|Conversion of the Paravars by Francis Xavier in 1542. During the visit of Francis Xavier the Paravars were using two different types of boat for net fishing, which he called the vallam and the toni|
The Paravars are one of the ancient tribes which can still be found in Tamil Nadu. They are numerous in areas close to the sea. We can find them in the coastal regions of Ramanathapuram, Toothukudi (Tuticorin) and Kanyakumari districts.
Works in the Tamil Sangam literature which refer to the lives of the Paravars include Ettuthokai, Pathupaattu, Ahananuru, Maduraikkanci and Pattinappaalai.
Paravars are also known as Parathavar or Bharathar. They are believed to be related to my clan, the Maravars. The Maravars lived in the palai (desert) region of the country and the Paravars lived in the neythal (coast) region. (More research should be done to verify if the Maravars and Paravars are related)
Paravars used to be involved in the pearl trade during the era of the Pandyan kings. As coastal people, they were deeply involved with the sea. The Portuguese called the area where the Paravars lived as Costa da Pescaria, the Land of the Pearls.
|Tamil comedian Chandrababu (1927-1974), born as Joseph Panimayadas Rodriquez.|
Simon Casie Chitty grouped the Paravar occupations in 1834 into thirteen categories, these being: headmen, cloth dealers, coral divers, sailors, pearl divers, chank divers, cloth packers, turtle fishers, porpoise fishers, fishers for shark and other species, palanquin bearers, peons and crab fishers.
|The Ceylon Gazetter by Simon Casie Chitty. Published by Cotta Church Mission Press, 1834.|
The Paravars know the sea better than the other Tamil tribes and they have exceptionally good navigational skills. It will be not be surprising if the Paravars were the backbone of the ancient Tamil navy!
The Paravars are among the earliest tribes to be converted into Christianity. According to historical sources, Muslim merchants like the Maraikayars began to control the pearl trade. Furthermore, there were many infighting among the kings and chieftains 500 years ago. The Paravars main source of income was at stake.
This gave the Portugese a golden opportunity to spread Christianity and also take control. They made a deal with the Paravars.
"Convert to Christianity, become subjects of Portugal. We will protect you from the Muslims"
By the end of the 16th century, almost every Paravar became a Christian. The Paravars who embraced Christianity were given the surnames of the missionaries. This is still being used till today.
Among the surnames used by the Paravar Christians are Fernando, Fernandez, Motha, Mascarenhas, Victoria, Miranda, Devotta, De Cruz, De Souza, Gomez, Dalmeida, Vaz, Desoyza, Rodrigo, Pereira and Rodriguez.
|Augustine Pereira, son of Ignatius Xavier Pereira and Maria Michelammal was born on 11th February 1854 at Tuticorin. He was the Founder of congregation of Immaculate Conception.|
I am sure most of you would have a Tamil Christian friend in Malaysia with one of these surnames. Fernando and Pereira is quite common. These people are probably descendants of the ancient Paravars who converted 500 years ago.
Like the rest among the global Tamil diaspora, the modern Paravars can be found all over the globe.