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Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram

Chieftains of the Kandyan Kingdom
"Although Kanda Uda Pas Rata or the city of Senkadagalapura was founded by Senasammata Vickramabahu (1469-1511) in the later phase of the fifteenth century, the real story of the Kandyan Kingdom opens with the absorption of the Kingdoms of Kotte and Sitavaka by the Portugese and the ascendancy of Vimala Dharma Suriya (1591-1604) in Kandy in about 1592.

After King Vimala Dharmasuiriya I (1591-1604), Senarath (1604-1635), Rajasimha II (1635-1687) and Vimala Dharmasuriya II (1687-1707), we come to Narendrasimha (1707-1739) popularly known as Kundasale Deviyo and fondly remembered as Sellan Nirindhu, the playful King. Keeping with immediate past practice he too married from South India and died without a royal heir. He had left a son Unambuva Bandara by a Kandyan concubine but jealousy and disunity among the ruling families prevented him from succeeding the throne. Narendrasimha anticipating such an eventuality, before his death nominated his brother-in-law a South Indian Vaduga of Nayakkar extraction to succeed him at the instance of his Mahesi Rammaloka the Adigar and Saranankara who had been his teacher and saw an ideal opportunity to promote Buddhism through him, even though it was something unprecedented in Simhale. Thus ended the long line of Sinhala Kings; and the later Kandyan story really begins with the advent of this Telugu Vaduga Nayakkar. Their dominance saw a regular influx of their relations into the court as aspirants to trusted office, inter marrying with the leading Kandyan (Radala) families and being absorbed by them and accepted by the people. "

" Next to the King, the last two Pillimatalavuvas, were the most dazzling personalities during the final years of the kindgdom. As 'King Maker' Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram III raised Kannasamy, an uneducated youth of about eighteen years to the Sinhalese Throne of Kandy in 1798, under the sonorous Sinhala name of 'Sri Wickrama Rajasimha', in the process over looking the more patent chance of Muttusamy, whom he imprisoned. But by Sinhala stand point both really had no such claim. Little did Pilimatalavuva suspect or realise at the time that this nominee whom he elevated to supreme power as King would very soon use that very power to have him beheaded.

Though the chieftains and the people did not approve of this awkward and unprecedented selection, none could exercise any retraint over this all powerful autocrat nor understand or appreciate his albeit noble objective underlying beneath this whole programme.

Outwardly, his act appeared treacherous, but just as all the citizens and Kandyan Courtiers lamented the tragedy of transferring the ancient Sinhalese Throne to the South Indian Vadugas, Pilimatamavuva too did not fail to realise this recurring tragedy. Therefore he intended quite manifestly to make a puppet of this youth on the Throne and to overthrow him at the earliest opportunity and rescue the Throne from an alien power, precisely as the historian Dr Covin R de Silva points out that "he aimed at the Throne himself intending thereby to expel the Nayakkaras and to re-establish a Sinhala Dynasty". "
"Pilimatalavuvas In The Last Days Of The Kandyan kingdom" by Ananda Pilimatalavuva
Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram was the third son of a family of Kandyan Chieftain who descended from an old established family which served the Sinhalese Kings from ancient times on one side and revived and restored by the assimilation with Royal South Indian nobility who arrived in the Kandyan Kingdom during the reign of Sri Vira Parkrama Narendrasinha of Kundasale. His full name was Pilimatalavuva Vijesundera Rajakaruna Senaviratne Abhayakoon Panditha Mudiyanse alias Urulevatta Agra Senadhipathi alias Arave Pallegampaha Maha Adikaram III. His father and elder brother also served as Maha Adikaram before him.

He assumed office as second Adigar in 1787 and was elevated to the post of First Adigar of Pallegampaha Maha Adikaram in 1790 by King Rajadhi Rajasimha. On the death of this King he used his power and position to enthrone Sri Wickrema Rajasimha as King even though he was not in the line of succession with the patriotic motive of re-establishing a Sinhala dynasty later.

During the time of King Kirthi Sri Rajasimha he built the inner sanctuary of the Sri Dalada Maligawa which an invader had left in ashes, and then in 1801 built the Asgiri Aluth Vihare also known as Vijesunderamaya after him, close to the Parana Vihare (Meda Pansala) built by his father. He has been described as 'portly and well looking man of great power and intrigue by Robert Percival and by Tennent as 'One of the most illustrious nobles boasting their descent from the Royal line of Ceylon'.

Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram's commendable trait was his love for his country and his wish to have a Sinhala to rule over Sinhala. Although there were many of the Bandara Valiya suitable to occupy the throne, they all shared a failing in that no one would allow another to rise higher than himself.

This inherent jealousy among the aristocracy, and the fact that the Nayakkara dynasty under Kings Kirthi Sri Rjasimha and Rajadhi Rajasimha had identified themselves closely with Kandyan national interest and religion, skilfully blending the Nayakkar dynasty from the Kandyan background, had convinced him that no Kandyan Sinhala Radala could ascend the throne without outside assistance. Hence he adopted the next best strategy of placing his own man on the throne to await favourable circumstances to restore a Sinhala line. The thought was noble.

Pilimatalavuva the great Adigar was King Sri Wickrema's benefactor. The King in gratitude allowed him to exercise all powers of the throne for some time, while he retained only the pomp of regal office. In 1806 the Maha Adikaram successfully quelled an uprising over the payment of additional taxes.

The King was quite pleased over this situation. But this changed with the stories of the Adigars intrigues with the English Governor and his negotiations to dethrone him coming to his ears. Besides there were serious differences of opinion between them over Rajakariya labour and governance.

The King wanted to beautify the city with a lake and Pattirippuwa (Octagon) to be built by 'forced labour' while the Adigar and his Council saw no need for another lake unless it could be used to asweddumize more land for the people as they already had two lakes - the Bora Wewa and the Bogambara Wewa.

The King also entertained thought of shifting the Asgiriya and Malvatta monasteries from Kandy to Peradeniya on the outskirts of the city. The four Devales were also earmarked to be moved out of the city to enable him to transform the temple square into a palace yard and he was suspected of wanting to convert the government into a Hindu Saivite one based on the Laws of Manu in place of the Dasa Raja Dharma which Sinhala Buddhist Kings pledged to observe.

In addition to these, there were many more differences which grew wider between the King and the Adigar. These being the bringing in of Malabars at an average of about 70 per month from South India on the sly as immigrants to be trained as soldiers and the establishment of a harem with young girls also from South India who had not even attained age along with some girls drawn even form the Radala.

The King also adopted the strategy to weaken the authority of the Chieftains - a policy of divide and rule by splitting and dividing the Disavanies and appointing members of new families to these offices and transferring the old frequently from district to district to undermine their power. He also objected to the proposed marriage of the Adigar's son to Mampitiya Wahala Bandara's daughter as Wahala Bandara was an illegitimate son of the late King Kirthi Sri Rajasimha.

Besides these indignations, King Sri Wickrema unlike his tow predecessors who were respected for their beneficent rule and support of the indigenous religion openly encouraged Saivaite Hindu Customs and the slaughter of goats near the precincts of the Dalada Maligawa for the consumption of the Royal household and their relatives. This provoked disgust of the Sinhala Buddhists and their Sangha and set in motion the process of alienating both the chiefs and common people from the King.

Even though the English adventure of 1803 to Kandy was a set back to the Adigar, he continued with his negotiations with them. In this background the Adigar engaged himself in regular negotiations with Mr. Boyd - the Secretary and Frederick North the English Governor at Avissawella about a possible embassy to Kandy to sign a suitable treaty.  Although Governor North had nothing in particular to offer, the Adigar intended to use their assistance to depose the King and rule Sinhale in his place with absolute authority to the Dasa Raja Dharma.

But the King was now wiser and strong enough to act against him. Therefore he deprived the Adigar of all his offices and deposed him of his powers sometime after mid 1803.

The estranged Adigar sojourned in Saparagamuva for two years and as luck would have it hastened back to Kandy when he heard Sri Vickrama Rajasimha was seized with smallpox and reestablished his power and confidence.

The Adigar had not suffered his disgrace in silence, but continued to plan the King's removal. Hence when he found the British had different ideas and would not fall in line with his, he decided to act alone by bringing the Javanese mercenary guards to assassinate the King and revolt before inviting the English to enter Sinhale and establish a Sinhala dynasty with Mampitiya Bandara the son of King Kirthi Sri Rajasimha and his Yakadadoli Mampitiye Dugganna Unanse as King.

The plot failed as the King was found to be awake when he was expected to be asleep and Yatinuvara and Udunuvara rose prematurely. The charge against Adigar this time therefore was a very serious one.

The Trial

" King Sri Wickrama Rajasimgha craftily arranged a trial before a court of chieftains. The court sat for three days with the king as judge and the chiefs as jurors at the great Audience Hall or Magul Maduva ironically in proximity to the Dalada shrine and the deities of Nata, Maha Vishnu and Pattini. As the charges were clear the chiefs forced the King to pronounce his own judgement. The King was ready to forgive the Adigar, but the Adigar, responded "My Lord my hands are full of corns as a result of bearing you in them" "It is true" replied the King "but is it not worse to kill the infant that you have so long nursed with such watchful care"

His Patriotism And Execution

Sri Wickrama was still willing to pardon the Adigar, once more, provided he took an oath never to act against his government. To every one's surprise the chieftain brimming with patriotism responded by refusing to take the oath and saying he did not plan to hurt the King but only to rescue the country from mismanagement.

It was obvious that his resolve to free the Country of King Sri Wickrama's misrule and the entrenched Vaduga dynasty was so overpowering and indomitable that he preferred death at the hands of the executioner rather than taking an oath not to work against him and be pardoned. "

Immediately in anger the King ordered his execution and he was taken to the Kumara Hapuwa where members of the nobility were executed at the foot of Bahiravakanda, for execution.

After testing the sword himself, the great chieftain is supposed to have told the executioner "I possess the will to make such use of this blade, that in a few minutes the King's officers shall all be prostrate on the ground, but I know to respect law and order".

He was executed in May/June of 1811 and his remains cremated at the family cremation grounds at Alakolange now Pilimatalava. Thus passed away the once powerful chieftain who stood for the protection of the people and was looked upon as the only man who could have brought King Sri vickrama Rajasimha to his senses.

On a sober assessment of the Chieftain at this distance in time it is clear Pilimatalavuva undoubtedly was a patriot and the shrewdest and ablest of the Sinhala leaders with unsurpassed negotiating skills which he used in good measure to out manoeuvre Governor North and the English at every turn.

Governor North and the British losers never forgave him for preventing them from capturing Kandy and therefore described him as 'treacherous, perfidious' and 'unprincipled'. He was ready to betray the king but never the Sinhala kingdom.

@ The Island - 1st March 1993

"Pilimatalawa undoubtedly one of the ablest and shrewdest leaders with unsurpassed negotiating skills, in the country's history, out witted and out manoeuvered North at every turn"

"North and British writers never forgave Pilimatalawa for preventing them from capturing Kandy and therefore described him in opprobrious terms such as 'teacherous, perfidious, profligate and unprincipled.' True, he was ready to betray his King, but not the Kingdom".

"When Pilimattalawa saw that the British had different designs and would not fall in with his, he decided to act alone - bribing the mercenary soldiers to assassinate the King. His resolve to free the country of Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe's misrule was so indomitable that he preferred execution rather than taking an oath not to work against the King again and be pardoned"

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