Some facts about the Udarata Kingdom


By Kamalika Pieris

The central highlands had become politically important by the 14th century. The Ampitiya and Sagama inscriptions indicate that Kandy was an important town by then. The present Natha devale is dated to the 15th century. Alagakkonara, chief minister to Vikramabahu III (1359-1374) and Buvaneka bahu V (1374-1408) was from Peradeniya. Gampola was the capital city from 1341 to around 1374.

The Udarata ‘kingdom’ was centred on the ‘kande uda pas rata’. This pas rata consisted of six ratas, not five. They were Gampola, Sinduruvana, Balavita, Matale, Pansiya puttuva and Uva. Sinduruvana is present day Udunuvara and Yatinuwara. Balavita consisted of Harispattuva and Tumpane. Pansiya puttuva was Dumbara. The Udarata was sparsely populated. By the 16th century the population was little more than 100,000. There was a concentration around Gampola and Senkadagala nuwara. There were hardly any settlements above three thousand feet.

The Udarata story started when in the reign of Buvaneka bahu IV. (1341-1351) Udarata troops defeated and chased away invaders from Jaffna. Abeyasinghe thinks that this made the Udarata feel special. Jotiya Sitana, ruler of Udarata, rebelled against Parakrama Bahu VI (1411-1466). The revolt was suppressed and Udarata placed under a prince of the Gampola dynasty. Then came Senasammata Vikramabahu (1474-1511), who set up independent rule in Gampola, subsequently moving to Peradeniya and Kandy. Senasammata‘s parentage is not known except that one reference says that he was a munuburu of Parakrama bahu VI. Historians reject this. Abeyasinghe says Senasammata was elevated to the ruling position by the army and the great chiefs. The term ‘Senasammata’ means approved by the army. No previous ruler held such a title. Abeyasinghe notes that the various immunities granted in rock inscriptions show that Senasammata was under obligation to the army. Alutnuvara devale and Gadaladeniya inscriptions indicate that the great chiefs known as Bandaras shared authority with Senasammata.

Senasammata declared independence from Buvaneka bahu VI and Dharma Parakrama bahu IX. He was defeated by both kings. He had to pay annual tribute to Kotte and could not issue coins. A sannasa issued by Dharma Parakrama bahu IX declared that he was the king of Kotte, Kandy and Jaffna (trisinhala adhiswara). Senasammata made another bid for independence, in the time of Vijayabahu VI. Somaratne says Senasammata was a feudatory rather than a semi-independent ruler. C. R. de Silva notes that Udarata was comparatively weak and usually on the defensive. Senasammata’s son, Jayaweera (1511-1552) and grandson Karaliyadde (1552-1582) ruled Udarata after him.

There were several marriage alliances between Kotte and Udarata. Parakrama Bahu VI and Buvaneka bahu VI married from Udarata. Later, Jayavira married the daughter of Kirivalle Maharalahami, who was the brother in law of Sakalavalla raja, the brother of king Dharma Parakrama bahu of Kotte. Karaliyadde Bandara was their son. Their daughter married Dharmapala of Kotte. When this daughter died, Dharmapala made another marriage from Udarata.

The Kotte kings were not prepared to tolerate a separate political entity in the hill country and were determined to annexe Udarata. Mayadunne, ruler of Sitavaka, waged war against Udarata in 1545. .Udarata made peace and agreed to pay a war indemnity. Buvaneka Bahu VII waged war unsuccessfully, in 1547, with Portuguese help. Karaliyadde, ruler of Udarata had converted to Christianity and joined the Portuguese against Sitavaka. He had Portuguese soldiers in his army. The formidable Rajasinha II went in and .after two unsuccessful attempts annexed the Udarata in 1582. .Karaliyadde fled to Trincomalee. His children were taken by the Portuguese and baptised Dom Filipe, Dom Joao and Dona Catherina. From 1582 to 1591 there was no Udarata Kingdom. Udarata was under Sitavaka. Abeyasinghe thinks that Kandy was given some form of autonomy during this time. There was a movement of people from Kotte to the Udarata form the mid 16th to mid 17 century.

In 1585 Udarata tried to oust Rajasinha and replace him with Virasundara bandara. Rajasinha killed Virasundara. But Virasundera’s son Konappu Bandara escaped to the Portuguese and was baptised as Dom Joao of Austria. He joined the Portuguese army and distinguished himself in battle. The Portuguese now turned their attention to Udarata. They said that since Udarata was part of the Kotte Kingdom, Udarata belonged to them. So, in the 1590s, the Portuguese army went up to the Udarata, to appoint Don Felipe (formerly Yamasinghe Bandara) .son of Karaliyadde Bandara, as ruler of Udarata. Konnapu Bandara also went with them. Don Felipe was welcomed by the Kandyan nobility and crowned at Vahakotte.

Dom Felipe died suddenly and Konappu Bandara assumed leadership against the wishes of the Portuguese. The Portuguese sent another army, in 1594, with instructions to replace Konappu with Karalliyadde’s daughter, Dona Catherina, formerly known as Kusumasana Devi. Konappu Bandara inflicted a resounding defeat on the Portuguese at Danture, near Pilimatalawa. He captured Dona Catherina, married her, renounced Christianity and taking the name of Wimala Dharma suriya proclaimed himself king of Udarata. Udarata became independent again under Wimaladharmasuriya, who ruled from 1591-1604.

Dharmapala of Kotte died in 1597 and the Kotte kingdom went completely into the hands of the Portuguese. The Sinhalese in Portuguese occupied territory then turned to Wimala Dharmasuriya for support against the Portuguese. They saw him as the lawful sovereign of the Sinhalese. Wimaladharmasuriya took up this role readily. He successfully kept the Portuguese at bay. Historians note that it was the support of the Sinhalese of the low country which enabled Udarata to hold its own. The Udarata kingdom now came to be seen as the only remaining Sinhala kingdom. It was seen also as the repository of the Sinhala kingdom which had existed from ancient times.

Wimaladharmasuriya was succeeded by his cousin Senerat (1604-1635), who married the widowed Dona Catherina. Rajasinha II (1635-87) was their son. Senerat had once been a monk, but he also had experience in war. Senerat and Rajasinha II opposed the Portuguese and defeated them at Randenivela (1630) and Gannoruwa (1638). Rajasinha II had an alliance with the Dutch but retained control of Udarata. He was succeeded by his son, Wimala Dharmasuriya II and grandson, Narendra sinha. (1701- 39) This brought to an end the ‘Senasammata dynasty’ which had continued through Dona Catherina, who was the great grand daughter of Senasammata.

Then came the four ‘Nayakkar’ kings. They came from different families, so it is not possible to speak of a Nayakkar dynasty. Rajasinha II and his successors had married Nayeks from Madura. These Nayeks were ‘vadugas’ or northerners who had come from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. They were neither royal nor Tamil. When Narendrasinha married, his wife’s whole family, father, mother and brothers came and settled down in Sri Lanka. Narendrasinha died childless and his brother in law, Vijaya Rajasinha (1739-47) took the throne. Vijaya too, died childless and was succeeded by the two brothers of his Madura queen, Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-82) and Rajadhi Rajasinghe (1782-98). That queen’s family had also migrated to Sri Lanka and these two kings had grown up in Sri Lanka. They had been tutored by Buddhist monks. They also died childless and Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe, described as ‘a Nayek of doubtful parentage’ took over. In 1815 the Udarata which had withstood the Portuguese and Dutch went into the hands of the British.

The writings of T.B.H .Abeyasinghe, N.Chutiwongs, C.R. de Silva, K.M. de Silva, L.S. Dewaraja, J.M .Flores, W. Geiger and G.V.P. Somaratne were used for this essay.

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