Posted by: lrrp | February 1, 2009

Corea: mystery of Chilaw

by Mihindukulasuriya Susantha Fernando




This article published in Silumina 2005/06/05 describes  the Dewolkanda Mountain in Uduwara where Edirella Rala made his final stand against a Portuguese forteleza near Anguruwathota which was commanded by Samarakone Rala.

Articles have appeared, time and again, on the baffling mysteries of Edirelle Rala nee Domingo Corea, and his progeny.

Padma Edirisinghe, the irresistible journalist and raconteur, writing in the Daily of 1997, pointed out that a memorial column built at Pita Kotte junction, at considerable state expense, was standing meaningless; it was originally meant for perpetuating the memory of Edirella Rala nee Domingo Corea, but his name was not inscribed on the monument and fitting memorial ceremony was not conducted due to protests from the people of Sri Jayawardanepura, Kotte.

Very recently, efforts made again by the Corea families living in Colombo to have a statue of the late Victor Corea erected in the heart of Chilaw town did not receive favourable response from the Urban Council of Chilaw, because of protests made by the people of Chilaw.

The Coreas were never the original settlers of Chilaw. They were late immigrants to Chilaw. Neither was their name synonymous with Chilaw, as claimed by some of the affluent Colombo-based Coreas in their dotage.

Chilaw, the bastion of Catholicism, was famous for music, nadagam, crabs, prawns and most of all a highly literate, educated Kaurava community. The predominant population of Chilaw at any given time in her history consisted of Kaurava Kshatriyas.

Originally, those Kauravas were coconut and tobacco planters, farmers, paddy cultivators, vendors, businessmen, transporters, boatsmen and fishermen. But with the passage of time, Catholic missionary school education made their descendants into a fantastic array of eminent government servants, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, surveyors, draftsmen, dramatists, artists, writers, linguists, historians, discoverers, scientists, teachers, priests, monks and nuns. Most of them now live outside Chilaw, while some of them are happily domiciled abroad.

Sri Lanka’s first indigenous Catholic bishop, and Sinhalese at that, rose from the ranks of the Kaurava Mihindukulasuriyas of Chilaw.

Coreas, on the other hand, were a minuscule grouping of about four or six families at any given period at Chilaw. By the 1940’s they were a cultured, respectable, educated and sociable community of Anglican faith, but remained aloof from the predominant Kaurava Catholic community of Chilaw.

That strange ‘aloofness’ of the Coreas continue to persist up to date. When the present-day Coreas reminiscence their Chilaw links through the newspapers and their web sites, they never mention that once upon a time they lived with the large mass of their fellow brethren, the Kaurava people of Chilaw.

When Harindra Corea passed away last year, obituary notices in the newspapers inserted by his family members never even mentioned that he once represented Chilaw as a Member of the Parliament.


For mysterious reasons, the present-day Coreas hide the fact that their ancestry began with Edirelle Rala, or Domingo Corea who was a Kaurava man. The first descendants of Edirelle Rala, styling themselves as Coreas, first settled down at Chilaw for the primary reason of cashing on the then thriving coconut industry.

Subsequently, their children’s children got educated and excelled in the legal, political, diplomatic, mass media and other fields, thus bringing a whirlwind of fame to the Coreas of Chilaw. Some of them were Sir Claude Corea, C. H. S. Corea, Shirley Corea, C. L. Corea, Victor Corea, Carlton Corea, Dr. Gamini Corea, Harindra Corea, Earnet Corea, Vijeya Corea, Vernon Corea and Sri Sangabo Corea. None of their descendants, however, now live at in Chilaw, but show a peculiar delight in describing their adopted home town as synonymous with ‘Coreas, Crabs and Coconut’.

The origins of Coreas of Chilaw are most enigmatic, yet fascinating, when related by contradictory accounts in historical records. ‘Corea’ was a common Portuguese name.

Corea spelling variations in Portugal included Correa, Corea, Correas, Correaz, Coreas, Coreaz, Correass Coreazz and many more.

The name, ‘Corea’, first found in Castile, in north central Spain, was later adopted by some families in Portugal and thereafter came into vogue among the natives in countries occupied by the Portuguese.

Some of the first Portuguese settlers of this name or its variants were: early 1535, and Antonio Corea and his family who came to Mexico in 1534. Some writers say that they found a Corea community even in Italy.

Charm and wit

In the days gone by, there were some kinsmen of the Coreas of Chilaw living at Madampe (five miles from Chilaw). J. R. Jayawardene, the former president of Sri Lanka, also had some relations living in Madampe. But JR’s connections with Coreas of Chilaw were reinforced when JR’s grandfather’s brother, Col. T. G. Jayawardene, the first Sri Lankan Commanding Officer in Ceylon Light Infantry), had his daughter, named Effi, given in marriage to Carlton Corea of Chilaw (a Civils Servant).

One of JR’s four sisters, named Girly, also married Shirley Corea, who was a brilliant lawyer oozing with charm and wit, an exuberant parliamentarian, an honourable Speaker of the then Parliament, and a lavish entertainer at Chilaw.

The Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon (First pub. in 1907) carries a long account of the early Coreas of Chilaw, but on many details it contradicts other historical sources. Edirelle Rala nee Domingo Corea is believed have been the patriarch of the Coreas of Chilaw.

He was executed during the reign of king Don Juan Dharmapala of Kotte. But a veil of mystery shrouds the maternal lineage of the first Corea settlers at Chilaw. For Domingo Corea had been married twice, once to a Portuguese lady and thereafter to a Kandyan princess, according to the Kurukula Charithaya (Part II).

In my 1997 rsearch for unearthing clues to ascertain the Corea presence in Chilaw in the olden days, I turned the pages of Kurukula Charithaya (Part II) by A.S.F. Weerasuriya, Kurukula Venthar of Haputale, published in 1960, and several other publications.

Therein I found answers to a riddle that had preoccupied my mind since my childhood days at Chilaw. Who was Edirelle Rala nee Domingo Corea, and what was the origin of Coreas at Chilaw?

At times contradicting the British classic, Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon, the ancient treatise of Kurukula Charithaya on the Kauravas, describes Domingo Corea’s brother as Juan Fernandez (Juan Fernando nee Iddagoda Naide), alluding to the possibility that Domingo was not of Govigama community (as generally believed and proclaimed by the Coreas of Chilaw), but of Kaurava community, probably from Chilaw.

When Domingo was executed in the reign of King Don Juan Dharmapala of Kotte, his Kandyan wife (referred to as ‘his woman’ in the book) and his brother were banished to Portugal as prisoners. I conjecture that it was his Kandyan wife and her progeny who were probably banished to Portugal, because there is no record of the princess or her children having settled down in Kandy, after the demise of Edirelle Rala nee Domingo Corea.

There is also no record of the plight of his distraught Portuguese wife and her progeny.

Response – Corea: Mystery of Chilaw

by Randunna Corea

This response is to Mr. Mihindukulasuriya Susantha Fernando’s (MSF) articles in the Sunday Observer (SO) of February 5 and 12, 2006 about the Chilaw Coreas.

He rightly questioned the value of the nameless Kotte pillar. This was the idea of the late President J. R. Jayawardene, who wanted a monument to a Kotte hero, Edirillarala/Dominicus Corea, on the state drive, Rajaveediya. A simple elegant column was built by the Department of Archaeology at a cost of Rs. 85,000.

The final decision was to have a plaque with names from the history of Kotte, beginning with Buveneka Bahu and including Dominicus Corea/Edirillarala. Full correspondence is in family possession.twenty years later, no names have been added. Today, the monument to the heroes of Kotte, is periodically plastered with pictures of political candidates and lie obscured by the branches of a Kottan tree and a magnificent statue of a relative of a Kotte UC member.

MSF writes that efforts to erect a statue of the late Victor Corea in Chilaw town did not receive a favourable response from the Urban Council of Chilaw. The proposal was in fact a resolution passed by the Urban Council of Chilaw.

He embarasses Edirilla Rala/Domingos Corea as Karawe with the following arguments. He incorrectly quotes Weerasuriya, Kurukulala Charithaya II (1960) as stating Iddamalgoda Naide Bandara (Baptised name Joao Fernandez, died fighting the Portugese) was the brother of Domingos Corea.

He equates the name Pranandis and Pranadu as being one and the same (entirely different family names according to O.M.L.H.D’ Silva Cosme Portugese Linguist and Historian) and gives Iddamalgoda Naide the name Fernando SO 26.10.1997. He states Twentieth Century Impressions P.735 calls John Fernando, Simeon Corea. It says no such thing. He then alludes the possibility that Domingos Corea was therefore Karawe. Within the space of a week his allusion became a conclusion when he theories on 12.2.2006 that Domingos Corea’s wife sought refuge with her husband’s Karawe community.


A further argument used by MSF on 28.12.1997 was an excerpt from the Ceylon Littoral, 1593, P.22 detailing a meeting on 25.09.1613 of the Patagatims and other heads of the Port of Caimel, with the Canacapoli, at Freire’s house in Colombo.

Included in the list was Simao Corea, Patagatim, heathen name Naini Dapu, 60 years. Page 21 clarifies Patagatim as Headman of a group of Pescadores (Fishermen). Kurukula Charithaya II. (1960) P.169 “Pattangatin” the Sinhalese Patabenda, usually applied to Headmen of the Fisher caste. No Historian has described Simao Corea Warrior and Dissawa of the Seven Corlas as a fisherman or Head of such group. Simao Corea the brother of Domingos was known as Navaratne Bandara, Queroz 1634.

P.516, 520, 1226 and not Naini Dapu.. The conclusive fact is that Naini Dapu was 60 years at the above mentioned meeting in 1613. The elder Corea brother Domingos was executed at age 31 years in 1596. Simao, the younger could not have been 60 years at this meeting in 1613, 17 years later.

This was another Simao Correa also called Simon Coorey Rala in the Kurukula Charithaya. The name Corea is not exclusive to the family. Queroz lists 27 unrelated Coreas P.1226 Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon.

Mihindukulasuriya S. Fernando who describes his ancestral Karawe Kshathriya Mihindukulasuriyas of Chilaw as superior Karawe Royalty SO 28.12.1997 should well be aware of the rigidity of the caste system in that period.

It would be most unlikely that a prominent Karawe chief would marry out of caste as much as it would be for the King of Kandy to give a Sinhala Kandyan Princess, daughter of King Videa Bandar and the niece of his queen Dona Catherina in marriage with public declaration, pomp, coronation and ceremony to Domingos Corea, if he were a man of totally different caste. Queroz Vol 3. P.507.

He creates confusion by writing on 5.02.2006 “For mysterious reasons, the present day Coreas hide the fact that their ancestry began with Edirille Rala or Domingo Corea—” On 12.02.2006 he writes “The Coreas of Chilaw have steadfastly believed and proclaimed that their ancestry was Domingo Corea or Edirille Rala.” To clarify, the Coreas take great pride in their descent from Edirille Rala also known as Domingos Corea, a warrior who fought against and was executed by the Portugese. The family lineage is traced seven generations before him.

He alludes the possibility and theorises about the Portugese wife on the basis of the fair complexion of some of the Chilaw Coreas. We are no different from other Sri Lankan families and Coreas come in many hues. If he sees some of our darker family members the mind boggles as to the possibilities he might allude, as is his wont.

To further cast doubt on the decendancy of the Coreas MSF states that Dominicus Corea’s Kandyan princess wife and progeny and younger brother Simao Corea were banished to Portugal, citing the latter day booklet Kurukula Charithaya II (1960) as reference. He also gives reference P.22 Ceylon Littoral 1593. Paul E. Pieris. SO 24.08.1997. It says no such thing. Paul E. Pieris himself nails this inaccuracy.

Ceylon And The Portugese. 1505-1658 P.181 Simao Corea’s death in battle at Vellavayar is documented by Queroz P.778 Conquest of Ceylon. Could not have happened if he was an exile in Portugal.


He states, Coreas were never the original settlers of Chilaw. We never claimed to be. Edirille Rala was latterly based in the Kurunegala District. Coreas eventually settled along the west coast in Puttalam, Chilaw, Madampe, Negombo, Divulapitiya and Peliyagoda owning land and holding office. Many are now settled in Colombo and others further afield and even abroad. Times move on. Which family today is not scattered but continue to bond with their native village which for the Coreas is Chilaw.

He writes “Neither was the name synonymous with Chilaw as claimed by some of the Colombo based Coreas in their dotage”. He was perhaps displeased by Sumana Saparamadu writing in the CDN of 2.8.97. that Chilaw is synonymous with Coreas. Take the known phrase “Coreas, crabs and coconuts” being associated with Chilaw could also be irritant to him. It is people and events that make a place known and not the reverse.

He oversteps the bounds of decency criticizing the obituary of my late cousin Harindra Corea for not mentioning his political status in Chilaw. The drafting of an obituary notice is the prerogative of the immediate family. They had no desire to stress the obvious.

MSF displays his affection for the Coreas using descriptions such as, a minuscule group, opportunists, being aloof, cashing in, Colombo based Coreas in their dotage etc. I cannot respond in like abrasive style as some of my dearest friends are of Karawe origin and include Fernandos who incidentally vehemently disagree with their name being equated with Fernandes.

MSF must be given credit for his writing which though irritant and insulting is certainly interesting. However his quoted references often don’t corroborate his writing, he alludes possibility, questions possibilities which subsequently become facts, conjectures and theorises in weaving a fascinating tale concluding with the eerie wail of the Chilaw sea waves being the cry of the soul of a deserted woman. His forte would appear to be Historical Fiction rather than Historical Fact.

It is the year 2006, and caste differences and rivalries are fortunately becoming a thing of the past. National unity is the cry of the day. I am sure modern day readers would have limited interest in MSF’s fixation on the Corea family and would find his earliest writings more stimulant and his recent books on the influence of aliens from space on Anuradhapura more fascinating.

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