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Last days of Sri Wickrama Rajasingha

The last monarch of the Kandyan Kingdom died on January 30, 1832 thus completing 181 years. The monarch turned out to be a tyrant in the last phase of his rule. When Rajadi Rajasinghe died on July 16, 1798 due to a sudden misadventure, Kannasamy, 18 years of age, looking after the King's Tampala (amarant) garden" (nothoscerua brachiata") was crowned the King of Kandy and ascended to the throne on July 17, 1798 with the full blessings of Pilamatalawa who was the chief of the deceased king's court.

This day is significant to us as the first British Governor Frederick North assumed duties in Colombo in October 1798 and there were 29 British Governors up to 1948. This was the year that Ceylon was declared a crown colony. Hugh Cleghorn was the Secretary and three other young Englishmen were brought to assist in the administration of the island.

Kannasamy who assumed kingship as Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe was caught as a prisoner in Medamahanuwara Udupitiye Gammahage's house and brought as a prisoner to Kandy. The event marked the end of 2,358 years of rule by the kings and the sovereignty enjoyed by the Sinhalese. Though Pilimatalawa placed Kannasamy as the king soon there developed a displeasure between the two.

The adigar bribed the royal cook to poison the food given to the king. He persuaded the barber to cut the ears and neck of the king, but such attempts did not succeed. He bribed a Malay Muhandiram to kill the king and Siyambalapitiye Satambi to stab the king in the bathroom.

Doubts, suspicious, gossip mistrust and grudges were the elements the king harboured in his mind against everybody who mattered in the kingdom. Once when the king set off to Dumbara with his chiefs closer to Buwelikada, Mampitiya complained of an indigestion and returned to his residence. Mampitiya and the king were very close to each other that they even exchanged their produce in the gardens. King sent vegetables from his homegarden and Mampitiye exchanged spices.

Friendship

One of the chiefs who was jealous of the friendship made this an occasion to set up the king against Mampitiya. He sneaked to the king that Mampitiya stayed behind to spend the time with 'hali-ela mahattayo' the chief lady-in-waiting at the palace. The king without making any inquiries ordered Mamptiya to be impaled. Mampitiya's wife who had the strength of several men, on hearing this pleaded on behalf of her husband and ran all over the city cursing the king, but of no use.

He was killed in 1812 and Ehelepola was made the Prime Minister. The king wished that all his ministers should please him without any heed to the accepted customs, norms and principles of governance. He killed the stapper in his Court Ratwatte and Leuke Disawa of four Koralas who negotiated a treaty with the Dutch. He also killed Ven. Paranatala dressed in robes against the protests of the Maha Sangha.

Revenue

He sent his Prime Minister Ehelepola Disawa to Sabaragamuwa to collect the due revenue to the Royal Treasury. A nindagama known as Bisogama did not pay the royalty to the king and they said they paid the dues from arecanuts only during the Portuguese occupation. The king was not happy about this explanation. Once Ehelepola told the king that the royal granary was getting empty soon by feeding The families of Kachchi Nayakkar, Kattu Nayakkar, Rengasamy Nayakkar and Muththusamy Nayakkar were among them.

The king retorted, "what is the use of the kingship if I can't treat my relations" and ordered his Prime Minister to tell every chief in the Disawa's to get all fallow lands in the kingdom cultivated and deliver the produce to his palance. Pussella who was the Disawa of Nuwarakalaviya, chief of the royal drug stores and Mahagabada Nilame who got a special brew "red arrack" distilled and gave the king to drink was impaled after some false allegations made against him by the other chiefs.

Pussella gave the king an old book containing Dethiswada or the 32 ways to torture an offender. When Pussella himself was tortured and put to death his yell was heard by the Bhikkhus in Malwatte Temple.

Molligoda told the monarch that Ehelepola was employing the smiths of Sabaragamuwa to make a golden crown and a throne for him to become the King of Kandy. The information was enough reason for the king to take revenge from his Prime Minister. Adding fuel to fire Molligoda told the king that when Ehelepola met anyone from Senkadagala area he used to ask "How is that Tamil fellow getting on?" The king ordered Ehelepola to return to Senkadagala immediately and the most brutal human slaughter recorded in history was thus staged in the city. The king ordered the two male children to be beheaded and the females to be drowned in Bogambara Wewa. The incident took place on May 14, 1814. It was the year that some Weslyan priests arrived in Colombo.

The Colombo Governor permitted the Moors and Tamils to buy properties in Fort and Pettah. The rajakari system was also abolished. A State bank for savings was started and the tappal service between Colombo and Kandy was inaugurated.

British troops

After the slaughter of the Ehelepola family it is reported that for three days no fire was lit in any house and the sun did not set to Senakadagala for three days. The Governor in Colombo was waiting for an opportunity to send the British troops and an incident where the king got hold of some British soldiers and killed some and sent others to Colombo with their hands severed and tied round the neck. The incident was enough provocation to expedite the siege of the Kandyan Kingdom. The Sinhalese too were waiting for an opportune moment to get rid of the king.

Last phase

The king fled from Senkadagala to a fortress retreat in Medamahanuwara and was finally caught in the House of Udupitiya Gammahe with two of his queens.

The queens were Moodu Kannamma and Venkata Rangammal who were two sisters. The other two queens were two sisters Venkata Jammal and Venkata Rangammal. The four sisters also died in Vellore long after the king.

The first two queens died in 1852 and 1886. the other two died in 1861 and 1868. Two of the queens were in Hanwella at the time of the arrest. Some of the others who accompanied the king were Amunugama Bathwadana Nilame, Madugalle Haluwadana Nilame, Madugalle Rate Rala, Polwatte Madappu Rala, Talmuke Paindakarawana Nilame, Arattana Moolachariya, Ambagastenne Lekam and Harispattuwe Sudu Kolla.

Sudu Kolla was brought up at the palace itself as a pet of the king and he looked after the fish in the lake feeding them.

The king planned to hide in a rock fortress in Gale Nuwara (Hunnasgiriya), but Ambagastenne Lekam missed the route and led the party to Udupitiya. John D'Oyly in a report to the British had written that the king was sighted near Medamahanuwara Temple and an armed party sent by Ehelepola too were close by. Simultaneously, the English set a group to arrest the king.

General D'Oyly led his troops supported by Cols. Hardy and Hook, Captains D. Booth, Creesy Kuppan, Lieutenants Colart, Sethan with Adigars Ehelepola, Molligoda, Pilimatalawe Disawe, Mudliyar Jayawardana, a Malay Muhandiram, Mohottalas Ekneligoda, Kaudumunna, Thorawahera, Kurundumunna, Delwala, Mahawalatenna, a horse riders unit, people from Kanda Uda Pasrata including the people from Yatinuwara, Udunuwara, minor office bearers of Sinhala together with Malay and Bengal troops.

Finally, the king was taken a prisoner and brought to Kandy and sent to Colombo. Where the party lodged as prisoners could be seen even today in the premises of Ceylinco House in Fort.

The king and his party were sent to Vellore on February 22, 1815 in the ship 'Convolis'. The king was received by a high ranking British troops headed by Majors McDonald and Marriot.

The king was received with royal honours befitting a king and kept in the house of the son of Sultan of Tipoo "Fletch Hyder" palace. The king died after 17 years as a prisoner on January 30, 1832 due to an ailment in the abdomen.

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