Bharatha people

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"Baratha" and "Bharatas" redirect here. For the Vedic tribe, see Bharatas (tribe). For the noctuid moth genus Baratha, see Mocis.
Bharatha People
Total population
Greater than 1,500
Regions with significant populations
 Sri Lanka       1,688 (2012) (.008% of total) [1]
Tamil, Sinhala
Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Paravar, Negombo Tamils, Sri Lankan Chetty

Bharatha People (Sinhala: භාරත, romanized: Bhārata, Tamil: பரதர், romanized: Paratar) also known as Bharatakula and Paravar, is an ethnicity in the island of Sri Lanka.[2] Earlier considered a caste of the Sri Lankan Tamils, they got classified as separate ethnic group in the 2001 census.[3] They are descendant of Tamil speaking Paravar of Southern India who migrated to Sri Lanka under Portuguese rule.[4] They live mainly on the western coast of Sri Lanka and mainly found in the cities of Mannar, Negombo and Colombo.[5][6]


Scholars derive Bharatha, also pronounced as Parathar, from the Tamil root word para meaning "expanse" or "sea".[7] The word has been documented in ancient Sangam literature, describing them as maritime people of the Neithal Sangam landscape.[8][9] Colonial archives refer them as Paruwa, a corrupted form of "Paravar".[10]

According to other scholars is Bharatha a name the community took from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, the clan of Bhāratas, who were the ancestor of the heroes in the epic, following their origin myth from Ayodhya.[11][12]


Paravars diving for pearls in the Gulf of Mannar
Historical population
2001 2,200—    
2011 1,688−23.3%
Source:Department of Census
& Statistics
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.

They were traditionally occupied in seatrade, pearl diving and fishing. They included the chiefs of the coastal regions, who ruled there as subordinates of the Pandyan kings.[14] The Muslims of Kayalpatnam obtained a lease on pearl fishery by Marthanda Varma. The Bharatas aligned with the Portuguese and overthrew the overlordship by the Muslims and for return were over 20,000 Bharathas converted to Roman Catholicism by the saint Francis Xavier.[15]

Several hundreds of Christian converted Bharathas were brought from Indian mainland to the western shores of Sri Lanka by the Portuguese to wrest control on the pearl trade. Cankili I, king of Jaffna Kingdom, ordered the death of 600 Christian Bharathas who were settled in the Mannar District.[16][17]

Paravar are to be found all over Sri Lanka. Amongst Sri Lankan Tamils Paravar are still a fishing and trading caste although commonly confused with the Karaiyar. The Bharatas or Bharatakula identity is maintained by a relatively prosperous merchant group from India that settled amongst the Sinhalese in the Negombo area.[18]


Along with Colombo Chetty and other relatively recent merchant groups from South India, there is rapid Sinhalisation or assimilation with the Sinhalese majority. But unlike the Colombo Chettys many still speak Tamil at home and even have marital relationships in India.

According to recent Sri Lankan census categories in July 2001, Bharatakula has been moved out of Sri Lankan Tamil category to simply as a separate ethnic group Bharatha. [1]

Areas of inhabitation[edit]

They are primarily found in capital Colombo and in towns north of it, namely Negombo in the Western Province.


Common last names adopted by Bharatkulas include Corera's, Cruz, de Cruz, Fernando, Ferdinandes, Paiva, Peeris, Miranda, Motha, Corera, Costa, Rayan, Rayen, Rodrigo, Leon, Vaz, Gomez and Rubeiro. Fernando is one of the most common last names. The related Paldanos are descended from the Portuguese military officers (Paladinos) who married into the community.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "A2 : Population by ethnic group according to districts, 2012". Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka.
  2. ^ "Census of Population and Housing 2011". Retrieved 2018-01-24.
  3. ^ Orjuela, Camilla (2008-09-16). The Identity Politics of Peacebuilding: Civil Society in War-Torn Sri Lanka. SAGE Publications India. ISBN 9788132100249.
  4. ^ Roberts, Michael; Raheem, Ismeth; Colin-Thomé, Percy (1989). People Inbetween: The burghers and the middle class in the transformations within Sri Lanka, 1790s-1960. Sarvodaya Book Pub. Services. p. 253. ISBN 9789555990134.
  5. ^ Peebles, Patrick (2015-10-22). Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 55. ISBN 9781442255852.
  6. ^ Lanka, Social Scientists Association of Sri (1984). Ethnicity and Social Change in Sri Lanka: Papers Presented at a Seminar Organised by the Social Scientists Association, December 1979. Social Scientists' Association. p. 146.
  7. ^ Korean Studies. 8. University Press of Hawaii: Center for Korean Studies. 1984. p. 47.
  8. ^ Civattampi, Kārttikēcu (2005). Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan. Aivakam. ISBN 9789551132002.
  9. ^ Congress, Indian History (1981). Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. p. 84.
  10. ^ The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: the Dutch period : original documents. Tisara Prakasakayo. 1983.
  11. ^ Maloney, Clarence (1974). Peoples of South Asia. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 234. ISBN 9780030849695.
  12. ^ Sinnakani, R. (2007). Tamil Nadu State: Thoothukudi District. Government of Tamil Nadu, Commissioner of Archives and Historical Research. p. 276.
  13. ^ "Population by ethnic group, census years" (PDF). Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  14. ^ Ramaiah, T. G. (2013). Role of Exclusive Credit Linkage Programme for Occupational Dynamics Among Fisherwomen: A Study in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu States. National Institute of Rural Development, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. p. 15. ISBN 9788185542898.
  15. ^ Menon, T. Madhava; Linguistics, International School of Dravidian (2002). A handbook of Kerala. International School of Dravidian Linguistics. p. 653. ISBN 9788185692319.
  16. ^ Gunasingam, Murugar (2005). Primary Sources for History of the Sri Lankan Tamils: A World-wide Search. M.V. Publications for the South Asian Studies Centre, Sydney. p. 62. ISBN 9780646454283.
  17. ^ Briggs, Philip (2018-01-02). Sri Lanka. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 290. ISBN 9781784770570.
  18. ^ imitri Mascarenhas and the Negombo connection The Nation - August 19, 2007