Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sri Vikrama Rajasinha of Sri Lanka

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Sri Vikrama Rajasinha
King of Kandy
His Majesty Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, Last King of Ceylon
Reign 1798 - February 10, 1815
Coronation 1798
Born 1780
Birthplace Madurai, India
Died January 30, 1832
Place of death Vellore Fort, India
Buried Sri Lanka
Predecessor Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha
Successor George III of the United Kingdom
Royal House Nayaks of Kandy
Father Sri Venkata Perumal
Mother Subbamma Nayaka

Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1780 - January 30, 1832) was the last monarch of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He came to the throne in 1798 after the previous king, Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha died childless. He was eventually deposed by the British following his defeat in the Kandian Wars. He was the last king from the Nayakar dynasty, and the last reigning king of Sri Lanka.



[edit] Early life

Prince Kannasamy as he was known before his coronation, was a member of the Madurai Nayak Dynasty and was the nephew of Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha. He ascended the throne in 1798, adopting the name "Sri Vikrama Rajasinha" at his coronation.

[edit] Early reign

There was a rival claimant to succeed Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha, the brother of Queen Upendramma, who had a stronger claim. However, Pilimatalawe, the first Adigar (Prime Minister) chose Prince Kannasamy, reportedly with deep seated plans to usurp the throne to set up a dynasty of his own. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was faced with numerous conspiracies to overthrow him and reigned through one of the most turbulent periods in Sri Lanka's history.

[edit] Reign

Palace of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha

[edit] Internal Conflict

During his time, the British who had succeeded the Dutch in the Maritime Provinces had not interfered in the politics of the Kandy. But Pilimatalava, the first Adigar of the king, started covert operations with the British to provoke the King into acts of aggression, which would give the British an excuse to seize the Kingdom. The Adigar manipulated the king into beginning a military conflict with the British, who had gained a strong position in the coastal provinces. War was declared and on March 22, 1803 the British entered Kandy with no resistance, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha having fled. The adigar massacred the British garrison in Kandy in June and restored the king to the throne. Pilimitalava plotted to overthrow the king and seize the crown for himself, but his plot was discovered, and, having been pardoned on two previous occasions, he was executed.

The disgraced adigar was replaced by his nephew, Ehelepola, who soon came under suspicion of following his uncle in plotting the overthrow of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. A rebellion instigated by Ehalepola was suppressed, after which he then fled to Colombo and joined the British. After failing to surrender (after 3 weeks of notice), the exasperated king dismissed Ehelepola, confiscated his lands, and ordered the imprisonment and execution of his wife and children. A propagandised account of the execution was widely circulated by sympathisers.

Ehelepola fled to British-controlled territory, where he persuaded the British that Sri Vikrama Rajasinha's tyranny deserved a military intervention. The pretext was provided by the seizure of a number of British merchants, who were detained on suspicion of spying and were tortured, killing several of them. An invasion was duly mounted and advanced to Kandy without resistance, reaching the city on February 10, 1815. On March 2, the kingdom was ceded to the British under a treaty called the Kandyan Convention. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was captured and taken as a royal prisoner by the British to Vellore Fort in southern India. He lived on a small allowance given to him and his two queens by the British Government. He died of dropsy on January 30, 1832 aged 52 years.

Regarding the King's reign, the historian L.E. Blaze states that "He was not as ardent a patriot as his immediate successors; nor did he show those mental and moral qualities which enabled former kings to hold their own against rebellion and invasion. To say he was cruel does not mean much, for cruel kings and nobles were not rare in those days; and it is questionable whether all the cruel deeds attributed to Sri Vickrema Rajasinghe were of his own devising or done by his authority. It might be more fair to regard him as a weak tool in the hands of designing chiefs than as the monster of cruelty, which it is an idle fashion with some writers to call him. And it should not be forgotten that he did a good deal to beautify his capital. The lake and the Octagon in Kandy have always been considered the work of the king."

[edit] Death and legacy

[edit] Death

On March 2, the kingdom was ceded to the British and Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was deposed and taken as a royal prisoner by the British to Vellore Fort in southern India. He lived on a small allowance given to him and his two queens by the British Government. He died of dropsy on January 30, 1832 aged 52 years.

Flag of Ceylon from 1948-1951

[edit] Legacy

The current flag of Sri Lanka incorporates Sri Vikrama Rajasinha's Royal Standard. In September 1945 it was proposed in an address to the State Council that the flag be adopted as Sri Lanka's national flag:

Kandy Lake and the palace of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha

"This House is of opinion that the Royal Standard of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha depicting a yellow lion passant holding a sword in its right paw on a red background, which was removed to England after the Convention of 1815, should once again be adopted as the official flag of Free Lanka."

In 2008, the ‘Sri Lanka Janatha Urumayan Surekeeme Jathika Vyaparaya’ in a written representation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that it has been discovered that the royal standard of the Kandyan Kingdom, last used by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, is now in the possession of a British national. The discovery has been made by a former curator of the Kandy National Museum Senarath Panawatte, the letter addressed to the President by Ven. Medagama Dhammananda Thero and S. Liyanage, President and Secretary respectively of the organisation has said. The organisation also made representations to the Chief Minister, Central Province Sarath Ekanayake regarding the importance of the recovery of the flag.

Kandy Lake, an artificial lake overlooking the palace in Kandy was commissioned by Sri Vikrama Rajasinha.

During Sri Vikrama Rajasinha's time as a royal prisoner in Vellore Fort he received a privy purse, which his descendants continued to received from the Government of Sri Lanka until it was abolished in 1965.

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources

Sri Vikrama Rajasinha of Sri Lanka
Born: ? 1780 Died: January 30 1832
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha
King of Kandy
1798 – February 10, 1815
Succeeded by
George III of the United Kingdom

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