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Sri Lankan Chetties

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Title: Sri Lankan Chetties  
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Subject: Sri Lankan caste system, Sri Lankan Tamil society
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Sri Lankan Chetties

Sri Lankan Chetties, also known as Colombo Chetties, Colombo Chittis or Colombo Hetties, are a formerly endogamous Sri Lankan social group or caste.


  • Origins 1
  • Independent identity 2
  • Current condition 3
  • Common last names 4
  • References 5
  • See also 6
  • Prominent Colombo Chetties 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Colombo Chetty are mostly converted Roman Catholics or Anglicans and are found in niches throughout Sri Lankan society. Members trace their origins to traders of various ethnicities from South India. Most traders were Tamil speakers with a smattering of Malayalee or Telugu speakers. Colombo Chetties are descendants of traders who came to Sri Lanka during the Portuguese colonial era, post 1505. These traders converted to Catholicism and married women of various backgrounds including their own from India, Sri Lankan Tamil, Sinhalese, Portuguese Creoles and later Dutch, English and Eurasian Burghers.

Independent identity

The ethnic distinction between Burghers and Colombo Chetties is somewhat blurred. Famous Sri Lankans such as the Ondaatjes trace their family to a Hindu South Indian native doctor and married freely amongst Colombo Chetties though they were a Burgher ethnic admixture (See Michael Ondaatje.) Until about 75 years ago most Chetties were educated in the Tamil language and considered a caste of Tamil people. However, Sri Lankan Chetty families married into elite Sinhalese, Burghers and Sri Lankan Tamil families.

Most early Sri Lankan Tamil pioneers in the colonial civil service, doctors, educators and religious leaders were of Sri Lankan Chetty origins. The author of the definitive modern history of the Tamil Jaffna Kingdom was a Sri Lankan Chetty. Today most Chetties speak English at home and are considered to be neither Sinhalese nor Tamil in the official census.

Current condition

As an elite and prosperous group they no longer strictly marry amongst themselves. In addition, migration to Australia, England, United States of America and Canada has tended to dilute their numbers.

Common last names

Some common Sri Lankan Chetty last names are Alles, Casiechetty, Anandappa, Cassichetty, Candappa, Caderamen,Fernandopulle, Caderamanpulle, Sangaramoorthypulle, Christie-David, Savundranayagam, Mutukisna, Mickem Perumal,Pulanayagam Mutucumaru, Emanuelpulle, Rodrigopulle, Ramanaden, Tavarayan, Sylvesterpulle, Brittopulle and Massillamany. It should be noted that Pulle is a Sinhalese version of the common Tamil and Malayali title Pillai. Casiechetty is a clan name amongst Telugu or Tamil speaking Komati Setties of Andhra Pradesh origin in Tamil Nadu, South India.


  • Casiechitty S, The Castes, Customs, Manners and Literature of the Tamils. Colombo: Ceylon Printers, 1934.
  • Pulle Tissera Shirley - History of The Colombo Chetties - 2000
  • Thurston E, Castes and Tribes of Southern India

See also

Prominent Colombo Chetties


  1. ^ "Population by ethnic group, census years". Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 

External links

  • Dutch Burgher/Sri Lankan Chetty Combined Genealogy list
  • Sri Lankan Hydridity
  • Ondaatje Family history
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