Posted on September 27th, 2021

by S.A. Wijayatilake (former Principal, Ananda College) *

Three and a half centuries of foreign aggression and occupation – at first partial, but since 1815 complete – of the land had not only demoralized and emasculated the Sinhalese people generally, but had adversely affected the position of Buddhism in this Island in particular. The Portuguese, whose arrival in Ceylon synchronized with the activities of the Counter-Reformation in Europe, believed that the Flag follows Trade and the Cross follows the Flag. In the words of Albuquerque, The new heroes of Portugal are not her soldiers or sailors, but her missionaries. These were the men who made their way into the interior of India and who penetrated the furthest East. China, Japan, and even Tibet witnessed their presence and heard their preaching”. (Quoted by C. M. Fernando, M. a., LL.M. (Cantab) in Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon, p. 45, in Part XL The Portuguese Period,” of his article on the History of Ceylon. I should add that the late Mr. C. M. Fernando was a Roman Catholic.) Along the Western littoral of Ceylon the Portuguese established Roman Catholic Missions with the same thoroughness with which they built magnificent fortresses at every key point. Even as Italy, the premier Roman Catholic country in Europe today, has been recently civilizing the savage” Ethiopian with the aid of such beneficent instruments as bombs, cannon, and poison gas so her prototype of the 16th Century, the great Portugal, tried to wean the benighted heathen from the ways of evil by such gentle means as wanton desecration of Buddhist and Hindu temples of far-flung fame.

The Hindu Temple of a Thousand Columns in old Trincomalee was razed to the ground and the granite of its carved columns and cornices was used in the building of a fort. The ancient Buddhist Temple of Devi Nuwara in the South, which had evoked the homage of poets and of kings, was demolished, and only the story of its pristine splendor remains. Such was the thoroughness and the loving kindness with which the Portuguese, followers of the Prince of Peace, disseminated Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”


The Dutch, who invaded and later occupied a large part of Ceylon, supplanting the Portuguese, did not believe in pushing their religion forward by fire and sword, but adopted a telling tactic instead: they denied Government jobs to all but members of the particular Protestant sect to which they belonged. The British, to whom the Island was ceded in 1815, undertook to safeguard the interests of Buddhism in Ceylon, but, as too often happens in such cases, the British were at no time enthusiastic in carrying out their promise and at times were even actively hostile to the cause of Buddhism. They withdrew from Buddhism, quite rightly from their point of view, the patronage that Buddhism had always enjoyed under our own kings. They did their best to foster among the Buddhists a feeling of inferiority. Mr. (late Sir) P. Arunachalam, Registrar-General of the time, says in the Census Report of 1901: – Previously it was considered among Sinhalese rather fashionable to be thought Christians, and I have, in my judicial experience, known Buddhists taking their oath on the Bible as a matter of course. This is no longer the case. They are rather proud of their religion, and have even become aggressive to Christianity … The Buddhists, too, show a considerable increase in the number of literates. In every hundred Buddhist males there were, in 1901, six literates more than in 1891 and eleven more than in 1881, while the proportion of Buddhist female literates (5.2) is twice the proportion of 1891 and nearly four /times that of 1881. (Quoted in Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon. P.224, in an article on Buddhist Education).

What has been the cause of this change for the better in the position of the Buddhist community? I give the answer in the words of the same report, dispassionate and unimpeachable testimony as it is: Of late years, thanks to Colonel Olcott, the Buddhist community has awakened from its lethargy and made great advance in the spread of instruction. There are now Buddhist schools throughout the island, under the management of the theosophical Society founded by him, and really good work is done by them.”

      *     S.A. Wijayatilake ‘Ananda in Swaddling Clothes’ (Extracted from the Ananda College Golden Jubilee Souvenir – 1936)

2 Responses to “THE FLAG AND THE CROSS”

  1. aloy Says:

    It is a set products of Ananda College that is running our country right now.

    In the meantime it is worthwhile to find out how such a small nation like Portugal (present population 10million) conquered all those regions of the world?. And why it became so attractive to locals that our cricket team looks like from that country?.

    Well, there was one eccentric prince named Henry and he was thinking why their ships could not travel beyond the coasts of west Africa. And it dawned on him that the reason was a navigation problem. Their ships always straddled the coast to get an idea of their location. Perhaps by that time they may have had the use of gun powder. So, he established a naval school to teach their sailors the astronavigation which they may have acquired from Arabs. The other europeon nations followed suit and the Brits excelled on it by making Ephemeris Almanacs for their sailors. Their government assigned it to Universities like Cambridge and it was there the first computer program was written by a lady connected to their royalty over two hundred years ago. They still dominate the world up until today.

    Instead of singing praise to a school this is what our leaders also think of emulating. Discard all those ICTA rogues and look at how our neighbor Tamil Nadu did it. I wrote to our academics about three years ago saying we should follow what the guys in Chennai are doing. This is just by the way please.

    It was as a result of Mr. SWRD Bandaranayak’s prudent policies that a large number of rural youths got benefitted from free education. He laid a solid foundation for science and English education during the short period he lived as PM, even though some Colombians say that he did nothing.

    Even during my days in the university those that came from Ananda thought themselves as ‘having gone through the mill’ because of higher social background they came from and nothing else.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Running the country with a set from Ananda is much better than being run by sets from unpatriotic Royalists, Thomians and Josephians!

    These three schools have so far produced the most number of Anti Sri Lanka, Anti Sinhala and Anti Buddhist political leaders. In the sixties they famously tried th Catholic Coup and from then on supported all the secessionist forces in the island to balkanize Sri Lanka into regions of minority rule. Although this is history for the time being, their venom is still active and potent.

    As for Bandaranaike, he rode the popular sentiment of the majority Sinhalese, to grab power. However, in the process the Sinhalese managed recoup some of the lost influence they had in governing, but the Black/Brown Suddas left behind saw to it that the country remained in constant turmoil ever since.

    As for the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, they are countries who got rich by piracy. They used the Christian religion to advance their hold on the natives by devious means. In this exercise by the missionaries, religion proved the better weapon than the gun in making a permanent foothold in the countries they continue to rape, loot and plunder. These belief systems are in the wane now in the very countries they originated or helped to propagate as these beliefs have less and less relevancy to realities in the present-day world!

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