ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40
Kandy Times  

1815:Kandyan convention and the role of D’Oyly

By L.B.Senaratne

"Fine Day .. and warm" is how John D'Oyly described the second of March, 1815 in his diary. This date is recorded in the history of Sri Lanka as the day when the Kandyan Convention was signed. John D'Oyly, later to become Sir John D'Oyly, was the British public servant who was instrumental in paving the way for British troops to enter Kandyan territory, which other foreign powers were unable to penetrate into.

D'Oyly masterminded the entry and had under his control Dissave Ehelepola and Dissave Molligoda, but by the time the Kandy Convention was drafted Ehelepola had second thoughts as to his folly, because he never achieved what he desired -that of a status akin to being King of the realm. He, in fact, helped the British enter into the Kandyan Kingdom.

A drawing depicting the Kandyan Convention being drawn up at the Audience Hall or Magula Maduwa

For all purposes as documents point out the Kandyan Convention was not signed on a single day, nor was it signed on second of March, though we remember the day as such. The Kandy Convention was in fact read out to the Mahanayake of Malwatta Kobbekaduwa Unanse around 7.30 p.m. on second of March at the Audience Hall or Magul Maduwa. After the reading of the Convention, where most of the Dissaves, Mohotalles and Vidanes were present, the Mahanayake of Malwatta made a request to D'Oyly to conduct him by Army Band to his Avasaya at Malwatta which was readily accepted.

The Ceylon Government Gazette Extraordinary of 6th March 1815, Monday, which is an official bulletin for this purpose, issued from the British Headquarters of 2nd March 1815, notes that there was a solemn conference at the Audience Hall of the Palace of Kandy. There is no mention of a Convention or agreement on the 2nd of March 1815. This statement is made after four days of reading the Convention.

Documents point out that the Convention was signed at various points upto the 18th of March by Adikaram Ehelepola, Galaboda and Pilimatalawa. Literally, this document was in the 'pocket' of D'Oyly who carried it where-ever he went in search of the Nilames.

D'Oyly had a reason for this as he had had a discussion with Ehelepola and Molligoda. Dissave Ehelepola's one request was that he be appointed as the sub-king or to a post that was equal. This meeting was held at the inner quadrangle two days prior to the agreement at the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

However, by a document which is in the Government Archives, the signature of Adikaram Ehelepola is in Sinhala with a flowerish hand. This signature is on a document that he had addressed to the Government Agent of the Central Province, requesting him to transfer all his lands to his elder sister.

This signature, gives relief to the people that Ehelepola did not sign in Tamil. If he had signed in Tamil it was only to deceive the British so as to abrogate the Convention at any given time. In D'Oyly's document, it is pointed out that Adikaram Ehelepola, Galaboda and Pilimatalawa signed the document on the 18th of March 1815 which points out that the Kandyan Convention was in his pocket for the collection of signatures.

D'Oyly, set foot on Sri Lanka soil as a 27-year-old Englishman, a Cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service. He was posted to Galle and Matara as a Revenue Officer. Here he came in contact with Koratotta Dhamarama Thera who taught D'Oyly the Sinhala language. With this background he was able to make contact with most of the notable figures of the time among whom was Gajaman Nona to whom he gave a piece of land sometime later, for which deed he was reprimanded by the Home Government. In fact D'Oyly was no innocent Civil Servant but a ‘spy' for the British and with his contacts he was able to draw all information of the inner Territory - the Kandy Realm.

Later, after his transfer to Matara, he built a lasting friendship with the Mudiliyars and was able through them to search for information that was vital to the British Empire. With this information he was able to create an unstable State of the Government of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe.

D'Oyly in his last stages of his life in Kandy did not come out of his residence but remained a recluse. In fact he had refused to see anyone in the latter part of his life. He died in Kandy and is buried at the Garrison Cemetery. It is said in a document that the Convention was proclaimed on the 2nd of March around 3.30 p.m. at the Audience Hall. But it is not very clear as to whether it was and who signed from the side of Dissawas, but it is clearly stated that it was signed on behalf of the British by Governor Robert Brownrigg. Did Brownrigg sign a blank document?

A document further cites "Outside, drums were beating all around the Hall. British troops guarded all the entrances to it and also patrolled the streets. The "Treaty " was next read aloud to the Chiefs in Sinhala and both parties agreed to its contents. Then the Lion Flag was hauled down and the Union Jack (the British Flag) took its place amidst salvoes of artillery and His Majesty King George III was acclaimed King of Ceylon."

"The public, did not show any enthusiasm in these ceremonies as they saw the scene marked the end of their freedom." The ceremonies at Kandy on this occasion is for the purpose to celebrate the ‘Martyr' type act of a Buddhist priest Wariyapola Sumangala who is believed to have brought down the British flag which is said to have been hoisted before the Sinhala flag was hoisted.

The statue of Ven. Wariyapola Sumangala Thera

Now what is this Sinhala flag? The only flag that could have been flown in the area where the King resided was the Kandyan Flag or the Flag of the King. But the flag of the King was captured on 19th of February 1815 at Medamahanuwara. This together with other imperial ensigns were removed to Chelsea in the United Kingdom and it was last seen adorning the Church at Chelsea.

The story revolving around this Buddhist priest is that he was serving the inner shrine room of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, which at that time came under the King. His temple was at Sidhumpola which belongs to Asgiri Maha Vihare. It is said that having seen the British raising the ensign, he had rushed down and pulled down the flag and took up the position that until the agreement was signed, they should not raise their flag. However there is no document to substantiate this.

Soon after the capture of the King at Meda Mahanuwara, the British decided to convene a conference with the Dissawes and other Chieftains. Ehelepola took a very prominent place since he was interested in becoming the next ruler under the British, but the British had second thoughts about Ehelepola, which he was unaware of.

The original document was lost sometime ago. The original, so-called Treaty was taken away to the record office at Chancery Lane, Downing Street. But, from here it disappeared, however to surface again at a Gampola Case. Then again it disappeared, but it is recorded that once the Director of the Sri Lanka National Archives Department was able to find the document.

In passing, some mention has to be made of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, who was a Usurper to the Kandy Throne. His father is unknown, but his mother was said to be the most beautiful woman who lived in the Kandyan realm. She had come from Kerala. Subbama was her name and she had come with eight-year-old Kannaswamy, the future King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe to Sri Lanka and made her way to the Kandyan realm.

Subamma, not knowing her way, had come into the Royal Kingdom and had passed by, what was supposed to be Peradeniya, where Dissawa Pilamatalawa lived. Passing his residence, it is said that young Kannaswamy wanted to quench his thirst.

The nearest residence was that of Pilamatalawe's and the workers seeing this woman of extraordinary beauty quickly brought the water for the young lad. No sooner Pilamatalawa returned, he was told of this woman and the lad. He spared no time in going in search of them and accosted them not far away from his residence. From then on, young Kannaswamy became his adoptee.

Soon after the death of Rajadhi Raja Singhe on 2nd of July 1798, Dissawa Pilamatalawa saw to it that Kannaswamy was hoisted to the Throne, hoping that he could control him. But, all these dreams were shattered and he was put to death by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the very person he had placed on the Throne.

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