Saturday Magazine

King Wimaladharmasuriya
by S. B. Karalliyadde

The month of August marks the 401st anniversary of the passing away of King Wimaladharmasuriya of Senkadagala who unified the entire country under one flag. His name will be remembered among the other great kings of Sinhale such as Dutugemunu, Parakkramabahu, Walagambahu, Gajabahu, Wijayabahu, Rajasingha etc. as long as the Sinahala race lives in this country. As history unfolds it will be seen that today there would not have been a Sinhalese race and Buddhist religion if the Portuguese succeeded in their attempts to subjugate the Sinhala nation. It was a "lemani" dynasty king of Dumbara, Wijayabahu III alias Bodhiraja of Galahitiyawa who chased away Maga whose atrocious rule lasted for twenty one years from 1215 to 1236. This dynasty ruled from Dambadeniya as the capital starting from 1232 to 1249 up to Jayabahu II of Kotte. About ten decades after this with the country again divided into the Kotte, Sitawaka and Senkadagala kingdoms it was another "Maurian" dynasty prince of Dumbara who unified the Three Sinhale under one flag. It was the grandson of king Thunayama (1497-1574) of Dumbara Pallepitiya, Keulgama second son of Wijayasundara alias Weerasundara known by the Portuguese as "Mahakalu Parakramabahu," the great king Wimaladharmasuriya (1592-1604) who was known as Konappu Bandara in his youth, alias Don Jhon of Austria as baptised by the Portuguese. Konappu Bandaraís only sister was married to Tammita Bandara of Hatkorale. By this marriage they had two daughters one of whom married the king of Pegu (now Myanmar) and settled down there (Gnartha Pradeepa, 05/12/1999). Tammita Suriya Bandara was baptized as Francisco Barrentu in 1555 and died on 18th February 1581 in a battle with Rajasingha of Sitawaka. Konappu Bandara born in Deegala, Udadumbara, in 1565 was crowned as King Wimaladharmasunya at the age 27 years.

Konappu the youth

Weerasurendra Bandara entrusted his son Konappu for his early education to the Rev. Labugama Vinedara of the Asgiriya temple where he learnt his three Rís and Pali and Sanskrit. He learnt horse riding, combat drill, wresting and "angam pora" or martial arts and all other necessary arts and crafts required of a royal prince from Illangai Rala of Ganepola who prepared the boy to take over the reign from his father at a suitable opportunity. This was about seventy five years after the arrival of the Portuguese, when they were a strong force to reckon with. Rajasingha of Sitawaka was constantly at war with the Portuguese and he waged random attacks on Senkadagala as well. Once he sent his military chief Wickrasingha to Senkadagala to accompany Weerasundara to Sitawaka with the promise of entrusting to him the Walagama and Wattarama areas. The plan was to put Weerasundara to a pit planted with sharp and poisoned spikes. Weerasundara walked in the centre besides Wikramasinghe and another without knowing the plan to put him in the pit and kill him. He fell into the pit and thus ended his life. Konappu who was a youth of about twenty years at that time escaped to Diyatilaka Korale in Hanguranketa for safety but he could not remain there for long as Rajasingha came to Hanguranketa and burnt the Buddhist temples that gave shelter to him and killed over hundred priests who protected Konappu. This incident is described in a poem titled "Parangihatana" thus.

rdcisxy ksrssoq /j`E0 fuf,i .shjr

,laosj biqre jev isgskd fldf<dusmqr

mD;=.d,a rcq fj; mvqre;a iu. lr

fldkmamq nKavdr yersfha Ndrlr

This is how Konappu Bandara fled to Colombo to safeguard his life. Konappu had one ambition when he went to Colombo that was under Portuguese rule. That was to take revenge from Rajasingha for killing his father and to ascend the Senkadagala throne.

Life in Colombo

The Portuguese Governor in Colombo Captain Major Joe Ao Britto Corea who had already heard about Konappu and his bravery received him with open arms and offered him a place as a lieutenant in the Portuguese army. Konappu made use of the opportunity to learn the handling of guns that were not in use at Senkadagala, and also to learn the art of manufacturing guns with the help of smithies of Malvana. He was able to upgrade his knowledge of and skills in battle with Portuguese help. He was one of the outstanding soldiers in the battlefield and won the love and admiration of his Portuguese colleagues. In a brawl with Salappu, Konappu killed Salappu for which act the Portuguese Governor banished Konappu to Goa. In Goa he was able to acquire further battlefield training from the Portuguese and won their confidence. It was here that he was baptized by the Bishop of Goa. Konappu by now was the most able and recognised wrestler in South Asia. E. V. A Naganathan in his letter to the Daily News of 07/09/1998 states thus "Whilest the Sinhala State under Wimala Dharma Suriyaís superior military leadership and skill and immense experience in battle both in Sri Lanka and India, in Portuguese service, he was reportedly one of the finest swordsmen and wrestlers in South Asia." There was at the time a captain known as Gajabahu to whose presence even the Viceroy of Goa could not go with the sword worn in his uniform. The viceroy challenged Don Jhon to go pass Gajaba wearing the sword in his uniform. He accepted this challenge and fixed a date to a duel with the Portuguese captain. Crowds gathered to witness this event which was a rare occasion in Goa. On the fixed date Don Jhon in his full military regalia appeared at the venue to meet his counterpart. Amidst thunderous applause the duel continued until finally Don Jhon jumped up in the air over his opponent and dealt a blow proving his military prowess, severing the head of Gajaba. Don Jhon received presents and warm greetings from the crowd. It was after this incident that the Portuguese further reinforced their dubious plans to capture Senkadagala kingdom using Don Jhon as a catís paw.

Back in Kandy

Don Jhon was sent back to Kandy with a battalion of Portuguese soldiers. But he was awaiting an opportunity to take revenge from Sitawaka Rajasingha for the murder of his father and to restore Buddhism and give Sinhale its due place free from Portuguese subversion. In the month of March 1592 Rajasingha advanced to Balana but was defeated in the battle. The lion king of Sitawaka retreated up to Pethangoda where a poisonous thorn pierced his foot and he succumbed to the injuries. In a battle with the Portuguese on 6th October 1594 at Danture Don Jhon was victorious having defeated Lopez de Souza who gave the custody of his young son to Don Jhon before his death. In this battle Portuguese leaders such as Diogo de Boju, Don Gasthan, Francisco Corea, Peduru Aponsu, Francisco Beethu, Siemon Pereira, were killed. In another battle with the Portuguese in Balana in 1602 Don Jhon retreated but with reinforcements once again the battle commenced in Balana towards January 1603. Don Jhon had an easy victory killing Captain General Jeronimo de Azavedo who led the battle. The other Portuguese Army chiefs who were killed in this battle were Diogo Ruberu and Don Francisco Peresbaranda. It was the first time in history that such a large European army was massacred on foreign soil. The Portuguese were trained professional soldiers whereas the Sinhalese were farmers, fighters only during periods of war. Don Jhonís achievements were due to careful planning and war strategies adopted after studying the ground situations such as rainy seasons, etc.


Having defeated the Portuguese Don Jhon was crowned the King of Senkadagala as Wimaladharmasuriya. It was Ven. Devenagala Ratnalankara, Ven. Gampola Rajaguru Dharmakeerthi and Ven. Kotakadeniye Rajaguru Buvanekabahu, priests of Asgiriya Maha Viharaya who played the key role in this coronation. Kusumasana Devi who remained in Senkadagala after the battle of Balana became the chief Queen or Randoli while the daughter of Thammita Bandara and Yaso the sister of Sotupala Bandara who were already in the kingharem were made Yakadadolis. By this marriage to Kusumasana the king established his rights and claim to the Kandyan throne. It was this combination that gave the country a Royal clan of Sinhalese kings up to Weeraparakrama Narendrasingha of Kundasale till 1739. The King brought back to Kandy the sacred tooth relic which was hidden under a grinding stone in the Denagamuwe Viharaya, Seethawaka for forty three years (1549-1592). He did everything possible to help the Sangha and the Buddha Sasana. He rebuilt the Dalada Maligawa which was built by a paternal great-grandfather of his, Pandith Wickramabahu III up to a two-storyed palace. It was Wimaladharmasuriya who sent a delegation under Mawiloya Wijesingha Mudiyanse to the present Myanmar, then Rakkanga Desh to meet his nephew the king of that country with a request to send a delegation to establishe Upasampada or higher ordination in Sri Lanka. The delegation brought to this country Rev. Nandiwakka and Nandivisala with other priests. The king established a Seema Malaka in Getambe and helped the priests to conduct higher ordination (Upasampada). Ven. Kotakadeniya Buddhawansa, Gunadahe Dhammaransi, Sapuvida Saranankara, Abanpola Kolitha, Kotagama Buddhapala and Tudugala Dhammapala were among the priests who received Upasampada, or higher ordination. The king brought the entire country under one flag again. He was dreaded so much by the Portuguese that they addressed him thus: "My Lord the Shakya the glorified king and emperor of Ceylon, king of Kandy, Kotte, Seithawaka, Dambadeni, Anurajpure, Jaffnapatan, Uva, Matara, Denawaka, Kwotre Korales, Seven Korales, Kottenway, Tricvemale, Batacolo, Vilakam, Vinthana, Dumlujanjapatho, Hewarata, Puthaloc, Balana, Galule, Beligama, Kalature, Colombo, Negambo, Chilao, Madampe, Kalpita, Aripaturai, Manare, Pearls Gems, and lord of the sun..." Had he not returned to Sri Lanka and joined the Portuguese to settle down in Goa or in Portugal in consideration of various perks offered to him by them, the fate of the Sinhala nation would have been different from what it is today. E. V. A. Naganathan has clear views of what the Sinhala society would have been in that event. His views are quoted for the benefit of the readers: "Certainly it would not be amiss to infer that Sinhala society today would not be far different from, say, todayís Phillippine society, with Catholism the religion of the majority and language, customs, dress and manners overtly Iberian". His view is that the Donoughmore and Soulbury Commissions on legislative reforms recommended a unitary form of administration/government in keeping with the unitary concept of our form of governance that existed under the Senkadagala Kingdom. Jaffna was under Portuguese domination at the time with monopoly of trade and administration and Catholism spread throughout the north. By about 1596 Sankili I who realised this situation massacred about 600 Catholic priests in Mannar which led to the capture of Jaffna for the second time by Constantine de Braganza who placed Jaffna in charge of a Catholic favourite, Sekara Rajasekaram III. Rajasekaram was chased and an anti Portuguese ruler Pararajasekaram IV was placed in charge of Jaffna which resulted in Sim Hao Pinho Hao capturing Jaffna for the fourth time within a short period. I have mentioned these facts to compare how Wimaladharmasuriya guarded the Kandyan kingdom against the Portuguese invasions. Had there been an independent ruler in Jaffna there is no doubt that the Donoughmore and Soulbury Commissions would have recommended an Independent Self (determination) Government Authority for Jaffna. Now we can see that foreign colonial forces with vested interests have not yet given up their efforts to destabilise this country with their stooges in key positions of State. It is the rural Sinhala Buddhist who should be appraised of these dangers. This brave and heroic king gifted to the Sinhale, whose name alone made the Portuguese and Dutch shiver in their boots, ruled for thirteen years and died at a young age of 39 years. His remains were intered at Adahana Malu Viharaya premises with all the royal honours due to a king. Legend has it that after eleven days of continuous beating of funeral drums (mala bera) while the urn was brought to collect the ashes, his unburnt heart was collected to the urn. The grateful people of Uda Dumbara have named a school after him and a proposal to name the Danture Vidyalaya after him is still shelved at the Central Provincial Council. The children of this king, Uva Kumaraya alias Kumarasinghe ruled as sub-king of Badulla (1631-34) and Godapola Kumaraya alias Vijayapala was sub-king of Matale (1631-40). After Rajasinghe II ascended the throne on the demise of king Senarath, both these princes fled to the Portuguese for protection. Princess Suriya (06-08-1597) born during the periods of war and turmoil in the country and Princess Sama (1597) born at the period of peace and tranquility lived at Welimannatota palace with the mother, Kusumasana Devi.


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