WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Rajasinghe-II of Senkadagala

by S. B. Karalliyaade

(The Island) Sixth December marks the 313th death anniversary of yet another monarch of the Kandyan Kingdom, a war hero and a fearless fighter who waged several wars to free the country from Portuguese and Dutch domination. Like Rajasinghe 1 of Sitawaka, Rajasinghe II of Senkadagala too has left many an indelible marks in the history of this land. His services to Buddhism, Sinhala race and culture and the language is unparalleled in the history of the nation.

Having ascended to the throne in 1635 at the age of 27, he ruled for 52 years, and died at 79 years on 6th December 1687. The Senkadagala Kingdom established in 1463 by its founder Sena Samantha Wickramabahu, had as its last Sinhala Monarch Narendrasinghe up to 1739. The period beginning from 1592 up to the time of the enthroning of Wimaladharmasuriya, was a period of turmoil and constant wars in the Kingdom. There were threats to peace in the country, both from Rajasinghe of Sitawaka and the Portuguese, as a result of which the people of the Kingdom had to spend most of their time in the battlefield. It was natural in this background for any creative work - art and literature - to be retarded in its progress. Even Buddhism was gradually losing its prominence in the Sinhala society. Educational Institutions in the Kotte era such as Totagamuwe, Vidagama and Keragala monastries were gradually fading away, and when it came to the period of Senkadagala Kingdom there were no educational Institutions to improve the knowledge in arts, religion and other fields.

Even Senerath who succeeded Wimaladharmasuriya had to spend most of his time in the battlefield warding off Portuguese encroachment. It was in this background that Rajasinghe 11 had to face Azavedo in the battle of Randeniwela and show his valour as a soldier. Arts and literature in the Kandyan kingdom received a boost during the period of his reign from 1634 to 1684 for nearly half a century. It was during this period that a separate Department for state correspondence was set up. The seven types of documents that were preserved in the custody of this department were Sannas, Tudapath, Seettu, Divi Seettu, Wattoru, Vittipoth and Thalapath. Hence it is observed that it was during this period that the practice of documentation and keeping records of important national events commenced. The king had to devote most of his time to preserve the territorial integrity of the kingdom and arts and religion had to take a back seat. The famous Sinhala poet Alagiyawanna Mukaveti lived during this period and some of the best creations of Sinhala literature saw the light of the day during this period. Subasitaya, Sevul Asna ^iejq,a wiak) & Kusajathakaya, Parangi Hatana are some of these works. The king himself was a lover of literature and a poet who encouraged writing. Viridu recitals were introduced to Sinhala literature during his rule.

Another poet, Kirimatiyawe Mohattala who lived during this time introduced "Viridu" to Sinhala literature. The king was so fond of poetry that poets were readily accommodated in his royal court. He gave them land as royal grants. Satan Kavi, Nelum Kavi, Pel Kavi were added to the Sinhala literature during this period. The king was conversant in both Portuguese and Dutch languages and encouraged the writing of books. The king had a habit of travelling in the country in civilian garb to see for himself how his subjects were faring. On such a visit to Talagune in Uda Dumbara, he saw a village damsel and recited a poem impromptu.

It was during this reign that Buddhist Jataka Stories were recited in the form of Sinhala poems. Kusa Jataka was one such story. This Sinhala poem is still in the memory of the Sinhala masses.

The king was fond of wild animals and he had a zoo in Senkadagala. It is said that the king often visited Bintanne in search of animals for his zoo. He got these animals through Veddas in Bintanne. The king maintained a stable of horses brought from Arabia. The Dutch dominated trade in the sea coast, in terms of an agreement signed with king Senerath. The Dutch had the intention of monopolising the trade activities in the eastern coast too. The Portuguese General Constantine De Saa who was in Ceylon was planning to break the trade monopoly of the Dutch. De Saa was interested in the Trincomalee Harbour as they could survey all ships coming to the Eastern coast from their fortress on the Koneswaram Hill. The king attacked the fortress in 1622, and annexed Trincomalee to the Kandyan kingdom.

Constantine De Saa who anticipated attacks when his forces were sent to Badulla through Balana decided to march through Wellawaya. The Portuguese set fire to the city of Badulla, and on their return they were confronted at Randeniwela where fierce fighting took place. De Saa who was shot with an arrow by a Sinhala soldier, had his head severed. His head was brought before the king and displayed. The Portuguese retreated after this battle and four Lascarin chiefs of the battalion, Don Alexio, Don Thiodisgo, Don Cosmo Kulatunga and Don Balthasa joined the Sinhalese troops. It was difficult for the Portuguese to find a suitable successor to De Saa for some time, and finally they sent Diago De Mello. De Mello took in to his custody an elephant belonging to the king, and the king was so angry over the incident that took by force two horses belonging to De Mello. De Mello asked the king to return his horses but the king asked Mello to bring his elephant to Kandy and remove his two horses. De Mello, dissatisfied with the order of the king, challenged the king to war with him and engaged a kafir troop to battle for him. Fierce fighting broke out at Gannoruwa on 28th March 1638 and all the troops except 33 Portuguese soldiers were killed in the battle. The remaining Portuguese also joined the Sinhalese. The heads of all who died in this battle were heaped together making it difficult to identify the head of De Mello. Only his sword was identified. The king was overjoyed at this victory and offered his golden throne and sword to Dodanwela Devalaya. After this battle the Portuguese never set eyes on the Kandyan Kingdom. Like Rajasinghe 1 of Sitawake, Rajasinghe 11 of Senkadagala is also recorded as a great fighter in the annals of the history of our country. Rajasinghe 11 with his father Senerath and cousins Kumarasinghe and Wijepala fought the Mulleriyawa battle in 1624, Battle of Jaffna in 1628, battle of Randeniwela in 1630 and the Gannoruwa battle in 1638 according to record, to free the land from foreign domination.

Strict security measures were introduced to guard the kingdom. It was during his regime that guards were placed at the entrance to the kingdom. Nalanda, Rattota, Kaikawala, Hulangamuwa, Kadawathgama, Balakaduwa, Girihagama, Kadawatha, Avissawella, Ulapane, Kadugannawa were some of the posts known as "Kadawatha". A toll was collected from outsiders entering the kingdom. This toll fee was known as "Madige Badda". Those entering through Kadawatha had to go through the Totamunas at Gatambe, Paranagantota, Meewatura, Gonawatte. After Totamuna was the Wahalkada or gate. The eastern Wahalkada was at Buwelikada, the western one near Kataragama Devale, Nothern in Trincomalee street near the present Municipal office and the Southern gate near the present Katukele Gana Devi kovila. Those in charge of Totamuna and Wahalkada were known as Katupulle troops. Those in charge of Kadawath were known as Atapattu troops. These troops were in charge of the Prime Minister. The Adigar of Pallegampaha was the Prime Minister. The king was able to annex the Portuguese ports of Batticaloa, Negombo and Trincomalee to his kingdom. In 1641 he also annexed the Galle port having chased the Portuguese away. It was during his regime that the Portuguese were driven away and the Dutch invited to the country, on account of which the popular proverb b=re ,d ia .;a;d jf.a came into usage.

The king was not only a warrior and an able administrator but a hunter well-versed in the use of bow and arrow, a poet and a nature lover and above all a ruler who personally visited the villages to observe their living conditions.

One day the king was going to the Nilambe area through a path frequented by a wild buffalo. A man who saw the king advised him not to take that path. The king smiled and walked forward. Just then they heard the wild buffalo approaching the king. The man hurriedly climbed a Kitul tree and covered his eyes. The king used his bow and arrow and struck the animal down in one shot. The man on the tree looked below to see what had happened to the king. To his surprise he saw the wild buffalo dead on the ground and the king standing near the buffalo. When the man walked up to the king, the king removed the pair of buffalo horns and asked the man to bring it to the palace the following day. It was only when he went to the palace that he realised that the man he saw was the king himself. The king granted him a village and an honorary title "Angammana Ranpathhida Divakara Mudiyanse". The village Angammana in Kandy district Uda Palatha Kandukara Pahala Korale.

The king was a short stout person who grew a beard, who had little hair on his head. He was a fearless warrior. The famous astrologer Diyakelinawala who cast his horoscope has predicted that he would be a brave and illustrious ruler of Ceylon. He was also known as Bintanne Deviyo as he was believed to have been born in Devamedda in Bintanne. When there were threats to his life, he left his palace in Nilambe, to Hanguranketha and Medamahanuwara to escape from the enemy. His illustrious and colourful life ended after a rule of 52 years on 6th December 1687. The nation is indebted to him for freeing the country from Portuguese and Dutch invaders.(@ The Island)


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