The Ancient Period
The 'Kuru kingdom' - the original kingdom of the Kauravas. It was one of the 16 Mahajanapada (States) of ancient India. . Click image to zoom
Ancient Period- Kuru Kingdom in India with its capital at Hastinapur, inhabited by the Kauravas and the Pandavas from the royal line of King Bharata. The Mahabharata war between the Kauravas and their cousins the Pandavas at Kurukshetra and the dispersal of Kauravas in the Asian region.
A silver half Karshapana c400-350 BC from the Kuru Janapada. (See CoinIndia for more coins )Coins with simillar symbols have recently been unearthed in Godavaya, southern Sri Lanka
Early Buddhist and Jaina texts mention sixteen states known as Mahajanpadas. Although the lists vary, some names such as Vajji, Magadha, Koshala, Kuru, Panchala, Gandhara and Avanti occur frequently. Clearly these were amongst the most important Mahajanpadas. The Mahajanpadas were ruled by kings. Each Mahajanpada had a capital city. The Kuru kingdom covered the modern Haryana and Delhi to the west of river Yamuna with its capital at Indraprastha. It was the most important kingdom of the later Vedic period.
Above: King Dhananjaya Koravya of the Kuru kingdom in an old painting from a temple in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka
- Several communities claiming descent from these Kauravas were discovered by 19th century European scholars and others. The Kur in Bengal and Korawa in central India.(Dalton). Kaorwa in the Punjab and Kaurs in Jasapur, Udaepur, Sirgeya, Korea, Chand, Bhakar and Korba of Chittisgarin (Tod II 256), Gaurava a Rajput caste practicing widow remarriage (Karewa) in the Delhi district (Elliot quoted by Habib 150), Karaiar and Karawa in Ceylon ( Neville II 9) Curus in Coromandel and Taprobane (RAS 157& 8) and Gavara in Andhra Pradesh
550 BC– Buddha visits the Kuru Kingdom, which is by then nothing like the powerful and extensive Kuru kingdom of the Mahabharata. By then it is just another Mahajanapada of India but famed as a kingdom inhabited by an extremely intelligent and clever race. The Buddha preaches the profound Satipattana Sutta, Maha Nidana Sutta, Aneñjasappaya Sutta, Magandiya Sutta, Rattapala Sutta, Sammasa Sutta and Ariyavasa Sutta. to the Kauravas as they were intelligent and clever enough to understand these higher doctrines.
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. The Five precepts practised in the Theravada world is founded on the 'Kuru Dharma' of the Kauravas. See Kuru Dharma Jataka.
500 BC– Migration of a community of Kauravas to Sri Lanka with prince Karavanti, a minister of prince Vijaya (Janavamsa ola manuscript) . The putative port of landing of the prince is in north-west Sri Lanka contiguous with the region later known as Kuru Rata with a city named Hastinapura (Kurunegala) named after Hasinapur, ( The ruins of Hastinapur have been unearthed within the ramparts of Purana Quila near Delhi) the Mahabharata capital of the Kauravas. This tradition of early migration of Kaurava royalty explains the prevalence of the 'Pandu' prefix in the names of early Sri Lankan kings such as Panduvasadeva and Pandukabhaya.
413 BC - The small Indian republics were gradually losing their importance and were being over-shadowed by kingdoms like Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala, Magadha etc. In the 6th century BC only 4 states -Avanti, Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha survived. In 413 BC. the kingdom of Magadha emerged to be the most powerful and succeeded in founding an empire.
The Chedi kingdom was one of many kingdoms ruled by Paurava kings during the early period. The Chedi kingdom was ruled by an ally of king Duryodhana of Kuru. Prominent Chedis during Kurukshetra War included Damaghosha, Bhima's wife & Nakula's wife Karenumati. Uparichara Vasu was a king of Chedi belonging to the Puru Dynasty. He had five royal sons and a son and a daughter from a fisherwoman. The male child, in due course established the Matsya Kingdom and founded the Matsya Dynasty. The female child lived in the fisher community on the banks of Yamuna, in the kingdom of Kuru. The famous Kuru king Santanu's wife Satyavati was from this community. The author of Mahābhārata, Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa and the Kuru kings Chitrangada and Vichitravirya were the sons of Satyavati. Pandavas and Kauravas where the grandsons of Vichitravirya.(Mahabharata 1,63)
300 BC- Emperor Ashoka .( 304 BC – 232 BC) was the son of Mauryan emperor Bindusara and while in exile Ashoka married a fisher woman named Kaurwaki (Maharani Devi) who converted to Buddhism. Their children Mahindra and Sanghamitra establishes Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
An artist’s impression of Theri Sanghamitta arriving in Sri Lanka with the Bodhi Tree
Migration of more Kauravas to Sri Lanka with Theri Sanghamitta, who brought the sacred Bo sapling to Sri Lanka. The Bodhiyabaduge and several other Karava clans ascribe their migration to this event. See arrival of the Bodhi tree.
A view of the River Daya, from the battlefield of Kalinga on Dhauli hills. The Daya river had turned red with the blood of 100,000 Kalingas and more than 10,000 of Ashoka's own warriors killed in the Kalinga war.
200 BC- AlthoughAshoka devastated Chedi in his Kalnga war, within a century Khāravela of the Mahameghavahana Chedi dynasty of Kalinga restored the lost power of the Kalinga kingdom with maritime links to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, Bali, Sumatra and Jabadwipa (Java). The migrations of Karavas to Sri Lanka over the next millennium are traced to this region.
Kharavela Kingdom 2nd cent BC
100 BC – Bharata warriors (see above. The Kauravas were from the royal line of King Bharata) appear as wealthy and prominent patrons of the Sangha in Brahmi rock inscriptions scattered across Sri Lanka right into the deep south. Unlike other Brahmi inscriptions, many of these inscriptions bear the symbol of a ship.
Pre Christian inscriptions from Sri lanka with the ship symbol (left) and fish symbol (below)
The pre-christian rock inscriptions of the Kataragama Kshatriyas always bear the Fish symbol. These Kataragama Kshatriya kings describe themselves in their pre Christian 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'. 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.
The word Dheega meaning water is frequently used by these kings in their personal names such as Dheegha-Gamini, Dheega-Jantu etc. and in place names such as Dhiga-Vapi, Dhiga-Mandala etc. 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 18)
- Recent excavations in the south have uncovered many types of coins from the same period with the Fish symbol. The Fish symbol and the Ship symbol are recurrent symbols on Karava Heraldry
Early Christian era
- Karavas are by this time established in Sri Lanka and influential enough to have their own permanent council terrace in the heart of the royal city of Anuradhapura. The inscription of Ila Barata , Kuruvira, Karava Navika and others is inscribed on a vertical rock face of a terrace to the north west of the ancient Abhayagiri Dagaba in Anuradhapura (Paranavitana xo 94 )
Above: The inscription on the Karava council terrace at Anuradhapura - See Karava terrace
4th century– A rock inscription by Karava Tissa a mariner in Veragala (Codrington appendix 193)
– Sri Lanka continues to be ruled by Kshatriya kings who claim descent from Indian Solar and Lunar Dynasties. Their royal symbols are the Sun and the Moon symbols (see royal symbols of ancient Sri Lanka).
The Sun & Moon flag of Sri Lankan royalty
The lion image was not a royal symbol of ancient Sri Lanka. The above illustrates how the lion image was commonly used on ancient foot stones and trodden on by those entering shrines and royal buildings. And below: How ancient Sri lankan Kings of Anuradhapura used the Lion as adecorative motif on their toilet stones
The Lion was not a royal symbol for these monarchs and they used the lion image on foot-stones at entrances to buildings and on urinal-stones. The lion symbol was popularised by the Indian born Kalinga monarchs of Sri Lanka who claimed to hail from Sinhapura (lion city).
In addition to the Sun and Moon royal symbols, Kings such as Parakramabahu the Great, Nissankamalla and other kings have also used the Fish symbol on their inscriptions. The Fish symbol too is a recurrent symbol on Karava Heraldry
- A Sri Lankan royal inscription from this period refers to the overlord’s share of tax as Kara Kadaya(EZ II 59)
7th – 8th centuries- Arikesari Maravarman attacks the Paravas who did not submit to him and destroys the people of Kuru Nadu in the Pandyan Kingdom. (Sastri 52)
The Mediaeval Period
- King Mahinda IV (956-972) marries Indian princess Sundari of the Kalinga dynasty which causes the Kalinga and Pandya (Lunar dynasty Kshatriyas) dynastic skirmishes for the Sri Lankan throne over the next several centuries.
- 993 Rajendra Chola invades Sri Lanka . Chola armies led by Generals such as Aditya Karikalan. (Karikal was an ancient port on the Kuru Mandala Coast. Many Karavas migrated from here ) King Mahinda V describes his Kshatriya ancestry as Sehekula kew lu sudana (EZ IV p62)
- More Karavas settle in Sri Lanka as independent migrants and settlers from invading armies of Pandya, Chola and, Kalinga from the Kuru-Mandala coast (ie. The region of the Kurus - Coromandel) stretching across Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
According to Indian sources the Kalinga Dynasty had fought in the Mahabharat war for the Kauravas and Kharavela was a famous king of Kalingas. . The Kalinga rulers of Sri lanka intermarried with local Kshatriya familes and styled themselves as Vichaya kulingai (from the line of Vijaya) Ariyan ( Ariyan = Oriya from Orissa region) from Sinhapur (lion city in the Malay peninsula).
According to Indian historian Benarji, 20,000 families had been sent over to Java by the King of Kalinga in India. Chandrabanu who invaded Sri Lanka in the 13th century with 'Javaka' armies is believed to be from this settlement with Singapur as its capital.
The capital of the Pandyan Kingdom was Korkai before it was shifted to Madurai. Madura in the south was sometimes called Dakshina Madura (Southern Madura) to differentiate it from the northern Uttara Madra. Sangam literature refers to the Pandyans as Kauriyar.
11th century– Many Kurukularajas all over the Tamil country (BITC 1)
– A commander in the Sri Lankan king Vijayabahu I’s army is referred to as Kurukulattarayan who wore the golden anklet (EI No. 38 XXI 5)
– Several references to Kurukulattarayans and Kurukularayans in Chalukya Chola inscriptions (Sastri The Cholas 592, Travancore archaeological series I, 247 and South Indian Inscriptions No. 53 VII 126)
According to the old Sinhala texts Rajavaliya, Janavamsa and Kadaim-Poth, King Gajabahu brought a large community of Kauravas among 24,000 second generation Sri Lankan captives and Indian prisoners from Chola, and settled them in Kuru Rata, the present Negombo Chilaw region and calls it Aluth Kuru Rata (the new Kuru country) and renamed the previous synonymous region as Parana Kuru Rata (The old Kuru country). Historians with other motives have attempted to misidentify this king as Gajabahu I and place the event in the 2nd century. The king in reality is Gajabahu II who ruled Sri Lanka in the 12th century. The Gajabahu story which has been displaced and thereby discredited by these historians makes much sense when it is placed in it's rightful context in the 12th century. The Sun and Moon Flag of the Kaurava is now mistaken as the district flag of this region
An inscription of Kullotunga says that he invaded Madura on behalf of his nephew Karadeva (Madras epigraphy collection of 1928, No. 336)
The capital of the Pandyan Kingdom was Korkai before it was shifted to Madurai. Madura in the south was sometimes called Dakshina Madura (Southern Madura) to differentiate it from the northern Uttara Madra.
Sangam literature refers to the Pandyans as Kauriyar.
The Kalinga Dynasty had fought in the Mahabharat war for the Kauravas and Kharavela was a famous king of Kalingas.
Chola armies led by Generals such as Aditya Karikalan.
Throughout the medieval period there is evidence that powerful Kshatriya generals decided as to which king or queen ascended the throne. General Thakura who defeated Mitta and established Bhuvanekabahu I (1272 -1285) on the throne is one documented examples ( Mahavamsa 88.16) Other powerful king makers from the period are: Vijayá Yán tannávan and Vijaya Singu Távurunávan (EZ II. Page 112) whose names equate with the Karava clan name Vijaya Kula Suriya. Thakura too is a traditional Karava clan name.
13th century- Several inscriptions refer to Gurukulattarayan (Kurukulattarayan) in the Pandya Kingdom (Madras Government Epigraphy Inscriptions 548, 549, 550. 553 572, 575)
- A Gurukulattarayan in the Chola Kingdom eulogized as lord of Tadangauni. (Madras Government Epigraphy Inscription 554)
– A division of Trichinopoly district was known as Kurunagai Nadu (Rangacharya 1512).
1220- Commencement of the Karava 'Siri Sangabo' dynasty by Vijayabahu III (1220 - 1234 ), who claimed descent from a family that arrived with the sacred Bodhi tree.
- Kaurava Adittya ( meaning Kurukulasuriya) Arasa Nila Yitta (bearing kingly position) Elenaga, Mahanaga and other Patabenda Karava kings rule regional kingdoms of Sri Lanka.(Valignano 1577, Perniola 82, Valentyn 1726)
Also see Karava swords in the Colombo Museum and Varnakula Aditya Arasa-nilayitta Clan.
14th century– According to an inscription dated 1353, the city of Vijayanagar was called Kurukshetra- Vidyanagari. Other inscriptions from the periods of Harihara I and Bukka I say that it was also called Hastinavati reminiscent of Hastinapur of the ancient Kauravas (Ramanayar 52).
1340s - The appearance of Nissanka Alakeshvara and the Alagakkonara (as in Koon Karava clan) rulers of Kotte. They too are from Kanchipuram as the Karava Generals of the Mukkara Hatana. The 'Vaniya Kula' (Varna Kula, as in the Karava Warnakulasuriya clan and the Vanni Kula Kshatriyas of that part of India) ancestry of the Alagakkonaras is misinterpreted by modern historians as a 'trade' ancestry.
Modern historians lament about the lack of information on this period. However Mudaliyar Wijesinghe who translated the Mahavamsa during the British period has noted that original pages were missing from the ola leaf book and fictitious pages were found in their place.
1391- Virabahu II (=Weera Suriya) 1391 – 1397 ascends the throne and rules from Raigama (east of Panadura)
1411 – A Chinese expedition of the Ming Emperor attacks Kotte and takes king Alakeshvara and his family to China.
1412 – A Karava Kurukule prince deposes the puppet king placed on the throne by the Chinese and ascends the throne as king Parakramabahu VI. Valentyn states that Parakrama Bahu VI is from Kurukule (ie. Kuru caste). 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
- Literary compositions from the Kotte period say that the Makara flags (Muvara dada in the Kav Silumina and min dada in the Thisara Sandesha) of victory flew over the city of Kotte. The Thisara Sandesha also says that the Garuda flag was a royal flag of the Kotte kingdom. It is important to note that both the Makara flag and the Garuda flag are traditional flags of the Karava community.
- Migration of several Suriya clans of the Karavas in the reign of King Parakrama Bahu VI (1412-1467) as documented in the Mukkara Hatana palm leaf manuscript now 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) ). The subsequent Vanni kula (Varna Kula) rulers who lend their name to the Vanni region are their descendants.
- More Karava migrants settle in Sri Lanka as independent migrants and settlers from invading armies of Pandya, Chola and, Kalinga from the Kuru-Mandala coast (ie. The region of the Kurus - Coromandel) stretching across Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
- King Parakramabahu adopts both sons of Karava General Manikka Thalevan (Menik Otunu Kumara in Sinhala) who was slain in the Mukkara Hatana. The elder prince (known as Xemba Perumal and also Tammita Suriya Bandara and later known as Prince Sapumal) first rules Jaffna and later ascends the throne of Sri Lanka
1467 – Prince Jayabahu (Jayasuriya), son of Ulakudai Devi (daughter of Parakramabahu VI) and prince Nallurutun (from Karava Singhe dynasty of Nallur or Nalluruva in Panadura near Raigama kingdom) ascends the throne as Vira Parakramabahu VII (1467-1470)
1470 –Prince Sapumal (Son of Karava General Makikka Thalevan) ascends the throne of Sri Lanka as Bhuvanekabahu VI (1470 1480).
1484 - Prince Ambulugala, the other son of Karava General Manikka Thalevan slays Bhuvanekabahu IV’ s son Panditha Parakramabahu and ascended the throne as Vira Parakramabahu VII ( Sirisangabo Vira Parakramabahu)
- The Kshatriya family of Keerawella (denoting their origin from Keelakkare / Karikal. Some of the Karavas of Mukkara Hatana too came from the same region) resident in the Hatara Korale (in the Parana Kuru Rata - Old Kuru Country in Sri Lanka) is the source of royal maidens for the rulers of this period. Similarly, the daughter of Bhuvaneka Bahu VII is named Samudra Devi (meaning Sea queen denoting the Kshatriya sea faring lineage)
The Portuguese Period
- Arrival of Portuguese followed by the subsequent division of the Karava community into two rival groups - one fighting with the Portugese and the other fighting with the local rulers against the Portugese occupation.
-The Portuguese described the Patabändas / PatangatimsKinglets (subkings) of the Karávas who controlled not only one village but sometimes the whole coast as a master or ruler” (Valignano 1577. Perniola 82).
-Other Portuguese writers, Joaõ de Barrows (1520) and Castan Heda (1528), refer to five Kings stationed at important coastal towns, their ears laden with jewels and claiming relationship with the King of Kotte. (Ferguson 1506, JRASCB XIX.283 -400)
- The Portuguese historian Fr. Queyroz describes an early Portuguese battle in Sri Lanka as follows: “At that time the Kinglet of the Careas appeared with the whole might of that kingdom which exceeded 20,000......” (Queyroz 631).
-Valentyn too notes that the chiefs of Sri Lanka were from among the Karávas (Valentyn 1726). During this period, Chem Nayque and other Karavas were the Naval commanders of the Nayaks of Tanjore (Queyroz, 638).
- Collapse of the Vijayanagar empire with adverse consequences to its army and navy which had many Karavas.
- The Vijayanagar Rulers had the practice of appointing provincial governors or viceroys such as the Nayaks of Madurai and Nayaks of Tanjore to administer provinces. They regained independent authority in the areas governed as the power of the Vijayanagar empire waned. (See Vaduge ). The 17th century Portuguese historian Queyroz’s observation that Chem Nayque, the naval commander of the Nayque of Tanjore, was a Karáva (Queyroz, 638).
1509 – Son of Jayabahu (Jayasuriya) comes from the Karava port city of Dondra in the south and ascends the Kotte throne as Vijayabahu VII (Vijayasuriya – Bahu is another word for Sooriya, the Sun. Sri Lankan monarchs had used it to denote their solar ancestry. It did not mean a one arm as some suggest. )
1511 - Kirawelle Ralahami a Karava commander in chief of the Kotte kingdom invades Jayaweera Bandara's Kandyan territories to restore tributory status. According to the Rajavaliya he received 2 lacs of Fanams, 2 elephants and king Jayaweera's daughter in marriage.
– The Karava Singhe Dynasty rules Jaffna
1521 -The three princes Máyadunne, Bhuvanekabahu and Raigam Bandára, sons of King Vijayabáhu VII (AD 1509 -1521) of Kotte seek refuge in the home of a Kauravadhipathi -a Patabenda in Jaffna. (Rajavaliya 225). This ruler described as a Patabenda in the Rajavaliya could very well be king Sankili Segarajasekaran VI 1519-1560 (Chankili I) of the Karava Singhe Dynasty of Jaffna. And hence the name Yapa Pattana as it's ruler was referred to as a Pattangatti (Patabenda).
1521 - Prince Mayadunne seeks assistance from King Jayaweera Bandara of Kandy who is married to Mayadunne's cousin, a Karava Keerawelle princess.1521 - Prince Bhuvanekabahu ascends the throne of Kotte as Bhuvanekabahu Vii and rules for 30 years.
1551 – Prince Dharmapala (baptised as Dom Joao), son of Vidiya Bandara (Vedaya - expert in the Vedas as in Karava family names) and Samudra Devi (meaning Sea Queen), ascends the Kotte throne.
1591 - The Kingdom of Jaffna passes from Karava Singhe Dynasty to the Portuguese by the 'Nallur convention' signed by Karava nobles.
1591 - Karava princess Maha Patabendige Dona Catherina (Kusumasana Devi) is the sole heiress of Sri Lanka. She is the daughter of Karav-liyadde Bandara, the ruler of Kandy (1579-1581). She had been brought up by Catholic nuns in a convent in Mannar
- Karava prince Konappu Bandara (Koon+Appu from the Koon Karava clan, previously baptised as Dom Joao of Austria) marries Dona Catherina and ascends the Kandyan throne as Wimaladharmasuriya I (1591-1604). Possibly due to the extensive use of flags by Karava princes and generals, the Portuguese refer to them as Banderas. (Bandeira is the Portuguese word for flags - Bandera in Spanish)
1597 - The Kingdom of Kotte passes from Karava kings to the Portuguese by the 'Malwana convention' signed by Karava nobles.One of the three local nobles was Karava Patangatim Thome Rodrigo. Francisco Bethencourt refers to the leading men of Kotte who signed the Malvana convention as Korales – a mispronunciation of Karava.
It is interesting to note that the Dutch Thombo of 1765 lists the hereditory owners of the Kotte palace and treasury land as hailing from Magalle, A Karava village south of Galle. During the early 20th century a Govigama Mudaliyar had transported cartloads of carved stones from the Kotte ruins to building sites in Colombo. The post-independence Govigama dominated governments have shown no interest in conserving the remains of the Kotte kingdom. During the J. R. jayawardene's government, he built 'Sirikotha', the headquarters of his political party, on the Kotte rampart and filled part of the moat for parking vehicles. The few remaining archaeological ruins are fast dissapearing.
1604- Wimaladharmasuriya's death. His cousin Senerath (1604 -1635) marries queen Dona Catherina and ascends the throne.
1606- Portuguese missionaries first concentrate on converting the Karava Patabändas as they were the leaders and rulers of the people. They are used as examples for other gentiles to follow (Jesuit annual letter of 29/12/1606 from Cochin, Perniola II.254). They belived that " ....by the conversion of the great, that of the lesser would be more easily obtained" (Queroz 209)
1612- Murder of king Wimaladharmasuriya's son, the crown prince Mahasthana (The Rajavaliya gives his real name as Rajasuriya)
1613- Near death, the grieving Dona Catherina appoints her relative, the Karava prince Kuruvita Rala, (the Prince of Uva) and the Prince of Negombo as Guardians of her remaining sons. King Senarath reconfirms the appointment later. One of them, Devarajasinghe, succeeded Senerath and rules as Rajasinghe II from 1635 to 1685. Marriages for the other two princes arranged with two princesses from the Karava Singhe dynasty of Jaffna.
1623- Baptism of Jaffna's King Pararajasekaran’s two queens as Dona Clara da Silva and Dona Antonia da Silva, several nephews of the king, nine Patangatims and all other chief persons of the Karava caste.(Perniola Portuguese period III)
- The locals adopt Portuguese modes of dress, But in keeping with the local custom of only the upper classes were permitted to cover the upper body. (For example the Govigama Siyam Nikaya monks still customarily keep one shoulder exposed). Until recent times the 'Kabakuruttu', a tight fitting white blouse with long sleeves, lace trimmings and a V neck-line, was worn only by Karava women. Women of other castes wore 'Hette' (blouses).
1630s- The Portuguese violate traditional caste rules. They appoint hundreds of loyal locals of any caste as petty revenue collection officer. These officers extort the population and demand traditional honors previously due only to the royal caste. Karava, Salagama and other Lascorins complain to the Portuguese Captain about these violations. (A copy of this Memorandum can be found in Queyroz )
1638 -1658 – Arrival of Dutch fleets, Portuguese rule replaced by Dutch in the coastal provinces
– Dodda Deva Raja (1659-1672) of Mysore claims to have subjugated the Kurus (Rice 128)
- Many Karavas refuse to give up Catholicism. Persecution of Karava Catholics by the Dutch, loss of life, livelihood displacement and large numbers from the Karava community taking to non traditional occupations. Loss of warriors and leaders on both sides in the many Dutch wars.
1660s - Lands of many Karava chiefs are acquired by the Dutch. The few Chiefs who co-operate with the Dutch have their lands restored (see document). Others lose theirs.
- The Dutch seek the assistance of several Karava Adigars and Mudaliyars and their armies to attack and capture Cochin (see extracts of Dutch minutes 12 to 16 Jan., 1660). As can be seen from that extract, The Dutch also seek the assistance of Karava Adigars to control the rebel subjects of King Rajasinghe II (Secret minutes of the Dutch Council 15-11-1668)
18th century– The Kshatriys Vaduga Dynasty rules the Kandyan kingdom. (See Vaduge) Pybus notes that the Cloth worn by the chiefs is called Karaveniya.
Most of the Karava Generals had fought with the Portuguesse against the Dutch or were with the local kings.
The few Karava Generals who fight with the Dutch are the only Karava chiefs to get into the Dutch administrative structure. As such the Dutch appoint their Interpreters and guides from other castes as Mudaliyars and chiefs.
When Valentyn wrote in the early 1700s on the social structure of the coastal region (which was after over 2 centuries of European rule and the above changes) he notes that the Raja, Bamunu, Velenda and Govi four fold classification was still very much alive. He ranks the Karava as the highest caste and the caste from which chiefs and other important officials were appointed.The Durava caste is ranked second highest whist the Govi is last as it is in the lowest and last quartile. (Valentyn 76 to 80).
-By the middle of the 18th century this new class of Mudaliyars had become Lords in the provinces and were secretive and corrupt (Burnand 156)
Late 18th century- A De Saram family of mixed origin Sinhalises itself by posing as the representatives of the masses and subsequently convinces the British rulers that they are from the numerous Govigama caste. (However Sri Lankan peasantry was only a generic group at this time and it had yet not consolidated into a group with its own leaders or a common group culture. That transformation takes place only in the 20th century to serve the political needs of the leaders of that time.)
The De Saram family gains power and position by loyalty, religious conversion and collaboration with the Dutch and British rulers and succeeds in marginalizing the traditional ruling class. The British notion of an inverted caste hierarchy in Sri Lanka is easily traceable to the spurious documents on 'local customs' produced by this family.
The British naturally favor the subservient De Saram family against the belligerent Kshatriya nobiliy . The De Saram family is given increasing patronage and high chiefly appointments. The family grows in power and influence. See Sri Lankan Mudaliyars
According to Karava lore some of these families have Karava connections but were disowned by the clan for marrying beneath their status. For example Leander de Saram, son of Anthonan the original de Saram who accompanied the Dutch Embassy of 1731 – 1732 to Kandy, was made a Mudaliar by the Dutch and he married Muhandiram Louis Perera’s daughter.in 1754. The progenitor of the Bandaranaike family had married the daughter of Bandaranaike Suriya Patangatim of Dondra and taken the name and the Corea family of Chilaw is said to descend from Domingus Corea Patangatim of Negombo. The first Obeysekera is said to be a Karava from Gandara
The region bordered by Kurunegala , Colombo and Puttalam still has a high concentration of Karavas. It was the region usually administered by the Prince regent and was the base region of the Navies that protected Sri Lanka's coasts
Click for larger image of South India and Kuru-Mandala (Coromandal). Note that the Coromandel coast is up the western coast of India and that the fishery coast is the part further down and closer to Sri Lanka.The extent of the Pandya kingdom in 1250
An 11th century mural at Brihadeesvara temple believed to be that of king Rajaraja Chola (in the background) and his guru Karuvurar.
Karava Queen Maha Patabendige Dona Catherina, the sole heiress of Sri Lanka (Illustration from Baldaeus 1672)
Above: the Hanguranketha palace of king Senerath and queen Dona Catherina. This palace has since been destroyed without a trace. The four wooden pillars of the British period built Godamune Ambalama (illustrated below) are said to be from this palace.
Above: an ancient Marakkar (war-paroe) from the region illustrated on an Indian stamp. See Marakkalage for more information on the Naval heritage of the Karavas.
Above: An ordinary Karava woman from the distant past in the traditional Kabakuruttu. . Until recent times the 'Kabakuruttu' a tight fitting white blouse with long sleeves, lace trimmings and a V neck-line, was worn only by Karava women. Women of other castes wore 'Hette' (blouses).
The more affluent form of the dress
Above and below: Gold 'Siri-Bo Mala' wedding necklaces worn only by Karava brides. See Karava customs
– Dodda Deva Raja (1659-1672) of Mysore claims to have subjugated the Kurus (Rice 128)
- Many Karavas refuse to give up Catholicism. Persecution of Karava Catholics by the Dutch, loss of life, livelihood displacement and large numbers from the Karava community taking to non traditional occupations. Loss of warriors and leaders on both sides in the many Dutch wars.
– The Kshatriys Vaduga Dynasty rules the Kandyan kingdom. (See Vaduge) Pybus notes that the Cloth worn by the chiefs is called Karaveniya.
1764 – A conspiracy by Govigama monks converts the 'Siyam Nikaya' Buddhist monastic sect into a 'Govigama caste only' Nikaya. This sect had been established by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747 - 1782) just a few years ago. The monks who opposed this parody are banished to Jaffna by the conspiring casteist moks. (see Mandarampura Puvatha from the period)
1772- The 'Govigama caste only' Nikaya is quickly challenged by other castes in 1772 and 1798 by performing higher ordination ceremonies, respectively in Totagamuwa and Tangalle. However the validity of these ordinations was questioned on the grounds of unbroken pupillary succession.
1799- Therefore a Buddhist monk from the Salagama caste proceeded to Burma and obtains higher ordination, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Amarapura Nikaya sect. He was followed by Karava and Durava caste monks and by 1810 all three castes had regained the higher ordination denied to them in 1764 by the conspiring Govigama monks.
Late 18th century- A De Saram family of mixed origin Sinhalises itself by posing as the representatives of the masses and subsequently convinces the British rulers that they are from a caste called the Govigama caste. This new Govigama caste is portrayed as a segment of the numerous Govi caste, which was traditionally the last of the four fold caste division. The peasantry of Sri Lanka even at this time was merely a generic group and although referred to as the 'Govi caste' from time immemorial, it didn't have a unifying culture or any leaders. The thousands of scattered village communities were not linked to each other through matrimonial or other kinship ties either. The generic Govi caste traditionally included all castes such as the Vahumpura, Batgama, Rajaka etc. who between their other duties were also rice cultivators .
The De Sarams appear to have derived their Govigama identity rom the Kandyan monks who staged a Govigama only coup in the Kandyan sangha in 1764. The De Sarams help these Kandyan 'Govigama only' Siyam Nikaya to establish itself in the British maritime region. Mudaliyar Don David De Saram organises an unprecedented Buddhist ceremony lasting for a week on a flotilla on the Nilwala river in Matara and gives the Govigama Nikaya his full official patronage.
- During this period, the De Saram family gains power and position first by loyalty to the Dutch and then to the British, switching religions From Dutch Protestantism to British Anglicanism and collaborating with the invaders. They succeeds in marginalizing the traditional ruling class. The British notion of an inverted caste hierarchy in Sri Lanka is easily traceable to the spurious documents on 'local customs' produced by this family.
- Although the De Saram family presents itself to the British as the representatives of the numerous Govi caste, the family is yet to integrate with or be accepted as one of theirs by the peasant masses. The De Sarams however appears to consider Mudaliyars of other castes as peers. An example is the appointment of Karava Mudaliar d'Andrado along with his own kith and kin Mudaliyars as executors of his last will by Govigama Gate Mudaliyar Nicholas Dias Abeyesinghe.
- Tippu Sultan converts Koravas of Coorg to Islam - as much as 70,000 according to some researchers (Chikkarangegowda)
The British Period
The British naturally favor these subservient so called Govigama families (working for the British as interpreters and guides, thereby controlling what their masters hear ) over the belligerent Kshatriya nobility . The De Saram family is given increasing patronage and high chiefly appointments. These families grow in power and influence. See Sri Lankan Mudaliyars
According to folklore some of these families were founded by Karavas disowned by the clan for marrying beneath their status. For example the Illangakoone, Bandaranaike and Corea families are said to have Karava Patangatim ancestors, Respectively; Illangakoone Mudali of Matara, Bandaranayaka Suriya Patangatim of Dondra and Domingus Corea Patangatim of Negombo. And the first Obeyesekere is said to be a Karava from Gandara (according to some sources he was a Spaniard - Daily News 21 Jan 2008).
- British methods of administration, divide and rule policies, census taking methods and mandatory declaration of one’s ‘Race’ on official documents forces the Sri Lankan population of diverse ethnic origins to become either Sinhalese or Tamils based on the language they spoke at that point in time. This splits the Karava community into two so called races. The European concept of ‘Race’ was an alien concept for Sri Lanka. The Sinhala language previously did not even have an equivalent word to convey the meaning of ‘race’ and the Sinhala word Jaathi now used for that purpose previously only meant ‘caste’ or ‘birth’. The words 'Jaathi' or 'Jaathiya' has never been used in Sri Lankan history to refer to a mega Sinhala race.
1797- By proclamation of 16 August 1797 the British decree that Headmen appointment will be made only from the Govigama and Vellala castes (CO 55.2).This led to an immediate rebellion in the coastal areas.
1799- British Governor Frederic North establishes a Seminary in Colombo to educate selected Govigama, Radala and Vellala youth. These youth are appointed as Mudaliyars and other public officials. Other communities are excluded.
1805- British Governor Thomas Maitland notes with dissatisfaction that his Predecessor has virtually handed over all administrative powers of the Colombo, Galle and Matara districts to Mudaliyar Illangakoone and members of his family. (CO.54.18.19 October 1805). However, Maitland's attempts to rectify the position further strengthens the position of both these families as the cosmopolitan de Saram family in an effort to Sinhalize itself in the south of the country, had already solemnized several marriages with the rural Illangakoones and were responsible for the expanding power of that family (see de Saram, Illangakoon, Obeyesekera & Bandaranaike genealogy )
1828- The first ever Bank in Sri Lanka,The Bank of Kandy, is established by Karava entrepreneurs, Jeronis and Louis Peiris
1829- Karava inhabitants of Weligama petition the British government against placing Govigama headmen over them (CO. 416.29).
1831- The Karavas lose their last remaining Mudaliyar with the retirement of Mudaliyar Thomas de Andrado Arasakulasooriya Wijeratne.
1832- The Colonial office orders the government in Ceylon to abandon it's caste favouritism. This re-opens headmen positions to all castes. However British Governors and officials continue to be influenced by the Govigama interpreters who surround them and as such the same Govigama families continue to be favoured.
1832 to 1835 - British administrative reforms in effect strengthen the power of the Govigama Mudaliyar families by appointing them to the newly created Legislative Council and judiciary. Juries are stacked with members of the interconnected Illangakoone and de Saram families. These Juries function as family groups and most judgments go against other communities and in favour of the extended network of these families.
1845- Based on the 1832 order from the Colonial office to reinstate other castes as Mudaliyars, P. E. Woodhouse, the Government Agent for the Western Province selects Manuel de Fonseka, a Karava, as the most suitable candidate for the Mudaliyarship of Raigam Korale and Kalutara. Influenced by the Govigama loyalists, the Governor refuses to ratify it. (SLNA 22, 93, No. 55 old)
1848 – A rebellion against British rule in the Kandyan provinces led by Puran Appu, a Karava from Moratuwa. He was crowned on July 28 1848 as the king of Kandy by the high priest of Dambulla and chiefs such as Dullewa, Godahella, Ukuwela, Kongoda and Ratwatte Banda.
1849 - The British appoint their New Radala followers as Maha Vanniyas, thus depriving the Karava Vanni Kula (Varna Kula) chiefs who held those positions up until then. Ralapanave Punchirala to the Nuwaragam Palatha, followed by other outsider appointments to Vanni positions; Ratwatte Loku Banda in 1878 and Ratwatte Dingiri Banda in 1892.
1853 – Jeronis de Soysa is to be appointed as a 'Mudaliyar of the Governor's Gate'. The Govigama Maha Mudaliyar Ernest de Saram uses his influence with the Governor and attempts to lower it to "Mudaliyar of Moratuwa'. If not for the intervention of two British Civil Servants, Jeronis Soysa's Gate Mudaliar appointment would not have gone through (Peebles 162) . Jeronis de Soysa was the first to receive such an honourary title purely for philanthropy. All previous appointments had been purely for loyal service to the British government.
1870 – The Karava de Soysa family hosts a lavish banquet of unprecedented scale to welcome the Duke of Edinburgh. It was held at 'Alfred House' and solid gold plates are said to have been used. The leading Govigama Mudaliyars of the period neither had the resources nor the space in their residences to host a banquet of such magnitude. But the event triggered much jealousy and more attacks on the Karava community.
Charles and Susew de Soysa dominate ceremonies and receptions for royal visitors and therefore several Govigama leaders boycott the ceremonies (Ceylon Observer 23 April 1870, Examiner 27 April 1870)
1870 – Many Govigama employees who do menial work for British civil servants get rewarded with Muhandiram/ Mudaliyar appointments on their retirement. For example the Muhandiram of Siyana Korale West had been appointed purely for rendering domestic service for eight years to Mrs. Layard, the British Government Agent’s wife and bringing good meat for her from the public market.( The Examiner’ 30th March 1870)
1873 - Buddhist / Christian religious controversies (such as the 'Panadura Vadaya' - Panadura debate of 1873) are engineered by a few ambitious Govigama politicians. These plots sharply divide the Buddhist and Christian Karavas, Salagamas and Duravas and they all waste their wealth on infighting. A sharp wedge is driven to steer the Karava, Salagama and Durava away from uniting as strong communities.
The Buddhist participant at the 'Panadura Vadaya' was Migettuwatte Gunananda, a Salagama monk. And the research and logistics were by Weligama Sri Sumangala Maha Thero, an extremely competent Karava monk. The expenses of the debate were borne by the philanthropist Karava family of Jeremias Dias. The recent conversion of Arnold Dias (the younger brother of Jeremias Dias) to Christianity following his marriage to Apalonia Soysa was exploited by interested parties to divide this family. The plot also effectively split the Karava and Salagama communities as Buddhists and Christians. The Karavas and the Salagamas were two communities that were the only threat to the emerging Govigama clique.
It was not unusual for families of the period to have Buddhist and Christian branches and to marry across religions as long as the caste and social status matched. For instance Dodanduwe Piyaratane Tissa Thero who initiated the Poruwa custom at Buddhist weddings (and popularized it through the 'Lakmini Pahana' newspaper) was an uncle of Arnolis Weerasooriya (1857-1888), Colonel of the Salvation Army (and second in command on the Indian sub-continent). The Karava Weerasooriya family of Dodanduwa has always managed to unite around religious and other differences (see web site of Weerasooriya family). And the Headmaster of the first Buddhist school in Dodanduwa was a convert from Christianity to Buddhism. There are several other Karava families too with both Buddhist and Christian branches.
In the 'Panadura Vadaya' the Christian side is generally believed to have been defeated. As such it is extremely interesting to note that E. F. Perera, (a staunch Christian and the father of E. W. Perera, a member of the upstart Govigama clique plotting to gain political power) was instrumental in printing and distributing the proceedings of the debate. E. W Perera would later introduce the spurious lion flag that divided the nation racially and while still very much an Anglican Christian, become the Administrator of the Buddhist school Ananda College, a pivotal centre of the Buddhist revival.
1880- A spurious publication titled 'Niti Nighanduva' is published with government patronage. It purports to be a authentic record of the laws and customs but is really a book attempting to say that the Govi caste is the highest caste and all other castes are low. (see Govigama for historical references spanning the entire history of Sri Lanka - they all confirm that in fact the Govigama was the lowest caste in the pre-colonial Sri Lankan social structure)
1881 - Karava Lawyers S. R. de Fonseka and G. A. Dharmaratne present themselves to be appointed to the Legislative Council but the Governor nominates his favourite Govigama candidate.
1888 - Walter Pereira (Durava), T. E. de Sampayo (Navandanna) and two Karavas James Peiris and Jeronis Pieris offer themselves for appointment. But the Governor adamently reappoints from his favoured Obeyesekere family. (Roberts 166)
1889- To prevent the Radalas from coveting the seat reserved for his favoirite Govigama family, a New Radala (Govigama) is appointed by Governor Gordon to the Legislative Council. This is done on the pretext of giving Buddhist a place in the Council.
1889- Director of Public Administration H. W. Green decides to recruit school teachers only from the Govigama caste. (CO. 54.583, No.312, 3 August 1889).
1890- Advocate Dharmabandu, A Karava, publishes 'Kara-Goi contest' in reply to the Niti Nighanduwa published by the government in 1880.
1890- and again in 1905, British qualified Barrister James Peiris, a Karava, was the main contender for the unofficial Sinhala seat in the Legislative Council. Pieris had the support of the Karava elite, The Salagama elite such as: J. de S. Rajapakse, Peter de Abrew, A. E. de Silva and Dandris de Silva Gooneratne, Govigama elite such as A. A. Wickremesinghe and D. W. Subasinghe and Navandanna elite such as Dr. A. E. Roberts (Roberts 167)However on both occasions the British Governor nominated S. E. Obesekera from his favored Govigama network.
1891- After several unsuccessful attempts, Dharmarane a qualified candidate accuses the British Government of overlooking his application for the position of District Judge solely because he was from the Karava caste and says "Shrewd men of one caste alone have the ears of Her Majesty's Representatives" (CO. 54.597, No.421, 1 November 1891).
- E. L. F. Soysa a grandson of C. H. de Soysa was the first Sri Lankan to own a motor car.
- The first ever agitations for political reforms, which eventually led to adult franchise and self-governance for Sri Lanka, are initiated by Karava leaders.
-Temperance movement, targetted against the Karavas who by then were dominating the liquor industry. Movement led by D. R. Wijewardene , D.S. Senanayake and his two brothers F.R and D.C from families that had risen through arrack renting but were out of the liquor trade by then. Interestingly the leaders of the movement are not Teetotallers. The Senanayake brothers were quite fond of both local and imported liquor. They nevertheless get Buddhist Karavas to fund the movement. This campaign enables D. B. Jayatilaka to enter politics.
1905- Govigama politicians exploit the inherent pride of the Karavas and get them to contest each other in elections and draw substantial donations for the Govigama led political projects. Eg. Danister Perera Abeyewardena and Thomas de Silva Amarasuriya contesting for a ward in the Galle Municipality. Govigama leaders are quoted as saying "the money tree is being shaken; go pick up all you can". Similar divisive contests were orchestrated in other Karava centres too. Pitting Karava politicians against each other continued into the modern era.
1911- Dr.Marcus Fernando, a Karava candidate, comes forward for the Educated Ceylonese seat in the Legislative Council. he has the support of the Karava elite as well as Govigama elite such as P. B. Ratnayake, L. B. Ranaraja, Hewavitharanas and Emmanuel G. Jayawardena. The Senanayake and Jayewardene brothers promptly bring down 60 year old Ponnambalam Ramanathan who was in retirement in India and create a Govi- Vellala nexus and a caste divide between the Govigamas and the Karava candidate. (Roberts 170) Ramanathan, a Vellala, had recently been forced to retire from the post of Solicitor General for unprofessional conduct (CO.54.693 confidential minute of Cox). Govigama leaders unite at the Legislative Council elections for the Educated Ceylonese seat , support Ponnambalam and defeat Marcus Fernando. They respectively poled 1645 and 981 votes.
1912 - Finally, A. J. R Soysa, a Karava ,is nominated as a Legislative Council member.
1915 - Anti-Muslim riots in Colombo. The Senanayaka brothers and D. R. Wijewardene are among those arrested for inciting the riot. E. W. Perera carries a Memorandum to England. This act has been promoted as a great patriotic act but in Perera's own words, "Everyday on board ship was a day of anxiety, for I did not know whether my friends had not already been marched out of their cells, placed against a wall and shot as had been done to others..."he was doing it to save his friends.
Although E. W. Perera' was neither a Historian nor an expert on flags, permission for his trip to England had been obtained by stating that it was for research at the British Museum. As such he returned with much publicity about 'discovering' a Lion Flag in England, which he said was the 'Royal Flag of Sri Lanka'. D. R. Wijewardene used his newspapers and widely promoted this spurious lion flag as the royal flag of Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe. Thereby they obliterated the real royal symbols of Sri Lanka, the Sun and the Moon, the symbols traditionally also used by the Karava community and introduced a racist flag which has divided Sri Lankans from that day on. See Lion myth.
Dr. Solomon Fernando (1850-1915), a Karava Roman Catholic, addresses the public meeting organised in protest of the arrest of Buddhist leaders. He daringly criticizes the British rulers for imprisoning Buddhist leaders and dies of a heart attack while addressing the meeting. His name is not even mentioned anymore but the person who took a memorandum on these arrests to England, hidden in a shoe, is hailed as the great hero.
1918- Village businessmen of diverse origins tag onto the Govigama identity. The founder of Harischandra Mills Matara, Canda uda Aacharige Odiris de Silva (after changing his ge name to Canda uda Arachchige) recruits employees only from the Govigama caste and publicises his policy with a public sign at his mills.
Around this period, successful Govi caste individuals built Ambalamas (traditional rest houses) at their own costs and introduced a novel concept of having higher seats in them for the Govi caste. The ambalamas at Naranwala and Getakulapadura are two such examples (Dassanayaka 65 & 67)
The rise of the above mentioned, so called 'Govi caste' politicians, the wealth amassed by these families in recent years, the island wide propaganda campaigns by these individuals and the success of petty Govigama traders in regional towns consolidates the peasants throughout the country as one Govigama caste. Caste consciousness of the peasant masses develop and they are told by their leaders that they are the highest caste. (see the traditional low status of this widely dispersed generic group in traditional Sri Lankan society in Govigama)
Consolidation of the Govi caste gathers momentum. Individuals from many castes - anonymous migrants in urban centres - join its ranks. It becomes the default caste open to all who wish to get absorbed into this rising caste. However the political Govigama families of the period (and even their descendants in later times) just exploit the voter base of the Govigama masses but do not share power with them.
it's near impossible for outsiders to similarly enter castes with strong cultural and kin networks such as the Karava, Salagama, Durava, Navandanne etc without detection by their members. These castes also do not experience defections.
1920 - Electoral reforms granting limited franchise brings in a few more Karavs into the legislature. However in 1925 these numbers are reduced by expanding the territorial representation.
1924 – Based on the campaign led by James Pieris demanding a Royal commission of inquiry into the atrocities of the Brtissh Governor Sir John Anderson, the Governor is recalled and the Legislative Council is reconstituted to have a majority of elected representatives. James Pieris gets easily elected now as the Vice President of the Legislative Council (the President was the British Governor) and holds the position until his death in 1930.
1926 – F. R. Senanayake dies and his brother D. S. Senanayake takes his place in the Legislative Council.
1928 – The Donoughmore Commission with hand picked commissioners appointed by Sydney Webb the well known admirer of Trotskyt, arrives in Ceylon. Desiring an equitable and socialist British empire they set up a State Council system for Ceylon and pilot universal adult franchise and general elections - a first for a British colony. Ceylon thereby became increasingly self-governing in its internal affairs. There were two State Councils; 1931-1936 and 1936-1947. Sinhala and Tamil elite politicians opppose universal adult franchise.
1931 - of the 50 elected members in the 1931 State Council 10.5% were Karavas.
1936 -The 1936 Board of Ministers had only one Karava Minister, Dr W. A. de Silva.
1942 - From 1942 to 1947 (under D. S. Senanayake), Karavas were denied any ministerial posts. and thereafter in 1948 there was just one, Henry Amarasuriya; and his wealth was drained.
1943 - D. S Senanayake who was only semi-educated, enlists the support of Oliver Goonetilleke, the son of a Govigama Post Master and a brilliant strategist. Goonetilleke was a successful Civil servant who had served on the WWII War Cabinet of Ceylon with Sir Ivor Jennings. He was well respected by the British officers stationed in Ceylon
1944 – Viscount Soulbury arrives in the country heading a Royal Commission appointed by the British government to institute constitutional reforms. The Board of Ministers headed by D. S Senanayake boycotted the commission, but Senanayake and Goonetilleke meet Soulbury in private. Thereby creating a helpful and cooperative impression to Soulbury. This strategy also kept the other Ministers out of the discussions and with the help of Sir Ivor Jennings Senanayake promoted his own agenda. Goonetilleke virtually becomes the unofficial Secretary of the Commission.
1947 – On 20 February 1947, the Labour government of England decides to grant independence to India. This is followed by the inevitable grant of independence to Ceylon. The official British announcement is made on 18th June 1947, expedited by Oliver Goonetilleke who was in England on Senanayake’s behalf.
Riding on the Independence announcement D. S. Senanayake wins the General election of 14 October 1947
1948- Britain grants Independence to India and divests Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka without India is a liability to them. Without shedding a drop of blood, without ever opposing British rule and without ever risking their lives, D. S. Senanayake and his clique, promoted by kinsman D. R. Wijewardene and his press, become ‘heroes of independence’ to the gullible Sri Lankan public.
Post independence period -
1948 - Senanayake rewards Oliver Goonetilleke by appointing him as the first High Commissioner to England, the best and most important station. Goonetilleke continues to promote Senanayake's interests and remains there until 1951.
As a priority, Senanayake visits the Sri Lankan High Commissions, purchases residential and office premises for them at questionable prices and personally handles the negotiations.
1949 - Karava politician Sir Susantha de Fonseka is sent off to Burma in 1949 as the High Commissioner and from there to China in 1952, keeping him safeley out of the local political stakes.
1949 - Senanayake invites Soulbury to be the Governor General of Ceylon, possibly a component of the overall Independence plan. Soulbury enjoys the perks of the position until his retirement in 1954.
D. S. Senanayake’s son Robert, exploits the rising political power of the family to thrive as a businessman; importing anything from essential food items and vehicles to tyres, exporting local produce such as rubber and end enters the shipping business as well.
1952 –D. S. Senanayake falls off a police horse and dies unexpectedly. His family controlled United National Party sidelines all suitable successors, and appoints DS’s son Dudley who lacked any competence.
1953 – The next choice of the family for the Prime Minister’s post is DS’s close relative John Kotelawela. He gets an opportunity only in 1953, after Dudley resigns, unable to govern the country. Kotelawala is notorious for his contempt for non-govigama castes (Peebles 2006 p104)
- Paddy Lands Act enacted. It empowered the cultivators and made paddy lands useless to the owners - In 1953 the UNP government passed a targeted Paddy Land Act applicable only to the Hambantota and Batticaloa districts. It didn’t apply to the rest of the country. The act required the tenancy agreements between the land lord and the cultivator (ande Goviya) to be written and registered. Ejection of tenant cultivators was permitted only under a few stipulated conditions and eve then a court order was required for ejection. The Act thereby made the landlord powerless and rendered the Paddy Lands useless to the owner. Many Karava land owners such as the Wickremasuriya families of the south lost control of their paddy lands.
1954 – Oliver Goonetilleke is made the first native Governor General of Ceylon on Kotelawala’s recommendation. After the aborted coup of 1962 he retires to England. Interestingly, by then he was affluent enough to become an underwriting 'name' of Lloyds.
1958- The Paddy Lands Act of 1958 limited the Patron-owner’s share from rice paddy lands to a just a quarter of the harvest (Jayannth page 28) This made paddy lands even more worthless to the Karava paddy land owners. Many Karava landlords allowed the ownership of paddy lands to lapse to the Govigama tenant farmers who were cultivating them.
1959- SWRD Bandaranaike is assassinated. The most suitable successor in the SLFP is C. P. de Silva of the Salagama caste. The 'kitchen cabinet' of the SLFP conspires to deny him the leadership and instead gives it to Dahanayake of the Govigama caste (who is not a prominent national figure) as a stop gap and thereafter brings in SWRD’s widow Sirima, an absolute greenhorn to politics, as the party leader.
1962- a blotched coup enables Sirima to appoint more of her relatives to important positions, bypassing the seniority and capability of others.
William Gopallawa, a relative of Sirima is appointed as the Governor General.
1971- Insurrection in the south of the country by youth from several minority castes. The movement is led by Rohana Wijeweera, a Karava revolutionary. Summary execution by the government of large numbers of future Karava and other minority caste leaders involved in the insurrection.
1980s onwards -
Jayannth Dilesh 2006 Electoral Allegiance in Sri Lanka, Cambridge University Press
JRASCB - Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch)
Paranavithana S. 1970 Inscriptions of Ceylon Vol I Early Brahmi Inscriptions
King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747 - 1782) of the Kshatriys Vaduga Dynasty (See Vaduge)
The 4th Maha Mudliyar of British Ceylon, Christofel de Saram (assumed name Wanigasekera Ekanayake) and his son Johannes Hendrick.
Johannes was one of two de Sarams sent to England for education at the expense of the British government. He sailed to England as a 14 year old boy, on 15/03/1811, with the retiring Governor of Ceylon Maitland.
This De Saram family of mixed origin Sinhalises itself by posing as the representatives of the masses and subsequently convinced the British rulers that they are from the numerous Govigama caste
Karava King Veera Puran Appu (The name of Karava Kandyan king Wimaladharmasuriya prior to becoming king was 'Koon Appu') from Moratuwa who led the rebellion against British rule in 1848. He was crowned as the king of Kandy on July 28 1848 by the high priest of Dambulla and chiefs such as Dullewa, Godahella, Ukuwela, Kongoda and Ratwatte Banda. His name was Weerahennedige Francisco Fernando and Veera Puran Appu was the name taken by him at his coronation. His Uncle was the first Sri Lankan Proctor in the Kandyan province and Francisco was living in his house when he decided to lead the rebellion. The above postage stam issued in his honour shows his battle flag emblazoned with the Karava Sun & Moon insignia. Click to listen to a Puran Appu ballad
"Bagatalle House" of the Karava de Soysa family where prince Alfred and guests dined off gold plates and goblets with gold forks and knives. The house set on 120 acres of prime land in Colpetty was renamed "Alfred House" in honour of the prince. This mansion was demolished to make way for the Duplication Road charted right through the house.
Dodanduwe Piyaratana Tissa Thero (1826 -1907) from the Karava Weerasooriya family of Dodanduwa (above) and the poor likeness Postage stamp issued on 22/05/84 to commomorate him (below) He was the Maha Nayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya circa 1860s. He established Sri Lanka's first Buddhist school in 1869 and also initiated and popularize the 'Poruwa' ceremonty at Buddhist weddings. He ordained The Tibetan Monk S. Mahinda and admistered 'pansil' to Olcott. The stone Buddha satue in his Sailabimbarama temple is from Kaveri Pattanum, south India.
Arnolis Alexander Weerasooriya (1857-1888), also from the Karava Weerasooriya family of Dodanduwa. He was the first non-European Colonel of the Salvation Army and second in command on the Indian sub-continent.
Govigama Mudaliyar Don Spater Senanayake, (son of Don Bartholomew, born 1847, Plumbago merchant, learned the trade while working at the mine of Karava entrepreneur John Clovis de Silva, conferred rank of Mudaliyar by British Governor West Ridgeway) with his son-in-law F.H. Dias- Bandaranaike, sons Don Stephen (D. S. Senanayake - first Prime Minister of Ceylon), Don Charles (D.C.) and Fredrick Richard (F. R. ), daughter Maria Frances and wife Dona Catherina Elizabeth Perera. They were Anglican Christians. D. S. Senanayaka's wife Molly Dunuwila too was a Christian but the Senanayake's put on Sinhala Buddhist garb for the electorate.
The "Botale Walauwwa" of Mudaliyar Don Spater Senanayake. Botale is the Sinhala word for 'bottle' and it is said that the house had been known as a 'bottle shop' because Don Spater was an Arrack renter (government licensed distributor of coconut brandy in the area)
Sir James Peiris (above), A Karava and a pioneer political activist was the victim of Govigama caste conspiracies from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Ironically, 50 years later the Karava hating D. S. Senanayake appears to have fashioned his media images after Sir James Peiris. James Pieris was a respected senior statesman, a Barrister with double firsts from Cambridge and the first non-European to be elected President of the Cambridge Union. Therefore it was not surprising that the semi-educated D. S. Senanayaka with no qualifications would model his image after him.
A 1912 Temperance Rally organized by the Senanayake brothers (sons of a former Arrack renter) who were seeking racial, religious and other divisive issues to make political capital
Dr. Marcus Fernando (b 1864 d 18/12/1936 in England) - A Karava and a victim of the 1911 Govigama / Vellala conspiracy
The Karava philanthropist, Mrs Jeramias Dias (Pattini Hennedige Warnadeeptya Kurukulasuriya Selestina Rodrigo from the Rodrigo family of Panadura), founder of Visaka Vidyalaya in 1917. She gave away over Rs. 2 million to charity a colossal sum at that time. However D. B. Jayathilleke from the Govigama cabal had got in as the Treasurer of the school and as such funds were always in short supply.
The situation was the same at the YMBA too where Jayatilleke was handling money. Old timers narrate how Jayatilleke used to visit Karava philanthropists before the AGM and plead to cover up shortages. Jayatilleke also toured the country collecting large donations from Karava businessmen, purportedly for building schools and other projects – all in the name of Budddhism and targeting the generous and pious qualities of the wealthy Karavas. However, money disappeared, Jayatilleke became a hero and the names of the Karava donors are never mentioned.
W. A. de Silva, another Karava philanthropist mortgaged his “Sravasti’ mansion to settle Jayatilleke’s staggering debts at the Colombo YMBA and lost his mansion “Sravasti’. It is near the Colombo museum amd is now a hostel for government Ministers.
D. S Senanayake's "Woodlands". It was near Colombo's General cemetery, away from the fashionable Cinnamon Gardens area where the Karava mansions were situated.
D. S. Senanayake in England with Oliver Goonetilleke at his service. Goonetilleke appears to have been standing at a reverential distance from D. S. and the photograph edited to bring him to 'rubbing shoulders' distance.
The Practical Sinhala Dictionary 1982 - Published by the Department of Cultural Affairs. (This was challenged in the Supreme Court by offended parties at their own cost (SC Appn. 98/82), and also reported to the Human Rights Commission (Settlement of 02/12/87). The Editor, Harischandra Wijetunga (subsequent leader of the Sinhala nationalist political party ) and the Publisher (The Ministry of Cultural Affairs), defended themselves using public funds and finally agreed to correct the offensive definitions . However by then the dictionary had been distributed countrywide and the copies in school and regional libraries remain uncorrected.)See Govi Supremacy Myth
Vice Admiral Asoka de Silva, Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy 1983 -1986. Grandson of Karava Mudaliyar Thomas Rodrigo
Karava Revolutionary Velupillai Prabhakaran the founder leader of the LTTE
Lieutenant de Vas Gunawardena was the first Army officer to die in the Eeelam war. He and his contingent of 13 solders were killrd by the LTTE in 1983. Their deaths were used by the J. R government to spark off anti-Tamil riots.
Karava General Srilal Werasooriya
Karava General Rohan Daluwatta
Karava General Sarath Fonseka above and below when he was Commander of Jaffna. In 2003 he was transferred out of Jaffna by another Govigama President because he was doing his job too well - click here
Kshatriya Maha Sabha, Sri Lanka