Sittampalam Family History
Roots and Achievements
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The following appeared in the memorial booklet published on Deva's death.
Devalakshmi hails from an Illustrious Family....
Devalakshmi was born to a distinguished Tamil Family whose ancestry can be traced to the ancient Royal Kuriyans, highly respected noblemen of the King's Court of the Tamil Kingdom of Nallur.
Two descendants of these noblemen, Vanniyasingam Kuriyan and Canagasekara Kothanda Kuriyan, lived in Jaffna later during the Dutch regime.
In the 19th century, Visvanathar son of Vinayakar, who descended from Cangasekara Kothanda Kuriyan, abandoned the prestigious Kuriyan title as no longer relevant under the British and became famous as an entrepreneur for leasing large extents of crown land at Ariyalai for salt production on a large scale. Subsequently, many of his descendants were to distinguish themselves in public life of the Northern Province.
Visvanathar had two sons Arumugam and Casipillai. The former died young and his children were brought up by the latter, his younger brother. Arugumugam's eldest son Cathiravelu was Devalakshmi's paternal grandfather. He functioned as a magistrate and district judge and was the first editor of Tamil Journal ‘Inthu sathanam' and the founder of the Saraswathy library.
Visvanathar's second son Casipillai while being Devalakshmi's father's great-uncle was also her mother's grandfather. He was one of the most illustrious citizens of the North. Leonard Woolf, the famous British Civil Servant, author of the classic ‘Village in the jungle' and husband of Virginia, a member of the Bloomsbury set (which included Keynes, the famous economist) published in his autobiography a letter from Casipillai as a testimonial of his own (>Woolf's) standing among Tamils. Casipillai worked closely with Sri Arumuga Navalar in promoting Hinduism, and functioned as secretary of the Saiva Paripalanai Sabai and was co-founder and subsequent manager of Jaffna Hindu College. One of the houses there is Casipillai House in his honour. He was a great philanthropist, and was often referred to as Mudisoodamannan [uncrowned king]. He was widely sought after for his brains and original contribution to problems and called the Brains Trust. Other terms were Jaffna and Mannar's Thani Perusa Thalaivan [great leader] and Ilangai Perumahan [great son of Lanka].
The establishment of Sithivinayagar Kovil and Parvathy Vithyasalai were among two of his achievements. Another signal contribution was his participation in the agitation for a railway to Jaffna crowned with success in 1906.
Another illustrious descendant of Visvanathar was A. Canagaratnam, the younger brother of Devalakshmi's paternal grandfather A. Cathiravelu. Canagaratnam followed in the footsteps of his uncle V. Casipillai in devotion to public service. In 1924 he became the member for the northern provinve, Southern division in the legislative council and agitated for the establishment of a University in Ceylon. As a keen nationalist he edited and published the ‘Ceylon Patriot' at his own expense and is credited with strengthening the independent movement in Jaffna. In 1927 he was the leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Conference. With his own money, on his own land, he built Stanley College, initially named after the British Governor and subsequently renamed Canagaratnam Maha Vidyalayam in his honour. As Chairman of the first Urban Council of Jaffna, he set the stage for other descendants of the above Visvanathar to follow, 2 of them serving as Mayor of Jaffna. He had been largely instrumental in the establishment of the urban council, through the previous establishment of the Jaffna Local Board.
Devalakshmi's maternal grandfather Ramasamy Subramaniam qualified as a proctor and served as vice chairman of the urban council.
Devalakshmi's father C. Sittampalam was a Brilliant Scholar at Royal College, Colombo, and in his days was a prodigy in mathematics. He was Barrister of the Middle Temple, obtained a Tripos from Cambridge and was MP for Mannar and Minster of Posts and Telecommunications and Broadcasting and was responsible for introducing Pirith on radio.
Ponnampalam, brother of Sittampalam, Mayor of Jaffna played an important role in making representations to the Donoghmore Commission [whose findings subsequently led to the independence of the country].
Arjuna Sittampalam - Devalakshmi's brother - founder editor in 1994 of Funds International - an internationally respected periodical. Arjuna is the founder and managing director of Sage and Hermes, Ltd which, over the last few years, has developed as a consultancy providing advice to large and prestigious financial institutions. Arjuna Sittampalam also has his own personal website.