Sri Lankan Chetties
|6,075 (2012 census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican), Hinduism|
|Related ethnic groups|
Sri Lankan Chetties (Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකා චෙට්ටි, romanized: Śī laṁkā Ceṭṭi, Tamil: இலங்கை செட்டி, romanized: Ilaṅkai Ceṭṭi) also known as Colombo Chetties, is an ethnicity in the island of Sri Lanka. Formerly considered a Sri Lankan Tamil caste, were classified as a separate ethnic group in the 2001 census. They were a class of Tamil speaking Hindu Vaishyas, who migrated from the South India under Portuguese rule.
The word Chetty is a generic term denoting all merchant and trading groups of South India. The word is thought to have been derived from the Tamil word Etti, an honorific title bestowed on the leading merchants by Tamil monarchs.
Most of them trace their origin from Madurai, Tirunelveli and the Coromandel Coast of Southern India. They settled mostly in westernSri Lanka, especially in the ports of Jaffna, Colombo and Galle from the 16th century to mid 17th century, during the rule of the Portuguese and Dutch. Some of the Chetties in Northern Sri Lanka were absorbed in other communities, mainly in the Sri Lankan Vellalar community, considered a subcaste known as Chetty Vellalar. The Chetties of Western Sri Lanka converted to Roman Catholicism under Portuguese rule. Other converted to Anglicanism or Protestantism under Dutch rule and British rule. Intermarriage and alliances between Sinhalese and Chetties were not uncommon thus many also got Sinhalised.
|Source:Department of Census|
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.
Representatives of the Colombo Chetty Association stressed out their distinctiveness, appealing for forming a separate ethnic group. The Chetties were notably also from 1814 to 1817 listed as a separate ethnic group. The Chetties used dress distinctive from rest of the population in the colonial era.
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.
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