Category Archives: hatan kavi

A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese

Michael Roberts

An ABSTRACT of an article that appeared in print in Ethnos, 1989, vol 54: 1 & 2,  pp. 69-82…. available online for payment to Taylor & Francis.

This essay decodes a sixteenth century folktale which records the Sinhalese reaction to the arrival of the first Portuguese. Where the historiography has interpreted this tale as benign wonderment in the face of exotica, a piecemeal deconstruction of the allegorical clues in the ‘story is utilised to reveal how the Sinhalese linked the Portuguese with demons and with Vasavarti Mārayā, the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces.

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Portugal and Sri Lanka: The Historiography Today

Chandra R. de Silva,* whose original title runs thus: “Portugal and Sri Lanka: Recent Trends in Historiography”[1] … an article that was originally published in Re-exploring the Links: History and Constructed Histories between Portugal and Sri Lanka, ed. Jorge Flores, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007, pp. 3-26

In a recent article entitled ‘Theoretical Approaches to Sri Lankan History and the Early Portuguese period,’ Alan Strathern points out that although historical writing in Sri Lanka has become ‘the site of vibrant controversy’ due partly to the ethnic conflict, by and large, it has contributed little to wider debates on post-colonialism and the nature of historical thinking.’[2] I would agree with this broad proposition. What I intend to do in this paper is to extend my gaze beyond the sixteenth century to which Alan consciously limits himself and look critically at the extent to which historical writing in the past half century has enhanced our understanding of the complex connections between Portugal and Sri Lanka in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, … I will concentrate largely on the area of social interaction and leave the other areas — political, economic and cultural – for detailed consideration at a later time.

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