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The people of Negombo are Karavas, Tamil and Sinhalese fishermen who converted en masse to Catholicism during the mid-sixteenth century under the influence of Portuguese missionaries, taking Portuguese surnames and becoming the first of Sri Lanka’s innumerable de Silvas, de Soysas and Pereras.

The Karavas are also famous for their unusual fishing boats, known as oruwas, distinctive catamarans (a word derived from the Tamil ketti-maran) fashioned from a hollowed-out trunk attached to an massive sail. Hundreds of these small vessels remain in use even today, and make an unforgettable sight when the fleet returns to shore.

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