King Wimaladharma suriya

The character of the King

Born and bred in the Udarata yet well acquainted with the Portuguese manners, language and tactics, he was able to please his subjects and defy the Portuguese. His great sagacity and experience enabled him to profit from his opportunities. Thus when they attempted to place Dona Catherina on the throne, he acted with such circumspection and address that he not only inflicted a notable disaster on the Portuguese but even secured the lawful heir to the throne, whom he took to wife in spite of her repugnance and youth. For the next ten years, he ruled the land with great firmness and justice towards his subjects. He built himself a palace in Kandy with the labour of the Portuguese prisoners and surrounded it with a bastion in the European fashion. Though he and his queen and children lived and dressed in the Portuguese fashion, he revived old customs, caused the perahera, customary in Kotte, to be held in Senkadagala or Kandy, and imitated the kings of old in his magnificence and liberality. He repaired ancient temples, destroyed by the godless Rajasinghe or by the Portuguese. He procured priests from abroad to restore Buddhist ordinations, installed a dalada (tooth relic of Buddha), and built a Dalada maligawa (temple of the tooth).

Tactics

His tactics with the Portuguese were characteristic of him and became traditional with his successors. He stirred up sedition and revolts in Portuguese territory, and with the aid of the numerous rebels he provoked the Portuguese to the field and appealed to the Sinhalese troops to forsake them. When this was successful, he relentlessly pursued the crippled army, cutting down stragglers; if it failed and the Portuguese army was small, he inflicted heavy loss: if the day turned against him, he abandoned the field without much ado. This method proved very successful and reduced the Portuguese to impotence. In the last years of his life, he looked forward to foreign assistance to expel the Portuguese. Through his impetuosity and suspicion averted the blow from the Portuguese, he had laid the foundations of the policy that was followed by his successors and brought about the end.

Death of Wimaladharma suriya

In May 1604, Wimaladharma Suriya died at Senkadagala of a virulent fever, leaving a young son and two daughters. He was a remarkable man and the most successful Ceylonese prince of his age and the founder of a new dynasty of kings in Ceylon. A tall, well-built man of swarthy complexion and great physical strength, with a dark bushy beard, Konappu Bandara, as he was formerly called, was the son of a petty chief of the Udarata and who fled to the Portuguese when Rajasinghe of Sitawaka put his father to death. He received baptism under the name of Don Juan of Austria, served in the defence of Colombo against Rajasingha, and being banished to Goa for some unknown crime, won a reputation for feats of strength, and married a Portuguese orphan by whom he had a son who survived him. Returning to Ceylon as a general in the train of Don Philip, he fought gallantly and ended by doing away with Don Phillip, usurping the throne and turning against the Portuguese.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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