God Save the King – which King?
Posted on September 16th, 2022

Senaka Weeraratna

I wish the British were as kind to the Kings of other countries that they conquered in South Asia as they are to their current Monarch today. 

We lost our King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the last King of the Kingdom of Kandy in Ceylon because the British captured him and exiled him to India, thereby bringing to an end a long line of mainly Sinhala Kings and Queens that had lasted for about 2, 400 years. 

The British Empire did the same thing in India. They captured the last King of the Moghul Empire Bahadur Shah II after the so called Indian Mutiny in 1857 and sent this old King to a British prison in Burma where he died in exile. But he did not die unsung. He left a thought provoking verse that finds a chorus even today. His sadness at his remains after his death not  being able to find 6 feet of ground for his burial in his own beloved country India can still move people to tears. 

The British scored another truimph when they crossed the line over to Burma and using Indian Sepoys and coolies as soldiers the British captured Upper Burma in 1826 and lower Burma in 1886. The proud Burmese Dynasty that gave leadership to South East Asia and beyond in the form of the Bagan line of Kings and Pagan civilization, was overthrown. They were exiled to a foreign country and then simply disappeared from world history. 

A Buddhist monk has left a moving verse lamenting the fall of the King of Kandy in 1815, by saying after observing a procession of ants when he was sweeping the garden of his Malwatte Temple in Kandy, as follows:

” Oh ants, even you have a King; alas we don’t, that’s why we lament” 

Groaning in agony the proud Kandyan Sinhalese people who had fiercely fought and defended the Kingdom of Kandy from invasion and conquest by European Conquistadors (1693 – 1815), lost their cultivable land when British settlers grabbed their land for planting Coffee and Tea.  The Kandyans were overnight made landless and destitute. Some families died out of starvation due to lack of food as they were denied land to grow food by Chena Cultivation.

What people in Sri Lanka need now and very urgently are not hollow lectures on Human Rights but a sincere commitment to accountability for Colonial Crimes and payment of Reparations. Wrongdoers must also engage in a Catharsis. 

The British killed over 10,00O wild elephants to clear the Hill country for planting Coffee and Tea. That was truly a Holocaust of Elephants and other animals. These animals in the wilderness had got so used to centuries of peaceful co – existence between humans and animals in ancient Sri Lanka under the rule of benevolent Buddhist Kings, that they were shocked when humans I e. European Trophy Hunters, Professional Hunters for Reward and European Settlers appeared from nowhere to shoot them and claim a bounty from a colonial authority. A practice unheard of pre – colonial Sri Lanka. 

Finally,  I wish the British Empire had left the Kings of South Asia alive to enable us today to join the good people of Britain and jointly  sing ” God save the King’ on a universal footing. 

Senaka Weeraratna

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