Funday Times - Our History

The arrival of the Portuguese
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history

1. It was eight years, since Vasco da Gama had sailed past the Cape of Good Hope. The King of Kotte at this time was King Veera Parakramabahu VIII. Pararajasekaram was the King of Jaffna. The King of Kandy was King Veerabahu. A fleet of Portuguese ships that had got caught to a storm had landed in Sri Lanka in 1505 AD. The captain of this fleet was a young aristocrat. He was the son of the first Portuguese Governor of India.

2. He was Lorenzo de Almeida, by name. The trade in the East was then in the hands of the Muslims. Their shipping route was guarded by the Portuguese. As a result, the Muslims had to select another route for their ships to sail. The Portuguese tried to block that route too. It is on their journey to block the Muslim ships, that they got caught to a storm. It is by accident, that they landed in the harbour at Galle.

3. They anchored in the harbour at Galle. From there, they proceeded to the harbour in Colombo, which was in close proximity to the capital city. By this time, the biggest market and the chief port was Colombo. It was successfully handling the trade in cinnamon, coconut, pepper and elephants. Arabs were the chief handlers, as they were the masters of the sea. They had put up store-houses named 'bangasala' to stock their trade goods. The majority of the population in Colombo at the time was the Muslims.

4. In Colombo, there was a mosque, a cemetery for Muslims and even a court of law for them. This tiny city was situated by a small river, which was a branch of the Kelani River. It flowed to the sea, somewhere near modern Pettah. There was a bridge erected across this river. There were roadways in the city. Near the mouth of this small river, there was a safe harbour for ships and other equipment.

5. The street along which the stores or bangasala were erected, was, known as 'Bangasala Street,' then. This name is being used even today. The Portuguese were rich rivals of the Muslims. Muslims had faith in the Prophet Mohammed, while the Portuguese were Catholic in faith. There were endless wars between these two powers for centuries. These wars were named 'Crusades.' The Portuguese wanted to grab the trade that existed between the Muslims and India.

6. Those days, it was not through competition that trade rights were obtained. To win the trade, they had either to wage war or take to plunder. As a result, there were constant fights between the two peoples. This resulted in ships carrying guns and other weapons. When Lorenzo de Almeida arrived in Colombo, the Muslims were engaged in loading and unloading goods in Colombo. When the Muslims saw the Portuguese they got scared.

7. Lorenzo understood this. As he was washed ashore here, as a result of a storm, he wished to meet the king. He pretended to be friendly towards the Muslims and showed that he was by no means against them. This European youth knew about the spices, elephants and the pearls of Sri Lanka. By this time, the Governor of India, had been instructed by the Portuguese king, to find out about these items in this country.

8. Lorenzo knew all this. He was very happy that he had landed in Sri Lanka, even by accident. So he decided to send a team of envoys to see the king. He inquired about the country from the Muslims. The Muslims however did not like the idea of these Europeans getting to know about the country.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
Other Funday Articles
The arrival of the Portuguese
The day - Poem for the week


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2008 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution