Posted by: lrrp | May 31, 2008

If Dona Catherina was not an empress, who was she?

Mr. Denis N Fernando raises the title question in response to my demolition of a myth fabricated by a medical doctor K. P. V. D. Fernando (Island 15.12.01) in describing Dona Catherina as the “beloved last Catholic Empress of Sri Lanka.” Not a word of this statement is true. It is a peculiar characteristic of Christians, as has been shown through a well argued article by Prof. Nalin de Silva in the Sunday “Divaina” of 24.02.02, that once they have been shown that a proposition is not true they go home and rake their brains to find new arguments to buttress the debunked proposition.

In this case D.N.F. resorts to rhetoric, flaunts his qualifications, which we are unable to take under the loop, imputes that his opponent is not correctly educated as he is, and drags us to another area where he feels he is stronger all well known examples of crooked thinking.

According to the meaning given in the Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English an empress is a “woman governing an empire”. In the first place no Sri Lankan king possessed an empire to govern. The most that could have been said of Dona Catherina is that she could have claimed the right to rule the Kingdom of Kandy, which comprised only a part of the Island, if she had been independent and had a will of her own.

When she was brought to Kandy from a Mannar convent on the orders of Pedro Lopes de Sousa, the Portuguese Conquistador of the time, she was only twelve years old, steeped in Portuguese Christian culture, estranged from her heritage. This is what a professional historian Chandra Richard de Silva; Professor of History at the University of Peradeniya has to say of Dona Catherina. “Done Catherina or Kusumasandevi – was under Portuguese protection. Thus in 1594 a Portuguese force was sent to establish Dona Catherina on the throne of Kandy. At first everything went well. . . After sometime, however, it was apparent that she was a puppet in Portuguese hands”. (Italics mine: C.R de Silva-Sri Lanka, A History-1994). When this force arrived, Vimala Dharma Suriya I, who had proclaimed himself king of Kandy fled to Wellassa in the face of the invading army.

The eerie situation that prevailed in Kandy upon this invasion is well described by Mr. C. Gaston Perera in his “Rebel of Kandy” ( ANCL Publication 1999), which has also the imprimatur of Prof. K. M. de Silva, former Professor of Sri Lanka History:

“Once the Portuguese found that the King had escaped and that Kandy was abandoned, they were quite content to stay put, as it were, in the capital and further their nefarious schemes. He General Conquistador, Pedro Lopes de Sousa, high sounding title and all, and even the Catholic fathers could not see beyond their noses. Their facile triumph where the invincible Rajasinha himself had faltered and fallen made them cocky. They had the Princess, that most potent of weapons against the King, but not knowing how to use it, went on their blundering way” (Pg. 579).

Dona Catherina was only a “stay put Empress”, less than a puppet – a pawn I should say, fully guarded and held incommunicado by the Portuguese.

Dona Catherina, her father Karalliyadde Bandara and her brother Yamasinha Bandara (Dom Joao) were also puppets in the hands of the Portuguese. They had no support of the Sangha or the people who were nearly 100% Buddhist. People of the time realized their playing into the hands of the invader, though some people 408 years after these events are unable to understand this or accept this due to their crippled minds and inspite of their claims to be knowledgeable and intelligent.

The second point raised by Dr. K.P.V.D.F. that Dona Catherina was a Catholic, the reason for him to get sentimental about her and call her “our beloved last Catholic queen of Sri Lanka. That is why I say that his article and those of his supporter Mr. D.N.F. have a religious agenda. And that aspect must also be rebutted.

All the people of this country cannot get sentimental about Catherina because of her supposed devotion to Catholicism. She was in fact an apostate! An apostate, by definition is one who had accepted the Semitic God and later repudiated Him. She married two kings one after the other disregarding the Church. They were both “infidels” – grave reasons for excommunication. She had neither the freedom nor the desire to remain with the Church. We have literary evidence of her being considered an apostate in Captain Joao Ribeiro’s ” Historic Tragedy of the Island of Ceilao” (AES Reprint, New Delhi, 1999 – Page 248). It should be noted that in the words of Paul E. Pieris “To Ribeiro belongs the credit of being the first European who has left to us a detailed account of the country from personal knowledge.” There is no record of Dona Catherina being rehabilitated as a Catholic.

To the Portuguese, who had plans to legitimize their claims to the Island by marrying off Catherina to a Fidalgo (Portuguese aristocrat) and bestowing on them the titles of “Emperor and Empress” would seem “legitimate”. But to lawful heirs to the history and culture of this country these invaders who destroyed temples and killed people for worshipping the Buddha could not have seemed “legitimate”. For the purpose of the Portuguese any local ruler was a vassal. If the plans had been put into effect with a Christian ruler as “the Emperor of Sri Lanka” it would have resulted in an enormous blood bath and the settlement of Portuguese and baptized Christians from South India and that, which happened in South America, would have happened here.

The real Emperors were in Rome and Lisbon, scheming day and night to spread their monotheistic ideology in the world through war and bloodshed if necessary. Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) elated by the discovery of the New World and the sea way to the East and thinking of the vast riches that could accrue to him and the possibility of infecting the peoples with his brand of religion, issued a Bull (1493) ‘Inter cetera divina ‘ to divide the newly discovered lands between Spain and Portugal. The Eastern Hemisphere was given to the Portuguese. So they precipitated themselves to Asia to realize their God given possessions. The claim of the jurist Encisco in 1509 with regard to the West Indies applied to Sri Lanka also:

“The king has every right to send his men to the Indies to demand their territory from these idolaters because he had received it from the Pope. If the Indians refuse, he may quite legally fight them, kill them and enslave them, just as Joshua enslaved the inhabitants of the country of Canaan. ” (Quoted in Delumeau, ‘Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire pg 85).

It should be clear from the foregoing quotation that the Portuguese, if not for our heroic kings, would have carried out the above policy, which was in fact put into effect by the Spanish in the Americas with disastrous effects to advanced cultures and peoples of that Continent murdering and killing them by the million. They did have a plan to populate this country with their countrymen and baptized Christians from South India to consolidate their power.

The atrocities of Conquistadors and their helpers the missionaries are well documented by Gert von Paczensky in his “Teurer Segen – Christliche Mission and Kolonialismus” (Goldman, 1994). The author was the chief editor of the popular German Weekly,” Stern”. In his foreword he says: “Pious, noble, humble and loving – that is the image we are used to of the missionary working in the world of non-white people. But that picture is deceptive. Missionaries were the allies of the colonialists, often very cruel. They helped in the destruction of age-old cultures uprooting people and families, sowing hate and dissension among them. They promoted and supported a system that led to the popularization of peoples in three continents, driving them towards hunger, want and penury. In the underdevelopment of Latin America, Africa and Asia – the chief problem of the world today – missionaries and churches of all denominations have to bear their share of responsibility.” (Translation mine).

They planned and pursued a policy of putting an end to our 2000 year old legacy and replacing it with the culture of a semi-barbaric nomadic race for whom warfare and bloodshed either as aggressor or martyr was one of the highest virtues. The crudities and the barbarities of monotheistic Semitic religion are beyond belief and are a far cry from the benign and tolerant civilizations of the East. In this part of the world we did not produce a God for export, for which the receiving end had no need. There were no genocidal wars to install Him over the rest. There were no Inquisitions, Confessions, suppression of heresy, or burning of “witches”. We waged no crusades, no invasion and destruction of other cultures, invented no Devil to push decent human beings at the End of the World for eternal torture – We in the East didn’t produce a bible to expand and enslave others spilling rivers of innocent blood.

We escaped the Portuguese grip on our island civilization narrowly and at a heavy price. We have still not recovered from that blow. The beautiful city of Jayawardanapura of the Sandesas was destroyed to its foundations. De Mello demolished Kelaniya the nerve Centre of Buddhism at the time in 1575. The villagers who came to resist were murdered and thrown to the river to be drowned. Pepiliyana, Vidagama, Keragala, Totagamuwa and Devundara, great seats of learning and possessing accumulated cultural treasures were plundered and ransacked. Its learned monks were either killed or banished. Azavedo (1602) ordered the killing of all males above the age of 14 and enslave those below. Raping of women took place in keeping with biblical morals. (Moses- Numbers 31:17). The list is endless. This is a time to ask for an APOLOGY from the Pope and demand reparations – not build memorials to their collaborators however “beloved” they may be to some crippled minds.

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