Ever wondered how did surnames like Fernando, Carvalho, Vaz, De Cruz, Costa etc. join with names of Paravars?

From the earliest recorded times the Paravars were fishers and seamen, specialising in seasonal harvesting of pearl oysters and chank (“Sangu” in Tamil), both of which were significant exports from southern India by the first century AD. The community was also involved in sea salt production.

From 1527 the Paravars were being threatened by Arab fleets offshore, headed by the Muslim-supporting Zamorin of Calicut, and also by an onshore campaign of the Rajah of Madura to wrest control of Tirunelveli and the Fishery Coast from the hands of the Rajah of Travancore. This continuing situation, caused the Paravars to seek the protection of Portuguese explorers who had moved into the area. A delegation led by “Vikrama Aditha Pandya” visited Goa to seek talks to this end in 1532. The protection was granted on the condition that the leaders were immediately baptised as Christians and that they would encourage their people also to convert to Christianity, until which the Paravars were Hindus. The Portuguese would also gain a strategic foothold and control of the pearl fisheries. The deal was agreed and some months later 20,000 Paravars were baptised en masse, and became subjects of Portugal. By the end of 1537 the entire community had declared itself to be Catholic Christians and the Portuguese proceeded to destroy the Arab fleet. From that point the Paravar people as a whole enjoyed renewed prosperity. Fernando, Costa, De Cruz, Vaz, Rodrigo, carvalho and Roche are a direct consequence of conversion by the Portuguese. There are four tamil family names of non-Christian origin still in common use, these being Kalingarayan, Villavarayan, Poobalarayan and Rayan.

Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest, had been working in Goa prior to his journey to Kanyakumari, where he arrived in October 1542. He took with him some interpreters with the intention of spreading the Gospel and bringing about further religious conversions. After the Portuguese the Dutch came in and wanted all Paravars to turn into Protestants, which the Paravars refused. Later the British came and slowly Catholicism grew to a big level in the coastal areas.

This is the history behind getting our widely used surnames. These surnames are still popular in Portugal ruled countries such as Brazil, hence the connection with people world over. As a Paravar we are supposed to know the legacy behind our surnames, hence this blog.


5 thoughts on “WHAT’S IN A SURNAME?

  1. Thank you for the interesting article on Parava surnames.

    It was my father’s unverified surmise that the Parava surnames of Portuguese/Spanish origin may have been the surnames of the baptizing priests or the European traders/noblemen who stood as godparents. The surnames Fernando, Rodrigo and Lobo were of Portuguese origin, while Fernandez, Rodriguez and Lopez were the Spanish equivalents.

    These surnames are also found in Goa, Mangalore, and Kerala, along the coast, where conversions were carried on. These surnames are also found in the Philippines, where the Spanish missionaries worked.

    Christine Gomez

  2. Good work Anton Niresh !
    You have detailed the legacy of Paravar surnames. There are as many as 64 surnames for us in vogue.
    We are shy to exhibit our surnames thinking that we may be outcast in the society.
    Can I ask why you have not disclosed yourself as ANTON NIRESH VAZ !
    Good Luck !

    Sornarajan T.Victoria

  3. There is a surname which goes by “LEON” which has been missed here..There are predominantly 1000 or more people with this name living in Thangachimadam. We still continue to use them and we are proud to say we are Leons

    Don leon

  4. LEON-Derived from Greek λεων (leon) meaning “lion”. During the Christian era this Greek name was merged with the Latin cognate Leo, with the result that the two forms are used somewhat interchangeably across European languages. In England during the Middle Ages this was a common name among Jews. A famous bearer was Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), a Russian Communist revolutionary.


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