Posted on July 7th, 2019

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

From the year 1505 until 1658, for about 153 years, a good part of the coastal region of Sri Lanka was under the control of the Portuguese.  This was a period marked by extreme forms of violence and atrocities against the Sinhala community, especially the Sinhala Buddhists. It was a period  marked by intense Roman Catholic missionary activity. From the year 1543 onward, Franciscans established centres in the country and Jesuits were active in the north.  Dominicans and Augustinians arrived toward the end of the 16th century.

The Portuguese used their extensive powers of patronage and preference in appointments to promote Christianity. For varied reasons, many members of the landed aristocracy in coastal areas embraced Christianity. They often took Portuguese surnames at baptism. Many coastal communities underwent mass conversion, particularly in Jaffna, Mannar, and the fishing communities north of Colombo. Catholic churches with schools attached to them served Catholic communities all over the country. Devastation of Buddhist establishments and undermining Buddhists was the order of the day.

  • All Buddhist temples, monasteries and places of learning along the coastal belt were plundered and destroyed by the Portuguese, and Buddhist monks and devotees associated with these establishments  were subject to untold harassment.  Lands belonging to these Buddhist sites were taken over and given to Catholic establishments.
  • The Portuguese plundered and destroyed the Citadel of Kotte, which was the administrative capital of Sinhala Kings from the 14th century.  It was a fortified city known as Jayawardanapura Kotte, and by the 15th century during the reign of  the famous Sinhala King Parakramabahu VI (1411-1467CE), it had expanded and developed to be a fabulous city. 
  •  The Dalada Maligawa of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, was one of the most spectacular Buddhist structures in the country at the time of arrival of the Portuguese to Sri Lanka. This monumental religious structure was completely destroyed by the Portuguese.
  • In 1575, the Portuguese set fire to the historic Kelani Rajamaha Viharaya and destroyed it completely. At that time, Kelani  viharaya was the foremost shrine and monastery of the island’s Buddhist community.  At that time, the Buddhist community accounted for almost 99% of the population of the country.  All lands that belonged to Kelani Rajamaha Viharaya were taken over by the Portuguese and given to the Catholic Church.
  •  Among other colossal Buddhist vihare and monastery complexes completely destroyed by the Portuguese were:  

     Mapitigama Rajamaha viharaya,  Wattala Rajamaha viharaya

Devinuwara Rajamaha viharaya and associated buildings besides    the Munneswaram Kovila in Chilaw.  

  • The Portuguese plundered and destroyed all prominent  Buddhist Seats of Learning, most notably :

The famous Vijayaba  Pirvena of Totagamuwa,

The Padmavathi Pirivena of Keragala and

The Sunethra Devi  Pirivena of Pepiliyana.

These were seats of learning associated with reputed Sinhala Buddhist scholars and literary icons at the time, such as Most Venerable  Totagamuwe Sri Rahula and  Most venerable Veedagama Maitreya Nayaka Theras. All lands that belonged to these seats of learning were taken away and given to the Catholic church. 

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane


  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Colonials left after destroying most of Sri Lanka, Buddhism and the Sinhalese race. Traitor anti Buddhist, anti Sri
    Lanka, anti Sinhalese UNPatriotic_rats took over the job to please their ardent supporters tamils, mussies and
    catholics for their votes. Since SWRD broke away from the UNPatritoic_rats, the traitors have been dividing
    Sinhalese and making the minorities king makers in Sri Lanka. As a result, Sinhalese have become helpless,
    voicelss pariahs in their own land. Even where the Sinhalese should live, how national anthem is sung,
    who should be in our national team, what the prelates should say etc. etc. decided by tamils, mussies and
    catholics for us. Divided Sinhalese are easy prey for the traitor foreigners and the destruction of the Sinhalese
    race, Buddhism and Sri Lanka goes on without any hindrance.

    Sri Lanka has been ruled by the biggest traitor eve rin the history of the country (probably only second to its
    traitor alugosuwa uncle thambi mudiyanselage jr@ who introduced the new constitution, 13, 13A) Batalande wa(n)dakaya Pol Pot r@ni_leech wickrama Sinhala killer and during the past 4 years the destruction gathered
    pace and the project is nearly complete to the delight of tamils, mussies and catholics. Sinhalese should unite
    under a Buddhist leader and wipe out these traitor UNPatriotic_rats along with its henchmen jaathidhrohee
    vermins party led by Batalande wa(n)dakaya’s church acolyte buddy A K de lapaya for good for Sinhalese, Buddhism and Sri Lanka to survive. This is the last, last, last chance Sinhalese!

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Traitor anti Sinhalese, anti Buddist, anti Sri Lanka UNPatritoic_rats treacheries. You can’t see these in so called
    Buddhist (on paper) Sri Lanka where all the media are controlled by UNPatriotic_rats henchmen. In addition to
    following UNPatritoic_rats are responsible for creating ever Mother Lanka dismembering diasporats, new
    constitution to break up Sri Lanka, giving citizenship to 650,000+ estate tamils who were prepared to go tn
    under Sirima-Shasthri Pact in 1963 for a greater drealam, stopping teaching history/Buddhism in schools to
    please tamils, mussies and catholics, turning a blind eye to destruction of Buddhism in the east and north
    by fast breeding mussies and tamils etc. etc.

  3. aloy Says:

    “For varied reasons, many members of the landed aristocracy in coastal areas embraced Christianity. They often took Portuguese surnames at baptism.”

    Not true; they only took Christian first names for whatever reason, but remained loyal to the country to this day. It is good if all keep that in mind. I have often seen that many commentators put Catholics also in the same basket as the minorities who are all out to betray the country. How ever it is a bunch of Sinhala Buddhist who are going to do the same thing that happened circa 1505.

    Beside harping on the glorious past or accusing Portuguese of crimes committed, why not we find out how they came here and why we cannot do similar things by making advances in technology?. It seems a century or so before they arrived here, we were also a powerful seafaring nation. What went wrong?. Take lessons from history and plan for the future.

  4. aloy Says:

    A future leader should not have so many advisers to the same extent MR had. It seems he had sixty odd advisers and as a result we are in this precarious situation.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    Aloy wrote “Beside harping on the glorious past or accusing Portuguese of crimes committed, why not we find out how they came here and why we cannot do similar things by making advances in technology?. It seems a century or so before they arrived here, we were also a powerful seafaring nation. What went wrong?. Take lessons from history and plan for the future.”

    I generally agree with what Aloy said.

    However, as a people still pandering to the dominant and rich Western civilization of the present, we need to restore our sense of self-worth by recognizing that in the past we too were an ascendent civilization that had achieved as much as the Portuguese except murder and steal other people wealth without pity, and that we still have what it takes within us to become great again. Besides, as nations wax and wane throughout history, Great Empires Rise and Fall, the old lose ground and the new has become ascendent, only to lose ground again as the old undergoes revival. The ascendency of China we are witnessing now is an example. Likewise, nothing prevents Sri Lanka from becoming great again!

    Especially for our children, our national hope for the future, it is ESSENTIAL that we inculcate in them that self of pride and self-worth and the greatness of our storied history.

    Without that sense of self-worth, our Sinhala Buddhist society will not survive as a cohesive whole. Gradually our children will embrace foreign customs, foreign names, and foreign faiths not knowing that they have been incredibly fortunate to have inherited a rich heritage worth preserving just by being born in Sri Lanka.

    As W.D. Amaradeva sang in “Sasarawasana Thuru”: ” Tissa wawai Sigiriyayi magey urumayai, Nim kata hela ran deraney yali upadinnata, meva hethu wasana, meva hethu wasana….! These sentiments drive most patriotic Sinhalese, as it does me in everything I do!

    We cannot move away from these deeply-embedded sentiments, without losing every bit of motivation that drives us as a people towards progress, survival and greatness! Our national history testifies to that!


    In 1999 the Catholic Church was publicly seeking forgiveness for the errors, injustices and human rights offences it committed in the past. The Church asked pardon for the sins and weaknesses of Catholics down the ages. Among the Church’s past sins, was “the use of force in order to impose the truth” — an apparent reference to forced conversions. The Pope was seeking pardon for “the failure to respect and defend human rights.”

  7. Dilrook Says:

    We must acknowledge the horrors and destruction by all invaders – Tamils, Kalingas (Oriya), Portuguese, Dutch, English, Japanese, Malay hired soldeirs, etc.

    They all caused some form of destruction.

    However, at the same time, some of these invasions stopped the possibility of other (far worse) invasions.

    e.g. A Mughal invasion could have proven far more barbaric than all medieval and older invasions.

    e.g. A barbaric Japenese invasion could have totally destroyed the island nation like Manchuria, etc.

  8. Dilrook Says:

    We must learn from the past and avoid these in the future.

    However, sadly we don’t seem to learn. NATO countries control at least 3 likely presidential election candidates. Obviously they will sign MCC and SOFA deals when they come to power. Strangely, there will be henchmen who will justify these and even blame predecessors (who refused to sign them).

    Dogmatic beliefs also contribute to the disastrous situation Sri Lanka is in. At this rate Sri Lanka will end up worse than Thailand, Cambodia and Burma which are unfortunately world famous for wrong reasons.

  9. Randeniyage Says:

    You seems to know very little on this subject.
    He needed a lot of advisers, it was a good thing.
    Without advisers , I can’t imagine what would have happened under him !

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