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Govi, Govigama is the largest and the most influential caste in Sri Lanka. The term Govi denotes (paddy) farmer, deriving from the root word 'goyam', meaning paddy plant.[1] From time immemorial the Govigama have been responsible for the cultivation of the lands (along with Bathgama) of the island country in accordance with the traditional Rajakariya system (Sri Lanka’s Tenurial system of land holding). However, 'Govigama' is a Dutch period creation as traditionally there was only 'Govi. Traditionally all land was owned by the king and the rajakriya system meant you were duty bound to work the land.[2] Private land ownership by ordinary folk came about only after European colonization [1]. Sri Lanka has like most other countries traditionally been an agrarian civilization for 2500 years and hence the relationship between cultivator, land-owner and feudal authority is understandable. Cultivation common to most human societies was so important to the sustainability of kingdoms, that the kings even built reservoirs in villages throughout Sri Lanka. The specialist craftsmen/builder caste known as Navandana, soldiers and slaves had played a crucial role in the construction of these ancient dams and Stupas. Another definition for govigama is that it was the cast that provided the kings with the officer cadre, that's why almost all Kandyan govigama families have mudiyanse name, meaning officer, like herath mudiyansalage tikiri bandara.

An 18th-century etching of cultivators fishing in a reservoir during the dry season, from An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon by Robert Knox(1641-1720)


The traditional occupation of this caste is paddy cultivation, and they were the tenant farmers in the Sri Lankan feudal system. It is considered as a caste[3] in what is now sinhalese society.[4] The Sinhalese caste system was based on the service to the king or 'raja kariya',[3] and land ownership. King literally owned all the lands in the island and govigama people cultivated these lands at the behest of the king. The contribution to rice production and service in royal service gave govigama people an important role in the ancient agrarian society. Kings are said to participate in harvesting festivals held end of each Yala (dry) and Maha (wet) season and there is a traditional saying:"Once cleaned the mud (from paddy cultivation) off, a farmer can be a king" is of recent time. Kings participated in all festvals of the land, but to drag the king to the mud is highly disrespectful. The traditional saying common in feudal times was; hene kumbure weda (the burden of work / hardship of life & limitations imposed on their dwellings)[5][2]

Only in the present era, it has been the norm that the head of the country is a Govi caste member, though President Premadasa was not.[6][7][8][9] Some Anglican Govi that turned Buddhist in the past century popularized the myth that the colonial occupiers, including the Portuguese, Dutch and British, tried to change Govi dominance by giving prominence to other castes by granting government posts and education under them. Yet the evidence points other wise and the post monarch colonial era saw the rise of the ordinary/majority caste populace[10][11] The Dutch and the British introduced the ideas of Republicanism

Many members of the Govigama community are still farmers in villages throughout Sri Lanka. However, some farmers other than rice farmers are not considered to be govigama. A good example is the caste Salagama. Bathgama farmers are apparently a 'lesser' brand of rice farmer. The Govi women are also made to do the awful back-breaking harvest work. An important characteristic in Sinhalese caste system is that the family name or the surname details the ancestry of the name bearer. The original name was given based on where one lived. As some castes of southern India do. Later honorary terms, granted by the king based on his/her service to the kingdom at a certain rank in the royal service or at a personal capacity, were added to the original name. This continued for generations resulting in very long names. In general, 'Mudiyanselage', among Kandyans, and 'Arachchilage', 'Appuhamilage', among low country people, considered names taken up by Govigama and others to improve their social standing. The ranking in the service of the kingdom introduced further categorization within govigama people based on their names. Yet some variations are found at present due to the changes during the colonial perios. Historic literature and inscriptional evidence from the feudal period show that the above hierarchy prevailed throughout the feudal period until the collapse of Sri Lankan kingdoms and social structure under the onslaught of European colonialism. However, even in the modernday, Sinhalese people look at surnames and ancestry when it comes to marriages.

In traditional Sinhalese society Buddhist monks are placed at the top; in fact, monks were considered not to be a part of the laymen society. Irrespective of the birth caste of a monk, even the king had to worship him. However, this led to some Buddhist sects in Sri Lanka allowing only Govigama people to join, contrary to Lord Buddha's instructions. Other castes such as Karava, Durava, Salagama and Wahumpura have their own Buddhist sects, but they do not impose any restrictions based on caste creed or race, upon anyone who wishes to join. These practices imposed by the govigama only sect against the wishes of the Buddha had brought a negative reputation of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, especially when the largest Buddhist converts today are the Indian Dalit community, a practice that had also been common in the history of Buddhism. Though largely overlooked, the Govi caste too have incoperated south Indian migrants throughout history till recent times.[10][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Ancient period[edit]

Ancient texts such as the Pujavaliya, Sadharmaratnavaliya and Yogaratnakaraya list the four caste categories as Raja Kshatriya, Bamunu Brahmana, Velanda Vaishya and Govi in descending order, where the Govi caste is the 4th caste. However the current caste system in Sri Lanka has dis-empowered the Raja, Bamunu and Velanda Castes, and establishes the Govigama caste as the highest extant caste in the hierarchy of Sinhala castes (Govi, Karave, Durava, Salagama, etc.). The Pújavaliya [citation needed] also says that Buddha could be born in the Govi caste, although in reality he was born as a Kshatriya and Theravada says there is only one Buddha per human era. The 10th-century Dampiyaatuvagetapadaya and the 12th-century Darmapradeepikava already state that the Govi caste is a middle caste compared to the kings. (Dampiyaatuvagetapadaya 217. Darmapradeepikava 190), indicating gradual rise from the bottom of society. Other ancient texts such as the Gavaratnakaraya and Sarpothpaththiya (Sarpavedakama vi, 5 & 123) respectively classify even Sri Lankan cattle and snakes into the same four caste categories as Raja, Bamunu, Velanda & Govi, where again Govi is the 4th form. Secondary castes such as Durava and Salagama are not mentioned in these texts since they were later Dravidian migrants to Sri Lanka or were small communities. However, as indicated above the Govi community also has incoperated Dravidian latter migrants.[10][12][13][17][18] Ballads sung to-date at ancient Gammaduva rituals also refer to the above four castes categories in the same sequence and also describes the limits and privileges of each. The domestic utensils of the Raja, category are described as made of gold; silver and copper for the next two and finally earthenware for the Govi caste which is last in the hierarchy (Gammaduwa 13). King Nissanka Malla who managed to chase out[citation needed] the Indians who destroyed[citation needed] the Raja, Bamunu, Welanda, and Govi castes by forced intermarriages authored a stone inscription "Gal Potha" in Polonnaruwa which clearly states that people of "Govi" caste should not even think of becoming the King of Ceylon. Although modern writers have attempted to dismiss the above fourfold division as a mere classical division unconnected with realities, the repetition of the same caste hierarchy even as recently as the 18th century, in the British / Kandyan period period Kadayimpoth - Boundary books (Abhayawardena 163 to 168) as well, indicates the continuation of the tradition right up to the end of Sri Lanka’s monarchy or even further. It should be noted that no well known Karava / Salagama families existed in the Kandyan kingdom, the Govigama caste is considered as the highest caste in Sri Lanka not because of its numerical superiority, it is know as the one of the oldest cast in Sri Lanka. The "Karava" caste considered second in Sri Lanka was the specialist mariners/navigators also some of them are brought to Sri Lanka as Dravidian warriors throughout history,[19] the "Salagama" caste has its origin in Kerala as "Saligrama Brahmins" who are even today considered as among the highest castes in Kerala & the "Wahumpura" descending from the Deva (mountain people) of the Mahavamsa. Even though ancient literatures such as "Pujavaliya" suggested that the Buddhas might be born in Govi Kula, ancient Indians belived that Buddhas are born only in the kshatrya(Raja kula).

As for name and religious conversions; Don Manoel Jayaweera Astana, Don João Karalliyadde Bandãra[20][21] Don Juan Dharmapala Periya Pandar, Don John Vimala Dharmasurya, Don Philipe Yamasinghe Bandar and Mahabandige Donna Catherina Kusumasena Devi [3]. Govi families were also Christian and had Portuguese/Christian names (some strangely adopted during British/Dutch times) such as Barthlamew (Senanayakes)[4], Ridgeway Dias (Nilaperumal/Bandaranaykes)[5], Arnolis Dep (Wijewardane), de Sarem, de Alwis, etc. It is also why all elite Lankans of the British period be it farmer or other wise had English first names. The above is a classic indication of how recent history has been misrepresented by the aspiring classes.

Medieval period[edit]

The 15th century literary composition, the Ummagga Jataka uses the term Govi in forms such as embala goviya and goviya puth (son of a cultivator) throughout the text as an expression. It shows a continuation of such usage coming from the 14th century Illisa Jataka embala dushta goviya. Sloka 2201 of the astrology text Mánasagari says that a debilitated moon in the horoscope destines a man to be a cultivator.

The Govis are referred to as Kudin (EZ V.293, EZ I.246, 53 fn 7 etc.) and Väriyan (EZ III.139, 141 etc. ) in ancient Sri Lankan rock inscriptions and as Bälayan, Galayan, Valayan, Gonvayan and Gatara in literature (Abhayawardena 167 & 217. Jayathilake.91). These terms show that the Govis in Sri Lanka’s history were farmers and agricultors. Some of them were considered to be chattels attached to the land but were treated better than some other (agricultural) castes (EZ II.140 & 142. Codrington.34). The high esteem in which the goviyas were held is illustrated by other rock inscriptions such as the 10th century Kataragama pillar inscription (EZ III.223), 14th century Niyamgampaya rock inscription (Sahithyaya 1972.130) and 15th century Saman Devala Sannasa (Codrington.27) which groups the Govis as a useful caste.

The North Gate rock inscription in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa depicts the Govi Kula in its comparative rhetoric as the equivalent to comparing them to a stallion, a fire-fly, a crow etc. etc. Although one or two modern Govigama writers such as Amaradasa Liyanagamage and Anuradha Seneviratne have interpreted this as words of a generous king, the same concept is echoed in the literary works, 13th century Dambadeni Asna (Jayathilake.135) and the 15th century Parevi Sandésa (Kumaratunga 1958.verse 188), written centuries after the demise of King Nissankamalla.

Kandyan period[edit]

For the past 1.700 years the only undisputed symbol of Sri Lankan Royalty and Leadership has been the sacred Tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha. Whosoever possessed this was acknowledged as the rightful ruler of Lanka, and thus the Tooth Relic was a possession exclusive to the ruling dynasty of Sri Lanka. Upon each change of capital, a new palace was built to enshrine the Relic. Finally, in 1595 it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth. However, even in the land-locked Kandyan kingdom 'Unambuwe' a son of a concubine of some considerable background was deemed not of 'royalty', hence a Telugu of royalty was imported from Madurai. This last Kandyan royal dynasty (four kings) of Nayake origin was from the Balija caste[22] Even King Senarat Adahasin's regent, Antonio Baretto Kuruwita Rala, Prince of Ouva, was not from the Govi cast[23][24][6]

The oldest Buddhist sect in Sri Lanka, the Siam Nikaya (estd. 19 July 1753) are the custodians of the Tooth Relic, since its establishment during the Kandyan Kingdom. The Siyam Nikaya uses caste based divisions, & as of 1764 grants Higher ordination only to the Radala and Govigama castes and excludes other castes from its numbers,[25] Sitinamaluwe Dhammajoti (Durawa) being the last nongovigama monk receive upasampada. This conspiracy festered within the Siyam nikaya itself and Moratota Dhammakkandha, Mahanayaka of Kandy, with the help of the last two Kandyan Telugu Kings victimized the low country Mahanayaka Karatota Dhammaranma by confiscating the Sri Pada shrine and the retinue villages from the low country fraternity and appointing a rival Mahanayaka[26] (Presently, an exception is the Rangiri Dambula sect which welcomes all communities while being a Siyam nikaya subsect).

An 18th-century etching of Sri Lankan cultivators from An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon by Robert Knox(1641-1720)

Traditionally the Govi caste had worked the fields for the Bamunu or Radala caste specifically and there is evidence from the recent Kandyan period that they never cultivated for other castes such as the Wahumpura and the palanquin bearer Bathgama caste (Sri Lankáve Ithihásaya III. 287, JRASCB XXXVI No.100.156.etc.) They continued to do so until the Paddy Lands Act was introduced in 1958. The superior manner in which cultivators approached and interacted even with blacksmiths from the Navandanna caste is described by Robert Knox (1641–1720) in his An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon. Knox’s description illustrates the relative ritual positions of the two castes.

The Sri Lankan state sponsored ‘Practical Sinhala Dictionary’, edited by Harischandra Wijayatunga (subsequent leader of the Sinhalaye Mahasammatha Bhoomiputra Pakshaya a chauvinistic Sinhala Buddhist political party), and published by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 1983 went to the extent of defining Govi puth as ‘land owners’ and all other castes as low castes. (compare with the contrasting historical meaning of this term in the Jatakas given above) It was successfully challenged in Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission by Karavas and amended. (SC Appn. 98/82 and Human Rights Commission settlement of 02/12/87)

Rise in the 19th & 20th centuries[edit]

By the 19th century, large numbers of traditional[citation needed] chiefs had been killed in successive battles with Portuguese, Dutch and British over 400 years of colonialism and the status of the remaining traditional chiefs had been reduced to that of Colonial servants. The Dutch in the 18th century and the British in the 19th century had actively sought ways to curb the power and influence of the native chiefs and headmen.

The late British period saw the proliferation of native headmen and a Mudaliyar class resembling English country squires, complete with large land grants by the British, and British granted native titles. (Mudaliyar is a South Indian and Tamil name for ‘first’ and a person endowed with wealth.) The Mudaliya class was created by the Portuguese colonials in the 17th century by enlisting natives of many castes form the coastal areas they controlled.

The British Governor Gordon (1883–1890) and his predecessors effectively used divide and rule policies and created caste animosity among the native elite and finally confined all high Native appointments only to the Govigama caste in 1897. The British Government Agent Layard was advocating this as an effective policy for easy governance. Mahamudliar Louis De Saram’s family of Dutch and Malay ancestry had Sinhalised and Govigamised itself during the Dutch period and had a strong network of relatives as Mudaliyars by the late 19th century. As Kumari Jayawardena notes, the Mudaliyars, were merely "Low-country" Goyigama families who rose to prominence under colonial rule, by loyal service to colonial masters. Among them were the De Saram family that had married lower class Burghers, and later through other marriage alliances, created a network embracing the Obeysekere, Dias-Bandaranaike, Ilangakoon, de Alwis, de Livera, Pieris and Siriwardena families. This Anglican Christian network expanded further with the preponderance of native headmen as Mudaliyars, Korales and Vidanes from the community.

The powerful Mudaliyar class thus created by the British colonials, attempted to keep all other Sri Lankan communities out of colonial appointments. They also used all possible means to economically and socially marginalise and subjugate all other communities. The oppression by the Mudaliars and connected headmen extended to demanding subservience, service, appropriation of cultivation rights and even restrictions on the type of personal names that could be used by many other communities and castes.

Govigama headmen in the Mudaliyar system used their positions to exploit opportunities in the local liquor trade, formed partnerships and become quite wealthy during this period. Some of the Govigama liquor dealers to amass large fortunes during this period were Wevage Arnolis Dep (whose daughter Helena married timber trader Don Philip Wijewardene) and Don Spater Senanayake the Father of D. S. Senanayake.

Mudaliyar Don Spater Senanayake ( son of Don Bartholomew who had assumed the name Senanayake), with son-in-law F.H. Dias-Bandaranaike, sons Don Stephen Senanayake, Don Charles and Fredrick Richard, daughter Maria Frances and wife Dona Catherina Elizabeth Perera. They were Anglican Christians

The Mudaliyar class that had risen to prominence in the previous century were disdainful of this new class of rich Govigamas who had amassed wealth though arrack renting and were now striving hard to gain power and status. Sir Christoffel Obeyesekere the prominent member from the Mudaliyar class referred to these new rich Govigama D. S. Senanayake, his two brothers F.R and D.C and others as "a few who are nobodies, but who hope to make somebodies of themselves by disgraceful tactics". It’s this outburst by Sir Christoffel that gives Kumari Jayawardena the title for her insightful book on this period, ‘Nobodies to Somebodies - The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka". Jayawardena notices the irony in this outburst because these Mudaliyar 'somebodies' were, not too long ago, relative 'nobodies' themselves.

Two distinct and unconnected communities, the Govi and the Tamil Vellala allied together during the early 19th century and pushed out contenders from Karava and other communities from the political arena. Twentieth century strategic political marriages such as low country Govigam, nouveau riche D. S. Senanayake’s marriage in 1910 to Kandyan, Anglican Mollie Dunuwila, his brother D.C.'s marriage to Mollie Dunuwila's sister, newspaper magnate D. R. Wijewardena’s marriage in 1916 to a Meedeniya and finally 42-year-old S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake’s marriage in 1940 to 24-year-old Sirimávo Ratwatte, appear to have linked the Govigama caste with the 'New Radala' class created by the British, and boosted the status of the Govi caste. These marriages also created the common political power block that has ruled the country since independence from the British in 1948. The original kandyan Radalas however are still relatively endogamous and even as of date would only rarely marry an average Govigama in an arranged marriage. Nevertheless some writers claim that the Radala as the upper crust of the Govigama caste.

With the rise of the Govi caste in the 20th century, Govi caste history has been bolstered to complement the now elevated status of the caste. The caste that previously belonged to the land and was gifted, bought and sold with it is now accepted as the traditional land holding class.

The above developments in the elite circles were of no benefit to the Govigama farming masses who were oppressed even further by the new class of Govigama mudaliyars. Benefits began to gradually arrive for the Govi farmers with the abolition of the traditional Rajakariya system ( Sri Lanka’s Tennurial system of land holding). The post-independence Paddy Lands Act of 1958 was another landmark. It empowered Tenant farmers of paddy lands and protected them from eviction. The Landlords were stripped of their power overnight.

Current political power[edit]

The introduction of democracy in the early 20th century transferred political power to the affiliated Senanayake, Wijewardene, Kotelawala, Jayewardene and Dias Bandaranaike families in the Southern part of the country.

Since the grant of independence by the British in 1948, Sri Lanka’s political power has rarely slipped away from this closely connected group and even so only for short periods.[citation needed]

Despite their often Anglican Christian background, these families received support from the Sinhala Buddhist mass vote-base and the Tamil voters as their communal democratic leaders and representatives. However, it has always been the Catholic Church and not the Anglican denomination that has been at the receiving end of the religious antipathy of the Sinhala masses despite both Christian sects being chauvinistic and intolerant during the entire period of European colonization. Similarly the Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka are the target of Tamil hostility for the atrocities perpetrated on them by this Anglican minority.[citation needed]

Although Sri Lanka is considered to be a democracy, the two main political parties have operated inefficiently throughout as family organizations. Key decisions within the parties are taken by an inner core and democratic processes do not exist within the two parties to elect its leaders. Voting by a show of hands is encouraged, secret ballots are shunned and dissidents within the two parties are regularly disciplined and victimised. For the most part, politics in post-independence Sri Lanka has been an alternating rule between the anglicized Colombo elite Senanyake-Wickremasinhe clan and the Bandarnaike-Ratwatte clan, all descendants of elite families created by the British in the 19th century. The Anglicized Tamil Vellalas collaborate.[citation needed]

Non–Govigama representation in Parliament has steadily declined since independence and representation of non-Govigama castes are well below their population percentages. Caste representation in the Cabinet has always been limited to a few very visible, but unconcerned and disconnected members from a few leading castes. However none of these representatives are known to have ever spoken on behalf of their respective communities or done anything constructive for the progress of these communities.[27]

Religious power[edit]

By the mid 18th century, upasampada (higher ordination, as distinct from samanera or novice ordination) had become extinct in Sri Lanka again. The Buddhist order had become extinct thrice during the preceding five hundred years and was re-established in the reigns of Vimala Dharma Suriya I (1591–1604) and Vimala Dharma Suriya II (1687–1707) as well. These re-establishments were short lived. On the initiative of Ven. Weliwita Saranankara (1698–1778) the Thai monk Upali Thera visited Kandy during the reign of king Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747–1782) and once again reestablished the Buddhist order in Sri Lanka in 1753. It was called the Siyam Nikaya after the "Kingdom of Siam".

However in 1764, merely a decade after the re-establishment of the Buddhist order in Sri Lanka by reverend Upali, a group within the newly created Siyam Nikaya conspired and succeeded in restricting the Nikaya's higher ordination only to the Govigama caste. This was a period when Buddhist Vinaya rules had been virtually abandoned and some members of the Buddhist Sangha in the Kandyan Kingdom privately held land, had wives and children, resided in the private homes and were called Ganinnanses.[1] It was a period when the traditional nobility of the Kandyan Kingdom was decimated by continuous wars with the Dutch rulers of the Maritime Provinces. In the maritime provinces too a new order was replacing the old. Mandarampura Puvata, a text from the Kandyan perid, narrates the above radical changes to the monastic order and shows that it was not a unanimous decision by the body of the sangha. It says that thirty two ‘senior’ members of the Sangha who opposed this change were banished to Jaffna by the leaders of the reform.

The Govigama exclusivity of the Sangha thus secured in 1764 was almost immediately challenged by other castes who without the patronage of the King of Kandy or of the British, held their own upasampada ceremony at Totagamuwa Vihara in 1772. Another was held at Tangalle in 1798. Neither of these ceremonies were approved by the Siam Nikaya which claimed that these were not in accordance with the Vinaya rules. However, those ordained in Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar) were a continuation of Maha Vihara the ancient Theravada Sect from Anuradhapura because Burma obtained the ordination from Maha Vihara in Ceylon during the Anuradhapura Period. From time immemorial the sacred Tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha has been considered the symbol of the rulers of Sri Lanka. As time went on, the seat of the kingdom was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya and other cities. Upon each change of capital, a new palace was built to enshrine the Relic. Finally, it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth. The oldest Buddhist sect in Sri Lanka, the Siam Nikaya (estd. 19 July 1753) are the custodians of the Tooth Relic, since its establishment during the Kandyan Kingdom. The Siyam Nikaya as of 1764 granted Higher ordination only to the Radala and Govigama castes[5], Sitinamaluwe Dhammajoti (Durava) being the last nongovigama monk receive upasampada[28] An exception is the Rangiri Dambula sect which welcomes all communities while being a Siyam nikaya subsect. Unfortunately the "Siyam" nikaya is practicing one of the 5 unpardonable sins in buddhism, which falls into the category of anantharvedaniya karma namely,

1. Killing one’s mother 2. Killing one’s father 3. Causing a Buddha’s blood to be shed 4. Killing arahaths 5. Creating divisions among Sangha

The caste based discrimination made many Karava & Salagama people to become or remain Catholics & Anglicans. The Siyam Nikaya as custodians of the Tooth Relic have always received the full support and patronage of the Govigama dominated Sri Lankan State and its Ministers and Ministries of Buddha Sasana, Cultural Affairs and others, the monopolisation of the lord Buddha's tooth relic by the Radala Govigama combination on caste based lines have brought shame & a bad reputation to buddhism in Sri Lanka, which resembles the white apartheid rule in South Africa, where only the whites were able to enjoy certain privileges, though in one of his discourses the lord Buddha had specifically mentioned against caste based discrimination. During the late 19th century when Buddhism was losing popularity due to Christian missionaries & the British government, it was the Karava temple Rankoth Viharaya and a Salagama Amarapura nikaya Buddhist monk Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, with his oratical skills & sharp logical arguments defeated the Christians at Panadura,(Panadurawadaya) and subsequently, the American Col. Olcott (after reading the book on Panadura debate) decided to visit Sri Lanka and helped Sinhala Buddhist revivalist movement, including the establishment of the earliest Buddhist schools such as Ananda college, Dharmaraja College and Mahinda College. These minority communities are also responsible for establishing the earliest Buddhist Girls schools in the island nation. Col. Olcott was later disgusted and critical of casteism of local Buddism. The Amarapura Chapter was established in 1802 and the Rammana Chapter in 1864 and a number of monks of these Chapters had participated in foreign missionary work throughout the world. Monks such as Narada Thera, Piyadassi Thera, Most Ven. Madihe Pannasiha and Most Ven Balangoda Ananda Maithreeya Thera were some of the erudite monks from the Amarapura nikaya to have done immense service to Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Govigama sub-castes[edit]

The Niti Nighanduva published in 1880 to promote The Govi Supremacy lists the following as sub-castes of the Govigama[citation needed]:

As the higher levels, and the following as the inferior classes of the Goviya caste:

(Niti Nighanduva 6) However most of these have since merged, and together with anonymous migrants from other higher castes joining its rank in the cities, a Mega-Govi caste has since formed. The post monarch Niti Niganduwa is not without errors and while attempting to include some pre-existing tribes of the pre Kandyan territory like the Yaksa/Veddha, have excluded others like the Deva. Also, a few coastal castes are not mentioned or exempt from this classification/ideology. Strictly speaking the Veddha that do not follow a caste system has a distinctly unique heritage, culture, language, lifestyle and even some genetic differences cannot be mixed into this group and has a lot to lose from it.[29][30][31][32]

Notable Govigama people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 15th century Janawamsaya on caste
  2. ^ An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon in the East Indies by Robert Knox, p. 122
  3. ^ a b Sri Lankan Caste System
  4. ^ Castes & Tribes at the time of Sanghamitta (Populations of the Saarc Countries: Bio-Cultural Perspectives By Jayanta Sarkar, G. C. Ghosh, p.73)
  5. ^ The Adaptable Peasant, by Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, p. 246
  6. ^ Kings & Rulers of Sri Lanka
  8. ^ Ksatriya Royalty in Sri Lanka
  10. ^ a b c d e f Nilaperumal Kalukapuge
  11. ^ a b Don Bartholomews Senanayake
  12. ^ a b c J.R. Jayawardena family History of the Colombo Chetties, edited and compiled by Deshabandu Reggie Candappa, Reviewed by Anne Abayasekara (Sunday Times, 08.07.2001)
  13. ^ a b Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka By Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, p. 152-3
  14. ^ A SHORT HISTORY OF LANKA by Humphry William Codrington, CHAPTER I; THE BEGINNINGS 'The princess and her retinue/dowry (service castes)'
  15. ^ 'Pandyan retinue of Prince Vijaya': Sea: Our Saviour By K. Sridharan, p.19
  16. ^ Pre-Vijayan Agriculture in Sri Lanka, by Prof. T. W. Wikramanayake
  17. ^ a b Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations, by Kshatriya G.K. (1995)
  18. ^ a b Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people: their relations within the island and with the Indian subcontinental populations, L Ranaweera, et al; Journal of Human Genetics (2014)
  19. ^ Sinhalese Naval Power, C. W. Nicholas (1958)
  20. ^ Chronological list of Sri Lankan kings
  21. ^ History of Trincomalee
  22. ^ Pre-Nayake kings of Kandy (children of Kusuma Devi) and their marriages to south-Indian Nayakes
  23. ^ Description of the Great and Most Famous Isle of Ceylon, Philip Baldaeus, p. 693-7
  24. ^ Ceylon of the Early Travellers, by H. A. J. Hulugalle (1965); 'Kuruwita Rala, a relative of our last royal Queen'
  25. ^ Two Great Needs of Buddhists
  26. ^ Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900: A Study of Religious Revival and.... By Kitsiri Malalgoda, p. 84-87 & 91
  27. ^ Fonseka, the political arriviste–a historical irony
  28. ^ Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900: A Study of Religious Revival and ... By Kitsiri Malalgoda, p. 91
  29. ^ Vadda of Sri Lanka
  30. ^ Difficulties faced by our original inhabitants
  31. ^ Deforesting, farming and encroaching on to their forests (3:10min)
  32. ^ The plea of the great chief - Vanniatho speaks (1:40min)
  33. ^ Social Change in Nineteenth Century Ceylon
  34. ^ [Social change in nineteenth century Ceylon],Lake House Bookshop, Colombo, 1995 , Patrick Peebles, Page 45
  35. ^ ‘Enthusiast’s guide’ to unique Sri Lankan real estate
  36. ^ a b c d e Premadasa Exceptionalism and challenges it currently faces…
  37. ^ a b c GOVIGAMA
  38. ^ Timeline of the Karava
  39. ^ Monumental rise of a mischievous boy from Medamulana
  40. ^ Premier’s son


  • Abhayawardena H. A. P. Kadaim Poth Vimarshanaya, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka
  • H. W. Codrington, Ancient land tenure and revenue in Ceylon
  • Darmapradeepikava Sri Dharmarama edition, 1951
  • Epigraphia Zeylanica (EZ) Colombo Museum, Sri Lanka
  • Gammaduwa, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka
  • Jayathilake D. B. Dambadeni Asna saha Kandavuru Siritha
  • Jayawardena Kumari 2000 Nobodies to Somebodies - The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka [7]
  • Journal of Asian Studies 1990 Articles by Patrick Peebles, Amita Shastri, Bryan Pfaffenberger
  • Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka (JRASCB)
  • Kumaratunga Munidasa 1958 Parevi Sandeshaya
  • Niti Nighanduva The vocabulary of law 1880 LeMasurier C. J. R. and Panabokke T. B.
  • Peebles Patrick 1995 Social Change in Nineteenth Century Ceylon Navrang ISBN 81-7013-141-3.
  • Pfaffenberger Bryan 1982 Sudra Domination in Sri Lanka Syracuse University
  • Pujavaliya
  • Roberts Michael Caste conflict and elite formation
  • Sahithyaya 1972 Department of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka
  • Sarpavedakama Colombo Museum publication, 1956
  • Sri Lankáve Ithihásaya Educational Publications Department Sri Lanka
  • Ummagga Játhakaya 1978 edition Educational Publications Department, Sri Lanka
  • Wickramasinghe Nira 2001 Civil Society in Sri Lanka: New circles of power

External links[edit]