Who was Senarath ? A response
Posted on January 1st, 2014

by Prof. A. V. Suraweera Courtesy Island

I read though the query raised by my friend Tissa Devendra(17. 12. 2013), with interest as I always do in respect of all his contributions to The Island. In my Introduction to the critical Edition of the Rajavaliya (first published in 1976) and also its English translation, I have discussed as far as possible the historical contents of the text which included the accounts of the Udarata rulers. Even as a student of Sinhala Literature (and not a historian), I was intrigued for the reason that the Rajavaliya, complicated as it is, does not relate the whole history, the Dona Catherina episode in particular. I referred to the Portuguese historians Couto and Queyroz as well, but to no avail. It was against this background that I ran into the Senarath query.

Thank you, Tissa, for re-kindling my interests. I give below the history(the story) as far as I could draw briefly from the available sources without conforming myself to Senarat alone. To be fair by the Rajavaliya author, he has recorded every detail of the incidents resulting in much confusion. However, reading Rajavaliya carefully, it was possible to sift out the history in some detail. During the Kotte period, provincial rulers had paid tribute to Kotte or Sitavaka and at times tried to assert independence. Jotiya Situ was one such nobleman in Udarata. Rajavaliya calls him ‘Sojata Situ Raja’ who had refused to pay tribute to Kotte during the reign of Parakramabahu VI.

However, Senasammatha Vikramabahu (1474-1571?) who had assumed the title of Cakravarti in the Inscription set up at Gadaladeniya is considered to be the founder of the Udarata Kingdom. The Rajavaliya does not give the name of this king but calls himself ‘Udarata rajakarana raju’. Also, there does not seem to show any relationship with Jotiya Situ mentioned earlier.

So far, the political scenario revolved round Kotte, Sitavaka and Udarata and now, we see another stakeholder coming into the scene, namely the Portuguese. Their task had been the consolidation of power based in Colombo and the spread of their religion, Roman Catholicism.

Reading through the Rajavaliya, I have tried to identify the relationships of the important personalities involved in the political scene. Jayavira Astana, son of Vikramabahu, had married a queen from the noble Keeravelle family. This union had two offsprings, namely Karalliayadde Kumara Bandara and a princess. This princess was given in marriage to Dharmapala, grandson of Bhuvanekabahu. When king Jayaweera’s Keeravelle queen died, he had brought a consort from the Gampola clan, contrary to the accepted marriage etiquette. It is said that Karalliayadde fell out with his father for the reason that he had favored his son from the latter queen. In an encounter with Rajasingha of Sitavaka, Karalliayadde was defeated and while retreating he succumbed to death entrusting his infant daughter Kusumasana Devi and his nephew, Yamasingha to the Portuguese. It is said that these two refugees were taken to Lisbon and baptized as Dona Catherina and Don Philip respectively. Rajavaliya is silent of these events.

Now, we move on to the other interesting part of our narrative. The Rajavaliya story is: when Udarata was brought under the subjugation of Virasundara Bandara who descended from the royal family in Peradeniya as a result of an intrigue with Rajasingha, Virasundara Bandara’s son Konappu Bandara left the hill country for safety and took refuge with Dharmapala in Colombo. According to Rajavaliya, he had married the daughter of Tammita Bandara and as a result of a dispute with Dharmapala he was sent to Goa. He received baptism under the name of Don Juan of Austria. Don Juan alias Konappu Bandara had exhibited his indomitable strength and was sent back to Colombo to safeguard Portuguese power. The strategy of the Portuguese was to defeat the armies of Sitavaka and enthrone Don Philip alias Yamasingha as king of Kanda Udarata under the command of Don Juan alias Konappu Bandara. This shrewd and foresighted soldier was able to get rid of Yamasingha and assume power. He was able to overcome all opposition and declare himself king of Kanda Udarata under the name of Vimaladharmasuriya. Not long after, he was able to capture Dona Catherina and married her to make himself the legitimate ruler.

The Rajavaliya, amidst other details gives the story of the succession of kings in Senkadagala. After an eventful reign, king Vimaladharmasuriya, probably realizing that he would not live long had got his cousin brother who was a monk in a temple in the Sri Pada area to be disrobed and having entrusted the guardianship of his four sons passed away after reign of twelve years. This new king by the name of Senevirat married the widow, Dona Catherina. This union bore a son by the name of Devirajasingha. In order to assure the throne to his son, king Senevirat (Senarat) got the son of Vimaladharmasuriya, the legitimate successor drowned in the Mahaveli river secretly. Incidentally, Lorna Devaraja has pointed out that Senaratwas the son of Henarat-hami, a Gamarala who lived in Matale (See Udarata Rajadhaniya, 1997).

We are fortunate that H. W. Codrington has provided material to fill the gaps to our story in his discussion of the Copper Plate grant of Sri Vikrama Rajasingha (E. Z. Vol. iii, p 241-244) which refers to certain details, not well-known regarding the Kingdom of Kandy. While Bhuvanekabahu was reigning in Kotte, one of his brothers had been admitted to the priesthood under the name of the king himself. This Thera named Bhuvanekabahu after the demise of the king had migrated to the Hill Country. His pupils in succession had continued to use the name of Bhuvanekabahu. This Bhuvanekabahu Thera had played an active role to help Vimaladharmasuriya (Konappu Bandara) in all his campaigns and to become king. This BhuvanekabahuThera or possibly his pupil under the same name had disrobed himself and continued to use the name Bhuvanekabahu Pandita Mudiyanse. This Pandita Mudiyanse had been the mentor of Senerat.

Incidentally, Kotagama Vacissara Thera in his Saranankara Sangharaja Samaya mentions that Dona Catherinapassed away in 1612. Rajavaliya is silent about this matter. When Senarat died after a reign of twenty five years according to the Rajavaliya, his son Rajasingha (ii) became king as had been planned.

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