Knowing about Maddak Kalappu


By K. S. Sivakumaran

There is a little town in the east coast of our blessed island called Batticaloa (a funny name!). But the Sinhala people call it Madakalapuwa and the Thamils Maddak Kalappu. If I understand it correct "Mada" in Sinhala means "Mud". I don’t know whether the Thamils borrowed Sinhala name and Thamilized it.

The Dutch who were ruling the country in the 17Th century perhaps couldn’t pronounce the original name and coined the name "Batticaloa". I am not sure, but the letters "Ma" and the sound may be equal to "Ba" in the Dutch language. That’s how the name "Batticaloa" might have come by.

Authorities in the calibre of the late R L Brohier or S Arasaratnam or the late S V O Somanader or his son Kenneth might have mentioned somewhere of the origin of the name "Batticaloa"

Somebody enlightened could help us on this matter. And it’s high time we change the name "Batticaloa" to Maddak Kalappu.

Incidentally, the two islands - Puliyantheevu and Koddai Munai- were joined by a small bridge over the lagoon now famous for its reported "Singing Fish". And in the Puliyan Theevu area Sinhala people are reported to have lived there. And that area was known as "Sinhala Waadi"

Why am I interested in all this nomenclature (Taxonomy)? There is a reason for it –something personal. I was born in my parent’s house down Lake Road No: 1 in" Sinhala Waadi" in "Puliyan Theevu". I like to know more about my birth place. In my life span of 74 years, strangely, I have lived in Maddak Kalappu for only 11 years or so. That is why I was not able to do some research on the subject. My father was born in neighbouring Thiru Koana Malai (Trincomalee) and my mother was born in Puliyan Theevu. My grandmother’s name sounded something like Malayaalam. My maternal grandfather was a middleman in the Tobacco Trade during the Dutch period.

I have something to share with you: I want you to read what my friend Shirley W Somanader has written in the News Letter "Archangel" published by the Colombo Branch of the St Michael’s College, Batticaloa, Alumini Association  in its  edition for Nov-Dec 2009)  edited by R C Perumal at 19/3, Farm Road, Colombo 15.

I am an old boy of this College that was run by American Jesuits during 1947 -1952. St Michael’s College was famous for the late Rev Fr Harold Webber who coached athletes like Lyle Balthazaar, Fergus Balthazaar, A T Ariyanayagam, J R de Silva, Leo de Silva, Dotty Francis et al and most importantly the Basketball teams who became champions in the island. There is a stadium in his name in Maddak Kalappu.

St Michael’ cricket  teams were coached by Rev Fr E Crowther who captained the S Thomas’ cricket team. Rev Fr Miller who taught there was a human rights activist. There were other Jesuits from St Michaels had a stint at St Aloysius College, Galle too.

Now to Shirley W Somanader’s valuable information:

A Page From Batticaloa’s History -1

How Puliyantivu became the Capital of Batticaloa District

When Admiral Constantine de Sa, the Portuguese General, selected Puliyantivu for the fort he gave new direction to the growth of Batticaloa as a town. Puliyantivu was a neglected and forested area, probably full of Puliyan (Tamarind) trees or as some suggests the abode of Puliyan, the Veddah chief. The heart of the town then was the mainland area bordering the lagoon namely Kothukulam and Thandavanvely. Down Kothukulam road there wert two famous, large Hindu temples. And the only Catholic Church at this time was also in the mainland, namely Thandavanvely. With tee building of the Portuguese Fort in Puliyantivu the hub of the town shifted gradually to this little island. It is seldom realized that it is the Catholics who had hand in deciding the capital of the Batticaloa district. Later on the protestant powers the Dutch and the British, who followed the Portuguese, accepted Puliyantivu as the suitable hub and added many facilities like schools, Court Houses, Churches and Government buildings and Quarters and confirmed it as the administrative centre of the district. So it is to this day, although we see now a trend where the town seems to be expanding out to Koddaimunai and beyond.

After the Portuguese built the first fort in Puliyantivu, there was a considerable presence of Portuguese soldiers in the little island. Further more all those connected with the Portuguese rule mostly Catholic converts would have also come over to the town. So, it is believed with good reason that it was at this time that incipient St Mary’s Church in Puliyantivu began. The story of adjoining Catholic Church makes interesting reading: The Karava caste was either not accepted or refused to worship along with Vellala caste at St Marry’s. There was bloody battle between the two groups. Finally the hierarchy of the Church wisely satisfied both groups by building two churches adjacent to each other. Thus was established St Anthony’s church in Puliyantivu."

Now Maddak Kalappu is the capital City of the Eastern Province. It’s a Municipality. There are three districts in the Eastern Province - Batticaloa or Maddak Kalappu district, Ampaara District and Thiru Koana Malai District. Unlike the Northern Province, the Eastern Province is more cosmopolitan with three ethnic communities. It would be good for the people in these two provinces where minorities live remain  united but preserve their individual  cultures and traditions without being domineered by one ethnic community that has its own individual characteristics.

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