The Sinhalese identity nowadays is predicted on the view that since they speak an Indo­ European language, they are of North Indian origin whereas the Dravidian­ speaking Tamils are from the South. The historical reality however is totally different. Except perhaps for the oldest stratum of settlers prior to 200 B.C., almost all subsequent settlers in Sri Lanka came from South India, mostly from Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Kerala and quickly became Sinhalised. In fact, some of the most vociferous anti­ Tamil castes among the Sinhalese were post fifteenth ­century migrants from South India”.

- Gananath Obeysekera – Sinhalese Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University.


“The accommodation of groups of recent immigrants from South India and their absorption into the caste structure of the littoral saw the emergence of three new Sinhalese caste groups—the Salagama, the Durawa and the Karawa. They came to the island, in this period, in successive waves of migration which continued well beyond it into the eighteenth century.”

- K.M. Da Silva - A History of Sri Lanka


In the 14th century, when the lucrative trade in cinnamon began to expand, the Sinhalese kings encouraged members of the Tamil Caaliyar (weavers) caste to migrate. In time, this community became the caste of cinnamon peelers and was absorbed into the Sinhalese population as a service caste with the name Salagama.


The Sinhalese ‘Mukkura Hattana‘ manuscript recounts the migration of over 7700 Karaiyar (seafaring caste) warriors from Tamil Nadu into Sri Lanka in the 15th century. The opening lines confirm beyond doubt that the Sinhalese Karawa caste are descended from post 15th century Tamil Karaiyar migrants from Tamil Nadu:

“May there be prosperity!

When His Majesty, Sri Parakrama Bahu of the city of Kotte was reigning, Mukkaru from Punnala, encamped at Puttalam and Nagapattinam, with the intention of capturing Lanka.

The nobles who bore the news were asked “Who do you think are mighty enough to fight the Mukkuva hosts?”

They replied “If we would engage them in battle, it would be best to summon here the armies from the three lands, namely, Kancipuram, Kaveripattanam and Kilakkarai.”

Kanchipuram, Kaveripattanam and Killakkarai are prominent towns in Tamil Nadu. The leader of the Karaiyar migrants Manikka Thalaivan died fighting for the Sinhalese king Parakramabahu IV. His son Sapumal Kumaraya was adopted by the king and later went on to rule both the Kotte and Jaffna kingdoms.

Sarath Fonseka, the general of the Sri Lankan Army is directly descended from these recent Karaiyar migrants from Tamil Nadu. Despite this he strongly believes that Sri Lanka belongs only to the Sinhalese.



Other Sinhalese with traceable Tamil Nadu roots include the Berawa (Tamil Paraiyar drummers), Weerakody (Tamil Veerakottiyar warriors) and Hettiarachchi/Hettige (Tamil Chetty traders).

President Bandaranaike who made Sinhalese the sole official language in 1956 was directly descended from a Tamil called Neela Perumal, who came to island in the 15th century from Tamil Nadu.


President Jayawardene whose ruling party organised the 1983 Black July pogrom which resulted in the massacre of over 3000 Tamil civilians was quoted in the Daily Telegraph of 11 July 1983 as saying: “I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people.. now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion … Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”


The ancestor of the Jayawardene family, referred to Tambi (little brother in Tamil) Mudaliyar in early 19th century British documents arrived in Colombo in the time of Dutch rule. Don Adrian Wijesinghe Jayawardene (died 1830), a direct paternal ancestor of the President, “was descended from a family of the Chetty community, a community of traders, which had emigrated from Tamil Nadu in the early years of Dutch rule in the mid-17th century and settled in the vicinity of Colombo.”

Source: J.R. Jayawardene of Sri Lanka a Political Biography: 1906-1956 – KM Da Silva, Howard Wriggins. Published by University of Hawaii press (1988)


Genetic Studies

All recent genetic studies, particularly those focused on autosomal DNA prove that the Sinhalese are most closely related to Tamils and other south Indian middle castes.


Harappa World DNA analysis of 36 Sinhalese from GEDmatch (average):

South Indian 58%, Baloch 32%, Caucasian 2.4%, Northern European 0.71%, SE-Asian 2.2%, Siberian 0.53%, NE-Asian 1.4%

Papuan 1.2%, American 0.31%, Beringian 0.52%, Mediterranean 0.42%, SW-Asian 1%, San 0.12%, E-African 0.12%

Pygmy 0.02%, W-African 0.05%


This hard scientific evidence flies in the face of modern Sinhala nationalism which tenuously claims a Indo-Aryan or predominantly North Indian descent, purely on the basis of language.

Modern historical and archaeological studies has shown that language replacement can occur without recourse to population change.

The below chart shows that the Sinhalese are genetically closest to Tamils and other South Indian middle castes. These geographically close groups lie in the middle of the ‘Indian cline‘ in between South Indian Dalits and North Indian upper castes. The proportion of indigenous ‘Ancestral South Indian’ genes generally rises as you go down the caste system and down the Indian subcontinent. The South Indian Brahmins migrated from North India hence their lower proportion of ‘South Indian’ genes.