The ‘Adigars’ and Disawes of the Udarata Kingdom

KandyanLegalSystem

The Adhikarama (called Adigar by the British) was the most powerful officer in the Udarata kingdom. He headed the central administration and was second only to the king. His symbol of office, the silver cane, curved at the top, was carried before him like a mace, on official matters. A second post of Adhikarama was created by Rajasingha II and Udarata divided between the two. Sri Wickrema Rajasinha created a third post of Siyapattuve adhikaram, regarding which we know nothing.

The five principal villages, including Ampitiya situated below the hill in Kandy (pallegampaha) came under Pallegampaha Adhikarama. Udagampaha Adhikarama had the other five including Halloluva and Peradeniya. Pallegampaha ranked above Udagampaha,’ but Udagampaha led armies to battle. The position of Pallegampaha adhikarama was held by Hindagala (1707-1709), Rammolaka (1717 – 1734), Dumbara Rala (1751) and Eravvavala (1783). Pallegampaha administered Sat Korale, Uva, Matale, Valapane, Vellassa, Bintenne, Nuwarakalaviya, Tamankaduwa, Harispattu, Dumbara and Hewaheta. Udagampaha administered Tun Korale, Satara Korale, Sabaragamuwa, Udapalata, Udunuwara, Yatinuwara, Tumpane, Kotmale and Bulatgama.

The Adhikaramas carried out the king’s orders. They signed and handed over land grants on behalf of the king. They delivered the ‘vadarapanatin sittuva’, a land grant in paraveni, executed on king’s order. They supervised the ferries that guarded Kandy. . The ‘kasakara ‘who cracked the whips before the king and adhikarama and the ‘katupulle’ who conveyed the messages of king and adhikarama came under him. Katupulle also acted as informal advisors. Adhikaramas were in charge of the peraheras in Kandy, the cleanliness of Kandy’s streets and repairs to its temples.

Adhikaramas could hear civil and criminal cases in all the provinces either directly, or with the disawas. Also appeals other than those taken by the king. They ranked first in the Maha Naduwa. When land cases were decided, a ‘sittu’ containing the names of the litigants, land in dispute, decision of the court and date, was given to the successful party. Only the Adhikarama could sign these. And only the Adhikarama could punish with a cane. Each adhikarama had a disawani under him. Pilimatalawe had Satara Korale and Ehalepola had Sabaragamuwa in the 1800s.

The respect shown to Adhikarama was second only to the king. No one below the royal family could sit when the Adhikarama was standing nor could a person ride on an elephant, horse or palanquin while the Adhikarama was on foot. Everybody on the road had to make way for him. Adhikarama was preceded by persons cracking 16 whips, each ten feet in length, made of niyande, whenever he went out. Adhikarama ranked above disawe. When the disawe visited the Adhikarama, his drummers stopped drumming when they saw the adhikarama’s house. When the Adhikarama visited a disavani, the disava had to walk two or three miles behind. But Adhikaramas could not use drums in Kandy or in provinces outside their jurisdiction. They could not inflict corporal punishment on the ‘radala’ families or any of the employees working in the palace.

The Adhikarama was appointed by the king. Adhikarama paid 500 ridi for the appointment and 500 each year to renew it. He held office at the king’s pleasure. He could be promoted or demoted as the king wished. Yalegoda who was Pallegampaha in 1693 was made disave of Matale in 1703. Both adhikarama posts were earlier held by brothers, such as the Rammolakas, Galagodas and Dodanvalas. Later, rivals were appointed to the two posts, so that they would not combine against the king. King Vijaya Rajasinha (1739-47) inherited Ehelepola as Pallegampaha. Ehalepola’s stature and family prestige was such that his position in court was almost unassailable. So Vijaya brought in Leuke, who was against Ehelepola, and elevated him to disave of Tun and Satara Korales. The king also inherited his second Adhikarama, Pilimatalavve. He removed Pilimatalavve and appointed Samanakkodi, a rival of Ehelepola and a relative of Leuke. Samanakkodi (Udagampaha) was against Ehelepola (Pallegampaha) in 1747.

Pilimatalavve Vijesundara Rajakaruna Seneviratne Abhayakoon Pandita Mudiyanse, who held office during British times, was appointed Udagampaha by Rajadhi Rajasinha in 1787. He was promoted to Pallegampaha in 1790. By 1798, he had acquired 16 other official positions, including that of Diyawadena Nilame. His authority extended beyond Kandy into the provinces and cut into department organizations as well. He became the most powerful person in the Udarata Kingdom.

Below the Adhikarama came the disawa. Disawa was appointed by the king. His tenure of office was for one year but he could be reappointed. He could also be dismissed from office. On appointment he was given an elephant or horse. These horses, obtained from Persia or Arabia, were expensive to look after and did not live long. The office of disawa was a ‘transferable’ service. Rajasinha II seems to have shuffled disawas very often and so did king Sri Wickrema. In the disvanis of Nuwarakalaviya, Sabaragamuwa, Sat Korale and Uva, the position of disava was always given to an ‘outsider’, not someone connected to the disavani. Disawe could travel in palanquins, ride horse or elephant outside Kandy as long as he was not accompanying the king. The disawe was preceded by an entourage, when he travelled, with drums announcing his arrival. No one of a lower rank could sit in the presence of the disawe.

The disawa possessed both executive and judicial authority within the disavani. He carried out the king’s orders, collected the royal revenue, and exacted the services due to the king (rajakariya). He supervised the gabadagam and saw to public works in his disavani. He heard all land cases, and crimes other than those reserved for the king. The vihara, dewala, ninda and gabada villages did not come under him. Disawa resided in Kandy and visited the disavani only when necessary. In his absence, his deputy, the Mohottala, according to Knox, ‘oppressed and squeezed the people’. Mohottala could only fine up to 10 ridi, but levied fines up to 100 ridi.

Wimaladharma found that a select group of radala families monopolised the posts of adhikarama and disawa for three or four generations at a time. Ehelepolas had served three successive rulers, ending with king Narendrasinha. The Pilimatalauve family had served the royal court for many generations. Pilimatalauve‘s father and grandfather had also held the office of Pallegampaha Adhikarama, grandfather from 1762-1773 and father from 1778-1783.

(The writings of T.B.H. Abeyasinghe, Haris de Silva, K.M. de Silva, L.S. Dewaraja, J. D’Oyly, D.A. Kotelawele, R. Percival, P.E. Pieris, Ralph Pieris, M. Roberts, T. Vimalananda and Kapila Wimaladharma were used for this essay.)

By Kamalika Pieris

Courtesy: The Island

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