Tuesday 20th of April 2021

English Tamil

If you have the title “Don” in front of your surname

2019-06-21 1890

In 1658 the Portuguese Administration came to an end with the invasion of Dutch and few of them turned this country their motherland without going back. They got the amnesty from Sinhala King Rajasinghe 11 along with whom they fought against the invasion of Dutch

According to the “Historical Relations Of Ceylon” composed by Robert Knocks , about the Sinhala Society , all the Portuguese who came in seek of the Kings mercy were warmly welcomed by him. Robert Knocks was a Prisoner

Kings Wimaladharmasuriya , Senarath and Rajasinghe 11 had granted amnesty to Portuguese who sought their mercy against the invading Dutch on 3 conditions, to live within Kandy Kingdom , to marry Sinhala ladies and to give up their surnames and continue with the surnames of their spouses. Accordingly they married Sinhala ladies from Thumpane, Asgiriya , Mathgamuwa, Pitiye Gedara , Dullawa, Bowaththa, Mirihalla. Govigama was the most heist Caste in our country. Other than Govigama ladies they were to marry Wellala and Pattiya castes. But still they had the liberty to continue their Portuguese identity by using “Don “ as a part o the Sihalese surnames that they got from spouses 

Sinhala Kings did not impose any restrictions on their Religion and due to non existence of Buddhist fundamentalism that time , they had the total liberty to follow the religion, Catholicism  After four centuries the whole lot of Portuguese had turned to Sinhalese only with the identity of having Don in front of their Sinhala surname. Wahakotte of Mathale had been their initial inhabitation which was a prosperous city where there was a Royal Palace. Wahakote was famous as a village with a Royal Palace according to ancient folklore. Still the evidence remain that that there had been a castle with a strong wall around it for security. There had been Castle built by Tamil King Elara too who was defeated and killed by King Dutugamunu according to“ The Ceylon Almance” , a government document of England.

When King Seethawaka Rajasinghe invaded kandian kingdom, the territory leader Karaliyadde Bandara evaded to Trincomale and got converted Catholicism . later on he had handed over his daughter Dona Kathirina and Yamasinghe , a relation to Portuguese.   

Yamasinghe had evaded to Gowa in India and got coveted to Catholicism changing his name as Don Philip. But when he came to know that the citizens of Kandy is agitating against the Kind , Rajasinghe , he arrived Pulam and went to Kandy along with the Portuguese Army. He was warmly welcomed by the Rebellions who appointed him as King in Wahakotte. He was the 1st catholic converted King to rule this country. 

Today Wahakotte is considered as a sacred city and “Mahagama” where the initial Portuguese started settling was named after St Jeseph Vaz. According to “ Gasteer “ a documentary by Mr. A.C. Lory , a British Civil Servant, what made Portuguese to come to Wahakotte was to evade ill-treatments by Dutch. 

Life style and Occupations

They were using a language called “ Punaskara’ a combination of Sinhala and Portuguese and their main occupations were farming and hunting. But later on with their expansion they entered in to trading and selling liquor though out the country was a major business.

During the British Regime , well educated Portuguese were absorbed to civil administration.   

Dutch massacred Portuguese who followed Catholicism to promote Protestant Ideology in our country. During this time the only religious symbol they had was a Statue of St Anthony which was protected by a Portuguese woman by hiding it in a chalice. At the moment this statue is enshrined in St Anthony’s Church which was built in 1838 at Wahakotte. When the Portuguese were prohibited to follow their religion by Dutch administration, Rev Father Joseph Vaz  came to Sri Lanka in 1687 in the guise of a beggar with his assistant to promote Catholicism in Wahakotte. Their center operated in night as a Pray hall which looked like a cattle shed in the day time. As you know he was declared a Saint by Pope few years ago, being the only Srilankan Saint. It was in 1705 that a famous Rev Father Gonsalves come to Wahakotte who gained a vast knowledge in Sinhala language and literature by keeping a close company with Buddhist Bikku’s and learnt Laymen in Kandy.  Later on he translated many Catholic Books in to Sinhala making use of this expertise. 

All the habitants in Wahakotte are related to each other. Their surnames are almost equally pronounced as Colombe Gedara , Kohoba Gedara, Bowaththe Gedara , Samarakoon Gedara , Wauda Gedara, Mirigalle Gedara, Mathgamuwe Gedara, Matiyampana Gedara Thumpane Gedara, Wahakotteralalage Gedara. Later on another group of Portuguese moved to Wahakotte who lived in Colombo and they are called by the surname of Colomba Gedara. Eventhugh they are Catholics by religion they keep on well with the Sinhala Buddhists of the area. Since they have been living in harmony for centuries gradually got adopted to the local culture.