The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, July 04, 2005

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
Date : 2005-07-03
Asian Tribune

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.

To Be Continued

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