Above: The ancient Kuru kingdom of India - , the original kingdom of the Karava race.
As much as the Karavas of Sri Lanka and India, the Buddha too was from the Kshatriya caste and it is recorded in several Suttas that The Buddha visited the Kuru Kingdom, the country of origin of the Karava race. The Buddhist scriptures say that the Kuru (Kaurava) people were extremely intelligent and noble, and that they were able to easily understand advanced religios teachings. The Buddha has taught 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 practiced in the Theravada world is founded on the 'Kuru Dharma' of the Kauravas. See Kuru Dharma Jataka.
In the the Agganna Sutta, Ambattha Sutta, Madura Sutta and several other Suttas the Buddha says : “the Kshatriya caste is the highest caste”. As such contrary to the modern notion, the Buddha was never a crusader against the traditional caste system of India or a social reformer. His challenge was to the Brahmins who had by them corrupted the ancient Dharmas of the subcontinent.
New research from India suggests that the actual place of birth of the Buddha was in Orissa and not in Nepal. See Orissa Historical Journal. (OHRJ XLVII 2004 Vol No. 1 pg 7 -15) If so the Kuru kingdom visited by the Buddha could be the Kurumandala region adjoining Orissa (the region of migation for most Karavas). It may also explain why so many suttas have been preached in the Kuru country.
The Buddhist flag of the modern world was based on the ancestral flag of the Karava ‘Thakura Artha-deva Adithya’ Lindamulage de Silva family. (see illustration on left)
When a group of Kandyan monks attempted to monopolise higher ordination only to their kin group, Karava monks were among the groups of monks who undertook the hazardous sea voyage to Burm to obtain higher ordination and make it available to all Sri Lankans irrespective of their caste.
Above: The Kumara Kanda Vihara in Dodandwa a centre of Buddhist culture and study during the past century. Since the revival of Buddhism during the Dutch period, many Karavas have initiated the building and funding of Buddhist temples big and small in all parts of the country.
Some of the better known temples patronised by the Karavas are:
The Gothami Vihara in Borella was built by Mrs. Apalonia Soysa and the shrine room walls were illustrated by David Paynter from the Karava Weerasoriya family.
Above: Mrs. Apalonia Pieris who built the Gothami Vihara at Borella. She was Sir James Pieris' mother.
The Soysas were the patrons of the Hanguranketha Raja Maha Vihara for almost a century.
The Vajiraramaya in Bambalapitiya was built by Mrs. Jeremias Dias (Pattini Hennedige Warnadeeptya Kurukulasuriya Selestina Rodrigo) together with the leading Budhist girls schools Visaka Vidyalaya near by. The Vajiraramaya is a principal Buddhist centre of the Durava community now.
Above: 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.
The Rankoth Vihara in Panadura was founded by Karavas and handsomely endowed by wealthy Karavas. The Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya in Panaadura was built on land gifted by this Rankoth Vihara and funding for building and establishing the school came from leading Karavas.
The Siam Nikaya which is given the premier status by Govigama caste dominated governments allows only Govigama caste men to ordain in it. It does not allow any other caste to enter it. See Siyam Nikaya for Sri Lankan state support for this caste discrimination against non-govigama castes. The Other two Nikayas, The Amarapura Nikaya and the Ramanna Nikaya are open to anyone from any caste, just as the Buddha did.
However the Siyam Nikaya's 'Govigama only' discrimination hasn't prevented pious Buddhist from contributing generously to the Temple of the Tooth and other temples that are totally controlled by the 'Govigama only' Siyam Nikaya. However the non-Govigama donors aren't noted or celebrated. They are probably taken to be suckers and treated accordingly.
The Karava philanthropist, Mrs Jeramias Dias, from the Rodrigo family of Panadura founded the Visaka Vidyalaya in 1917. She gave away over Rs. 2 million (approx 200,000 sterling) 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 with them 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 Buddhism 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 now never even mentioned.
W. A. de Silva, another Karava philanthropist, mortgaged his “Sravasti’ mansion to settle D. B. Jayatilleke’s staggering debts at the Colombo YMBA and lost his mansion. “Sravasti’. His mansion still exists near the Colombo Museum. It's now a hostel for government Ministers.
Below: The Karava philanthropist W. A. de Silva and the “Sravasti’ mansion that D. B. Jayatilleke lost for him
There are old timers who say that D. B. Jayatilleke may have deliberately led W. A. de Silva and other Karavas to financial ruin. When P de S Kularatne returned from England and applied to be the Principal of Ananda College, the anti-karava D. B. Jayatilleke had tried his best to block it. And if not for the intervention of W. A. de Silva the course of Ananda, Nalanda and many other Buddhist schools would have taken a different course.
Other Karava financiers of Buddhist causes were: Thomas Amarasuriya of Galle who founded Mahinda College the leading Buddhist school in the southern province, Simon Perera Abeywardena, Jeremias Dias who was the principal lay supporter of the Rankoth Vihara built by his Father Haramanis Dias.
Jeremias Dias also gave large sums of money to other temples and Buddhist schools. This family also contributed handsomely for the acquisition of Buddhagaya in India for the Buddhist. (However their names are never mentioned now and Anagarika Dharmapala has become the sole saviour of Buddagaya).
Merennage Mathes Salgado supported many Buddhist charities and founded the Buddhist temple at Pinwella. Mahavaduge Cornelis Perera too gave lavishly towards Buddhist schools and his nephew Wilmot Perera founded the Buddhist School and cultural centre "Sri palee".
Laura Elsie de Silva Jayewardene (Mrs H. de S. Kularatne after marriage) inaugurated Prajapathi Gothami the leading Buddhist girl’s school in Ambalangoda (then Girls English school ) at her father's residence "Jaya Siri" Bandarawatte, and gifted the house and land to the school.
Above P. de S Kularatne, one of Sri Lanka’s greatest educationalist and the founder of many Buddhist schools. He pioneered the Sri Lankan National dress in 1931 by wearing it to Ananda. Five other teachers followed from the next day.
Above : The modern Buddhist flag
and below: The 'pancharanga' flag of the Karava ‘Thakura Arta-deva Adithya’ clan (Lindamulage de Silva family of Moratuwa).
The colors of the stripes are blue, gold, red , white and purple. This flag was made available to the flag committee by Mrs. G. J. R. de Soysa.
Colonel Olcott’s design for the Buddhist flag above was based on this flag. This flag is illustrated in 20th century impressions of Ceylon
A few prominent monks from the Karava caste
Above : Weligama Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thero (7th Dec 1825 -1905) The scholar monk who researched and prepared the arguments for the Panadura Vadaya debate with Christian catechists.
Aove: Agga Maha Panditha Polwate Buddadatta Maha Nayaka Thero, The great scholar Monk
Above: Rev. Welipatanvila Deepankara
Dodanduwe Piyaratana Tissa Thero (1826 -1907) He was the Maha Nayaka Thero 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 satue in his Sailabimbarama temple is from Kaveri Pattanum, south India.
Kshatriya Maha Sabha, Sri Lanka