|Wednesday, 19 February 2003|
Last King of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Raja Singha
by S. B. Karalliyadde, former Memmber of Parliament
Dumbara is the land where several of our illustrious kings hailed from and it is a strange irony of fate that the last king of Sri Lanka was taken captive in this land.
Siri Sangabo (251-253 AD), the budding Buddha king, was born in Minipe now known as Uda Dumbara.
The last of these three brothers was Gotabaya (253-266). The two sons of this king were Jettatissa I (266-276) and Mahasena (276-303) who was also known as "Minneriya Deiyo". One son of Mahasena was Kithsirimevan alias Keerthi Sri Megawarna who ruled for twenty eight years from 303 to 331 AD. It was during his reign that the sacred Tooth Relic was brought by Hemamala & Danta. Dumbara occupies a glorious place in annals of the history of our land as yet another king, the son of Jettatissa
II (331-340 AD) who was the 66th in the line of kings - Budhadasa (340-368) was a world renowned physician. The other sons of the soil gifted to the nation are great kings in the calibre of Wimaladharmasuriya I who freed us from Portuguese domination and brought our land under one flag and his step son, the great warrior King Rajasinghe II. What a cruel fate befell the people of Dumbara who led many a war for the unity of this country fighting with Cholas and the British? But as history unfolds subsequent events will show that none from Dumbara participated in this operation to capture the king. This article is an attempt to draw the attention of the public on the 188th anniversary of the episode.
Kannasamy, the 18 year old young Nayakkar youth was in Hanguranketa in-charge of the Royal treasury.
After the unexpected and sudden demise of Rajadi Rajasinghe (1782-1798) he was brought to Kandy and it was Pilimatalawe Adigar who later had to face a catastrophe who was responsible for crowning him as Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. This tragic death of Rajadi Rajasinghe was on Monday 16th July, 1798 and the crowning of the new king was the following day with all the royal rituals observed. Pilimatalawa expected to succeed to the throne after this novice youth was expelled. This was the last Nayakkar king who ruled exactly for sixteen years, seven months and a day upto the Sunday 18th February, 1815.
This event marks the end of 2298 years beginning from Vijaya in 483 B.C. with a unbroken chain of kings who ruled our land. It was this heritage that we lost on this date. If we count on George III from Hanover dynasty who succeeded the Nayakkar and upto the Queen Elizabeth II we would have a continuous rule of 2455 years by kings.
By then Britain had become powerful in Europe. In 1803 Admiral Nelson defeated the French in the battle of Trafalgar. The defeat of Napolean in the battle of Waterloo also gave the British a prominent place as a powerful nation. Added to these the British had a strong sea power.
In the meantime on 31st January, 1803 Major General Hay Macdowell led a troop of British soldiers from Colombo to capture Kandy. But this expedition was unsuccessful as it was attacked by the natives. In January 1815 the king of Kandy attacked the British garrison stationed at Sitawaka. This incident provoked the British to declare war against the Kandyan Kingdom for the second time. The British were able to win the support of Ehelepola who was Disawa of Sabaragamuwa.
Molligoda Maha Adikaram and several other leading Kandyan Chieftans. The British once again declared war against the Kandyan Kingdom on 10th January, 1815.
The British troops were joined by the chiefs who were ill disposed towards the king and the people of the Disawanis under their leaders. Troops from all the areas marched surrounding Kandy. The British waited for an opportune moment to muster the support of the Sinhalese who were unhappy with the Nayakkar rule.
The atmosphere was created for the attack as the people waited for vengeance from the king for beheading Pilimatalawe (1812) who placed the king on the throne, the massacre of Ehelepola family, killing of 42 leading supporters of Ehelepola from Sabaragamuwa, killing of 70 leading persons from Hatkorale and various other instances of abuse by the king. By now the supporters of Ehelepola, Ekneligoda and Kodituwakku Nilame distanced themselves from the king.
On 10th February, 1815 the British entered Kandy city which was deserted by then. On the 19th D'Oyly wrote to the Governor Brownrigg.
"I have the sincerest joy of reporting to your Excellency that the object of your anxious wishes is accomplished and the king of Kandy a captive in our hands in the precincts of Meda Maha Nuwara and taken an hour before dark in the house of Udupitiye Arachi at Galleyhewatte a mile beyond Meda Maha Nuwara with 2 of his queens".
"Ehelepola, Ekneligoda, Molligoda, Pilmatalawe Delwala Mahawelitenna joined in this expedition. Don Soloman Dias Bandaranayake Mudliyar of Siyane Korale assisted as the interpreter and Don Adrian Wijesinghe Jayawardhana Mudliyar of Chilaw accompanied as a guide. The king was taken to Colombo from where he finally sailed in a warship "Convolis" to Madras on 24th January, 1816. Sri Wickrama a man of dark complexion with a strong build and six feet two inches in height breathed his last on 30th January, 1832 at the age of 52 years.
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