Parava or Paravas, also known as Bharatharor Bharatha kula kshathriya, Paravar is one of the oldest Tamil castes.
For centuries the Paravas had been pearl divers. However in the 19th century pearl oysters in the Gulf of Mannar, between India and Sri Lanka, became scarce. Tuticorin city in Tamilnadu, India which is still a stronghold of the Parava community was the centre of the pearl trade. The Paravas later diversified into fishing, salt-making and other maritime professions.Paravar are akin to the Maravar caste,and both these communities ruled entire Pandya kingdom.
Paravar also refers to the people living on the coast of the Indian state of Tamilnadu and in parts of northern and western Sri Lanka (Ceylon). In Tamil language and literature, the coastal areas where they lived were called 'Neythal Thinai.'Significant numbers of well-educated Paravas, many of whom have diversified into major professions and business also live in the major cities of southern Tamilnadu and in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Paravas in Sri Lanka migrated from India during the British colonial days; many prospered in trade and business in Sri Lanka and now generally speak Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka. (see Bharatakula)
Paravas were the first whole community in India to convert to Christianity in the mid 16th century. The name 'Fernando', a predominant surname and other surnames were acquired from the Portuguese, who influenced the Paravas. There are as many as 100 or more of these surnames - Fernando, Fernandez, Motha, Mascarenhas, Victoria, Miranda, Devotta, De Cruz, De Souza, Gomez, Dalmeida, Vaz, Desoyza, Rodrigo, Rodriguez etc., which were given by St. Francis Xavier, other missionaries and Portuguese officers during the 16th century.
The Portuguese called the area where the Paravas lived as "La Pescaria" - or Land of the Pearls. Their spiritual, cultural and literary excellency brought out the first Tamil book to modern print media. The Tamil Bible, 'Cardila', was printed in 1554 and made Tamil the first language into print for any Indian language. This was even before the first printing machine arrived Goa, India in 1556. Cardila was printed at Lisbon by the command of the Portuguese government with the motivation by the visits of three Paravars Vincent Nasareth, Joj Kavalko and Thomas Cruz from Tuticorin, India to Portugal. The funding for the press came from the Parvar community of Tuticorin