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 Post subject: kingship
 Post Posted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:56 pm 
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In 1815, soon after the ‘tyrant,’ as the British called Sri Wickrama Rajasingha, was deposed on March 2, the new government proclaimed that the “King of Great Britain was acknowledged the sovereign of the whole island of Ceylon; the preservation of the old form of the government of the Interior was guaranteed on our part, as well as the protection of the customs, laws and religion of the people.” Well, it didn’t take long for the people to realise that Britain, perfidious Albion as she was known, had cheated.

Disheartened by the events that followed there was general dissatisfaction in the Kandyan kingdom. A heartfelt cry arose from a single monk who, having watched a line of ants crawling along, scribbled on the wall of his temple a verse that sighed for the lost kingship of this country:

Annay koombiyanay
Thopatath rajek innay
Moka de karannay
Apey karmaya apata vannay

Rajek lebunothinnay
Eda kiribath kannay
Perahera karannay
Sadhu naaden gigum dennay

Translation: "Even you, Oh Ants, have a king, but we have no king. Fate has taken ours away and left us helpless. If ever we do get a king, what a day of rejoicing it will be. We shall lead him in procession with song and dance to cries of Sadhu and the gay beat of the drums."

Kingship means a hierarchical society and from the viewpoint of democracy that is something to be frowned on. But how tyrannical was our society under these ‘tyrannical’ kings? Let us call the evidence of one who toured this country just before and after the Kandyan kingdom fell. He was one who worked very closely with Governor Robert Brownrigg being his personal physician. Governor Brownrigg was a bitter man after the upheaval of events in the Kandyan kingdom, but his personal physician, John Davy, was the detached observer of most events and extremely fair minded.

This is how he found Sinhala society just before the Kandyan kingdom fell:

The Singalese are a courteous and ceremonious people, and whilst they attend most particularly to all their minute distinctions of caste and rank, they are mutually respectful: the man of rank is not arrogant, nor the poor man servile; the one is kind and condescending, and the other modest and unpresuming. The friendly intercourse of different ranks is encouraged by religion...

The yearning for kingship displayed by the monk mentioned above was something that Davy with his observant eye also noticed and recorded. He realised that the taking over of Kandy was a mistake and regretted “that we ever entered the Kandyan country. The evils immediately resulting from it, certainly greatly exceed the original benefits we conferred on the natives by removing a tyrant from the throne.” A king ruling the people from thousands of miles away, he said, was something they were not accustomed to; “they wanted a king whom they could see and before whom they could protrate and obtain summary justice.”

Source: A yearning for kingship by S. Pathiravitana

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