Sunday, 6 March 2022

Aavuranchikkal and Sumaithangi in Jaffna

Of the various archaeological artefacts discovered all over Sri Lanka, Aavuranchikkal and Sumaithangi are only found in the Northern part of the country, especially in Jaffna District (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). It is believed that these two artefacts were a unique part of the Tamil Hindu culture that prevailed in the old Jaffna society before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century A.D. (Wijebandara, 2014).

Aavuranchikkal and Sumaithangi have been recorded from a number of localities in Jaffna including Kandarodai, Kalviyankadu, Anaikkoddai, Vadamarachchi, Udupiddy, Valikamam, Point Pedro, Nallur, Chunnakam, Karainagar, and Chankanai (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). Those found in Vadamarachchi and Udupiddy contain inscriptions as well (Dias et al., 2016).

Aavuranchikal (or Aavurancikal, Aavuragnchikkal, Aavuronchi kallu, Mandekkal, Aadenkuttiare) is a single piece of a short stone pillar (mostly limestone) with a circular, elliptical or square cross-section buried to a depth of about 1.5 ft. and protruding about 2 ft. from the ground (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). In the Tamil language "Aa" refers to the bullock and "Ranchi" means to rub (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). Therefore, this artefact is assumed to be an object that deals with some activity involving cattle (Dias et al., 2016). Some are in the opinion that, these stones have been erected for the cattle to relieve themselves from an itch called Thinavu by rubbing against the stone (Ragupathy, 1987). However, the Aavuranchikkal found at Upupiddy has been used as a tombstone (Wijebandara, 2014).

Sumaithangi (or Cumaitanki) is about 2 ft. thick, 5 to 6 ft. wide and 3 to 5 ft. tall stone-built wall similar to a platform. Before the introduction of modern methods of quick transport, these short platforms were used by ancient travellers to relieve themself for a while by unloading the goods carried on their heads, shoulders or waists (Ragupathy, 1987; Wijebandara, 2014). Therefore the height of Sumaithangi at its maximum point is made to level with an average person's height to ensure an easy transfer of loads between the platform and the bearer's head without others' help.
It is recorded from the Vadamarachchi area that a structure similar to Sumaithangi had been erected by locals as a symbol of prayer, vowing for the soul of a mother who dies pregnant to rest in peace (Wijebandara, 2014).

Keni and Kinaru
Sometimes, Madam (traditional resting places built to accommodate wayfarers who were travelling to distant places) and stone-built wells and ponds (Keni and Kinaru) can be seen near the Aavuranchikkal and Sumaithangi (Wijebandara, 2014). These wells and ponds are believed to have been built to quench the thirst of both people and cattle.

The Yamuna Eri, Keerimalai Pond, Sangamitta Bodhi Pond and Puttur Well are some of the well-known examples of wells and ponds in Jaffna (Wijebandara, 2014).

Sumaithangi .
1) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. p.225.
2) Ragupathy, P. 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna, An archaeological survey. Published by Mrs. Thilimalar Ragupathy. Madras. p.156. 
3) Wijebandara, I.D.M., 2014. Yapanaye Aithihasika Urumaya (In Sinhala). Published by the editor. ISBN-978-955-9159-95-7. pp.143-147.

This page was last updated on 7 March 2022
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