Saturday, December 14, 2019

Kingdom of Kotte

Siri Perakumba PirivenaThe Kingdom of Kotte was a kingdom in Sri Lanka during the 15th century. It was the last native sovereign that unified the entire island under one rule.

The Sinhalese Kingdom which was established in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century B.C. moved to Polonnaruwa during the 11th century A.D. due to the foreign invasions mainly flooded from neighboring India. It was then gradually moved to the south-west part of the country, starting from Dambadeniya to Gampola. After the shift from Gampola, Kotte became the capital city of the Sinhalese Kingdom in the 15th century A.D.

Details about the ancient Kotte Kingdom are found in several old documents such as Nikaya Sangrahaya (1396 A.D.), Saddharmaratnakaraya, Alakeshvara Yuddhaya, Rajavaliya as well as in the descriptions by Couto (1552-1616 A.D.), Ribeiro (1685 A.D.), Queyroz (1688 A.D.) and Valentijn [(1722 A.D.) Fonseka, 2010].

Construction of Kotte Fortress
According to Nikaya Sangrahaya, the initial step to make the Kotte a fortified city was taken by Alagakkonara (Nissanka Alakesvara) during the reign of King Vikramabahu IV of Gampola [(1360-1373 A.D.) Fonseka, 2010; Somaratna, 1969]. It is said that this fort was built as a garrison town to resist the tax collectors who had been appointed by the rulers of Jaffna. The political instability and power struggle that occurred at the end of the 14th century resulted in the giving up of Gampola and the ruling body was then moved to Kotte, the newly established frontier fort. However, Kotte became an official kingdom after the anointing of King Parakramabahu VI (c.1412-1467 A.D.) as the King of Jayawardanapura (Wijewardana et al., 2011).

King Parakramabahu VI
King Parakramabahu VI developed this garrison town to a fortified capital city. In addition to the fortification, the king built a three-storied Temple of Tooth, a five-storied palace for himself, but no a trace of these two edifices are found today (Fonseka, 2010; Wijewardana et al., 2011) However, the fortification of Parakramabahu VI in Kabok (laterite) stones is still visible at several places in the area.

During this period, the Jaffna was captured and the entire island was unified under one canopy by King Parakramabahu VI for the first time after the reign of King Parakramabahu I the Great [(1153-1186 A.D.) Somaratna, 1969; Wijewardana et al., 2011].

Conquest of Jaffna
During the reign of King Parakramabahu VI, Sapumal Kumaraya, an adopted son of the king, attacked Jaffna (Yapa Patuna) and brought it under the control of the Kotte Kingdom.  

Simhala Peraliya
Dedigama Slab Inscription of Bhuvanekabahu VI
After the demise of King Parakramabahu VI, the throne of the Kotte Kingdom was given to Prince Jayabahu, the son of Ulakudaya Deviya [(the daughter of King Parakramabahu VI) Suraweera, 1997]. By hearing this coronation, Sapumal Kumaraya who was at the time at Yapa Patuna came to Kotte and usurped the throne and became the king of Kotte under the name Bhuvanekabahu VI (Suraweera, 1997). However, this incident caused to make an insurrection among Sinhalese people in the kingdom. Details on the insurrection against King Bhuvanekabahu VI are found in some chronicles such as Rajavaliya and lithic inscriptions including the Dedigama Slab Inscription.

Vijayaba Kollaya
An uprising popularly known as Vijayaba Kollaya occurred in 1521, against King Vijayabahu VII (1519-1521 A.D.) resulting in the division of the Kotte Kingdom into three parts (Somaratna, 1969; Wijewardana et al., 2011). The three sons of Vijayabahu VII mutinied against their father and divided the kingdom among themselves. The elder son, Buvanekabahu VII ruled the Kotte as the chief sovereign while Mayadunne ruled Sitawaka, and Pararajasingha (or Raigam Bandara) ruled Raigama.

The political stability of the Kotte Kingdom started to more deteriorate when the Prince Dharmapala (the son of King Buvanekabahu VII’s daughter) became the ruler of the country. By this period, the Portuguese had arrived in Sri Lanka and was engaging in commercial trading. In 1565, Prince Dharmapala had to abandon the capital of Kotte due to frequent attacks from the Sitawaka Kingdom led by Mayadunne and his son Rajasinghe I (Wijewardana et al., 2011). The prince who had been baptized as a Catholic by the Portuguese, able to get the assistance of the Portuguese and lived in Colombo under their protection. In 1597 Dharmapala gifted the Kotte Kingdom to the Portuguese throne marking the end of the kingdom that had existed for nearly 200 years.

Rulers of the Kotte Kingdom
Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.)                       Jayabahu II (1467-1469 A.D.)
Buvanekabahu VI (1469-1480 A.D.)                         Panditha Parakramabahu VII (1480-1490 A.D.)
Vira Parakramabahu VIII (1490-1509 A.D.)             Dharma Parakramabahu IX [(controversial) Rohanadeera, 1996]
Vijayabahu VII (1509-1521 A.D.)                               Buvanekabahu VII (1521-1550 A.D.)
Prince Dharmapala (1550-1597 A.D.)

Keragala Padmavathi Pirivena, Sri Lanka
The Sinhalese literature was at the peak of its development during the Kotte period. Many important literary works in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, and Tamil were written during this period by well known Buddhist and Hindu scholars such as Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera, Veedagama Maithri Thera, Keragala Wanarathana Thera, Ramachandra Bharathi, and Thannuru Tuneiar. The teaching of Tripitakaya and Buddhism were the main subjects in Kotte literature while poetry, dancing, and astrology were among the other subjects. Keragala Padmavathi, Veedagama Siri Ganananda, Totagamuwe Vijayaba, Pepiliyana Sunetradevi, and Devinuwara Thilaka Pirivena were several prominent teaching institutions that engaged in spreading literacy to the entire country.

Notable literary works of the Kotte period
Bhakthi Shathakaya                    Buduguna Alankaraya                    Elu Attanagalu Vamsaya
Elu-silo Shathakaya                    Gira Sandeshaya                             Guttila Kawya
Kaw Lakunu Minimal                  Kawyashekaraya                             Kokila Sandeshaya
Kuweni Asna                                Loweda Sangarawa                        Panchikapradeepaya
Parewi Sandeshaya                    Perakumba Siritha                           Purana Namawaliya
Ruwanmala                                  Saddharmaratnakaraya                  Selalihini Sandeshaya
Vaidya Chinthamani                   Yogaratnakarakaya

Thamba-massa, Silver Angutu-massa, and Panama were among the main coins circulated during the Kotte period. Other contemporary coins used during this period include Setu and Pagodi coins.

Coins of Parakramabahu VI
Thamba-massa (Copper coin of specific weight) - This is a coin minted by King Parakramabahu VI (c.1412-1467 A.D.) following a similar pattern to Thamba-massa coin used during the Polonnaruwa (1017-1232 A.D.) and Dambadeniya (1220-1345 A.D.) periods. These coins can be distinguished from early Massa coins by the presence of a seated lion together with the standing figure on the obverse. On the reverse of the coin is a seated man with the legend "Sri Parakramabahu" (the name has been written in Nagari characters). The coins have been minted by pouring molten copper into round clay molds. 

Panama - A valuable coin used during the 14th century A.D.. Silver Panama coins were circulated between the period 1454 to 1506 and subsequently replaced by the gold Panama coins. 

Silver Angutu-massa - Circulated since the 16th century A.D. Silver Angutu-massa was also known by the names of bent-silver, Masu-angutu, and Koku-massa. The coin has been made by bending a 4-inch long silver wire of specific diameter to a hook-shaped structure.

Historical sites situated within the present Kotte Municipality
Kotte was the capital of Sri Lanka from 1412 to 1565 A.D. (Fonseka, 2010). Since it existed nearly 150 years as the capital of the country, a significant amount of preserved ruins of this ancient kingdom can be expected. However, the rapid development and land occupation that were taken place in the recent history in this area has caused massive destruction of the ruins of this ancient kingdom.

Presently, only a few places in the area reminiscent of the old glory of the Kotte Kingdom.

Alakeshwara Archaeological Site                              Ananda Sastralaya Ruins
Diyawanna Oya                                                             Gal Ambalama
Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya                                          Perakumba Pirivena
Vehera Kanda                                                               Kotte Fortress

1) Fonseka, P., 2010. The ancient city of Kōṭṭe and its fortification. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 56, pp.57-117.
2) Rohanadeera, M., 1996. Dharma Parakramabahu IX-The Fake King of Ceylon Inflated by Portuguese Historians-A Historiographical Perspective. Vidyodaya J. Soc. Sc., Vol. 7. 1 & 2. pp.13-45.
3) Somaratna, G.P.V., 1969. Political history of the Kingdom of Kotte (c. AD 1400-1521) (Doctoral dissertation, SOAS University of London). pp.79-85,147-188, 456-460.
4) Suraweera, A. V., 1997. Rajavaliya: A critical edition with an introduction (In Sinhala). Educational Publications Department. pp.85-86, 90, 219-220.
5) Wijewardana, A., Thilakawardana, A. E. L., Priyangani, S., 2011. Aithihasika Kotte (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-9159-69-8. pp.1-5.

This page was last updated on 5 September 2021
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