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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Senkadagala Era

The city of Kandy lies at an altitude of 488.6 meters (1629 feet) above sea level in the center of the island and surrounded by the ranges of mountains. It is still very much a focal point of Sri lankan culture. It was the capitol of last generation of Sri lanka`s kings until it fell in to the hands of British in 1815.

Kandy was originally known as Senkadagala pura after a hermit named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it “Mahanuwara” meaning the "Great City”. But the name Kandy was derived from the Word Kanda, which means mountain. Due to it’s geographical location Kandy was not an easy target for the foreign invaders who could gain the control of coastal area of the island. Thus Kandyan culture was abler to foster and maintain its own social structure, mode of living, Art & Architecture. The kings of Kandy ensured the safety and sovereignty of the hill capitol and it’s great culture until the British finally captured the city in 1815.

The royal palace in Senkadagala was built by King Vikramabahu the 3rd of Gampola on the advice of a Brahmin who selected the site as a lucky ground for a Capital city. The first king to ascended the throne of Senkadagala was Sena Sammata Wickramabahu.

When Wimaladharmasuriya the 1st ascended the throne in the city in 1592 he surrounded the whole of the vast city with a massive wall to ward off the foe and also fought against Portuguese at Danture and winning king returned to the city with the captive princess Dona Catherina as his queen and further improved the city and his palace using the skills of the captured Portuguese worriers and made the city of Senkadagala as the Capital of the hills. Then the Sacred tooth relic was brought back to the city from Delgamuwa Viharaya in the Sabaragamuwa Province and the King built (in 1592) a two storied temple in the neighborhood of the royal palace, thus adding yet another religious building to the already existing Natha Devale dedicated to the guardian god of the City. Since then it became the most sacred and venerated temple of the Buddhists.

There were 12 rulers who ruled the city of Senkadagala from 1469 to 1815 A.D.
During the period of Vimaladharmasuriya the 1st country was prosperous and peacefull.but with the succession of King Senarath, lots of internal problem arose and as he was not a crafty ruler but a pious Buddhist who has been a monk before ascending the throne. The king retired to Meda Maha Nuwara “Central Great City “as Portuguese marched to the under General Azevado and destroyed the whole city.
His successor Rajasingha the 2nd was a strong warrior and during his time there were two Portuguese invasions ;once in 1630 led by Constantine de Sa and in 1638 led by General Diogo de Melo de Castro.Portuguse were completely defeated in the famous Randeniwela battle in 1630 and in the remarkable Gannoruwa battle in 1638 but the Capital was set fire by the enemy. Even Rajasingha the 2nd had to face the internal revolt in 1664 led by Ambanwelle Rala.He was supported by Dutch who had arrived on cinnamon trade to the Country and extended the Kandyan Kingdom over a large territory in 1658.Although he joined the Dutch in the hope of driving away the Portuguese, his plans and hopes were in vain as Dutch were mainly interested in Cinnamon and so was the king who thought it was a source of income.

The Dutch began their Kandyan invasion in 1659.The territories won by the king over a period of 20 years were lost to the Dutch in three years. Battle took place in 1665 and again in 1675 and the Dutch were made to suffer defeat.

His successor was his son Vimaladharmasuriya the 2nd and according to his thought king of the hills is also the king of the whole country so he maintained peace and harmony with the Dutch and as a result people were able to live without fear.

The kings of Kandyan kingdom sought assistance from Vadugas (Nanayakkars of India who spoke Telugu as their language) from time to time against the invading Portuguese.Vimaladharmasuriya the 1st and King Senarath brought down Vadugas from Tanjore and Madura to fight the Portuguese. When King Rajasingha the 2nd fought the battle at Gannoruwa against Portuguese there have been a thousand Vadugas.With them came their families too who later inter mixed with the Sinhalese population in the hills.

Not only the common man even kings having connections with the Nanayakkar rulers of India even started marrying from vadugas as It is said that the Kings took these decisions in order to quell the power of his rebellious chiefs who were trying to get the throne back and to continue a pure royal line unmixed with the nobility.also there has been a absence of suitable royal families in Sri Lanka during that period. King Rajasingha the 2nd and his son Wimaladharmasuriya the 2nd had brought princess from Madura.
With the accession of Sri Vira Parakrama Rajasingha, The last Sinhalese king of Kandyan Kingdom had the throne in 1707 AD and his marrying a vaduga princess from Madura the Kandyan Kingdom fell in to the hands of Nanayakkars.

According to the law of succession in ancient Sri Lanka, It was passed from farther to son born of his queen or from brother to brother or sometimes to his sister’s son. However the royal status of both parents were considered important. But Narendrasingha selected the brother of his chief Madura Queen to succeed him as Sri Vijaya Rajasingha following the rule of succession had among the people in the Southern India at that time. With this came the end of Sinhalese dynasty and king Narendrasingha was the last Sinhalese king to rule the country.

This king was never religious or courageous but led the life of a playboy. He was known to Sinhalese as the “Sellan Nirindu” meaning playful king. He spent much of his life in his palace at Kundasale and at Hanguranketha; The villages close to the city. He had only a few close associates and many of kandyan aristocrats were against with him. But many foreigners were among his close associates. They never encouraged the development of the Buddhism but was very close to the catholic missionaries in Kandy.That led to criticizing of him and there were several uprising against his rule.

After all these events and incidents, Birth of a great Buddhist revivalist took place in this period, the venerable Velivita Saranankara, who became a great scholar and a guardian of Buddism.The king was not hostile towards him and later encouraged him in his religious work a little and He died in 1739.
As there was no children from his queen of Madura his wish was to hand over the throne to his brother in law. This was not fully accepted by the community because king left a son named Unambuwe Bandara with a queen of unequal rank. claim of the brother in law was unsuccessful. The child was educated by the venerable Valivita Saranankara and ascended the throne of Kandy in 1739 as Sri Vijaya Rajasingha.As a result the royal court was divided in to two. The king embraced the Buddhism and helped his teacher Ven. Valvita Saranakara to promote his Buddhist activities. Sri Vijaya Rajasinha too married another Nanayakkar prince from Madura and again got married to another from Madura seven years after the first. But he had no any children from either of them.

After the death of king the brother of his Madura queen ascended the throne in 1747 as Kirti Sri Rajasingha.He got married in 1749 to queen of Madura and He strictly believed that only a Buddhist could be the King of the Sinhalese and helped to develop the education which has been suffered due to the influence of Portuguese and King Rajasingha the 1st and renovated and built few religious monuments under the guidance of Ven. Valivita Saranankara .Dalada Perahera was once again conducted with great fashion along with the four Devala Peraheras and with the king himself taking part in the procession.It is said that he tried to follow the work of King Parakramabahu the great of Polonnaruwa Period. So his period of rule is considered a golden period of the history of Buddhism in the Kandyan period.
In 1760 there was a series of battle between the Dutch and the Kandyans and it went on for about six years. Dutch attempted twice to capture the Kandyan Kingdom and failed. Even a peace treaty was forwarded to the king but he refused it. When the Dutch could reach the city and destroyed the city, The King took the tooth relic and vanished from the capital. In 1766 the both parties entered in to an agreement as it was necessary to seek assistance of the Dutch to drive away the Portuguese.Again the rulers of Kandy felt the necessity of some foreign assistance to drive away the Dutch and sought the assistance of first British were not that interested in the Kandyan Kingdom but later on having felt the importance of the Trincomalee habour they thought of getting assistance from the Kandyan kingdom for their war against the French.

Kirti Sri Rajasingha died in 1781 and his brother ascended the throne of Kandy as Rajadhi Rajasingha.The new king did not trust the British and sought the support of the French.British captured the Trincomalee from Dutch in1798 and defeated them in maritime provinces too in 1798.Then the British realized that it would not be difficult to establish their power over the island.

King Rajadhi Rajasingha died in 1798 and during his period again the kadyan Kingdom was collapsing in everything. Rajadhi Rajasingha had no children and the prime minister at the time called “Pilimatalawe” nominated an eighteen years old “kannasami” who was a distant relation of the deceased king as the successor to the throne thinking to capture the throne once the opportunity offered. The brother of three queens of the King disliked the decision and sought refuge with the British.So Kannasami ascended the throne in 1798 as Sri Vickrama Rajasingha.The king later disliked the activities of Pilimatalawe and in the mean time British tried to capture Kandy in 1803 and was a failiure. Then the British thought of getting the support of Kandyan chieftains who were against the King.Pilimatalawe infact approached the British for help. British thought of a tricky way of capturing Kandy and “John D’oyly” went on to learn the native language, associated with scholars, Composed poetry and studied the culture and belief of the people. That helped them to build up friendship with all the notable Kandyan chiefs of the time and learn the inside political story of Kandyan Kings

Sri Vickrama Rajasingha was a crafty ruler and did everything possible to make his ideas and plans true. He even divided chieftain on rule and drew his Nanayakkar relatives closer and appointed new chiefs like Molligoda in to high positions. The old chiefs like Ehalepola were made to feel angry and jealous on these acts of the King. He also appointed two chiefs where there had been one to administer certain provinces, so they would quarrel with each other. He punished those chiefs whom caused suffering to the poor people thus won the heart of many. The prices of essential goods were controlled and liquor was prohibited. He built a beautiful octagon in the Temple of the tooth relic for his use and the lake in front was prepared with forced labour. His decision to move out the four shrines dedicated to God Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and Pattini was disliked by the Buddhist population. King was shown with an uncontrollable temper and once ordered to execute his son born to one of the sub queens. In the mean time the enmity between Pilimatalawe and the King risen day by day and he was dismissed from the office in 1810.Then Pilimatalawe tried to assassinate the king through a Malay man and failed. As a result of his act king ordered to execute him with 7 others. Then the king appointed Chief Ehelepola as the Prime Minister (Maha Adikaram) but never trusted him and moved out to take charge of Sabaragamuwa province and in the mean time he appointed another person to the same province as Ehelepola’s rival. Ehelepola kept in touch with the “De Oyle “ and raised a rebellion against the throne.”Moolligoda was sent to destroy it and Ehalepola had to take the shelter of British.

King was changed to act as a mad person from then onwards. A large number of people including Buddhist monks who were guilty and innocent were condemned to death as traitors. Then the brutal death punishment carried out on the wife and children of Ehelepola shocked the entire nation. It is said that for two days the whole of Kandy except the Kandyan court was like a house of mourning and no fire was kindled, no food was dressed and a general fast was held due to that incident. Both the people and their chiefs awaited the arrival of British to drive away the cruel king. British declared the war against the king of Senkadagalapura on the 10th of January in 1815 with the advice and help of Ehelepola and Molligoda maha adikaram too joined the British.although the king fled to Dumbara with his consorts and few attendants soon he was captured and on the 18th of February in 1815 and sent to Colombo and from there in 1816 to vellore in South India.Then on 2nd of March in 1815 the representatives of the two parties The British and the Sinhalease met in the audience hall of Kandy and to sign a pact as the British are the rulers of the whole country.

Although the Kandyan chiefs and peasants and monks joined British to get rid of the cruel king Sri Vikrama Rajasingha, They never expected the British to rule the country. They only asked British to help to drive away the king. Kandyan expected that Ehelepola would become their king. People again lost their hopes and they had no king to rule or protect them and their religion. Then the people got together under the leadership of Kandyan chief like “ Madugalle” and “Keppitipola”. In the men time British took “Ehelepola”, “Millawa” and few other in to custody, as they were to join the new rebellion. British could over come the situation with the capture of Keppetipola and Madugalle and condemned them to death. From then British continued to rule the whole country until 1948 and Sri Lanka was offered the freedom on 4th of February in 1948.

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