Rasin Deviyo


And now there appears on the scene a commander who was destined for the last time to fan into a blaze the smouldering energy of the Sinhalese. Auspicious omens had attended his birth – Sir Paul E. Pieris The prince referred to as such by the patriotic historian and who became king as Rajasinha II (1612–1687) and ruled the island from 1629 to 1687, was deified by his people after his demise as ‘Rasin Deviyo.’

The prince named as Maha Asthana (the future Rajasinha II) was born to Queen Dona Catherina or Maha Biso Bandara or Kusumasana Devi formerly the Queen of King Wimaldharmasuriya I and subsequently wife of King Senarat, when the Court of King Senarat was in hiding from the invading hosts of Portuguese Captain General Jeronimo de Azavedo at Mahiyangana. On the day the birth of the prince occurred the Portuguese Commander is said to have dreamt of a tiny spark, no bigger than a fire fly, floating from the west of the town, and growing in size as it travelled through the sky, till it waxed exceedingly great over the port of Colombo and set everything there on fire. The success of King Senarat’s battle against the Portuguese signalized the appearance of the infant prince. The prince’s horoscope was cast by Diyakelinawala the great astrologer. The prince’s education was attended to with great care to fit him for the high destiny which was prophesied awaited him in life.

It is mentioned in the Parangi Hatana about King Senarat arranging the education of Prince Maha Asthana and how he completed it thus: “And he bethought him to teach his son born in so fateful an hour all the sciences and the art of war; wherefore many a teacher was summoned, learned men who had dived within the sea of knowledge and reached the further shore. Demala and Sinhala, Sanskrit, Pali and Nagara, Portugal and much other lore he learnt. With Siri in the breast he mastered the tongues of many a land. The 18 sciences and the 64 arts he imbibed, and Saraswathi rested on his lips. He could wield his sword and shield, yea better than Parasurama. He surpassed his teachers in the use of the bow and excelled Kataragama in wielding the lance, for his gracious hand dealt equally with gun and sword and mace. And thus his glory spread through the earth; and while he drank of the sea of goodness, he mastered the 18 arts of war. His body was strong, his heart set on glory, he could bestride the elephant and the horse.” The Maha Hatana describing how skilful Rajasinha was at archery says that he could hit the target with the speed of a flash of lightning.

King Senarat, in 1628, divided his kingdom among Prince Kumarasinha and Prince Wijayapala the sons of King Wimaladharmasuriya and his son born to Kusumasana Devi by drawing lots and while Prince Kumarasinha received Uva and Prince Wijayapala Matale, Uda Rata proper fell to Prince Maha Asthana who the king had seen as the strongest and the most youthful and he became aga raja with the name of Rajasinha II. In March 1629 the Portuguese led by Captain General Constantine de Sa resumed war to subdue the Kandyan Kingdom. However, the season did not favour them. Owing to the heavy rains drenching the ground and the ill-clad Portuguese unable to bear the cold on the mountains they faced hardships and several died of exposure. In addition they were attacked by leeches and very few soldiers had shoes to protect their feet. Further, they were ambushed from the most unanticipated quarters. The Captain General was carried in his andor but whenever a stream had to be crossed he led the soldiers on foot to encourage his men. This was what the Portuguese underwent trying to capture the Kandyan Kingdom and bring the whole country under their rule.
The Portuguese
The Portuguese ravaged every village they passed and slaughtered everything alive but King Senarat’s army was in hiding. The Portuguese found Senkadagala deserted and burnt and King Senarat and his Court had retreated to Gale Nuwara. As the Portuguese who were tired turned back the king’s forces engaged them at Ambatenna and were compelled to retreat with considerable loss. The new Viceroy, Don Miguel de Noronha, Conde de Linhares who assumed duties on 21 October 1629 had formed an opinion unfavourable of the Portuguese administration in Ceylon and reminded Captain General Constantine de Sa that he was sent to Ceylon to supervise the war and not to superintend trade. The General took the insult deeply to heart and despite the opposition of his most experienced officers determined to invade the Kingdom of Kandy. The Portuguese army toiled up the mountains and moving slowly reached Badulla with no resistance as the king and the three princes did not show themselves up, the deserted city of Badulla was sacked and burnt.

The final battle between the Portuguese and the forces of King Senarat was fought on the field of Randeniwela where the Portuguese found themselves completely surrounded by the Sinhalese. There was a rain of arrows and bullets, in the night, against which it was impossible for the Portuguese to erect any protection. Into the bargain the torrential rain that poured down drenched the Portuguese army for several hours rendering the gunpowder and matches useless. The Portuguese Captain Major and Disava Luis Gomez Pinto begged Captain General Constantine de Sa to slip out in the confusion of the storm but de Sa would not desert his men in their distress.

At dawn the following day the fight resumed. 200 Portuguese lay dead by two o’clock in the afternoon. As the anxiety of everyone was to capture the Captain General alive the fight was thickest around him. 60 men were killed with his own hand as two servants kept him supplied with arquebusses. Sir Paul E. Pieris describes what took place thereafter as follows: “At last orders were received to shoot him down. His servants were shot down by his side and as he drew his sword and rushed on the Sinhalese, two arrows pierced him on the breast and on the shoulder, and he sank on his knees on the ground, by the side of his confessor. Another arrow it is said ended the life of both, and round the corpse the struggle redoubled itself in fury. But it was not for long, and with wild shouts of triumph the head of the brave de Sa was at last severed from the body”.

The Kingdom of Kandy entered upon an important period in its history with Prince Deva Rajasinha, who became famous after his victory over Captain General Constantine de Sa in the battle of Randeniwela of 1630, becoming its King as Rajasinha II in 1635. His prime motive was to drive away the Portuguese from the island. According to a letter sent by him to the Dutch he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Rajasinha I. It was his determination to revive the fight to drive away the Portuguese. He was the first King of Kandy who thought it incumbent upon the King of Kandy to fulfil that responsibility.

One of the strategies that Rajasinha II adopted to always emphasize the importance of the Kingdom of Kandy was that he was not only the King of Kandy but the Chakravarthi or Emperor of the whole of Lanka. It was to drive home that the whole of Lanka was under the power of the King of Kandy and no part of it belonged to any foreign nation that he emphasized to the Portuguese and later to the Dutch that the titles Chakravarthi Swameenvahanse and Thri-Sinhaladheeshwara must be used when addressing him. It is mentioned that once when in a letter sent to Rajasinha II by the King of Portugal he was addressed as ‘You’ the Portuguese authorities in Goa knowing that the king was likely to be offended by it decided to address him as Your Excellency.

The attitude of the Dutch up to 1658 and again after 1678 was in acknowledgement of his claim that he was Thri-Sinhaladheeshwara. The Dutch who expected to obtain the king’s assistance until the Portuguese were driven away from the island treated him with immense respect. Although the Dutch Governors did not recognize the king’s authority from 1658 to 1678 those who followed addressed him with due respect. The Dutch officials used terms such as ‘Your Excellency’s humble and obedient servant’ and ‘Captain of Your Excellency’s Fort of Colombo, Fort of Galle’ and so forth in correspondence addressed to the king. In letters sent by the king to Dutch officials the terms ‘My obedient servant’ and ‘Captain of my Fort’ were used.

King Rajasinha II was not satisfied with using the above titles to prove that he was endowed with absolute authority in the island of Lanka and that the whole country came under the control of the King of Kandy after the Portuguese were driven out of the country. It could be seen that the notion that foreign nationals had to pay ransom to the King of Kandy was prevalent as he was the Tri-Sinhaladheeshwara. A good example for this was the Dutch having to send annual embassies to the King to get permission to peel cinnamon in the Seven Korales. It is stated on every such occasion having ascertained from the King as to what he liked most such was provided to him with utmost humility.

King Rajasinha II had realized that although the power of the Portuguese could be weakened for some time by destroying, or instigating rebellion in, the areas under them, according to the general policy of the Kings of Kandy, they were not sufficient to drive them away from the country. The experience he gained from the war of 1930 and the lessons learnt from the campaigns of King Rajasinha I had made him realize that naval power was essential to drive away the Portuguese from the country and the lack of such power was the main impediment he encountered to accomplish the task. He sent embassies to and engaged in correspondence with the Dutch who had established themselves at Pulikat in India and at Jakarta in Jawa from the time his father King Senarat, to get their naval assistance. He, accordingly, promised to give the Dutch the monopoly of the cinnamon trade and a harbour such as Kottiyaram or Batticaloa.

The Portuguese were incensed on hearing that the king was making arrangements to obtain the assistance of the Dutch to drive them away. In 1638 the Portuguese Captain General at the time Diogo de Melo Castro invaded the hill country once again. King Rajasinha II was able to suppress the invasion with brutal force, killing even Castro and massacring the Portuguese army. When the King had won such a victory and put the Portuguese in such a weak situation a fleet of Dutch ships under Admiral Adam Westerwold reached Batticaloa. In the same year an agreement was signed between the king and the Dutch. However, before disagreements arose with regard to clauses of this agreement.

The agreement had been reached five days after chasing away the Portuguese from Batticaloa in 1638. By May 1639 the Dutch captured the Fort of Trincomalee followed by Negombo in February 1640 and Galle the next month. As it was possible to capture Colombo in1658 the task of driving away the Portuguese with Dutch assistance as envisaged by the king was complete. As the work of driving away of the Portuguese progressed step by step the difference of opinion between the king and the Dutch increased. Finally, when the task was accomplished Rajasinha said he exchanged pepper for ginger!

His object was not to exchange one foreign nation for another, but knowing that the Dutch East India Company was very eager to secure the monopoly of trade and did not appear to be bent on invasion or conquest, he hoped that by offering the monopoly of cinnamon and a fort in the island he could induce them to rid him of the Portuguese. Rajasinha could read, write and speak the Portuguese language and was quite conversant with the views and ways of the Portuguese. He favoured Christianity and permitted monks and priests to live and build churches in his domains.

Rajasinha was a man of middle size, very well set, but more than ordinarily dark of complexion, with large rolling eyes, somewhat bald of head, but with a comely beard and long whiskers. His apparel was fantastic and of his own designing. On his head he wore a four-cornered cap, like the biretta worn by the Catholics priests but three tiers high, and with an upright feather in front. His sword with a gold hilt, sheathed in a scabbard of beaten gold, hung from a belt over his shoulder, in his hand he carried a cane painted in diverse colours with a head of gold and the lower end set in gems. His doublet was a fanciful one with long sleeves, the breeches reached to his ankles, and he wore shoes and stockings.

He was temperate and abstemious in diet, deliberate in his actions, though he never took counsel. Of animals he was exceedingly fond and loved horses and riding and was wont to fly hawks, and feed fishes with his own hand. He was, moreover, a good shot and an expert swimmer. His bearing was proud and haughty, and he brooked no opposition. Vain, crafty but cautious and a great dissembler, he was inconstant in his likes, jealous of honour, and as pitiless in punishment as he was exacting in service. He made but small profession of the religion of the country and did not persecute Christians but rather esteemed Christianity.

In December 1687 Rajasinha died at Hanguranketha, and an ambassador arrived in Colombo to announce the event. The governor decided to make a great demonstration of sorrow and honour, although he had been told by one of the foremost men in Kandy not to grieve over the old tyrant. On 23 December the funeral was celebrated in Colombo with great magnificence. The troops in full mourning, with muskets reversed and pikes trailing headed the procession, while mounted sailors bearing the King’s arms, – a red lion on a gold field – escorted the King’s standard borne on chargers fully draped in black. A state carriage drawn by six horses bore the King’s arms, followed by the sword of sovereignty and the crown and sceptre, each laid on a silver tray and carried on cushions under a canopy.

The governor followed in state accompanied by the King’s ambassador and followed by the member of the council, the officials and the public. The procession wended its way to the church where the regalia reposed the whole day guarded by lighted torches.
The Sinhala Kings began to become westernized after the advent of the Portuguese in 1505 as circumstances necessitated it. King Buwanekabahu VII wanted his grandson Prince Dharmapala, the son of his daughter Samudra Devi and Prince Vidiye Bandara, be put under the care of the King of Portugal Joao III and Kandy’s King Karalliyadde Bandara’s daughter Dona Catherina was brought up by the Portuguese and she ended up as the Queen of Wimaladharmasuriya I who had imbibed Portuguese culture when he was in Goa. Portuguese was spoken at the Royal Palace and the royalty ate and dressed the way the Portuguese did. Dona Catherina’s son by Senarat, Rajasinha II went further!


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