Posted by: lrrp | May 31, 2008

The when and why of the Portuguese arrival

Our school text books teach us that the Portuguese came to Sri Lanka, in 1505. All our historians as well as the Rajawaliya, Mahawansa which were written after the Portuguese period repeat this mistake. They all have been misled by the Portuguese historians like John de Barros, Caston Heda, Gaspar Corea, Diogo de Couto and Fernao Queyros. They allege that in 1505 Lawrence de Almeida landed in Galle, having been caught in a heavy storm on their way to the Maldive islands to attack Arab merchant ships. From Galle they came to Colombo to meet the king and get permission for trade. We are told the Portuguese were taken in a circuitous route from Colombo to Kotte involving a travel of several days.

According to the researches of Professor M. Rohonadeera Lawrenco de Almeida came to Galle in September 1506, driven by a storm. They found Arab merchants loading their ships busily. The Arabs pretended to be the king’s emissaries and took them to a provincial chief inland who pretended to be the king in his country residence. The bogus king welcomed them and offered them concessions. While Portuguese team under Souza went to meet the bogus king, Lawrenco engraved the Portuguese court of arms on a rock. It is now seen at Gordon gardens adjacent Presidential Palace which was the palace of the British governors.

On 3/5/1505 King Don Manuel of Portugal sent Captain Francisco Almeida to Cochin harbour in West India. He was given orders to somehow conquer Ceylon and build a Fort. Until 1506 he had done nothing. He was engaged in driving out the Arab merchants from Indian ports. In the process he sent his son Lawrenco to chase the Arabs from their Maldive base. Lawrenco’s ships were caught in a storm and drifted to Galle. Within a few days Lawrenco went away to Cochin. He never went to Colombo nor to the Kotte king. Donald Ferguson revealed those facts after his studies and researches.

Souza and his men had realised that they had been tricked by the Moors.

Gaspar de India, a Portuguese officer in Cochin reported this to king Manuel in a letter dated 16/11/1506. According to him Lawrenco came to Galle harbour in September 1506. On 27/12/1506 Francisco de Almeida reported to his king that his son conquered Ceylon, and that he planted the king’s court of arms. The king reported this victory to the Pope. He said Ceylon and its six kings were subjugated. The chief king at Kotte had agreed to pay annual tribute to Portugal. The Pope celebrated a mass. He conferred a honorific title on the Portuguese king. The Pope was tricked to get this honorific title.

Portuguese historians have taken the exaggerations and falsification of this report. We have got our history books on these falsifications. The Rajavaliya author took his facts from Portuguese historians. The story of the Portuguese landing in Galle in 1505, then proceeding to Kotte via Colombo and signing a treat with the king is so much fiction.

Rajavaliya says King Dharma Parakrama Bahu was ruling when the Portuguese came to Kotte and signed a treaty. This is wrong. The ruler was Vijaya Bahu the sixth. Dharma Parakrama Bahu was his brother. Dharma Parakrama Bahu sought Portuguese assistance to seize the throne from his brother.

In response to this request a Portuguese fleet was sent on 1517. The Portuguese first visit to Galle was fruitless. But on the invitation of Dharma Parakrama Bahu they came to interfere in the power struggle of two Sinhalese princes. All these are revealed in Prof. Rohanadeera’s researches given in his two works on the “Portuguese in Galle” and “Dharma Parakrama Bahu – The traitor”.

— D. Amarasiri Weeratne


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: