Administration in Udarata Kingdom


The Udarata kingdom had a centralized administration which covered the full kingdom, including far flung villages. At the centre was the king, as head of state. There was a Maha Sabha, composed of the leading chiefs, to advise him. There were three levels of administration, central, provincial and special. The central administration came under the direct control of the king. His orders were carried out by the Adhikarama, his chief minister. Rajasinha II divided this post into two, named ‘Pallegampaha adhikarama’ and ‘Udagampaha adhikarama’. Pallegampaha ranked first.

These two Adhikaramas were highest officers in the Udarata. They were second only to the king. The whole country came under them. Pallegampaha adhikarama administered the provinces in the north and east. Udagampaha administered the provinces in the south and west. Each adhikarama had judicial and administrative power over the provinces under them, subject only to the wishes of the king.

Udarata kingdom consisted of 21 provinces, of which the 12 principal ones were called ‘disavani’ and the rest ‘rata’. There were four Maha disavani, Satara korale, Sat korale, Uva and Matale. Satara Korale came first in the rank order of korales. There were eight Sulu disavas, Sabaragamuwa, Tun korale, Walapane, Udapalata, Nuwarakalawiya, Wellassa, Bintenne and Tamankaduwa. Each province had its own flag.

The nine Ratas were Yatinuwara, (which included Kandy), Udunuvara, Tumpane, Harispattuwa, Dumbara, Hewaheta, Kotmale, Uda Bulatgama and Pata Bulatgama. They were more populous and fertile than the disavani and were closest to the capital city. The ‘Ratas’ were under the ‘raterala’. Raterala were from high families but the position carried less rank than the disawe. They could not use palanquins, drums or flags. Since the Ratas were close to the capital, the rateralas were scared to misbehave.

Each disavani was under disawe. The disawe carried out the king’s orders, collected the revenue, supervised rajakariya, administered justice and ensured the good government of his territory. The disawes resided in the capital, not the disavani. They visited the disavani only when necessary. The disavani administration was in the hands of the Disava Mohottala, who ran the show on behalf of the disawa. The Mohottala had a large staff under him, appointed by the disava from the local aristocracy. However, historians note that the Disawe was able to prevent the rise of local power groups except in Nuvarakalaviya and Tamankaduwa. The Atapattu, a separate high ranking group, provided the bodyguard for the disawa, in Kandy and in the disavani.

The disavani was divided into ‘korales’ and the korales into’ pattus’. Korales were administered by the ‘korala,’ assisted by ‘atukoralas’. Below them came a host of lesser officers such as vidane, kankanama, liyana rala, mannana and aracchi. There was a strict list of the status items which could be used by each rank. The number of large flags, small flags, horane for each rank was specified. Since disavanis were separated from the capital city by thick forests and rivers, people lost sight of the king. The attention was on the disava, his mohottala and assistants.

The third level of administration consisted of the special departments. The palace service was one of these. Palace employees came directly under the king, not the chiefs. No one could punish them except the king. They enjoyed service lands. The palace service had many departments, with many divisions and dozens of employees. The gabada department , which looked after the royal estates (gabadagam) had ‘gabada nilames’ who went on circuit to the villages, ‘lekams’ who kept the list of service lands, and ‘gabadaralas’ who looked after the stores.

All persons working for the king worked for a limited period of around 15 days, then another set took their place. The potters came from Uva, Matale, Satara and Sat korale in rotation, three months each. In some positions, if too many rajakariya persons attended and their services were not needed, or if a person simply wished to avoid the rajakariya, he could do so paying ‘mura ridi’ as commutation fee. A few special departments such as katupulle ((king’s messengers), kasakara ( whip crackers) functioned outside the palace. They had their own supervising officers.

There was also a set of independent departments known as baddas, which functioned under their own heads. The Mahabadde was responsible for cinnamon collection and peeling. Cinnamon peeler villages were under vidanes. Under them came the duraya, divided into mahaduraiya and sub duraiyas. The madige badda was responsible for the transport of goods in and out of Udarata. Kottal badda contained the craftsmen. They held service lands and were cultivators as well. There was a ‘kottalbadde nilame’ for each badda in a disavani. Since these baddas came under the disawa this position was held by him. The baddas in the Ratas came under the king

The Adhikarama, disawe and raterala were appointed by the king. These officers, in turn made the appointments below them. All officers up to Vidana could appoint subordinate staff. Katupulle were appointed by the adhikarama. Mohottala and Vidana by disawe and Manana by the vidane. The appointees had to pay for the position. Katupulle paid 5 to 15 ridi each, Vidana paid 45 ridi. Appointments, including those of adhikarama and disawa, were valid only for 12 months, renewable annually by a payment known as dakum. This was a fixed sum. This was paid to the person who made the appointment and that person used it to pay his own dakum. Adhikarama and disawe used the dakum paid to them for their own dakum to the king. ‘Madige badde nilame’ used the dakum paid by the madige to pay his own dakum.

There were no salaries. Instead, the officers were entitled to the products and service from the lands (nindagam) which came with the position, and the money that came from appointments and dakum. The disawa’s nindagam lands were supervised by a separate set of officials who in turn held land for this service. There were valauve lekam miti. Disawe was also entitled to part of the produce from the ‘disawe gabadagam.’ There were other sources of income as well. The disawa retained a portion of the monies collected for the king. There was a fixed rate for subordinate appointments but the disawa gave them to the highest bidder and took the extra money. Mura ridi fee was divided between disawa and the head of the delegation. Fines belonged to the officer who levied them. Court fines went to the persons who heard the case, not to court.

The highest positions, such as those of adhikarama, disawe, raterala and less prominent, nevertheless highly respected positions, such as maha lekam, were given only to persons who came from select radala families. These positions were held continuously within one family for more than three generations, sometimes passing from father to son. Pilimatalauve‘s father and grandfather had also held the office of Pallegampaha Adhikarama. Ehelepolas had served three successive kings, ending with Narendrasinha. When Galagoda was Pallegampaha adhikarama under Kirti Sri Rajasinha, his two brothers were disawa of Uva and Raterala of Harispattuwa. In the disavani too, the leading families monopolised the top positions.

Wimaladharma found that a few elite families all drawn from the top radala group dominated the entire administration structure. Eventually, three family clusters held power. They were Denuvara cluster dominated by Pilimatalauves, Matale cluster by Ehelepolas, Dumbara cluster by Amunugamas and Rambukwelles. There was much inter marriage and officials were related to each other through marriage or kinship. Despite this, there was great disunity between these radala families. They competed with each other, each family pursuing its own political goals. There was rivalry between families and within a single family. The Sabaragamuwa elite, for instance, though related, were not on friendly terms with each other.

The writings of S. Arasaratnam, S.B.D. de Silva, L.S. Dewaraja, D.A.Kotelawele, J D’Oyly, P.E.Pieris, Ralph Pieris, K. Wimaladharma and Niti Nighanduwa were used for this essay.

By Kamalika Pieris

Courtesy: The Island


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