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 Post subject: The signing of the Kandyan Convention
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 2:51 am 
The signing of the Kandyan Convention

by S. B. Karalliyadda
@ The Island / 25Feb2006


March 2nd marks a historical day in the annals of the history of Sri Lanka. It was the day on which we lost our rule by monarchs which lasted undisrupted for 2,398 years. By the Convention signed on 2nd March 1815 the Hanover dynasty of England established their rights to rule Sri Lanka. All the Kandyan Chiefs did not sign this treaty on the same day at a special ceremony held in the historic Audience Hall at the Sri Dalada Maligawa premises. For instance Galagoda Disawa of Nuwara Kalaviya signed the treaty only after Governor Brownrigg visited his walawwe on ten consecutive days to persuade him to sign the document. That too after Governor Brownrigg gave an assurance and added a clause to protect and foster the religion of the Buddha. Why did the Kandyan Chiefs sign a treaty to end the rule of the Nayakkar dynasty which lasted for about seventy five years?

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Rule of Sri Wickrama

Kannasamy swore to protect the Sinhale and its religion after placing the golden sword in the Natha Devale according to the prevalent tradition and be a just ruler and sat on the throne as Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. The king soon became a tyrant and gradually started to get rid of people whom he disliked. The reports of the British Commissioners in Kandy from 1815-1833 revealed that liquor such as whisky and brandy were sent to the palace from Colombo. The king got into the habit of taking liquor frequently. The people of Sinhale detested the habit of liquor consumption. As a result some people who performed the Maligawa Rajakariya, refused to work for the king and Indian labour had to be engaged. The king wanted to demolish the pond in the lake set apart for the bathing purposes of the Malwatte priests. This was on the pretext of beautifying the lake. He ordered the Dissawe of Sabaragamuwa— Ehelepola—to send people from a Bisogama to undertake this work. Ehelepola refused this order and said that the people of a Bisogama are bound to do irrigation work and not to beautify lakes. This audacious remark perturbed the monarch and in later stages there developed a rivalry which culminated in the annihilation of the Ehelepola clan. Sri Wickrama gradually god rid of the Kandyan chieftains and even Buddhist priests who helped him to ascend the throne. He beheaded Pilimatalawe Adigar. The strapper and marksman in the Rajya Saba Ratwatta Disawa was beheaded for deviating from the queue of the Royal Elephants. On a visit to Harispattu, Ratwatte Disawa broke the queue and aimed an arrow to pluck an arecanut which incident provoked Sri Wickrama who ordered his beheading. He beheaded Mampitiye Bandara a son of his Yakada Doli and also a nephew of Ratwatte who had a claim to the Kandyan throne. Kandepola Basnayake was tied and sown like a log having removed his eyes and chopped his ears and nose. He beheaded Hatarakorale Disawa Leuke, and seventy other chieftains from that Korale. Ehalepola fled to the British in Colombo for protection. His wife and daughters were drowned in the Bogambara lake. Madduma Bandara and his brother were beheaded. Uduwela Karunathilaka Rajapaksha Mudiyanse, a Mudliyar in the kings Inner Court had a son who watched the beheading of Ehelepola’s sons from the Maligawe Paththirippuwa. The folk lore narrating this crime runs thus:

Uduwela Mudliyar died at 106 in 1906. It was amidst this atrocious rule that the king got the news that the British troops who had landed in Trincomalee were marching towards Kandy. The king was in a rage and expedited the massacre of the people in Senkadagala. The Anunayake Thera of Malwatta Rev. Paranathala was beheaded on a flimsy excuse. Rev. Suriyagoda Thera was implicated on a false theft and beheaded. The Kandyan Chiefs had no other alternative but to get rid of the cruel monarch and sign a treaty with the British.


Arrival of British

News reached Senkadagala that Balana fort was captured and that the British were marching towards the palace. Golahena Maha Nilame made all arraignments for the safe custody of the Royal Jewellery box and documents—"Hee Lekam Mitiya". A select team of priests from the Asgiriya and Malwatta Temples assisted by Imbulmalgedara Mohottala made arrangements for the safe custody of the Tooth relic. Daulagala Nilame accompanied by the queens and two sons escorted the party towards Meda Maha Nuwara. The king escaped through Udawattakele with his Nayakkar relations. Only three Sinhalese accompanied the king. They were the king’s butler Doragamuwe Rajapaksha Wickramasinghe Mudiyanselage Ukkurala, Marassana Hewawisse Madappuli Rala and Molligoda Piharala. When the British entered the King’s Palace on February 10, 1815 it was deserted. Now they marched towards Dumbara in search of the King led by Don Edrian Wijesinghe Jayawardana Mudliyar of Chilaw (1768-1830). The Interpreter was Don Soloaman Dias Bandaranayake Mudliyar of Siyane Korale (1774-1859). Sri Wickrama was taken captive on February 18, 1815 from the house of Udupitiye Rala in Bomure Meda Maha Nuwara.


Convention of 2nd March 1815

The Sinhalese had to sign this Convention with the British as the British were the powerful nation in the region towards the beginning of the century. The French were also a powerful sea power at the time but were defeated by the British—Admiral Nelson. When Napolean was defeated at the battle of Waterloo, the British were the sole sea power in Europe. Under such circumstances it would have been wiser to be a British Colony than a French Colony.

At 4 p.m. on March 2 Ehelepola arrived in the Audience Hall accompanied by ten other Kandiyan Chiefs who signed the Treaty. They were led by whip crackers amidst the Military Band Music display by the British troops. Governor Brownrigg rose to receive the chiefs and kept standing throughout the ceremony. Ehelepola stood on the right side of the governor in keeping with seniority. The convention was read out in English by D’Oyly and twice in Sinhala by Abraham de Saram the Chief Interpreter Mudliyar. The Union Jack was hoisted to the accompaniment of military gun salutes thus ending our rule by monarchs which started from Vijaya in 483 B.C.


(Sources: In the last days of Sri Wickrama by P. B. Dolapihilla; "The Convention of 1815", lecture delivered on February 19, 1992 in Kandy by President J. R. Jayewardena and other source material)


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