There is little scholarly consensus over the presence of the Sri Lankan Tamil people in Sri Lanka, also known as Eelam in Sangam literature.One theory states that there was not an organised Sri Lankan Tamil people presence in Sri Lanka until the invasions from what is now South India in the 12th century AD; another theory contends that Tamil people were one of the original inhabitants of the island.The ensuing civil war resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people and the forced disappearance of thousands of others.

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The Sri Lankan Tamils are mostly Hindus with a significant Christian population.

Sri Lankan Tamil literature on topics including religion and the sciences flourished during the medieval period in the court of the Jaffna Kingdom.

Most modern Sri Lankan Tamils claim descent from residents of Jaffna Kingdom, a former kingdom in the north of the island and Vannimai chieftaincies from the east.

They constitute a majority in the Northern Province, live in significant numbers in the Eastern Province, and are in the minority throughout the rest of the country.

The skeletal remains of an Early Iron Age chief were excavated in Anaikoddai, Jaffna District.

The name Ko Veta is engraved in Brahmi script on a seal buried with the skeleton and is assigned by the excavators to the 3rd century BCE.

They bore several inscriptions, including a clan name—vela, a name related to velir from ancient Tamil country.

Epigraphic evidence shows people identifying themselves as Damelas or Damedas (the Prakrit word for Tamil people) in Anuradhapura, the capital city of Rajarata the middle kingdom, and other areas of Sri Lanka as early as the 2nd century BCE.

The indigenous Veddhas are physically related to people in South India and early populations of Southeast Asia.

It is not possible to ascertain what languages that they originally spoke as Vedda language is considered diverged from its original source. Indrapala, cultural diffusion, rather than migration of people, spread the Prakrit and Tamil languages from peninsular India into an existing mesolithic population, centuries before the common era.

One-third of Sri Lankan Tamils now live outside Sri Lanka.