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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.