The Karava of Ceylon

This book provides the main background to the Karava as a whole. The karava history included in the Karava page is based mostly on the material found in this book. 

Michael Roberts in his book ‘Caste Conflict and Elite Formation’ points out  that this book was sponsored by a number of Karava. S. R. de Fonseka was one such karava who helped Raghavan with material for the research work. The book  was published by another Karava, K. V. G. de Silva. While other books relate to a specific colonial period, this book traces the very origins of the Sri Lankan Karava from the time of the ‘Mahabharata’ to the British Periods. 

 The following references to the De Fonseka families occur in this book. For more information on the Karava Caste, please read the Karava History details included in two links provided at the bottom of this page. These details are mostly based on this book. 

Page 29:

The connection between the d’Anderado family and the Dutch began at the outset of the Dutch era; ‘they (the d’Anderados) assisted in many wars on behalf of the Hon’ble Company6 in various places” – according to an old Dutch MS. Of the de Fonseka family; Sessional Paper IX of 1933. In 1656 Manuel d’Anderado was guarding the Pass at Kalutara with his lascarins-Peiris : Port. Era II, 454. In 1658 he took part in the expedition to Jaffna against the Portuguese. He was made Sabandaar and appointed sole Ceylonese member of the Dutch Court of Jaffnapatam – “Instructions from The Governor General and Council of India to the Governor General of Ceylon.” 1656-1665. Translated by Sophia Pieters (1908), 95.

Page 12: With reference to three inscribed swords discovered of the 15th Century, and containing Karava names as the recipients. 

    These swords were the heirlooms of the Karava family of ‘de Rowel’. The de Rowels in common with the D’Andrados, de Fonsekas, Tamels, Tisseras and Lowes possess the proud clan name Varnakula Adittiya Arsanilayitta.

For the de Fonseka family documents, see Sessional Paper IX of 1933 P 13. Also see Dutch Records, Volume 2673D, which deals entirely with matters pertaining to the d’Anderado and the de Fonseka families. For an earlier reference, see Baldaeus: Description of Ceylon, (Amsterdam 1672), in Churchill’s Voyages, III, p 798, for Dom Manual d’Anderado, “one of our Cingalese Captains and Modliar” (1658).

Page 52:

Projected expedition for the capture of Cochin and Coilan. 

With a view to increasing the size of this contingent of troops and in view of the fact that certain volunteer soldiers among the Islanders have earnestly offered their services for this expedition it was resolved to attach also the Mudliar of Negambo with 100 troops; Don Louis d’Andrado of Kalutara with 60 troops.

Secret Resolutions of the Dutch Council Vol. 9, page 188, 16th January 1660.

As reward for the fine services of the Singhalese Chieftains Mo-otty Appuhamy and Louis d’Andrade rendered at the siege and capture of Cochin and in order to link them more closely to the Company6, it was resolved and decreed to bestow on each of them an honorarium of eighty Rix-dollars together with a gold chain or similar gift.

Secret Resolutions of the Dutch Council, Vol. 10, page 22, 1st September 1663.

(6. Hon’ble Company – most probably a reference to the Dutch East India Company, which administered the Island.)

Page 34:

             The following translation is of an ola manuscript found at Pulinatalaramaya Vihare, Kalutara. These Singhalese verses are a specimen of a folk ballad, written by an unskilled village minstrel, to extol the gallant deeds and the nobility of Mudaliyar Andradi and the Mudaliyar of Kammala. The style is poor, and the meaning confused and obscure.

             The following is a free translation, as far as the meaning can be made out. Only the first two sheets have been reproduced.

Sheet 1 :

            Listen, ye friends, give year to the exploits of the ancient Mudaliyar Andradi,
            Who held command over Negambo, Alutgama and Jaffna,
            Renowned on that account as a minister of war,
            Sprung from the Karava ancestry,
            He received honors more numerous and secure than all other mortals.

 Sheet 2 :

             When the Nilames of every korale of the country,
            Attacked with their swords and captured like a heap of seed,
            And charged with their cruel lances and daggers the embattlements of Sinhale,
            And surrounded them, so that no one was left, by any means,
            Without being reduced to ashes like burnt straw,
           Who are they that fought all over the land and liberated it,
           But the famed Karave Mudaliyars.

Page 92 :

            The extent of the slave system entered into the domestic life of society in Dutch times, becomes more evident from what are called the ‘de Andrado Papers’, Vol. No. 3210, of the Dutch Records, a collection of legal and administrative documents of the 17th and 18th centuries, dealing with certain matters pertaining to the affairs of the distinguished Karava family of de Andrado, as stated by J. H. O. Paulesz in his introduction to ‘The De Andrado and De Fonseka Manuscripts, Text and Translation’;-

            “Bras de Andrado had promised his future son-in-law Thomas Pieris, Junior Surgeon, a dowry of Rix-dollars 400 and had remitted, in cash, jewellery or in land, the bulk of this amount. But a quarrel seems to have broken out between the two families and Bras refused to pay over the small balance of the dowry money still due, even though threatened with legal penalties.

            “Pieris sued him for recovery of the money. But, though he obtained a decree against Bras he still could not force him to pay. Finally, various properties belonging to Bras were seized and auctioned by Disava Schot, in satisfaction of this and certain other claims. Most of the lands confiscated in this way paraveni properties, a fact well known to Bras who was so sure that they could never be taken from him, whatever the circumstances, that he looked upon their sale and transfer to others with indifference, if not sardonic amusement.

            “The main interest of the book lies in the action of the judiciary in declaring null and void the order of Governor de Heere, as carried out by Disava Schot and the extraordinary strictness with which the sanctity of paraveni lands were upheld.

            “Other elements of interest are the character of Bras de Andrado, often vilified without justification in the heat of legal exchanges, and the social customs among his kinsmen of the Fonseka family and others.”

            The cultural interest alluded to in the closing lines of the above summary, is not the least of the value of these Papers to prosperity. First among these, is the custom of giving a marriage portion on the marriage of daughters, the institution of dowry, the custom which has grown to be among the greatest of the social evils of today.

            A clear insight into the Slave System and its incidence in the domestic and social life of the past ages, is among the sidelights we glean from these papers.

            The deed of November 12, 1695, by which Bras de Andrado bestowed certain property on his daughter, provided that she shall inherit all his goods and slaves, except two lads named Kadrian and Joan who have been set free by him.

            Slaves formed part of the land, and were bought and sold with the transfer of ownership of land. A slave girl bought by Thomas Pieris from Bras de Andrado, was taken over by the later “for what she had cost”, on the adjudication of the protracted case between Bras de Andrado and his son-in-law, Thomas Pieris; by the Honorable Court of Justice of the Castle of Colombo under date, August 3, 1703, restoring the lands to the former, on the ground that paraveni properties were inalienable and could not be confiscated or sold for the discharge of private debts.