The elephant, referred to as Hasti , Kuru etc.in ancient India and Sri Lanka appears to have been an important icon of the Kuru (Kaurava) race of ancient India. In Sri Lanka too it appears to have been so and several Karáva flags of Sri Lanka have the elephant as its central theme.(see end of page) The elephant has also been depicted on a seventeenth century Karáva tomb stone .
The location of the ancient Kuru kingdom and the city of Hastinapur. Click image to zoom.
The ancient Indian city of Hastinápura (also called Hatthipura, Hastinapur etc ) meaning 'Elephant City' was founded by King Kuru. The epic Mahabhratha refers to this city as Hastin, Gajasvaya, Nagashvaya and Nagapura. It was from this city that the great king of the Kuru race, king Udayan of Kausambi, dared with his war elephants to withstand Alexander the Great .
Modder in his Kurunegala Vistaraya states that Kurunegala was previously known as Hastinápura as it was founded by Kuru viti nëyo - people of the Kuru race. Ancient boundary books known as Kadayim poth, state thus: “ In old times, after the Rávana war there came from Kuru Rata to this island a queen, a royal prince, a rich nobleman and a learned prime minister with their retinue and by the order of king Ráma dwelt in this place called on that account Kuru Rata. In the year of our lord Gauthama Buddha, Gajabahu who came from the Kuru Rata settled people in the (second Kuru Rata) calling it Parana Kuru Rata. Into another place he sent a thousand persons and gave it the name Aluth Kuruwa .
Left: The location of Kurunegala in Sri Lanka
According to tradition Gajabáhu (AD 109 - 131) invaded the Chola country in India and recovered the Sri Lankans taken away as prisoners of war during his Father’s reign. The Silappadikaram states that king Kayavágu of Sri Lanka invaded South India and brought back 12,000 Sri Lankan captives taken by King Cenkutuwan Seraman during the reign of Kayavágu’s Father Vankanásika Tissa. This is briefly confirmed in the Dipavamsa and Mahávamsa and in more detail in the Rájavaliya. In addition to the 12,000 Sri Lankan captives, the victorious Gajabáhu also brought back the golden anklet of goddess Pattini, the bowl relic of the Buddha taken away during the reign of king Valagambáhu and 12,000 South Indians as slaves.
Many of the rescued Sri Lankans had been resettled in the original Kuru Rata from where they were taken. However as they were returning a generation later some ancestral lands had already been occupied by a new generation. Therefore the king named the original Kuru Rata as Parana Kuru Rata and settled the others in Alut Kuru Rata on the western seaboard. Others were settled in Hewahata (60 soldiers), Tunpané (Tun panaha - 3 X 50 ), Heva vissa (20 soldiers), Pansiya pattuva (500 ), Egodatiha (30 on the other shore) and Megodatiha (30 on this shore) .
Recent derisive interpolations in the Rájavaliya, Nikáyasangrahaya, Kurunégala Vistaraya and Kadayimpoth state that Alut Kuruwa was peopled by slaves brought back by King Gajabáhu . The 12,000 slaves were settled in the Dolos Dahas Rata in the South of Sri Lanka and it is still known that the Korale derived its name from the 12,000 slaves - dolos dás. However this is completely ignored and Alut Kuruwa interpolated.
King Gajabáhu was the initiator of the Pattini cult in Sri Lanka. The site of the original Pattini Devale set up by Gajabáhu lies, long forgotten, in the village of Pihituma in Mágam Pattuwa of the Parana Kuru Kóralé.
The only traces remaining of the Dévale are the huge Ná trees, seventeen in number. These trees are much larger than the Ná trees at the presently popular Pattini Dévale at Navagamuwa which is of later origin.
The site of the original Dévále has now reverted back to the Halwatta Kapurála family whose claims were authenticated by an ancient ola manuscript in their possession. The ola describes the installation of the family as Kapurálas of the Pattina Dévale in the Parana Kuru Kórale upon their landing on the western coast of Haláwatha, present Chilaw. They are now Kandyans.
Under Portuguese rule the ancient Pattini Déváles in the western coast of the Kotte kingdom had been replaced by St. Anne’s churches whilst St. Marys’ replaced Máriamman Kóvils. Some of the St. Anne’s churches coming from Portuguese times are at Wattala, Bolawalána Negombo, Palangaturai and Talawila. St Anne’s Kochchkade north of Negombo is significant as it is located in Palangaturai, the harbour named in honour of Palanga, the consort of goddess Pattini.
King Gajabáhu I extols his Kuru ancestry and even mentions the Kuru Rata, Parana Kuru Rata, Parana Kuru Korale and Aluth Kuru Rata. He is chronologically the first Sri Lankan king with Báhu in his name.
Some historians interpret the name Gajabáhu as ‘upper arms of elephantine size’. According to Indian and Sri Lankan creation legends the Kshatriyas originated from the arms of the creator Brahma. The other three varnas Brahmana, Vaisya, Sudra known in Sinhalese as Bamunu, Velenda and Govi are respectively said to have originated from the mouth, thighs and feet.
The real meaning of Báhu according to the Ganadevi Hélla is ‘solar’ denoting Suryawamsa . Since Gaja is synonymous with Kuru as in Kuruwe elephant department, Gajabáhu means Kuru Suriya.
In ancient Egypt Pharoe Akhnaton proclaimed for the first time in human history a single supreme universal god, the Sun god, and formed the Egyptian solar dynasty. He was succeeded by his son Tutenkaten who had an untimely death. The Theban priests who worshipped multiple gods immediately wrested control, the Chief priest married his queen, the sole heiress Nefertiti and reverted to polytheism. Recently deciphered clay tablets refer to Tutenkaten as ‘Pip Kuru Riya’ where Riya is a name for the sun. i.e. Pip Kuru Súriya. As worship reverted to God Ammun Ray after his death, the Theban priests had changed his name to Tutankhamen.
King Rájasinghe of Sitáwaka had the Elephant flag with the Sun and Moon emblems as his personal flag probably to emphasise his Kuru descent. The elephant is prominent in the Karáva flags of Chilaw, Maggona, Ratalaweva, The Sudu Etá Bendi Kodiya and the Manampitiya flags. The flag illustrated here is in the possession of a Hindu Karáva family of Manampitiya. It has as its central theme a man probably a chief of the clan, riding an elephant flanked by ‘Mutu Kuda’ (Pearl umbrellas), ceremonial talipot fans, conch, sun, moon, stars, fish and cobra emblems, chowries, shields and sun flowers denoting the Suryawamsa. This is illustrated in E. W. Perera’s Sinhalese Banners and Standards Plate XXI fig 56
As such it appears that the Solar dynasty, the Elephant symbol and the Karávas have been closely connected from ancient times.
Dr. K. P. V. D. Fernando
The elephant symbol as it appears on some ancient Karava flags See Karava Flags for descriptions Karava Maha kodiya from ManampitiyaClick images to zoom Karava Sudu Etha bendi Kodiya from Kurunegala
Karava Arasakularatna clan flag from Maggona
Karava Mihindukulasuriya clan flag from Chilaw
Two Karava Elephant flaks from Raghavan's Karava of Ceylon
Above: a 17th century Karava lady's tombstone, dated November 1691, from St. Thomas Church, Jinthupitiya, Sri Lanka. It bears several Karava insignia: Pearl umbrella, Palm tree, caparisoned Elephant and Fish symbol. Click image to zoom
 JRAS XXII, No. 65, 1912, pages 385 - 390
 Bell’s report on the Kegalle District page 2
 Bell’s report on the Kegalle District, page 2
 Queyroz , The Temporal and spiritual conquest
 Turai in Tamil means harbour. Now Sinhalised as Palangature.
 Fernando, Kurukshetra Vol. I, pages 35-37
Additionally, The Elephant was the vehicle of Indra, the God of the Kshattriyas. See images in Religious and compare the depiction of Indra on royal ivory caskets of the Kotte period with the Karave Catholic flag from the same period.
A coin from the ancient Anuradhapura kingdom displaying the Elephant symbol of ancient Sri Lankan kings.
Another coin from the Anuradhapura period bearing the Elephant and Fish symbols of ancient Sri Lankan kings
Kshatriya Maha Sabha, Sri Lanka