Posted on September 26th, 2023

By Sena Thoradeniya

(Contd. From 17 September 2023)

1. Land Claims of Chieftains

In 1875 a vast quantity of valuable forest land was claimed by Chiefs and Headmen what were known as British Grants” conferred upon them soon after the Kandyan War of Independence in 1817-1818 for the services rendered by them to the British Crown in quelling the uprising. In many cases the extent of field held by virtue of the deed was far in excess of what was specified. This was the observation made by A.R. Dawson, Assistant Government Agent of Sabaragamuwa on land claimed by Kandyan chiefs. At this time Sabaragamuwa was a part of Western Province.

How Kandyan Chieftains claimed Crown” land, their extents and administrative work with regard to land claims and dilemmas faced by British Civil Servants will be discussed in a separate article after the conclusion of this series which shows the unquenchable greed, avarice of Chieftains for land.  

2.Village Committee Elections and Casteism

In Kandy District caste played a major role in the elections held in 1927 to elect members to Village Committees (VC) under the Ordinance No. 9 of 1924. For the 35 Village Committees, five Chief Headmen of upper” caste (for 31 VCs), three of depressed” castes and one Tamil were elected as Chairmen. It was a peculiar situation where Rate Mahattayas contesting all Korales in his division and getting elected as Chairmen of all Korales in most cases by virtue of the high office they held in the division with full blessings of the British Government Agent of the Province.

2.1.  Udunuwara:  T. B. Nugawela, Rate Mahattaya of Udunuwara was elected as Chairman of Gangapalatha Korale, Medapalatha Korale and Kandupalatha Korale (all 3 korales in the division).

2. 2.  Yatinuwara:  T. B. Mampitiya, Rate Mahattaya of Yatinuwara was elected to Gangawata Korale and Gangapalatha Korale as Chairman (2 korales in the division); S. Sundarasekera (of a depressed caste”) was elected Chairman of Kandupalatha Korale.

2.3. Harispattuwa:  H. Nugawela, Rate Mahattaya of Harispattuwa was elected as Chairman of all 5 Korales in the division.

2.4.  Patha Dumbara:  T.B. Ratwatte, Rate Mahattaya of Patha Dumbara for Pallegampaha Korale, Palispattuwa East Korale, Palispattuwa West Korale and Wendaruwa Korale (Chairman of 4 Korales); A. N. Seneviratne (a commoner” as Chairman of Uda Gampaha Korale.

2.5. Uda Dumbara:  H.B. Rambukwella, Rate Mahattaya of Uda Dumbara as Chairman for 6 Koralas out of 7. Ran Banda Korala (a commoner”) was elected Chairman to Gampaha Korale West.

2.6. Tumpane:  W. Madawela, Rate Mahattaya of Tumpane as Chairman of 2 Korales; for the other two Korales in the division another Rate Mahattaya and a Basnayake Nilame were elected as Chairmen respectively.  

2.7. Patha Hewaheta:  J. A. Rambukpotha, Rate Mahattaya of Patha Hewaheta   as Chairman of all 3 Korales in the division.

2.8. Uda Palatha: H. D. Keppetipola, Rate Mahattaya of Uda Palatha as Chairman for 2 Korales; M. B. Panabokke as chairman of Ganga Pahala Korale; S. M. Mudalihami (a commoner”) as Chairman of Ganga Ihala Korale.

2.9. Uda Bulathgama:  J. Marambe, Rate Mahattaya to Ambagamuwa Korale and C. Kanagasabai (a Tamil) to Pasbage Korale as Chairmen.

In Kandyan Provinces the same type of office-seekers contested at the elections held to elect members to State Council and later Parliament. Several former Rate Mahattayas and Dissaves were elected as State councilors and Members of Parliament. 

Comments made by Kindersley, Government Agent of Central Province are important: There has been a great political awakening during the year among the Kandyan masses. The first cause was chiefly the Village Committee elections under the new Ordinance No. 9 of 1924. The visit to the hill capital of the Royal Commission on the Constitution of Ceylon added no small degree to this awakening.” (Kindersley was referring to the Donoughmore Commission).

He adds: The results of these elections have been to intensify caste feeling and to produce considerable bitterness. Caste played a great part in these elections. In the Kandupalatha of Yatinuwara the Chairman and committee members of the Village Committee belong wholly to one caste. This is a great pity, as any accentuation of caste differences is likely to prolong the existence of caste distinctions, which were tending slowly to evaporate. It is to be hoped that suchinstances will be rare in the future and that the swing of the pendulum will in time result in the abolition of many, if not of all caste distinctions.”

Why did Kindersley lament like this? The Rate Mahattaya, a govigama high strata” man was not able to win Yatinuwara Kandupalatha Korale was the reason. For him it was a great pity”. But he should have been happy that a non-govigama candidate winning that Korale, if he wanted to see elimination of caste distinctions, which he thought were tending slowly to evaporate” without prolonging their existence. At the same time, he did not realise that the said Korale was dominated by non-govigama people, who were determined to elect their own people as members and Chairman.  A single high caste” person winning all or the majority of Korales of a division was not a problem to Kindersley. He had disregarded three commoners” and a Tamil getting elected.

In 1933 something contrary to earlier election happened. Kandy District should have 37 Village Committees, one each to each Korale of a division. But inhabitants of Kandapahala Korale in Uda Dumbara and Wendaruwa Korale in Patha Dumbara refused to elect committees when it was explained to them that they could not have Rate Mahattayas elected as Chairmen. The Government Agent personally held the abortive election at Wendaruwa Korale and tried to persuade the people to elect a Committee, but the people declined to do so.  Government Agent Hodson had the solution for this predicament. He thought of attaching these two Korales to neighbouring divisions for Village Committee purposes.

It was very clear that the villagers were incited by the Rate Mahattayas as they (Rate Mahattayas) thought that Chairmanship of Village Committees as another feather in their caps. 1927 experience shows how Rate Mahattayas grabbed all or almost all Korales in their divisions. It is sheer madness if some theorist theorises what happened in 1933 as defying Colonial authority by the Kandyan office holders.

Village Committees maintained village roads (known as gansabha roads), bridges, edandas, wells, ambalams and water spouts (peeli).

Our Village Committee Chairmen began to pilfer public funds from the very inception of Village Committees. One Village Committee Chairman was prosecuted for drawing money from Kandy Kachcheri for work which had not been performed.

3.Elephant Kraals Organised by Chieftains

Robert Knox (1681) was the first English writer to write about the way of catching elephants” in Ceylon. According to Knox, elephants were caught when the King commanded to do so and only tuskers were caught.  She-elephants were brought to lure the tuskers; they were caught sometimes by snares or driving them into a kind of Pound”. If the King did not like the animal, he commanded its release into the woods. This description shows that there was no indiscriminate capture of elephants; after two or three years the captured elephants were sent back into the woods.

John D’oyly’ gives a detailed account of the Kuruwe or elephant department, the way elephants were caught and the famous Etgale in Patha Dumbara.  It was John Davy (1821) who described a journey along Etgala Para. Etgala fort ofthe Britishers was attacked by Patha Dumbara freedom fighters in 1818.

For the British Royalty, Governors and provincial administrators and their spouses, attending elephant kraals was a pastime full of pleasure and amusement. For the Kandyan chieftains, organising elephant kraals was an occasion to show their allegiance to British Crown, that they were providing pleasurable experiences to their Masters, their individual power and skill and the influence they have over the village folk.

In 1889 when Herbert Wace was the Acting Government Agent, Governor visited the newly created Sabaragamuwa province and proceeded to an elephant kraal at Panamure in the Kolonna Korale. Wace wrote in his Diary on June 30, 1889, that he discussed with Maduwanwela Rate Mahattaya  (hero of some columnists who think that Maduwanwala defied British colonial administrators as he had tiled his manorial house with tiles portraying Queen Victoria: we have stated earlier that the British tile manufacturer was more anti-colonial than Maduwanwala) about the kraal which was organised by him and Ellawela Rate Mahattaya. Four herds said to be in the neighborhood” he wrote.

On August 8 Wace planned with the Rate Mahattaya the sites of bungalows and accommodation for visitors to kraal. As there was a shortage of roofing material-no talipot or cadjan– roofing material had to be brought from Maduwanwela village.

His Imperial Highness the Cesarewitch visited the elephant kraal at Wewilla on 18 and 19 February in 1890. Nine elephants were captured and the Chiefs of the District presented the smallest bull-elephant to Imperial Highness and was taken to Russia.

An elephant kraal was organised by Iddamalgoda Rambukpotha Kumarihamy and Delwela Rate Mahattaya at Niriella in January 1894 at which Governor was present. Only seven elephants were captured.

Later a large kraal was held at Panamure in the Kolonna Korale by Ellawela and Maduwanwela Rate Mahattayas; 42 elephants were captured, a record capture” for Ceylon at that time.

Maduwanwela Rate Mahattaya had another kraal in 1900 resulting in capturing 19 elephants. For this he was highly praised by Evan M. Byrde, Government Agent of Sabaragamuwa Province. 

A kraal was held in February, 1902 on the banks of Mee Oya in Wanni Hatpattuwa. No less than 102 elephants were driven into the kraal, this being the largest number on records. Between 40-50 elephants were noosed which was also a record; remainder broke through the stockade and escaped.  Governor was present. Government Agent of North Western Province H. L. Crawford wrote, Hulugalle Rate Mahattaya of the Division was indefatigable in his efforts to make the kraal a success and was ably supported by the other chiefs of the Hath Korale.

Maduwanwala even after his retirement to show his allegiance to the Crown organised an elephant kraal in 1907 at Panamure attended by Commodore Sir George Warrender. Thirty-nine elephants were captured.

 In 1912 September he held a kraal at Panamure resulting in capturing 33 elephants.

Two more kraals were organised by him in September for the pleasure of Acting Governor Stubbs. Only 8 elephants were captured. At the second kraal held three weeks later 24 elephants were driven in. The kraal in 1914 organised by J.W. Maduwanwala was not a success according to Government Agent of Sabaragamuwa R.N. Thaine as only one elephant was captured.

 A successful kraal was held in 1920 in Wanni Hatpattuwa; 39 elephants were noosed and removed from the kraal.

An elephant kraal was held on the borders of Demala Hathpattuwa and Puttalampattuwa in September-October 1913. None was brought within the reach of the stockade wrote John Scott Assistant Government Agent of Puttalam-Chilaw.

A successful kraal was held in August 1920 in Wanni Hathpattuwa. 39 elephants were kraaled” of which 33 were noosed. Acting Governor Sir Graeme Thomson was in attendance.  

In 1921 an elephant kraal was held at Malwalakelle, Kukulu Korale in Sabaragamuwa organised by J. H. Meedeniya Adigar and P. B. Muttetuwegama and F. Marambe Rate Mahattayas. Governor was in attendance. Fourteen elephants were captured and 2 died.

The last kraal was held in 1950 at Panamure, organised by Dissava Samuel Alexander Iddamalgoda Elapatha better known as Sam Elapatha, grandson of Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy. The famous Panamure eth raja” wholater immortalised by a Sinhala vocalist died inside the stockade. Sabaragamuwa elephant lovers do not agree with the lyricist of the above song as the elephant killed in the stampede was not a tusker and it cannot be called an eth raja”. 

4. Visits of Royalty

When Duke of Edinburgh visited Kandy in 1870 all Kandyan Chiefs attended with their retainers. Diyawadana Nilame and Rate Mahattayas gave all the aid in their power towards the work of offering a fitting reception to their illustrious guest”, wrote Russell, Government Agent of Central Province. A levee was held at the pavilion. He was taken for an elk hunt at Bopaththalawa. Men worked for five weeks cutting roads and erecting encampments for the hunting party under the supervision of Headmen. 

In part I of this series we have discussed how Dullewa Adigar made preparations for the visit of His Imperial and Royal Highness, the Arch Duke of Austria in 1892 exactly for 48 days and his search for a somana cloth fancied by the Duke. The Rate Mahattaya of Kalagam Palata, Ratwatte Banda, had to facilitate the Duke’s sports” (read as hunting) at Kalawewa.  

When Royal dignitaries visited Kandy (for example, Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia in 1890 March) Kandyan chiefs from all parts of the Island held a reception at the Audience Hall, decorated in Kandyan style”.

In 1904 Princess Louise Augusta of Schleswig- Holstein visited Ceylon. Accompanied by Governor Blake and his wife she was warmly received by the Chiefs of Anuradhapura.

In 1910 Crown Prince and Princes of Germany visited Central Province including Nuwara Eliya; an elk hunt was arranged in Kantalai.

For the visit of Prince of Wales to Kandy in 1922 preparations were made months ahead with the help of an Advisory Committee. He came to Kandy in a special train. Addresses were read at the station. Kandyan chiefs and Chief prelates of Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters were in attendance. In the evening a durbar of Kandyan chiefs were held at 9.30 p.m. followed by a Raja Perahera at 10 p.m.

In Nuwara Eliya District unveiling of photogravures of the Prince in all schools was the main item of celebrations attended by headmen. A procession of school children was held in addition to sports events and fireworks in the night. The school children were made to salute the Union Jack.

On the day Prince of Wales passing Rabukkana station, Kandyan chieftains dressed in traditional Kandyan dress assembled on the platform. There were gaily dressed school children”, elephants and dancers along the road bordering the railway line who amply demonstrated the loyalty of the masses to the Throne” wrote G. S. Wodeman, Assistant Government Agent of Kegalle. The Prince descended on to the platform and was greeted with loud and prolonged cheers”. The chief headmen had the honour of being presented to the Prince” by the Governor.” Great enthusiasm prevailed and the loyal welcome given by Rambukkana and Kegalle Districts to the Prince has been depicted in the illuminated London papers”.

Similar celebrations were held at Anuradhapura organised by the chiefs.

In 1921 Crown Prince of Japan visited Kandy (a special perahera was held in his honour); in 1926 Chieftains were privileged to host Their Royal Highness Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden when they arrived in Kandy on December 4. His Majesty King Alphonso of Spain also visited Kandy in 1921. 

To mark the funeral of King George V on January 28, 1936 religious services were held also in Buddhist temples in North Western Province and alms were distributed to people under the guidance and supervision of chieftains and chief prelates. 

5. Governor’s Visits 

It was customary for a new Governor visiting every district and also as a farewell at the time he was leaving; in addition, the Governor visited districts on special occasions and for inspections. He was received by the Colonial administrators and chieftains befitting an uncrowned King. 

In 1888 Sept 13, the Governor visited Sabaragamuwa and he was taken in a perahera. In 1889 August he visited the newly created Sabaragamuwa Province. On September 25, 1890 Arthur Elibank Havelock visited Sabaragamuwa and accepted the Address presented by Ekneligoda Dissava and the other Chiefs and Headmen of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. 

When the Governor visited Nuwara Eliya in1896 he was escorted from Nanuoya to Queen’s Cottage with a perahera consisting of Kandyan Chiefs, Headmen, elephants and native music”.

In 1903 after opening the Kelani Valley Railway at Yatiyantota, Governor’s party was rowed down the Kelani river in a decorated barge as far as Ruanwella. The Old Fort was decorated in Kandyan fashion. In the evening a perahera with 40 elephants was held followed by a durbar next day. Meedeniya Adigar was made a Justice of Peace.

When the Governor and wife arrived in Kandy and Matale and other provincial towns peraheras and receptions were organised by Kandyan chiefs. 127 elephants took part in the perahera that was held in Kegalle in 1907.

On September 11, 1907 Sir Henry and lady McCallum arrived at Kandy. Following day, a perahera was held and a reception by Chiefs of Central Province at the Pavilion. In November the Governor made his first visit to Matale. He was received with a perahera of Kandyan Chiefs.

In 1919 when the Governor visited Talduwa (a part of Kegalle District), the headmen provided” a perahera.

On March 8, 1913, Acting Governor visited Kandy. From Kandy railway station he was taken in a perahera by Kandyan Chiefs to the Pavilion where the Chiefs were introduced to the Governor.  

When Robert Charmers visited Kandy in 1913 Kandyan Chiefs arranged a Guard of Honour at the Miller’s Corner and from there escorted him in a perahera to King’s Pavilion.  

The Governor visited Kurunegala in1926 and attended an At Home” at Maligawa.

In 1927 Kandyan chiefs in Kandy held a perahera in honour of Sir Hugh Clifford who was leaving the Island.

W. Ormsby Gore, Under Secretary of State for Colonies visited Kandy in 1928; a perahera was organised by the chiefs in his honour. 

When Governor and Lady Stanley visited Kurunegala a perahera was held. He received 4 Addresses from the native chiefs. A Levee and Durbar of Kandyan chiefs were held at King’s Pavilion, Kandy. When he inspected Batalagoda tank and anicut Madahapola Rate Mahattaya of Hiriyala Pattuwa held a reception. 

The Governor visited Kandy in May 1931. His visit displayed the ethnic divide prevalent at Kandy. How it happened should be investigated correctly, whether it happened by design by Government Agent T.A. Hodson or not. Four pandals were erected to greet him. Ward street pandal was erected by the Tamil community opposite National Bank and the leader of the Tamil community was introduced to the Governor. Next halt of the Governor was at the pandal erected by the Kandyan Chiefs and two Adigars, Diyawadana Nilame and Mampitiye Rate Mahattaya were introduced to him. Perahera to the King’s Pavilion commenced from the pandal erected by the Muslims. One side of the Pavilion was decorated by minor headmen and the other side by Girls’ Guides and Boys’ Scouts. When the HE entered the Dining Room Mahanayakes of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters with ten other attendant Bhikkhus recited four verses of Jayamanagala Gatha. 

It should be noted that Mampitiya was made a Dissava in 1933, another peculiar promotion made by the Colonial administrators.

6. Presentation of Addresses

Presentation of Addresses” (on ola leaves) was a common practice adopted by Kandyan chiefs at the ceremonies associated with welcoming foreign dignitaries and Governors and retirement of Civil servants. Address presented by Ekneligoda and other Sabaragamuwa chiefs welcoming Arthur Elibank Havelock in 1890 was a fine example to show the servility and slavishness of Kandyan chieftains.

It goes like this: To His Excellency Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock, KCMG, CC. We the Chiefs and Headmen of the Province of Sabaragamuwa, desire most respectively and cordially to welcome Your Excellency on this your first public visit to Sabaragamuwa and to assure you of our loyalty  to the throne and person of her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria and to Your Excellency as her representative in the Island”.

That Your Excellency and family may long live in the enjoyment of all possible happiness is the prayer of Your Excellency’s faithful servants”.

The contents of this Address” or in Sinhala the Sthuthi Pathraya need no interpretation which assures loyalty to the throne and prayers for Governor’s happiness.

In 1913 Address to Robert Charmers was read and presented by Dunuwila Dissava: all chieftains attended the ceremony.

In 1913 such Presentations were made to L. W. Booth on his retirement by Kandyan Chiefs. 

On 24, January ,1914 Governor Sir Henry McCallum paid a visit to Kandy before his departure from the Island. On behalf of Kandyan Chiefs S. N. W. Hulugalla Adigar of North Western Province presented an Address.,

When Ekanayake Mudiyanselage Kiri Banda arachchi of Gallella, a village in Harispattuwa was presented a sannas for his long service at his retirement in 1914 he requested the permission of Government Agent of Central Province G. S. Saxton to speak for only five minutes. Kiri Banda made a Presentation to Saxton in prose and verse reminiscing a work of classical Sinhala literature, no doubt a creation of an erudite monk or a lay person well-versed in Sanskrit, Pali and elu, full of panegyrics, eulogizing the King, Governor, the Agent and other Radala chiefs. In one verse Banda compares Saxton to Lord Buddha who vanquished maras at the time of His Enlightenment.

Saxton had got the verse and prose renditions translated into English. I have included Banda’s eulogy in my novel Handunmal Kadulla” which deals with Kandyan Chiefs and peasantry in Dumbara, Mataleand Nuwara Kalaviya respectively published in 2016.

7. Governor Attending Weddings and Some Other Matters

Governor attending a wedding of a chieftain’s scions was a highly sought honour and privilege much to the envy of fellow chieftains.

In 1911 Governor Hugh Clifford attended the wedding of Mahawelatenna Rate Mahattaya’s daughter to Ratwatte at Mahawelatenna. On the same day the Governor attended the wedding of Meedeniya Rate Mahattaya’s daughter to Molamure at Ruwanwella.

Rivalry of Kandyan Chiefs was manifested even in seating order at receptions. In 1931 Diyawadana Nilame P. B. Nugawela Dissava met the Government Agent of Central Province and said that his seniority should be recognized as next to Meedeniya Adigar and above Ratwatta Adigar at the HE’s dinner.  The Government Agent disagreed with Nugawela and Nugawela said that he was meditating” not to attend the reception. But unfortunately, Nugawela was in a hopeless position as he had accepted the invitation under protocol below Ratwatte and had to eat humble pie attending the dinner according to the protocol.

In 1911 the Government Agent of North Central Province writes in his Diary that the daughter of Bulankulama Rate Mahattaya had married the son of Hurulla Rate Mahattaya, an important event for the GA to record in his official diary.

In 1911 Government Agent of North Central Province reports the death of D.B. Ratwatte ex-Rate Mahattaya of Kalagam Palatha, depressed at losing the appeal case about his new walawwa and his enforced retirement.” Certain villagers had sued him for ejecting them from the land he build a new walawwa. Later the Government Agent visited his widow, who had two sons attending Trinity and a daughter. A few months later Ratwatte Kumarihamy met the Government Agent requesting jobs to her sons. 

In 1912 the Government Agent of North Central Province sees as a bad luck” a Kandyan boy of good family Mahadiwulwewa” going to a school in Jaffna as he could not get into Trinity”.  But it was a practice of well-to-do people in North Central Province to send their sons to schools in Jaffna.


Next: Government Agent’s and Assistant Agent’s Circuits; Passive Resistance of Peasantry

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