CEYLON TODAY - According to ‘Ceylon’ history ancient kings had divided the country into three principalities namely, Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti. The three kingdoms were known as 'Tri Sinhale.'

The last phase of the Tri Sinhale commenced after King Rajadhi Rajasinha's death following a bitter struggle in August 1798. The main conspirator in the mêlée was the Chief Minister Pilima Talauve, the most powerful official at the royal court. He hatched a plot to depose of the King following a secret meeting with the British Governor Fredrick North in 1800 while pleading with the English to invade the Kingdom and place him on the throne. That marked the beginning of the end of the Kandyan Kingdom.

Shrouded period

After the king's death followed a period shrouded in a cloud of traitorous, devious and treacherous plotting and planning by one the Kandyan nobles who turned against the king. The British commenced working on Ceylon by taking over the Trincomalee fortress in 1795 first, then they moved to Jaffna and Kalpitiya and Colombo fortresses, which finally became the property of the British India Company.

 ‘Ceylon’ has been ruled by 192 kings altogether. After the demise of King Kithsiri, his brother Sri Wickrama Rajasinha succeeded and ruled the country for 16 years. As an erudite king, though of Indian origin, he has gone on record for writing Buddhist Jathaka stories.

The British did not have to fight a single battle due to any resistance with the majority of the Kandyan aristocratic forces being persuaded by Ahalepola to join the British forces. On 14 February 1815 the king was taken by surprise at the unexpected behaviour of his aristocratic ministers. He decided and moved out with the family and his consorts to ‘Meda Maha Nuwara’ and stayed in the house of a Village Headman.

Sir Paul's Account

Sir Paul E. Pieris has judiciously documented his cerebral evidence of the machinations and treacheries that led up to the final betrayal of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha in 1815 in his book 'Tri Sinhala – Last Phase 1796-1815', published by Apothecaries in 1939 and dedicated to Justin Peiris Deraniyagla (Sir Paul E. Pieris). His references have been out of despatches, reports and personal diaries as well as by culling mostly from the archives of the Public Record Office in London.

Sir Paul Peiris was born in 1874 and he hailed from an illustrious Sinhala family of early ancestry. He had proven his mettle even as a student at S. Thomas' College by winning almost every major school prize. He was the first Asian to enter Trinity College of Cambridge University in 1892.

In 1914 he made legal history with his bold decision in the Gampola Perahera case, which gave rise to widespread rejoicing among the Sinhalese. Subsequent British attempts to overturn it sparked off Sri Lanka's first major riots. In 1917 he became the first Asian to receive the honour of a Doctorate of Letters to receive either from Oxford or Cambridge Universities in the UK.

Historical Records

According to Sir Paul Pieris's historical records, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha was hiding at Dumbara in Meda Maha Nuwara. British forces had arranged to cut off all chances of escape from there while Ahalepola was asked to carry out his 'promise of raising the people' of that district. He started with Doyly and a military force when the King's hiding place was discovered at a house of an Arachchi at Galleyhe Vatta. An intense interpretation of what took place has been presented by D.V.A Dias, the ‘Simhalese’ (Sinhalese) who was attached to the British settlement as an interpreter to the English officers.

Eknaligoda’s Emergence

Two hundred years ago, at the middle of the night, Eknaligoda Mohottale arrived at the house where the king was hiding with a group of men. He broke open the house and took the King and his queens into custody. An Appuhamy who was guarding the King from outside his chambers (Sethapena Ge) with a spear in hand challenged Eknaligoda having recognized him as one of the Nilames. Appuhamy aimed the spear at Eknaligoda with such force that the weapon shattered into fragments after hitting a stone when Eknaligoda managed to avoid the blow.

Appuhamy was immediately apprehended and bundled away while Eknaligoda walked up to the King's chambers. The King was in the company of two of his queens at the time when Eknaligoda demanded him to open the door. The King declined, but handed over three silver mounted guns and two daggers through a small opening. However, the King did not obey Eknaligoda’s demands to hand over the golden sword and the emblems of his kingship.

This made Eknaligoda knocking down the king's chamber door and his men to rush in and to create a revolting scene and grab all gold ornaments and to tear off the clothes of the royal captives. To cover their nudity a piece of cloth of four cubic in length was tossed at the victims as their only covering.

D.V.A Dias had been shouting from outside the house for the queens to come out; he had spoken in Tamil addressing the queens by the respectful term Ammayarum (Mother). Dias described how the queens came out reeling pitifully from side to side "like fowls whose neck had been twisted" and clung to him on either side in agony and terror, crying out "Oh! Protect us." Blood was steaming from their earlobes due to lacerations in tearing off their earrings. Dias managed to stem the bleeding by crushing some medicinal leaves and applying them on the wounds.

Insult and Injury

In the meanwhile Eknaligoda was insulting the king in the crudest manner and ordered his men to fetch some wild creepers and to fasten the king and drag him out like a pig. Dias could not restrain the indignation and severely protested saying, "Your people, up to this hour worshipped the King as father and god, but mine had long been under foreign government and are not expected to show him the same reverence. All that is needed is his safe custody; why then insult, injure and bind him?" Simultaneously Dias offered his own shawl to the King as he considered it was necessary to secure kings limbs.

Infuriated Eknaligoda retorted rejecting Dias's advice and ordered that the King be bound tightly. The king was then dragged and pushed along and thrown on to the ground. Dias at that point, extricating his hands with difficulty from the grasp of the queens, took a pencil and paper from his pocket and made his companion's back as a table and scribbled a hasty note to inform Doyly of what was taking place and entreated him to come at once with palanquins and clothes.

Within an hour some officers and soldiers galloped to the spot to see the King lying on the ground with a large, intensely black and piercing eye in physical pain yet still displaying his exceptionally handsome features though there was no expression of any fear. The officers dismounted from their horses and knelt before the King and unfastened him while the troops drove away the Sabaragamuwa men to a distance with their whips.

Palanquins then appeared with such clothes as could be hastily collected. The king before getting into the palanquin turned to Dias and said, "Son, the English will doubtless put me to death, but not the queens. I ask you to take charge of them and protect them."

"Sins of the father will visit the son to the fourth generation." - Biblical saying.

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