Notes on Jaffna 4 – The Vinea Taprobanea

The Vinea Taprobanea by Philip Canjamanadan. (p. 94.)

Of this work Mr. Brito writes:-

This is a very accurate and interesting compilation, giving an ac­count of Christianity in Ceylon from the beginning of the 16th to the end of the 18th century. It was made by the late Philip Canjamana­dan, Shroff Muthaliar of the Colombo customs, from, as he explains in his preface, Cosmas, nicephoras, Dorotheus, Ribeiro, Baldeus, Knox, Cordiner, Hardward, Philalethes, Bohours, Dorego, and other early writers. He has also added a few well established traditions collected by him­self. The work was published in 1815. Notwithstanding the Latin name it bears, it is written in Tamil prose, and the compact terseness of its style renders a summary impossible.

True to the terseness of its style, the Vinea Taprobanea refers to Puthathamby’s treachery in a few words, which are ren­dered into English by Mr. Brito thus:-

Rev Caldero was decapitated in the year 1658 by the Dutch on a charge of his having concealed his knowledge of the treasonable cor­respondence which Don Louis Puthaththampi had with the Portuguese.

It is clear from the above that the author of the Vinea Ta­probanea admits that Puthathamby was a traitor, and what other death could have any Government imposed on him than the one which he met with at the hands of the Dutch, whereas his clan ignorantly and maliciously attributed it to the Dutch Captain An­drado?

Was Puthathamby an officer under the Dutch Government? Was he a Modliar? Of the four works already noticed, two are of European Authorship. Both works describe Andrado as a Mod-liar, while Puthathamby is mentioned simply as a Don Louis Pu­thathamby. Of the office he held or of the title with which he was decorated, they tell us nothing. The compiler of the Vinea Taprobanea is in perfect accord with the European authors in what he says about Puthathamby. Andrado was a Singhalese, a Modliar, and a Captain in the service of the Noble Dutch Company. We have the authority of the Revd. Dr. Baldaeus, the Dutch his­torian, for this statement. Did Puthathamby hold any position similar or even equal to that of Andrado? If so, the apologists of Puthathamby would do well to mention one single European historian or any other disinterested and competent writer in sup­port of their statement. The testimony of Mr. Mylyaganam can­not be accepted as genuine. He is a partisan writer. His ac­count is unsubstantiated by any recognised authority, opposed to chronology and history, and his statements, when put to the test, fall to the ground.

From certain facts mentioned by Portuguese, Dutch and British historians, in their accounts of the siege and surrender of Jaffna­patam, the conviction is forced irresistibly on the mind that Pu­thathamby was a prisoner of war from June, 1658, when the town was captured, to the following September, when he received cap­ital punishment. Henry Charles Sirr, in his Ceylon and the Cing­alese, says:-

Not content with the victory they had already obtained, the Dutch pursued the Portuguese to Jaffnapatam: thereby violating the articles of the capitulation, and after a siege of four months, it was surrendered, and the inhabitants were made prisoners of war. (Vol. l Page 250.)

Ribeiro says:-

After fighting with them (the Dutch) we had to retire to the first street of the village where we threw up barricades. Three days later they advanced on that position, and as we found it difficult to maintain it, we retired by night to the furthest which was nearer to the fort. There we sheltered ourselves and remained for four days, but they attacked us in the flank with their artillery, and compelled us to retire by night within the fort, where also all the residents and others from time town had assembled. And as this contained only the houses of the Governor, the hospital, and a convent of St. Francisco they all took refuge in the church and its cloisters, packed together as best they could.’ (Page 386.)

When active hostilities commenced in Jaffna, people began to take refuge in the fort; and as the news of one reverse after an­other inflicted on the Portuguese spread, it caused panic among the inhabitants, and made them seek shelter and safety within the fort. In this manner the folk of the town far and near found their way into the fort which got filled up within seven days. When the fort surrendered, they became prisoners of war. Thus the statement of the English writer is fully borne out by the Portuguese historian, who moreover declares that owing to the lack of provisions we all underwent great misery and several of our people were consequently attacked with disease and died.

In the extract already given, the Revd. Dr Baldaeus, the Dutch historian says:-

There were in the castle a large number of prisoners of war. All these gathered together and made a conspiracy. The leader of this impious Conspiracy was a native of Mannar, together with a Don Louis Puthathambv and five Portuguese.

There could not be the shadow of a doubt from what is stated above that Puthathamby and his accomplices were in the fort and that they were retained there as prisoners of war. How and when did Puthathamby get into the fort? It could not have been after the fort surrendered and came into the hands of the Dutch. He must have gone in before the investment of the fort, along with the residents and others from the town, who took refuge there. The native of Mannar alluded to by Baldaeus was one of those who after the surrender of the fort of Mannar started on the march of eighteen leagues to Jaffnapatao dead of hunger. (Ribeiro P. 385.)

It will thus be seen that during the period in which the author of the Vaipava-Malai represents Puthathamby as exercis­ing the office of the Revenue Modliar of the Dutch, he was vir­tually a prisoner of war under them.

On a review of what has been already said, it does not ap­pear that Puthathamby ever had anything to do with the Gov­ernment of the Dutch. Nothing is certainly known of him except that he was a traitor and that he suffered the death of a traitor.

Details from the book Notes on Jaffna, American Ceylon Mission Press, Tellippalai, Ceylon 1923. The entire appendix has been used to discuss the Andrado – Poothathamby story.