Tamils in Myanmar impressively consecrated a renovated Perumaa’l temple in Yangoon on Wednesday morning. Several thousands of Tamils participated in the ceremonies. A 13th century Tamil inscription in Myanmar records that a Perumaa’l temple patronized by Tamils existed at the earlier capital at Pagan.
The temple for Kalyaa’na Vengkadeasap Perumaa’l (Thirumaal or Vishnu in his form found at Thiruppathi), accompanied by Alarmeal Mangkai (the lady on the flower: Thirumaka’l or Lakshmi), is situated 10 km from Yangoon at a place called Thirukkampai, which is known as ‘Little Tamil Nadu.’
Seven Paddaachchaariyaars, who came from Tamil Nadu performed the ceremonies, according to Solai Thiyagarajan, who sent news and images of the consecration to media.
Venkatasamy Nayakkar, an industrialist from Tamil Nadu, originally built the temple in 1904.
The interaction between Myanmar and Tamils go back to the times of the advent of maritime activities in the Bay of Bengal, as trade winds and currents were particularly conducive for swift and direct communication between Myanmar which was known in Sanskrit as Swarna Bhumi (the land of gold) and the ancient Tamil country.
The presence of Tamil traders or artisans of gold in the region, during the early centuries of the Common Era, is attested to by a Tamil Brahmi inscription found in neighbouring Thailand. The legend in Tamil, ‘Perum Paththan Kal’ (the stone of the great goldsmith), seen on a whetstone, happens to be the earliest writing found in Thailand.
The Burmese alphabet of today, which is a continuity of the script of the Mon, an early ethnicity of Myanmar, is considered to have come from South Indian writing system, especially the Tamil-Grantha writing.
A 13th century inscription, found at Myinpagan, in Pagan in Myanmar, beginning with Sanskrit invocation and then records the subject matter in Tamil, tells us the existence of a Perumaa’l temple, belonging to the Tamil trade-guild of ‘Naanaatheasi’, at Pagan. (E. Hultzsch, Epigraphia Indica 7, 1902-1903, pp197-98)
The inscription names the temple as Naanaatheasi Vi’n’nkar Aazhvaar at Pukkam (Pagan), alias Arivaththanapuram (ceremonial ancient name of the capital), and says that a person Eeraayiran seeriyaan alias Kulaseakara Nampi coming from Makoathayar Paddanam (a town of the Cheras; Maak-koathai is a title of the Cheras), of Malai Ma’ndalam (Malaiyaa’lam: Kerala), made a gift of a hall, a sacred door and a fixed lamp to perpetually light the hall in the temple.
British colonial conquest of Burma in the 19th century witnessed a new spurt of migration of traders, contractors and workers from the Tamil region of British India.
It is said that the massive teakwood used in the construction of the palace of the Chettiyars of Kaanaadukaaththaan and other such palatial households in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu were floated at the delta of Irawathy River in Burma and were received in the country of Chettiyars near the Paampan Channel, just carried by the currents of the Bay of Bengal.
Burma became separated from British India in 1936.
Anti-Indian sentiments after the independence of Burma in 1948 and diplomatic failure of Nehru’s India saw a large number of Tamils coming to Tamil Nadu as Burma refugees, when General Newin became the military dictator in the early 1960s.