Migration of Karavas to Sri Lanka
Except for the aboriginal Veddahs all other communities living in Sri Lanka have migrated to the island at some time in the past. It is possible that the Veddahs themselves have migrated here from the subcontinent. However it is agreed by all scholars that the two communities who now call themselves Sinhalese and Tamils have migrated to Sri Lanka from India. Sri Lanka being an island with a history of over 2000 years , located in a central position on the Indian ocean sea trade route and being located so close to India has undoubtedly influenced these migrations.
It is clear from history that the Sri Lankan population of the past was not divided in to 2 Mega races as Sinhalese and Tamils. The two native languages, Sinhala and Tamil do not even have a word for such mega races. Jathi (Jathiya in fanatical jargon) in the past meant 'caste' and not 'race'. The consolidation of the population into 2 Mega races as Sinhalese and Tamils can be traced to the recent British period (19th century). As such the various caste groups that now make up the Sinhala race have their own stories of origin. The official story of Sinhalese origination from a lion in India is not from the origin traditions of any Sinhalese caste. (See Lion Myth). Even in the Mahavamsa the story relates only to Vijaya's family and not to the service castes that came with him. The Lion story doesn't even relate to his ministers.
All Karava communities throughout Sri Lanka share a common story of origin that claims an ultimate origin from the Kuru (kingdom) and the Kauravas of the great Mahabharata. epic. Karava lore as well as manuscripts such as the Mukkara Hatana and royal grants from the mediaeval period indicate that the most recent streams of Karavas migrated from the region previously known as Kuru Mandala (Coromandal) of south-east India.
The service castes that were brought along with them were setled in satellite villages around the Karava settlement. For example the many Pamunuam (Pamunu = labour attached to land = chattel) , Kamburugam, Kamburupiti (Kamburu = Govi = agricultural serfs) and Walgam (Vaal =slave) scattered throughout Sri Lanka are villages occupied by former agricultural serfs. Battaramulla (Gattara = serfs) bordering Madiwela (Madi +Wela = central paddy field) of the Kotte kingdom is another such village.
All major Karava settlements traditionally had service castes (such as cultivators, jewelers, barbers, drummers, potters, washermen, etc )settled in satellite communities around the main Karava settlements. The presence of such service caste villages is still evident in previously predominantly Karava townships such Ambalangoda, Beliatta, Chilaw, Galle, Kalutara, Matara, Moratuwa, Negombo, Tangalle, Udappu, Weligama etc. Despite social changes brought about by 500 years of European occupation, and 50 years of independence, traces of such service caste villages are still quite evident.
Some of the surviving migration traditions of the various Karava clans from pre-historic times to the 18th century can be categorised as:
See below for details
With Karava prince Karavanti
According to the Janavamsaya, prince Vijaya the mythical first king of Sri Lanka was accompanied in 50 B. C. by the Karava prince Karavanti and his retinue. They all landed at a port on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka, a region contiguous with the region later known as Kuru Rata with a city named Hastinapura (Kurunegala) named after Hasinapur, the Mahabharata capital of the Kauravas
Tammana, the putative place of landing of prince Vijaya is also in this region.
This early migration of Karava royalty (with claims of Kuru-Pandava ancestry) explains the prevalence of the 'Pandu' prefix in the names of Panduvasdeva, Pandukhabaya and other early Sri Lankan kings.
Karavas are well established throughout Sri Lanka by the 1st century A. D. as shown by their Barata , Kuruvira, Karava inscriptions, grants and bequests etc. from this period.
With the sacred Bodhi Tree
In 300 B. C. more Karavas are said to have migrated, this time with princes Bodhigupta and Sumithra who accompanied Theri Sanghamitta the daughter of the Indian Emperor Ashoka. All of them and their retinue of royalty and service castes bringing the sacred Bo sapling to Sri Lanka. However apart from the 300BC event there could also have been many other Bo-trees brought to Sri Lanka during the reigns of other kings.
King Vijayabahu the Great, of the Karava 'Sri Sanga-bodhi' dynasty also claimed descent from a family that arrived with the sacred Bodhi tree. As Bahu and Banu are synonyms for the Sun that signifies the solar dynasty, the name Vijayabahu is a synonym for Vijayasuriya. / Wijesooriya.
It is very significant that kings of Polonnaruwa called themselves Siri-Sanghabodhi, meaning 'sacred Bodhi tree' . It is even more significant that the earliest kings to rule Polonnaruwa, the capital of Karava King Gajabahu II and his father Vickramabahu, were kings who styled themselves as Aggabodhi which translates as 'the principal Bodhi tree'. The kings were Aggabodhi III (AD 626 -41 in MV44.122 & ), Aggabodhi IV (AD 658 -74 in MV 46.34), Aggabodhi VII (AD 766 - 72 in MV 48.79)
There is an inclination in modern Sri Lanka to misconnect the Sirisangabo royal dynasty with a mythical king Sirisangabo who is said to have decapitated himself and offered his head to a wayfarer. That is a ridiculous connection. None of the Sirisangabo dynasty kings have claimed such an association. However the Sirisangabo dynasty kings have claimed that they are descendents of families that came to Sri Lanka with the Bodhi Tree and derived their name from Sri-Sangha-Bodhi which is Sirisangabo in simple Sinhalese.
People also assume that the Bo-tree referred to is the legend is the one planted in Anuradhapura 2500 years ago. They also assume that the tree we see today at Anuradhapura is the very tree that was planted 2500 years ago. However, it is quite possible that there were other celebrated Bodhi trees in the later capital cities as well and even at the Anuradhapura site, there is the possibility of new saplings being brought and planted after the original tree died during invasions and turbulence. Indeed there are many Bodhi-ghara (Bo tree shrines) in dozens of ancient sites and the legends could relate to one or more of these.
Karava Brides wears a Siri-bo -male ( a gold necklace with seven strands worn only by the Karava brides and former queens of Sri Lanka) possibly signifying the connection to the Siri Sangabo royal line of Sri Lanka. See Karava customs for illustrations of Siri bo Maala.
Xemba Perumal / Sapumal Kumara who followed Parakramabahu VI (1412-1468) and ascended the Kotte throne as Bhuvanekabahu VI (1470 1480). Bhuvanekabahu built the Kandasamy temple at Nallur, Jaffna and the Kattyam recited daily at the Nallur temple refer to him as Sri Sangha Bodhi Bhuvanekabahu.
There are old legends about bo saplings plalnted throughout Sri Lanka but subsequent traditions have assigned their planting to Brahmins. Probably when these later stories were written the only memory that remained might have been that they were planted by high caste dignitaries of the past. Brahmin scribes would have given it a Brahmin origin.
Although Bo trees are generally not associated with Hindu temples it is interesting to note that the Sthala Vrksa (Holy Tree) of the Munnesvaram Kovil built and administered by the Karavas is a Bo tree. Rasanayagam thinks that the old Bo tree at the Paralay Kandaswamy temple at Chulipuram,was the one planted at Jambukola - now Sambu turai ( Rasanayagam p 62)
The Bo tree at Munneswaram could be connected to the story in the Hendath Heart Bandaravaliya. This ola document says Prince Sri Bodhi Mala, (grandson of Sri Wickrama Malala of the Lunar dynasty who ruled the Malala kingdom as a contemporaray of Alagakkonara) arrived in Sri Lanka during the reign of. Bhuvanakabahu. along with his wife Manthri Devi, four sons, those honoured with royal regalia (The text says Raja palandana lath Mallavain – possibly Patabendis) other princes , princesses, Ministers, Mudalis, 770 troops from Ayoththiptanam and their retinue of service castes. The service castes are enumerated as 678 cultivators (govi sudayan), 420 Founders (man naidela), 158 makers of iron implements (gurunnehe naidela), 440 potters (badahela naidela), 70 Brass founders (lokuru naidela), 270 weavers (tunnavayan), 18 launderers (apullannan), 270 herdsmen (pattivalayan), 20 elephant catchers (pannikayao), 100 elephant feeders (eth valayo), 240 elephant trussers ( hamunla or vagayin), 30 drummers (beravayin), etc etc. It’s clear that thousands have arrived and they are said to have landed at Munneswaram - see religious for Munnesvaram. The Hendath Heart Bandaravaliya goes on to say that king Bhuvanakabahu of Kotte honoured the princes with Patabendi titles and respectively gave them the following districts: Maha Kalaviya and Nuvara Kalaviya of Auradhapura, Tamankaduva, Colombo and Kelaniya, Matula, Hurulu pattu, Negombo and Devinuvara, (Abhayasinghe 1998 pgs 123-127)
According to tradition, some of the Kaurawas clans that accompanied the Bo-Tree (whether this is the presently celebrated Bo tree at Anuradhapura or other holy trees planted in subsequent capitals has to be considered) are:
These clans dispersed in diverse directions settling down mainly in the South -Western coastlands and are still evident in Kalutara, Panadura and Moratuwa. The ancestors of the Bodiabaduge i.e., the Jayasiri Vijaya Maha Bodhige also called Kurukula Addittiya Jayasiri Vijaya Maha Bodhige planted a sapling of the Bo-Tree and built a Vihara at Kalutara - Kalutota, Kalatittha
According to ola book No. 5/63/63 in the National Archives Colombo, Kalutara was peopled by a descendant of Prince Bodhigutta who came with the Bo tree. The ancestry of this prince is given as: Bodhigutta; Mahinda; Aritta; Nanda; Kassapa; Sangamitra; Bodhiraja; Anuradha ( Abeyawardana p 138). The names of the kings listed above are quite interesting as the Matale Kadaim Potha, credits a prince named Aritta for going from Sri Lanka to India to bring the Bo-sapling ( Abeyawardana p 138). It apears that the names of the kings involved were known by these writers from many centuries after the event. However they seem to have mixed up the personages.
According to the family history of the Karava Wijedoru family, their ancestors were Arthadaksa Mudali who accompanied the sacred Bodhi tree and his grandson who was honoured with the title 'Mugavetti Perumalum'. Interestingly there is a prominent Aritta-kevendu perumal during the Kotte period. He is referred to as an Andi which modern writers interpret as a mendicant but it could be a another colloquial term for people from Oriya (modern Orissa) who were aso called Oddi in Sri Lanka. And the account in the medieval period ola book Bodhivamsa also has a prominent prince named Aritta.
Although now removed from history books, this Karava ‘Sri Sangha Bodhi’ dynasty appears to have been recognized as the rightful heirs to the Sri Lankan throne right up to the time of the kandyan kingdom. The Asgiri Thalpatha, an ola book from the kandyan period says that “ a prince from the Sri Sanghabodi family went to Colombo and then to Goa during the reign of King Rajasinghe and returned with a large army; defeated the king of KoTte and king rajasinghe and became as the king of Sri Lanka in BE 2135( Rohanadeera 1997 pg 15 n).
With Kataragama Kshatriya kings
Karava kings (known now as Kataragama Kshatriyas) ruled the Ruhuna kingdom of southern Sri Lanka in pre christian times - 2nd century B. C. They were from the Bharatha kula from which both the Kauravas and the Pandavas originated. Many Pre-christian Brahmi rock inscriptions scattered across Sri Lanka right into the deep south, particularly the inscriptions caused to be engraved by Baratas, bear the symbol of a ship
The pre-christian rock inscriptions of the Kataragama Kshatriyas always carry the Fish symbol. According to Paranavitana: " ...the fish symbol is found in all the inscriptions at Kotedemuhela as well as Bowategala, where members of the Kshatriya family of Kataragama find mention. The Fish appears therefore to have been the dynastic symbol of these princes" (Paranavitana 1970 pg LIX)
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 - Naval archers of warrior royalty (Ariyapala p 113) from Vedi-kevatta - tribal fishermen. According to Paranavitana, Devapathiraja, the ruler of Bentota and the founder of the Galapata Vihara is from the Dunu-kevatu family (EZ IV pg 196 – 197). He was a contemporary of king Parakramabahu II.
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. Digha royalty. Although the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa are written as Anuradhapura centric, Anuradhapura was not the capital until Pandukhabhaya made it his capital. As such the Anuradhapura dynasty is actually from this Digha royal family of the south (Yatala Vehera p 18) .
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)
Recent excavations in the south have also unearthed many types of pre-christian period coins with the Fish symbol. Of particular interest are the coins with 2 fish and the legend 'Barata Tisa' in ancient Brahmi characters and another with an elephant and the legend 'Majjima' (Illustrations A12 and A5 Bopearachchi pgs 52 & 53). Majjima was a name used by Sri Lankan kings (Paranavithana 1970 pg LXXVIII inscription 406) and is preserved in Karava ancestral names such as Madduma Patabendige. Barata is the original royal house of The Kauravas and the Pandavas and the inscription on the Council terrace at Anuradhapura show the Karava-Bharatha link in ancient Sri Lanka.
The continuity of this Barata link upto the Kotte period is shown by the Padakada copper plate inscription of King Parakramabahu VI in which the king refers to himself as hailing from the Barata kula (JRASCB XXXVI).
The fish symbol is also found on mediaeval coins of Sri Lanka. Kings Parakramabahu the Great and Nissankamalla are two Sri Lankan kings to have extensively used the Fish symbol on their inscriptions.
The Fish symbol and the Ship symbol are recurrent symbols on Karava Heraldry
With King Gajabahu
As noted in Timeline of the Karava I, royal succession of Sri Lanka passed on to Karava kings after the 11th century. This point in history also marks the beginning of a long line of kings with the ‘Bahu’ suffix – Bahu as in Banu meaning ‘Sun’, denoting the descent of these Kings from the Solar dynasty Surya clans of the Karavas.
This change in status from sub-kings, king-makers, Generals, warriors and mercenaries, to inheritors of the kingdom, led to the migration of large numbers of Karavas from the Kuru Mandala (Kuru kingdom) region to Sri Lanka. Old literary works of Sri Lanka such as the Sri Lankadvipaye Kadaimpotha, Tri Sinhale Kadaimpotha, Matale Kadaimpotha, Perakumba Sirita, Pujavaliya, Rajaratnakaraya and the Rajavaliya attempt to explain these changes and the existence of large Karava communities in the country. (Abeyawardana 1978 p 140)
Indeed many such historical records have disappeared or been altered and distorted during the British period by interested individuals. Hugh Neville the respected British historian has noted on the Janawamsaya " I have a rare version which contains an authentic passage referring to the Karava caste, suppressed now from most copies. ...and doubtless comes from the same source as the other traditions regarding Vijaya, fund in the Jafna chronicles, but now unknown to he Sinhalese" (reproduced in Ariyapala 1969 Appendix V) And the few records that have survived too are subjected to attacks and attempts to discredit their reliability. The story of Karava king Gajabahu falls into the latter category.
The Hatara Korale Kadaimpotha ola book says that King Gajabahu was a Karava King: “ In olden times after the Ravana war, from Kuru Rata there came to this island a queen, a royal prime, a rich nobleman and a learned prime minister with their retinue and by order of King Rama dwelt in a place called on that account 'Kuru Rata'. In the (…..) year of our great lord Gautama Buddha, Gajabahu who came from 'Kuru Rata' settled more people in Kuru Rata and called it ‘Parana Kuru Rata’. In another place he sent 1,000 persons and gave it to them calling it Aluth Kuru rata. (Bell 1904, Abeywardene 1978 p 33)
It is clear that the above Gajabahu story is a very old tradition of Sri Lanka because versions of the same story are also found in the 13th century Pujavaliya, 16th century Rajaratnakaraya and the 17th century Rajavaliya. However when the two 16th and 17th century sources were written during the period of decline and retreat, many centuries had lapsed since the real event, and the Gajabahu episode appears to have been no more than a legend. The actual events of 400 years ago had by then begun to disappear from the collective memory of chroniclers. As such the writers of the Rajaratnakaraya and the Rajavaliya have embellished the ancient and simple Gajabahu story with miraculous descriptions of a similar event found in the Gajaba Kathava – a ritual text sung at the Pattini rites of the Gammaduwa ritual. This interpolation either by he original authors or subsequent copyists has created a hybridized Gajabahu story with anachronisms and incredible miracles..
The Rajaratnakaraya and the Rajavaliya hybridization changes the original story’s king Gajabahu, the Karava king from the Kuru country in western Sri Lanka and makes him the son of king Vankanasikatissa from many centuries before. This drags the story far back into the 2nd century to the reign of an obscure king Gajaba who is said to have ruled from AD 113 to 135.
These later corruptions of the Gajabahu tradition have been gleefully seized by historians seeking to discredit and dismiss the Gajabahu historical tradition of Sri Lanka. Professor Gananath Obeyesekere seizes the phrase “In the year of our great lord Gautama Buddha…” in the Kadaimpotha and goes on to say that the Kadaimpotha has made king Gajabahu a contemporary of the Buddha. The professor doesn't seem to understand that a copyist over the centuries has omitted to mention the number of years. Obeyesekere also fails to understand that the text is about a king Gajabhu from the 'Kuru Rata' in Sri Lanka referred to in the earlier sentence and says that this Gajabahu was born in a Kuru Rata in India.
Incidentally, Professor Obeysekere is another Govigama writer who never seems to miss an opportunity to falsely brand all Karavas as fishers. Wherever this learned Professor uses the word ‘Karava’, one invariably finds the word fisher within brackets. Next time you see something written by him watch out for this practice and see for yourself whether his “fisher” within brackets is relevant in that context or inserted with malicious motives.
However, if we are to give Professor Obeyesekere the benefit of the doubt, his misinterpretation of the Janavamsa account could have arisen from his limited knowledge of the ways of Sinhala prose. If the writer of the Kadaimpotha wanted to say that king Gajabahu was a contemporary of the Buddha this is definitely not the usual way to write it. The structure of the sentence shows that this is obviously a copyist error and the ‘number of years after the Buddha’ has been omitted by a copyist of the past.. Professor Obeyesekere also says that the Kadaimpotha has made Gajabahu a Karava hero.
Bereft of the above academic befuddling, it is clear that the Karava king Gajabahu in the original story is most probably Gajabahu II (AD 1131 - 1153 ) but definitely not the obscure Gajaba of the 2nd century. Moreover when king Gajabahu of the story is taken as Gajabahu II (AD 1131 - 1153 ) the story fits in perfectly in the context of the period. Both Gajabahu and his father Wikramabahu seem to have been Hindus because the Mahavamsa blames them for bringing troops from India and settling them on temple lands- Mv 61:48-62, 66.133. This is the Gajabahu against whom Parakramabahu I waged a long and well planned war. He was a cousin of Parakramabahu I, and this war is described at length in Mahavamsa (MV 70.53 to 72).
However, the essence of the Gajabahu story is that there were large numbers of Karavas living in Sri Lanka prior to the time of King Gajabahu. During his time many more Karavas settled in Sri Lanka, particularly in the Aluth and Parana Kuruva districts. The sources clearly say that the captives brought were from service castes and as eveident even now at predominantly Karava settlements such as Negombo, Udappu, Moratuwa, Kalutara, Weligama, Tangalle, Beliatta etc. the agricultural and other service castes would have been setled around the Karava villages. Another Tamil inscription from the same period found in Kurunegala shows us how the king settled a dispute between the Blacksmith and Washermen castes (EZ III pg. 304)
The annual water cutting rituals performed at the end of all Sri Lankan pageants - although now not mentioned much- is a commemoration of Karava king Gajabahu's Indian invasion. According to legend king Gajabahu struck the ocean with his royal mace and parted the ocean for his warriors to crossover. As such many Sri Lankan pageants and even the Kandy Perehera which is now preceded by 4 other religious icons, appears to have initially been a pageant that carried King Gajabahu's sword in honour of Goddess Pattini. Even now the holy objects venerated by all 4 pageants are swords.
The story also explains how the Sun & Moon flag of the Karavas came to be associated with that part of the island. The Sun and Moon Flag of the Kaurava is now mistaken as the district flag of this region.
It appears that the Pattini cult was widely practiced in and around the feudal cities of Sri Lanka. It is an indication of the influence of the karava community of the past. “The ritual drama of goddess Pattini were universally practiced in the villages of the western, southern and Sabaragamuva provinces” (Obeyesekere p 470)
The form of dance now known as Kandyan dancing was originally called the Kohomba Kankariya and in royal times it was part of Pattini worship. Goddess Pattini’s husband Palanga had been executed and resurrected under a Kohomba tree and hence the name Kohomba Kankariya. This dance was called the Digge Netuma during the time of Sri Lankan kings and it a sacred dance strictly performed inside the Pattini Devale only. This dance was degraded in the 20th century by British appointed Kandyan Nilames who threw the dance out onto the streets to entertain their British masters. The poor dancers forced to comply.Now stripped of it’s former sanctity, this previously holy dance is performed on the streets, over elephant droppings, puddles, in hotels
With Polonnaruwa kings
By the 11th century many Kurukularajas have been ruling the Kuru Mandalam (Coromandal) region of south-east India. (BICT 1) 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)
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). This inscription which clearly gives the name of the General should silence the pseudo historians who try to say that the karavas were not the warrior race of Sri Lanka. It is quite probable that many Karavas particularly of the Kurukulasuriya clan may have migrated to Sri Lanka during this period with Kings and their armies which were led by Karava Kurukula generals such as Kurukulattarayan of the above referenced inscription. Inscriptions with such Karava names found in Sri Lanka may have disappeared like much of the other Karava related antiquities.
With Dambadeniya kings
In 1220 the Karava 'Siri Sangabo' dynasty is inaugurated by king Vijayabahu III (1220 - 1234 ), who claimed descent from a family that arrived with the sacred Bodhi tree.
During this period 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. As such it is to be expected that many Karavas crossed over from Kuru Mandala to Sri Lanka during this period as well.
With Arya-Chakravarthi kings
Several Karava families appear to have migrated to the Jaffna peninsular during the period of Arya Chakravarthy rule. The influence of Karavas in the Coromandal region appears to have been substantial. Naval commanders and king-makers of this period are specifically described as Karavas by Portuguese and other historians from that period. The Karava Singhe dynasty followed the Arya Chakravarthy kings and ruled Jaffna until they lost it to the Portuguese.
There is evidence in Portuguese records that the Naiks of Tanjore sent Karava commander Varuna Kulattan and other kinsmen on Naval expeditions. Some of these expeditions had included administrative Mudaliyars, families and even domestic animal such as dogs, cats, apes and birds to colonise the province. (Cosme 27)
A Karava Patabenda has been ruling in Jaffana in 1521 as according to the Rajavaliya and other sources, the three sons of Kotte's King Vijayabáhu VII sought refuge with this Karava Patabenda (king). In 1591 the 'Nallur convention' transferring the Kingdom of Jaffna to the Portuguese was signed, the signatories were Karava Mudaliyars.
In 1623 when the Portuguese baptised King Pararajasekaran IX’s two queens as Dona Clara da Silva and Dona Antonia da Silva, the several nephews of the king, nine Patangatims and the other members of the royal household are described as chief persons of the Karava caste.(Perniola Portuguese period III)
With Vanni rulers
The region known as Vanni in Sri Lanka became known as such because it was ruled by Vanni Kula (Varna Kula) kings. Karava Varna Kula clans appear to have migrated to that region in the middle ages and gained control of it.
Paranavithana's attempt to derive Vanni from 'Vana' (jungle) cannot be accepted because Vanni Kula Kshatriyas exist in South India where such etymology is invalid.
The Vanni Rajavaliya ola manuscript quotes a Sannas granted to the Karava prince, Chandra Wansa Karagothra Kuruvendervedhi Arasa Navaratnyarani Sinha Surya Nattu Devarir.by King Parakramabahu VI (in BE 1959 which corresponds with AD 1416) see Mukkara Hatana for a copy
Migrations to the East coast
There is evidence in Portuguese records that the Naiks of Tanjore sent Karava commander Varuna Kulattan (Warna Kula see Suriya clans of the Karavas) and other kinsmen on Naval expeditions. From the mediaeval period onwards the several kings and kingdoms of Sri Lanka had regularly requested military assistance from the Naiks of Tanjore and Madura. The Naiks too are said to have obliged with large armies.
The port of Trincomale is mentioned in some of these naval battles. As Couto reports some of these expeditions arived with administrative oficers, familes and even pets and setled down in Sri Lanka..
During king Rajasinghe's reign
Another old ola book, Rajasinghe Viti potha says that a Malala Bandara, Prince Semasinghe and 8 clans of Bandaras arrived with a retinue of 8,000 and went to Mahiyangana. (Abhayasinghe 1998 pg 134)
The above and other such records show that there were large migrations from the south East coast of India during the mediaeval period. The political climate of the region may have necessitated these migrations.
The Udappu migration
Udappu is a Karava village situated 65 miles north of Colombo. The people of the village are Hindu Karawa, with a cultural life that is altogether different from others living along the coast in the Chilaw District. They take pride in claiming descent from Kurukulather Chiefs of the Varnakulasuriya clan, who came over from India with their Makara flag and pearl umbrella, under circumstances caused by an unfortunate romance.
According to the story, their King had a beautiful daughter, named Kamalakanni, who was sought after as a bride by the King of the Maravars. But her father would not agree to a marriage with the Maravar. Fear of the persistent and powerful lover Kamalakanni's father agreed to the marriage and he even built the nuptial halls and pandals as was customary at that time.
But the night before the wedding, he fled with all his people and their belongings The angry man was made more angry when he found that instead of a bride waiting for him there was a bitch left tied to the Arasanikal (Bridal Post) and swore to avenge the humiliation and loss of honour he thus suffered.
The Karawe party landed at Mannar but came down south to Kalpitiya and from there to Puttalam, finally traveling through Mundel to settle down at Udappu, some of them later shifted to villages nearby, such as Munneswaram, Gojjaragama and Mandanmunai.
The Udappu village is famous for the annual fire walking and water rites performed at it's temple and the reenactment of the Mahabharata war. The main shrine at Udappu is dedicated to Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandya brothers, cousins of the Kauravas of the Mahabharata epic. (The Mahabharata is the origi n story of the Karavas - see Timeline of the Karava I )
The festival is held in july/august and the fifth day falls on the the day the new moon appears.
During the Kotte period
The Alakeshvara rulers of Kotte were also from the Warnakulasuriya clan. They too hailed from Kanchipuram, just like the Karava Warnakulasuriya Mudali of the Mukkara Hatana. and established the Alagakkonara dynasty (Konar as in Koon Karava). The 'Vaniya Kula' (Varna Kula) ancestry of the Alakeshvara rulers is misinterpreted by some modern historians as a 'trade' (Vani-ja) ancestry. However there still are Vanni Kula Kshatriyas living in the region of India from where the Alagakkonaras came.
According to some sources, Kurukule Parakramabahu VI (1412-1468) of Kotte was a son of Chandrabanu. As Banu means Sun, Chandrabanu's name signifies his Solar and Lunar dynasty ancestry as do the Karavas with their Chandra Surya clan descent. However Parakramabahu VI has claimed descent from the Baratha Kula Surya dynasty in his Padakada Sannasa and thereby clearly stated his Ayoththipattanam Karava origin.
Xemba Perumal / Sapumal Kumara who ruled Jaffna for king Parakramabahu VI (1412-1468) of Kotte was a son of Karava General Manikka Thalevan who fell in the Mukkara Hatana battle. This prince was adopted by King Parakramabahu VI as his own Son. He followed Parakramabahu and ascended the Kotte throne as Bhuvanekabahu VI (1470 1480).
The daughter of king Bhuvanekabahu VII was Samudra Devi (meaning Sea Queen) and she married prince Veediya Bandara (Vedaya as in expert in the Vedas. A grandson of a Karava regional ruler from the Aluth Kuru Korale) and their son was Dharmapala the last king of Kotte. See Timeline of Karava for more information about Karava rulers from this period.
Portuguese historians have noted that Karava Patabändas controlled not only one village but sometimes the whole coast as a master or ruler” when the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in the 16th century (Valignano 1577. Perniola 82). There appears to have been a large Karava population at that time. The Portuguese historian Fr. Queyroz describes an early Portuguese battle in Sri Lanka as : “At that time the Kinglet of the Careas appeared with the whole might of that kingdom which exceeded 20,000......” (Queyroz 631).
Several Karava Vaduga clans have migrated from Tanjore and Madura to the south and west coastal kingdoms of Sri Lanka during the Kotte period. See Vaduga
The Karava clan of Thakura Artha-deva Adithya (Lindamulage de Silva family of Moratuwa) traces their migration from Rajastan. See Arnold Wright,20th century impressions.
Some Karavas appear to have also arrived during the Portuguese period and helped the Portuguese as well as the local rulers in their many wars with each other.
With the Mukkara Hatana armies
See Mukkara Hatana for connected information and names of the Chiefs who came on this expedition.
During the Vaduga rule of Kandy
Karava Vaduga clans had been migrating to the coastal kingdoms of Sri Lanka from about the 16th century and were settled in those kingdoms. With the ascension of the Vaduga Nayak dynasty in Kandy many more Vadugas seem to have migrated to Sri Lanka. See Vaduga
Evidence of South Indian connections
Many Sri Lankan historians appear to downplay the Indian origin of Sri Lankan kings and their dynasties in an attempt to prop up the Sinhala myth. According to (mainly Govigama) revisionist historians, it is just the Karava, Salagama and Durava communities that have migrated from south India. They make it a point to say that these communities are recent migrants to Sri Lanka and that the Govigama people have been here from the earliest times. However as shown above historical sources clearly say that agricultural workers (Govi sudayan etc) were brought in hundreds by the various groups as and when they came over from India. These agricultural workers were settled in service villages called Pamunugam, Waalgam, Kamburugam etc throughout the country.
However the stone inscriptions of medieval kings make it very clear that they too are from South Indian Solar and Lunar dynasties; Kalinga and Pandya in particular. The architecture from this period too displays the strong south Indian influence. The coins issued by all the Parakramabahus, Vijayabahus, Bhuvanekabahus etc from this period have the kings name inscribed on them in Indian characters - not in the local script.
Above: Nalanda Temple in central Sri Lanka. Although this is assumed to be a Buddhist temple, with it's Khajuraho type erotic carvings it is unlikely to be a Buddhist shrine.
Above: Thuparama in Polonnaruwa
Above: Gadaladeniya Temple Kandy built in 1344 by king Wikramabahu (Wickramasuriya) of Gampola. The dome has been modified in recent times to look like a modern Buddhist stupa. Sinhala Myth apologists go out of their way to say that the temple is in the South Indian style only because it was built by south Indian workmen.
Above Lankatilleke Vihara as it appears now and below a cross section showing how the original south Indian features of the building have been covered up with a modern so called kandyan roof over the structure.
Godakumbura C. E. The Kotavehera at Dedigama 1969 Department of Archaeology Ceylon
Obeyesekere Gananatha The Cult of Goddess Pattini University of Chicago
Obeyesekere Gananath January 1970 The Ceylon Journal of Humanities Gajabahu and the Gajabahu Synchronism An inquiry into the relationship between myth and history
Rasanayagam Mudaliyar C 1926 Ancient Jaffna
Rohanadeera Mendis 1997 Asgiri Talpata – a palm leaf manuscript from the Asgiri Viharaya
Yatala Vehera 1987 Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Click for larger image of South India and Kuru-Mandala (Coromandal).
Note the difference between the 'fishery coast' which is in the proximity of Mannar and Jaffna and the 'Coromandel Coast' with its Kanchi, Kilakarai and Kaveri pattanams (ports of Karava migration mentioned in the Mukkara Hatana etc.) which are further north up the coast
Above: The ports of migration on Kuru-Mandal coast. (click for larger image )
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
The Karava inscription on the council terrace at Anuradhapura. See Karava terrace
The territory where the events took place and in which the Dambadeniya, Kurunegala and Panduvasnuvara Kingdoms were also located. Tammana, the putative place of landing of prince Vijaya is also in this region.
This region was called the Aluth Kuru Rata meaning 'New Kuru Country' and is to date known as Aluth Kuru Korale. (see migrations with king Gajabahu, below left column).
The ancestral flag of the Karava Arasakularatne clan from Maggona. Note the central Tree and Ship symbolism. Click for larger image.
A coin from the ancient Anuradhapura kingdom displaying similar tree symbolism.
An artist’s impression of Theri Sanghamitta arriving in Sri Lanka with the Bodhi Tree planted in Anuradhapura .
Above: One of the many surviving ancient Bodhigharas / Vrukshagharas (holy tree shrines) found scattered all over Sri Lanka.
Pre Christian inscriptions with the ship symbol (above) and fish symbol (below). All inscriptions of the Kataragama Kshatriyas have the Fish symbol
The lamp illustrated above was one of a pair found in the upper relic chamber of the Kotavehera at Dedigama. The figure on the elephant appears to be Indra, the God of the Kshatriyas, although for some strange reason no one has attempted to identify the figure.
According to folklore Dedigama was where the Iron mace of king Gajabahu was buried. And according to the Kurunegala Vistaraya, king Gajabahu abandoned Dedigama after he built a city at Beligala. This further confirms the period and territory of Gajabahu’s rule. Parakramabahu I who tricked and betrayed King Gajabahu, built a stupa here claiming it was the site of his birth. Was it a homage to King Gajabahu ?
Later Dedigama was the seat of the Karava Keerawella family founded by Rajput Thakura (Godakumbura 1969 pages 5, 24, 28)
Above: The formerly sacred Digge Netuma of the Kohomba Kankariya of the Goddess Pattini ritual. It was callously called Kandyan dancing and degraded in the 20th century by British appointed Kandyan Nilames who threw the dance out onto the streets to please their British masters. In royal times this dance was a sacred dance and was only performed in the inner sanctum of the Pattini shrine in honour of the Goddess.
Pattini worship is closely connected to the Karavas and Karava king Gajabahu - See migrations from India. The annual water cutting rituals performed at the end of all Sri Lankan pageants - although now not mentioned much- is a commemoration of Karava king Gajabahu's Indian invasion. According to legend king Gajabahu struck the ocean with his royal mace and parted the ocean for his warriors to crossover.
As such many Sri Lankan pageants and even the Kandy Perehera which is now preceded by 4 other religious icons, appears to have initially been a pageant in honour of Goddess Pattini.
Sokari too is a dance performed in honour of godess Pattini
King Rajasinghe II (1634 – 1686 ) Son of Karava queen Dona Catherina and King Senerath (a cousin of Karava prince Konappu Bandara (who was crowned as Wimaladharmasuriya I -1591-1604)
An 18th century etching of the Vaduga King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1781) of the Kshatriya Surya Vamsa with his courtiers paying obeisance to him.
The objects carried in honour of the king are: Mutukuda (royal white umbrella), Álawattam (disks with sun emblems representing the king’s descent from the solar race), Wadanatalathu (ceremonial palm leaf shades), Válavíjani ( yak tail whisks), Sak paliha ( white conch shields) and ceremonial weapons.
These royal symbols are used todate only by the Karavas at their family ceremonies and are also found on most old Karáva flags.
This king was only 13 years old when he ascended the throne. Therefore his father, Nárenappa had ruled the kingdom with assistance from the Karava Mudaliar of Jaffna, Dom Andrado.
Above a Buddha from the Polonnaruwa period (click for larger image) and below the famous elephant lamp from Dedigama (click for larger image) both display the heavy south Indian influence of the period in the Makara arch and supporting lion images.
A Shiva Devale in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Historians go out of their way to dismiss these as shrines built solely for the benefit of the Hindu consorts of kings.
Above: Stucco representation of palaces on the wall of Thuparama Polonnaruwa
Above: The entrance to the Natha Devale Kandy. The Devale itself is almost identical to the Shiva Devale illustrated above. As such official descriptions of the Devale show only the entrance above and not the devala building. The holy insignia of this devale too is a sword - symbol of Kshatriya war and victory. As such it cannot be a Bodhisattva (future Buddha) shrine although it is called as such.
Above: Another disguised temple in Kandy. The Adahana Maluwa Vihara with a roof hiding it's south Indian architecture. King Vimaladharmasuriya (Koon Appu Bandara) his wife Maha pataendige Dona Catherina and son Mahasthana- all Karava royals- were cremated here. The graves were destroyed when constructing the Matale railway line.
Kshatriya Maha Sabha, Sri Lanka