|The Catholic (?) Don and the Apostate Dona
R. A. Sirimanne
I am more interested in the case of "Don Juan" Dharmapala, the legitimate King of Sri Lanka who had been baptised a Catholic and thus qualified to be our one and only Catholic king. His "secret history" has certain fascinating aspects that seem to indicate that he too may have been a "closet Buddhist". In the first instance he retained the very Buddhist, and absolutely, non-Catholic name Dharmapala rejecting the title of "Don Juan 1, King (Emperor?) of Kotte." The King of Burma was convinced that Dharmapala was a Buddhist when he sent envoys to Kotte, with untold wealth, to buy the "Tooth Relic" the Portuguese had captured and later destroyed in Goa. Interestingly the Burmese observed the whole Inquisitorial farce culminating in the Popes representative cursing and pulverising the object they had captured. Its destruction convinced the Burmese that this object was a fake as they firmly believed that the real Sacred Tooth Relic was indestructible. Or had Dharmapala, in the course of secret parleys, assured them of the safety of the real Relic?
Dharmapalas theological loyalties remained an enigma even after his death. After a grand funeral procession he was laid to rest in a tomb in the Catholic Church (St.Peters?) that stood on Chatham Street. Very soon this became a shrine to - his Buddhist subjects! Would they have revered him unless they were convinced that their King Dharmapala was as Buddhist as they were? The Portuguese had a typically drastic "final solution". They razed Dharmapalas church and carted off its tombstones and other artifacts to build St. Lucias Cathedral in Kotahena! The remains of King Dharmapala now lie, accursed for ever (?), beneath the flight of steps leading to the Church. Would this ever have been done to a "Catholic King" unless a post-mortem Inquisition concluded that "Don Juan" had been, after all, an apostate who obstinately insisted on retaining the Buddhist name Dhannapala? How happy would be the churchmen, who buried King Dharmapala under these steps, to know that hundreds of thousands of feet have, unwittingly, stamped on the bones of Sri Lankas only anointed Catholic king who lapsed into apostasy (i.e.Buddhism) as did Don Joao/Vimala Dharma Suriya and Dona C/Kamalasana Devi some decades later.
It is thus clear that the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka NEVER had a Catholic king - let alone an "Empress"