A Short history of Lanka

by Humphry William Codrington | 1926 | 48,606 words

Printed Edition 1926 Macmillan and Co., Limited St Martin's Street, London Web Edition 2000 Rhajiv Ratnatunga Pittsburgh. PA USA...

Chapter VI - The Kotte dynasty and its Portuguese allies (1412 AD—1550 AD)

Parakrama Bahu VI  (A.D. 1412-1468) is said to have been the son of Vijaya Bahu VI. and his queen Sunetra Devi of the Kalinga race; this paternity, however, is disputed by some scholars. The constant tradition is that his mother and her two sons escaped when Vijaya Bahu was carried off by the Chinese, and remained hi hiding at Rukulegama in Kegalla District for fear of an Alakesvara who had been left as regent, and that finally the elder prince killed this Alakesvara and ascended the throne. The story is intelligible if, seems possible Parakrama Bahu Epa was an Alakesvara who seized power on the removal of Vijaya Bahu and was not the same as the prince selected in China: indeed, Do Couto. who had access to manuscripts in the possession of Sinhala princes at Goa, asserts that, the king on his return to Lanka was murdered by this Alakesvara. The youngest of the two brothers was the sub-king Mayadunne Parakrama Bahu.



A scarce "lion" type copper massa coin of King Parakrama Bahu VI

The date of Parakrama Bahu VI's accession also is in dispute. Some contemporary writers place it in A.B. 1955 (A.D. 1412/3); official documents, however, usually date his regnal years from A.B. 1958 (A.D. 141 5/6). As the king is said to have lived for three years at Rayigam-pura and then to have gone to Kotte where he was crowned, it seems probable that he came to the throne in AD. 1412 and was inaugurated in 1415. One contemporary work dates the reign from A.B. 1953; but in another passage from A.B. 1958 ; as it equates the latter year with the year 1722 from the conversion of Lanka to Buddhism it is preferable to accept this `date as correct and to treat 1953 as a clerical error.

Relations with China still continued, and tribute was sent in 1436, in 1445, and for the last time in 1459.

Parakrama Bahu's religious works included the building of a temple for the Tooth Relic at Kotte, and of the Pepiliyana Vihara, neat Colombo in honour of his mother; he also restored the Saman Dewale near Ratnapura, founded in the time of Parakrama Bahu II., and endowed the Aramanapola Vihara not far from Pelmadulla, the architecture of which is noteworthy.

The sequence of events in this reign is far from clear.' The principal event was the conquest of Jaffna by Sapurnal Kumaraya, the son, actual or adopted, of Parakrama Bahu's kingdom seems to have come into being, at least' as an independent state, about the thirteenth century. The place-names in the peninsula indicate that it was held by Sinhala inhabitants at no very remote date, and it certainly was part of the dominions of Parakrama Bahu I. Its sovereigns, the Arya- Chakravartis, were of mixed descent, claiming to be of the Ganga-vansa, the ruling race of Kalinga, and to be Brahmans from Ramesvaram.

The most probable solution of the problem is that the Kalinga Magha or his heirs never lost their hold on the Jaffna peninsula, in which at least two of their forts, Uratota (Kayts) and Veligama (Valikamam, perhaps Kankesanturai} were situated, and. that, as stated by De Queyroz, one of the Arya Chakravartis, a well-known family in the Pandyan country, married a daughter of the then king In 1344 the king of Jaffna held a considerable part of the north of Lanka, and the last half of the fourteenth century marked the zenith of his power: we have seen that for a short time the overlordship of the Island was in his hands.

By the beginning of the next century, if not at the end of the preceding, the kingdom was t:ributary to the great continental empire of Vijayanagar. Nunez states this definitely, and one of the regular titles of the emperor was who levied taxes from Ilam' ; the Sinhala poems of the time also constantly speak of the people of Jaffna as Canarese. Valentyn mentions an invasion of the Canarese, that is of the Vijayanagar forces; it is it is uncertain whether this was the occasion or the result of the conquest of Jaffna What is clear is that Sapiunal Kumaraya conquered the northern kingdom, advancing along the west coast coa road.

The reduction of the Vanni may have preced this event. Apparently connected with the earn was the expedition to Adriampet in South India, occasioned according to Valentyn by the seizure of a Lanka ship laden with cinnamon. The conquest of Jaffna is already mentioned in the thirty-sixth year of the of reign, that is either A.D. 1447/8 or 1450/1. The Tenkasi Ten inscription of Arikesari Parakrama Pandya of Tinnevelly `who saw the backs of kings at Singai, Anurai,' and else where, may refer to these wars, Singai being the Jaffna J a capital and Anurai the Sinhala; it is dated between A.D. 1449/50 and 1453/4.



Gajapati Pagoda from Orissa. A hoard of them were found in Jaffna.

According to the Rajavaliya the king had reigned for fifty-two years when Jotiya Sitano, the ruler of the hill country, revolted. The rebel was deposed, and a prince of the Gampola royal family set up in his stead. Valentyn places this event between the Adriampet expedition and the reduction of the Vanni previous to the conquest of Jaffna. Jotiya appears as a witness to the Madawala inscription in Dumbara dated in the seventeenth year of the reign (A.D. 1428/9 or 1431/2).

Parakrama Bahu abdicated in favour of his daughter's son, Vira Parakrama Bahu, and died after a reign of fifty five or fifty-two years, according as this is reckoned as beginning in 1412 or 1415. His reign is noted for a great outburst of Sinhala literature, in particular of poetry. The king raised the nation to a height never attained since the days of Parakrama Bahu II., and never afterwards rivalled.

Vira Parakrama Bahu or Jaya Bahu (1468 - c. 1470) is said by the Rajavaliya to have been slain by Sapumal Kumaraya, who hearing of his accession hurried from Jaffna. Do Couto, however, who was well-informed, says that when this king had ruled one and a half years his uncle Mayadunne Parakrama Bahu died and was succeeded by Sapumal Kumaraya's brother, usually known as Ambulugala Raja from the name of his seat in Kegalla District. After a few years' reign the king died and his half-witted son was put on the throne by his aunt, who two years later finding herself unable to rule sent for Sapumal Kumaraya from Jaffna.

This prince ascended the throne under the name of Bhuvanaika Bahu VI. (c. A.D. 1472-1480 at least) and was crowned in A.B. 2015. An embassy arrived from Pegu for the purpose of obtaining the priestly succession from Lanka in 1476, at a moment when a serious rebellion had broken out. in the chronicles this king is given a reign of seven years from his coronation, hut the Dedigama inscription is dated in his ninth year. He was succeeded by his son Pandita Parakrama Bahu VII., who was attacked and slain by his uncle Ambulugala Raja: Do Couto states that lie reigned for not more than four years.

Ambulugala Raja assumed the name of Vira Parakrama Bahu VIII. He is given a reign of twenty years in the Rajavaliya, but it is difficult to accept this figure; he probably ruled as sole king from about 1484 to 1509. had several sons, and the difficulties in the chronology of the time are largely due to contemporaneous reigns:

On November 15, 1505, the Island was first visited by Dom Lourenco de Almeida, who set up the usual padrao at Colombo: this, a rock carved with the arms of Portugal, was in the Customs premises until removed td the Gordon Gardens at the side of Queen's House. The Portuguese made a great impression on the inhabitants of Colombo and according to the Rajavaliya their report to the king ran thus"There is in our harbour of Colombo a race of people fair of skin and comely withal. They don jackets of iron and hats of iron: they rest not a minute in one place: they walk here and there; they eat hunks of stone and drink blood, they give two or three pieces of gold and silver for one fish or one lime; the report their cannon is louder than thunder when it bursts upon the rock Yugandhara. Their cannon balls fly many a gawwa and shatter fortresses of granite.' The Portuguese envoys were conducted to the court by a circuitous way by which they took three days to reach Kotte, lying only six miles from Colombo: this has passed into a proverb in Sinhala, though the Portuguese were not taken in by the trick. In spite of the intrigues of the Muhammadans the so called Moors who had most to lose by the arrival of the foreigners, Dom Lourenco took the king under the protection of Portugal, with a promise of cinnamon as tribute.

Parakrama Bahu had constant trouble with his relatives; civil war was the besetting sin of the dynasty and led to its downfall. In the later months of 1508 he had been very ill, and as Dharma Parakrama Bahu IX and his brother Vijaya Bahu VII both reckon their reigns from 1509, it would appear that he made his sons co-regents with him in that year. In 1513 the king was reported to be dead, leaving his two sons quarrelling over the succession; but it is stated by De Queyroz that in 1518 he was an old man with a white beard, and that Vijaya Bahu, impatient of his father's prolonged life and incapacity to rule, dethroned and subsequently poisoned him. Though he must have been about eighty at his death, it seems likely that his reign actually extended till 1518, when Parakrama Bahu IX. (A.D. 1509-1528 at least) succeeded as senior king. This monarch was of little importance, as he is omitted altogether by certain chronicles, and Vijaya Bahu, whose first grant issued at Kotte is dated in 15 19/20, and his successors apparently ignored his existence. He is given a reign of twenty or twenty-two years in the Rajavaliya, and perhaps spent his last years at Kelaniya.

In 1518, as we have seen, Vijaya Bahu VII. (A.D. 1509-1521) seized the government, and, instigated by the Moors lost no time in sending to the Samorin of Calicut, the suzerain of Malabar, then at war with Portugal, for help to enable him to attack the Portuguese fort of Colombo, which had been erected shortly before. The Sinhala were beaten off, and the king, losing prestige in the war that ensued, ultimately lost his throne and his life in the sacking of Vijaya Bahu' in 1521, at the hands of they sons of himself and his brother Rajasinha by a common wife, the eldest of whom became king as Bhuvanaika Bahu VII. (A.D. 1521-1550). According to other accounts Vijaya Bahu's fall was due to his intention of disinheriting the sons in favour of a young prince whom he had adopted.. The fort was demolished on orders from Portugal in 1524 though a factor was still left in charge of Portuguese interests.

In 1521 the country had been divided between the three brothers, Mayadunne taking practically the modern Province of Sabaragamuwa, with his capital at Sitawaka {Avissawella while Rayigam Bandara received the Walallawiti, Pasdun, and Rayigam Korales in the Galle and Kalutara Districts, the seaports being reserved to t Bhuvanaika Bahu. The hill-country was in the hands of c another king, who asserted complete independence whenever possible. Mayadunne aspired to the throne of Kotte and the overlordship of the Island, and in the years following 1526 an almost continual conflict was waged between himself, aided by the Samorin on the one hand, and Bhuvanaika Bahu supported by the Portuguese on the other. In 1539, however, Mayadunne was forced to make peace, which lasted until 1547.

Bhuvanaika Bahu's daughter had been married to one Vidiye Bandara, and, with the object of making his position more secure against Mayadunne, an embassy was dispatched in 1540 to Lisbon with a golden image of their infant son Dharmapala, requesting that the prince should be installed by the king of Portugal as the heir apparent of the kingdom of Kotte. This settlement of the succession brought Mayadunne into the field, but the claims of a son and nephew of Bhuvanaika Bahu led to a reconciliation for a time. The king of Kandy, under the pretence of conversion, had asked the Portuguese for help against Sitawaka; in 1547 a force set out, but finding the king's sincerity doubtful retired on Colombo, and, to their surprise, were well received by Mayadunne. The two brothers were at war again in 1548, the Portuguese now favouring Mayadunne.

This policy did not last. In 1550 the Kotto forces took Sitawaka, but in vain as their Portuguese allies made a disastrous attack on Kandy.In November the new Viceroy Dom Alfonco de Noronha arrived in Colombo, having been driven out of his course on his way to Goa. He was ill-disposed of Bhuvanaika Bahu, suspecting his good faith, and before leaving Lanka directed the king and his brother to keep the peace and to send envoys to Goa. But in the middle of 1551 the king was shot while looking out of a window in his palace in Kelaniya. There are good grounds for suspecting that it was done at Mayadunne's instigation though the crime commonly is attributed to the Viceroy. The death of Bhuvanaika Bahu proved disastrous to the Portuguese, as within a few years the kingdom of Kotte practically was confined to the capital and its neighbour hood: Mayadunne was the real sovereign.

Thus ended the first phase of the Portuguese connection with Lanka. At first trade was their chief concern and the establishment was a factory or trading-station under a factor. The civil strife between the king of Kotte and his brother drove the former into close alliance with Portugal and led to the frequent presence of Portuguese troops. In the second phase the fortress of Colombo with its captain and garrison, maintained for the protection of Dharmapala of Kotte, comes into prominence; the hostility of Mayadunne and his son rendered the new king more and more dependent on foreign help. The third and last phase began when the Portuguese, heirs designato of Kotte, on the crumbling of the Sitawaka realm, annexed the rival capital without trouble and then embarked on a career of conquest. The chief official of this period is the the `Captain General of the Conquest.'

The account of the political divisions of Lanka sented by the schedule attached to Dharmapala's Donation must refer to a period long anterior to 1580, the date of the execution of this document, and so may find a place in this chapter. The states over which the king of Kotte claimed suzerainty were the kingdoms of Sitawaka, of the {Seven) Korales, of Candea or the hill-country, and of Jaffna, and also the principality of the Four Korales There also were various Vanniyarships, who were bound bo by tribute to the king of Kotte.

These were the two Panamas; Yala; Wellewaya Kosgama; Wellassa; Palugama; Batticaloa; Kottiyar; Trincomalee: and Puttalam.

This last and Yala were held by several Vanniyars, Palugama by two, the others by one each. In the kingdom of Kotte itself were three Disawas, one over Matara, one over the Adikariya of Denawaka with the Agras or gem-pits of Sabaragamuwa. and one over the Adikariya of Nuwarakalawiya, the country forming the western half of the present North Central Province and stretching according to our document from Puttalam to Mannar. Apart from this last Adikariya or jurisdiction, the immediate possessions of Kotte are given as 221 korales, which included the south-west corner of the North-Western Province, with a small exception the whole of the Western and Southern Provinces as far as the Walawe River, and that part of the Ratnapura District to the south of the Kalu-ganga with the great villages Gilimale and Bambarabotuwa. The small exception referred to is the half of Hewagam Korale, which belonged to Sitawaka.


For general history see Raj. and the version of the same preserved in Valentyn, Oud en Nieuw Oost Indien, vol. v.; extracts from Do Couto and De Barros by Donald Ferguson, J.R.A.S., C.B. xx. No. 60; De Queyroz, Conquista Temporal e Espiritual de Ceylao, Government Press, 1016; P. E. Pieris, Ceylon: the Portuguese Era, Colombo, 1913; Schurhammer r and Voretzsch, Lanka, Leipzig, 1928.

Parakrama Bahu VI. For his paternity see `Vijaya Bahu VI.', J.R.A.S., C.B. xxii. No. 65 pp. 316 ff. ; in the Rajavansaya (Colombo Museum MS.) Vira Bahu is called Vijaya Bahu, and in a manuscript collection of notes on various dates Vira Bahu is given as the father of Parakrama Bahu VI., but both works are modern. The sub-king is mentioned in the Paravi Sandesaya.

The date of accession, A.B. 1953, appears in Saddh. p. 71 and the date, A.B. 1958, on p. 295. For the tribute to China see J.R.A.S., C.B. xxiv. No. 68, p. 111. The Pepiliytna inscription has been published ib. vii. No. 25, p. 187, and a number of documents connected with it and including the Aramanapola grant are in manuscript ( Vidyodaya, I. No. 8 ff.); from the internal evidence they are genuine. The Saman Dewale grant has been edited in C.A. ii. p. 43.

For Sinhala place names in the Jaffna peninsula see C.A. ii. pp. 54, 167 ff. The occupation of the north by Parakrama Bahu I. is evidenced by the unpublished Nayinativu inscription. For the descent of the Jaffna kings see Rev. S. Onana Prakasar, C.A. v. pt. iv. pp. 172 if., and De Q. pp. 37, .38. The date 1344 is that of Ibn Batuta's visit. For the Vijaya nagar suzerainty see J.R.A.S., C.B. (Notes and Queries), xxvi. No. 70, pt. ii. p. 101, and Nunez in Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, London, 1900. For the Tenkasi inscription see Travancore Archaeological Series, vi. No. 11.

Bhuvanaika Bahu VI. The date, A.B. 2015, in the Budugunalankaraya judging from the usage in other documents, refers to the king's accession and not to his third year. For the Kalyani inscription see J.R.A.S., C.B. xxiii. No. 67, pp. 231 if., and for the. Dedigama record the Report on the 4 Kegalla District, p. 83.

Parakrama Bahu VIII. His illness in 1508 is referred to in De Barros, ii., iii. 1 (J.R.A.S., C.B., xix. No. 59, p. 366), and his death reported in 1513 in a letter of D'Albuquerque to the king, Alguns Documentos, p. 297. The presentation of his reign in the text seems to me to be the most probable, unless a generation has been dropped as perhaps may be deduced from De Q., p. 20. Valentyn (p. 74), speaking of Vira Parakrama Bahu, the grandson of Parakrama Bahu VI., states that Ambulugala Raj a was his mother's sister's son. The. Raj. has confused Ambulugala Raja to some extent with Mayadunne Parakrama Bahu who held the same principality; according to Do Couto the last named prince survived Parakrama Bahu VI.

Parakrama Bahu IX. For the Kelaniya inscription see C.A. i. p. 155.

Vijaya Bahu VII. His grants are : fourth year for Dondra, ninth year from Udugampola, eleventh year from Kotte. The Udugampola sannasa was granted on the occasion of an eclipse of the sun. Such eclipses occurred on the required date in 1517 and 1518, but the second is said riot to have been visible in Lanka. The accession, therefore, took place in 1509, and the Saka year 1432 of the Dondra grant must be `current.'

Bhuvanaika Bahu VII. See J.R.A.S.; G.B. xxii. No. 65, pp. 267 if. ; Schurhammer, op. cit.

For records of the kings of the Hill Country see Report on the Kegalla District, pp. 80, 81, wrongly attributed to Vikrama Bahu III. ; others of Jayavira Parakrama Bahu and Vikrama Bahu exist at Cadaiadeniya, and one of Jayavira Maha Asthana of AS. 2085 {A.D. 1544) at Kandy.

The Donation of Dharmapala with the connected documents is given in De Q. pp. 428, 429, and in the Orientalist entalist, 111. pp. 111, 131, 193. The Denawaka Adikariva perhaps equals the Denawaka pas rata of the Kadaim-pota ; in the list of koraIes Attalagam ` can hardly be Atulugam, which is too near Sitawaka, and must represent Atakalan, while `Tarana' may be Etarawa, now in Uva but once belonging to Sabaragamuwa.

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