Posted by: lrrp | August 8, 2011

Things They Don’t Tell You About Christianity – Sri Lanka

Christianity was brought to this island country of Buddhists and Hindus by the Portuguese, where it was imposed violently on the pre-Christian people against their will. Once again, the zealous soldiers of Christ destroyed temples and built Churches where the shrines had stood using the very materials of the broken temples themselves. They killed all those resisting who defended their pre-Christian places of worship.

Monks killed and ancient shrines destroyed with Churches built over them

According to MU de Silva, from 1574 onwards, the Catholic zealots kept destroying Buddhist and Hindu temples all along the Western coast. The monks and priests over there either fled or got killed or went underground. A group of militant monks called Ganinnanse discarded the traditional yellow robe and began to wear a white robe instead to hide themselves.
Dr Susantha Goonetilleke, who is spearheading the anti-Portuguese movement, says that the 1,000 pillared temples in Devundara in the deep south and Trincomalee in the East; the Saman Devale (temple) in Ratnapura; and the Kelaniya temple, all very much revered, were ransacked and burnt.

According to Prof Endagama, the Portuguese deliberately built churches over the ruins of Buddhist or Hindu temples. The present Kochikade church in Colombo and the Madu church in Mannar, both very popular now among Catholics, were Pattini Devales or temples for Kannagi, the famous heroine of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Buddhist schools (pirivenas), which were also mini universities, were ransacked and burnt, and their monk-scholars killed. Among the schools thus destroyed were the Sunethra Devi Pirivena in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, and the Tottagamuwe Pirivena in Hikkaduwa.

From: That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka,

Today there hardly exists a Buddhist Temple over 150 years old in areas once ruled by the Portuguese, particularly in the maritime coast.
The campaign against Buddhism had the involvement of three principal agencies namely –
(1) The Roman Catholic Emperor of Portugal (2) His Viceroy at Goa and (3) The Roman Catholic priests in Sri Lanka (52)

Hindu Temples were also not spared from destruction. Fellippe de Oliveria, the conqueror of Jaffna was reputed for having destroyed 500 Temples. (62)

From: Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, which also contains the section Execution of Buddhist monks, besides the sections Mass Conversions and Destruction and Plunder of Buddhist Temples.

Conversion

…the Portuguese came not only for trade and territorial acquisition, but for proselytising. Historian Dr Lorna Dewaraja says that the Papal Bulls of 1452, 1455 and 1456, gave the clear go ahead to Portugal to acquire territory and convert heathens. The Pope had conferred on Portugal a monopoly on all this. Force and intrigue were used convert them [the Sinhalas and the Tamils].

From: That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka,

Mass Conversions
Many coastal communities in Sri Lanka underwent mass conversion, particularly in Jaffna, Mannar, and among the fishing communities living north of Colombo such as in Negombo and Chilaw. Roman Catholic churches with schools attached to them served Catholic communities all over the country. These schools also contributed to the spread of the Portuguese language particularly among the upper classes of society.

From: Portuguese ruined Jaffna: Historian

It is generally recognised now that if Portuguese rule had continued and spread to the interior of the island, Sri Lanka would have completely lost its Buddhist heritage and become a completely Westernised and Catholic country. But even with the limited territorial reach (they were strong only in the Western maritime provinces) the impact had been deep, perhaps even indelible.

Divide and conquer

Tamil-Sinhala divide created by Portuguese
Prior to the advent of the Portuguese, there was much Sinhala-Tamil and Buddhist-Tamil amity in Sri Lanka. MU de Silva says that Hindu temples dotted the maritime provinces, though these were Buddhist-majority areas. In the Thottagamuwa school, no distinction was made between Sinhala and Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit.

According to Prof Endagama, it was the Portuguese who first created a division between the Sinhalas and the Tamils. One reason for this, according to Prof Dewaraja, was the fact that the Portuguese found it easier to convert the Tamils. [divide into smaller groups and convert]

The family system, based on respect for the elders, and the traditional framework of mutual familial obligations, began to break down because the Catholic converts were told that the only entity to be worshiped was God, Prof Endagama says.

Sri Lanka’s deceived Catholic citizenry continue to look favourably upon the Portuguese invasion of their country and forced conversion of their own ancestors. It’s understandable, considering how St Patrick is celebrated in Ireland, Charlemagne is accorded a positive place in European history and Columbus’ discovery of America is commemorated.
In Sri Lanka, the people who still follow their indigenous religions oppose this unfounded pro-colonial attitude and the Church’s whitewashing of the history of Christianity’s entry into the region as some kind of benevolent force. Therefore, their historians have now started exposing the facts by writing articles .

“on the proselytising activities of the Portuguese and the ruthless manner in which they went about converting Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils to Catholicism. The Portuguese destroyed Buddhist and Hindu places of worship all along the Western coastline from Jaffna in the North to Humbantota in the South. They looted these places and put their priests to death.”

Their articles, bringing out the true history of Christianity in Sri Lanka, will probably not be favourably received by the country’s Churches, who will doubtless shift their cries of victimisation to a higher gear in response to historical facts.

  • Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, has sections on the enforced Mass Conversions, Destruction and Plunder of Buddhist Temples and Execution of Buddhist monks.
  • Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamils’ Sovereignty I, Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamils’ Sovereignty IV and The Battle of Danure contain more information on this part of Sri Lanka’s history.
  • That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka, explains why the Sri Lankan people understandably don’t like the Christian colonial period under the Portuguese.
  • Christianity and Sri Lanka today

That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka by PK Balachandran

Sri Lanka is now seeing an effervescent anti-Portuguese movement, with articles being written in the papers, and seminars being held under the auspices of prestigious institutions, on the perceived ill-effects of Portuguese rule, which spanned over 150 years from 1505 to 1658.

The accent in the articles and seminar papers is on the proselytising activities of the Portuguese and the ruthless manner in which they went about converting Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils to Catholicism.

The Portuguese destroyed Buddhist and Hindu places of worship all along the Western coastline from Jaffna in the North to Humbantota in the South.

They looted these places and put their priests to death.

It is generally recognised now that if Portuguese rule had continued and spread to the interior of the island, Sri Lanka would have completely lost its Buddhist heritage and become a completely Westernised and Catholic country.

But even with the limited territorial reach (they were strong only in the Western maritime provinces) the impact had been deep, perhaps even indelible.

Deep socio-cultural impact

True, the century-and-half of Portuguese religio-cultural onslaught did not result in mass conversion from Buddhism or Hindusim to Catholicism.

Christians are only 7 per cent of the Sri Lankan population today. But Portuguese rule had changed Sinhala society and culture quite remarkably, with the result, today, the Sinhalas are the most westernised of the South Asian peoples.

It was during Portuguese rule that Western/Iberian names and other cultural markers began to be adopted in Sri Lanka on a wide scale.

To this day, most Sinhala Buddhists have Portuguese surnames like Fernando, Perera, Mendis, Fonseka, Rodrigo etc. Many of the first or middle names are Western if not Iberian. The rituals and ceremonies during marriages and funerals show a marked Western influence, not seen in the rest of South Asia.

The bridal trousseau is distinctly Western. Even Buddhist and Muslim marriages have a Western touch to them. The men will have to be in a suit. Coffins are used in funerals and embalming is common.

The average Sri Lankan woman prefers the Western dress to traditional wear like the Kandyan sari and the sarong and blouse ensemble.

The food and the music too show a strong Western influence. Bread and bakery products are part of the daily diet and the popular musical form Baila is a clear Portuguese derivative.

The Dutch and the British, who followed the Portuguese, built on the firm foundation laid earlier, and in their own way, contributed to the Westernisation of Sri Lanka.

Resurgence of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism

Though both exploited Sri Lanka in the typical imperialist way, neither the Dutch nor the British excite hostility among the Sinhalas today. Only the Portuguese do.

The main reason for this is a resurgence of Sinhala Buddhist awareness since 1956.

In 2002, there was a further spurt in Sinhala Buddhist nationalist consciousness.

In Sri Lanka today, Sinhala Buddhist nationalism is equated with Sri Lankan nationalism because the country is perceived as a Sinhala Buddhist country, primarily.

This adds a further and major dimension to the anti-Portuguese and anti-Christian movement.

The first part of the 2000s saw the rise of Gangodawila Soma Thero, an eloquent Buddhist monk-preacher who wanted Sri Lankan Buddhists to shed alien influences in their beliefs and practices and return to the pristine form of the faith.

Soma Thero’s emergence coincided with three other developments:

(1) The rise in the activities of non-formal, small, Western or South Korean-backed evangelical groups, who were targeting the poor and the youth with their unconventional methods of reaching out.

They exploited the laws of the country which allowed these groups to register as companies and indulge in non-profit economic activity.

There were charges that these groups were using allurements and inducements to gain converts.

The Chandrika Kumaratunga government, at one stage, even drafted a bill to ban “unethical” conversions.

Though the culprits were only the new-fangled evangelical groups, with no links with the established churches, whether Catholic or Protestant, popular anger was directed against the latter too.

(2) The rise of the United National Party (UNP) government, under the Prime Ministership of the pro-West and pro-minority Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2001 December.

Wickremesinghe not only signed a truce deal with the Tamil rebel LTTE, in great secrecy, but also brought in the Western nations into the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict as guarantors of his peace process.

Many Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists see the LTTE as a Catholic clergy-backed, Western-inspired movement to destroy the Buddhist character of Sri Lanka.

They even believe that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is a Christian.

Wickremesinghe’s advocacy of the Western model of development and Western cultural attributes (including the use of chewing gum) and the promotion of the Portuguese-inspired Baila music added to the peoples’ anxiety about being swamped by globalisation.

(3) Wickremesinghe’s plan to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka.

His idea was to make Sri Lanka part of a new US-blessed economic grouping which included Portugal.

Both the proposed celebrations and the intended tie up with Portugal, were opposed by the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists, who were reminded of Portuguese efforts to annihilate their religion and culture.

Unlike Dutch and British, Portuguese came to proselytise

According to most Sri Lankan Buddhist historians, the Portuguese came not only for trade and territorial acquisition, but for proselytising.

Historian Dr Lorna Dewaraja says that the Papal Bulls of 1452, 1455 and 1456, gave the clear go ahead to Portugal to acquire territory and convert heathens. The Pope had conferred on Portugal a monopoly on all this.

Since the Muslims of the region were competitors in maritime trade who also fiercely resisted conversion, the Portuguese waged war against them and kept trying to drive them out of the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka.

But they had easier time with the Sinhalas and the Tamils. Force and intrigue were used convert them.

They took sides in the fights between the rulers and princes of Sri Lanka, and in return for military help, they secured rights.

These rights were used for converting people both by force and through inducements.

According to Porf Pandula Endagama, formerly of Peradeniya University, and Prof Malani Endagama of Sri Jayawadanapura University, the Portuguese converted the higher classes of Sinhala society in the hope that the lower orders would follow suit automatically as a way of pushing themselves up the social ladder.

Privileges were extended to the converts, and this also proved to be an incentive for conversion.

In 1543, King Bhuvanekabahu of Kotte appointed his grandson Dharmapala as his heir and placed him under the protection of the King of Portugal.

Sure enough, Dharmapala embraced Catholicism taking the name Don Juan. In 1597, with the death of Don Juan, the Portuguese became the de facto and de jure rulers of Kotte.

Systematic destruction of temples

According to MU de Silva, from 1574 onwards, the Catholic zealots kept destroying Buddhist and Hindu temples all along the Western coast.

The monks and priests over there either fled or got killed or went underground.

A group of militant monks called Ganinnanse discarded the traditional yellow robe and began to wear a white robe instead to hide themselves.

Dr Susantha Goonetilleke, who is spearheading the anti-Portuguese movement, says that the 1,000 pillared temples in Devundara in the deep south and Trincomalee in the East; the Saman Devale (temple) in Ratnapura; and the Kelaniya temple, all very much revered, were ransacked and burnt.

According to Prof Endagama, the Portuguese deliberately built churches over the ruins of Buddhist or Hindu temples.

The present Kochikade church in Colombo and the Madu church in Mannar, both very popular now among Catholics, were Pattini Devales or temples for Kannagi, the famous heroine of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Buddhist schools (pirivenas), which were also mini universities, were ransacked and burnt, and their monk-scholars killed.

Among the schools thus destroyed were the Sunethra Devi Pirivena in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, and the Tottagamuwe Pirivena in Hikkaduwa.

The level of scholarship was so high in these places that the mathematicians there could count up to 10 to the power of 54, while the Greeks knew to count only up to 10,000, points out Dr Goonetilleke.

Their knowledge of medicine was higher as compared to the then level in Europe.

Prior to the advent of the Portuguese, there was much Sinhala-Tamil and Buddhist-Tamil amity in Sri Lanka.

MU de Silva says that Hindu temples dotted the maritime provinces, though these were Buddhist-majority areas. In the Thottagamuwa school, no distinction was made between Sinhala and Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit.

There was a famous Tamil scholar on its rolls. The famous Buddhist monk Buddhaghosha was a Tamil.

The people of Kotte had not liked Dharmapala’s conversion to Christianity and had transferred their allegiance to the King of Kandy.

But the Portuguese were to extend their power to the Kandy area soon. Here again they tried to convert people to Christianity, but with less success than in the maritime provinces.

Tamil-Sinhala divide created by Portuguese

According to Prof Endagama, it was the Portuguese who first created a division between the Sinhalas and the Tamils.

One reason for this, according to Prof Dewaraja, was the fact that the Portuguese found it easier to convert the Tamils.

“They made the Tamils of Jaffna compete with the Sinhalas and the percentage of Tamils who converted to Christianity was more,” adds Prof Endagama.

He blames the Portuguese for destroying the traditional economy and social structure of the Sinhalas.

By introducing trade, they downgraded agriculture. Before the Portuguese, Sri Lanka sent its engineers to India to construct canals and storage tanks.

The ancient Kashmiri chronicle “Rajatarangini” mentions Sri Lankan experts. But all this expertise died out.

The Portuguese introduced arrack or liquor production for profit. Money began to be made on the ruin and misery of others, especially the poor.

They over exploited cinnamon for trade. The concept self-sufficiency, which was the basis of traditional Sinhala village society, was thrown overboard to give place to a regime based on export and import.

Sri Lanka today is heavily dependent on imports even in respect of daily necessities like food.

The family system, based on respect for the elders, and the traditional framework of mutual familial obligations, began to break down because the Catholic converts were told that the only entity to be worshiped was God, Prof Endagama says.

Portuguese contribution

However, the Portuguese contribution to the language and cuisine of present-day Sri Lanka is immense.

Many of the common Sinhala words have a Portuguese origin. Most of the Western goods and artefacts now in use in Sri Lanka came to the island through the Portuguese and go by their Portuguese names.

And many of the Sri Lankan sweetmeats are of Portuguese origin.

But still, only their bad deeds have remained in memory, and all these relate to the cruel ways in which they converted Sri Lankans to Catholicism.

(PK Balachandran is Special Correspondent of Hindustan Times in Sri Lanka)

Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamils’ Sovereignty

Revised version of: “11 February 1621: Tamils’ Sovereignty ended,” which appeared in the “Eelam Nation” in 1999.
By: K. T. Rajasingham

Chapter 01

This episode depicts the heroism of the Tamils, as well as the barbarity of the Portuguese, who enslaved the Tamils. Therefore, fighting against oppression and suppression is not something new to the Tamils. However, the Karava leader Sinna Meegampillai is no more with us, but his sprit lives on with each Tamil, even today.

It must be pointed out that after 1560; the Portuguese began destroying the ancient Hindu Temples and the Lord Buddha’s sacred Tooth Relic. Destruction and vandalism by the Portuguese gathered momentum, immediately after the capture of the Tamil Kingdom in 1621.

Filipe de Oliveriya, the Portuguese Governor, who was acclaimed for destroying more than 500 Hindu Temples. Brutal acts of vandalism and destruction carried out by the ruthless Portuguese were, unfortunately being compromised and tolerated even today, without any whimper by the international community. Barbaric destruction by the Portuguese has to be condemned, universally. Tamils today demands unconditional apology and reparation for the damages.

The pink color Royal Standard, with recumbent bull, crescent and the rising sun, given by Irama (Rama) to the first Arya Chakaravarthy, fluttered high and aloft, in the proud land of the Tamils, for well over 2500 year long period, displaying loftily their sovereignty and independence. At last, it was brought down forever, on 11 February 1621, when the kingdom fell permanently in the hands of the Portuguese.

Nearly, 1200 heads of the Tanjore Nayakar’s troops were lopped off, at the last confrontation that ensued at Atchuvely. The fatalities included Tamil rebels, who joined forces to retrieve the kingdom from the Portuguese. Ultimately, Portuguese managed to hold on with their prized possession, “the Tamil kingdom,” until 21 June 1658, on which day; the Dutch captured and brought the kingdom under their rule.

Filipe De Oliveriya

Earlier, when the Portuguese captured the last king Cankli Kumaran (Sankli Kumaran), the kingdom was incorporated with the crown of Portugal. Those Tamils, who were converts to Christianity, shifted their allegiance towards the new colonial rulers. When the kingdom came under the Portuguese possession, Christian Mudaliyars and the Christian Tamil chieftains, without hesitation, gave their allegiance by oath, for the subjugating the kingdom to the Portuguese overloadship.

Filipe De Oliverya, the commander of the Portuguese army, moved his base to Nallur, on 2 February 1621, and proclaimed himself, the Captain Major – the highest Portuguese army official in the region and the governor of the Kingdom. On the same day, most of the Hindu shrines, including Nallur Kandasamy Kovil were razed down on the explicit orders of the fanatic – Oliveriya. Portuguese and the Lascarins (hired Sinhalese mercenaries in the service of the Portuguese) from the South, looted Nallur Kandasamy temple, burnt it down and removed even the stones from the foundations, to build a Christian church at Nallur and a fort in Jaffna.

Oliveriya was acclaimed by the Portuguese, as a greatest savior of Christianity, for his feat of destroying more than 500 Hindu temples. The Portuguese historian, Father Fernoa De Queyroz acclaimed him, “God of the Sword.”

When Filipe De Oliveriya became the Governor of Jaffna, he ruled the Kingdom with a strong hand, ruthlessly and with arrogant resolve. He proclaimed that people continuing with the practice of Hindu religion and rites, are anti-Christians, an act punishable by law. Under his hierarchy, the Society of Jesus – the Roman Catholic missionary, constructed nearly thirty Catholic churches by vandalizing and demolishing Hindu temples. He introduced compulsory proselytizing. Franciscan Friars converted more 6000 Tamils to Christianity.

The destruction of famous Hindu temples such as the Nallur Kandasamy Kovil (Nallur), Kailasanathar Temple (Nallur), in 1575 Muneswaram Temple, Chilapam (Chillaw), in 1588 Vishnu Temple in Devinuwera, Tirukethieswaram Temple, Mathoddam (Matota) and in 1622 Tiru Konesar Temple, Thirukonamalai (Trincomalee), caused great frustration, dissension and restlessness in the hearts and minds of the Tamils.

Oliveriya also burnt down “Saraswathy Mahal,” – the oldest museum and the library, that housed precious and the most valuable historical documents, depicting the origin, history, literature, arts, science, medicine, culture, civilization and other details of the Tamils and of their proud ancestry. Once this ancient museum cum library was burnt down, up to date, the Tamils are left without any authentic records of their antiquity.

The Portuguese conquest of the Kingdom became possible, when the Tamil chiefs revolted against the traditional monarchs, due to their shift in allegiance, after conversion to Christianity. Portuguese managed to create a strong loyal group of Catholics, who provided them with the intelligence reports and reconnaissance to counter the moves of the kings. Portuguese also used the Sinhalese mercenaries for combat, as well as to guard the Tamil Kingdom.

Kingdom of the Tamils

People inhabited the Jaffna a peninsula even before the Irama – Iravanan (Ravanan) war. Before the arrival of Vijayan – the mythical, so called, progenitor of the Sinhalese race; the peninsula has been formed geographically, and populated. Anthropologists, geologists and other scientists are of the view, that the landscape pattern of the peninsula is a mixed quality of many physical features, with a marked characteristic of a limestone region, with red-yellow latosols soil in the central region of the peninsula and regosols (sandy) soil, along the Northeastern coast, with very flat terrains. On the surface, it had blown sandy tracks in the northeastern portion. In the absence of natural forest, except for a few scattered thorny bush tracks within the peninsula, it is difficult to estimate the terrestrial resources. There are no natural fresh water resources, such as lakes or rivers in the peninsula. The only possible source of water left for those inhabited on the region is to sink deep into the earth crust for the ground water.

The peninsula is of Miocene and quaternary formation. The limestones in the area are heavily faulted and segregate the aquifers into series of isolated blocks forming a number of ground water basins. To obtain water from the underground, technical knowledge, expertise and strong implements were needed. As the people who lived in the peninsula survived for ages, it became clear, that they had the expertise, skill in rhabdomancy to divine the water located underground and strong implements to sink in for water that lay beneath the limestone bed. A.M. Hocart, former Archeological commissioner of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) writes, “From the Eolithic Age, we jump straight to Iron Age. We do not know when Iron was introduced into Ceylon.”

According to historical research, people in the sub-continent began using iron implements around 3000 BC. Therefore, those people who inhabited the Northern portion of Sri Lanka, after it emerged a distinct geographical entity, were fully aware with the usage of iron and used iron implements to sink wells to draw fresh water from the underground resources that lay beneath the limestone belts.

Portuguese historian Father Fernao de Queiroz, wrote about the Tamil Kingdom as follows:

” This modest kingdom is not confined to the little district of Jafnapatoa, because to it are also added the neighboring lands and those of Vanni, which is said to be the name of the Lordship, which they held before we obtain possession of them… and outside it there stretch the lands of Vanni crosswise from the side of Mannar to that of Triquilemale (Trincomalee) and – beyond.”

Arrival of the Portuguese

Portuguese arrival to Ceylon was merely an accident. Their arrival was a rude quirk of destiny. In 1505, when Vira Parakrama Bahu VIII (1484-1509) was the king of Kotte, Senasammata Vikramabahu (1469-1511) was the king of the Hill country and Pararajasekaran (1478-1519) was the Tamil king, in the Northeast; a Portuguese fleet, under the command of Captain–major Don Lourenco de Almedia, forced by winds and waves was tossed into Cali (Galle,) the harbor, located in the Southern coast. He learnt that this was the famous island of Celio (Ceylon) and he sailed on to Colombo, the port in the Kotte Kingdom.

News of the arrival of a strange fleet reached the king. Rajavaliya, a Buddhist chronicle, describes the arrival of the Portuguese as follows:

“There is in our harbor of Colombo, a race of people, fair of skin and comely withal. They don jackets and hats of iron: rest not a minute in one place, but walk here and there. They eat hunks of stone (bread) and drink blood (wine). They give two or three pieces of gold and silver for one fish or one lime. The report of their cannon is louder than the thunder when it bursts upon the rock of Yugandhra.”

Hearing the news of the arrival of the strangers, the King decided to receive them. Messengers were sent with gifts of fruits to receive the aliens. Don Lourenco was pleased with the goodwill gesture of the King. He dispatched Fernao Cutrim, one of his captains of the fleet, as his envoy to Kotte. However, the Portuguese envoy did not meet the King or had an opportunity to converse with him, but he was given the assurance that the King would be pleased to form an alliance with the Portuguese.

Subsequently, Don Lourenco chose Payo de Souza as his envoy to meet the King of Kotte and negotiate a treaty. At an audience with the King, de Souza proposed a treaty. Accordingly, the King undertook to give tribute of four hundred bahars of cinnamon every year. Portuguese agreed to protect and defend the ports of the King. The treaty heralded the entry of the alien forces in the political arena of the country. Portuguese came to the East for the three-pronged purpose of “Commerce,” “Conquest,” and “Conversion.” Entry of the Portuguese changed the destiny of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), especially that if the Tamils, from being an independent proud Nation, to the present State of chaos, dissension and ethnic turmoil.

De Queyroz’s version about the Beginning of the Tamil kingdom

Father Fernao De Queyroz is the author of “The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon.” He was a Portuguese Christian clergy born at Amarante in Portugal in the Province of Entre Douro e Minho, in 1617.

He arrived in Goa, India in 1635. It appears that he began to write the book by about in 1671 and completed in 1686. The written work consisted of six books, but Father S.G.Perera, who translated the book from Portuguese to English, compiled the books into three volumes. The English translation was first published by the Ceylon Government Press, in 1930.

Father Pererea in his preface declared that the book to be second only to the Mahavamsa in its value for the history of Ceylon. The description found in the book is the most despicable account about the Tamils and warrants condemnation by the Tamils. Up to date, the Tamil historians who wrote the History of Tamils for their doctoral appellations have overlooked disparaging remarks, for reasons only known to them. It is very unfortunate and warrants outright condemnations.

Below the reader may read from, Book 1 Chapter 7: Description of the Kingdom of Jafanapatam:

“Before treating of the Kingdom of Candea, I shall speak of the Jaffnapatao, the whole which is also belong to the Crown of Portugal and wholly Christian. Its head lies in the form of a peninsula at the northern point of the island of Ceylon at 10 and two third degrees of altitude. Its name without corruption is said to be Jafana-en-Putalam, which means the ‘Town of the Lord of Jafana;’ and is the name of him who first peopled it. Others say the name was Jafana-Patanaoture, which means ’long harbor;’ whence its appears that it was called by mockery Napunay-Patanao, which translated means ‘Land of bad people.’ This land was for long years without cultivation and subject to the Emperors of Ceylon, and though it abounded in groves of trees, its inhabitants lived more on fish and games than on other fruits of their labor. Its government at the beginning was only that of Vidanas or stewards (abegoes), afterwards industry increasing and with it profit, it came to be governed by Araches and finally by Mudeliares. Under this (form of) government it remained for many long years until, with the progress of the natives and commerce of the foreigners, when the Court of Ceylon was already in the Metropolis of Cota, in the Reign of Mha Pracura Mhabau there came to that City a certain Panical, a foreigner, native of the mountains of Malavar from a village called Tulunar, an expert Master in arms, and for this reason he was welcomed by the King, and being by him raised to the dignity of Modeliar, was call Panical Modeliar. There he married and had two sons, who being educated in the Palace, were most beloved by the king, who afterwards considering that on the side of their Mother they had many kinsmen, that, as he had no heir, he had sworn in a grandson as his successor, and fearing that two brothers, being less well affected because if that what there was a foreigner in them and very powerful because of their kindred, would disquiet his Kingdom after his death, determined to kill them. He communicated this intention to one of his favorites, who advised him not to kill them, but to send with some titles of honor, the one who was more to be feared to subdue Jafanapatao, because the Modeliar whom he has placed there had seized the lands and had done many wrongs and violences (sic) to his lieges.”

“The King adopted this advice, and the Modeliar himself who had given it to him went on his order to call the son of Panical who was called Chamba-pera-Mali (Champaka-Perumal alias Sapumal Kumaraya). He gave him men, wherewith he became master of those lands with the title of Prince, ever acknowledging the King of Cota and paying him tribute faithfully. He, they say was the first who ruled Jafanapatao as King. In course of time there came some Bramanes, native of Guzarate, called Arus, who claimed Royal descent: and with the favor of the Nayaque of Madure they erected the pagode of Ramanacor, whence they began to have trade and friendship with the King of Jafanapatao, with one of them married a daughter of the King; and finally his descendents became heirs to that Kingdom. Of these the first who tries to free himself from the subjection of the King of Cota, was Ariaxac Varati, who being naturally proud and not brooking the haughtiness of the officers of that King, took the life of one who governed there, and the King of Ceylon preparing to punish him, they say, he went, to meet him at Ceytavaca and took him some verses whereon he so flattered him with praises of him and his ancestors that he left him completely vainglorious and satisfied, and the verse being helped by a goodly present, he not only made him desist from war, but also obtained Olas from him (what we should call Provisions) and the title of King of Jafanapatao, which his successors preserved paying in acknowledgment only some tribute: because this was the beginning of their greatness, his descendants from the name Aria, were called Ariavance, which means the generation of Aria.”

Father Queyroz of the Society of Jesus writes this account after the departure of the Portuguese from the island of Ceylon. This is the worst anachronistic heresy forthcoming from a Christian clergy, who contributed in the conversation to Christianity, condemning the religions of the natives as heathenism. He managed to interpret the history of the Tamils to justify the Portuguese occupation and proselytization. However, this account has been overlooked without condemnation up to date, but it should not be allowed to pass, without recording the protest, against such discriminatory account, forever.

Chapter – 02

Origin of Sri Lanka – The Country

We have lost all our records regarding the origin of the Tamil kings and of the country. As it is, now we have to piece through various accounts to have a clear picture. The history of the island of Ilankai (Ilanka) is never studied with seriousness. Pali-Buddhist chronicles written with the view to promote Buddhism in the country vengefully isolated the Tamils and their history.

These chroniclers failed to go into the geographical history for fear of being exposed to historical influence of the Tamils. Therefore, they simply discarded or ignored it, by starting their discourse with the demise of Lord Buddha, as the beginning.

Today, the name of the country has been changed into ‘Sri’ + Lanka, with a Sanskrit honorific Sri to denote, diffusing radiance, beauty and grace conjoined, prosperity, sacred, holy, etc., anyhow, Lanka, the name applied to the country, the very name does not have any remotest connection with its people, or the languages they speak. The name “Lanka,” as called in the Sanskrit version of Iramayana, came into existence as the kingdom of the Asura (Sura means those alcoholics and Asura means teetotaler in Tamil and therefore honorific Asura denotes a teetotaler and vegetarian) King Iravana, a Tamil king. His kingdom was known as “Ilankai” (means – as it radiates, when you pronounce the name in Tamil, there is no need to adopt any honorific, because the name itself depicts the holiness of the land it indicates), but before 22 May 1972, it was Ceylon and during the prehistoric period was called Elam, (the eternal country), Ilam (Ilam is the Tamil word for gold and toddy) and presently Eelam. The pronunciation of the proper name depends on the proclivity of one’s tongue.

Kautliya’s Arthasastra, indicated the country Parasamudra (Para + Samudra) (the land beyond the Ocean), but several other chronologists called the country with variety of names, such as Palaesimoundoun (Palaiya+Sila+Mandalam – Palaiya -old; Sila – virtuous; Mandalam – region/ country; the old virtuous country), Simoundou (Sila + Mandalam – the Virtuous country) etc., are few of those such names.

Subsequently, the Greek Geographer Eratosthenes, in his map of the world (200 BC) called the country, “the southern limit of the known world” by the Greek word Taprobane. Our historians followed it up to call the country with the proper name Taprobane, whereas the word denoted an ‘appropriated name’ to the Greeks. “That this island was the celebrated Tapobrana seems manifest, for this word in Greek means ‘unknown dwelling,’ or ‘hidden land,’ known only for its fertility and it is not a proper name, but appropriated as (in the case of) Sicily and Cyprus, to which also they give this name-.” The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon by Father Fernao De Queyroz, Translated by Father S.G.Perera, Vol. 1 Bk. 1, p. 3. This indicates the ignorance of our historians, to call the country with the proper name of Taprobane that was earlier an appropriated name by which; the Greeks indicated not only our country, but also Sicily, Cyprus and several other unknown countries.

In the “Ancient Jaffna,” Mudaliyar C.Rasanayagam, pp. 293-298, translated verses, 1 to 7, from the special preface of Segarajasekaram, the reputed Tamil astrological work, to explain the origin the Arya Chakaravarties (Arya Emperors) of the Tamil kingdom. Initially, Irama established a temple for the worship of Lord Shiva and involuntarily gave the God and the sacred place, his own name, Irama + Eeswaram = Irameswaram, and colonized the place with 512 Brahmins of the Pasupata sect, (a sect of Brahmins from Banares), well versed in the Vedic studies and worldly knowledge. Irama directed those Brahmins to officiate at the temple and invested two of them with the authority of sovereignty.

Irama instructed Ilakshmanan to crown Vibishnan, as the King of Southern Lanka, the Assura Kingdom, and ordered him to return to Ilanka. He ruled Southern Ilanka from Ilankapuri, the royal city planned and constructed by the divine architect Visvakarma, which was later identified as Kalyani, the ancient name for Kelaniya. Kubera, the estranged brother of Iravana, the first king, who made Ilankapuri, the capital of his Southern Lankan kingdom.

Irama, in recognition of the independent nature of the Tamils and their kingdom, sovereignty, and the distinct indigenous national trait, invested a Brahmin to rule the Tamil kingdom, that stretched far to the north and east, along the Island’s littoral regions. In sublimate to the Tamils’ antiquity, Irama granted the Tamil King, garland made out of the sweet smelling Tulasi (Holy Basil), the title of the spotless Vedic Aryan-emperor, the beautiful white parasol, the victorious flag symbolizing a single conch, recumbent bull, crescent and the sun. The kings who reigned the Tamil kingdom up to it’s fall to the first Western colonialists – Portuguese in 1621, claimed that they were the descendants of the Brahman kings of Irameswaram, initially enthroned by Irama – the Arya Chakkaravrthies and later Singhai Arya Chakkaravrthies- Arya emperors of the Tamil kingdom and Setu Kavalar (the Protectors of Setu – Rameswaram).

Bertolacci, a historian of the early nineteenth century, says that, Matota was the capital of a kingdom founded by the Brahmins, who had almost all the northern part of Ceylon including Jaffna Patam. This was the first introduction of the Aryan culture and customs in the midst of the Tamils who inhabited the entire country, during the pre-Vijaya period.

According to historians, Irama – Iravana war took place during the southward thrust of the Aryans towards the Southern Indian peninsula. They calculated that, this thrust happened somewhere between the years 1,100 BC to 800 BC. Ramayana, a chronicle deals with the Aryanisation of the South of India and Ceylon, also provides lucidly, the hoary past and the contemporary prehistory of Ceylon. The episode narrated in the Irama – Iravana legendary war, confirmed the pioneering effort to Aryanise Ceylon by the North Indians. Iramayana clearly indicates that Iravana, the Tamil king ruled the Southern Lanka and there existed another kingdom for the Tamils with Mantai as its capital city. One cannot simply dismiss the prehistory of Lanka, to suit the whims and fancies of the politicians.

History has to begin from somewhere? Everybody poses the question “When history did begin?” Easiest reply could be “in the beginning” and Moses who wrote “Genesis,” means ‘origin’ or ‘beginning’ and it explains that, in the beginning, God created the universe and the man. The book describes the divine theory of the beginning of the human history.

Holy Bible relates about “Elam.” According to Genesis 10; ‘The Descendants of Noah;’ line 1, “These are the families of Shem, Ham and Japheth, who were the three sons of Noah, for sons were born to them after the flood.” In the line 5, “Their descendants became the maritime nations in various lands, each with a separate language.” It further states in line 20, “These then, were the descendants of Ham, spread abroad in many lands and nations, with many languages. In the line 21, the Bible speaks of Elam as follows: “Eber descended Shem, the oldest brother of Japeth.” In the line 22, “Here is a list of Shem’s other descendants: Elam, Asshur, Arpachsad, Lud, Aram.” Line 32 concludes with, “All of the men listed above descended from Noah, through many generations, living in the various nations that developed after the flood.”

The Holy Bible speaks of new nations that emerged after the Great Flood. According to the Bible, the Great Flood occurred in the year 2370 BC, as indicated by its detailed chronology. It was one of the greatest cataclysms in the human history, even down to the present time. Bible describes the horror of the flood, as “all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered.” (Genesis 7:19). Bible, states that numerous new nations emerged after the Great Flood and one such new nation is Elam. The country was named after one of the descendant of Noah, namely Elam. From this account, it becomes clear that Elam emerged as one of the maritime nations after the Great Flood that occurred in the year 2370 BC.

At this opportune time, it is appropriate to remind that, the Megalithic culture of South India has close similarities with the Megalithic culture of the Mediterranean region, which might have arrived in South India from the Western Asia, through migration from those regions and through subsequent contacts. The same Megalithic culture prevailed in Ceylon in the early period, before the Irama-Iravana war.

S.U.Deraniyagala, in his Prehistory of Sri Lanka, Vol. II, p 482, refers about the formation of the new geographical entity as follows: “According to Cooray, (1967: 242), during the Miocene, at ca. 20 my (million years), an arm of the Tethys Sea extended down along India’s west coast, while a long narrow tongue gradually encroached on the land surface bridging India and Lanka. The gulf apparently severed the extreme portion of the mainland and turned Lanka, probably for the first time, into an island.” Also, P.E.P. Deraniyagala, describes about the emergence of the new geographical entity, Ceylon, “The presence of Jurassic deposits both in the North-western Ceylon and in the Ramnad district of India (Roy 1964) shows that the two were once connected, but since this Island lacks many of the consecutive deposits, it appears to have broken off from the mainland during this period. The countries became reattached by early Miocene times, but shortly afterwards they broke away again, and several such unions and separations have occurred.” (in his lecture delivered at the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, on 28th May 1965, subsequently reproduced in the Society’s journal of 1965, New Series, Vol. IX, Part 2,)

Many other geological surveys go to proof that, earlier Ceylon was a constituent part of mainland India and it became an isolated landmass after ‘geological movements, such as faulting, tilting, and dislocations, that occurred during the last few geological periods, are among the more important factors that have influenced the evolution.’

Dipavamsa, – an ancient Buddhist historical record, (Hermann Oldenberg, who translated it “places the closing date of the Dipavamsa in its extant form between the beginning of the fourth and the first third of the fifth century AD. – On the Chronicles of Ceylon by B.C.Law, pp.1-2) and Mahavamsa or The Great Chronicle of Ceylon, “compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious,” ( When fixing the time of the writing of Mahavamsa, Wilhelm Geiger concludes, ‘at the beginning of the sixth century after Christ, about this time the Mahavamsa was composed.’

Mahavamsa or the Great Chronicle of Ceylon, Translated by Wilhelm Geiger, in his introduction to his translation, p. xii) the two important Buddhist chronicles failed to record anything about the origin of the Island. “The chronicles of Ceylon have nothing to say about the Uttarapatha background of the ancient history of Ceylon,” On the chronicles of Ceylon, by B.C.Law, p. 49. In the Rajavaliya or A historical narratives of the Sinhalese kings from Vijaya to Vimala Dharma Surya II, (This is the latest known traditional history of the kings of ancient India and Ceylon which as a whole may be treated as the work of a single individual. The fact that its account closes with the reign of Vimala Dharma Surya (A.D. 1697-1701) has led Wilhelm Geiger to take it to be a compilation of the beginning of the eighteenth century On the Chronicles by B.C.Law, pp. 27-28) deals with the subsequent floods that affected the country. But unfortunately in p 27, “In the Dvapara age of the world, on account of the wickedness of Irvana, his fortress, 25 palaces, and 400,000 streets situated between Mannar and Tuttukudiya were submerged by the sea,” Rajavaliya edited by B.Gunasekera. Earlier, in p 16, Rajavaliya states, “After the war of Ravana, and before the attainment of Buddhahood by our Buddha, the teacher of the three worlds, Lanka had been the abode of the demons for the space of 1,884 years.” (Siddhartha Gautama – 563-483 BC, Lord Buddha – attained Buddha-hood, while meditating under a Bodhi or Pipal tree (Ficus Religiosa) at Gaya, in what is now the Indian state of Bihar in 528 BC,” – New Age Encyclopedia. )

According to the statement in Rajavaliya, page 27, we could conclude that, Irama-Iravana war occurred in the Dvapara Yuga or Duvapara Yuga. This is an anachronism. The Irama-Iravana war must have occurred in the Kali Yuga and the Yugas are calculated as follows:-

In the Hindu scriptures, the age of the world is called Kalpa and now the world is in its eighth Kalpa. It is subdivided into Yugas. The Yugas are four in numbers and their duration is first computed as the ‘years of the God,’ subsequently calculated that, a year of the God is 360 years of that of men.

Therefore, the ages of the world, according to the years of the men, are as follows:

1. Krita Yuga

= 4,800 X 360

= 1,728,000 years.

2. Treta Yuga

= 3,600 X 360

= 1,296,000 years.

3. Dwapara Yuga

= 2,400 X 360

= 864,000 years.

4. Kali Yuga

= 1,200 X 360

= 432,000 years.

Total
Years of men in the 8th Kalpa

= 4,320,000 years.

According to the Hinduttuva books, already five thousand and odd years had elapsed in the Kali Yuga – which is said to be the period of degeneration of virtues, and by the end of the Kali Yuga, according to Hinduttuva eschatologists, the world would be “doomed for ever,” i.e. , all living beings would perish. Therefore, Rajavaliya’s contention of Irama-Iravana war happening in the Dwapara Yuga is not in conformity with the Hinduttuva calendar and historical analysis.

When commenting about the Ceylon chronicles, B.C. Law, in his On the Chronicles of Ceylon writes that “The chronology must begin from a certain definite date, which, in the case of Ceylon chronicles, is the year of Buddha’s demise, making the starting point of the Buddha Era (Buddhavassa)”

“A happy coincidence is imagined and availed of to build a systematic chronology of the kings of Ceylon, the coincidence of the of the day of Buddha’s demise with that of the landing of the exiled prince Vijaya on the island of Lanka. A prediction is put into the mouth of the Buddha to raise the importance of his appearance on the Island as the founder of the first Aryan race,” p. 47.

It is unfortunate that, up to now, no efforts taken, regarding the study of the prehistorical geography of the country, which would have discerned the geographical pattern at a particular past period. When the island became a distinct geographical entity, those survivors of the cataclysm that forced the separation, must have been the original inhabitants of the new country. That is how, during the Ramayana period, there were in existence two kingdoms.

Ramayana allegorically represented the first attempt by the Aryans to conquer the Southern peninsula of India and Ceylon, but Irama was not described anywhere, as founding the Aryan race and regime, either in the South India, or in Ceylon. King Iravana and his clan strongly resisted the Aryanisation of the country. Iravana, a strong Saivaite, believed in monotheism according to the edict of the religion, therefore resisted the introduction of Hinduism, a new brand of polytheistic religion, by the Aryan invaders. This goes to prove that the Aryanisation in the country started in the first millennium BC, and not as described by Deranaiyagala, recorded in his Prehistory of Ceylon, Vol. II, pp. 739-749.

Manimekhalai, A Tamil classical work, written by the Tamil poet Satthanar in the second century AD, deals with the conflict over the gem-set throne and how Lord Buddha visited Nagadipa to settle the growing strife between the two warring Naga princes.

The name Nagadipais only found in the Pali chronicles and not in any Tamil ones, but Nagadipa is identified as Manipallavam in this particular classical work, a large island in the northern sea.

It must be remembered that, earlier a major section of the Tamils in Ceylon, also in the South India, embraced Buddhism. During that period, Kanchipuram in the Tamil Nadu, was the great center of Buddhism. Cilapathikaram, Manimekhalai, the Tamil poetical works, expounded the cause of the Theravada Buddhism, Dharma and Buddhist philosophy. During the existence of the Buddhist center at Kanchipuram, Tamil Buddhist clergies propagated the doctrine far as China, Korea and Japan. A few clergies to mention are:

1. Buddha-datta Maha Thero, lived in the fifth century, a Tamil from the Chola country.

2. Dinaga, a distinguish disciple of Vasubanda, a celeberated Buddhist logician, a student at Nalanda and later, lived at Kanchi Bodhirama, a Tamil Brahmin, later he went to China to preach the Doctrine.

3. According to Hiuen Tsang, Acariya Dhammapala, authored Sasna Vamsa, son of a high official of the king of Kanchi, a Tamil.

4. Acariya Buddhagosa, “the voice of Lord Buddha,” from Kanchi, a Tamil.

Unfortunately the early Buddhist chronolists of Lanka had an axe to grind about the Tamils of the country. As said earlier “A happy coincidence is imagined and availed of to build a systematic chronology of the kings of Ceylon, the coincidence of the of the day of Buddha’s demise with that of the landing of the exiled prince Vijaya on the island of Lanka. A prediction is put into the mouth of the Buddha to raise the importance of his appearance on the Island as the founder of the first Aryan race,” On the Chronicles of Ceylon by B.C.Law, p. 47.

However on a different occasion Mahavamsa which made killing a virtue in defense of Buddhism and in its panegyric of victories of the Sinahalese prince Dutagemunu has recorded that he defeated Damila kings. Thus the author of the Mahavanasa acknowledges that Dutagamunu (Dutthagamini) became the sovereign ruler of Sri Lanka after defeating 32 Tamil kings during the 2nd century BC.

Chapter – 03

Origin of the Tamil kings

Before going in detail about the origin of the Tamil Kings, it is important to come to terms with the geographical formation of the Jaffna peninsula. It was Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam, an erudite scholar, who first to wrote about the formation of the Jaffna peninsula in his “Yarlpana Charitiram.” (History of Jaffna) published in 1933. This is a new concept and so far no one has come forward to deny the detail of the geographical proposition of the Peninsula by Mudaliyar Rasanayagam.

He wrote – The present Jaffna peninsula, thousands of years before Christ, was two separate Islands. The big island was called by the names of Maetkae-Nagathiepam (West Nagathiepam) Mani – Nagatheipam, Manipuram and Manipallavam, whereas the second island which was smaller in size located in the East was called by the names Erumai – Mullaithievu and Erumativu. Due to the frequent occurrence of flood and other natural calamities, the big island disintegrated into several small islands such as Karaitivu, Velanai, Mandaitivu, Pungdutivu, Analaitivu, Nainativu, Delft and the Valigamam region of the present Jaffna peninsula, but they were earlier a part of the big Island. The Island in the East, due to the shallow sea, it became the part of Vadamaradchy, Thenmaradchy and Pachilaipalli region.

Due to monsoons, the accumulated sand formed into ridges and elevated the lower portions of the Elephant pass shallow sea and blocked the flow of water from the sea, led to the formation of the present Jaffna peninsula. Thus geographically, the peninsula came into existence by the merger of the portions of two islands. Peninsula with its sprout thrust into the sea, rest mostly on a limestone coral bed that span the entire region, and over-topped with sand brought down by the tidal waves from the adjacent coast. There are ample of proof that, several rivers that were earlier flowing in those two islands are still active and flowing through underground channels into the sea. (Translation from the Tamil version).

Akathiyar Lanka (or The most Ancient History of Ceylon, – Lanka)” by Akaththiya Maha Munivar, (Akathiyar the great Ascetic) gives the description about the Tamil kingdom of the pre-historic time.

The book was published by V. Nathar, Notary Public, Puttur, and Jaffna. The date of publication is not given, but according to a calculation, it must have been published, around 1910.

The publishers note state: “The following few pages show, on the best authority, that during and before the time of Vijaya, the first Sinhalese King, Ceylon was inhabited by Tamils and was subject to sway of Tamil Kings. The Sinhalese and their rulers were only interlopers of later days and as such, foreigners. The Tamils of South India and Ceylon, as the original inhabitants and rulers, are the rightful owners of the soil of this Land (Ceylon).”

According to Akathiyar Lanka:

1.Sayamban – the first Tamil king of Ilanka. He descended from Manu. He had his capital at Tirukonamalai (Trincomalee). He ruled the country for 33 years.

2. Yalimugan – the son-in-law of Sayamban, succeeded him to the throne. He ruled from Tirukonamalai, for ten years.

3. Aethi – who came from the Yalimugan’s dynasty, ruled Ilanka from Murugapuram (Kathirgamam). He ruled the country for 28 years.

4. Vinthukesan – son of Aethi, succeeded his father, had his capital city at Sivanolipadamalai (Adam’s Peak). He ruled for 29 years and 03 months.

5. Sukesan – succeeded his father Vinthukesan, was the king of Ilanka and ruled from Kathiravan Malai. He ruled for 41 years and 07 days.

6. Maliyavan – succeeded his father Sukesan, built Ilankapuri, a beautiful city and proclaimed it as his capital. He ruled for 21 years, 07 months and 09 days.

7. Sumali – succeeded the throne of Ilanka after the demise of his brother Maliyavan. He had dual capital cities – Ilankapuri and Manthai. People revolted against his rule and he managed the country for 5 years and 06 months. Sumali had a daughter called Kaikesi. She was too young could not succeed her father.

8. Kuperan – became the king of Ilanka. Kuperan’s father Vaichchiravakhu found that there was no successor to Maliyavan; he made his son Kuperan as the king of Ilanka. In the meantime, Sumali gave Kaikesi, in marriage to Vaichchiravakhu.

Vaichchiravakhu – Kaikesi couples had three sons, Iravanan, Vipeeshnan, and Kumbkaranam and a daughter Soorpanakai. To wrest the kingdom that rightly belonged his mother Kaikesi, Iravanan challenged his brother Kuperan. As their father Vachchiravaku interfered and settled the dispute, Iravanan became the king of Ilanka.

9. Iravanan – ruled Ilanka from his capital city at Ilankapuri. The Tamil king Iravanan was defeated by Irama and died as a hero in the battlefield.

10: Vipeeshnan – was crowned king of South Ilanka, by Ilakumanan on the orders of Irama and ruled the country from Kalyani (Kelaniya.)

“Tradition adds that Vibhisana (Vipeeshnan), who received the kingdom from Dasarata Rama (Irama), the conqueror of Ravana (Iravanan), continued to reign up to and up to the ealy part of this Yuga -.” Yalpana Vaipava Malai,” translated by C.Brito.

“Vibhisna, the brother of Ravana, is still worshipped in Kelaniya. Kalyanai which was the ancient name of Kelaniya was reputed to have been the capital of King Ravana -.” A short History of Hinduism in Ceylon,” by C.S.Navaratnam.

Details of the Tamils kings were blacked out very conveniently by the Sinhalese historians. They had a vested interest in embarking on the blackout campaign against the Tamils.

Unfortunately, those Tamils who claim themselves historians so far have failed to research independently, without the Sinhalese influence the ancient history of the Tamils in the country. It is very unfortunate and a subject which cause lot of pain and grief in our heart.

“The Kalinga kings of Jaffna called themselves Arya Chakravarties is (are) a matter worthy of further investigation. The kings who reigned at Jaffna up to the 17th century until the kingdom fell ultimately, in 1621 A.D, into the hands of the Portuguese, claimed that they were descended from two Brahman kings who were appointed by Irama himself after his conquest of Ceylon and the establishment of the Rameswaram temple, to rule over the Northern District of Ceylon including Rameswaram.

It is also said that Irama gave them the title of Arya Kings and granted to them the parasol, the single conch, the bull standard and the emblem of Setu. It cannot be now denied that they were called Arya kings. That name appears not only in literature of the period but also in several later works.” – “Ancient Jaffna” by Mudaliyar C.Rasanayagam.

Earlier, the Tamil kingdom with its capital city Nallur, in the Yalpanam peninsula, (Jaffna) was under the rule of the Arya Chakkaravarthies (Arya Emperors) and remained an independent geo-political entity. Portuguese initially evinced little interest in the kingdom, which lacked spices. Anyhow, by 1521, they began to develop an interest in controlling the pearl fishery in the Gulf of Mannar. Gradually they began to exact revenue in a small way. During the period of 1536 to 1544, they wrested control of pearl fishing off the coast of Mannar. They also converted a large number of Karava caste (fishers) people of the region to Christianity. All those converts were regarded as Portuguese subjects.

Arya Chackaravarthies

Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam in his book “Ancient Jaffna,” chronicled the list of the Tamil kings, who reigned at Singai Nagar from the 13th century to the middle of the 15th century as adapted from the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, giving the probable date of accession according to an average, as follows:

Vijaya Kulankai (Kalinga Magha) – Segarajasekaran – Circa 12110 AD

Kulasekara – Pararajasekaran – Circa 1246 AD

Kulotunga – Segarajasekaran – Circa 1256 AD

Vikrama – Pararajasekaran – Circa 1279 AD

Varotaya – Segarajasekaran – Circa 1302 AD

Martanda – Pararajasekaran – Circa 1325 AD

Gunapushana – Segarajasekaran – Circa 1348 AD

Vorotaya – Pararajasekaran – Circa 1371 AD

Jayavira Segarajasekaran Circa 1394 or more probably 1380 AD

Gunavira – Pararajasekaran – Circa 1417 or more probably 1410 AD

Kanagasuriya – Sekarajasekaran – Circa 1440 AD

Sapumal Kumaraya – (Senpahap Perumal) – Circa 1450 AD

Bhuvaneka Bahu

Parakramabahu VI (1411-1565) was the king Kotte, who in 1432, managed to repulse the Vijayanagaram expedition of King Krishna Devarayan II (1422-1446). Vijayanagaram army, which failed to subdue the king of Kotte, returned to India leaving a garrison in Jaffna. After the accession of king Malikarjuna to the Vijayanagaram throne, internal dissension weakened the Hindu Empire.

By this time, Prakramabahu of Kotte managed to extend his authority over the rest of the country. He decided to subdue the Tamil kingdom and army was dispatched from Kotte under the command of Sapumal Kumaraya alias Senpahap Perumal – a son of a South Indian Tamil warrior, who was in the service of Prakramabahu.

The first invasion was repulsed, but he succeeded in his second attack in 1450. The Tamil king Kanagasuriya Segarajasekaran fled to Vijayanagaram. Prakramabahu proclaimed Sapumal Kumaraya under the throne name of Bhuvaneka Bahu, to be the king of Jaffna. He ruled Jaffna for 17 years. In 1467, Prakramabahu crowned Jeyaweera Prakramabahu, his grandson, the son of his daughter Ulagudaya Devi. On hearing, the news of the assumption of a new king to Kotte, Sapumal Kumaraya invaded Kotte with an army from Jaffna and became the king and ruled as Bhuvanekabahu VI (1469-1471).

When Kanagasuriyan came to know the departure of Sapumal Kumaraya, he immediately, returned to Jaffna. He found one Vijayabahu had already usurped the throne vacated by Sapumal Kumaraya. With the help and assistance from the kings of South India, he wrested the control of the Kingdom and freed it from the overordship of the king of Kotte.

The king had two sons; unfortunately, their names are recorded as Pararajasekaran and Segarajasekaran, but their true names are not found anywhere. In 1478, King Kanagasuriya Segarajasekaran crowned his eldest son Pararajasekaran.

Pararajasekaran had Two wives namely Rasaledchumy Ammal from the Chola royal dynasty and Vallyammai from the Pandy-Mzhavan dynasty. By his first wife Rasaledchumy Ammal, he had two sons – Singkavahu and Pandaram and another son Paranirupasinghan by the other wife.

Prophecy

Pararajasekaran ruled the kingdom from 1478 to 1519. Mudaliyar C.Rasanayagam in his “Ancient Jaffna,” writes: “An important event took place during the reign of Pararajasekaran. It was the arrival at his Court of a remarkable visitor in the person of one Subaditta Muni (ascetic) and his prophecy regarding the future rulers of the kingdom.

The prophecy was to the effect that his royal descendents would not inherit his crown and that the kingdom would pass into the hands of the strangers. He also foretold that, the Parangis (Portuguese) would be the first to seize the kingdom and after their tyrannical reign of 40 years, it would pass into the hands of the Ulanthes (Hollanders) whose cruel reign would last for 140 years. Then the Inthiresu (English) would wrest the kingdom and would reign with justice for 79 years. (British ruled Ceylon from 1796 – 1815, the Maritime Provinces of Ceylon and later after the capture of Kandy in 1815, and the entire Ceylon until 1948) In the latter part of their reign the Inthiresu would not reign with the same justice as he did in the commencement.”

Mudaliyar C.Rasanayagam quoted the prophecy from “Yalpana-vaipava-malai.” However, he referred about the prophecy, but for reasons unknown, he ignored the concluding lines. According to C.Brito’s translation of the Yalpana-vaipava-malai, it concludes – ” – The sovereignty will never again come back to your descendants.”

According to the prophecy recorded in the Yalpana-vaipava-malai, one of the sons of Pararajasekaran was Cankli or Segarajasekaran, alleged to be born to a concubine of the king. However, this could be a wild allegation; he might be even the son of Segarajasekaran, the brother of Pararajasekaran. He killed his brothers (but not all, because the existence of one of his brother Paranirupasingkan is recorded later on.), the legal heirs and usurped the rule from his father in 1519. Unfortunately, the records in the Yalpana-vaipava-malai are very misleading. Yalpana-vaipava-malai speaks only of one Cankli. Segarajasekaran was Cankli 1. He was never either captured or condemned to die by the Portuguese, but remained undefeated as a valiant hero.

Unfortunately, Yalpana-vaipava-malai goes on the record stating that; Cankli was captured by the Portuguese and beheaded. Mailvagana Pulavar (Poet laureate) who authored the Yalpana-vaipava-mali, must have got his facts mixed up with Cankli Kumaran, who also usurped the kingdom exactly 100 years (in 1619) later, after Cankli 1, ascended the rulership of the kingdom. Therefore, we have to glean through the historical accounts of the Portuguese historians’, which were biased, discriminatory and antagonistic regarding the rule of Cankli 1, until the end of Cankli Kumaran’s demise, to obtain a clear picture about the great Tamil king.
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Cankli 1 was a strong-willed hero, who fought his battles with grit and determination. He faced unswervingly the challenges posed by the Portuguese colonial forces, with deep resolve, tact and courage.
The Tamil king claimed the right to all ships stranded off the shallow coast of his kingdom and seized many ships. He confiscated valuables found in all the shipwrecks in the narrow seas around his kingdom. In addition, he imprisoned the unfortunate survivors.

Earlier, the Portuguese who evinced little interest in the Tamil kingdom were forced to take into reckoning the affairs of the kingdom, when the Tamil king appropriated the valuables from the stranded Portuguese ships. In 1543, Portuguese governor Martin Afonso de Souza undertook an expedition to Jaffna to retrieve the valuables confiscated by Cankli in one of Portuguese ships. Governor landed at Neduntheevu, (Ilha da vacas, the isle of cows in Portuguese and Delft – called by the Dutch). This was the first encounter Portuguese had with Cankli and according to Portuguese historians’ account; the matter was mutually resolved, when Cankli agreed to compensate for the valuables confiscated by him from the wrecked ships that belonged to the Portuguese.

In the meantime, a disciple of St. Francis Xavier was busy proselytizing the people of Mannar to Christianity. On becoming Christians, the people adopted Portuguese names and their way of living and placed themselves under the protection of the King of Portugal. The news of the conversion to Christianity shocked King Cankli.

He viewed conversion as the first step for conquest of Mannar by the Portuguese. Cankli rushed to Mannar with his troops and retinue in July 1544, and appealed to all those converts to give up their new found faith, but to his dismay, they refused to take him seriously. Tamil king considered their mistaken faith a threat to the sovereignty of the Kingdom. He ordered his troops to deal severely with those recalcitrant converts and in the process, about six hundred to seven hundred converts including his royal representative; Urasingham alias Elamsinghan and the disciple of St. Francis Xavier were put to sword. Roman Catholics in Portugal and those in the Portuguese-India were outraged over the massacre of Christians in Mannar. They advocated the dethronement of Cankli.

Whilst the Christian clergies were agitating for the dethronement of Cankli, a tricky situation unfolded, when a Portuguese vessel laden with valuable cargoes was stranded in the shallow waters of the peninsula. Cankli confiscated the valuable cargoes and imprisoned the ship crew. Portuguese gave priority over the massacre of the Christian converts to the retrieval of the stranded ship, crew and the valuables through a negotiating process with the king.

So, they were compelled to postpone the idea of dethronement of Cankli.

On 1545, Cankli a resolute King with courage and valor, joined forces with the Sinhalese kings of Sitawakke, Kotte and Kandy to fight the Portuguese and banished then from the country. He fought along with Mayadunne against his brother Bhuvanekabahu, the king of Kotte (1521-1551), who was supported by the Portuguese. However, in 1545 and 1547, Bhuvanakebahu managed to subdue Mayadunne – Cankli’s offensive operations. When Bhuvanakabahu opposed the Portuguese in 1549, Cankli came forward to enter into a peace treaty with him. This proves that Cankli worked with a political agenda against the Portuguese, despite the reluctance of the Sinhalese to cooperate with the Tamil king when he was on a crisis.

In 1555, the Sinhalese king Vidye Bandara being defeated by Rajasinha (1581-1593), king of Sitawaka, fled with his son and sought refuge in the court of Cankli. Accidentally, Cankli’s men killed him and his son. Subsequently all his treasures including the sacred Tooth Relic that was in his possession fell into Cankli’s hands. It is said that Cankli deeply regretted over the accidental death of Vidye Bandara. He constructed a temple in the memory of the deceased hero. The temple that was constructed was Puthar Rasar Temple in his memory in the northern precinct of Nallur.

Cankli’s acclivities angered the Portuguese and in 1560, they made determined effort to seize Jaffna. An expedition commanded by Constantine de Braganza, the Portuguese Viceroy arrived off Jaffna and they overran the Peninsula. Portuguese captured the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha brought to Jaffna by Vidye Bandara, when he fled to Jaffna. They destroyed several Hindu shrines and temples that roused the anger of the people in the kingdom. This forced the Portuguese to abandon their mission. The viceroy sailed with his men to Mannar, where he established a fort after defeating the valiant resistance put forward by Mahathan, the royal representative of Cankli in Mannar. During this encounter with the Tamil forces, Portuguese destroyed the ancient shrine, Tirukethieswaram Temple.

“Among the spoil of the city (which was not so great as they expected, as many things were hidden in the hills of the interior), was found the tooth of Buddum (Lord Buddha), which our Historians said by a manifest error was (that) of a monkey, and which was one of the most sacred objects of worship in the heathendom of the South and Tartary, as we said in the first Book, being the one which Tribule Pandar (Vidye Bandara) carried from the city of Cota; and when they informed D. Constantino de Braganza of it, and those who knew about it assured him that in exchange for it, the king of Pegu would think little offering his greatest treasure, and that it would be the same in Siam, Tartary, China and Japan and in other smaller Kingdoms where it was worshipped, if they came to hear of it, the Viceroy ordered it to be entrusted to D. Antonio de Noronha in the golden case in which it was found, set with the same metal with many precious stones. The Bishop of Cochin, D. Jorge Temudo, was opposed to this and was of the opinion that it should be burnt, and though the piety of that Prince, helped by the ccruples (sic) which the Religious infused into him, was inclined to do so at once being persuaded by the many gentlemen, he deferred it till a decision was taken after further consideration, as to what should be done with it, (and) heard constant complaints from the Fathers of St. Francis that it offered no good to the expedition, because the Demon was the little bone and where he was there would be no good.” The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon by Father Fernao De Queyroz.

(Subsequently the Sacred Tooth Relic was burnt and the ashes were thrown into the running water.)

– Chapter 04 –

Death of Cankli

Details of how Cankli died were not found in any available records, but according to a few historians, it is said that he died in 1565, whilst a others write that his demise occurred in 1564. According to available records, in 1565, Cankli sent a battalion of Vadagar (Northerners) to fight along with king Mayadunne of Sitawaka (1521-1581) against the Portuguese. From this record, some historians conclude that he lived up to 1565 and after his death, king Puvirajapandaram, the natural son of Cankli succeeded in the royal name of Pararajasekaran.

Available records of those period points that the Kingdom was in the midst of severe political turmoil and uncertainty. In the same year, a usurper named Kasi Nainar or Kunchi Nainar drove away Puvirajapandaram and assumed the kingship in the name of Pararajasekaran. Kasi Nainar was unpopular, therefore the people contacted Jorge de Mello de Castro, the Portuguese Captain in Mannar to overthrow him and replace the rightful heir to thrown. De Mello took the opportunity to interfere in the politics of the Tamil kingdom, came to Jaffna, arrested Kasi Nainar, and jailed him. He arbitrated over the disputed succession of the Tamil kingdom, and found in favor Kasi Nainar’s rival, whose name is not recorded.

Once de Mello left Jaffna; Kasi Nainar’s loyalist got him released from the prison. He killed the new king and again ascended the kingship. Kasi Nainar’s sway was short lived, when Jorge de Mello hurried to Jaffna and had Kasi Nainar killed by a hired assassin and set his nominee Periya Pulle on the throne, under the royal name of Chekarajasekaran (1570-1582).

After a decade of exile, Puvirajapandaram (1582-1591) ousted Perriyapulle and regained the throne. He was forceful and deformed and carried plans to oust the Portuguese. He was character-wise a cast in the same mold of Cankli. Portuguese historians gave him the sobriquet of “Crooked King.” In 1591, he decided to attack the Portuguese fort at Mannar, which was an eyesore and to chase the Portuguese out of the Tamil kingdom. He formed an alliance with one of the naval opponents of the Portuguese, Cortimusa Marikar, a member of the famous Muslim Kunjali family, the hereditary admirals of the Zamorins (rulers) of Calicut. This alliance was formed to counter the Portuguese’s sea power.

Puvirajapandaram arrived in Mannar with Tamils and Telugu Vadakar warriors armed with cannon, muskets, firebombs and roquerios, but the fort withstood the day and night onslaught of the Tamil army. When the king retreated to Jaffna, the Portuguese commander Andre Furtado de Mendonca followed the king to Jaffna in 43 rowing vessels and 250 Thoneys (small wooden boats), with a company of 1,200 Portuguese and 3000 lascarins. Along with Wickremasinghe, the Lascarins chief, the Sinhalese Karava Mudaliyars, Manoel Pereyra, Pero Francisco and Diogo de Silva too went along in the company to fight the Tamil king. On 28 October 1591, fierce battle broke out and the Portuguese army advanced towards Nallur, destroying stockades on the way with a high mortality. Meanwhile Edirmannasinghan, Perriyapulle’s youngest son was spared by the Portuguese warrior Saimon Pinho and the incident is now found sculptured on a slab on the Maha Saman Devalaya at Ratnapura.

Puvirajapandaram tried to escape, but was captured and beheaded. The vengeful Portuguese army commander Andre Furtado de Mendonco ordered to put the decapitated head of Puvirajapandaram on a pike and plant in a public place for a few days to terrorize those who thought of opposing the Portuguese. When the king was beheaded, Medonco issued a proclamation calling upon the people in the Kingdom to resume their day-to-day business, stating that law, order and peace have already been restored in the kingdom. The same incident has been misinterpreted in the Yarlpana Vaipava Malai as follows:

“The Panankis next brought Sangkli to trial. Sangkli was placed before the seat of justice and charged first with having exercised regal powers without having been duly crowned: secondly, with having usurped the throne from his father: thirdly, with having murdered the princes of the realm: and fourthly, with having oppressed the people and massacred many of them. He was convicted of all the charges and sentence to be decapitated. The sentence was immediately carried into effect at the threshold of the nearest temple.” –Translated by C.Brito.

It was unfortunate that the poet laureate Maylvagana Pulavar was confused with the incident of Puvirajapandaram with that of Cankli. It should be remembered that the heroic King Cankli was never captured or even killed. In addition, it should be remembered that though Puvirajapandaram was captured and killed, his martyrdom is the best and highly laudable one. He died foe valiant cause to safeguard the Tamil kingdom from the ruthless colonial invaders.

Nallur Convention

Mendoca also summoned the Tamil chiefs and the Mudaliyars for a convention at Nallur. He then asked the assembled chiefs to submit to the King of Portugal’s suzerainty. He declared that he would maintain the distinct laws and customs of the Tamil kingdom. This offer was accepted and the two parties took oath of allegiance to the king of Portugal and the Portuguese commander on the advice of the Council consisting of the chiefs of the Kingdom, agreed to place on the throne Edirmannasinghan, the youngest son of PeriyaPulle.

Edirmannasinghan took the royal name of Pararajasekaran (1591-1617), according to the tradition. The new king had a very difficult task in his hand to accomplish, because he pledged to favor the spread of Christianity in his kingdom. He was to bear the full blast of the arrogant breed of officials, whose torturously insulting and patronizing behavior, it appeared almost to the point of servility. The young king developed a dual personality, one pro-Portuguese and another anti-Portuguese. The Viceroy in Goa was not happy with the attitude adopted by the king and was to go in person to wrest the control of the kingdom. Meantime the king had a natural death in April 1617.

His death resulted in a crisis about the succession. His eldest brother Asrasa Kesari was nominated as the regent for his 3-year-old son, which is said to have lasted until the end of 1617. But, this arrangement was short lived, when Arasa Kesari’s nephew Cankli Kumaran (Cankli II) hatched a conspiracy, assassinated his uncle and his supporters. The boy king’s life was spared with the idea of using him while usurping the reign of the kingdom from the Portuguese. Captain of Mannar was unable to intervene, but was satisfied by exacting a promise from Cankli Kumaran favoring the spread if Christianity and not to aid the rebels against the Portuguese rule.

However, Cankli’s future became very bleak, when Portuguese began to view Jaffna, a place of great strategic importance to their hegemony over the Sinhalese, because of their irresistible interest in capturing the Kandyan kingdom. The sudden appearance of the Hollanders in Batticaloa, contributed to the change in their dimension.

Cankli Kumaran – the last royal line of resistance

Furthermore, when Cankli Kumaran sought and obtained assistance from Ragunatha Nayakar (1604-1634) of Tanjore, to suppress the uprising by the Tamil Mudaliyars, he was also suspected of having established links with the Dutch. These factors compelled Constantino de Sa Noronha, the Portuguese Captain General in Ceylon, to dispatch a sentry to Jaffna, under Filipe de Oliveriya, to punish Cankli Kumaran, for his treachery.

The first contingent left from Colombo left in April 1919, in a fleet of eight, sailed under captains – Joao Madeira, Joao da Silva and Vitorio de Abreu, with 100 Portuguese and large number of Lascrins. Oliveriya was the overall command of the forces sent overland and after reaching Pooneryn (Poonagiri), he made a delayed and difficult crossing of the Jaffna lagoon, before arriving in the peninsula. Oliveriya initially sent three demands to Cankli Kumaran –

* To surrender the Vadakar troops of the Tanjore Nayakar,

* To surrender Varuna Kulattan, the Karava chief,

* To pay all moneys, he owed to the Portuguese sovereign.

When diplomatic wrangling failed, Oliveriya proceeded to combat the stiff resistance put up by Cankli Kumaran. At Wannarponnai, Cankli Kumaran’s forces were decisively defeated. He with his family set to sail to Tanjore to seek assistance from Ragunatha Nayakar.

Unfortunately, adverse wind blew his boat towards Point Pedro, where he was accosted and captured. With him were his queen, children and his retinue. The Portuguese who entered the fleeing boat to arrest Cankli Kumaran; forcefully confiscated the 8,000 milreis (Portuguese currency) found in the boat and ran amok with the royalties in the boat.

They pulled out the jewels worn by the queen and the children. They pulled the earrings from their ear lobes by tearing the lobes, which left the women and children wailing with anguish and pain. When Cankli Kumaran saw the ruthless behavior of the Portuguese soldiers and their contumacy, he voluntarily took off his jewels and handed them to the Portuguese soldiers.

The Tamil kingdom fell in the hands of the Portuguese in June 1619, when Cankli Kumaran and his family were arrested and taken prisoners by the Portuguese. They were first taken to Nallur; from there, he was sent to Colombo with Oliveriya’s son-in-law Antonio da Mota Galvo. According to the Portuguese administrative arrangements, the jurisdiction of Jaffna came directly under the Viceroy at Goa. Therefore, Cankli Kumaran was transferred to Goa and imprisoned.

In Goa, he was tried for high treason by the Portuguese High Court (Relaco), found him guilty of all charges leveled against him and sentenced him to death. Ultimately, the last Tamil king was hanged in the year 1621.

Last Resistance

In 1620, Filipe de Oliveriya, the Captain Major of the Portuguese army was installed as the Governor of the kingdom. In the same year a Tamil Karava chief invaded the Portuguese and was beaten back.

Again an influential Karava chieftain called, Sinna Meegampillai Arachie, who was earlier an opponent of Cankli Kumaran, became Christian and baptized and named Dom Luis. He became disillusioned with the Portuguese take over of the Kingdom, crossed over to Tanjore with the two Tamil royal princesses and sought military assistance from Ragunatha Naik.

In March 1620, he returned by landing at Thondaminaru, with a big contingent of forces from Tanjore and laid siege of Nallur. Portuguese Governor in Colombo dispatched armed forces under the command of Luis de Teyxeyra de Machedo to support Oliveriya’s forces to break the siege and drive back Meegampillai. Tamil rebels in the Kingdom joined forces with Meegampillai, anyhow the Tamil rebels were defeated.

In November 1620, Meegampillai returned with another army of Tamilian soldiers with renewed vigor and vengeance to drive away the Portuguese. Portuguese who received advanced recce about the movements of the invading Tamil forces from Tanjore were prepared to meet them. Oliveriya and the Portuguese forces entered the sea and prevented Meegampillai’s forces from landing. When fierce fighting ensued, Oliveriya was seriously wounded when a Tamil soldier charged him with his spear. However, the Tamils have to retreat again. Finally, 2000 of the Tanjore soldiers landed on 5 December 1620, at Thondaminaru, under the command of Varuna Kulatan, but the war drag on until 11 February 1621, and finally the Kingdom had fallen into the hands of the Portuguese.

The bloody war saw to the end of the Tamil aristocracy and the sovereignty of the Tamils. Up to now, the Tamils have yet to recover from the loss of their sovereignty. Postscript:

According to the Portuguese historians, Cankli Kumaran was converted to Christianity along with his wife. He was baptized as Don Phillipe and his wife as Margrette. Ultimately, the last Tamil King was hanged in the year 1621.

The conversion of Cankli Kumaran and his wife to Christianity was a propaganda ploy of the Portuguese. In 1818, the Council of the Jesuit Society resolved that those converts to Christianity would be spared of their death penalty. Therefore, when Cankli Kumaran was hanged, it clearly shows that he steadfastly remained as Tamil and died as a Tamil without betraying the faith the Tami professed.

In the meantime, the wife and three daughters of Edirmannasinghan were converted to Christianity. Amongst the three children, the eldest daughter, the heir to the throne of the Tamil Kingdom was baptized and given the Christian name Dona Constantina, along with her two sisters. They had their education, at first in Goa and later sent to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal for higher education.

The fate of the Tamils were sealed, however when Dona Constantina and her two sisters, Dona Marie and Dona Isabelle signed the Royal Instrument of Transfer of their right to rule the Tamil Kingdom, to the King of Portugal. This act effectively ended the sovereignty of the Tamils in toto.

Portuguese ruined Jaffna: Historian  by PK Balachandran

Today, the Tamil-speaking Jaffna peninsula in north Sri Lanka is a bastion of orthodox Shiva worshipping Hindus.

But historians say that during Portuguese rule in the 17th century, it was entirely Catholic.

The fascinating story of how and why Jaffna became Catholic en masse, and why it reverted to Hinduism with equal alacrity when the Dutch replaced the Portuguese in 1658, is told by Prof Tikiri Abeyasinghe in his book Jaffna under the Portuguese, which was first published in 1986.

“Portuguese documents reporting conversions in Jaffna do so invariably in multiples of thousands. Even allowing for exaggeration, natural to this type of document, the success achieved by the missionaries was striking,” he says.

Abeyasinghe, who was Professor of Modern History in the University of Colombo till 1985, notes that in the period 1624-1626, the Franciscans alone converted 52,000 Jaffna Tamils.

“According to detailed statistics furnished in Friar Paulo da Trinidade’s work, there were in Jaffna in 1634, over 70,000 adult Christians and children being instructed in the faith under 25 parishes of the Franciscans alone.”

“Taking that figure as a rough basis for the calculation of the total number of Christians in Jaffna under the care of the 42 parishes, one gets the figure 115,000,” he concludes.

Antonio Bocarro’s report of 1634 states that in Jaffna, “nearly all natives are Christians”.

Fernao de Queiros, the renowned Portuguese chronicler of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) had described Jaffna as being “wholly Christian”.

Reasons for conversion

The reasons for the en masse conversion of Jaffna Tamils were many.

The first was the proselytising zeal of the Portuguese, who unlike the Dutch and the English who followed, were hell bent on converting people to Christianity as much as they were interested in trade and territory.

The second was the unquestioned military and political power that the Portuguese exercised over the population of Jaffna, due to a variety of factors.

The third reason was the strategic importance of Jaffna, especially the western port of Mannar, for the trade as well as the security of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka.

The fourth was the anti-Christian stance of some of the powerful rulers of Jaffna, which infuriated the Portuguese.

The last, but not the least, was the fact that the Jaffna man was non-aggressive, non-militarised, and towards the end, leaderless also.

Prof Abeyasinghe points out that in contrast to the Sinhala population in Kotte in South West Sri Lanka (which had also come under the sway of the Portuguese) the population in Jaffna was peaceful, and not given to resistance and revolts.

Philip de Oliveira, who led the expeditionary force, which captured Jaffna in 1619 to firmly establish Portuguese power there, described the Jaffna man as being “generally passive or weak”.

A top Portuguese official, Lancarote de Seixas, described them as “quiet and mild, without any military training,” and therefore less likely to rebel unless instigated by “outsiders”.

And outsiders, mainly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, had played a big role in the military history of Jaffna prior to the advent of the Portuguese.

The Kings of Jaffna traditionally used South Indian mercenaries, who the Portuguese called “Badagas” for their defensive and offensive operations.

The soldiers were either from the Nayakdom of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, or they were Muslims from Calicut in Malabar, Kerala.

How the Jaffna kings were subdued

Initially, the Kings of Jaffna, in alliance with the Sinhala Kings of South Sri Lanka and the Nayaks of South India, did trouble the Portuguese.

In his paper The Kingdom of Jaffna before the Portuguese conquest (Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka) Prof S Pathmanathan of the University of Peradeniya gives an account of the political history of Jaffna before the Portuguese take over.

The Portuguese intervened in Jaffna for the first time in 1543, when Sankili, the King of Jaffna, seized some wrecked Portuguese cargo vessels and began persecuting Chirstian converts in Mannar.

In 1543, St Francis Xavier had visited Mannar, on the Western coast, and converted 600 Paravas, a caste of fishermen and pearl divers there.

The Paravas were a depressed class, oppressed by Jaffna’s rapacious officials and persecuted by Arab Muslim traders, who eyed the pearl fisheries.

Since the converts were automatically deemed to be Portuguese subjects, Sankili was alarmed.

He saw in this a grave threat to Jaffna’s economy and security.

The immensely valuable pearl fisheries would be out of his control. The Parava area in Mannar could become a bridgehead for a Portuguese invading army.

Therefore, in 1543 itself, Sankili sent an expedition to Mannar and slaughtered the Parava converts.

St.Francis Xavier promptly appealed to the Portuguese state to punish the Jaffna King.

But it was only in 1558 that Constantine de Braganca captured Jaffna. Sankili escaped to Trincomalee.

Subsequently, he made peace with the Portuguese and came back to power, but without control over Mannar.

He had lost control over the shipping and trade in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait, a major source of revenue for his Kingdom.

The Jaffna Kingdom then went into a period of great political instability. As in other parts of Sri Lanka, rival claimants to the throne were using the Portuguese to press their claims.

In 1570, the Portuguese put their protégé Periyapulle on the throne. But in 1582, Periyapulle was overthrown by Sankili’s son, Puviraja Pandaram.

Like his father, Puviraja Pandaram followed an anti-Portuguese policy. He sought the help of the Zamorin of Calicut and attacked Mannar. But the expedition failed.

In 1591, the Portuguese took the battle to Jaffna and massacred 800 of Puviraja Pandaram’s soldiers who were South Indian mercenaries, including Muslims from Calicut.

The Portuguese put Edirmanasingham, who took the title Pararasa Sekaran, on the throne.

But he was under pressure from his Hindu subjects to break the shackles for the sake of their religion and culture, which needed close contact with the Nayak rulers of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

Pararasa Sekaran struck alliances with the Nayaks of Thanjavur and also the Kings of Kandy, Vimaladharmasuriya I (1593-1604) and Senarat (1604-1635) who were anti-Portuguese. He proceeded against the Catholic converts too.

Pararasa Sekaran died in 1617. His chosen successor was assassinated by Sankili Kumaran, a nephew of Pararasa Sekaran’s.

After usurping the throne, Sankili Kumaran sought recognition from the Portuguese.

But when there was no response, he invited the Nayaks of Thanjavur to help him get out of the clutches of the Portuguese.

In 1619, the Portuguese marched on Jaffna and took it over completely. Sankili Kumaran tried to escape to India by boat. But he and his family, with all their jewels, were seized in mid sea.

Indigenous leadership destroyed

According to Abeyasinghe, Sankili, his sister, his four nephews, and the heir to the throne, were exiled to Goa in Western India, the seat of Portuguese power in the region.

Abeyasinghe quotes Philip de Oliveira, the man who took Jaffna, as saying that “all those who so much as have a royal smell about them” should be as far away from Jaffna as possible.

In accordance with this policy, another set of Jaffna royals were sent away to Goa in 1624.

With the exit of the Sankili clan, the Jaffna man gave up all hopes of resisting the Portuguese.

He accepted Portuguese rule, including the need to convert to Catholicism, though most unwillingly.

Royal exiles converted

“In Goa, these royal exiles lived under surveillance, many of the younger members being lodged with religious orders – males in the College of Kings at Bardez, and the females in the Convent of Santa Monica in Goa”.

“Eventually, many of them, like the younger (Sinhala) royalty from Sitawaka and Kandy, entered holy orders,” Abeyasinghe says.

The historian says that the Portuguese might have used force to make the young royals join the Catholic religious orders. And the motive was clearly political.

In letter to Portugal dated December 13, 1634, Viceroy Conde de Linhares suggested that the younger members of the Jaffna family should be encouraged to enter religious orders, as some of them had already done or were on the point of doing, in order to avoid problems that would arise if they were “to marry and have issues.”

Abeyasinghe says that the Portuguese wanted to ensure that none of Sankili’s family members became a rallying point of a revolt in Jaffna in the future.

Conquest opens doors to mass conversion

Although St Francis Xavier had begun conversion in 1543 itself, it was only after the complete take over of Jaffna in 1619, that conversions took on a mass character.

The Franciscans were followed by the Jesuits in 1622. The Portuguese authorities fixed the number of parishes for Jaffna (minus Mannar and Mantota) at 42 to be divided among the Franciscans and the Jesuits.

In order to increase the number of converts rapidly, they resorted to what Abeyasinghe calls “general baptism”.

Quoting Trinidade and Queiros, he says that in a typical case of general baptism in a village, the announcement of the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries would be made by tom tom.

The villagers in question would be asked to assemble and then a missionary would ask them to reject their “false” gods and accept “one true God”.

“It was not a request; it was almost a command backed by the authority of the Portuguese government” Abeyasinghe notes.

This is because the missionary would invariably be accompanied by the local Portuguese officials and the native chiefs who supported them.

“Fear of a fine or corporal punishment with cane and stock would ensure their regular attendance at church on Sundays and feast days,” Abeyasinghe adds.

A later Dutch writer gave a different explanation for the Jaffna Tamil Hindus’ willingness to convert.

Abeyasinghe quotes this un-named writer as saying that the Hindus believed that there were different paths to salvation and that there was nothing wrong in accepting Catholicism.

In a sense, this theory helped the convert to revert to Hinduism without a second thought, when the Portuguese quit in 1658.

Portuguese ruin Jaffna

But Portuguese rule ruined Jaffna, Abeyasinghe says. Though the Jaffna peasant was not dispossessed, he had to pay heavy taxes, which the Portuguese kept hiking from time to time.

The production level remained low. As Bocarro said: “the land has little commerce. It has no merchandise. It has no water other than that from the sky”.

In addition to the rapacious government, the Catholic priests were extorting money.

The cash from the Jaffna treasury was being used to fund Portuguese settlements elsewhere. Nothing was ploughed back into the local economy.

According to Fernao de Queiros, the Portuguese chronicler par excellence the people of Jaffna had been “reduced to the utmost misery” under Portuguese rule.

In the absence of the possibility of waging war or revolting, the only option for the people was to migrate.

And migrate they did to the Wanni jungles south of the peninsula. Some went across the Palk Strait to Rameswaram on the Indian side.

To give just one example, the village of Puthur, which had 100 households to begin with, had only 14 in 1645.

It is, therefore, not surprising that when the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese in June 1658, the people of Jaffna were immensely relieved.

The refugees not only came back to Jaffna, but shed Catholicism and reverted to Hinduism en masse. Some of course, took to the Protestant religion of the Dutch.

Only the coastal Paravas, who apparently saw Catholicism as a liberation theology, stuck to Catholicism.

(PK Balachandran is Special Correspondent of Hindustan Times in Sri Lanka)

The Battle of Danure by Roger Smith

Across the green paddyfields of Danture village, near Kadugannawa, a most desperate battle was fought in 1593 C.E. by some four hundred Kandyans determined not to allow the convoy of Portuguese soldiers take their prize possession, young Dona Catherina, 12, to be married to the Portuguese aristocrat and army officer awaiting her in Kandy.

Konoppu Bandara, whilst getting military training in Goa must have learned of the horrendous butchery and slaughter by the Conquistadors in the ‘New World.’ All of Europe was shuddering at the news of the waves exterminations going on; the entire eight million Native Peoples of Hispaniola, and the millions of native peoples of other places, by the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors conquering, converting or killing all done with the authority of the Pope. Konoppu Bandara had realised the terrible danger that threatened the island of Sri Lanka, too – if the cunning Portuguese succeeded in marrying off Dona Catherina to a Portuguese prince.

Had this marriage taken place, then, under the Roman law: “Cujus Regio, Illius Religio” (he who rules the land determines the religion), the Portuguese King would have had the legal authority to draw the necessary finance from the treasury to send a regular army to fully conquer Sri Lanka.
Just as in the new lands of the Americas, they would have imposed the Roman Catholic religion upon the whole island – at the point of a sword. It would have been a case of ‘believe and baptise – or die.’ Konappu Bandara also knew that, similarly, Sri Lankan Buddhists would never abandon their religion for something so crude and inferior and so, a colossal bloodbath was inevitable.

It was a desperate moment in the history of Sri Lanka.

In 1593, Konoppu Bandara led his small band of men into battle armed mostly with swords, spiked poles, stones and a few muzzle-loading guns. There must have been a heavy loss of life as the Portuguese had better swords and guns. Konoppu Bandara’s men, by birth and training were all peaceful, tolerant Buddhists. Now, they had to fight and kill others; they had listened to their leader, Konoppu Bandara, and they knew that their sacrifice was to prevent an even greater bloodbath; this was an emergency. They knew that ‘right’ was on their side and so, men deeply ingrained with kindness and pacifism, were persuaded to fight.

No details of the battle are known but the result was good for the Buddhists. They managed to capture the palanquin with the girl in it and made off with it at high speed.

The Buddhists achieved their main objective – to get the Dona Catherina out of the hands of the Portuguese. Konoppu Bandara laid claim to his prize. It is not known what ceremony there was, if any, as marriage is a Christian institution made with God’s blessings. But by this small act of union he had destroyed the Portuguese plans for legitimising their claim to rule Sri Lanka.

The Portuguese called him a traitor and she an apostate. Had this happened in Europe, after capture, both would have been cruelly tortured. Then, he would have been hung-up on a gibbet and she burned at the stake in public. This was the great risk they had taken.

But fortunately, this was Buddhist Sri Lanka. By marrying the Dona this entitled Konoppu Bandara to high position in the land, himself. Later, he was crowned King Vijaya DharmaSooriya I and had three children, all Buddhist.

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  1. Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamils’ Sovereignty.

    Death of Cankli

    Details of how Cankli died were not found in any available records, but according to a few historians, it is said that he died in 1565, whilst a others write that his demise occurred in 1564. According to available records, in 1565, Cankli sent a battalion of Vadagar (Northerners) to fight along with king Mayadunne of Sitawaka (1521-1581) against the Portuguese. From this record, some historians conclude that he lived up to 1565 and after his death, king Puvirajapandaram, the natural son of Cankli succeeded in the royal name of Pararajasekaran.

    Available records of those period points that the Kingdom was in the midst of severe political turmoil and uncertainty. In the same year, a usurper named Kasi Nainar or Kunchi Nainar drove away Puvirajapandaram and assumed the kingship in the name of Pararajasekaran. Kasi Nainar was unpopular, therefore the people contacted Jorge de Mello de Castro, the Portuguese Captain in Mannar to overthrow him and replace the rightful heir to thrown. De Mello took the opportunity to interfere in the politics of the Tamil kingdom, came to Jaffna, arrested Kasi Nainar, and jailed him. He arbitrated over the disputed succession of the Tamil kingdom, and found in favor Kasi Nainar’s rival, whose name is not recorded.

    Once de Mello left Jaffna; Kasi Nainar’s loyalist got him released from the prison. He killed the new king and again ascended the kingship. Kasi Nainar’s sway was short lived, when Jorge de Mello hurried to Jaffna and had Kasi Nainar killed by a hired assassin and set his nominee Periya Pulle on the throne, under the royal name of Chekarajasekaran (1570-1582).

  2. […] from Icerocket blogs: Things They Don’t Tell You About Christianity – Sri Lanka Tags: No tags Categories: Uncategorized You can leave a response, […]


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