The earliest extant writing by a Singalese Christian is probably the letter writen by Dharmapala, former king of Kottes to Pope Gregory XIII in 1574. In it Dharmapala recounts his misfortunes since accepting Christianity along with scathing indictments of the Portuguese. (Bularium Patronatus II, Lisbon, 1868-1873, 219 f.)
2. The earliest literary work from Sri Lanka, presenting Christian beliefs and sentiments, is the Kustantinu Hatana (c.1620) by the classical Sinhalese poet Alagiyavanna, Mohottala (b. 1552). A ballad of war which however includes both Hindu classical and mythological allusions, references to the Incarnation of Christ and ascriptions to the Holy Trinity and to Mary.
The Story of Gnanasaundari (anon.. 16th ccent.) is an example of plays given localised versions from Portuguese originals, which casts an Indian woman in the role of a Christian martyr.
Other writings by Alagiyavanna include the Dahamsondakava (life of a Bodhisattva), the Subasitaya (Book of Good Counsel), in sandesa or 'messenger journey' form, and the Kusadakava (Kusa and his wife Prabhavati), 1610. (Refer Wickramasinghe 1948/1963.)
3. The oldest Christian literary work in the vernacular (Tamil) are probably two anonymous works: a drama on the subject of the Creation of the World and the Incarnation of Christ (Kammala, 1612), and the dramatic poem, Gnanap-pallu (c.1644), a 'spiritual pastoral' which recounts the judgement and restoration of both Jerusalem and Rome, symbol of the unfaithful and faithful Soul. (Don Peter, correspondence 1984.)
The Santiogu Maior Ammanai, was written by "the learned Pedro of the race of the Aryas" (1647), celebrating the shrine of St James the Great, patron of the Jaffna Kilali Church.
The poem Tiruhchcelvar Kaviyam (the story of Barlaam and Josaphat) was written by Arulappa Poologasingha, a mudaliyar of Tellipalai c.1699. (Peiris 1978.)
4. The writings of Joseph Vaz (1651-1711) in Tamil, included:
- A Christian Catechism, a manual of prayers and litanies, and meditations on The Way of the Cross. (These were later revised and reissued by Jacome Goncalvez.)
- A bibliography of works on Vaz appears in Vidyajyoti 59.1, January 1995.
- The collection of his letters 1688-1711 is translated in Perniola, 1983.
5. Jacome Goncalvez (1676-1742) although often named "the father of Sinhala literature", left also a number of works in Tamil. These include:
- Christiyana Alayam (The Christian Treasure House) - prayers, meditations and catechism (1725)
- Suvisesha Viriturai (Explanation of the Gospel for Sundays) 1728 - still in use
- Tarma Uttijanam (Garden of Virtues), giving the lives of thirty saints (1739)
- Gnana Unartchy (Spiritual exhortations). Fourteen doctrinal sermons (1734)
- Sugurda Darpanam (Mirror of Virtues and their Practice) to lead the soul in the path of holiness (1735)
- Five other volumes written 1715-1738 contain arguments against Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Calvinism.
Goncalvez' works in Sinhala include:
- Deva Veda Puranaya, Biblical teaching in Sinhalese verse. Folio, 1725. Tamil version also.
- Veda Kavyaya, Summary of Biblical history and teaching in classical and popular Sinhalese metres, Quarto, 1725. English translation by E. Pieris, Colombo, 1979.
- Matara Pratyaksaya (Enlightenment of the Kingdom of the Mature), Octavo, 1733.
- Dukprapti Prasangaya (Sermons on the Passion) in Sinhalese, Quarto, 1728. Many editions also of the Tamil version Viyakula Pirasangam.
6. Historical Works. The most detailed and comprehensive account of colonizers and missionaries is that of Fernao de Queyroz (d. 1688). The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, edited by P.E. Pieris, Colombo 1916 (Portuguese) and 1930 (English, trans. by S.G. Perera).
Other early histories include those by:
Paulo da Trinidade Conquista Espiritual do Oriente, 1636. (56 chapters trans. by E. Pieris and A. Meersman as Early Christianity in Ceylon, Chilaw, 1972.)
Joao Ribeiro The Historic Tragedy of the Island of Ceylao. Trans by P.E. Pieris. 4th ed., Colombo, 1948.
Philip Baldaeus A True and Exact Description of the Great Island Ceylon, 1672. (in Ceylon Historical Journal 1960.)
7. Collections of letters are extant, apart from those of Francis Xavier, from the mid-sixteenth century on. These include, for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the letters of Joao de Castro (d. 1548), Andre de Sousa (b. c.1505), Joao de Cotte (fl. 1560) and Joao de Villa de Conde (fl. 1650).
Those extant from the period 1690 to 1740 were written by the Indians, Pedro de Saldanha, Manoel de Miranda, Joseph de Jesu Maria, Miguel Francisco Ignatius de Almeyda and Joseph Gomez. Many also contain exerpts from, or summaries of homilies or debates.
The letters of Vaz and Goncalvez are extensive and they also left full diaries. (See Perniola 1983.)
8. Other writings in Sinhala from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries include studies of the Sinhala language or Sri Lankan customs and history by Pedro de S. Bras and Francisco Negone (c.1570-1634), Emmanuel de Costa (d. 1626), Pierre Berguin (1645), Simon Cat (c.1670), and Johannes Ruell (1708).
Letters and Annual Reports of the Missions in Ceylon and in the Province of Kandy, written by members of the Franciscan and Augustinian orders, the Society of Jesus and the Congregation of the Oratory in Goa are extant. (See e.g. M. de Sa 1912, 1924, and Documenta Indica 1948-1988.)
Antonio Peixoto (fl. 1620) wrote Canticles on the Passion of our Lord and also plays on the lives of Christ and the Saints.
9. Writings by Ceylon Tamils in the eighteenth century include:
- Tevasahaya Nadagama, a life of the south Indian martyr Devasagayam Pillai, by Mutukumara Pulavar (c.1730)
- Sattiyattinjeyan (The Triumph of Truth), an attack upon Roman Catholicism , was written by Philip de Mello (Colombo, 1753) who also translated the New Testament and part of the Old Testament.
- Lorenzo Pulaver (fl. 1750 in Mantotte) was author of many hymns to Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother.
10. Amongst the Oratorians from Goa who (along with Vaz and Goncalvez) have left works in Tamil, Gabriel Pacheco (fl. 1770-1790) is prominent. Writings include:
- Terappirasaiyin Tirukkatai (A History of the People of God), printed in five volumes much later (Mannanam, 1880)
- Alukaiykkuravai (Meditations on Our Lady's Sorrows) and two volumes of meditations upon 'the Mysteries of Religion' and upon the Rosary (all printed in Jaffna c. 1787)
- A life of St Francis Xavier is attributed to him, and also a verse passion.
11. Statements and confessions by lay-people (Sinhalese) in the first decade of the eighteenth century are extant from, amongst others, Simao Collaco, Catherine Bauzem and Simao da Cruz, as well as from groups of anonymous women and men. (Refer e.g. Perera, 1936, 222f.)
See also the petitions presented to the Governor of Ceylon by boys at the (Dutch) Seminary of Jaffna, 1704. (Candappa and Fernandopulle 1983, 113.)
12. Translations of Books of the Bible, and of catechisms, were completed by the Tamil or Chetty ministers, Franciscus Jansz, Willem Ondaatje, and Philippus de Melho, who also became knwon as a Tamil poet.
13. In addition to those of Vaz and Goncalves, brief lives of Oratorian missionaries from Goa exist for Joseph Carvalho (d. 1702), Miguel de Mello (d. 1706), Brazilio Barreto (d. 1722), Joseph de Menezes (d. 1724), Pedro de Saldanha (d. 1730) and Joseph de Jesus Maria (d. 1729).
14. Publications from the presses established by Jacob Christian Pielat and Van Imhoff commenced in 1737. Included were Sinhala Prayer Books; and Confession of Faith, ed. by Wetzeluis (1742, with glossaries added in 1744 and 1790); sets of sermons (1740, 1753), Hymnals (1755, 1768), along with Biblical translations.
Henricus Philipsz (fl. 1750-1770), a Sinhalese educated in Ceylon and the Netherlands, compiled a Sinhala grammar, and a number of religious works not now extant.
15. Popular dramas with song and action (Nadagama) were written in Sinhala by:
M.S. Gabriel Fernando (fl. 1730-1750) - the Purana Raja-tun-kattwa, based on the biblical narrative of Goncalvez' Deva Veda Puranaya (above) and Mariginda nadagama, based on the life of St Margaret, a third century martyr of Antioch.
Philippu Sinno (c.1770-1840) - Nadagama on the lives of St. Josephat, Helena, St Nicholas and the 'Three Kings'.
Lengthy dramatic poems of this period included the Life of St Alexis by 'Santiago' (c.1748), and Helena Katava by 'Antonius' (c.1780), from the story of Orison and Palenten.
16. Songs and poems in (Sri Lankan ) Portuguese Creole from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been preserved in the Nevill Manuscript (British Library). This was compiled c.1860 from oral tradition and folk dramas with retained pre-nineteenth century Creole linguistic forms. Authors were Portuguese Creole, and in some cases Dutch and many items have Christian themes or imagery. (SOAS Bulletin, 2, 1995)
Abeyasingha, N. The Radical Tradition: The Changing Shape of Theological Reflection in Sri Lanka. Colombo, Ecumenical Institute, 1985.
Baago, Kaj (comp.) A Bibliography. Madras, Christian Literature Society, 1969.
Boudens, Robrecht The Catholic Church in Ceylon under Dutch Rule. Rome, Catholic Book Agency, 1957.
Candappa, E.C.T. & Fernandopulle, M.S.S. (eds.) Don Peter Felicitation Volume. Colombo, D.P.F. Committee, 1983.
Don Peter, W.L.A. Studies in Ceylon Ghurch History. Colombo, 1963.
------ (ed.) Franciscans and Sri Lanka. Colombo, Evangel Press, 1983.
------ Historical Gleanings. Colombo, n.p., 1992.
D'sa, M. History of the Catholic Church - India. 2 volumes. Bombay, 1912, 1924.
Goonatillike, H.A.I. A Bibliography of Ceylon. 5 volumes. Zug, Switzerland, 1975-1983.
Peiris, E. Studies Historical and Cultural. Colombo, Catholic Press, 1978.
------ & Meersman, Achilles (trans.) Early Christianity in Ceylon - Chapters on Introduction of Christianity to Ceylon. (Being chapters 1-56 of Vol. III, Paulo de Trinidade Conquista Espiritual do Oriente ed. by F.F. Lopes. Lisbon, 1962-67.)
Perera, S.G. (ed.) The Oratorian Mission in Ceylon: Historical Documents relating to the Life and Labours of The Venerable Father Joseph Vaz, his companions and successors. Colombo, Caxton Printing Works, 1936.
Perniola, V. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: The Dutch Period. 2 vols. Dehiwela, Tissara Prakasakayo, 1983.
Quere, Martin Christianity in Sri Lanka under the Portuguese Padroado 1597-1658. Colombo, Catholic Press, 1995.
Wicki, J. & Gomez, J. (eds.) Documenta Indica. Rome, Jesuit Historical Institute, 1948-1988.Wickramasinghe, Martin Landmarks of Sinhalese Literature. Colombo, Gunasena, 1948/1963.