Posted by: lrrp | October 5, 2004

A Controversial article : Catholic heritage before the advent of Portuguese in Sri Lanka (?) by D. E. MENDIS (Sunday, 19 September 2004)

The Nestorian Cross that was unearthed from Anuradhapura, the Baptismal Alter that was found in the North of Sri Lanka and the Mutwal Cross that emerged from the estuary of Kalani Ganga in 1912, cannot be laid aside as frauds.

In 52 AD the apostle, Jude Tedious went to preach the Good news as commanded by Lord Jesus to Syria and Persia and the apostle, Thomas went preaching the Good News to India. The Syrians and Persians who became Catholics were known as Nestorian Catholics and the Malabar Indian Catholics as Compidian Catholics.

During this era there were persecutions of Catholics in Persia under the rule of Persian Arab King, Faros the Second. The Catholics of Persia fled to India in the guise of merchants to escape death under Faros. These Nestorian Catholics and Compidian Catholics visited countries of Far East and Sri Lanka on trade missions and they had friendly trade relationship with Sri Lanka Rulers.

Both Nestorians and Compidians were accorded facilities to practice their trade and their religious faith. Some of them settled down in Sri Lanka and Nestorian Catholics established the Sign of the Cross in their Settlements to distinguish their identity.

The archaeological registers of Swarnasinghe relating to Stone Inscriptions, said to indicate that the Chief Commander of military Regiments, Migara who led regiments of King Datusena and King Kashyapa, had built a Church dedicated to Jesus Christ called “Nana Mathrica Abiseka Jinesya Christava Prasada” and the Chief Commander, Migara Jr. of King Mugalan’s main regiment persuaded the King and assisted him in building a similar Church close to Sigiriya dedicated to 12 apostles of Jesus Christ called “Agga Maha Sravaka Dolos Maha Saya”.

Historical factors

The archaeological and the historical factors in Dr. Paranawithana’s books provide the backdrop about the Catholic faith in Sri Lanka, which goes back to the Era of Maurya Dynasty. During this period Catholic Faith was a practising religion and received recognition and patronage from the royalty.

According to the book of Lineage of Kings of Sri Lanka, King Datusena was the son of King Damstranam of Punadra State of South India who was of Maurya Dynasty. King Damstranam waged war against King Mahanama of Sri Lanka and conquered the country and signed a Peace Accord with King Mahanama. As a result, King Damstranam married the daughter of King Mahanama. She was called Sanga. Datusena was their eldest son.

King Damstranam was a friend of King Singhavarman of Pallawa State of South India.

King Singhavarman’s enemies waged war against him and Datusena led the King’s Regiments against the Calabara regiments and defeated the enemies and saved the life of King Singhavarman. As a result of his military prowess King Singhavarman made Datusena the chief commander of his military regiments.

He also gave in marriage his sister, Prutha to Datusena. Datusena’s and princess Prutha’s eldest son was Kashyapa. Later on Datusena left the Kingdom of his father, Punadra State and settled down in Sri Lanka, which he inherited from his maternal side. During that time Sri Lanka was ruled by an Indian Calabara tribe – Tamils.

He fought with the Tamil rulers, Thirathara, Dathiya and Pithiya and put them to the sword and ascended to the thrown of Sri Lanka. The Prana State (Mangalore) assisted him by sending 75 ship loads of regiments to conquer the Island.

Among these soldiers there were many Compandian Catholics. The Sigiriya Story reveals during the reign of Maurya Dynasty these Catholics propagated their faith in Sri Lanka. These regiments of soldiers are mentioned in the Sigiriya Story as “Murundi Regiments”. They migrated to Chilaw and Gokaththa regions in Sri Lanka and practised and propagated their Catholic Faith in the country.


The Sigiriya story was constituted out of data gathered from 14 Stone inscriptions found in an archaeological register dating back to the 16th century and collated with primary data of Foreign States. This book also mentions Migara and Migara Jr. who joined the military regiments of King Datusena and King Kashyapa from the regiments of King Singhavarman.

The relationship between King Singhavarman and King Datusena weakened after some time and Singhavarman sent Migara to capture Datusena alive and present him to Pallawa State.

He waged war with Datusena whose regiments were led by Kashyapa who overpowered Migara’s regiments and saved his father, Datusena’s life. Migara then signed a Peace Accord with King Datusena. This resulted in Migara marrying the sister of King Datusena called Ganga. And Migara was recruited to the military service of King Datusena.

These circumstances prevailed on Migara and Princess Ganga to leave Pallawa State and they took up court in Sri Lanka with their two children. At that time Catholic faith growing as minority religions did not face an obstacles. The coming of Migara and princess Ganga was an added strength to the faith in Sri Lanka as there was an intimate relationship between the King’s family and Migara’s family, which enabled the Catholics to obtain representation in King’s Court or State Council. The ties between two families became further intimate when Migara’s son Migara Jr. married King Datusena’s daughter and King Datusena’s son (Kashyapa) married Migara’s daughter.

No proof

Though Murundi regiments in the service of Kings prevailed on King Datusena and King Kashyapa to embrace the Catholic faith there were no proof recorded in Stone Inscriptions to show that these Kings acceded to the request.

Ananda Thera’s book of lineage shows when Mugalan came to power, he took advice from a wicked Brahmin named Marga Jr. of Murundi regiment creating discension among the Sanga. Mugalan embraced catholism to expiate the sins he committed against the Sanga. He also built a sign of the Cross on top of the Sigiriya Rock.

The Maurya Dynasty came to an end with the King Kumarasena’s son Keeththisena’s (Christusena) reign and the power of Murundi regiment in Kings Courts waned. The Catholic faith remained dormant from the Sigiri era to Portuguese era in Sri Lanka.

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