Fellow, National Academy of Sciences; Past
President, Engineering Section & Chairman, Popularisation of
Science Committee, SLAAS; Past President, Institute of Survey
Engineers; Past President, Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka.
Continued from Saturday
Buvanekabahu VII and later Dharmapala was
opposed by Mayadunne and Rajasinha I. It was a time there was
religious strife when Rajasinha, as he could not get solace
through Buddhism, was converted to Saivism and came under the
influence of a Saiva Hindu priest of the Benderi Kovil who
advised him to destroy the sacred ola books and kill all
It is very unfortunate that King Rajasinha I, a
great warrior, succumbed to the Hindu priest’s advice.
In the meantime Rajasinha I proclaimed himself
king of Sri Lanka and though a Buddhist, became a diehard Saiva
Hindu. He was one of the greatest rulers though a cruel one. At
the Ganetenna massacre of Buddhist monks he is said to have
killed 59 Buddhist monks by ploughing their heads off.
He thereafter ordered his governor in Kandy,
Virasundara (the father of Vimaladharmasuriya) to kill all
Buddhist monks and destroy all sacred ola books in Kandy.
Virasundara defied the King’s order and sent his son Konnappu
Bandara (who later became King Vimadharmasuriya I) to Mannar.
The King having summoned him and had him stoned to death. The
Buddhist monks residing in the temples in the territory of the
king, fearing that they too would be murdered, deserted the
temples and fled to other areas over which the king had no
control or jurisdiction. This was the unfortunate plight of the
Buddhist monks then. His cruelty to Buddhists, Buddhist monks
and, burning of Ola books drove the subjects of the Kotte
Kingdom in their thousands to the Catholic faith when Don Juan
Dharmapala was converted in 1556.
In the meantime, Virasurendra’s son, Konappu
Bandara was transferred to Goa where he was trained in the finer
techniques of warfare, diplomacy and statecraft. He became a
Christian under the name of Don John of Austria, returned to Sri
Lanka and for a short time participated with the Portuguese
forces before defecting to Kandy.
There he built his fortress with the help of
Portuguese captives, which is depicted by Philp Baldaeus in his
book which is reproduced titled Portuguese captives build
fortress for Vimaladharmasuriya.
Buvanekabahu VII is said to have been accidently
shot through his heart at Mulleriyawa by a Portuguese (which
appeared more like a deliberate act). Dharmapala was then raised
to the throne as Don Juan Dharmapala.
With the conversion of Don Juan Dharmapala to
Catholicism in 1556, a large number of his bodyguards and
trusted troops comprising the Kaurava warriors, 70,000 in
number, together with their captains, were also converted to the
Catholic faith. Other communities in the Kotte Kingdom too were
converted and took the Portuguese names of their sponsors, hence
names like Almedia, Andrew, Alwis, Cooray, Dias, De Soysa, De
Zoysa, de Silva Fernando, De Mel, Mello, Nonis, Perera, Peiris,
Pigera, Pinto, Rodrigo, Suwaris, Salgado and Sigera, etc.
Rajasinha I also harassed Don Juan Dharmapala as
a result of which Kotte was abandoned in favour of Colombo in
1565. Even thereafter in 1579 Rajasinha I besieged Colombo; but
was defeated by the Portuguese after which he fled to Sitawaka.
He even besieged Kandy but the forces of the Portuguese defeated
him. He then returned to Sitawaka, on his way trampling a thorn
which caused his death.
The Portuguese captured Kandy temporarily and
installed Yamasinha Bandara (who was baptized as Don Phillip) to
the throne of Kandy. He was however shortly murdered and the
kingdom devolved on his cousin Princess Kusumasana Devi (Dona
Catherina) who being the daughter of Karaliyadde Bandara, was
the legal heiress.
The Portuguese wished to install Dona Catherina
as empress of Kandy, but failed in their objective as Konappu
Bandara (Don John of Austria) soundly defeated them. He captured
Dona Catherina, the rightful heiress to the kingdom of Sri Lanka
and installed himself as king under the name of
Vimaladharmasuriya I. He also married Dona Catherina, the
legitimate heiress to the throne, thus vesting himself with
It must be remembered that it was
Vimaladharmasuriya I who revived Buddhism and as a true Buddhist
tolerated all religions and even allowed a cloister to be built
in Kandy as is noted in the map of Spilbergen of Kandy in 1602.
In 1765 the Dutch however, under Van Eck invaded
Kandy and destroyed the King’s Palace and the Temple of the
Tooth in Kandy which was located beside the present Castle
Street which place-name in fact recalls the old castle built by
Thus in 1765, during the reign of the Vaduga
King Kirthi Sri Rajasinha a new King’s Place and a Dalada
Maligawa was constructed beyond the eastern end of the outer
fortress where they stand today. These are by no means the
buildings built by King Vimaladharmasuriya I.
I was fortunate to map the ancient location of
the inner fortress of King Vimaladharmasuriya based on
Spilbergens Map and field archaeological research done in 1994
where the location of the King’s Place and the Dalada Maligawa.
The Audience Hall and the Kataragama devale, was
located within the Inner Fortress which is indicated in the Map.
The present King’s Palace and Dalada Maligawa were thereafter
located elsware at the present site after the Dutch Governor Van
Eck destroyed Vimaldarmasiriya I’s palace in 1765 and a new ones
built by King, the Vaduge King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe at the
Eastern end of the Outer Fortress where it stands today and is
not the Palace and Dalada Maligawa built by King
With the Dutch takeover and the persecution of
Catholics, many Catholics were converted to the Dutch Reformed
Church or Calvinism, while most of the earlier Buddhist converts
reverted back to the faith of their forefathers, namely Buddhism
and the Vishnu and Pattini cults. There were however many
Catholics who did not give up their faith. There still exists no
memorial to Parakramabahu VI in Kotte, Vimaladharmasuriya I in
Kandy or Dona Catherina in Welimantota in Kegalla where she was
buried despite the fact that they contributed to the heritage of
Sri Lanka in no small measure. It is time these memorials are
built in their honour.