The Kandy lake with the Kandy city, exhibiting the delight of the Kingdom of Kandy

Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian ocean, owns a great ancient history that dates back to the 5th century B.C. An Indo-Aryan Group who came from North India happens to be the origin of Sinhalese. Afterward, they established the Kingdom of Thambapanni (Pre Anuradhapura). Hence, it marks the initiation of the ancient Sri Lankan Royal kingdoms. Thenceforth, the royal kingdoms of Sri Lanka shifted from place to place. Duly, Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka, and finally, Kandy became the kingdoms of Sri Lanka, in order. Of course, these kingdoms are the successive Sinhalese kingdoms that made what Sri Lanka is today. Then, you might be wondering why the Sri Lankan Ancient kingdoms ended from the Kandy Kingdom.

If so, you are here at the right place! We are here to share with you everything that you need to know about this wonderful Kandy Kingdom. Of course, all about its location, its establishment, great rulers of the kingdom, reasons behind the fall of the Kandy Kingdom, and also the important places remaining from that period. So, why not? Continue reading, and enlighten yourself about its significance.

Establishment of Kandyan Kingdom

The Kingdom of Kandy is popular in many names. The Senkadagala Kingdom, Mahanuwara Kingdom, Kanda Uda Pasrata, Kande Nuwara, etc. are some of the most famous among them. In brief, the Kandyan period covers Sri Lankan history from the year 1597 to 1815. Besides, its establishment dates back to 1476.

The Kingdom of Kandy was already there when Sri Lanka was under the rule of the Kotte Kingdom. At that time, the Kingdom of Kandy was established by the Senasammata Vikramabahu as a semi-independent kingdom under the Kingdom of Kotte. After the incident ‘Wijayaba Kollaya‘, the downfall of the Kotte Kingdom began. However, finally, the power of the Kotte Kingdom went to the hands of the Portuguese. Therefore, the Kotte Era officially ended. After that, the Kingdom of Kandy became a separate entity seceding from Kotte. Thenceforth, the Kingdom of Kandy remained majestically, for nearly 220 years.

Where is Kandy?

The Kandy Kingdom emerged focusing on the central and eastern portions of the island. Of course, you guessed it right! The Kingdom of Kandy was built having the splendid city of Kandy as its ruling capital. Therefore, up to some extent, the rulers managed to remain independent from both Portuguese and Dutch parties, owing to the features of the surroundings of this amazing ruling ancient city.

A number of Sri Lanka’s mountains and forests stand around Kandy, guarding this wonderful city. Thus, they created an ideal surrounding for the security guards to hide during wars and conflicts. Moreover, during the annual monsoon season, many roads in the mountains were impassable, and malaria was rampant. Hence, none of the invaders chose to enter Kandy during those hard times. Moreover, waging guerrilla warfare against the invading forces, and removing major city centers with the approach of enemy forces were popular tactics of the Kandy Kingdom that came up as a result of its location. Likewise, throughout its existence, the Kandyan forces simply used this extraordinary territory to their utmost advantage.

Kings of the Kingdom of Kandy

Three ancestries ruled the Kingdom of Kandy. They are as follows.

  • House of Siri Sanga Bo
  • House of Dinajara
  • Nayakas of Kandy

Indeed, you might be excited to know more about these Royal houses. So, why not? Let us get to know the story of the rulers of the Kingdom of Kandy, in detail.

House of Sri Sanga Bo

King Senasammata Vikramabahu was succeeded by his son Jayaweera Astana (1511–1551) and Karaliyad Bandara (1551–1581) by his daughter Kusumasana Devi (1581–1581) and finally, Tikiri Bandara (1581–1591 ). By the end of his period, the House of Siri Sanga Bo ended as well.

House of Dinaraja

Wimala Dharma Suriya (I) or Konappu Bandara (1591–1604) started the dynasty called the House of Dinajara. Also, he was succeeded by his first cousin Senarath (1604–1635). Afterward, King Rajasinha (II), the son of King Senarat and Empress Dona Catherina reigned from 1635 to 1687. King Rajasinghe (II) was a warrior and a brave warrior who spent most of his time on the battlefield away from the capital. He fought several wars to liberate the country from Portuguese and Dutch domination. Also, he hated Portuguese. Thus, with the help of the merchant princes of the Dutch East India Company VOC, he expelled the Portuguese from the island.

After King Rajasinha’s, death his son conquered the throne as Vimala Dharma Suriya (II). He reigned from 1687 to1707. The kings who ruled after King Rajasingha (II) got their brides from South India. After the death of Wimala Dharma Suriya (II) his seventeen-year-old son ascended the throne. Re-signed by Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinha from 1707 to 1739. The king was never religious or courageous. He spent most of his life at his palace in Kundasale and Hanguranketha. He had only a few close friends. Also, many Kandyan aristocrats opposed him. Among his closest were many foreigners and thus, Kandy was very close to the Catholic missionaries by then.

King Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinghe named his chief queen’s brother as his successor. After the successive rule of the people of South India at that time, he was succeeded by Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe. It went on likewise, and in 1739 the Sinhala dynasty came to an end owing to several reasons, which we discuss later in this read.

House of Nayakas

King Vishwanath (1559–1563) was the founder of the Nayaka dynasty in Madurai. These leaders belonged to the Waduga caste and the Telugu-speaking group that originated in Madurai in southern India. The rulers of the Kandy Kingdom sought the support of the leaders from time to time against the invading Portuguese. Wimala Dharma Suriya (I) and King Senart brought the leaders of Thanjavur and Madurai to fight against the Portuguese. When King Rajasinghe (II) fought at Gannoruwa against the Portuguese, there were a thousand leaders. They were accompanied by their families. Later, they mingled with the Sinhalese people in the hills. From 1739, the chieftains of Malabar in southern India ruled the city for almost eight decades.

Kandyan Royal Courts Invitation to Nayaka Kings from Madurai

The Kandy kingdom was not invaded by the Nayaka Kings from Madurai. Yet, the Kandyan Royal Court invited them to occupy the throne after King Sri Vira Parakrama Narendrasinha’s death. He died with non-lawful issues. Afterward, the state couldn’t secure any royal blood over the island.  His brother-in-law then conquered the throne as Sri Vijaya Raja Sinha. Sri Vijaya Raja Sinha was the first Nayaka King of Kandy who did not have Sinhalese blood in his veins. He was a pure Hindu and Tamil. 

After the death of King Sri Raja Sinha, his brother-in-law and wife’s elder brother came from Madurai and ascended the throne of Kandy as Keerthi Sri Raja Sinha (1747 – 1780). The Raja Maha Viharaya was built during his reign in Kandy and the Kandy Temple Complex includes the Temple of the Tooth. King Keerthi Sri Raja Sinha redesigned the existing Temple of the Tooth. He was the person who ordered that the emblem of the Tooth Relic and some Buddhist symbols should be there for honor and splendor in the processions. After being in possession of the Hindus for 150 years, he handed over the Sri Pada to the Buddhists. After all, King Keerthi Sri Raja Sinha died in 1782, due to injuries from a horse fall.

Later on, Sri Rajadi Raja Sinha ascended the throne of Kandy (1780–1798). He came to Sri Lanka during his childhood and was educated in Kandy. Sri Rajadi Raja Sinha is a very cultured man who knows many languages. He was a poet who loved poetry and wrote and published the Sinhala verse “Asadisa Jataka”. He repaired the walls of the Upasota Hall of the Malwatta Temple. Sri Rajadi Raja Sinha died of a fever in 1798.

Who is the last king of Kandy?

Prince Kannasamy, became the last king of Kandy, in the name of Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe. This is how it happened!

Prince Kannasamy was the nephew of King Sri Rajadi Raja Sinha. Venkata Perumal died before the child was born. Widowed Subbamma and her son Kannasamy came to Sri Lanka at the invitation of their sister Queen Upendra Amma. Thenceforth, Prince Kannasamy grew up in Ceylon. After the sudden demise of Sri Rajadi Raja Sinha (1780–1798), the great Adikaram Pilimatalawa III (1790–1811), installed Prince Kannasamy on the Kandy throne. He was eighteen years old when he was pushed to the throne of Kandy.

The coronation of the new king occurred in accordance with royal traditions with all rituals. Prince Kannasamy took the name of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and ruled from 1798 to 1815. He was an impressive builder and his contributions to Kandyan architecture are immense. He wanted to indicate to his subjects that he was an excellent king. During his reign, he completed the Temple of the Tooth complex with the development of the gorgeous Octagon Pavilion and Lake Pictures. He donated more land to the Temple of the Tooth and also the King gave high priority to the Tooth Relic Perahera. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha embraced Buddhism and made sacrifices to the Tooth Relic.

What happened to the Kingdom of Kandy in Ceylon?

During his time, the British did not interfere in the politics of the Kingdom of Kandy. But Pilimatalawa, the king’s first aristocrat, began secret operations with people, inciting the king to aggression, which became an excuse for Britain to seize the dominion. King Adigar led a military confrontation with people, who had gained a powerful position within the coastal areas. The war was declared and on March 22, 1803. The British entered Kandy with no resistance and Sri Vikrama Rajasinha fled. Adigar massacred the British fort at Kandy in June and installed the king on the throne.

King Pilimitalawa conspired to overthrow him and win the crown. Yet, his conspiracy was discovered, and he was assassinated after being pardoned on two previous occasions. A revolt provoked by Ehalepola was suppressed and he later fled to Colombo and joined with the people. After failing to surrender, the enraged king expelled Ehelepola, confiscated his land, imprisoned his wife and kids, and sentenced him to death.

Learning of the cruel fate of his family, a distraught Ehelepola supported the people’s invasion of Kandy in 1815. Of course, this is what is famous as the Second Kandyan War. British forces entered the town with no resistance, resulting in the signing of the Kandyan Convention between the nation and the chiefs of the Kandy Kingdom. The convention resulted in deposing Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and giving the authority to the British. This marked the end of over 2,000 years of self-rule on the island of Sri Lanka.

The End of the Kingdom of Kandy

However, the kingdom was ceded to the British on March 2, 1815. The British took Sri Vikrama Rajasinha to Vellore Fort in southern India as a royal prisoner. He lived on a small stipend given to him by the British government along with his two queens. He died on January 30, 1832, aged 52 years.

Religious and Cultural Attractions from the Kingdom of Kandy

Even in the present, the scenic city of Kandy holds a number of wonderful cultural and religious attractions. Some of them are as follows.

  1. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
  2. Lankathilaka Temple
  3. Embekke Devalaya
  4. Galmaduwa Temple
  5. Magul Maduwa

Of course, they are gifts from the Kingdom of Kandy. Hence, for a better overview, let us share with you a glimpse of them as well.

1. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

 It’s located within the royal palace complex, which houses the Relic of the tooth of Buddha. The relic played a very important role in local politics because they used to believe that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country.

2. Lankatilaka Temple

King Bhuvanekabahu IV built this temple during the 4th century. Further, it is still a functioning temple with many worshippers each day. Also, this temple is on the top of a massive rock.  Its embellishments at the roof of the temple, especially the motif with twin cranes exhibit the grandeur of the culture and the artistic values of the Kandy era. Thus, this is often an ideal place to grasp the delight of the Kandyan culture.

3. Embekka Devalaya

This is an old Hindu temple, and is a work of King Vikramabahu III. It belongs to the 14th century and is on behalf of Kataragama deviyo. There are 3 sections in this temple, Sanctum of Garagha, Dancing Hall & Drummer Hall. The highlight of this place is the wood carvings. They are amazing and they are indeed majestic fine-work beyond words. Hence, it is worth well to observe those wood carvings if you ever visit Kandy.

4. Galmaduwa Temple

The Galmaduwa viharaya is an impressive building that has a strange architecture. King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe built this temple.

5. Magul Maduwa

Magul Maduwa is near the Temple of Tooth Relic, Kandy. This is the place where the Kandyan Kings held their courts. To the left of the Magul Maduwa, at the northern end of the palace complex is the Raja Wasala. It is inside the temple complex.

We are sure that these briefs helped you realize the historical and cultural values each of these places holds with them. Thus, if you visit this wonderful sacred city of Kandy, never forget to witness the grandeur of these significant attractions.

The Bottom Line

Of course, the Kingdom of Kandy is the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. Still, we can never ignore the fact that the Kandyan Royal Dynasty did their best to save this kingdom from a number of invasions. Moreover, during this period of time, a great number of historical and religious places came up. Also, the story of the Kingdom of Kandy teaches us a bunch of lessons. If none of the Sri Lankans supported the British, Kandy would never be in the hands of the British rule. Yes, it shows us what a hazard took place owing to the betrayals that happened. So, whatever the nationality or religion you belong to, never betray your own ones and your own nation.

On a final note, let us remind you again, that the delightful heritages from the Kingdom of Kandy are indeed interesting, and worth exploring. So, by chance, if you ever visit the significant tourist attraction of Sri Lanka, never forget to visit Kandy. It is a splendid city with rich cultural values, and its remnants, still exhibit the grandeur of the ancient Kingdom of Kandy.

Happy and Safe Travelling!