Kingdom of Kandy

The Kingdom of Kandy was an independent monarchy of the island of Sri Lanka, located in the central and eastern portion of the island. It was founded in the late 15th century and endured until the early 19th century.[1]

Initially a client kingdom of the Kingdom of Kotte, Kandy gradually established itself as an independent force during the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries, allying at various times with the Jaffna Kingdom, the Madurai Nayak dynasty of South India, Sitawaka Kingdom, and the Dutch colonizers to ensure its survival.[2]

From the 1590s, it was the sole independent native polity on the island of Sri Lanka and through a combination of hit-and-run tactics and diplomacy kept European colonial forces at bay, before finally succumbing to British colonial rule in 1818.

The kingdom was absorbed into the British Empire as a protectorate following the Kandyan Convention of 1815, and definitively lost its autonomy following the Uva Rebellion of 1817.

Kingdom of Kandy

මහනුවර රාජධානිය (in Sinhalese)
Mahanuwara Rajadhaniya
கண்டி இராச்சியம் (in Tamil)
Flag of
Royal Standard
Sri Lanka in the 1520s
Sri Lanka in the 1520s
Common languagesSinhala, Tamil
Theravada Buddhism
King of Kandy 
• 1473–1511
Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu (first)
• 1798–1815
Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (last)
• Foundation of Senkadagalapura
• Conquest by Sitawaka
• Rebellion of Vimaladharmasuriya I
2–18 March 1815
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Sitawaka
British Ceylon
Today part of Sri Lanka


Over the years, the Kingdom of Kandy has been known by many names.[3][4][5][6][7] These include:

  • Kanda Uda Pasrata
  • The Senkadagala Kingdom
  • The Kanda Udarata
  • The Mahanuwara Kingdom
  • Sri Wardhanapura
  • Sinhalé
  • Thun Sinhalaya or Tri Sinhala
  • Kande Nuwara
  • The Kingdom of Kandy

Geography and climate

The Ella Gap view towards the South Coast, Sri Lanka
The Ella Gap – typical of the mountainous and densely forested terrain of the Kingdom of Kandy

Much of the Kandy Kingdom's territory was located in Sri Lanka's mountainous and thickly forested interior, with mountain passes to the capital providing plenty of opportunities for defenders to stage ambushes. Routes to the city were kept secret, and spreading information concerning them could often result in death. Many routes into the hill country became impassable during the annual monsoon, and malaria was rife. Throughout its existence Kandyan forces used the land to their advantage, engaging in guerrilla warfare against invading forces,[8] and evacuating major urban centres when enemy forces drew near – a tactic used with particular effect during the Kandyan Wars. Though the kingdom had intermittent access to the port of Batticaloa it had no naval forces and could not prevent the Portuguese and Dutch maintaining a strong presence in lowland areas.



The city of Senkadagalapura may have been founded as early as the mid-14th century during the reign of Vikramabahu III of Gampola (1357–1374). Central Sri Lanka was ruled by the kings of Kotte from the early 15th to late 16th centuries; with Kotte's weakening in the face of Portuguese influence the area developed into an autonomous domain with Senkadagalapura at its capital. Following the Spoiling of Vijayabahu in 1521, and the subsequent partition of the kingdom of Kotte, Kandy asserted its independence and emerged as a serious rival to the eastern and southern kingdoms.

Rise: 1521–1594

Growth of sitawaka final
The growth and impact of the kingdom of Sitawaka, 1521-1594

Following the Spoiling of Vijayabahu in 1521, the kingdom of Kotte split into three competing states – Sithawaka, Raigama, and Bhuvanekabahu VII's kingdom of Kotte. Of these Sithawaka, under the dynamic leadership of Mayadunne, posed the greatest threat to the autonomy of the other states. In 1522, the Kandyans secured Portuguese protection against Sithawaka, but any potential for alliance ended in 1546 when Portuguese and Kotte forces invaded the kingdom. Kandy subsequently lent aid to the Jaffna Kingdom against the Portuguese in 1560.

Kandy territory was invaded twice in the 1570s and 1580s, first in 1574, and then in 1581 by the newly crowned king of Sithawaka Rajasinghe I. Rajasinghe – who had already scored a significant victory over the Portuguese at the Battle of Mulleriyawa – succeeded in annexing the kingdom outright; the Kandyan king Karalliyadde Kumara Bandara (also known as Jayavira III) fled north to the Jaffna Kingdom with his daughter, Kusumasana Devi (also known as Dona Catherina of Kandy) and her husband Yamasinghe Bandara. Both eventually adopted Portuguese worship, converted to Christianity, and adopted the names Dona Catherina and Don Philipe respectively.[9] In the meanwhile the Portuguese also laid claim to the Kandyan realm, citing Dharmapala's donation of 1580 as a precedent[10]

Sithawakan rule over Kandy proved difficult to enforce. Wirasundara Mudiyanse, Rajasinghe's viceroy in the area, rebelled soon after the initial conquest; though his uprising was crushed another occurred in 1588. Resistance eventually coalesced around Konnappu Bandara, son of Wirasundara, who had fled to Portuguese lands following his father's murder by agents of Rajasinghe. Between 1591 and 1594, he returned to the area, seized the Kandyan throne under the name Wimaladharmasuriya I and married Dona Catherina. Victories over the Sithawakans and the Portuguese (who occupied Kandy briefly in 1592) secured his position.

The strategic situation in Sri Lanka changed dramatically during Wimaladharmasurya's rise to power. To the north, the Portuguese deposed the king Puviraja Pandaram of the Jaffna Kingdom in 1591 and installed his son Ethirimana Cinkam as client king. In 1594, Rajasinghe I died and the kingdom of Sithawaka disintegrated. Kandy remained the sole native polity outside of European dominance. In 1595, Wimaladharmasuriya brought the sacred Tooth Relic – the traditional symbol of royal and religious authority amongst the Sinhalese – to Kandy,[10] and Kandy entered a long period of attritionary warfare with the Portuguese, starting with the Campaign of Danture.

Consolidation and interactions with the Dutch: 1594–1739

Hostilities between the Portuguese and the Kandyans continued throughout the rest of Wimaladharmasuriya's reign. The Kandyans lent aid to a rebellion led by Domingos Corrêa and later Simão Corrêa, Sinhala subjects of Dharmapala, between 1594 and 1596. A Portuguese incursion in 1604 saw them capture Balane, but dissent amongst their Lascarin troops forced a withdrawal back to the coast.

Vimaladharmasurya I receiving Joris van Spilbergen, 1603

Relations between the Dutch Republic and the Kandyans were initiated on the 2 June 1602 when Dutch explorer Joris van Spilbergen arrived at Santhamuruthu on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka.[11] Later that year the Dutch East India Company despatched Sebald de Weert to Kandy in an attempt to negotiate a treaty. The visit ended in disaster when the visitors offended their Kandyan hosts with their behaviour and in the ensuing fracas de Weert and a several of his entourage were killed.

Wimaladharmasuriya died in 1604. The throne passed to his cousin, Senarat, who at the time of the king's death was an ordained priest, but left the sangha and married Dona Catherina. Kuruvita Rala, the Prince of Uva of the Karava lineage, raided the Kandy Kingdom and drove Senerat out of his capital.[12] In 1611 Portuguese forces captured Kandy in the name of the pretender Mayadunne of Uva and torched the city yet again.[13] In 1619, Cankili II was deposed and the Jaffna Kingdom absorbed into the Portuguese Empire. Despite these setbacks Senarat survived as king and in 1612 had even concluded a treaty with the VOC. When help came it was in the form of a Danish East India Company fleet which arrived in 1620, but failed to secure Trincomalee and was expelled by the Portuguese.[14]

The Portuguese strengthened their position throughout the 1620s, building forts at Kalutara, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and in Sabaragamuwa, and upgrading fortifications in Colombo, Galle, and Manikkadawara. A disastrous defeat at the battle of Randeniwela on 2 August 1630 in which Portuguese captain-general Constantino de Sá de Noronha was killed resulted in large parts of Portuguese Ceilao being overrun by the Kandyans.[15] Internal instability yet again prevented the Kandyans from securing their acquisitions, and by the time of Senarat's death in 1635 lowland Sri Lanka was once again under Portuguese control.

The throne now passed to Senarat's son Rajasinha II, who led the Kandyans to a major victory over the Portuguese at Gannoruwa on the 28 March 1638. The battle was to be the last major military victory for the kingdom of Kandy, and succeeded in severely weakening the Portuguese presence in Sri Lanka. In May of that year he concluded a wide-ranging alliance with the Dutch, who were by now in control of Batavia. Batticaloa and Trincomalee fell in 1639, Galle in 1640, and Kandyan forces seized Portuguese territories further inland.

Colombo, after Kip
Dutch Colombo, based on an engraving of circa 1690

Relations between the Dutch and the Kandyans had been difficult from the onset and the alliance fell apart in the 1640s. The two sides joined forces again in the 1650s to expel the Portuguese, but a final break occurred in 1656 in the aftermath of the fall of Colombo after a six-month siege and the final expulsion of the Portuguese from Sri Lanka. Rajasinha demanded that the fort be handed over to the Kandyans for demolition; in November, the Dutch refused and drove the king and his army from the vicinity. Rajasinha's hold over his own population was tenuous, and rebellions against him in 1664 and 1671 gave the Dutch the opportunity to seize large parts of Sabaragamuwa in 1665, as well as Kalpitiya, Kottiyar, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. The seizure of the ports was a serious blow to the Kandyan kingdom – not only were Dutch holdings now more or less coterminous with the territory the Portuguese had held, but all Kandyan trade was now in Dutch hands. Rajasinha attempted to negotiate an alliance with French, who seized Trincomalee, but were expelled by the Dutch in 1672. Kandyan campaigns in 1675 and 1684 recaptured some territory, but by the time of Rajasinha's death in 1687 neither city had returned to Kandyan control.[16]

Rajasinha's son ascended to the throne as Vimaladharmasuriya II, and his twenty-year reign (1687–1707) proved relatively peaceable. A trade war broke out in 1701, when the Kandyans closed their borders with Dutch territories in order to stimulate trade through the ports of Puttalam and Kottiyar. As a result, the Dutch lost control of the areca nut trade and retaliated; by 1707 Kandyan borders had reopened and both ports were closed.[16] Upon his death Vimaladharmasurya was succeeded by his son, who ruled as Vira Narendra Sinha. Several anti-Dutch uprisings occurred in the lowlands during the course of the 1720s and 1730s; the Kandyans in turn declared war in the Dutch in 1736 and seized some territory. Hostilities subsided with the appointment of Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff as Governor, and by 1737 the Dutch and Kandyans were once again at peace.

The Nayakkars and the coming of the British: 1739–1803

A succession crisis emerged upon Narendrasinha's death in 1739. The king had one son – Unambuve Bandara – by a Sinhala consort. However, succession to the Kandyan throne was reserved exclusively for those of kshatriya ancestry on both their mother and father's side, and Unambuve's mother had been of a lower caste. With the support of the bhikku Weliwita Sarankara, the crown passed to the brother of one of Narendrasinha's senior wives, a member of the Telugu-speaking and Tamil-speaking Nayak house from southern India.[17] He was crowned Sri Vijaya Rajasinha later that year. The Nayak Kings were of Telugu origin who practiced Shaivite Hinduism and were patrons of Theravada Buddhism[18][19].The Nayak rulers played a huge role in reviving Buddhism in the island[20].They spoke Tamil, which was also used as the court language in Kandy alongside with Sinhalese[21][22][23][24][25]

Relations between the Sinhala populace, including the Kandyan aristocracy, and the Nayakkars remained fraught throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. As early as Narendrasinha's reign, attempts at appointing Nayakkars to prominent positions in court had caused rebellion, including one in 1732 that the king had only been able to crush with Dutch assistance. The Nayakkar nobility – which tended to be exclusivist and monopolise access to the king – was seen as forming an elite group privileged above the native aristocracy, the powerful adigars. Though Sri Vijaya Rajasinha's reign (1739–1747) proved relatively peaceful, his successor Kirti Sri Rajasinha had to deal with two major rebellions. The first, in 1749, was directed at his father Narenappa; the second, in 1760, was a far more dangerous insurrection which attempted to replace him with a Siamese prince.[26] Despite these tensions, however, the Nayakkar dynasty endured, establishing support by their patronage of Buddhism and Kandyan culture.

Throughout the reigns of Sri Vijaya Rajasinha and Kirti Sri Rajasinha the Kandyans launched numerous raids and incursions into Dutch territory, including the annexation of villages in 1741, 1743, and 1745. The Dutch governors, subservient to Batavia, were under strict orders to avoid conflict with the kingdom, without ceding any of their privileges, including monopoly of the cinnamon trade. In 1761, however, Kirti Sri Rajasinha launched a major invasion of the low country, annexing Matara and Hanwella as well as numerous frontier districts. It was to prove to be a disaster; the Dutch re-captured Matara and Hanwella in 1762, seized Puttalam and Chilaw in 1763, and then drove inland in a two-pronged invasion. The Kandyans evacuated Senkadagala, which the Dutch torched; outlying agricultural lands were also ravaged, leaving the kingdom on the brink of starvation by 1764. Kirti Sri Rajasinha requested assistance from the British in 1762, but failed to secure an alliance. By 1765 the Dutch were in a position to force a treaty upon the Kandyans returning not only the border districts but all of Kandy's coastal provinces to the Dutch; henceforth, the kingdom would be effectively cut off from the outside world.[27] Relations between the Dutch and the Kandyans remained peaceable after this until the final expulsion of the former from the island in 1796.

Though several British sailors and priests had landed in Sri Lanka as early as the 1590s,[28] the most famous was Robert Knox who published An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon based on his experiences during the reign of Rajasinghe II in 1681. One hundred years later, British involvement in Sri Lankan affairs commenced in earnest with the seizure of Trincomalee by Admiral Edward Hughes as part of general British-Dutch hostilities during the American War of Independence.

The tumult of the French Revolution had spread to the Netherlands by 1795, and Dutch Zeylan sided with the Batavian Republic during the ensuing conflict. The British rapidly annexed Dutch possessions in Sri Lanka, taking Trincomalee (which had been returned to the Dutch in 1794) between 28 and 31 August, Batticaloa on 18 September, and the entirety of Jaffna on 28 September. Migastenne Disawa, the Kandyan ambassador, negotiated a treaty in Madras securing the return of much of the eastern coast to the Kandyans in February 1796; by the 15 of that month, Colombo had fallen and Dutch rule on the island had come to an end.

Frederick North, first British Governor of Ceylon

Kirti Sri Rajasinha died in the midst of these events in January 1796, and was succeeded by his brother Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha. The new king rejected the terms of Migastenne's treaty, depriving the kingdom of the opportunity to regain the lands it had lost a generation earlier.[29] It proved to be a fateful decision; the British immediately set about organising their new acquisitions, establishing systems of government, education, and justice. With the appointment of Frederick North (1798–1805) as the first British governor of Ceylon, any hope of the Kandyans regaining their eastern territories essentially disappeared.

Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha died of illness on 26 July 1798 with no heir. The English East India Company and the Crown both had control over the island from 1798 until it became the British crown colony of Ceylon in 1802. Much of the king's reign had been dominated by the powerful First Minister, Pilima Talawe, who now moved to enthroned a young relative of the king, 18-year-old Konnasami as Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. Muttusami, brother-in-law of Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha also claimed the throne of Kandy, but Pilima Talauve arrested him and his sisters. The First Minister, was close to the British however could not control Sri Vickrama Rajasinha, he coveted the throne for himself, and at meetings with the British at Avissawella between 1799 and 1801 requested British assistance in deposing Sri Vickrama Rajasinha. Complex negotiations ensued, with various ideas – including the king being moved to British lands with Pilima Talawe acting as his viceroy in Kandy - were discussed and rejected by both sides.

The territories still possessed by the Dutch on the island were formally ceded to the British in the 1802 treaty of Amiens, but the English Company still retained a monopoly on the colony's trade. Agents of the British were put in charge of lucrative pearl fisheries, cotton plantations, salt, and tobacco monopolies. In the first three years the government received £396,000 from pearl fisheries. This compensated for the lower price of cinnamon because of Dutch stocks in Amsterdam.

Amidst rising tension, matters came to a head when a group of Moorish British subjects were detained and beaten by agents of Pilima Talawe's. British demands for reparations were ignored by the Kandyans and so North ordered a British force to invade Kandyan lands starting the First Kandyan War. On 31 January 1803 a British force led by General Hay Macdowall marched to Kandy and found it evacuated. The British force installed Muttusami, but he was not respected by the Kandyans. The British were surrounded by hostile people, lacked food, and suffered disease. Macdowall became ill and put Major Davie in charge. The British abandoned Kandy with the sick left behind were put to death. Kandyan forces defeated the retreating British at the Mahavali River, executing Muttusami and all the British prisoners except Davie and three others. This Kandyan war lasted for two years, becoming the longest and most intensive period of the Kandyan Wars, because Governor North continued to send forces to the frontiers.

Annexation and rebellion: 1803–1817

The British fought their way to Kandy, encountering Kandyan resistance led in part by a Malay commander known as Sangunglo.[30] Upon their arrival they found the city deserted. Rather than torching it, they installed a puppet king, Muttusami, and left a small garrison in the town before withdrawing. The Kandyans recaptured the city, leaving only one survivor, and harried British forces down to the Mahaveli river, but were routed at Hanwella. The following year another British incursion resulted in stalemate, and an uneasy truce was in place by 1805.

In the following decade Sri Wickrama Rajasinha's increasingly erratic and capricious rule led to serious unrest amongst the population. A major rebellion in the Seven Korales nearly dethroned him in 1808. The powerful Pilima Talawe rebelled in 1810, was captured, and executed. In 1814, the king ordered Ehelepola Adigar, Dissava of Sabaragamuwa, to Kandy. Ehelepola, suspecting a trap, refused; in revenge, the king had his wife and three children executed. Such was the cruelty of the execution that the Kandyan populace, not unused to sights of public execution, now turned en masse against the king.[31] The king was also hugely unpopular amongst the clergy for his sudden and brutal seizures of their land and valuables.

Kandyan Convention
The Kandyan Convention document.

In November 1814, ten British subjects were captured and mutilated in Kandyan territory. Governor Robert Brownrigg ordered several British forces moved inland from their coastal strongholds in January 1815, accompanied by native forces under Ehelepola. Molligoda, Ehelepola's successor in Sabaragamuwa and Dissava of the Four Korales, defected to the British in February; Kandy was seized on 14 February, and Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe himself captured on 18 February by Ehelepola's men.[31] The king was subsequently exiled to India, where he died in 1832. His son died childless in 1843, bringing the Nayakkar line to an end.

On 2 March 1815, British agents – including Robert Brownrigg and John D'Oyly – met with the nobility of the kingdom and concluded in a conference known as the Kandyan Convention. The resulting agreement allowed for the protection of Buddhism and the preservation of local systems of government under the authority of the British Governor in Colombo and supervised by British agents in Sabaragamuwa, the Three Korales, and Uva. In practice, however, local chiefs such as Ehelepola and Molligoda were acutely aware that they were ultimately answerable to the British, and were in practice junior to British military officers who now had free access to their domains.

Rebellion broke out in 1817 in Wellassa, spreading rapidly to Uva and Walpane. Keppitipola, Dissave of Uva, was sent to quash the uprising, but defected and joined the rebels instead. By July, every major Kandyan chief except Molligoda had joined the rebellion; several, including Ehelepola, had already been captured. Molligoda however ensured the road to Kandy remained open and on 30 October Keppetipola was captured. His associate Madugalle Adikaram was captured on 1 November, and thereafter the rebellion collapsed. Both leaders were beheaded on 26 November 1817.[31] Viewing the Convention as null and void, the British set about breaking the power of the nobility. Though smaller uprisings occurred in 1820, 1823, and 1824, none of them seriously threatened British government of the highlands.

The area of the central highlands in which the Kandyan kingdom was situated had the natural protection of rivers, waterways, hills and rocky mountainous terrain. The prominent location of the Kandyan kingdom with its cool climate had greatly contributed to protect the independence of the nation for nearly three centuries.



Sinhalese Monarchs
House of Siri Sanga Bo
House of Dinajara
Nayaks of Kandy
  1. Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu (1473–1511)
  2. Jayaweera Astana (1511–1551)
  3. Karaliyadde Bandara (1551–1581)
  4. Dona Catherina (1581–1581)
  5. Rajasinha I (1581–1593)
  6. Vimaladharmasuriya I (1590–1604)
  7. Senarat (1604–1635)
  8. Rajasinghe II (1635–1687)
  9. Vimaladharmasurya II (1687–1707)
  10. Vira Narendra Sinha (1707–1739)
  11. Sri Vijaya Rajasinha (1739–1747)
  12. Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747–1782)
  13. Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782–1798)
  14. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798–1815)

According to the Kandyan administrative system, the king was head of all spheres. He was also known as "Lankeshwara Thrisinhaladheeshwara". It was accepted that the king owned all lands and therefore was known as "Bhupathi". Even though the king was called "Adeeshwara", he had to rule according to the advice of the Buddhist priests and chieftains. The king had to follow the customs and traditions which were in popular practice at that time, otherwise the people would rebel against him if he did not. Not obeying these would be detrimental to the power of the king, an example being Vikrama Rajasinha, who had to surrender to the British, merely because he ignored the advice of the Buddhist priests and chieftains and did not follow the age old traditions.[3]

The kings of Kandy became the rulers of the whole island with Vimaladharmasuriya I.

The King's officials

Maha Adigars

Persons were appointed to the title and office by the King, these appointees made up the King's council of ministers. Only a very few Adigars existed at one given time and most senior of Adigars was known as the Maha Adikarm or 1st Adikar; similar to the post of a modern Prime Minister. There was no time limit for the office holder as he held the post at the pleasure of the King, which meant throughout his life, if not incurred the displeasure of the King. It was not hereditary, although members of the same family have been appointed.


Kandyan Chiefs in 1905
A group of British appointed Kandyan chiefs, with Hon. J. P. Lewis, Government Agent in 1905. The chiefs have adopted the dress of traditional Dissawas by this time but still haven't started using other traditional insignia of high office such as jewelry, ceremonial daggers or footwear.

Persons were appointed to the title and office by the King, these appointees headed the administration of a large province of the Kingdom known as a Dissava and was the king's personal representative, tax collector in that area. In modern terms the post was similar to a combination of the post of Chief Minister and a governor of a province of Sri Lanka. There was no time limit for the officer holder as he held the post at the pleasure of the King, which meant throughout his life, if not incurred the displeasure of the King. It was not hereditary, although members of the same family have been appointed.

Rate Mahaththayas

Persons were appointed to the title and office by the King, these appointees headed the administration of a large locality known as Korale, which was a division of the province of the Kingdom known as a Dissava and as such he would be subordinate to the local Dissava. There was no time limit for the officer holder as he held the post at the pleasure of the King, which meant throughout his life, if not incurred the displeasure of the King. It was not hereditary, although members of the same family have been appointed.

Diyawadana Nilame

Diyawadana Nilame was an office of the Royal household, charged with safeguarding and carrying out ancient rituals for the sacred Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. The Diyawadana Nilame has the responsibility of overseeing of all aspects of the Sri Dalada Maligawa. One of his principal duty of organizing the annual pageant, the Kandy Esala Perahera.

Basnayaka Nilame


The Kingdom of Kandy had its own law. Some parts of it have been annexed to the current Sri Lankan Law along with Common law, Roman Dutch Law and Thesavalamai law.[32]

The court language of Kandy was under the Nayaks the Tamil language.[33][34]


The Kingdom of Kandy did not maintain a large standing army, which was common for the era, although the King maintained a full-time Royal Guard at the Palace. In the provinces, local garrisons were maintained to guard strategic mountain passes or to suppress rebellions. During times of war or military campaign these would be supplemented with local militia.

Kandyan forces, throughout their history, relied heavily on the mountainous terrain of the kingdom and primarily engaged in guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, and quick raids. One of the hallmarks of the clashes between the kingdom and its European foes was the inability of either side to take and hold land or to permanently cut off supply routes, with the exception being the Dutch, who managed to do so for an extended period of time in 1762.

In the 16th and 17th century the Kandyan Kings relied on mercenaries, often Telugu military adventurers. With the arrival of the Nayakkars, large numbers of South Indian Tamil soldiers made up the king's personal guard. In addition to this, various Europeans were in the King's service during this period (including a master gunner), and large contingents of Malays, who were very highly regarded as fighters.[35]

As for the armies, each of the local chieftains could call upon a militia which often accompanied them on their journeys around the kingdom. The bulk of the Kandyan army consisted of local peasant conscripts – irregulars pressed into service in times of war – who tended to bring with them around twenty days' worth of supplies and functioned in discrete units often out of contact with each other. One of the reasons for the Kandyan's inability to hold the land they captured was poor logistical support, as many soldiers had to return to base to replenish their supplies once they ran out.[36]

Interaction with Europeans had led to the introduction of muskets and other gunpowder weapons, and by the 1760s bows and arrows had been rendered obsolete. Kandyan gunsmiths specialised in manufacturing light flintlocks with smaller bores than European guns, with their barrels extended for accuracy. The Kandyans also developed a unique form of hand-held cannon, the kodithuwakkuwa.[37] These innovations allowed the kingdom to produce heavy artillery on the scale and quality of European forces.


During the reign of Vimaladharmasuriya I many steps were taken to develop and improve the economy of the Kingdom of Kandy. He took steps to improve the iron industry the Uva Province and agriculture in places such as Kothmale, Walapane, Harispaththuwa, Uva, Hewaheta, Udunuwara, Yatinuwara and Ududumbara.[3]

Imports of the Kandyan Kingdom included silk, tea, and sugar while exports included cinnamon, pepper and areca nut.

Administrative divisions


In the early years of the kingdom it consisted of areas or divisions.[3]

Name Present Name Present District
Siduruwana Uda Nuwara and Uda Palatha
Balawita Harispaththuwa
Matale Matale Matale District
Dumbara Dumbara
Sagama Tungama Walapane and Hewaheta

Rata Wasama

Rata Wasama was the provincial administration of the subdivisions of the Kingdom of Kandy.



The state religion was Buddhism. Due to the activities of the Portuguese, ordained Buddhist monks were absent by the Dutch era. After the arrival of the Nayak dynasty Buddhism was again firmly established in the island. The dynasty of Vimaladharmasurya I largely tolerated the presence of Christians, in particular Catholics fleeing Portuguese land following their occupation by the Dutch. On occasion the Kandyan kings even protected Catholic agents, most famously Vimaladharmasurya II's protection of Joseph Vaz. The religious environment, however, changed dramatically with the arrival of the Nayak dynasty. In 1743 Sri Vijaya Rajasinha ordered churches burned and commenced a general repression of the faith, which continued until Kirti Sri Rajasinha commanded its cessation.[38]

Culture and Arts

Art and Architecture

Dalada Maligawa Sri Lanka H
Interior of the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy. Successive kings expanded and improved the temple throughout the Kandyan kingdom's existence.

See also


  1. ^ Johnston, William M. (2013-12-04). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Routledge. p. 707. ISBN 9781136787164.
  2. ^ Enemy lines: childhood, warfare, and play in Batticaloa, Page 40, Author:Margaret Trawick, Publisher: University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-520-24516-7
  3. ^ a b c d Chapter 1, Kandyan Kingdom
  4. ^ LastName, FirstName (1994). Pivot politics : changing cultural identities in early state formation processes. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis. ISBN 90-5589-007-3. page 197
  5. ^ Paulus Edward Pieris (1950). Sinhalē and the patriots, 1815-1818. Colombo Apothecaries' Co.
  6. ^ Paulus Edward Pieris (1945). Tri Siṃhala, the last phase, 1796-1815. Colombo Apothecaries' Co.
  7. ^ Asiatic Society of Bengal (1803). Asiatic researches or transactions of the Society instituted in Bengal, for inquiring into the history and antiquities, the arts, sciences, and literature, of Asia. On Singhala or Ceylon and the doctrine of Bhooddha; by Captain Mahony. Full view book
  8. ^ Patrick Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka, 2006, p38
  9. ^ A True and Exact Description of the great island of Ceylon, Phillipus Baldaeus, 1672, p.8
  10. ^ a b Patrick Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka, 2006, p37
  11. ^ Vimala Dharma Suriya I of Kandy, Lanka Library, retrieved 22 August 2009
  12. ^ DeSilva, Chandra Richard (1972). The Portuguese in Ceylon, 1617-1638. University of London: School of Oriental and African Studies. pp. 83–84.
  13. ^ Condrington, H.W, "7", A Short History of Sri Lanka.
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External links

An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon

An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon together With somewhat Concerning Severall Remarkable passages of my life that hath hapned since my Deliverance out of Captivity is a book written by the English trader and sailor Robert Knox in 1681. It describes his experiences some years earlier on the South Asian island now best known as Sri Lanka. It provides one of the most important contemporary accounts of 17th century Ceylonese life.

Knox spent 19 years on Ceylon after being taken prisoner by King Râjasimha II. He survived by knitting caps, selling goods and lending rice and corn. He finally escaped with one companion in 1679 and reached Arippu, a Dutch settlement on the north-west coast of the island, from where he was able to return to England in 1680.

The book was written during the voyage to England. It came to the attention of Knox's employers, the directors of the British East India Company, who recommended its publication. The historian and biographer John Strype, Knox's cousin, helped him to prepare the book for publication with the encouragement of the natural philosopher and polymath Robert Hooke. It was printed by Richard Chiswell, the printer to the Royal Society, under the imprimaturs of the Society and the Company. When the book was published in 1681 it was widely read and was translated in Knox's lifetime into German (1689), Dutch (1692) and French (1693) editions. It made Knox internationally famous and was a major influence on the works of Daniel Defoe; Robinson Crusoe and the later Captain Singleton both draw on the experiences of Knox.

The Relation has a wider literary importance in influencing the development of the English novel. Knox uses direct and idiomatic language to provide detailed descriptions of the factual reality that he saw during his time on Ceylon. He paints a portrait of himself as a practical, self-sufficient and robust individual, very much like Defoe's shipwrecked mariner. The book is of fundamental importance as a source for the economic history and anthropology of Ceylon during this period due to the objectivity and detail of the text, in which Knox provides closely observed descriptions of Sinhalese topography, economic and social life, cultural characteristics and conditions in the kingdom of Kandy. It is divided into four parts; the first three describe the kingdom of Kandy, and the final part details Knox's escape from captivity.The preface provides maps and descriptions of Tamil royal and rural life in the country Vanni which he stumbled into in the north and east of the island. The book is accompanied by seventeen copperplate engravings of unknown provenance to illustrate topics addressed by Knox. The engravings are not particularly artistically accomplished, but they do fit the text well. However, the artist suffers from evidently not having seen his subjects; H.A.I. Goonetileke comments that "the animals are near caricatures and the human subjects are obviously based on more familiar European models." The non-English editions of the book imitate or adapt the original English engravings. The Dutch edition, for instance, incorporates engravings by Jan Luyken which are based on the English originals but provide a more animated setting, with more detailed backgrounds of buildings and landscapes.

Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Central Province (Sinhalese: මධ්‍යම පළාත Madhyama Palata, Tamil: மத்திய மாகாணம் Madhiya Maakaanam) is one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the first level administrative division of the country. (The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils.) The Central Province is primarily in the central mountainous terrain of Sri Lanka. It is the 6th largest province by area and is home to 2.5 million people. It is bordered by North Central Province to the north, Uva Province to the east, North Western Province to the west and Sabaragamuwa Province to the south and west. The province's capital is Kandy.

The cities of Matale and Nuwara Eliya are in the Central Province. The province is famous for its production of Ceylon tea, planted by the British in the 1860s after a devastating disease killed all the coffee plantations in the province. The Central Province attracts many tourists, with hill station towns such as Gampola, Hatton and Nuwara Eliya.

Great Rebellion of 1817–18

The Great Rebellion of 1817–18, also known as the 1818 Uva–Wellassa uprising (after the two places it had started), or simply the Uva rebellion, was the third Kandyan War with the British, in what is now Sri Lanka. It took place in what is now Uva, which was then a province of the Kingdom of Kandy, against the British colonial government under Governor Robert Brownrigg, which had been controlling the formerly independent Udarata (Up-Country in Sinhalese).

Kandy District

Kandy District (Sinhalese: මහනුවර දිස්ත්‍රික්කය, Tamil: கண்டி மாவட்டம்) is a district of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Its area is 1906.3 km². The capital of the district is Kandy.

Kandy Lake

Kandy Lake (Sinhalese: බෝගම්බර වැව/ කිරි මූද), also known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, is an artificial lake in the heart of the hill city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, built in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe next to the Temple of the Tooth. Over the years, it was reduced in size. It is a protected lake, with fishing banned. There are many legends and folklore regarding the lake. One such is that the small island at its center was used by the king's helm for bathing and was connected to the palace by secret tunnel.

Kandyan Convention

The Kandyan Convention (Sinhala: උඩරට ගිවිසුම Udarata Giwisuma) was an agreement signed on 10 March 1815 between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom, British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for the deposition of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha and ceding of the Kingdom's territory to British rule. The king, of South Indian ancestry, faced powerful opposition from the Sinhalese chieftains who sought to limit his power. A successful coup was organized by the chieftains, marking the end of 2358 years of self-rule on the island and resulting in the imprisonment of the King in Vellore. The treaty is quite unique in that it was not signed by the monarch on the throne but by members of his court and other dignitaries of the kingdom.

The convention gained a degree of infamy when, according to apocryphal sources, Wariyapola Sri Sumangala, a Buddhist monk of the kingdom, seized and trampled a Union Jack hoisted by the British, demanding the flag of Kandy be left flying until the Convention was signed..

The authenticity of the native signatures have recently been called into question.

Kandyan Treaty of 1638

The Kandyan Treaty of 1638 was a treaty between the Kingdom of Kandy, in Dutch Republic signed by King Rajasinghe II for the Kingdom of Kandy and Adam Westerwold and William Jacobsz Coster, a commander and vice commander of the Dutch Naval Forces respectively, for the Dutch East India Company. The treaty was signed on 23 May, 1638 in Batticaloa. The treaty secured the terms under which the two nations would cooperate in defending the Kandyan Kingdom from the Portuguese.

Kandyan Wars

The Kandyan Wars (or the Kandian Wars) refers generally to the period of warfare between the British colonial forces and the Kingdom of Kandy, on the island of what is now Sri Lanka, between 1796 and 1818. More specifically it is used to describe the expeditionary campaigns of the British Army in the Kingdom of Kandy in 1803 and 1815.

Kandyan law

Kandyan law is the customary law that originates from the Kingdom of Kandy, which is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Buddhist and from the former provinces of the Kandian Kingdom. It is one of three customary laws which are still in use in Sri Lanka. The other two customary laws are the Thesavalamai and the Muslim law. At present it governs aspects of marriage, adoption, transfer of property and inheritance, as codified in 1938 in the Kandyan Law Declaration and Amendment Ordinance.

List of Kandyan monarchs

The Kandyan monarchs ruled the Kingdom of Kandy from 1469 to 1815. The Kingdom was first established by Senasammata Vikramabahu, a royal from the Kingdom of Kotte, when he led the secession of the Kande uda pas rata (‘the five regions of the hill country’), a realm of the Kingdom of Kotte, during the reign of Parakramabahu VI. Vikramabahu, who founded the city of Kandy reigned for 4 decades, setting an example of longevity and stability for the new kingdom. It is possible to say that the Kingdom of Kandy was ruled by three dynasties, the House of Siri Sanga Bo, the House of Dinajara and the Nayaks of Kandy.


Matale (Sinhala: මාතලේ, Tamil:மாத்தளை) often written as Mathale (pronounced Maathalé), is the largest town of Matale District of the Central Province, of Sri Lanka. It is 142 kilometres (88 mi) from Colombo and near Kandy. Surrounding the town are the Knuckles Mountain Range, the foothills were called Wiltshire by the British. It is a mainly agricultural area, where tea, rubber, vegetable and spice cultivation dominate.

Matale District

Matale District (Sinhalese: මාතලේ දිස්ත්‍රික්කය, Tamil: மாத்தளை மாவட்டம்) is a district in Central Province, Sri Lanka. Its area is 1,987 km². The administrative capital of the district is the city of Matale.

Natha Devale, Kandy

The Nàtha Devàla is located on the terrace, in front of the Palace complex of Kandy. It is said to have been in existence even before the Tooth Relic was brought to Kandy.The oldest extant structure in Kandy, it is said to have been built by King Vikramabahu III in the 14th century. The history of the worship of God Natha is not clear. The name 'Natha' literally means ‘no form’ and ‘no shape’, and is therefore generally associated with Lord Maitreya, the next Buddha.In the days of the Kingdom of Kandy, this shrine is said have played an important role in the establishment of the royalty. The king was given his royal name at this shrine. The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, being worshiped as a curer of diseases, the tradition of distributing herbal preparations on New Year day was conducted here until recent times. Hence, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is also associated with the Natha Devale, Kandy.

In the annual procession, the Natha Devale procession takes the pride of place among the Devale processions and follows just behind the Dalada Perahara.

Vishnu Devale of Kandy, a shrine which is located to the north of the Natha Devale, is in the inner complex of the palace. That shrine is dedicated to God Vishnu, one of the Hindu Triad, is considered a sober divinity who was committed to the protection of Buddhism from the beginning.

He is the god that protects Sri Lanka, thus if he protects Sri Lanka he protects Buddhism.Lord Buddha prophesied that Buddhism would flourish for 5,000 years. More than 2500 years of that 5000 years has gone past. It is said that Lord Natha is still in the battle of protecting Buddhism from Mara, and he has sent gods from the heaven to earth to protect Buddhism.

North Central Province, Sri Lanka

North Central Province (Sinhalese: උතුරු මැද පළාත Uturumeda Palata, Tamil: வட மத்திய மாகாணம் Wada Maththiya Maakaanam) is a province of Sri Lanka. Its capital is Anuradhapura. The province is not densely populated, and it has a weak economy as the land tends to be dry tropical woodlands. Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan president, hails from the North Central Province.

Nuwara Eliya District

Nuwara Eliya District (Tamil: நுவரேலியா மாவட்டம், Sinhalese: නුවරඑළිය දිස්ත්‍රික්කය) is a district in Central Province, Sri Lanka, centered on the tourist city of Nuwara Eliya.

Robert Brownrigg

General Sir Robert Brownrigg, 1st Baronet, GCB (1759 – 27 April 1833) was a British statesman and soldier. Brownrigg brought the last part of Sri Lanka under British rule.

Sabaragamuwa Province

The Sabaragamuwa Province, (Sinhalese: සබරගමුව පළාත Sabaragamuwa Palata, Tamil: சபரகமுவ மாகாணம் Sabaragamuwa Maakaanam) is one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the first level administrative division of the country. The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils. The Sabaragamuwa Province contains two districts: Ratnapura and Kegalle. It is named after its former indigenous inhabitants, namely the Sabara, an indic term for hunter-gatherer tribes, a term seldom used in ancient Sri Lanka. Sabaragamuwa University is in Belihuloya.

Temple of the Tooth

Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple.

Bhikkhus of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.

The temple sustained damage from bombings by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1989 and by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1998 but was fully restored each time.

Treaty of Batticaloa

The Treaty of Batticaloa (or the Hanguranketha Treaty) was signed on 14 February 1766 between Dutch Ceylon governor Wilhelm Falk and King Keerthisiri Rajasinghe of Kandy. In Colombo, Dumbararala led five emissaries to negotiate the terms of the treaty. Eventually, twenty-five clauses were established in the agreement.

Dynastic periods
Royal Residences
Related dynasties
Kingdom of Kandy topics
Society and culture
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Sri Lanka topics

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