How Sri Lanka Got Discovered by the Portuguese

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In the year 1505 Francisco d'Almeyda, viceroy of Goa sent his son Laurence, or Lorenzo, with a fleet of nine, said in the order that he might fall in with some Moorish vessels which were passing by the Maldives. But this commander, instead of reaching the place of his destination, was driven by the wind to the coast of Ceylon, of which he thus, accidentally, affected the important discovery. The country appears at this time to have been divided into several kingdoms, the sovereigns of which were more or less dependent upon an emperor, but amongst whom there prevailed, at this period, the most violent dissensions and the most san-guinary feuds.

Don Lorenzo first cast anchor in the bay of Galle, which was then under the government of a particular chieftain or king, who sent an ambassador to him in the name of the emperor with a proffer of amity. This led to a treaty of alliance,* in which it was stipulated, that the Sin-gales monarch should pay to Emanuel, King of Portugal, an annual tribute of 250,000 lbs. the weight of cinnamon. His Portuguese majesty was, on the other hand, to defend the emperor against all his enemies. In commemoration of this event, and no doubt with an intention to signify the subjection of the island to the Portuguese, Don Lorenzo erected upon the spot a marble pillar, on which were engraved the arms of Portugal.

In 1518 Lopez Sugar Alvarenga sailed to Ceylon with a fleet of nineteen ships, when he proceeded to erect a fort, according to orders which had been received from King Emanuel, and to permission which had been obtained from the emperor. But the emperor had either never given such permission, or soon repented of the grant; for it was not long before some of the Singalese, who attempted to impede the progress of the work, were killed in a fray with the Portuguese.

Alvarenga was not to be appeased by a verbal apology for this outrage. Nor could he endure that his sovereign should be insulted by a black king. He accordingly attacked the Sinhalese with such energy, that they were compelled to accept of peace upon the following conditions :

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  • That the Portuguese should be at liberty to erect a fort at Columbo.
  • That the emperor should pay to King Emanuel an annual tribute of a certain number of precious stones, with six elephants, and 120,000 lbs. of cinnamon.

The Portuguese commander, Brit, who was a man of great courage, but whose inconsiderate facility had suffered his own people to involve him in these difficulties, sent a messenger to Cochin to inform the viceroy of his perilous situation. The viceroy accordingly sent to his aid Jacob Lopez Siqueira in a galley with fifty Portuguese. Upon receiving this little accession to his force, the brave Brit, who was on the point of perishing by famine, sallied forth at the head of 300 Portuguese, made himself master of the works of the enemy, and gave them such a signal overthrow, that the emperor was compelled once more to sue for peace. This Brit granted with the less reluctance, as he knew that his own people had been the aggressors in the late troubles; but he took care that they should treat the Singalese with more justice for the time to come.

In 1524, Emanuel, King of Portugal, gave orders to Ferdinand Gomes de Leme to destroy the fort at Columbo. Gomes afterwards left only a factor, a secretary, and fifteen Portuguese upon the island. A Moorish chieftain on the coast of Malabar, having learned that only these few Portuguese remained upon the island, and that he could easily get them into his power, accordingly set sail for Ceylon with 500 men in four ships. With this force, he entered the bay of Columbo, when he informed the Emperor of Cotta that a general attack had been made upon the Portuguese throughout all their settlements in India and that he had been sent on purpose to carry off all the people of that nation who had been left at this spot.

The Emperor of Cotta, who was embarrassed by this intelligence, was assured by the heads of the Portuguese factory that it was all false; and, if it were true, he had no power to comply with the demand. The emperor accordingly ordered the Moors to depart; but not satisfied with this determination, they made an attempt to carry off the Portuguese by force, but experienced such a vigorous repulse, that they abandoned the undertaking in disgrace.

A new fortress must about this period have been erected at Columbo, instead of that which King Emanuel had ordered to be demolished, though the Portuguese writers make no mention of the circumstance. It is certain that the Portuguese were now firmly established at Columbo, and that they constantly supported the interest of the Emperor Darma Praocaram Balm, who is otherwise called A bu-Negabo Bandara, and who mounted the throne in 1536. This prince thought it expedient to place his grandson Parea Bandara, or Dharmapala, under the protection of the King of Portugal; and for this purpose, he sent two messengers to that kingdom, along with a statue of the young prince, and a crown of gold. His Portuguese majesty was requested to place the crown upon the head of the statue, and this ceremony was accordingly performed with much pomp and magnificence in the great hall of Lisbon in the year 1541.

After the death of Darma Praccarum Bahu, the prince, whose statue had previously received the above-mentioned royal honors, succeeded to the power and dominions of his grandfather; but he experienced such a powerful enemy in Raja Singe, the King of Sitavaca, that he was dOM-pelted to fly from Candy, and take refuge at Columbo. Raja Singa accordingly made himself master not only of the kingdom of Cotta but of that of Candy, where he afterward practiced the greatest oppression and the most revolting barbarities both upon the nobles and the people. These cruelties appear to have originated in the feeling of revenge. The Canadians had taken part in the rebellion of one of Raja Singa's chiefs, named Flinala Lamantia, who had revolted against him, and, for some time, defied his power.

But what Raja Singa could not effect by force he accomplished by art. He made a treaty with his enemy on conditions that seemed very favorable to his ambitious views. Fimala Lamantia was hence induced to trust himself in the power of Raja Singa, who had him instantly arrested. He was afterward ordered to be buried in the earth up to his head, which was left above ground and beaten with clubs till he expired.

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