Posted by: lrrp | February 10, 2006

The Discovery and Conquest of Ceylon by Portuguese by Deepthi Anura Jayatunge

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon written by Farther Fernao~ De Queyroz ( 1687) had been declared to be second only to Mahawansa in his value for the history of Ceylon. The Mahawansa documented mostly the achievements of Ceylonese Kings towards spreading Buddhism and this book documents similar effort taken by Portuguese, to spread Christianity in Ceylon. Queyroz was a vigorous preacher, and was the Deputy Inquisitor of Goa His object of writing this book, as he says repeatedly, is to animate Portuguese to recover Ceylon. Father Queyroz was born in Portugal in 1617, lived in India for 53 years, and died in Goa, in 1688, with out ever been able to publish his book. The manuscript found its way to the Royal Library and then to Brazil, in to the National Library of Rio de Janeiro and after 146 years a copy was made in 1834 AD. Father S G Perera did an excellent translation of this book from Portuguese to English: after passage of 240 years; since the manuscript was ready for the press.

Father Queyroz never visited Ceylon, but based his book on valuable contemporary writing and from very lips of eyewitnesses; just before that generation passed away. He also refers to the works of Barros, Couto, Menezes, Negrao~, lomba, Barboza, Silva and Faria y Souza in his manuscript

Though his strong commitment to his faith did not warrant him to believe, he was aware of the theory of Trans-Migration- Of –Souls, and promptly observed the strong similarities between ‘ The sermon on the mountain’ made by the Christ and ‘Panchaseela’ of Lord Budddha. Father Queyroz wrote to Viceroy on India ‘One of greatest services which Your Excellency can render is to the divine and human Majesty is to persuade Portugal to recover India and especially Ceylon.’ Like every good Portuguese he believed that it was the mission of Portugal to spread the faith in East, forgetting the fact that in the process they were wiping out great civilisations that were over 2500 years old.

Queyroz had correctly identified the intention of Sinhalese, when they supported the Dutch in their war with Portuguese stating ‘Dutch were partly mistaken for the Sinhalese did not call the Hollander at this time to make him the Master of Ceylon, but only to check the invasions of the Portuguese and to get the possession of the lowlands by counterpoising the forces of the two European nations so that the mutual opposition of the two, might enable him to enjoy the fruits of the Island.’

His observations on senior government officials apply even to date:’ Those who bring the state to ruin and destruction Sir, are the Viceroys and Governors; and this is not much so because of what they rob, but because of what they mismanage; for as they presume that war is a court, they do not seek for it experienced persons but courtiers, where by enemies surrender by words, while bullets alone can subdue them.’

He also observed that, when it comes to politics, it is difficult to say whether from nature proceeds habits or habits become nature. Those who pretend to be good men while canvassing, find it difficult to be moderate in the exercise of power.

Queyroz had a very good understanding on the ‘theory of surplus value’, of Karl Marx as he noted: “They had little powder for balls and many of a calibre different from guns. There was not even a little of public money or money of the King in the( Galle) fort, as the work has been done at the cost of the inhabitants, and had not cost the Portuguese king even a measure of rice to built it”

His observations on conduct of Portuguese had been extremely correct as he said, ‘We could have been masters of India, if we had been masters of ourselves. What purpose do we defy if we cannot give them life? We should have come with faith and commerce free to all, and our principals are wrong.

Ceylon 1500 AD

Ceylon was known as ‘delightful land’, unknown land , hidden land , known only for its fertility, and earlier Geographers gave erroneous figures of the Islands circumference , sometimes of 900 leagues , at other time 360, but according to Portuguese 150 leagues only. They are to be excused by the crudeness of the information at that time. With Ceylon were united the low lands of the Maldives, which the sea has since devoured for the most part, dividing them into innumerable Islands, now seen at a distance 70 leagues from Point de Galle. Nor does it seem a surprise thing that the sea has swallowed up such and extent of Low Countries. ‘For an example one could point out Atlantis, a great island west of the Pillars of Hercules, opposite mount Atlas, and the legend of its destruction, in a day and a night, is given by Plato, in Timeus.’ No other island in known for its fertility than Ceylon, and the more so when the low lands of the Maldives were united to it, for it was of a remarkable size .Further Rjavaliya (27) says that the guardian deities of Lanka having become indignant eleven twelfths of Lanka were submerged by great sea, during the life time of Viharamahadevi.

Land submerged on 125BC

Son of Gotabaya Prince named ‘Kakawannatissa
, married ‘Viharamahadevi’ and had a son named ‘Dutugamunu’ (101 BC- 77 BC) at the time a Tamil of noble descent ‘Elara’ (145 BC-101 BC) from Cola country of south India, who seized the Kingdom & was ruling; with even justice towards friend & foe, from Aunradhapura (Anu~- Raja- Pura or Mansion of 90 Kings) according to Mahawansa.

The ruler of Kelaniya was a King named Kelani Thissa who had banished his own brother, guilty lover of his queen. His brother sent a man disguised as a monk to send a letter to queen, on a day the King was offering food to an Arahath monk. This man (disguised as a monk) dropped the letter (Ola leaf) in side the palace, so the queen who was near could pick it. King hearing the noise of the Ola being dropped collected it: outraged slew both Monks and had their bodies thrown to the sea. The wroth at the killing of innocent Arahath (enlighted) monk, Sea gods made the sea overflow the land, submerging eleven twelfth of Lanka, notes Mahawansa.

Sri Lanka

Name Lanka was given by the first king, on seeing the beauty of the land, the mildness of the climate, the abundance of fruit, the excellence o the waters, the fragrance of the woods, the wealth of the mountains, the riches of the gem lands and the variety of animals. Other nations in conformity with the information they had for its fruits and wealth, by the word ‘Sri Lanka’ called it paradise.


Vasco Da Gama (1497-1499) wrote to his King: Taproban concerning which Pliny wrote so fully was not known to the Pilot, for it must be quite out at sea, far away from the mainland. But King Manuel was advised better as he wrote to Cardinal Protector in August 1499; The Island of Taprobane which is called Ceilan is 150 leagues from Qulalicut. He was informed by N Olas De Canerion in 1502 AD that; The Island called Taprobane is the largest Island in the world and very rich in other things. Such as gold, silver, pearls, precious stones and rubies of large size and fine quality, all kinds of spices, silks, and brocades. The Inhabitants are idolaters and well disposed and take much merchandise abroad, and bring back other kinds not to be found in the island.

Alexander the Great, Dionysius & Marco Polo

The first information about Ceylon was brought in to Europe by Nearchus and Onesicritus who directed the helm of the ship which Alexander the great himself sailed.

Dionysius the geographer mentions Taprobane is famous for its breed of elephants. In the 13 Th Century Marco Polo a Venetian visited Ceylon: claimed it is the finest Island in the world.

Ibn Batuta 1344 AD

In 1344 AD Ibn Batuta came to Ceylon, from Maldives, and landed on the Northern Coast, to a province where Arya Chakrawarthi, a Tamil King practicing Saivism, having a large fleet for trading in the Indian Ocean. At this time King Buwaneka Bahu the 4th was ruling from Gampola and Parakrama-Bahu the 5th at Dadigama. He visited Galle finding it a busy trade emporium, with Chinese Junks stopping on their way to Malabar. In Devinuwara (town of Gods) he found a large temple served by thousands of priests and 500 dancing girls, containing an image of Gold with Ruby eyes. Colombo he said was largely inhabited by Muslims and its active foreign trade controlled by a certain “Prince of the Sea”.


Kings of Ceylon style them selves as ‘Suriya-wansa’, which is equivalent to ‘the race of the Sun’. ‘We cannot deny some kinship with the sun, considering the scorched colour of his descendants, and of other Sinhalese. It is more reasonable to suppose this nation took its name ‘‘, ‘Le’ for blood and Sinha a Lion; whence they formed the word ‘Sinhale’ and in plural ‘Sinhalese’, according to Queyroz.

Prince Vijaya came from India 2200 years ago (Documented in 1636 AD)

In a petition submitted to Diogo de Melo in 1636 Sinhalese claimed a Prince named Vijaya Raja came to the port near Mannar with 700 persons from the kingdom of Thelingu or Kalinga, of the king, which he was a son. He was sent as punishment for grave offences he committed against his father. He styled him self Emperor of Ceylon and married from mainland ‘ Poeni ( Kuweni). And the Asiatic heathen believe other grater fables. The ancient Kings took the title Bahu which means lions tail (?). This pretension about their origin obtained the title Emperors, though their dominion never exceeded the narrow limits of the Island. This also made them think that they are the best blood of the East; on account of this other Princes of India especially Heathen, deem is a great fortune to give their daughters in marriage, to become related to Sun.

Trade with Romans

In the time o
f Claudius Emperor of the Romans, between the years of Christ 42 and 56 ( 56 AD) , Pliny relates that a freedman of Anneus Proclamus , while sailing along the coast of Arabia was carried away by a North Breeze, and after 15 days he came upon the Island of Taporobane. (Ceylon) , and being well received, by the king there of, was by him , after some months, sent back with his ambassadors to Rome, where was made an agreement about in dealing and trade; of which some find a confirmation in that as Laguna relates, in the time of Pope Paul ( iii ). There was found in Rome a piece of cinnamon wood kept from the time of Arcadius the son of Theodosius 261 years after Claudius. And Joao~ Melo de S Payo , Captain of Mannar in the year 1575, ordering the destruction of some old building, found in their foundations some coins of gold and copper with the letters C.L.R.M.N. which seems to mean: Claudius Romanorum : according to their wonted abbreviation.

Sinhalese and their character according to Queyroz (Before the Arrival of Portuguese) 1505 AD

As for the character of Sinhalese they are generally proud, vain and lazy, the first on account of their celestial descent, especially, those who are of blood royal : the second because of the antiquity of their kingdom, and nation, and the liberty in which they were always brought up; third on account of the position, climate and riches of the land, which being so fertile both as regards what springs from it and what entrusted to it, they have no care for agriculture , nor do they care to acquire riches, being content with little. Even the poorest wear a cloth decently adjusted below the knees. As they all are Pythagoreans and believe in transmigration of souls, they bury their treasures in their life time to escape the Maralas or confiscations at death, and they hide them even from their children, keeping them for their rebirth.

Sinhalese and their character according to Ribeiro (After the Arrival of Portuguese) 1685 AD

The Captain Jaoa Ribeiro ( 1640-1685) notes that Sinhalese are like ‘Spaniards greedy of money and this make them treacherous and ready to acknowledge Christianity, but they return to their own religion with the same ease and whenever our men had to withdraw to the city, they hasten to worship their images’.

Sinhalese and their character according to Militant Groups up North (Year 2000 AD)

As long as the Sinhalese nation is buried in the mud of racist politics, we cannot expect fair and reasonable solution from Sinhalese rulers.



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