'Surya' / 'Suriya' / 'Sooriya' / 'Sooria' (Solar Dynasty) Clan names of the Karava race
Clan names are a unique characteristic of the Karávas and most Karavas of Sri Lanka belong to one or more of the following illustrious Surya clans; Kurukulasuriya, Warnakulasuriya, Mihindukulasuriya, Bharathakulasuriya, Manukulasuriya, Wijayakulasuriya or Arasakulasuriya. These ancient Clan Names are clear indicators of the descent of these Karawa clans from the Kshatriya Solar (Surya) dynasties. These Clan names also appear to indicate distinct streams of migrations.
The Karava Sun and Moon Flag (Right) is one of the main flags of the Karavas and is still in use, exclusively by the Karavas at their family ceremonies
The Sun symbolising the royal Solar (Suriya) dynasty origins of the Karava community is a recurrent symbol on most the ancient flags of the Karavas.
The words Surya, Suriya, Sooriya, Adithya, Banu and Bahu all meant ‘Sun’ in the Indian context and denoted descent from the Solar dynasty, when used in names. As such the ancient Karava names Kurukula Adithya, Varnakula Adithya etc. were respectively identical to Kurukulasuriya, Varnakulasuriya etc. Similarly the suffix ‘Bahu’ used by many Sri lankan kings from the mediaeval period on such as Wikramabahu, Jayabahu, Vijayabahu etc were identical to Wikramasuriya, Jayasuriya, Wijayasuriya etc.
The Buddha has referred to himself as ‘the kinsman of the Sun’ (ie. that he is a descendant of the Solar Dynasty Kshatriya Caste) in the Atanatiya Sutta, Upakkilesa Sutta, Phena Sutta and several other Suttas, emphasizing his Kshatriya caste. In the the Agganna Sutta, Ambattha Sutta, Madura Sutta and several other Suttas the Buddha says : “the Kshatriya caste is the highest caste”
The name Parakramabahu (PeracumBahu) used by several Sri Lankan kings is of particular interest. This name first appears in the medieval period when Kalinga royalty from Singhapura in south east Asia were intermarrying with Sri Lankan royalty. Peracum is a south east Asian word meaning 'free' and as it is to be expected, the name PeracumBahu is used by kings who ascended the throne but were unconnected to the previous royal line. It seems to signify that they were unencumbered rulers from the Solar dynasty. The Karava king Parakrama Bahu VI (1412-1467) of Kotte (see Mukkara Hatana) and Parakrama Bahu I - cousin of Karava king Gajabahu- of Polonnaruwa are examples.
When Arumuga Navalar, the rabid Vellala propagandist from Jaffna translated the Skanda Purana, he has omitted all references to the Varunakula & Kurukula from it as these were Karava clans. (Kurukula Charitaya part II page 388 ) - Arumuga Navalar was a man who had dedicated his life to make the Vellala caste the premier Hindu caste. He laboured to keep all other Tamil castes out of the system. He served the needs of the politicaly ambitious Ponnambalam family very well.
Despite centuries of acculturation in Sri Lanka and adoption of gé names, traces of former clan names are still discernible in some southern Karáva surnames.
Wijayakulasuriya is one such name indicative of a former clan name. It is used only by the Karávas.
Vijaya was one of the names of Arjuna, a hero of the Kaurava, & Pandya Mahabharata war . Bharata is another name by which Arjuna was known and interestingly that name too is found as a Karáva clan name in an identical form as Bharatakulasuriya. Although the literal meaning of Vijaya is victory, its use in conjunction with Kulasuriya means ‘Vijaya-kula’ ( Arjuna’s caste) rather than victorious caste.
King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467) of Kotte was from the Karava Kurukule (referred to as Rukule by Valentyn) And king Parakrama Bahu VI himself says that he is " descended from King Bharatha" in his Padákada Sannasa. (JRASCB XXXVI). Paradakula (Bharathakula)Suriya Mudiyanse is one of the Karava Generals of the Mukkara Hatana.
"Vijaya" gains popularity as a royal name during the medieval period in the form of Vijayabáhu, which itself means Vijayasuriya since ‘Bahu’ was a synonym for Suriya (Sun). The Kalinga kings who intermarried with Indian and Sri Lankan Kshatriya families too refer to their dynasty as ‘Vijaya Rája Paramparáva’ ( Vijaya royal family) in the Dambulla inscription of Nissankamalla EZ I, page 132 etc.
Tamil sources refer to the Kálinga King Aryachakrawarthy ‘Vichaya Kulingai Ariyan’ (Ariyan of 'Vijaya' caste). The Karava royal family of Jaffna of the Singhe dynasty has similar origins.
Also, the names of the two powerful medieval king makers Vijayá Yán tannávan and Vijaya Singu Távurunávan (EZ II. Page 112) too equate with Vijaya Kula Suriya. These kingmakers were supreme commanders and were responsible for the accessions of the medieval kings and queens: Nissankamalla, Leelavati, Sahasamalla, Kalyanavati and Dharmásoka. It is relevant to note here, that Kalingapura Patabendige is an exclusively Karava family name.
As such, the Karave family name Wijayakulasuriya illllustrates the Kshatriya solar dynasty ancestry of it’s bearers and also suggests an ancient link with the Kalinga royal family of India and Sri Lanka.
Karawe gé’ names and surnames with Vijaya are : Wijayakulasuriya, Wijekoon, Wijayaratne, Wijayawickrama, Wijayasuriya, Wijayanáyaka, Wijayasekera, Wijayaweera, Wijayawansa and Wijayahewa.
t is possible that the word arasa in Arasakulasuriya has come from Arasan in Tamil. Arasan in Tamil means King and as such Arasakulasúriya would literally mean ‘Illustrious sun of the kingly caste’. The Tamil language was, and still is, widely used in the Coromandel coast (Kuru Mandala), the region from which the majority of Sri Lankan Kauravas are thought to have migrated to Sri Lanka
The several Tamil inscriptions discovered in the island and references in literature show that Tamil had been used in Sri Lanka too to some extent from the medieval period.
Right: The ancestral flag of the Karava Arasakularatne clan from Maggona with a central theme of a holy tree on a boat.
Above and beow: Two coins from the ancient Anuradhapura kingdom displaying similar tree symbolism.
Inscriptions on swords presented by Sri Lankan Kings to Karáva Generals refer to them as Arasa Nilaitta, meaning ‘Bearing Kingly status’ (JRAS XVIII pgs 388 - 391). Two such swords handed over to the Colombo Museum a few decades ago are still displayed in a special case, although the accompanying plaque with the translation of the inscriptions is now missing. See Karava swords.
The name Arasakulasúriya is also found among Karáva families in the composite form Arasakulasúriya Árachchirálalágé.. Arasacularatne, another name with almost similar meaning, is also a name exclusively used by the Karávas.
An Arasakulasuriya Mudali was one of the nine Generals in the army that defeated the Mukkuvas during the 15th century Kotte kingdom (Mukkara Hatana).
Scholars are of opinion that Arasakulasúriya was originally a clan name similar to other Karáva clan names such as Kurukulasúriya, Mihindukulasúriya, Warnakulasuriya etc.(Raghavan p 112)
Warnakulasuriya indicates the clan of Varuna ( the lord of the sea / spiritual ruler of the world in ancient indian mythology). Varuna is the chief of the Adiyas and Varuna's vehicle is the Makara. The Makara symbol is widely used by the Karavas as one of their unique symbols. (see Makara) The ancient Karavas being the great sea farers they were and being descendants of the Solar dynasty, Warnakulasuriya is quite an appropriate name for a Karava clan.
As Vauruna is the lord of the sea this Karava clan would have been particularly engaged in the naval expeditions of the ancient Karavas. The Kataragama Kshatriya kings of pre Christian Sri Lanka describe themselves in their inscriptions as " Gamini puta dasa kathikana Kedhate ..." (Bovattegala inscription Inscr of Ceylon part I p 41 # 549) 'Kedhate' was the early form of Kevatta meaning 'mastery over water'. The word Kataragama too in its original form was Kachara (Ka +Chara) where Ka meant water and Chara meant 'travelling on', meaning sailing and naval power. (Yatala Vehera p 19) Over a thousand years later, when Kevatta also meant a fisherman, chroniclers have used prefixes to distinguish Dunu-kevatta vamsa warrior royalty (Ariyapala p 113) from Vedi-kevatta tribal fishermen.
Most of the Karavas in the south of Sri Lanka, where use of the Makara symbolism is most prominent, are believed to be from the Warnakulasuriya clan. The Karavas in southern Sri Lanka have mostly dropped their clan names and now use only Ge names and surnames. But there still are some traces of their ancient clan names (see below)
Kurukula Charitaya part II page 388 states that references to Varunakula / Kurukula in the Skanda Purana have been omitted by Arumuga Navalar during his translation of the Purana.
A Varunakullattan is referred to as a king of the Karavas by the Portuguese historian Queyroz (pages 466 & 468) and as the naval commander of Tanjore by O. M. da Silva in Fidalgos of Jaffna (page 26).
The Alakeshvara rulers of Kotte, of the Alagakkonara dynasty ('Konar' as in Koon Karava) were also ffrom the Warnakulasuriya clan. They too hailed from Kanchipuram, just like the Karava Warnakulasuriya Mudali of the Mukkara Hatana. . The 'Vaniya Kula' (Varna Kula) ancestry of the Alakeshvara rulers is misinterpreted by some modern historians as a 'trade' ancestry. There still are Vanni Kula Kshatriyas living in that part of India.
The region known as Vanni in Sri Lanka became known as such because it was ruled by Vanni Kula (Varna Kula) kings. Paranavithana's assetion that Vanni is derived from 'Vana' (jungle) cannot be accepted because Vanni Kula Kshatriyas exist in South India where such etymology is invalid.
The Wannaku (Warnakula) Rala was an important official post in the Kandyan court and was associated with the water cutting rituals which commomorate the victory of Karava king Gajabahu. The holder of the Wannaku Rala post enjoyed paraveni land grants.
Kurukulasuriya is the clan of Kuru, which confirms the origin story of the Karavas from the ancient Kuru kindom of the Mahabaratha. They are found mostly in the the western part of Sri Lanka, particularly Negombo.
King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467) of Kotte was from the Karava Kurukule (referred to as Rukule by Valentyn) And Parakrama Bahu VI himself says that he is " descended from King Bharatha" in his Padákada Sannasa. (JRASCB XXXVI). One of the Karava Generals who arrived for the Mukkara Hatana is also from the Bharatha Kula and King Bharatha is the legendary ancestor of the Kauravas and Pandavas
During the reign of King Parakrama Bahu VI several Suriya clans of the Karavas migrated to Sri Lanka and settled down as documented in the Mukkara Hatana - a palm leaf manuscript saved by virtue of it being in the British Museum.
The region they settled is known todate as Aluth Kuru Rata, meaning the 'new Kuru country'. The story in the Mukkara Hatana is also found in Vanni Upatha ( British Museum catalogue Or. 6606 (139) ). Kurukula Suriya Mudiyanse is one of the Karava Generals of the Mukkara Hatana.
The clan of Mihindu (Mahi + Indra --> Mahinda----> Mihindu) meaning 'Lord of the land from the Solar dynasty '. Mostly in the the western part of Sri Lanka, particularly Chilaw. The Mihindukulasuriyas of Chilaw have five main family groups with their own surnames. They are: Fernando, Perera, Peiris, Pinto and Costa.
King Parakramabahu II ‘s Galapaatha inscription from Bentota names Demaladhikara Kahambalkulu Mindal as the founder of the Galapata Vihara. Paranavitana says that Demaladhikara was the title of the head of the mercenaries and that Mindal meant Mihindu. He also says that this dignitary is identical with Devapathiraja of the Dunu-kevatu family who according to the chronicles was in charge of Bentota (EZ IV pg 196 – 197). Dunu-kevatu means naval archers and this dignitary appears to be from the Karava Mihindukulasuriya clan.
The name could also be derived from Indra the God of the Kshariyas. In ancient India there was a belief that Kshatriya warriors went to Indra's kingdom Amaravati after death and lived a heavenly life. People honoued Indra by sacrificing animals.
Left: A gilt bronze statue of Indra from Nepal. Similar statues are found in India too.
The ancient statue on the left from Sri Lanka too could be of Indra. However in keeping with the practice of Sri Lankan archaeologists to call all male statues Bodhisatvas (future Buddhas) this too has been casually called Avalokithesvara Bodhisatva.
The clan of Manu, the legendary first king Manu. Mostly in the the southern part of Sri Lanka.
Some exclusively Karava 'Suriya' (also 'Sooriya' , 'Suria' and 'Sooria' ) names are:
Abesuriya (Abhaya = fearless)
Amarasuriya (Amara is another name for Indra the god of the Kshatriyas. Indra's capital is Amaravati where Kshatriya warriors were believed to go and live forever after death)
Arasakulasuriya (Arasa = King. See clan description above)
Balasuriya (Bala should be pronounced as in Balapitiya - army camp- and not dragged as Baala to change the meaning to 'junior' or 'cheap'. Bala = forces, army)
Baranasuriya (see clan description above)
Barathakulasuriya (see clan description above)
Dheerasuriya (Dhira = bold, courageous)
Edirisuriya / Ethirisuriya ( Ethiri = in front, foremost)
Ilangasuriya (Illanga = Sri Lanka)
Jayasuriya (jaya = victory)
Karnasuriya (Karna was the king of Anga. Another hero of the Mahabharata)
Kurukulasuriya (Kuru = Kaurava. See above)
Lokubalasuriya (Loku= senior; Bala=forces army)
Manukulasuriya (see clan description above)
Mihindukulasuriya (see clan description above)
Meghasuriyage (Indra the king of the Kshatriyas rode on the Megha cloud. God Indra is also found on Karava flags riding an elephant)
Mutumala Arasakulasuriya ( Descendants of prince Arsakulasuriya who helped King Wimaladharmasuriya to defeat King Rajasinghe. He was honoured by the king presenting his own pearl necklace),
Nagasuriya (Naga was an ancient clan as well as another name for the Elephant. The Karava association with Hastinapur and the frequent use of the Elephant symbol by the Karavas of the past suggests that Naga in this name represented the Elephant. As such this is a synonym for Gajasurya and Gajabahu. According to history Gajabahu was a Karava king who established large colonies of Karavas in the two Kuru Ratas of Sri Lanka)
Nilaweerasuriya (Nela=moon in Tamil ,denoting the lunar dynasty)
Rajasuriya (Raja = King)
Somasuriya (Soma =moon ,denoting the lunar dynasty. Somasurya is the equivalent of Chandradithya in the Nagadipa inscription of King Parakramabahu the Great. Chandra + Adithya, Moon & Sun - quoted in Sakala Sinhala Chakrawarthi page 25)
Vipulasuriya (Vipula = The Earth )
Vijayakulasuriya (see clan description above)
Warnasuriya (as below)
Warnakulasuriya (see clan description above)
Weerasooriya (weera = brave)
Weera varna Jayasuriya
Wickramasuriya (Wickrama = illustrious)
Wijayakulasuriya (see clan description above)
Wijesuriya (see clan description above)
Weerawickrama Wijesuriyage (as above)
Weerawickramasuriya ( a branch of this family still hold the Maha Bethme Nilame post of the Sri Vishnu Devale in Kataragama. Another, Don Simon Abeysinghe Wickremeratne Weerawickramasuriya, was appointed a Mudali by the Dutch in 1766 when Magama was surrendered by Kirti Sri Rajasinghe )
Weerasannadhdha Weerabala Kuru Utumpala Mahabala Jayasuriyage
Wimalasuriya (Wimala = untainted, pure)
Surya Deva (Sun God) worship appears to have been popular in ancient Sri Lanka - among the Anuradhapura kings as well as the Kataragama Kshatriya kings of southern Sri Lanka
The Buddha himself has extolled his Kshatriya Surya Vamsa ancestry (ie. that he is a descendant of the Solar Dynasty Kshatriya Caste in the Atanatiya Sutta, Upakkilesa Sutta, Phena Sutta and several other Suttas) and the worship of Buddha statues was in itself a homage to the Sun God. When Solar Dynasty (Surya wamsa) rule was strong the Surya wamsa king himself appears to have been worshiped by the public as the Sun God. Later, the King appears to have also projected himself as a future Buddha (Bodhisatva) and strengthened the cult of divine royalty. See Religious for more
A Surya Deva (Sun God ) image from Uttar Predesh, India. Similar statues in Sri Lanka are (mis) identified as nothing more than casual Mahayana Bodhisattvas.
Above: A large statue in Weligama, Sri Lanka, known as Kustaraja. Sri Lankan historians say it is just a Bodhisatva (future Buddha) rather unconnected to Sri Lankan history. How all these east facing statues can be misidentified and casually dismissed is indeed a mystery. No one has dared to suggest that it is a Sri Lankan King represented as a Bodhisatva in Surya Deva (Sun God) form.
Kustaraja now has a pseudo modern etymology connecting it with a king with dermatitis . However the site seems to have been an ancient Kutarasabha, the site of the royal council, the place name corrupted over the years. The Mahavamsa has references to such sites (MV 67.61)
Sun God from Konark Sun Temple, India
A statue of Surya (Sun God) from Bengal - Pala dynasty
Many Sun God statues have also been discovered in the ancient cities of Sri Lanka. Some are very large. Several such statues found sans arms have been moved from their original shrines, placed facing the nearest stupa and given brand new cement hands in a praying pose. By doing so, these ancient objects of veneration are being converted to silly praying figures and all traces of the ancient Sri Lankan practice of worshipping their kings as the Sun God / Bodhisatva are being erased. For some reason, Sri Lankan historians do not talk about the Sun God worship of ancient Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan New year celebrated in April too was historically a festival in honour of the Sun God. However it has now been given a new twist as a harvest festival. The rise of the cultivator caste in Sri Lanka during the past century may be the reason for this twist.
Above and below: Two similar statues found in Sri Lanka. The broken hands have been replaced with cement hands in a praying pose and the statues have been arbitrarily called Dutugemunu and Bhatikabaya. These east facing ancient statues worshipped as Gods by generations of ancient Sri Lankans have now been removed from their ancient shrines, brought to a stupa and paced facing the stupa. The formerly worshipped statues have been reduced to passive worshippers by the hideous replacement of their hands with cement hands in a praying pose.
See Religious for more on Surya Deva (Sun God) worship in ancient Sri Lanka
Kshatriya Maha Sabha, Sri Lanka