Portuguese Ceylon

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 Ceylon
Ceilão Português (Portuguese)
පෘතුගීසි ලංකාව (Sinhalese)
போர்த்துக்கேய இலங்கை (Tamil)
Coat of arms
  Portuguese Ceylon (1597–1619)
  Jaffna Kingdom and area annexed Kingdom of Sitawaka in 1594–1619
StatusColony of Portugal
Common languagesPortuguese (official)
Roman Catholicism
King of Portugal 
Philip I
Philip II
Philip III
John IV
Afonso VI
Jerónimo de Azevedo
António de Amaral de Meneses
Historical eraColonialism
 Portuguese arrival
 Death of Dharmapala of Kotte
27 May 1597[2]
 Luso–Kandyan Treaty
 Surrender of Jaffna
June 1658
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Kotte
Kingdom of Jaffna
Dutch Ceylon

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)

Portuguese knew Sri Lanka by the name ''Seylan''. In 1505 King of Portugal instructed General Dom Francisco de Almeida to find the island of ''Seylan'' when he was appointed as the emperor of the East by the Portuguese. When the Portuguese were trying to establish relations with Ceylon, Dom Lourenco de Almeida, son of Dom Francisco de Almeida, and others arrived by chance in 1505 AD. So, the first contact between Sri Lanka and the Portuguese was established by Dom Lourenço de Almeida in 1505. 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)



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 Word Meaning Portuguese Word
Mesaya Table Mesa (Table)
Almaariya Cupboard Armário (Cupboard)
Kurusaya Cross Crus (Cross)
Toppiya Hat Topo (Hat)
Kamisaya Shirt Camiseta (Shirt)
Kalisama Trousers Calção (Trousers)
Sapaththuwa Shoe Sapato (Shoe)
Sidaadiya City Cidade (City)
Bébadda (colloq.) Drunkard Bêbado (drunkard)

See also


  • De Silva, K. M. (1981). A History of Sri Lanka. India: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04320-0.
  • C. Gaston Pereira, Kandy fights the Portuguese. Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications, July 2007. ISBN 978-955-1266-77-6
  • Channa Wicremasekera, Kandy at War. Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004. ISBN 955-8095-52-4
  • Michael Roberts, Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period. Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004. ISBN 955-8095-31-1,
  • Abeysinghe, Tikiri (2005). Jaffna under the Portuguese. Colombo: Stamford Lake. p. 66. ISBN 955-1131-70-1.
  • Kunarasa, K (2003). The Jaffna Dynasty. Johor Bahru: Dynasty of Jaffna King’s Historical Society. p. 122. ISBN 955-8455-00-8.
  • Gnanaprakasar, Swamy (2003). A Critical History of Jaffna (review of Yalpana Vaipava Malai). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 122. ISBN 81-206-1686-3.
  • Senaka Weeraratna, Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese (1505 - 1658)

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