Posted by: lrrp | May 17, 2006

The Portuguese Encounter 1505 to 1658 – A Reign of Christian Terror – by Mallika Wanigasundara

(Scholars dig deep into the past and presented their findings at the SLAAF Conference )

It was a careful journey into the past, of Portuguese murder and terror, genocide, brutality, destructiveness, cultural rape, religious bigotry, arson, including the burning of books, and absolutist suppression for the annihilation of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam in Sri Lanka.

This massive massacre of ‘unbelievers’ – pagans, heretics and infidels and the destruction of non-Catholic places of worship was carried out by the Portuguese conquerors of Ceylon between 1505 and 1658CE in the name of the service of God and the love of Christ.

2005CE marks the 500th year after the arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims look on this date [1505] as the beginning of the darkest era of Sri Lankan history. The Portuguese record of violence, bloodshed and use of force, is catholic in magnitude and was spurred on by the reigning pontiffs of Rome, the Catholic church, the Inquisition, the kings of Portugal and state power.

Driven by ‘Papal Bulls’ the imperialistic arrogance of the kings of Portugal knew no bounds in their crimes against humanity.

For two years fifty professionals of many disciplines, eminent academicians, scientists and scholars, historians and researchers and around 150 others, delved into past records to unearth Portuguese depredations. Meticulous keepers of records, Portuguese writers like Queyroz, Trinidade, Perniola, Barros, do Couto provided much information. Sandesaya poems, Sinhala literature such as the Rajavaliya were researched for other details.

It took researchers to some of the sites of destruction of places of worship resulting in an illuminating book of photographs. The team would need several tomes to adequately record their findings.

On December 10 and 11th. 2005 a conference was held in Colombo to reveal the findings to the public. It was called The Portuguese Encounter and was sponsored by the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Archaeological Society.

Credit must be given to Dr Susantha Goonatilake, scholar, researcher and writer and Dr Hema Goonatilake for the indefatigable effort put in by them to make this conference a success.

The Assault
The core of the assault was to subjugate and reduce to slavery the so-called non-believers by appropriating their lands in perpetuity for the church.

Orders went out from Portugal and Goa that all idols, images, pictures and even religious trees, be reduced to fragments and this was done with gusto.
Even children who had lost one parent were forcibly taken and given to Catholic organizations.

Humans were put to the sword, children bayoneted, women raped and hacked, and 100s of temples and monasteries, Hindu kovils and mosques were pounded to the ground. Churches were built on those lands.

The investigating team has done an invaluable job for future generations to know and remember, and avoid the mistakes their ancestors made. The names of the presenters of papers and the places of worship are too many to record here, but a few can be mentioned.

A huge mass of evidence and information was presented by scholars such as D G B. de Silva, former ambassador, Gaston Perera, writer, Prof. M U de Silva, Dr Susantha Goonatilake, Padma Edirisinghe, Prof Mendis Rohanadeera, Senake Weeraratne, K D G. Wimalaratne, Dr Hema Goonatilake, Ashley de Vos, and two speakers from Goa: Vigyananand Swami and Shrikant Y. Raman and many others.

A few of the places of worship were: the Sacred Temple of the Tooth, Kotte, the Vehera Kande vihare, the Kotte Raja maha vihare, the Attanagalle vihare, the Nawagamuwe temple and vihare, monasteries of learning such as the Totagamuwe temple and pirivena, the Sunethradevi temple and pirivena, the Kelani vihare, the Devinuwara temple and devale, the Maha Saman devale, Ratnapura, the Munneswaram kovil, the Madampe Thanivelle devale, the Naga vihare Kotte, the Kali kovil, Kalutara, the Tondamannar kovil, the Mannar kovil, the Beruwala, Kalutara, Weligama and many other mosques.
It is recorded that as many as 500 kovils were destroyed in Jaffna alone.

All the ports from Colombo to Chilaw were burnt and all places of worship from Colombo to Kosgoda were destroyed. Churches were built on these lands and temple lands expropriated for the Catholic church by the Franciscan monks.

No non-believer or pagan was entitled to own land.
Thousands of idols, images, pictures – religious items, were smashed to powder and temples and devales plundered of their gold, ornaments, jewellery and clothes before they were destroyed. In Goa, the speakers said all that remained was only in museums and memoirs.

Forced conversions took place on the fear of death. Rites, rituals, processions were banned. There were no yellow robed bhikkhus, only white-clad militant ‘ganninnanses’ [observers of the ten precepts] who kept the lamp of the Dhamma burning in secret.

There was no chanting of pirith, no Hindu prayers, no call to prayer from mosques or reciting of Holy Quran, but criminals who converted were given plenary remissions by Papal bulls and many who committed transgressions and crimes escaped by conversion.

Scholars and historians recalled the grim record of temple lands seized by the Catholic church even before the benighted King Dharmapala stupidly bequeathed the kingdom of Kotte, the palace, the temple of the Sacred Tooth and all temple lands to the king of Portugal and the Catholic church.

But the people kept on resisting. As many as seven rebellions created heavy disruption in Portuguese power and on one occasion they were driven to their fort in Colombo. Thousands were killed including thirty bhikkhus who were all shot in one go.

With the annexation of the Kotte in 1594 the Muslims were ordered out of Portuguese territory, perhaps a first instance of ethnic cleansing.
By 1594 there was no royalty and no leaders. Leadership came from Lascoreen mudaliyars and minor headmen.

These gruesome events were recalled dispassionately and without rancour by several speakers. It was Gaston Perera who said that their aim was not to target or condemn anybody but to expose these events dispassionately and not sweep them under the carpet.

The question of an apology, restitution of our assets and whether Sri Lanka has a claim for compensation was discussed by speakers such as Senake Weeraratne and KDG. Wimalaratne. These matters would be based on crimes against humanity, cultural piracy, destruction life and property, mass genocide, plunder of temples, forced conversions, channeling of revenue to the church, slavery, abuse of women, and so on.

Senake Weeraratne said: There is a Jewish proverb which says: A child that does not cry dies in the cradle. We are not appealing for voluntary charity, but for simple justice. Restitution must be made of unjust gains, and repentance must lead to such restitution.

It was necessary for present and future generations to learn from past mistakes. The Portuguese became advisers of kings such as Bhuveneka BahuV11 and he gave official sanction for missionary work and passed on the responsibility of making his grandson Dharmapala king of Kotte to Portugal.

Here then was the beginning of a religious conflict, where the population turned angrily against the Catholic Portuguese and continued their resistance. The populace living in a country where there had been religious freedom, tolerance and co-existence was unable to stomach the religious and cultural oppression in so many spheres of life, not least the suppression of intellectual and spiritual learning.
Religious oppression and conflict was a new
thing in the country where previously harmony and personal freedom had prevailed.

One interesting point noted was that Portugal was established in 1139. It is ironic that at this time Polonnaruwa city and surrounds were flourishing at their peak. Portugal was a small coastal nation which developed like an anthill in a short 100 years into an empire. It was Father Manuel de Morais who said in 1552 that Sinhala pagodas were richer than the richest churches in Lisbon.


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