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Survival of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka, history of Sri Lanka

galle fort

Survival of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka

The survivals of the Dutch occupation such as Dutch forts, churches, buildings, the Dutch system of law, and the favourable position of Dutch descendants, are due to the English rather than to the Dutch. For when the Dutch became masters, they destroyed ass vestiges of the Portuguese domination; they degraded the unfortunate Portuguese descendants by most cruel disabilities; they seized and destroyed Portuguese, “reformed” the Portuguese churches; burnt the Portuguese tombos, proscribed the Portuguese language and persecuted religion of the Portuguese. The English, on the contrary, preserved all they could. They employed the Dutch in the English service, retained their clergy and churches, kept most of the Dutch buildings intact and retained the Dutch legal system.


It is noteworthy that though the Dutch endeavoured to root out the Portuguese language, it survived to become the home language of the Dutch descendants and the only language of communication between the Dutch and the people of the country; and a century and a half after the expulsion of the Portuguese, a debased   form of Portuguese was the means of communication between the Dutch and English officials and between the early British officials and the people. Likewise in spite of all regulations in favour of the Dutch Reformed Church and the host of forced conversions, the Catholics were by far the largest Christian community in Ceylon at the beginning of British rule, as they are today.

Dutch words in Sinhalese

Many Dutch words have been naturalized in Ceylon. As in the case of Portuguese words, it is naturally the things that the Dutch introduced that still go by Dutch name. Such are for instance: kokis, cakes, (koekjes); aratepel ; bonchi,beans, (boontjes); hak, hook (haak); istoppuwa,verandah, (stoep); soldare, upstairs, (zolder); tarappuwa, staircase (trap); panama, penknife, (pennemes); lachchuwa, drawer, (laatje); kalukuns, turkeycock, (kalkoen); legal terms like budale, estate, (boedel); polmakkaraya, administrator of an estate (volmacht), kuitansiya, receipt (kwitantie); vendesiya, auction (vendietie); kakussiya, closet (kak-huis), karakoppava, churchyard, (kerkhof);  takseru, valuate, (taxeren); baas, (superintendent); notaries, (notaris); secretaries, (secretary); talka, (interpreter).

Incomplete account

Such is the brief though the incomplete account of the Dutch rule in Ceylon. Many facts relating to the Dutch government and the activities of the Company in this island have still to be brought to light, for, though practically every scrap of paper relating to the Dutch occupation still survives, little has so far been studied. The reason is chiefly that these papers are all written in Dutch, which is generally an unknown tongue in Ceylon and that the Dutch records were not freely accessible to the public. Moreover, these papers were first kept in the various kachcheris and were brought together only in the early 1990’s.

Dutch records

These Dutch records consist chiefly of public papers of the government, such as tombos, proceedings of the council and the landraads, memoirs and diaries of governors and other documents relating to agriculture, irrigation, education, and transactions with the court of Kandy. It is altogether a unique collection of valuable manuscripts of which a few have been translated into Englis.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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