Posted by: lrrp | November 28, 2005

Portuguese Dark Age

Historians and commentators now generally
regard the arrival of the Portuguese in the year 1505 as the
beginning of the Dark Age in the history of Sri Lanka. The arrival of
Western colonialism was the biggest treat to Sri Lankan social
approach based on diversity and principles along the tousands of

The Prtuguese colonialist force and terror
symbolised a key turning point for all of Sri Lankan people.
Portuguese adventurers sacked the Sri Lanka, slaughtering many of Sri
Lankan inhabitants and destroying great cultural treasures.
The butchery announced that European
rulers were beginning a new phase in their relationship with South
Asia. It was a grim forerunner for the five centuries of western
colonial domination and cruelty that followed.
The Portuguese attempted to justify their
plunder and attrocities by reference to `religious morality’.
European Christian rulers and Pope Nicholas V, who had already
blessed the Portuguese assault on other countries with different
religions, confirmed that it was justified to enslave non-believers.
Such an ideology led to many atrocities in many portuguese colonies
in Asia and Africa.


Atrocities were committed on a massive and
horrific scale. In Countries like Mosambique, Angola and Capo Verde
underwent into mass genocides and plunder by the hands of Portuguese.
(Mombasa attack 1505).

G.P. Malalasekera in his
Ph.D. dissertation which was later published as a book under the
title ` The Pali Literature of Ceylon’ makes the following comment,

…………. in lucid language on the high handed methods employed
by the Portuguese in pursuit of their colonial objectives which
included conversion of the people of the country into Christianity
and the concomitant repression of Buddhism: , “Every stage of their
progress was marked by a rapacity, bigotry, cruelty and inhumanity
unparalleled in the annals of any other European colonial power.
Their ferocity and their utter indifference of all suffering
increased with the success of their army; their inhuman barbarities
were accompanied by callousness which knew no distinction between
man, woman and child; no feeling of compassion was strong enough to
stay their savage hands in their fell work. To terrify their subjects
and bring home to them the might of the Portuguese Power, they
committed atrocities which had they not been found recorded in the
decades of their friendly historians, seems too revolting to be true.
Babes were spitted on the soldier’s pikes and held up that their
parents might hear the young cocks crow. Sometimes they were mashed
to pulp between millstones, while their mothers were compelled to
witness the pitiful sight before they themselves were tortured to
death. Men were thrown over bridges for the amusement of the troops
to feed the crocodiles in the river, which eventually grew so tame
that at whistle they would raise their heads above the water in
anticipation of the welcome feast.”

Sir James Emerson Tennent refers to the Portuguese conduct in Sri
Lanka in these terms-
“There is no page in the story of European colonization more gloomy
and repulsive than that which recounts the proceedings of the
Portuguese in Ceylon. Astonished at the magnitude of their
enterprises, and the glory of their discoveries and conquests in
India, the rapidity and success of which secured for Portugal an
unprecedented renown, we are ill-prepared to hear of the rapacity,
bigotry and cruelty which characterized every stage of their progress
in the East. They appeared in the Indian seas in the three-fold
character of merchants, missionaries and pirates. Their ostensible
motto was amity, commerce and religion. Their expeditions consisted
of soldiers as well as adventurers, and included friars and chaplain
majors. Their instructions were to begin by preaching, but, that
failing, to proceed to the decision of the sword.”


1) The western colonialism gave rise to the modern slave trade and
turned people into nothing more than commodities and sources of labor.
. A the Guinea Coast is associated
mainly with slavery. Indeed one of the alternative names for the
region is the Slave Coast. This name is entirely the result of the
arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. Before that period the
slave trade, centuries old in the interior of Africa, is not yet a
significant feature of slavery. The change occurs after the
Portuguese reach this region in 1446. The Portuguese use slave labour
to grow cotton and indigo in the previously uninhabited Cape Verde
islands. They then trade these goods, in the estuary of the Geba
river, for slaves captured in local African wars and raids (The
usuall colonial predatory action). The African slaves are sold in
Europe and, from the 16th century, in the Americas.
In Sri Lanka,

2) How through marriage and religious conversion, members of
colonized peoples could achieve a form of social status by adopting
the traits of their Portuguese colonizers. (For example that, in
Africa, the growth of colonization into the African interior by
Afrikaners laid the foundations for racist apartheid laws. “In fact,
for the Portuguese, Catholicism trumped skin color. African Natives
who professed to the Catholic faith gained the rights and advantages
of Portuguese citizenship. The Portuguese even mandated intermarriage
between Portuguese and native populations, a significant fact
considering the French and British colonizers had passed ordinances
against the very same practice in their colonies.” ) this process of
assimilation left the Africans (and Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri
Lanka) with the choice between acceptance of and rebellion against
the European culture; therefore, they chose the way of the European
and accepted Christianity.

One of portuguese high official, Afonso de
Albuquerque’s dream, was an infusion of Portuguese blood in each of
the colonies. Many Tamils lived in Batticaloa and Jaffna were
converted to Christianity and many sinhalese lived in Western and
southern seaboard also converted into Christianity. With time,
this “Christian” and “westernised” social sectors evolved as an alien
social sector, which was priveledged by the colonial masters and
these `sectors’ were heavily antagonist to native cultures. And after
the so-called independence in 1948, these Sinhala and Tamil
westernized social sectors played major role in political mutaments
in our country. [note-In Indian Sub continent (particularly in Sri
Lanka), the westernised social classes got used caste factor and the
other feudal entities for that. So Sinhalese or Tamils of western
(Portuguese) mixed ancestry GET USED to rule as feudal potentates.]

Those of us who have suffered the pains of Western colonialism, and
still suffer from the way that the powerful neo-colonialism dominate
the globe, can see that 1505 AD was a terrible and crucial year.

( 2005 November – Coordinating comitee ,UNITED HELA ORGANIZATION)


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