Category Archives: Portuguese imperialism

Buddhist Temples in Lanka: Evocative Thoughts

Uditha Devapriya, in The Island, 9 April 2022, … With input from and photographs by Manusha Lakshan … & bearing this title  “Some reflections on the temples of the South”

The social and cultural history of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka has been the object of study for well over a century. Far from receding into a world of their own, these temples occupied a prominent place in the world around them. Buddhist monks lived under a code of piety and self-denial, and they operated under their own rules and customs. Yet despite being cut off from mundane concerns, they were very much linked to the society they hailed from. Granted entire villages for their upkeep, the clergy made use of the social institutions of their time, most prominently caste, to maintain their hold.

 

 Ceityagiri, 

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Fashioning History in Sri Lanka: Controversies

Michael Roberts

Computer generated 3D illustration with a Portuguese Caravel of the Fifteenth Century

Abstract of the article below: Two arrival stories in the long span of the island’s history will provide the foundations for reflections on history-making in the modern era. Episode One will pursue my own intellectual trail in the 1980s in fashioning an interpretation of the story of the arrival of the Portuguese and my subsequent confrontations in print with KM de Silva on this issue in the 1990s. Episode Two essays an interpretation of the advent of Vijaya retailed in the Pali & Sinhala chronicles as a genesis story of the same order as the tale of Adam and Eve: contending that it is not a tale with any factual basis, but one that conveys a mythic truth for its authors and ‘faithful’ listeners. It is, thus, a morality-tale about the magical implantation of civilised culture and state-forms within the island. This interpretation, however, has shortcomings and will benefit from the correctives imposed by Godfrey Gunatilleke’s exposition of the multi-faceted symbolism associated with this myth.

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The Obelisk marking the Battle of Randeniwala

Arundathie Abeysinghe, in e-Lanka, 28 October 2021

A monument constructed at the ninth kilometer post on the *Ella–Wellawaya Road near the village of Randeniwela is a unique obelisk to commemorate the Battle of Randeniwela (Battle of Randeniya or Sinhalese – Portuguese War), a battle fought on August 25th 1630. The battle was fought between Portuguese forces commanded by the *Governor Constantinu De Saa de Noronha and King Senarath’s (1604–1635) youngest son Prince Maha Astana (pre coronation) who was later crowned as King Rajasinha II (1635–1687), the second ruler of Kandyan Kingdom and his brother Prince Vijayapala.

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A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts, reproduing here an article that appeared initially in 1989 with the same title in Ethnos, 55: 1-2:69-82. … and also in Swedish in Lanka. Tidskrift om Lankesisk Kultur (Uppsala), No. 2, March 1989. I regret that the presentation here has not been able to incoroporate diacritica for indigenous words.

ABSTRACT: 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 Maraya; the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces. The piecemeal reinterpretation of this short text, however, must be overlaid by a holistic perspective and the realisation that its rendering in oral form enabled its purveyors to lace the story with a satirical flavour: so that the Portuguese and Catholicism are, like demons, rendered both disordering and comic, dangerous and inferior – thus ultimately controllable. In contending in this manner that the folktale is an act of nationalist opposition, the article is designed as an attack on the positivist empiricism which pervades the island’s historiography and shuts out imaginative reconstructions which are worked out by penetrating the subjective world of the ancient texts.

 

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Jaffna Fort in Ruins: Evoking Its Chequered History

Dishan Joseph, in Daily News, 4 Septmber 2021, where the title is “Jaffna Fort: Reflections of Dutch History” … reproduced here with highlighting inserted by The Editor, Thuppahi

The Northern Province is embellished with history and culture. It is a land laced with mystic aura. Perhaps the most iconic landmark in the Jaffna town area is the massive Dutch Fort, which stands as a historic sentinel. This fortified superstructure is the second largest Dutch Fort in Sri Lanka.

For centuries this Fort has been associated with the strategic defence on the maritime boundary of our resplendent island. It is probably the most visited destination of the Northern Province by local and foreign visitors, the other being the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. From the 13th century to the 17th century, the Nallur Rajadani featured prominently in ancient Ceylon.

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From Empiricist Conflation to Distortion: Caste in South Asia

Michael Roberts, responding in 1985 to a Review Essay by Susan Bayly of Cambridge University  on his book on Caste Conflcist and Elite Formation, CUP 1982

Susan Bayly** has done me the honour of reviewing the book on Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 at considerable length.’ Her essay is appropriately entitled ‘The History of Caste in South Asia’. This title provides a clue to the interpretative pathways which have led her systematically to misunderstand the arguments within the book. No less problematical is her implicit belief in the possibility of constructing a composite picture of the caste system qua system on the basis of empirical data drawn from different regions, regions as widely different as Sri Lanka, southern India and western India. Let me elaborate this charge, and in doing so reiterate the arguments which I presented.

Susan Bayly

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Portuguese Nomenclature in Sri Lanka

Unknown Author** … in https://www.elanka.com.au/portuguese-sri-lankan-surnames-and-their-meanings-2/

The Portuguese arrived in Ceylon, or Ceilão, as they called it, by chance. In 1505, a fleet commanded by Lourenço de Almeida—the son of Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India—was blown into Galle by adverse winds. It was thirteen years later, in 1518, that the Portuguese established formal contact with the Kingdom of Kotte, ruled by Vira Parakrama Bahu, and were permitted to build a fort in Colombo.

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Crossing Boundaries: The Indo-Portuguese Religious and Cultural Encounter

Chandra R. de Silva, aka “CR”, being the Inaugural Tessa Bartholomeusz Memorial Lecture, Department of Religion, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, delivered on March 4, 2002

Let me begin by thanking the Department of Religion and Florida State University for inviting me to deliver the inaugural Tessa Bartholomeusz Memorial Lecture. As many of you are aware, Tessa and I worked together in two academic projects in the last few years and we were part of a group that worked hard and successfully to set up an American Research Center in Sri Lanka. I miss her both as a scholar and a friend and thus, my appreciation for all you have done in her memory is immense.

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Sinhalaness in Pre-British Ceylon: Issues and Pathways

A Review Essay by Alan Strathern** dissecting a Book by Michael Roberts published in 2004

This item was located by Thuppahi in the web-site Colombo Telegraph on 26 December 2012 (see https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-royal-we-sinhala-identity-in-the-dynastic-state/). However, it appeared initially in 2005 in the prestigious journal Modern Asian Studies,  39: 1013–1026.

AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Michael Roberts, 7 August 2021

This item is a review essay not a standard review. Alan Strathern is an accomplished historian who happens to be the son of a leading social anthropologist, viz., Marilyn Strathern of ANU and Cambridge University. You will find that his prose is as refined and clear-cut as demanding. After some hesitation, I decided to adhere to my normal policy of highlighting some parts of the text with blue colourfor the benefit of readers facing the difficulties posed by complex issues in historical sociology. On occasions I have also imposed a break in extra-long paragraphs. The illustrations too are my impositions intended to promote reader interest.

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Introducing Alan Strathern’s Work to Sri Lankan Aficianados

Alan Strathern’s first major work was Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land. …. published in 2008 and since then he has extended his reach. Though in far too belated manner, Thuppahi here introduces his work to a Sri Lankan audience …. Begiining with a citation leading to CR De Silva’s review of his book on Sri Lanka….. and ending with his own introduction of self to the world in the Oxford University web site.

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