Funday Times - Our Heritage

All that is left of the royal insignia

Gaveshaka continues to discuss heritage through stamps

The Crown and the Throne are the symbols of heritage relating to the ancient monarchs of Sri Lanka.
The chronicles – Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa give an authentic account of the island's past and refer to the administration of the country under numerous rulers. From the earliest times the government of the Island had been of the monarchical type.

The early leaders or chieftains had borne the titles of 'gamani – 'leader of the community' and 'mahaparamuka' – 'great lord'. Renowned archaeologist and historian Dr. Senerat Paranavitane says that such titles seem to suggest that kingship was preceded by a government of popularly elected leaders.

The institution of kingship in ancient Sri Lanka had been modelled on that of the Mauryas in India. The Sinhalese kings claimed to be 'Ksatriyas' – a word synonymous with 'raja' – 'king'. Regional chieftains were the land owning nobility and were referred to as 'paramukas'. It was from among them that high dignitaries of state were recruited. Their symbol of authority was the 'yasti' or baton.

There was a consecration ceremony to inaugurate a new king. According to the Mahavamsa, the first king who went through the consecration ceremony was Devanampiya Tissa (250 – 210 BC). Known as the 'abhisheka' ceremony, it followed the rights and rituals which prevailed in the Maurya court at the time. There was great pomp and splendour at the ceremony which was held in an assembly hall specially prepared for the occasion.

It was necessary to have a number of royal ornaments at the consecration. A white
parasol, crown and the throne were the most important items. The list of items comprising the royal insignia mentioned in ancient literature including the Thupavamsa and Pujavaliya added up to 64.
The throne which the king occupied as head of the royal court was frequently described as the 'Sinhaasana' – the lion seat because the lion was considered the symbol of royal power. There were instances when the throne resembled a crouching lion.

The crown is also frequently mentioned in the chronicles. The king always wore
a crown when he sat on the throne. It was set with precious jewels. The crown was referred
to by three terms – 'makuta', 'kirita' and 'moli'. Mention is made of King Parakramabahu I
(1153 – 86 AD) entering the city after his consecration wearing the 'moli' or tiara.

There has been at least one instance where a king did not wear the crown when he was consecrated. He was Kassapa II (650 – 659 AD) who defeated Dathopatissa and ascended the throne.
The royal insignia was kept back by the latter. The crown is mentioned as an item among the treasures captured by the Cholas when they invaded the country.

The Thupavamsa refers to five kinds of crowns – 'Siddha' (celestial), 'Mini' (jewel), 'Sinha' (lion), 'Vyaagra' (tiger) and 'Ruvan' (golden).

The only items that remain from the ancient regalia in Sri Lanka are the ones used by the kings of Kandy. Of these the most prominent ones are the Crown, the Throne and the Foot-stool which are depicted in two stamps released on January 18, 1977.

The Crown seen in the Rs.1 stamp is an eight-cornered gold crown. It is known as 'Ata-mulutoppiya'. It has been worn by the last four kings of Kandy – Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe (1739 – 47), Kirti Sri Rajasinghe
(1747 – 82), Rajadhi Rajasinghe (1782 – 98) and Sri Vickrama Rajasinghe (1798 – 1815).

The dome of the Crown is of gold sheeting with an elaborate floral ornament. It is studded with rubies, emerald and sapphire precious stones. At the centre is a 'malgaha' or royal flower tree. The leaves appear to be stylised Bo-leaves. The Throne and the Foot-stool in the Rs. 2 stamp are a gift to
King Vimala Dharma Suriya II (1687 – 1707) by the Dutch Governor, Thomas van Rhee in 1697. They have been subsequently used by the later kings of Kandy.

The design of the throne is one based on royal chairs used in France and is in its basic style Baroque of
Louis XIV (1690 – 1700 AD). However, it is distinctly eastern in its carvings and decoration. Its frame is of jak timber covered entirely with gold sheeting. It is set with amethysts and cut crystal.

The two arms carry two figures of lions depicting the lion symbol of the Sinhala race. Acanthus foliage ornament fills the inside back of the throne with the symbol of the sun in the middle and two seated female figures on either side. The rear of the throne is in silver and a large embossed half moon is seen towards the top. The decorated foot-stool covered with velvet, forms part of the throne.

Sri Lankans are fortunate to have these symbols of ancient heritage preserved to this day. The Crown and the Throne are exhibited at the Colombo National Museum and are the most popular objects among the visitors.

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