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In-depth study of Pilimatalavuva family

Pilimatalavuvas in the Last Days of the Kandyan Kingdom

Author: Ananda Pilimatlavuva - Daily News Wed June 23 2004

Ananda Pilimatalavuva - and old Trinitian and a retired planter now living in retirement in the village Pilimatalawa and a descendant of Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram has made an in-depth study of the beginnings of the Pilimatalavuva family and gives extracts from the various books and the despatches by the Governor and also deals on the part played by two members of the family during the first war of liberation or the rebellion of Uva in 1817 - 1818.

Ananda Pilimatalavuva claims that there are no direct descendants of the Maha Adikaram as they were either killed by the king, or the British rulers or died of disease. Those who survived are descendants of the cousins.

Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram was the third son of a family of Kandyan Chieftain who descended from an old established family which served the Sinhalese Kings from ancient times on one side and revived and restored by the assimilation with Royal South Indian nobility who arrived in the Kandyan Kingdom during the reign of Sri Vira Parkrama Narendrasinha of Kundasale. His full name was Pilimatalavuva Vijesundera Rajakaruna Senaviratne Abhayakoon Panditha Mudiyanse alias Urulevatta Agra Senadhipathi alias Arave Pallegampaha Maha Adikaram III. His father and elder brother also served as Maha Adikaram before him.

He assumed office as second Adigar in 1787 and was elevated to the post of First Adigar of Pallegampaha Maha Adikaram in 1790 by King Rajadhi Rajasimha. On the death of this King he used his power and position to enthrone Sri Wickrema Rajasimha as King even though he was not in the line of succession with the patriotic motive of re-establishing a Sinhala dynasty later.

During the time of King Kirthi Sri Rajasimha he built the inner sanctuary of the Sri Dalada Maligawa which an invader had left in ashes, and then in 1801 built the Asgiri Aluth Vihare also known as Vijesunderamaya after him, close to the Parana Vihare (Meda Pansala) built by his father. He has been described as 'portly and well looking man of great power and intrigue by Robert Percival and by Tennent as 'One of the most illustrious nobles boasting their descent from the Royal line of Ceylon'.

Pilimatalavuva Maha Adikaram's commendable trait was his love for his country and his wish to have a Sinhala to rule over Sinhala. Although there were many of the Bandara Valiya suitable to occupy the throne, they all shared a failing in that no one would allow another to rise higher than himself.

This inherent jealousy among the aristocracy, and the fact that the Nayakkara dynasty under Kings Kirthi Sri Rjasimha and Rajadhi Rajasimha had identified themselves closely with Kandyan national interest and religion, skilfully blending the Nayakkar dynasty from the Kandyan background, had convinced him that no Kandyan Sinhala Radala could ascend the throne without outside assistance. Hence he adopted the next best strategy of placing his own man on the throne to await favourable circumstances to restore a Sinhala line. The thought was noble.

Pilimatalavuva the great Adigar was King Sri Wickrema's benefactor. The King in gratitude allowed him to exercise all powers of the throne for some time, while he retained only the pomp of regal office. In 1806 the Maha Adikaram successfully quelled an uprising over the payment of additional taxes.

The King was quite pleased over this situation. But this changed with the stories of the Adigars intrigues with the English Governor and his negotiations to dethrone him coming to his ears. Besides there were serious differences of opinion between them over Rajakariya labour and governance.

The King wanted to beautify the city with a lake and Pattirippuwa (Octagon) to be built by 'forced labour' while the Adigar and his Council saw no need for another lake unless it could be used to asweddumize more land for the people as they already had two lakes - the Bora Wewa and the Bogambara Wewa.

The King also entertained thought of shifting the Asgiriya and Malvatta monasteries from Kandy to Peradeniya on the outskirts of the city. The four Devales were also earmarked to be moved out of the city to enable him to transform the temple square into a palace yard and he was suspected of wanting to convert the government into a Hindu Saivite one based on the Laws of Manu in place of the Dasa Raja Dharma which Sinhala Buddhist Kings pledged to observe.

In addition to these, there were many more differences which grew wider between the King and the Adigar. These being the bringing in of Malabars at an average of about 70 per month from South India on the sly as immigrants to be trained as soldiers and the establishment of a harem with young girls also from South India who had not even attained age along with some girls drawn even form the Radala.

The King also adopted the strategy to weaken the authority of the Chieftains - a policy of divide and rule by splitting and dividing the Disavanies and appointing members of new families to these offices and transferring the old frequently from district to district to undermine their power. He also objected to the proposed marriage of the Adigar's son to Mampitiya Wahala Bandara's daughter as Wahala Bandara was an illegitimate son of the late King Kirthi Sri Rajasimha.

Besides these indignations, King Sri Wickrema unlike his tow predecessors who were respected for their beneficent rule and support of the indigenous religion openly encouraged Saivaite Hindu Customs and the slaughter of goats near the precincts of the Dalada Maligawa for the consumption of the Royal household and their relatives. This provoked disgust of the Sinhala Buddhists and their Sangha and set in motion the process of alienating both the chiefs and common people from the King.

In this background the Adigar engaged himself in regular negotiations with Mr. Boyd - the Secretary and Frederick North the English Governor at Avissawella about a possible embassy to Kandy to sign a suitable treaty.

Although Governor North had nothing in particular to offer, the Adigar intended to use their assistance to depose the King and rule Sinhale in his place with absolute authority to the Dasa Raja Dharma.

From this it is clear that the Adigar's motive was to get rid of the Waduga King and instal a true Sinhala King and restore the long line of Sinhala kings which failed and he was executed about 194 years ago in May/June.