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portuguese Burghers: The Portuguese Burghers are generally found in the North and East of the Island, especially in the East Coast Batticaloa District.

Their origins could be traced back to the arrival of the Portuguese mariners in the Indian Ocean at the tail-end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese Navy or their armed merchantmen did not permit women on board. When they arrived in these parts it was inevitable that they took for themselves wives from the places where they settled—they became ‘Casados’ or married settlers. In Sri Lanka the Portuguese Burghers are the descendants of the intermarriages between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese and Tamils who inhabited the coastal areas. Later, when the Dutch arrived with their heterogeneous European crews, these men took the mixed progeny to wife, creating, in large measure the Dutch Burgher Community indigenous to Sri Lanka.

Batticaloa, once known as ‘Puliyan-duva’ and called Mada-kalapuva or Muddy Lagoon in Sinhala and Tamil, is a centre of the Portuguese Burghers, often referred to as ‘Batticaloa Burghers’ even though they are to be found in Mannar, Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Akkaraipattu, and Kalmunai. PORTUGUESE BURGHERS: The Portuguese Burghers are generally found in the North and East of the Island, especially in the East Coast Batticaloa District.

Their origins could be traced back to the arrival of the Portuguese mariners in the Indian Ocean at the tail-end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese Navy or their armed merchantmen did not permit women on board. When they arrived in these parts it was inevitable that they took for themselves wives from the places where they settled—they became ‘Casados’ or married settlers. In Sri Lanka the Portuguese Burghers are the descendants of the intermarriages between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese and Tamils who inhabited the coastal areas. Later, when the Dutch arrived with their heterogeneous European crews, these men took the mixed progeny to wife, creating, in large measure the Dutch Burgher Community indigenous to Sri Lanka.

Batticaloa, once known as ‘Puliyan-duva’ and called Mada-kalapuva or Muddy Lagoon in Sinhala and Tamil, is a centre of the Portuguese Burghers, often referred to as ‘Batticaloa Burghers’ even though they are to be found in Mannar, Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Akkaraipattu, and Kalmunai. Here, one would find a little bit of medieval Portugal and the manners and customs handed down from generation to generation. The language used by the older generation was a form of Creolized Portuguese [baixa Portuguesa] distinct to Sri Lanka. They have a great musical tradition with Caffiringha, Baila, and the slow and stately Chikote.

As a tightly-knit community they have fiercely preserved their heritage and culture and done so with apologies to none. Their lives revolve around the Roman Catholic Church to which they have given sons and daughters to be priests and nuns. Several members of the Community have been active in local politics notably M.C. Pieters, F.R. Ragel and F.J. Barthelot, whose names are well-remembered by the people of the District as men of integrity.

Many members have moved to the Western Province in order to afford their children an education in English. Many have gone on to enter the professions and serve their country with distinction.

Here, one would find a little bit of medieval Portugal and the manners and customs handed down from generation to generation. The language used by the older generation was a form of Creolized Portuguese [baixa Portuguesa] distinct to Sri Lanka. They have a great musical tradition with Caffiringha, Baila, and the slow and stately Chikote.

As a tightly-knit community they have fiercely preserved their heritage and culture and done so with apologies to none. Their lives revolve around the Roman Catholic Church to which they have given sons and daughters to be priests and nuns. Several members of the Community have been active in local politics notably M.C. Pieters, F.R. Ragel and F.J. Barthelot, whose names are well-remembered by the people of the District as men of integrity.

Many members have moved to the Western Province in order to afford their children an education in English. Many have gone on to enter the professions and serve their country with distinction.

Some of the families are: Andriezen, Balthazaar, Croner, d’Andrado, Godridge, Holdenbottel, Ockersz, Outschoorn, and Vanderslott.

Rodiyas: This Community has been extensively researched by such eminent scholars as M D Raghavan, Raven-Hart, Emerson Tennent, Hugh Neville and Bryce Ryan. They were first mentioned by Robert Knox but have existed for several centuries before that.

Their settlements are scattered in the North-western, Central and Uva Provinces at such places as Kanatholluva, and Vaduressa, near Bingiriya, Henevela, Kadugannawa and Athalapitiya, Bandarawela.

When the need arose, Burgher anthropologist and medical doctor, R. L. Spittel would always speak out boldly. During the early 1950s, he noted with growing concern how pneumonia and other illnesses were depopulating the Veddahs. He wrote a vehement article to the press declaring that the backward communities, such as the Veddahs, Rodiyas and Kinnarayas, should receive special protection. "These pockets of degraded humanity are shameful anachronisms that should have no place in the present day world. They are festering sores in an otherwise enlightened land. It is time for the conscience of the people to be awakened to its obligations."

Vanniyas: Simon Casie Chitty provides a detailed account in the ‘Ceylon Gazetteer’ of 1834: "Formerly this part of the country (Vanni, the region between Elephant Pass and Medawachchiya) was divided into several independent principalities, over each of which a Malabari prince or princess, under the title of Vanniya or Vaninchi presided….. Pandara Vanniya (one of the original Vanniyas) raised a formidable insurrection against the British government; and being assisted by the Kandyans, they at once overran all the Northern districts, and had the temerity to penetrate even into the district of Jaffna, as far as Elephant Pass. His object was to recover the independence of Vanni, and to render himself as head of all its principalities…." Here is an example of Vanniya resistance to the British and of Sinhala-Vanniya cooperation in resisting a foreign power.

Some people might turn up their noses if they had to acknowledge some of these segments as their equals and that is where the problem lies. Ethno-religious and caste exclusivity has critically hindered economic development and social interaction. The continuance of this exclusivity contradicts basic human rights as acknowledged throughout the world today and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. It is grossly discriminatory and marginalizes communities because of the social and economic disabilities imposed upon them by age-old prejudices. Caste ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ are social devices designed to subjugate and dominate some segments of the population. Justification through religion or the ‘social order’ isn’t tenable in this day and age and the quicker these artificial barriers are breached, the quicker we’ll become ONE Nation that is proud of its diversity and multiculturalism. Concluded.

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