The Last King Of Kandy Was A Vindictive Despot

| by Dr. Sripali Vaiamon

( May 24, 2014, Ontario , Sri Lanka Guardian ) The Island carried on May 19th 2014,this timely remembrance, where it depicts, on 17th May 1814,200 years ago the king of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, had ordered the death by drowning of Ehelepola Kumarihamy and killing under the most inhumane condition her four children. which was revealed by an eye witness account of Major Devy. This incited me to excavate the dreary story of the most cruel despot who ruled Kandy as the last king of the country.

There was also a comprehensive description on the Bogambara prison and how that area was reclaimed after Ehelepola Kumarihamy was drowned in the lake. It was in the Lankadeepa, published on 10th of April 2014. where the Chief Superintendent of the Bogambara prison Mr.Tissa Jayasinghe explicitly described what a cruel king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had been. Let us be familiar with the region and cruel despot who was the last king in the country created a dissension in the entire island, on caste hierarchy and low country up country basis, which ultimately became an irreparable damage to Buddha Dhamma on creating a Nikaya disunity which was quite contrary to exhortation of Gauthama the Buddha. It was totally against the principles of veracity and fidelity of the Buddha Dhamma where Pharaad Sutta has clearly defined. This dissension on sectarianwise which has a vulnerable reflection over the uniformity and identity of the genuine Buddhism. Buddhism is an Anathma concept where there is no room for the intrusion of Brhaministic theories and rituals which are based intrinsically on Athma Vadaya.. The late Ven.Soma Thera made a valiant attempt to exonerate the position step by step but due to his untimely death it was not successful.

Kandy is the second largest city in the Island, situated topographically amidst the conglomeration of hills as such it earned the name KANDA or Kandy and Kandy became the Colonial term which we still adore with a pride. It has earned so many names from ancient time. Starting with Katu bulu Nuwara located near Watapoluwa , Kanda Uda Rata, Senkadagala pura, Maha Nuwara, Siri wardana pura, Sinhale, Thun Sinhale etc. It is a very congested city now but the present Govt. is planning to avoid that dense situation by building an under- ground road net work with shopping complexes and eating houses etc. Let us now consider what ultimately happened to Buddhism which was an irreparable damage caused by the South Indian kings who tried to make a vast gap between up country and low country and on caste hierarchy.

History of Kandy is starting with Wickrama Bahu 111 of Gampola(1473-1511) who ruled the city from Kotte as a semi-independent kingdom. Wickrama Bahu followed by his son Jayaweerea Astana, then Karaliyadda Bandara, Dona Catharina, Rajasinghe 1, Wimaladharmasuriya 1, Senarath, Rajasinghe 11 ,Wimaladharmasuriya 11, Veera Narendrasinghe, Sri Wijaya Rajasinghe, Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, Sri Rajadhi Rajasinghe, and Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, last four are South Indian kings and the last one who was up to cruelty and executed so many Sri Lankan without an iota of pity and mercy. He was finally grabbed by the British with the help of local leaders and deported to his mother country, after the Kandyan Convention, a treaty signed in 1815. Last Kandyan monarch ruled the kingdom amidst immense suppressions and interventions from Portuguese, Dutch, British and at the end by his own Adigars. Perhaps he became more aggressive, somewhat cruel in temperament and dispositions, mostly on suspicion. Still he executed some good works such as building up of Paththirippuwa and constructing of Kandy Lake, perhaps some may be with ulterior motives, so that he could hang on to Royal position for a longer period.

During the time of certain Kandy kings Buddhist monks were treated as Ganinnanse primarily because they have to engage in jobs to keep their both ends meet. People were so fed up with everything and did not provide Dane or other requirements to up keep the temples and monks. Upasampada was absent in the country. During the reign of Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe ,One Samanera monk, Welivitiye Saranankara discuss with the king and initiated action to invite fully ordained monks from Siam for which King gave permission and support. Rev.Upali from Siam came in 1753 with 25 other monks and set up a Seema at Malwaththa temple premises and conducted an Upasampada. First ordained Rev.Saranankara who was later made a Sangaraja. Buddhist Order had been extinct during previous 500 years.

During the reign of Narendra singhe he had to get military support from Tanjor and Madurai to oust Portuguese who created plenty of troubles in Jaffna. Consequently as a mark of gratitude he married a South Indian queen from Madurai. But he had no offspring, and no heir to the throne with royal blood. He was compelled to get his queen’s brother ascended to the throne.

Prior to that it was Konappu Bandara, baptized as Don joao da Austria in 1594 was known as Wimaladharma suriya 1, who did a yeoman service to Kandy. He brought the Tooth Relic from Delgamuwa Vihara of Sabaragomuwa Province where it was kept for the sake of security from foreign intruders. He built a separate construction of a two tier building near the Palace to place the Tooth Relic, with respect to sanctify his Capital. He repaired several temples which were in dilapidated condition and bestowed a Buddhist outlook to the region. It was during 1600.

Subsequently there were several kings who ruled Kandy but their contributions to the kingdom were nothing substantial. There was a plot during 1760 occurred during Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe and the above plot was to make one of the Siamese princes came earlier to make the king of Kandy but the plot was revealed and he was deported.

It was a very aggressive period with Portuguese and Dutch in the maritime provinces. With the assistance of Dutch, king was able to oust Portuguese. Then the British also entered the country. British was able to subdue Dutch in the maritime provinces in certain areas but not yet intensified on politics in Kandy. These foreign rulers while usurping the country had carried out some good works also. But always with ulterior motives. For an example, while there was no higher ordination in the country Buddhism was at low ebb. Dutch has freely agreed to relieve their ships to send deputations to Burma and Siam to get down ordained monks and reestablish Upasampada in the country.

In 1788, Sri Rajadhi Rajasinghe died without an heir to the throne. Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe who was a nephew of Sri Rajadhi Rajasinghe, just 18 and known as Kannasamy was suggested to the throne by Pilimatalawa Adigar. There was a rival claimant but he was ignored and the First Adigar promoted him with a deep seated motive to set up a Sinhala Dynasty. He gave his daughter in concubinage to the king with the intention that he would make her the queen, but the king married two other women of his own ethnicity from Gampola Nayakkar. This inverted enemy of 1st Adikaram. King had his coronation in 1798.Last four kings in Kandy including Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe were Telagu of Nayakkar Dynasty from South India. Also were known as Vaduga kings.

Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe desired to have only noble people around him. He hates low country people and low caste monks.

King ordered to select only the higher castes to the newly nominated Siymoupali Sect. Only Radala and Goigama. Thereby king created a dissension among the Buddhists in the island by originating this sectarian division. All the other caste monks were out of Kandy and mostly in maritime provinces. That is why he made this demarcation. To have only monks with higher castes in his regime. Other monks were mentally ousted who had to search other avenues to get the higher ordination. However he wanted to create two prelates at Malwattha and Asgiriya under the newly created Sect and all the monks in the country have to be under their jurisdiction. So the low country monks who are in other castes had to go to Burma and Thailand and got established Amarapura, Ramannge and their sub-divisions. This is absolutely against Buddha’s principle as stipulated in Pahradd Sutta. By doing this kings in Kandy created an irreparable damage to the principles of the Lord Buddha.
Why should Sri Lankan Govt. a fully independent administration with full sovereignty should follow the orders introduced and affected by kings who were confined to Kandyan region only.

Nikaya system originated in Kandy based on Brahmin’s caste hierarchy which Gauthama the Buddha did not recognize at all. This should not be followed against Buddha’s principles. It is high time to restructure it to suit the entire country in the present era. It is in the hands of the President of the country.

Appointments of Prelates should not be confined to Kandy region only. It should be opened to island wide, and should be selected or elected with the consent of Buddhists in the entire country.

Or should be structured something quite similar to appointment of Pope in Vatican.

Rev Sanghamitta introduced Meheni Sasna with which an enormous service rendered to the country. Our Bhikkunis went all the way to China and established Meheni Sasna in that vast country which is still in existence. But Sangha Prelates in Kandy do not allow reviving it and recognizing it although the Govt. have the full power to do it, as interpreted women’s authorities at the CHOGM Commenwealth people’s Forum held at the Chaya Tranza hotel at Hikkaduwa where Heads of Governments declared the goal of gender equality empowering women to activate their full potentials…which was approved and empowered the President ….on this now President has the power to recognize Meheni Sasna and approve it.

Sangha prelates now should be selected taking the country as a whole and the divisions in the Sangha community which is contrary to Buddha Dhamma should be done away with and have only one fraternity. Only Puttas of Sakya muni. Maha Sangha. Was it due to this type of internal dissensions last king had to face with numerous conspiracies to rule Kandy region which became a most turbulent period in the history of Sri Lankans history.

He imposed very cruel punishments particularly to those who are in low country and low caste people. He built Paththirippuwa to watch how his officers and executioners carry out cruel punishments to perpetrators by cutting limbs and impaling with sharp impales, trample their heads by elephants and drown women by tied heavy stones wrapped up and push to the lake that he built at the heart of the town. He was so blood thirsty due to his temperament.

Pilimatalawa gradually started covert operations with the British to provoke the king into acts of aggressions which would give the British an excuse and enter the politics in the kingdom. The Adigar manipulated the king into a military conflict with the British. These dissensions went on for sometimes and his atrocities to the subjects were so cruel and the responses from his own officers were intolerable and ultimately King fled. This is how he was caught according to D.K.William, an agricultural student who wrote a lengthy report. It is somewhat cruel but interesting. You could read it in the free internet, here I’ll extract a few paragraphs for the readers to get an idea.

British army advanced towards Kurunegala and then Matale.They met another army and with a Thambhi mudlyiar, Molligoda and Ehelepola Adikaram, Dias and Ekneligoda trudged a long way to a jungle area where the king supposed to have fled. Through the help of a boy they detected the house where he has hidden with two of his queens. Ekneligoda Mohottala went up to the door and ordered the king to open the door. No response. He broke the door. queens were frightened and hang on to Dias’s hands, Ekneligoda dragged the king out of house and shouted “Bring me a Kirindi rope to tie him like a pig and take him out” He was dragged out and entrusted to the army. On March 2nd 1815, king was handed over to British and they took over the ruling of the Island under Kandy Convention.

Dr.Mirando Obeysekara described Ehelepola in an article which I like to extract a few paragraphs with curtsey to him. He described Ehelepola Maha Adikaram as Ehlepola the great a leader of the successful coup against the despot king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and planned to overthrow because he ruled as a despot and he was a cruel tyrant.

People hate him as a king who committed numerous atrocities to innocent subjects by imposing cruel punishments.

Ehelepola the great was a very versatile person having a sound knowledge of English, Pali, Sanskrit and Tamil. Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe been a Vaduga king by birth always suspected the noble families and began to eliminate them either by killing or forcibly made them to leave from Kandyan kingdom. Up country and low country or rather high caste and low caste dissension was very prominent during his time in up country locality.
On the contrary The Great Ehelepola had helped people for an example, during this period the killing of excessive children especially female children was very concern in the Kandyan families. Ehelepola issued an order that no child should be killed on this account and that of any family felt that they could not bear the burden of these excess children that he would help.( p.217 Sinhala Social Organization.)

The king was not only a despot and cruel tyrant but was also a highly lecherous sex maniac No pretty woman was safe from his lecherous advances.

The king now had ordered to arrest Ehelepola Maha Adigar. He went from place to place incognito and friendly he sought refuge in the low country.

Gradually the British too came to know that the presence of Maha Adigar in their territory. To make things easy for him Maha Mudliar Adrien de Abrew Rajapaksha of Mahakappina Walawwa,Welitota, introduced him to the British(Old manuscript of Nilgalle Walawwa) When the ruling despot found that he could not be arrested, he arrested his wife and sister. He threatened the wife and sister that unless both of them agreed to have sex with him they would be killed or give over to Rodiyas.

To continue his atrocities, I ‘ll get an extract from another writer Amal Hewavisenthi with curtsey)

The brutal and indiscriminate killing of the wife and the children of Ehelepola Nilame is an indelible black mark against the otherwise resounding glory of Sri lankan history. It was a national tragedy which transformed the political cause of the country and spawned a moral upheaval for people to last for generations. Ehelepola Adikaram, the prominent Kandyan Chief always national minded and in the rule of the country was vehemently against the Kandyan ruler of Vaduga Dynasty.

His uncle Pilimatalawa Maha Adigar wanted to get the conspiratorial support from British to usher in an era where no king of Vaduga lineage of South India rule in Sri Lanka.

Ehelepola like his uncle was sharply governed by a wave of national view and intent to obliterate even the name of rules of Vaduga dynasty in the Kandyan Kingdom.

Ehelepola who is now strictly under British surreptitiously addressed the Sinhalese Kandyan chiefs by a letter where it says sinister moves of morally bankrupted have betrayed me though all Sri Lankans know how honest I am, the Vaduga king purposely wreck havoc my family …… It is the bounden duty of everybody to protect Sinhala nation and reestablish prosperity to our kingdom……King ordered to cut the necks of his children and put into a mortar and commanded their mother Ehelepola Kumarihamy to pound with a pastel…When she got fainted and fallen down a stone was tied to her body and pushed down to the lake, and mercilessly killed her.…

Sarath Samarakoon, another brilliant writer contributing an article to a paper had written to say, Pilimathalawa Maha Adikaram decided to get the secret and supposedly conspiring support from English to usher in an era where no king of Vaduga lineage rule in this Sinhala country.

King appointed Ehelepola Dissawa to the rank of Maha Adikaram following the official announcement of the death of his uncle who was beheaded by the cruel king. Ehelepola was sharply by a wave of nationalistic views and sentiments were intended on obliterating even the name of Vaduga dynasty from the kingdom of Kandy.