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Mahatma Gandhi and the Corea Family of Chilaw in Sri Lanka

Gandhi visits the Corea Family in Chilaw

Mahatma Gandhi - with a fistful of salt liquified the British Empire
Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi visits the Corea Family in Chilaw
Dominicus Corea - Edirille Bandara (King of Kotte)
'Gandhi - A guest at Sigiriya' Daily News article
Links to other Corea Family Websites

The ancient coat of arms of CHILAUW (1717)

The sea side town of Chilaw in Sri Lanka

The Town Centre in Chilaw

The Corea Road in Chilaw

Mahatma Gandhi in Ceylon in 1927

There is a well known saying, often quoted by Vernon, that Chilaw is famous for the three 'C's - Coreas, Crabs and Coconuts. The Corea Family have strong links with the seaside town of Chilaw situated on the west coast of Sri Lanka.
The famous Ceylonese freedom fighters C.E. Corea and Victor Corea were born here, so was Shirley Corea, a distinguished Speaker of the parliament of Ceylon. CE and Victor Corea were fearless, they fought hard for social justice. The Corea brothers spoke up where there was injustice. When CE and Victor Corea spoke, people sat up and took notice. The British jailed Victor Corea in March 1922 for refusing to pay Rs 2 in road tax. Victor Corea was elected Founder President of the Ceylon Labour Union in September that year.
Canon Ivan and Ouida Corea who was Rural Dean of Colombo for the Church of Ceylon and Vicar of St.Luke's Church Borella and St.Paul's Church Milagiriya also came from Chilaw. One of Sri Lanka's great broadcasters, Vernon Corea, a pioneer of Radio Ceylon/Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and his brother Ernest Corea, the distinguished journalist and diplomat are sons of Chilaw - Vernon was the first Sri Lankan ever to be appointed to the senior management of the BBC in London rising to Ethnic Minorities Adviser to the BBC. He presented the popular 'London Sounds Eastern' programme on BBC Radio London 206. Recently the highly influential 'Hindu' newspaper said he was 'truly one of the greats' of broadcasting.

Ernest Corea is a former Editor of the Ceylon Daily News in Colombo. Currently, he a consultant in the Secretariat of CGIAR where, earlier, he was responsible for public affairs. He has served as Sri Lanka's ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the US; as a member of Sri Lanka's delegations to the United Nations; and to the Non-Aligned Summit meeting in Havana. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Select Committee on Communications and Development in London.

The former Secretary-General of UNCTAD, the Sri Lankan economist, Dr. Gamani Corea and Ceylon's first High Commisioner in the UK after independence in 1948, Sir Claude Corea also have strong connections with this town.

Sir Claude was the Minister for Labour in the first ever cabinet led by D.S.Senanayake. He was also Ceylon's Ambassador to the US. He served as a President of the United Nations Security Council in May 1960.  
Shirley Corea was member of parliament for Chilaw and a distinguished Speaker of the Parliament of Ceylon. Harindra Corea also represented Chilaw in parliament and was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Carlton Corea's wife, Kumari, was a Provincial Councillor representing Chilaw.
Dr. Vijaya Corea followed in the footsteps of his cousin Vernon Corea by going into broadcasting and was appointed Director-General of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
Henry Corea and Deva Corea were prominent policemen; Sri Sangabo Corea led the field of advertising in Sri Lanka. Chas Ernie Corea is a prominent lawyers. Malcolm Corea was a distinguished banker.Lakshman Corea was hailed as a brilliant tutor and lecturer in England, his brother Asoka was a well known engineer.
The famous writer, poet and musician Hershel Pandithasekera who also went under the name of 'Gallinago'  lived in Chilaw.Hershel Pandithasekera was well known for a song he had composed titled: 'I love Chilaw.' The Pandithasekeras were releated to the Corea Family.
A well known son of Chilaw, Dr.Granville Fernando in his article 'Hail Chilaw, my Home town!' noted:

' Situated in no less an important province - the Wayamba or North Western Province which is a veritable 'Garden of Eden' for the historian and the archaeologist. For in this region lies the place where Prince Vijaya landed and the ancient kingdoms of Panduwasnuara, Yapahuwa, Dambadeniya and Kurunegala or Hasthisailapura.


Chilaw is known as 'Halawatha' in Sinhala. Denham's Census Report of 1911 throws some interesting light on the origin of Chilaw.


It is said that King Kavan Tissa sent a number of persons to convey honey from Negombo 'Meegomuwa' in Sinhala to Anuradhapura. It was at this spot 'Halawatha' that the bees were shaken off their combs.


Chilaw in early times was not only a reputed sea port it was also famous for its pearl fisheries. According to some writers like Donald Ferguson, Chilaw is connected with the Tamil term 'Salapam' which means diving.


The original inhabitants of Chilaw were descendants of a group of people who came from India on military service. Originally from Northern India from such towns like Kanchipuram, Kaveripattannam and Killakarai they subsequently made their homes in the south.


According to the 'Mukkara Hatana' it happened during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu VI (1412-1467) the ruling monarch of Kotte. The Mukkuvars from India had landed off the Puttalam coast and were preparing to capture the land. King Parakrama Bahu summoned help from neighbouring India. A battalion of fighting men were sent across to Sri Lanka. They belonged to the Suriya clans. Those that settled in Chilaw belonged to the Mihindukulasuriya clan. It may be interesting to note that there are five sub clans in Chilaw. They are the Fernando, Perera, Peiris, Pinto and Costa.


A good percentage of the Chilawfolk still bear these identical surnames. They settled down not only in Chilaw but even at its twin sister Negombo especially at Duwa and Pitipana. Chilaw being in the maritime region came under European influence. Portuguese influence is well marked by the hundred per cent Roman Catholic indigenous population.


Culturally the people of Chilaw have been always active and in the forefront. Chilaw has been the home of the Sinhala Nadagama - the first form of Sinhala drama in Sri Lanka.


The first Sinhala Nadagama the 'Rajathun-kattuwa' or the Visit of the Magi was written by Mihindukulasuriya Gabriel Fernando according to that eminent historian the late Dr. Edmund Peiris Bishop Emeritus of Chilaw.


And the sea board town of Chilaw has kept on forging ahead.....' wrote Dr.Granville Fernando.

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of India visited Chilaw - on the invitation of C.E.Corea and stayed in a Corea home, 'Sigiriya.' The entire Gandhi entourage arrived in Chilaw. Mahatma Gandhi presented C.E.Corea with one of his famous spinning wheels before he left the town. Gandhi's visit to Chilaw caused a great deal of excitement in the area. Gandhi was welcomed by the entire country when he visited Ceylon in 1927. He was looked upon as a highly influential figure and a positive role model with his message of non-violence. Gandhi changed the face of South Asia...
 The 'Hindu' newspaper observed: '

'It was at the end of what for him had been a rather somnolent year that Gandhi made his first and last trip to an island then known as Ceylon. Gandhi arrived in Colombo on November 12, 1927, accompanied by his wife Kasturba, his friend, follower, and critic, C. Rajagopalachari, and the latter's daughter, Lakshmi. Also in the party were his secretaries, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal.

In his three weeks in Ceylon, Gandhi covered the island from top to toe. He delivered dozens of speeches, to organisations connected with Buddhists, Chettiars, Christians, and Depressed Classes.'

Gandhi visited the town of Chilaw because of the Corea Family. He was in touch with C.E.Corea and Victor Corea even before he visited Ceylon in 1927. His visit to Chilaw was in recognition of their efforts to win freedom for the people of Ceylon.


Mahatma Gandhi stayed in this Corea home in Chilaw

C.E.Corea's home in Chilaw