200 years ago…- Remembering the Kandyan Convention of 1815
Posted on February 28th, 2015


By D.C. Ranatunga Courtesy FT. lk

  •  Year: 1815
  •  Date: 2 March
  •  Time: 3.30pm
  •  Venue: Magul Maduwa, King’s 
  •  Palace – Kandy
 Present were the British Governor, Colonel Robert Brownrigg and John D’Oyly, the British agent of revenue who was the intermediary between the governor and the disgruntled Kandyan chiefs, the Kandyan King’s one-time Chief Minister (Maha Adikaram) Ehelepola Dissave, his successor Molligoda and eight other chiefs.

The occasion was the proclamation of the Udarata Givisuma – the Kandyan Convention by which the Kandyan kingdom was formally ceded to the British. Sinhalese independence thus ended after over 2,350 years.The Convention setting out the terms of accession had been drafted by D’Oyly, who was fluent in Sinhala and maintained close contact with the chiefs who were intriguing to ‘sell out’ the king.At the appointed hour, James Sutherland, Deputy Secretary to Government first read out the text in English followed by Abraham De Saram designated as the ‘Modaliyar of His Excellency’s Gate’ in ‘Cingalese’. An official record of the proceedings states: This important statement was listened to with profound and respectful attention by the Chiefs and it was pleasing to observe in their looks, a marked expression of cordial assent, which was immediately declared with great earnestness.”
The report dated 3 March 1815 further states: His Excellency’s part of the conference was communicated to Mr. D’oyly, and by him to Molligoda Adigar, who delivered aloud to the audience. A Chief of venerable and commanding aspect was the organ of the assembly whose person and countenance were equally striking. His figure the tallest present, was erect and portly – A high and prominent forehead, a full eye, and a strong expression of natural vivacity tempered with the gravity of advanced age, marked by a long, full and graceful white beard, and the whole combined with his rich state Dress, formed the subject of a portrait truly worthy of an able hand, His Name was Millawa, Dessave of Godapola – He was a great Favorite of the King, and remained with him till a late period. This Chief collected the sentiments of the assembly, generally in silence, but with occasional explanation, and delivered them to the Adigar with the concurrence of the rest.
Ehelepola tho’ not ostensibly engaged in the conference, took a marked interest in every part of it – His carriage was distinguished by a courtly address politeness and ease – and he was evidently regarded by the assembled Chiefs with a high degree of deference and respect.
After the treaty was read in Cingalese, the Adigar Molligoda and other Chiefs proceeded to the great door of the Hall, where Mohottala’s Coraals, Vidaans, and other subordinate Headmen from the different Provinces were attending with a great concourse of inhabitants and the Headmen being called on by the Adigar to range themselves in order according to their respective Districts, the treaty was again rad out by the Modeliyar in Cingalese – at the conclusion of which the British Flag was hoisted for the first time and a Royal Salute from the Cannon of the City announced His Majesty George the Third Sovereign of the whole island of Ceylon.”
(The report of the proceedings appears in ‘Sri Lanka Reflections of History’ – a National Archives publication.)
The treaty was signed by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Brownrigg and alongside by Ehelepola. The other chiefs whose signatures appear below that of Brownrigg reads: Molligoda (1st Adikar and Disave of the 7 Korales), Pillima Talawuwa (2nd Adikar & Disave of ‘Saffragam’ – Sabaragamuwa), Pillima Talawuwe (Disave of the 4 Korales), Monarawila ( Disave of Uva), Dulleywe (Disave of Walapane) Millawa (Disave of Wellasa and Bintenna), (Galagama (Disave of Tamankada) and Galagama (Disave of Nuwarakalaviya). It is significant that some had signed in Tamil and some in both Sinhala and Tamil.
Stating that the peculiar form taken by the Convention reflected the political factors operating at the time, Professor K.M. de Silva says that the concession made to Kandyan interests in the document were granted because the political situation suggested these as essential to the purpose of conciliating groups who has rendered valuable assistance to the British.
Thus the Kandyan Convention preserved intact the privileges of the chiefs, the laws, customs and institutions of the country and what in the eyes of the Kandyans was more important than all else – the Buddhist religion,” he says.
The relevant clause (No. 5 of the 12 clauses) stated: The religion of Boodoo, professed by the chiefs and inhabitants of these provinces, is declared inviolable; and its rights, ministers, and places of worship, are to be maintained and protected.”

King captured by British troops
People disinterested
Historians report that the people, as a whole, did not take part in the ceremony. Neither did they show any interest in the proceedings.
Henry Marshall in ‘Ceylon: A General Description of the Island and its Inhabitants’ (1846) writes: …the British flag was hoisted for the first time in the town of Kandy, and a royal salute from the cannon, which had with infinite labour been dragged up the hills announced that His Majesty George the Third sovereign of the whole Island of Ceylon. The portion of population which had returned to the town of Kandy evinced no concern in the business which was going on in the palace. They did not leave their ordinary vocations even to look at the troops which were assembled, in review order, in the great square before the audience hall. Apparently they regarded the transfer of the government from an Oriental to a European dynasty with perfect indifference.”
In plotting against the king and supporting the British, Ehelepola had high hopes of himself being crowned. He was naturally disappointed with the turn of events. He rejected any form of office and preferred to be in retirement as the ‘Friend of the British Government’.
The last King of Kandy
Meanwhile, the deposed King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe (1798-1815), who was captured by the British army on 18 February 1815, had been brought to Colombo on 6 March.
Henry Marshall describes the king thus: He was about five feet nine or ten inches in height slightly corpulent, stoutly made, and muscular. He had a pleasant expression of countenance, a handsome beard, broad shoulders, and a full chest. His figure was manly, and his general appearance dignified. He did not appear to the writer to be deficient in intellect, and was generally much more affable and good-humoured than could be expected of a deposed king in a state of confinement. Having been placed on the throne by a professed friend, but in reality an inveterate intriguing enemy, for the intriguer’s own aggrandisement, his situation as king was attended with insuperable difficulties. Like a man blindfolded and in fetters he could neither see nor move as the adikar (Plima Talauwe) directed him. With a faithless minister, and a powerful ambitious hostile neighbour , who was ever ready to encourage traitors, provided he might benefit by the treason, his throne was surrounded by the most embarrassing perplexities – difficulties which would have required a person of great natural talents to surmount.”
Marshall comments that while the king was unpopular among the chiefs, it was not so among middle and lower classes of his subjects, whose rights and privileges he frequently defended against the injustice and oppression of the aristocracy or nobles.
The king remained in Colombo until 24 January 1816 when he along with his mother, four wives, mother-in-law and his retinue were sent to Vellore in South India. He died there in 1832.

With patriotic stirring music of Amaradeva

Exhibition to mark  200th anniversary of Kandyan Convention

February 26, 2015

By Cyril Wimalasurendre


KANDY: The Kandy branch of the Department of National Archives has organised an exhibition and seminar on March 10 to mark the 200th year of signing the Kandyan Convention of 1815.

The Kandyan Convention was signed on March 2, 1815 at the historical audience hall in precincts of the Sri Dalada Maligawa between the British and the Kandyan Chieftains.

Assistant Director of the Kandy Branch of the National Archives Himali Weerakoon said the exhibition and seminar had been organised to raise awareness of the landmark event in the country’s history among children.

Courtesy:  The Island

2 Responses to “200 years ago…- Remembering the Kandyan Convention of 1815”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    When Empires expanded, it was a time of turbulence and tragedy for the rest of the world …..

    Lesson to be Learnt :
    Internal weaknesses of every country will be exploited by ambitious outside others. Stand together for the purpose of Survival. The survival of the vast majority in each country ensures the survival of all others within that country.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Top guys have signed in Tamil. The king was a Tamil too.

    But the convention itself was only in English and Sinhala. That means even top Tamil ministers worked in Sinhala ONLY.

    SL had only ONE language Sinhala.

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