The American Ceylon Mission (ACM) to Jaffna, Sri Lanka started with the arrival in 1813 of missionaries sponsored by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). The British colonial office in India and Ceylon restricted the Americans to the relatively small Jaffna Peninsula for geopolitical reasons for almost 40 years. The critical period of the impact of the missionaries was from the 1820s to early 20th century. During this time, they engaged in original translations from English to Tamil, printing, and publishing, establishing primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions and providing health care for residents of the Jaffna Peninsula. These activities resulted in many social changes amongst Sri Lankan Tamils that survive even today. They also led to the attainment of a lopsided literacy level among residents in the relatively small peninsula that is cited by scholars as one of the primary factors contributing to the recently ended civil war. Many notable educational and health institutions within the Jaffna Peninsula owe their origins to the missionary activists from America. Missionaries also courted controversy by publishing negative information about local religious practices and rituals.
Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna District located on a peninsula of the same name. With a population of 88,138 in 2012, Jaffna is Sri Lanka's 12th most populous city. Jaffna is approximately six miles from Kandarodai which served as an emporium in the Jaffna peninsula from classical antiquity. Jaffna's suburb Nallur served as the capital of the four-century-long medieval Jaffna Kingdom.
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent, but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was among the first American Christian missionary organizations. It was created in 1810 by recent graduates of Williams College. In the 19th century it was the largest and most important of American missionary organizations and consisted of participants from Reformed traditions such as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and German Reformed churches.
The minority Sri Lankan Tamil-dominated Jaffna Peninsula ruled by the Jaffna Kingdom, which is hardly 15 by 40 miles, came under the direct jurisdiction of colonial power from Europe after the 1591 demise of Puviraja Pandaram, a local king, at the hands of the Portuguese. He had led a rebellion against Portuguese influence and was defeated. After establishing their rule through kings who were nominally Catholic, the Portuguese encouraged and coerced conversion of the locals to the Catholic faith. After the defeat and death of the last king Cankili II in 1619, most prominent Hindu temples were razed to the ground and restrictions on observance of native religious rituals were instituted.
In sociology, a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. Minority group membership is typically based on differences in observable characteristics or practices, such as: sex, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Utilizing the framework of intersectionality, it is important to recognize that an individual may simultaneously hold membership in multiple minority groups. Likewise, individuals may also be part of a minority group in regard to some characteristics, but part of a dominant group in regard to others.
The Jaffna Kingdom, also known as Kingdom of Aryachakravarti, of modern northern Sri Lanka was a historic monarchy that came into existence around the town of Jaffna on the Jaffna peninsula traditionally thought to be established after the invasion of Magha, who is credited with the founding of the Jaffna kingdom and is said to have been from Kalinga, in India. Established as a powerful force in the north, north east and west of the island, it eventually became a tribute paying feudatory of the Pandyan Empire in modern South India in 1258, gaining independence in 1323, when the last Pandyan ruler of Madurai was defeated and expelled in 1323 by Malik Kafur, the army general of the Muslim Delhi Sultanate. For a brief period, in the early to mid-14th century, it was an ascendant power in the island of Sri Lanka when all regional kingdoms accepted subordination. However, the kingdom was eventually overpowered by the rival Kotte Kingdom, around 1450 when it was invaded by Prince Sapumal under the Kotte Kingdom's directive.
Colonialism is the policy of a foreign polity seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of opening trade opportunities. The colonizing country seeks to benefit from the colonized country or land mass. In the process, colonizers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Some argue this was a positive move toward modernization, while other scholars refute this theory as being biased and Eurocentric, noting that modernization is a concept introduced by Europeans. Colonialism is largely regarded as a relationship of domination of an indigenous majority by a minority of foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.
The Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company in 1658. During the Duct colonial period the popular Nallur Kandaswamy temple was rebuilt during the 1750s. This was also a period of revival of local literary activity. Local laws such as Thesavalamai were codified during this period, and the history of the previous Jaffna Kingdom under the name of Yalpana Vaipava Malai was put to print. The Dutch were replaced by the British in 1796. Although the British did not officially espouse any policy regarding religious conversions, they encouraged missionary activities in the Maritime Provinces except in the interior erstwhile Kandyan kingdom, where they had agreed to maintain the local Buddhist religion as part of the 1815 takeover of the kingdom.
The Dutch East India Company was an early megacorporation founded by a government-directed amalgamation of several rival Dutch trading companies (voorcompagnieën) in the early 17th century. It was originally established on March 20 1602 as a chartered company to trade with India and Indianised Southeast Asian countries when the Dutch government granted it a 21-year monopoly on the Dutch spice trade. The Company has been often labelled a trading company or sometimes a shipping company. However, the VOC was in fact a proto-conglomerate company, diversifying into multiple commercial and industrial activities such as international trade, shipbuilding, both production and trade of East Indian spices, Formosan sugarcane, and South African wine. The Company was a transcontinental employer and an early pioneer of outward foreign direct investment. The Company's investment projects helped raise the commercial and industrial potential of many underdeveloped or undeveloped regions of the world in the early modern period. In the early 1600s, by widely issuing bonds and shares of stock to the general public, the VOC became the world's first formally-listed public company. In other words, it was the first corporation to be listed on an official stock exchange. The VOC was influential in the rise of corporate-led globalization in the early modern period.
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is a significant Hindu temple, located in Nallur, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan or Katharagama Deviyo in the form of the holy 'Vel' in the Sanctum, the primary shrine, and in other forms, namely, Shanmugar, Muthukumaraswami, Valli Kaanthar with consorts Valli and Deivayanai, and Thendayuthapani, sans consorts in secondary shrines in the temple.
Thesavalamai is the traditional law of the Sri Lankan Tamil inhabitants Jaffna peninsula, codified by the Dutch during their colonial rule in 1707. The Thesawalamai is a collection of the Customs of the Malabar Inhabitants of the Province of Jaffna and given full force by the Regulation of 1806. For Thesawalamai to apply to a person it must be established that he is a Tamil inhabitant of the Northern Province. The Law in its present form applies to most Tamils in northern Sri Lanka. The law is personal in nature thus it applicable mostly for property, inheritance, and marriage.
For geopolitical reasons, the British saw fit to restrict the American missionaries to the Jaffna Peninsula. There were many denominations present such as the Methodist, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians whereas the British missionaries of the Methodist, Baptist and Anglican sects were present in the rest of the island. Even when this restriction was removed, the initial divisions between North Ceylon and South Ceylon missions were maintained.(see Wesleyan Methodist Mission, North Ceylon) By the early 19th century there were nine mission stations within the small peninsula.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion based in the United States with dioceses elsewhere. It is a mainline Christian denomination divided into nine provinces. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American bishop to serve in that position.
Wesleyan Methodist Mission, North Ceylon was formed as part of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission of Ceylon, the oldest Weslyan Mission to be established in East in 1814. The North Ceylon Mission was established to specifically cater to the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa where Methodist Missionaries established number of schools and churches. It also catered to the indigenous Vedda people.
The seeds for the American involvement in Jaffna were laid by The Rev. Samuel Newell in 1813. He and his wife Harriet Newell were sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission in India in 1813. As it was just after the Anglo-American war of 1812, the suspicious British authorities in Calcutta asked them to leave. The Newells were then asked to go to Mauritius but Samuel Newell lost his only child and wife in Mauritius. From there he left for British-held Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. He landed in Galle and ended up in Jaffna city. Although he spent most of his career in India, particularly Bombay he was instrumental in starting up the American missionary involvement in Jaffna.He was followed by other missionary families such as Rev. Edward Warren, who arrived in July 1816. He took special interest in educating the people of the area in both English and their native Tamil language. He started the first American missionary school in Tellipalai in 1816. By 1848, 105 Tamil schools and sixteen English schools were founded. Mission centers were soon opened in nine locations.
Samuel Newell (1784–1821) was an American missionary and one of the pioneers of American foreign missions. He served with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in India and Ceylon, where he founded the first American Ceylon Mission station.
Harriet Newell was an American Christian missionary and memoirist.
The War of 1812 was a conflict fought between the United States, the United Kingdom, and their respective allies from June 1812 to February 1815. Historians in Britain often see it as a minor theater of the Napoleonic Wars; in the United States and Canada, it is seen as a war in its own right.
Other New Englanders also took important steps to provide educational opportunities for women. Harriet Winslow, a great-great-grandmother of the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, founded the Uduvil Girls' School in 1824, the first Girls’ boarding school in Asia.Eliza Agnew from Pennsylvania was a teacher there for 42 years. Missionaries also made efforts to provide collegiate level education by founding the Batticota Seminary at Vaddukoddai in 1823 with Rev. Dr. Daniel Poor as its first principal.
New England is a geographical region composed of six states of the northeastern United States: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It is bordered by the state of New York to the west and by the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the northeast and north, respectively. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east and southeast, and Long Island Sound is to the south. Boston is New England's largest city as well as the capital of Massachusetts. The largest metropolitan area is Greater Boston with nearly a third of the entire region's population, which also includes Worcester, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.
Harriet Winslow (1796–1833) born in Norwich, Connecticut, was a prominent missionary attached to American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. She was married at the age of twenty three to fellow missionary Rev. Miron Winslow. They were both deputed to Ceylon now Sri Lanka as part of the American Ceylon Mission. She founded Asia’s first all-girls boarding school in Uduvil, Jaffna called Uduvil Girls' College. It was called Missionary Seminary and Female Central School.
John Foster Dulles was an American diplomat. A Republican, he served as United States Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. He was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, advocating an aggressive stance against communism throughout the world.
The American Mission started the first printing press in Jaffna in 1820 and, in 1841, the island's second oldest newspaper.– Morning Star – and the first Tamil-language newspaper, Utayatarakai. In 1862, Rev. Miron Winslow published a Comprehensive Tamil-English Dictionary.
ACM also provided medical missionaries starting in 1820. The first medical center was managed by Dr. John Scudder. He founded what is considered to be the first Western Medical Mission in Asia at Panditeripo in Jaffna District.He served there for nineteen years in the dual capacity of clergyman and physician. His most important service was the establishment of a large hospital, of which he was physician in chief. He was especially successful in the treatment of cholera and yellow fever. He also founded several native schools and churches. He and his wife Harriet had 6 surviving sons and 2 daughters who all became medical missionaries and worked in South India. Dr. Scudder was followed by Dr. Nathan Ward in 1836, who was replaced in 1846 by Dr. Samuel Fisk Green, who began a thirty-year medical practice and training program. By the 1850s, he had translated more than 1,000 pages of medical texts into Tamil. He founded in Manipai what later became Green Memorial Hospital. This fledgling hospital was also used to train more than 60 locals in western medicine as fully fledged doctors. Of the first batch of 10 students only two by the name of Evarts and Ira Gould passed successfully. It was Sri Lanka’s first medical school as well as the only school until the present day to teach medicine in a local language.
Batticotta Seminary was founded as a seminary for the best students from all other seminaries across the peninsula. It was intended to provide a tertiary level education equivalent a College in New England. The pioneering missionary at the Batticotta Seminary was Rev. Dr. Daniel Poor. Under him the American congregational missionaries became the pioneers of formal English and Tamil education in northern Sri Lanka. Although the initial aim was to convert Hindus to Christianity, it came to impart Biblical, English and European sciences on par with New England community colleges.
The seminary undertook to research and published pioneering books in the Tamil language in local literature, logic, algebra, astronomy and general science. One of the prominent alumni was C. W. Thamotharampillai, who was also the first graduate (1857) of the University of Madras in India.
Sir Emerson Tennent judged the Batticotta Seminary equal in rank with many a European university. The late Rev. Dr. Sabapathy Kulendran, the first bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) observed that the "seminary brought about a tremendous upsurge the like of which has never been seen in the country before or after." Eventually, due to financial reasons, the seminary began to collect an entrance fee; thus, only wealthy families were able to send their children for education. The primary purpose of these families was to assure that their children received a European standard education without converting to Christianity.Thus, a missionary by the name of Rufus Anderson decided that the seminary should be shut down and it was closed in 1855. This led to a seventeen-year struggle by local Christians to reopen the seminary. It eventually opened as Jaffna College. Although American involvement continues to the current day in missionary activities, the critical age of transformation ended with the turn of the 20th century.
Although the missionaries came primarily to convert the locals, in the process they bequeathed all the modern intellectual necessities for a nation. According to N. Sabaratnam a prominent editor of Eelanadu newspaper,
"At the dawn of the 19th century the American Missionaries came to Jaffna to preach Christian Gospel, but in actual fact they propagated the ideals of a new nation, pulsating with life"
With the amalgamation of North Ceylon Missions into the Church of South India (CSI), most properties and existing educational institutions are managed by the CSI.
Their intrusion into Jaffna also had other unintended consequences. The concentration of efficient Protestant mission schools in Jaffna produced a revival movement among local Hindus led by Arumuga Navalar, who responded by building many more schools within the Jaffna peninsula. Local Catholics too started their own schools as a countermeasure. The state also had its share of primary and secondary schools. Thus saturated with educational opportunities, many Tamils became literate. This was used by the British colonial government to hire Tamils as government servants in British-held Ceylon, India, Malaysia and Singapore.
By the time Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, about 60% of government jobs were held by Tamils, who formed hardly 15% of the population. The popularly elected leaders of the country saw it as an outcome of a strategy by the British to control the majority Sinhalese that needed to be redressed. These measures deteriorated the already frail political relationship between the communities and many experts believe it as one of the main causes of the Sri Lankan Civil War.
The primary responsibility of the missionaries was to convert as many people as possible. They used education and medical missionary work to assist them. But they also published ridiculing and insulting material on native religion and practices. The popular deity Lord Murugan was specifically targeted. This started the backlash against Christian missionaries. Many early converts like C. W. Thamotharampillai and Carol Visvanathapillai came back to Hinduism. This also resulted in formation of many Hindu Schools and more political awareness for native Tamils. Today around 10% are Christians with Catholics forming 90% of the Christians in Sri Lanka.
Point Pedro is a town, located in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka, at the northernmost point of the island.
St. John's College is a private school in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Founded in 1823 by British Anglican missionaries, it is one of Sri Lanka's oldest schools.
Jaffna Central College is a national school in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Founded in 1817 by British Methodist missionaries, it is one of Sri Lanka's oldest schools.
Vaddukoddai is small but important town in the minority Sri Lankan Tamil dominated Jaffna peninsula of Sri Lanka. It became prominent with the founding of Asia’s first modern university level collegiate known as Batticotta Seminary by the American Missionaries from New England in 1823.
Rev. Dr. John Scudder Sr., M.D., D.D., founded the first Western Medical Mission in Asia at Ceylon and later became the first American medical missionary in India. He began what amounted to more than 1,100 combined years of missionary service there by 42 members of four generations of the Scudder family of missionaries in India.
The Batticotta Seminary was an educational institute founded by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)'s American Ceylon Mission at Vaddukodai, in the Jaffna Peninsula north Sri Lanka in 1823. It was founded as part of the medical mission of John Scudder, Sr. and was subsequently led by Nathan Ward. In 1846 the mission experienced a significant cholera outbreak. Emerson Tennent judged the Batticotta Seminary equal in rank with many European universities. The late Sabapathy Kulendran, the first bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) observed that the seminary brought about a tremendous upsurge the like of which has never been seen in the country before or after.
The Vanni Nadu were feudal land divisions ruled by chiefs south of the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka. These chieftaincies arose in the 12th century, with the rise of the medieval Tamil kingdom's golden age and the collapse of the Rajarata kingdom. The chieftaincies developed in sparsely settled areas, and were ruled by Vanniars. An extension of the Jaffna kingdom's territory, the chiefs of the Vanni Nadu were, for most of their existence, tribute-paying subordinates to Jaffna. At 1621, the Jaffna Kingdom was conquered by the Portuguese and the Vanni chiefs became tributaries of the Portuguese Ceylon. The Portuguese colony in Sri Lanka was later taken over by the Dutch. During the Dutch rule it came to Vannian resistances against the colonial rule, one of these was the rebellion of Pandara Vanniyan. Allied with the Kingdom of Kandy, Pandara Vanniyan fought with guerrilla tactics against the Dutch and British. At 1803, he was defeated by Lt. von Driberg and Vanni fell into hands of the British. Vanni had been reincorporated with Jaffna Peninsula to form the Malabar Coylot Vanni country which later became the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
Union College is a provincial school in Tellippalai, Sri Lanka. Founded in 1816 by American Ceylon Mission, it is one of Sri Lanka's oldest schools.
Phillippe de Oliveira or Filipe de Oliveira was the conqueror of the Jaffna Kingdom in northern modern day Sri Lanka on behalf of the Portuguese Empire in 1619. He stayed behind as the captain-major of the conquered kingdom until his death in 1627. His instructions were to collect the tribute due from the last indigenous king of the Kingdom Cankili II but a chance encounter lead to a sharp but brief battle that led to the defeat of Cankili II. By his order, Cankili II was killed by Hanging and Cankili's remaining soldiers were executed by decapitation. His rule over the Jaffna Kingdom is remembered both for the destruction of over 500 Hindu temples and the forced conversion of the natives to the Roman Catholic religion as well as for his efforts in controlling and moderating the desire of colonial officials in Colombo and Goa to incessantly increase taxes on the local population. After his death, the taxation policy followed by the Portuguese colonial rulers led to the de-population of the Jaffna peninsula.
The Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna kingdom occurred after Portuguese traders arrived at the rival Kotte Kingdom in the southwest of modern Sri Lanka in 1505. Many kings of Jaffna, such as Cankili I, initially confronted the Portuguese in their attempts at converting the locals to Roman Catholicism, but eventually made peace with them.
Tellippalai or Thellippalai is a small town in the northern Jaffna District of Sri Lanka. It is located about 15 kilometers north of Jaffna town along the Kankesanthurai road
Jaffna College is a private school in Vaddukoddai, Sri Lanka. It was founded in 1871 as a successor to the Batticotta Seminary which had been established by American missionaries.
Samuel Fisk Green (1822–1884) was an American medical missionary. He graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York city. He served with the American Ceylon Mission (ACM) in Jaffna, Sri Lanka during the period (1847–1873) when it was the British colony of Ceylon. During his tenure he founded the Sri Lanka's first medical hospital and school in what later became the Green Memorial Hospital in Manipay in the Jaffna peninsula. He translated and published over 4000 pages of medical literature from English to Tamil as part of his efforts to train doctors in their native language. He was personally responsible for training over 60 native doctors of whom majority had their instructions in Tamil.
Peter Percival was a British born missionary, linguist and a pioneering educator in Sri Lanka and South India during the British colonial era. His work influenced prominent people such as Robert Bruce Foote a pioneering geologist and archaeologist and Arumuka Navalar, a Hindu revivalist. He began his career in British held Sri Lanka and Bengal as a Wesleyan Methodist missionary. His early work was in the minority Sri Lankan Tamil dominant Jaffna peninsula. He was instrumental in starting and upgrading a number of schools within the Jaffna peninsula. His preference of education over evangelism influenced educational programs off all others who sought to improve the literacy rate in the district. During his stay in Jaffna, he led the effort to translate the Bible into Tamil, based on the Authorised Version. After returning to England, he converted to Anglicanism. Subsequent to his posting in South India, he severed his association with the Anglican Missionary Society that had sent him to India and worked as an educator in Presidency College in Madras Presidency. He published English-Tamil and English-Telugu dictionaries as well as a number of books on Indian culture and religion. He died in 1882 in Yercaud in present-day Tamil Nadu.
When to date the start of the history of the Jaffna kingdom is debated among historians.
Levi Spaulding was an American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions missionary to Ceylon, and he also led the team of American missionaries to choose Madura as a site for American Madura Mission, for Tamil people of South India.
Henry Richard Hoisington was an American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions missionary to Ceylon and was one of the first three missionaries who established mission station at Madura, commencing American Madura Mission in South India as an offshoot of the Jaffna Mission in Ceylon, also known as Ceylon Mission.
The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka and in is a Protestant Christian denomination in Sri Lanka. Its Headquarters is in Colombo and was established on 29 June 1814. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and the World Methodist Council.