Sumaithangi Stone structures also called (Sumaithaangi, Sumai Thangi, Sumai Thaangi, and Cumaitanki) are called “Load Brearer Stones”. As the name implies these structures are meant for use by travellers carrying heavy loads of goods to load and unload the luggage without the help of another.
Sumaithangi is a concept popular in India among the Hindu culture and was imported to Sri Lanka with Indian migrations in the past. Therefore these are mostly found in madams in Jaffna and in areas where Tamils have settled.
A Hindu religious text explains that a Sumaithangi is a stone structure to be used as a platform to relieve the strain and stress of one’s head by transferring the heavy article from one’s head onto the Sumaithangi. If one traces the history of Sumaithangi one comes to know that they were built by rich people in memory of women who died during childbirth or for those who died prematurely. Sumaithangi was constructed along the roads and streets for the people to ease the stress and strain of their heads while carrying heavy articles. They transfer the heavy articles from their heads onto the Cumait~nki and rest for a while (Pushparatnam, 2014).
The shape, height and decorations of Sumaithangi may differ from region to region. In some Sumaithangi short detail of the deceased was inscribed, with the religious symbols of the deity. In certain regions, the people perform religious rites and worship the Sumaithangi in memory of the deceased (Pushparatnam, 2014).
Generally, a horizontal stone kept on two stone pillars makes a Sumaithangi. Such stone Sumaithangi’s are found in the central highlands where Indian labourers were settled by the British. However, in Jaffana they have had a transformation not by choice but by necessity. Lime coral is the only construction material found in abundance in the Jaffna peninsula. There the Sumaithangi structures are built with lime and mortar and this enabled the builders of Sumaithangi to have 2-3 step levels at the top to fit people of any height. Sumaithangi was also an integral part of the Madam (Ambalama) built in Jaffna.
Some of the places where Sumaithangi have been found and reported
Alavi-West Sumaithangi – This Sumaithangi lies by the Ponnnalai-Point Padro road at the turn off to Alavi. Has 2 levels. This structure has been declared as an protected archaeological monument.
GPS coordinates : 9.8320, 80.2018
Nelliady North Sumaithangi – This Sumaithangi lies on the the Uddupiddi road. From the Nelliady junction on the Jaffna-Point Padro road turn turn left to Alavi road and travel 800 meters and again left to Uddupiddi road at the 4-way junction. The Sumaithangi lies 20 meters away from the junction. It Has 2 levels. This structure partially damaged and cracked.
GPS coordinates : 9.8065, 80.2025
Nellandai Amman Kovil Sumaithangi – This Sumaithangi lies in front of Nellandai Amman Kovil in Thumpalai East GS division on the Point Padro East Coast road 1.5 km off the Point Pedro lighthouse. In addition to the Sumaithangi, there is a Stone Pillar (Avurancikal) and an well with a pond for cattle at the site. These structures are in a good state of preservation.
GPS coordinates : 9.8160, 80.2489
Vallipuram Sumaithangi – This Sumaithangi lies in front of Vallipuram Kovil in Vallipuram GS division on the Point Padro East Coast road 4.6 km off the Point Pedro lighthouse. The lone structure lies lies right by the road on the right side.
GPS coordinates : 9.7897, 80.2410
Karaveddy East Sumaithangi – This Sumaithangi lies in on site side of Yarkaru Pillaiyaar Kovil in Karaveddy East GS division on the Point Pedro – Chavakachcheri road 10 km off the Point Pedro lighthouse. In addition to the Sumaithangi, there is a Stone Pillar (Avurancikal) and an well with a pond for cattle at the site.
GPS coordinates : 9.7785, 80.2078
- Pushparatnam, p (2014) Tourism and Monuments of Archaeological Heritage in Northern Sri Lanka. Jaffna Sri Lanka: Department of History, University of Jaffna. pp 68-79