Portuguese Tyranny In South Asia

A 16th century AD painting of a Moorish warrior with a 'Kunhali Sword' (Derived from the Zamorin naval cheif of Calicut, Kunhali Marikkar). An unique Zamorin-Arab sword type used by the Moors during their resistance against the Portuguese.

After the tyranical rule of 153 years, Portuguese left Sri Lanka in 1658 with humiliation. However the Portoguese influences is still manifested in Sri Lankan day to day life. The portuguese rule saw rapid absorption of many Portuguese words into the local Sinhala language language brought about by the interaction between Portuguese colonials and the Sinhalese people, mainly in the coastal areas of the island. A wide variety of words were adopted from administrative terms to military terms, which reveals several points of contact between the two groups. Even today more than 92% of the Sri Lankan Sinhala community has Portuguese Surnames such as ‘Fernando, Fernandez, Perera, Jacquiline, Fonseka, D’Souza, Silva, De Silva, Alfonso, Costa, Santos, Almeida, Gomez, Mendez, Corea, Guerera, Don, Alice, Rita, Dona, Catarina, Rodrigo, Rosa, Anton, Nelson, Marino etc.

Portuguese never let alone the indegenous women of Sri Lanka. few married and many had illegetimate relationship with them. For this reason, today many Sinhalese in the western coast, from Chilaw (derived from Portuguese ‘Céliau), to Colombo have relatively fair skin.

Sri Lankan Music owes much of it’s generes to Portuguese. From this cultural interc, emerged the popular Sri Lankan musical style now referred to as “baila”, which means ‘To dance’ in Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish. (Check this clip : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4tkJIaYQoQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

The term ‘Moors’ for the Muslims of Sri Lanka was also coined by these Portuguese generals. They named us as Moors as they saw us resembling the Andulusian and Berber Moors in North Africa, the traditional enemies of Spaniards. The Sri Lankan government to this day identifies the Muslims in Sri Lanka as “Ceylon Moors”. However, Moors have little connection with the African horn, but many of them are Hashemite Arabs of Yemen. Those Arabs who had made Sri Lanka their home, with their children and grand children found themselves cut off from communication with Arabia, but their descendants have retained the religion and observances of their ancestors to the present day.

Many Moors were persecuted by the Portuguese to take over the sea trading, which was the monopoly of the Moors. Eventually, the Moors sought help from their counterparts of Zamorins of Calicut, Kerala, in their struggle for liberation. however the Moors were defeated by the Portuguese, many perished, few traitors and cowards ran back to the central hills and settled there. Every resistant moment of the Sinhalese had Moors in their ranks. Moors have always been loyal to the country and were in the forefront of the struggle – resisting foreign invaders, winning back the lost freedom and consolidating the freedom won.

The truce with the Portuguese expired in 1658, leaving the Dutch free to resume the war. Kandyans and Moors launched attacks on Portuguese positions in the interior provinces of Seven Korales, Four Korales, and Sabaragamuwa, pushing them back to their coastal strongholds, despite fierce Portuguese resistance. Eventually, Portugal’s Ceylonese territories were ceded to the Netherlands. Nevertheless, there remain elements of Portuguese culture in Sri Lanka today from this colonial period.


Author: Mohammed Jehan Khan

A Soldier of Fortune who born without a silver spoon in his arse. Google my name to know me more.

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