Portuguese Ceylon

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Portuguese Ceylon

Ceilão Português (Portuguese)
පෘතුගීසි ලංකාව (Sinhalese)
போர்த்துக்கேய இலங்கை (Tamil)
1597 [1] –1658
Flag Portugal (1640).svg
Arms of Portuguese Ceylon.png
Coat of arms
Portuguese Ceylon.svg
  Portuguese Ceylon (1597–1619)
  Jaffna Kingdom and area annexed Kingdom of Sitawaka in 1594–1619
StatusColony of Portugal
Capital Colombo
Common languages Portuguese
Roman Catholicism
King of Portugal  
Philip I
Philip II
Philip III
John IV
Afonso VI
Jerónimo de Azevedo
António de Amaral de Meneses
Historical era Colonialism
 Portuguese arrival
 Death of Dharmapala of Kotte
27 May 1597 [2]
 Luso–Kandyan Treaty
 Surrender of Jaffna
June 1658
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Kotte.svg Kingdom of Kotte
Nandi flag.png Kingdom of Jaffna
Dutch Ceylon Flag of the Dutch East India Company.svg

Portuguese Ceylon (Portuguese : Ceilão Português, Sinhala: පෘතුගීසි ලංකාව Puruthugisi Lankawa, Tamil: போர்த்துக்கேய இலங்கை Porthukeya Ilankai) is the name given to the territory on Ceylon, modern-day Sri-Lanka, controlled by the Portuguese Empire between 1597 and 1658.


Portuguese presence in the island lasted from 1505 to 1658. Their arrival was largely accidental, and the Portuguese sought control of commerce, rather than territory. The Portuguese were later drawn into the internal politics of the island with the political upheaval of the Wijayaba Kollaya, and used these internal divisions to their advantage during the Sinhalese–Portuguese War, first in an attempt to control the production of valuable cinnamon and later of the entire island. Direct Portuguese rule did not begin until after the death of Dharmapala of Kotte, who died without an heir, and had bequeathed the Kingdom of Kotte to the Portuguese monarch in 1580. [3] That allowed the Portuguese sufficient claim to the Kingdom of Kotte upon Dharmapala's death in 1597. Portuguese rule began with much resistance by the local population. [4]

Eventually, the Kingdom of Kandy sought help from the Dutch East India Company, with whom they initially entered into agreement. After the collapse of the Iberian economy in 1627, the Dutch–Portuguese War saw the Dutch conquest of most of Portugal's Asian colonies – Ceylon included, between 1638 and 1658. Nevertheless, elements of Portuguese culture from this colonial period remain in Sri Lanka.


Arrival and establishment of the Portuguese (1505–1543)

The first contact between Sri Lanka and the Portuguese was established by Dom Lourenço de Almeida in 1505–6. It was largely accidental and it wasn't until 12 years later that the Portuguese sought to establish a fortified trading settlement. [5]

The Kingdom of Kotte as a Portuguese vassal (1543–1597)

Annexation of Kotte and war with Kandy (1597)

Direct Portuguese rule began after the death of Dharmapala of Kotte who bequeathed the Kingdom of Kotte to the Portuguese monarch. [6] By 1600 the Portuguese had consolidated the main centers of rebellion, the Kelani and Kalu ganga basins, leaving the border regions to Sinhalese resistance. [7]

Conquest of Jaffna (1619)

Dutch conquest (1638–1658)


Administrative structure

Administrative divisions



Demographics and ethnicities




There are many foods of Portuguese influence that are still popular in Sri Lanka. For example, lingus and pastries.


Sinhala words for certain types of Western attire/ furniture/ food & drink are derived from the Portuguese. Some examples are below:

Sinhala WordMeaningPortuguese Word
MesayaTableMesa (Table)
AlmaariyaCupboardArmário (Cupboard)
SapaththuwaShoeSapato (Shoe)
SidaadiyaCityCidade (City)
Bébadda (colloq.)DrunkardBêbado (drunkard)

See also

Related Research Articles

Jaffna Kingdom Former Kingdom of Ceylon

The Jaffna Kingdom, also known as Kingdom of Aryachakravarti, of modern northern Sri Lanka was a historic monarchy that came into existence around the town of Jaffna on the Jaffna peninsula. It was traditionally thought to be established after the invasion of Magha, who is credited with the founding of the Jaffna kingdom and is said to have been from Kalinga, in India. Established as a powerful force in the north, north east and west of the island, it eventually became a tribute-paying feudatory of the Pandyan Empire in modern South India in 1258, gaining independence in 1323, when the last Pandyan ruler of Madurai was defeated and expelled in 1323 by Malik Kafur, the army general of the Muslim Delhi Sultanate. For a brief period, in the early to mid-14th century, it was an ascendant power in the island of Sri Lanka when all regional kingdoms accepted subordination. However, the kingdom was eventually overpowered by the rival Kotte Kingdom, around 1450 when it was invaded by Prince Sapumal under the orders of Parakramabahu VI.

Sinhala Kingdom

The Sinhala Kingdom or Sinhalese Kingdom refers to the successive Sinhalese kingdoms that existed in what is today Sri Lanka., the Sinhala Kingdom existed as successive kingdoms known by the city at which its administrative centre was located. These are in chronological order: the kingdoms of Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka and Kandy. The Sinhala Kingdom ceased to exist by 1815. While Sinhala Kingdom existed from 543 BC to 1815 CE, other political entities co-existed in Sri Lanka spanning certain partial periods, including the Jaffna kingdom, Vanni chieftaincies and the Portuguese and Dutch colonies. During these partial periods of time, these political entities were not part of the Sinhala Kingdom.

Karava Maritime martial Sinhala caste in Sri Lanka

Karava also Karave, Kara and Kaurawa is a Sinhalese and Tamil speaking ethnic group of Sri Lanka. The Tamil equivalent is Karaiyar.

Alagakkonara, also known as Alakeshwara, were a prominent feudal family that provided powerful ministers and military rulers during the medieval period in Sri Lanka. Although some historian say that the family was of Tamil origin originated from Madurai or Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, India. They arrived in Sri Lanka around the 13th century and naturalized themselves in Sri Lanka. One member of the family is noted for founding the current capital of Sri Lanka, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte as a fort from which he waged a war against encroaching tax collectors from the Jaffna kingdom in the north. The family lost most of its influence after its leader was taken captive by the Ming Dynasty (Chinese) Admiral Zheng He in 1411.

Vira Alakesvara, also known as Vijayabahu VI, was the last King of Gampola who ruled from 1397 to 1411. He was the last prominent member of the Alagakkonara family.

Vanni chieftaincies

The Vanni chieftaincies or Vanni principalities was a region between Anuradhapura and Jaffna, but also extending to along the eastern coast to Panama and Yala, during the Transitional and Kandyan periods of Sri Lanka. This land was a collection of chieftaincies of principalities that were a collective buffer zone between the Jaffna Kingdom, in the north of Sri Lanka, and the Sinhalese kingdoms in the south. The emergance of these chieftaincies were a direct result of the breakdown of central authority and the collapse of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa in the 13th century, as well as the establishment of the Jaffna Kingdom in the Jaffna Peninsula. Control of this area was taken over by dispossessed Sinhalese nobles and chiefs of the South Indian military of Māgha of Kalinga (1215–1236), whose 1215 invasion of Polonnaruwa led to the kingdom's downfall. Sinhalese chieftaincies would lay on the northern border of the Sinhalese kingdom while the Tamil chieftaincies would border the Jaffna Kingdom and the remoter areas of the eastern coast, outside of the control of either kingdom.

Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna kingdom Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna kingdom in Sri Lanka (1560-1621)

The Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna kingdom occurred after Portuguese traders arrived at the rival Kotte Kingdom in the southwest of modern Sri Lanka in 1505. Many kings of Jaffna, such as Cankili I, initially confronted the Portuguese in their attempts at converting the locals to Roman Catholicism, but eventually made peace with them.

Capital of Sri Lanka

The current capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. In the course of history, the national capital has been in many locations other than Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.

Kingdom of Sitawaka

The Kingdom of Sitawaka was a kingdom located in south-central Sri Lanka. It emerged from the division of the Kingdom of Kotte following the Spoiling of Vijayabahu in 1521. Over the course of the next seventy years it came to dominate much of the island. Sitawaka also offered fierce resistance to the Portuguese, who had arrived on the island in 1505. Despite its military successes, Sitawaka remained unstable, having to contend with repeated uprisings in its restive Kandyan territories, as well as a wide-ranging and often devastating conflict with the Portuguese. Sitawaka disintegrated soon after the death of its last king Rajasimha I in 1593.

The Battle of Mulleriyawa in 1559 was part of the Sinhalese–Portuguese War. It was one of the most decisive battles in Sri Lankan history and considered as the worst defeat of Portuguese during that period. According to local chronicles the marshlands of Mulleriyawa turned red with blood after the annihilation of the Portuguese. With this victory Sitawaka emerged as a military power which able to challenge the Portuguese expansion.

Lascarins Military unit

Lascarins is a term used in Sri Lanka to identify indigenous soldiers who fought for the Portuguese during the Portuguese era (1505–1658) and continued to serve as colonial soldiers until the 1930s. The lascarins played a crucial role not only in the colonial armies, but also in the success of the campaigns of the local kingdoms.

Kingdom of Kotte Former Kingdom in Sri Lanka

The Kingdom of Kotte, named after its capital, Kotte, was a Sinhalese kingdom that flourished in Sri Lanka during the 15th century.

Rajamanthri Walauwa or manor house of Rajamanthri is situated in Karandagolla, Hanguranketha, Sri Lanka. Rajamanthri Walauwa is an eight-room, 200-year-old mansion built by the last Chief Minister of the Kingdom of Kandy in 1804. It was fully restored in 1944. In 1970, Prince Gamini Rajamanthri and in 1972, Prince Samantha Rajamanthri, Julius Rajamanthri's two sons became the new inhabitants of the Rajamanthri Walauwa. To this day, the manor house is managed by Prince Julius' sons.

Sinhalese–Portuguese War

The Sinhalese–Portuguese War was a series of conflicts waged from 1527 to 1658 during the Transitional and Kandyan periods in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese kingdoms and their allies, against the Portuguese Empire. The Crisis of the Sixteenth Century (1521–1597), started with the Vijayabā Kollaya, the division of the Sinhala Kingdom, then centered at Kotte. The country was divided among three brothers resulting in a series of Wars of Succession. It was also at this time that the Portuguese, whose arrival in Sri Lanka was largely accidental, intruded into the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, establishing control over the maritime regions of the island and sought to control its lucrative external trade.

Bibliography of Sri Lanka Wikipedia bibliography

This is a bibliography of works on Sri Lanka.

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The Crisis of the Sixteenth Century was the later part of the Transitional period of Sri Lanka, that began with the decline of the Kingdom of Kotte, with the Vijayabā Kollaya in 1521, culminated in the collapse of the Kingdom of Sitawaka, and with Portuguese dominance of Sri Lankan coasts, if not control by 1597, over two of three kingdoms that had existed at the start of the century. The Kingdom of Kandy was the only independent Sinhalese kingdom to survive. The period was characterised by the fragmentation of the Sinhalese polity, intervention of foreign forces and constant military conflict.

Thome Rodrigo was a Karava Prince who was one of the three local nobles who signed the 'Malwana convention' in 1597, which was an agreement between Portuguese colonisers and the Sinhalese chiefs of Ceylon. He was one of the rulers of the Sinhalese monarchy of the Kingdom of Kotte in Western Sri Lanka.


  1. Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505–1658 (1920). Author: Pieris, P. E. (Paulus Edward), 1874–; Naish, Richard Bryant, 1891– Subject: Sri Lanka – History p.140
  2. Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505–1658 (1920). Author: Pieris, P. E. (Paulus Edward), 1874–; Naish, Richard Bryant, 1891– Subject: Sri Lanka – History p.140
  3. De Silva (1981), p. 114
  4. De Silva (1981), p. 100
  5. De Silva (1981), p. 100
  6. De Silva (1981), p. 114
  7. De Silva (1981), p. 115

Coordinates: 2°11′20″N102°23′4″E / 2.18889°N 102.38444°E / 2.18889; 102.38444