Kamboja Colonists of Sri Lanka

Kamboja Colonists of Sri Lanka

'Lanka' in Sanskrit means 'island.' Many ancient Indian Sanskrit and Pali texts refer to this island as Sinhala or Simhaladvipa. The Arab and the Portuguese traders corrupted the name to Seilan, Ceylon, Ceilão, etc. In English, the name is written as Sinhalese or Singhalese. The Sinhala also refers to about 74% of the population speaking the Sinhala language which belongs to the Indo-Aryan family and is closely allied to Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit. The earliest colonists of Sri Lanka migrated from northern India but controversy exists as to the provenance of these early colonists; the traditions contain evidence for both the northwestern and the northeastern parts of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The first colonists probably hailed from the Saurashtra in Gujarat. Their ancestors are believed to have migrated earlier from Sinhapura of upper Indus near Kamboja/Gandhara region to the Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat via lower Indus. Before arriving in Sri Lanka, these earliest known colonists called at Soparaka on the west coast of India and landed in Sri Lanka at Tambapanni, near Puttalam on the day of Parinibhana ("decease") of the Buddha (542 BCE or 486 BCE). SOME INSCRIPTIONAL REFERENCES TO ANCIENT KAMBOJAS IN ANCIENT SRI LANKA....THE MOST REFERENCED ETHNIC COMMUNITY IN THE SINHALESE INSCRIPTIONS BELONGING TO THIRD/SECOND CENTURY BCE [1] no. 622: 'Gamika-Kabojhaha lene' The cave of the village-councillor Kamboja; Paranavitana, 1970: [2] no. 623: 'Gamika-Siaa-putra gamika-Kabojhaha lene' The cave of the village-councillor Kamboja, son of the village-councillor Siva' Paranavitana, 1970: [3] (no. 625) (1) 'Cam ika-Siua-putra gamika-Kambojhaha jhitaya upasika-Sumanaya lene.' The cave of the female laydevotee Sumana, daughter of the village-councillor Kamboja. Dr. S. Paranavitana, 1970 [4](no 625) (2) 'gamika Kabojhaha ca sava-satasoyesamage pati' The cave of the son of the village-councillor Siva. May there be the attainment of the Path of Beatitude for the village-councillor Kamboja and for all beings. 75 J. Bloch, 0950: 103, 130), ... Dr. S. Paranavitana, 1970 [5](no. 553): 'Kabojhiya-mahapugiyana Manapadaiane agataanagat-catu-disa-agaia' [The cave] Manapadassana of the members of the Great Corporations of Kambojiyas, [is dedicated] to the Saiügha of the four quarters, present and absent. Dr. S. Paranavitana, 1970 [6] (no. 990): 'Gota-Kabojhi(ya]na parumaka-Gopalaha bariya upasika-Citaya lepe iagaio' The cave of the female lay-devotee Citta, wife of Gopala, the chief of the incorporated Kambojiyas, [is dedicated] to the Saiügha. Dr. S. Paranavitana, 1970 [7] Mediaval age inscription, refering a KAMBOJA VASSALA (i.e Kamboja Dawara/or Kamboja gate) found from Polonnaruva near Vishnu temple. Discovered in 1887 by S. M. Burros. (Ref: Journal of Ceylone B Branch of Royal Asiatic Society., Vol X., X No 34, 1887, pp64-67). [8] Mediaval age inscription (1187-1193 AD), found from Ruvanveli Dagba, Anaradhapura in Sri Lanka. It refers to Kambojdin people, which is modified version of Kamboja. (Ref: Don Martino de Zilva Wickeremsinghe, Epigraphicia Zeylanka, Vol II., Part I & II., p 70-83; Rhys David, J.R.A.S. Vol VII., p 187, p 353f; Muller. E. AIC., No 145; J.R.A.S., Vol XV., 1914, pp 170-71). See below the wording of this inscription written in Sinhali belended with Sanskrit. 'Nuvarata hatapsina sata gavaka pamanah tana haam satuna no narye hakhye abhaya di ber lava dolos meh va tana masuta abhaya de Kambojdin ran pili aadibhu kamati vastu de paksheen no badan niyayen samata kota abhaya dee' See original text in the reference quoted below or in Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 354, Dr J. L. Kamboj). (Epigraphia Zeylanka Vol II., p 80). THE GRAMANIS OF THE WEST-INDUS MAY HAVE BEEN THE ANCESTORS OF MAJORITY OF SINHALESE POPULATION. Not only the Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka refer to the guilds/Sanghas/corporations (Puka/Pugas, Gote/Goshata) among Sri Lankan Kambojas but also they refewre to their republican titles like Gamika (=Gamini=Gramani) and Paramaka (Parmuka/Parmukha i.e chief of the Sanghas). The Gramani as a royal title is not referred to in ancient Sanskrit literature. However, Gramani as a Puga/Sangha term is referred to in Panini's Ashtadhyayi. Also MBH makes references to Gramani people/Sangha located in west of river Indus. One Gramani group had organised themselves into a Puga (Sangha) and are referenced to have been living on west of Indus, first in Upper Indus and then the lower Indus, from where they appear to have moved to Gujarat/Surashtra and then finally some section of them onto Sri Lanka. The ethnic connections of these republican Gramaney people are not mentioned anywhere. Mahabharata refers to the fight of Nakula with these powerful Gramanis living on the banks of lower Indus in western India.

gananutsava sanketanvyajayatpurusharshabha .
sindhukulashrita ye cha gramaneya mahabalah .//8.
(MBH 2/32/9)
The corrupted form of this Gramani of Indus is the Gamini or Gamika of the Brahami inscriptions abundantly found in Anuradhapura and some other locations in Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, though not a royal title in India proper, the Gamani as a royal title (for king/raja) has been profusely used by ancient kings of Sinhala. The Gamini as a title/appellation was mostly applied to heads of trade guilds/corporations/Sanghas and also some-times to political Sanghas/Pugas in north-west as is the case of Lower Indus Gramanis of MBH. It appears likely that the ancestors of Sinhala either belonged to the above Republican Graminis or else they may have been closely connected with them (History of Ceylone, Vol I, Part I, p 91, Dr S Parnavitana; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 349-353, Dr Kamboj). All circumstantial evidence therefore indicates that the Gramanis of Mahabharata and of Panini's reference had moved from upper west Indus to lower Indus and then probably to Gujarat and finally, one section of them may have made it to Sri Lanka. The existence of ancient well known Kamboja Dravati Caravan Route implies that the trader groups from Kamboja were familiar with ancient regions of Sindhu, Sovira, Surashtra and further the western Indian coastal areas as far as Sri Lanka. (see Kamboja-Dvarka ancient trade Route and the Kambojas) Mahavamsa (6/34) states that ancestors of the Sinhalese came from Sinhala-kalpa or Sinhapura in Lata desha. Also there is mention that Vijay's father had left his maternal grand-father's country (Sinhapura) and had founded a new colony in Lata-rattha (=Lata Rashtra). We have already seen one Sinhapura located contiguous to Ursa/Hazara west of Jammu/Kashmir i.e near the ancient land of Kambojas/Gandharas. The Gramanis refered to in MBH who are said to be living on Indus thus may well fit Vijay's migrant clan as refered to in Mahavamsa. Vijay's father may have moved from Upper Indus to lower Indus i.e in Lata-Desha/Surashtra, where a reference to Gramanis is also made in MBH. There is one Sinhore located in Kathiawada. In the Gift records of king Valbhi, this Sinhore has also been referred to as Sinhapura (Epigraphia Indica, XVII, p 110; also see Dr J. L. Kamboj). It is thus perfectly conceivable that the migrant clan of the Gramanis (probably same as that of Vijay's father) may have founded this town in Kathiawada/Surashtra several centuries prior to Christian era and may have named it also as Sinhapura in memory of their Sinhapura of Upper Indus. It is stated that Vijay and his 700 companions had started off their sea vovage to Sri Lanka from Sinhapura in Lata-Desha and caravan is stated to have passed through Bharukachcha and Soparka sea ports located on west coast of India. Thus this discussion may imply connections of Gramanis of lower Indus with Sinhapura of Upper Indus (neighbor to Kashmir/Hazara) as well as with the clan of Vijay Sinha's, the ancestor of Sinhalese. Mahavamsa (6th c AD creation) states that the ancestors of Sinhalese i.e Vijay Simha was a prince, but Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka rather allude to earlier Sinhalese settlers most likely as coming from some trader's group. Thus, Vijay Sinha's being a chief/leader/Sarthavaha of some carvan of the merchants/traders from north-west in the remote past is more likely a possibility. The group led by Vijay Sinha may have visited the island for purpose of trade but may have finally settled in the island and become its permanent residents. These Anuradhapura inscriptions profusely refer to Gramani (Gamini, Gamini/Gamika) as a chief of trader's guild. In Pali texts, the tiltle appears as Sarthavaha. The Pramaka (Parmukha, Chief) used for the head of guild/corporations in these Brahmi inscriptions also points in the same direction. All these terms (Gamika/Gamini/Gramani, Gote, Puga, Gote/Goshat etc) are pure republican in character and belong to north-west. And most interestingly, they are found to have been prevalent among ancient Kambojas groups (MBH, Kautiliya, Panini evidence). Thus, one can easily conceive that Vijay's clan may have been the same as that of the republic Gramaneys of lower Indus as referred to in MBH. And further, this Gramani clan had migrated from upper Indus to lower Indus, then to Surashtra/Kathiawada and finally a section of them had landed in Sinhala. And further, this clan may have been an offshoot from the Gandharan/Kambojan ethnic group...the former inhabitants of Sinhapura of Upper Indus. This is because the ancient Sinhalese inscriptions make numerous references to the Kambojas from north-west. No other ethnic group from North-west or north-east has been referred. The Meryas (=Mauryas..mentioned only once in the inscriptions) may have been migrants from Meros (of Arrian) ....the modern Koh-i-Mor of Swat/Kunar region. There is absoluterly no reference to Anga, Kalinga, Vanga, Gandhara or any other Aryan group of north-east or north-west India nor there is any reference to name Sinhala itself in these numerous inscriptions. The Milekas of the Sinhalese inscriptions (referenced twice) were the aborigines (Veddas). The other dominant group was the Daemedas (Tamilians) from Dravidian group from Southern India who find mention in three Inscriptions. Mahavamsa was composed in 6th c AD, about 800-900 years from the date of these Inscriptions. Undoubtedly, Mahavamsa represents later conditions of Sinhala island when population from north-east India (second and later stream) had also come and settled in the Island. Unlike ancient cave inscriptions, Mahavamsa does make references to Anga, Vanga, Kalinga. But this is later phenomenon. And being literary traditions, the Mahavamsa may have been interpolated/re-written to reflect the later historical/political realities of the island. The absence of the name Anga, Kalinga, Vanga etc in these ancient inscriptions shows that there was as yet no population from the north-east India and north-easterners had only joined the north-west Aryan speaking group much later in time. Thus the original stream of migrants, the so-called ancestors of the Sinhalese population, to Sinhala island were indeed from north-west and to all probability, they were from the Kambojan republican ethnic group. The 'shaved-headed tradition' referred to in Mahavamsa about Vijay and his companions also alludes to their close connections with the north-west and especially with the shaved-headed Kambojan group. There are numerous other reasons which also point to north-west being the home of ancient Sinhalas.


David Parkin, and Ruth Barnes

ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE ON SHIPPING COMMUNITIES page 108/109 " The second category of beads which deserves attention, is those made from lapis lazuli, becamee the only known source for this material in antiquity was Badakhshan (in northern Afghanwestan). The author of the Periplus mentions lapis lazuli among the products exported from Barbaricum.72 This precious material doubtless travelled along the sea route to reach the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Hema Ratnayake (1993: 8Q.) has also observed that on a painted slab belonging to one of the frontispieces of the Jetavana stupa, there are traces of lapis lazuli underneath the line of geese. He dates it to the third century AD, to the reign of king Mahasena, who built this feature of the stupa. The intaglio depicting a seated wild boar, unearthed along with carnelian seals and beads from Akurugoda (Tissamaharama) on the southern coast of the island, is important in this context. . This type of wild boar is known on Sasanian intaglios.73 The presence of lapis lazuli on the southern coast of Sri Lanka cannot be an isolated event, because epigraphical evidence bears witness to the fact that this area had close relationships with the regions of Afghanistan. 'Kaboja' occurs as a proper name in three inscriptions from Koravakgala (Situlpavua) in the Hambantota District, on the southeastern part of the island, in ancient Rohana.74 S. Paranavitana (1970: xc) believed that the Kabojha, Kabojhiya and Kabojhika are to be connected with the ethnic name Kamboja, which occurrs in Sanskrit and Pali literature as well as in the Vth and Xlllth inscriptions of Asoka, Kabojhiya being equivalent to the derivative term Kambojiya and Kabojika to Kambojika.75 The Brahmi inscription from Bovattegala on the southern border of the Ampari District, a few miles from the northeast limit of the Hambantota District, also in ancient Rohana, refers to 'Kabojhiya-mahapugyiana' i.e.'those who were members of the great corporation of the 'Kabojhivas'.76 The Brahmi inscription from Kaduruvava in the Kurunagala District, to the southwest of Anuradhapura, mentions a parumaka (Chief) of the Gota-Kabojikana, i.e. of the corporation of the Kabojikas.77 These inscriptions indicate that the Kambojas had organised themselves into a corporations and were certainly engaged in trade. The Sihalavatthu, a Pali text of about the fourth century (on page 109) attests that a group of people called the Kambojas were in Rohana. In the third story of this text, called Metteyya-vatthu, we are informed that the Elder named Maleyya was residing in Kamboja-gama, in the province (janapada) of Rohana on the Island of Tambapanni.78 The Kambojas are often mentioned together with Yonas (Yavanas), Gandharas and Sakas. The Kambojas were a native population of Arachosia in the extreme west of the Mauryan empire, speaking a language of Iranian origin.79 The finds on the southern coast of the island of lapis lazuli from northern Afghanistan and various coins of Soter Megas, Kanishka II, Vasudeva II and posthumous Hermaios, all from Bactria and Northwest India, and the references to the Kambojas of Arachosia, compel us to believe that there were close relationships between Sri Lanka and the communities of Central Asia and North-West India. S. Paranavitana (1970: xci) did not exclude the possibility of the presence of Sakas in the island. His starting point was the inscription in Brahmi script, known as Anuradhapura Rock Ridge West of Lainkarama,so which refers to 'The flight of steps of Uttara, the Murundiya (Muridi-Utaraha seni). Since the epithet 'Muridi' is prefixed to the name '-Utara' (Skt. Uttara), S. Paranavitana believed that Muridi is a derivative of Muruda, which is the same as Murunda in the compound Saka-Murunda that occurs in the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta. S. Konow (1929: XX), referring to the same inscription argued,S. Konow (1929: XX), referring to the same inscription argued, that murunda is almost certainly a Saka word meaning 'master', 'lord', and he argued that the word murunda has become synonymome with Saka, when applied to royalty. Apart from the coins, beads and intaglios, the contacts between Sri Lanka and the Gandhara region are revealed by other pieces of archaeological evidence from recent excavations at various sites. A fragment of a Gandhara Buddha statute in schisst, still unpublished, was unearthed from the excavations at at Jetavanarama. Most of the identified 'Hellenistic' and Greek-influenced pottery from the citadel of Anuradhapura, and from our recent excavations at Kelaniya appears to be from the Greek East, in other words, somewhere in Northwest India or Bactria.8' ..." Ships and the Development of Maritime Technology on the Indian Ocean, 2002, [by David Parkin, and Ruth Barnes]

Himanshu Prabha Ray, Norman Yoffee, Susan Alcock, Tom Dillehay, Stephen Shennan, Carla Sinopoli.

THE MERCHANT LINEAGE AND THE GUILD Page 194: Sri Lanka also provides evidence for niyama or nigama. The Tonigala rock inscription from the Anuradhapura district dated to the third year of the King Srimeghavarna (303-27 CE) records the grant of grain to the Kalahumanakaniyamatana (nigama-sthana), with the stipulation that only the interest is to be used for the maintenance of the monks (Epigraphia Zeylanica III, 1933: 172-98). Another later Brahmi inscription from Labuatabandigala refers to money, i.e. 100 káhápanas being deposited with the Mahatabaka niyama (247-53). Other terms used for guilds are puka or púga and goti (Sanskrit gosthi), the former often being used in association with either a village (Paranavitana 1970, nos. 135, 138; Dias 1991: no. 5) or community, such as that of the Kambojas (Paranavitana 1970, no. 553). There are references to the chief (jete) and sub-chief (anu- jete) of Sidaviya-puka (no. 1198). Literary texts further corroborate these distinctions, for example those between a general trader (vanik) and the setthi, who was possibly a financier, as opposed to the sárthaváha or caravan leader who transported either his own goods or those of other merchants. The sep thi in the Játakas was a man of immense wealth and hence constantly in the retinue of the king. References to rice fields owned by setthis imply that they were both traders and landowners . . Panini refers to traders as vanik (Astádhyáyi, 111.3.52) and makes a distinction between the krayavikrayika (whose main occupation was buying and selling, IV.4.13), the vasnika (who invested his money in business, IV.4.13), the sarnsthanika (a member of a guild, IV.4.72) and the dravyaka (a trader on the outward journey carrying merchandise for sale, Agrawala 1953: 238). In the Amarakosa (11.6.42; 111.9.78), a sárthaváha is described as the leader of merchants who have invested an equal amount of capital and carried on trade with outside markets and are travelling in a caravan. There are several alternative arrangements described in the Játakas by which merchants could purchase or obtain goods. When a ship arrived in a port, merchants converged there to buy the goods and often had to pay money in advance to secure a share in the cargo (Book I: no. 4). Alternatively, a merchant could procure goods by mutual agreement with another living along the border . Once, the Boddhisattva was a wealthy merchant in Varanasi and had as a correspondent a border merchant whom he had never seen. There came a time when this merchant loaded 500 carts with local produce and gave orders to the men in charge to go to the Boddhisattva and barter the wares in his.. Page: 205/206. FOREIGNERS AND TRADE NETWORKS The complexity of economic transactions in the ancient period makes it difficult to determine ethnic identities of trading groups. Another problem is the ambiguity of the literary sources and their inability to distinguish between different ethnic identities, as in the case of allusions to Romans, Arabs, Indians and Ethiopians in Greek and Latin accounts. From the first century BCE to the second century CE, while many of the Arabs of the eastern Mediterranean regions were Roman subjects or Roman citizens, others lived beyond the frontiers of the empire and included groups such as Nabataeans, Palmyrenes, Sabaeans and so on. Early Brahmi inscriptions from Sri Lanka refer to two foreign groups involved in trading activity, i.e. the Damila (Sanskrit Dravida) and the Kabojha (Sanskrit Kamboja). The former figure in an important inscription engraved on the vertical rock face to the north-west of the Abhayagiri monastic complex at Anuradhapura. The inscription records that the terrace belonged to Tamil householders (gahapatikana). The floor of the terrace is on different levels, and the names of the owners are engraved on the rock face below their portion of it, e.g. dameda-samana, dameda-gahapati and navika or mariner. Two other inscriptions refer to a Tamil merchant named Visaka and a householder (Paranavitana 1970: nos. 94, 356, 357). These records are further corroborated by references in the Mahávarimsa, which term the damilas 'assandvikas' or those who brought horses in watercraft (chapter XXI, verses 10-12). It is significant that early Buddhist literary sources from north India refer to the northerners as being involved in trade in horses. The inscriptions referring to the Kabojha or Kambojas are found in ancient Rohana and associate the region with the gamika or village functionary (Paranavitana 1970: nos. 622, 623, 625), there are references to the guild of the Kabojhiyas and its chief (Kabojhiya-maha-pugiyana, no. 553; parumaka or chief of the gota (Sanskrit gostha) Kabojikana, no. 990). The Sihalavatthu, a Pali text of the fourth century, refers to a village of the Kambojas in Rohana. Wheeler identified so-called 'foreign pottery' during his excavations at the site of Arikamedu on the east coast of India (figure 8.5). He used these ceramic finds to endorse not only the nature of trade, i.e., ., Roman, but also the ethnicity of the users and hence suggested an Indo-Roman trading station at the site (Wheeler et al. 1946). The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia [Cambridge World Archaeology], 2003, [by: Himanshu Prabha Ray, Norman Yoffee, Susan Alcock, Tom Dillehay, Stephen Shennan, Carla Sinopoli] [The above refernces are quoted here with due gratitude]. Other relevant references on The Kambojas in Sri Lanka are:
  • History of Ceylone Vol I, Part by Dr S Parnavitana.
  • Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, (Chapter: Kambojas in Sri Lanka) Dr J. L. Kamboj.

Deepak Kamboj

Deepak Kamboj started and conceptualized the powerful interactive platform - KambojSociety.com in September 2002, which today is the biggest and most popular online community portal for Kambojas in the world. He was inspired by the social and community work carried out by his father Shri Nanak Chand Kamboj. He has done research on the history, social aspects, political growth and economical situation of the Kamboj community. Deepak Kamboj is an author of various articles about the history of Kamboj community and people.