Karava ‘Ge’ Names

The ‘Ge’ names of the Karava explained. 

The institution of the ‘Ge’ name is somewhat slowly disappearing from the naming conventions of the Sri Lankan society. Western influences that started with the Portuguese, has made steady inroads to most aspects of the culture and society. The naming conventions too have gradually changed over time and have now adopted a more westernized, surname based convention. The ‘Ge’ name or Pelapath name is hardly seen beyond the confines of a Birth Certificate or an Identity Card. In today’s cosmopolitan society, the caste too is very rarely spoken about and the Ge names, in most cases are abbreviated to a set of initials. In some cases the original Ge name is now used as a Surname.

The traditional belief amongst most people is that the ‘Ge’ name means something similar to ‘from the house of’ and indicated their family lineage and/or the birthplace. Although correct to an extent, the Ge names in use today are an end product of the range of complex social situations and functions. The names may encompass the kind of services performed by the families, their place of origin, titles given by the kings or in some cases the clan divisions amongst a caste. The Ge name may also be indicative of the status within the caste.

The baptismal rites and the tombo registrations introduced by colonial administrators changed the low country naming standards forever. The rules (with their associated naming conventions) gave certain advantages even to the non-Christian communities in the possession of lands and in joining a public career. Because of these reason even Buddhists and Hindus converted to Christianity in order to acquire a civil distinction. The officers or men of higher stature especially of Karave and Salagama casts acquired European names as they were close to the administrators. Prefixes such as Don or Dom were used in the Portuguese era to signify the high status of a person. Members of the Goigama castes preferred to use the traditional naming patterns. Whereas personal names changed significantly under European influence, the Ge names lived on relatively unchanged.

Components of a Name:

In days gone by, the name of a person consisted of three distinct sections.

The first was the name given to him on birth and in later years corresponds to a name given at baptism. These may be a pet name or may indicate some characteristic of the child such as the appearance, color of skin, or his place in the family among the brothers and sisters. These names varied much between the different social strata and casts. The names given by the colonial administrators on baptism, were biblical in origin.

The second part of the personal name was known as vasagama, or ge name. This was the family name and corresponds to the surname. It also frequently denotes the name of the lineage or the ancestral or pelapath name. This name was given to a family according to the service or rajakariya they performed in the past. Vasagama is the name of the village where the person resided. So this part of the name usually carries the name of the lineage and the services performed by his ancestors. When a person was awarded with patabendi nama his wasagama took the secondary position.

The third part of the name Patabendi name, was conferred to a person either by the Singhalese King or by the Portuguese or the Dutch Governor in appreciation of the recipient’s remarkable service or brave deed. The Sinhala Kings very often used the term patabendi, when they awarded honorific title to a native chief along with a head ornament or frontlet. Award of these titles was taxed and contributed considerably to the revenue of the state.

Some of the Patabendi names with their loose translations, are listed below:

Abayakoon (fearless chief)  Navaratna (nine gems)
Abayaratna (gem of the fearless)  Rajapakse (loyal to the king)
Ekanayaka (unrivelled chief)   Seneviratna (victorious commander)
llangakoon (King of the island)  Weeraratna
Jayasingha (victorious lion)   Weeravarna
Jayawardhana (victory increaser)  Wijayanayaka
Jayasuriya (sun of victory)   Wijeratna (victorious gem)
Jayasekara (highest of victorious)  Wijeweera
Jayawickrema   Wikramasinghe (victorious lion)
Manamperi (great hearted man)

The patabendi name was used by the awarded to substitute his wasagama which became a practice after the Portuguese times. Some of the familiar examples are Silva, Perera, Mendis, Soysa and Fonseka. The term patabendi was misspell by the Portuguese as well as by the Dutch and recorded as patagatljn. The Dutch at a subsequent time used the term patangatijn to refer to the chief of the Karava cast. The patabendi name was perpetuated, becoming an inheritable family name. This in later years it has also become common surnames.

The distinct sections of the name as described above, is clearly visible in some of the ancestral names reproduced in the genealogical charts of this site. The names such as Godwin Jacob de Fonseka Samarawickrama Arsekularatne and Percy Augustus Mendis Jayawardene etc demonstrates these components.

Karava ‘Ge’ names:

Some of the main categories of Karava Ge names are listed below. Within each of these categories are its extended forms. Where available a brief explanation of the meaning of the ‘Ge’ name has also been provided.

Arachchige The term Arachchige or Arachchilage is of a military origin and denotes a village head. Extended forms of the name include Galappati Arachchige, Gunasekera Arachchige, Hetti Arachchige, Kasturi Arachchige, Kandana Arachchige, Kalu Arachchige, Liyana Arachchige, Vickrema Archchige, Kurukula Arachchilage etc.
Buduge Extended forms are Bodiya Buduge, Kande Buduge, Aruma Buduge, Lama Buduge, Maha Buduge, Boosa Buduge etc.
Hennedige Henadige or Senadige (Sena means Army) means the house of the commanding officer. The extended forms are Arsakula Hennedige, Lokku Hennedige, Lewis Hennedige, Varuna Hennedige, Vira Hennedige etc.
Hewage Hewage as in Hennedige above is of a military nature. (Hewaya; Soldier). The extended forms are Bala Hewage, Balapeti Gardiya Hewage, Hetti Hewage, Lorenzu Hewage, Moratuwa Hewage etc.
Hettige Pursuit of trade and commerce.
Gurunnanselage House of the Guru or teacher. Related terms; Guruge and Gurusinghage.

Jayasuriya forms include Lamabadu Jayasuriya, Lokubadu Jayasuriya, Weeravarna Jayasuriya, Mahabala Jayasuriya

Liyanage Writing; clerical and accounting work (grain). Extended terms are Jasentu Liyanage, Liyanarachchige, Loku Liyanage, Badda Liyanage, Lekamwasam Hikkaduwa Liyanage.
Kankanamage Kanakanama, officer below that of Arachchi. Extended forms are Kottegoda Kankanage, Kodituwakku Kankanage etc.
Mandadige Mandadirala was an officer connected with the fishing industry.
Marakkalage Name expressing navigation and ownership of sea going vessels. Extended forms are Maha Marakkalage, Arasa Marakkalage etc.
Mestrige Derives from the word Mestrige meaning Supervisor. Occurs in combinations with the names Vadu Mestrige (house of the Master Carpenter), Varnakulasuriya Vadu Mestrige, Vidana Mestrige.
Patabendige See Patabendi names. At times combined with a title Abeysuriya Patabendige, Wijeweera Patabendige etc. Extended forms are Arukatti Patabendige, Asuramana Patabendige, Chandiram Patabendige, Colomba Maha Patabendige, Gee Kiyane Patabendige, Hettiya Patabendige, Jayawarna Patabendige, Kaha Kachchi Patabendige, Kalinga Pura Patabendige, Kanchipura Patabendige, Kodippili Patabendige, Kotte Patabendige, Maha Marakkala Patabendige, Malamee Patabendige, Malumee Patabendige, Matangaweera Patabendige, Moratu Patabendige, Nanayakkara Varnakula Patabendige, Pancha Seela Patabendige, Penn Kutti Patabendige, Podi Marakkala Patabendige, Ranaweera Patabendige, Ranaweera Patabendige, Samarakone Patabendige, Sembu Kutti Patabendige, Sinha Pura Patabendige, Suriya Patabendige, Vijaya Pura Patabendige, Weera Konde Patabendige, Weera Varna Patabendige, Weerakone Patabendige, Yapane Patabendige
Tantrige Of learning and Knowledge, of art in general and technical arts. Associated names are Hewa Tantrige (skilled in knowledge of military science), Kalu Tantrige, Vadu Tantrige etc.
Tuppahige House of the Interpreter.
Vidanage Vidana and Mahavidana were civil officers and in Portuguese times wielded considerable authority. Vitaranage, Parana Vitanage, Sembakutti Vidanalage, Vidanaralalage.
Vaduge House of the Carpenter. Extended forms are Mana Vaduge, Maha Vaduge etc.
Vedige Vedage Vedi possibly means a wise person, learned in the Vedas (Medicine).
Clan Names Arasakulasuriya (Jayasiri Arasakulasuriya), Kurukulasuriya, Manukulasuriya, Varnakulasuriya (Varnasuriya), Mihindukulasuriya
Surya Names

Abyesuriya,  Balasuriya, Bharanasuriya, Bharathakulasuriya, Dheerasuriya, Elangasuriya, Meghasuriya, Weerasuriya,  Wijesuriya, Wikremasuriya, Karnasuriya, Nilaweerasuriya, Ranasuriya, 

Others Amarasuriya Mudiyanselage, Jayakuru, Jayaraja Jayavarna Gampalana (Gampolage), Jayasiri Aditya Tantula, Kuruketiye Amerasuriye, Kurunaide, Kurunatha, Kurunayake, Kuruneru, Kurusinghe, Kuruweera, Mahapatabendige, Rajakuru etc.

The Ge names analyzed above could be found amongst a majority of the Karava population. But along the littoral from Negombo to Chilaw and up to Kalutara, a section of the Karava has adopted a threefold clan division of Kurukulasuriya, Mihindukulasuriya and Varunakulasuriya. These people use the clan name as a prefix to their personal names and have not adopted the Singhalese system of Ge names. The De Fonseka families belonged to the Varunakulasuriya clans and used the clan name Varnakula Aditya Arasa Nila Yitta. Under greater Singhalese acculturation, Ge names seem gradually to have replaced these clan designations but many a Ge name, still bears traces of this earlier clan organisation. This is clearly evident in the De Fonseka families as the earlier clan name of ‘Varnakula Aditya Arasa Nila Yitta’, in later years was shortened to Varnage.

Other ‘Ge’ names and their meanings:


 House of Blacksmith


 House of Potters


 House of Silversmiths


 House of Drummer


 House of Village Chief


 House of Teacher


 House of Lime Burner


 House of Messenger / Coolly


 House of Mat Weaver


 House of Sailor


 House of Grain Measurer




 House of Messenger


 House of School Master


 House of Barber


 House of Accountant


 House of Washerman


 House of Inquirer (Judicial Settle minor disputes)

Yeddihige Yedi means Sanyasi of the intensely contemplative type.



        RAGHAVAN, M. D., The Karava of Ceylon – Society and Culture, K. V. G. de Silva, 1961.
        WEERASURIYA, A. S. F., Kurukula Charithaya II, Sujatha Press, 1960.
        PARANAVITANA, K. D., Land for Money – Dutch Land Registration in Sri Lanka, Sridevi 2001.