In December 1664, a large comet appeared, blazing over city of Kandy, pointing towards East. Knox says next day he saw it pointing towards West and gradually diminishing in size.
Knox after returning to England from captivity
Comets foretell a disaster or a dreadful period for the populous, in general, they say, that’s exactly what happened in Kandy in that December. Some chiefs in Kandy raised a rebellion , for the people were fed up of the oppressive and tyrannical rule of the king Rajasingha ii and wanted to get rid of old king and install his son on the throne . The prince was only about 15 years of age but knowing his sober habits they thought even boy king is preferable to tyrannical rule of old monarch.
King was an angry old man, he has been the chosen one, by his father ; out of three brothers of whom he was the youngest - to defend the mountainous kingdom and get rid of Portuguese ,the maritime power that has almost encircled his kingdom. He had achieved both , with tremendous success, but has been cheated by Dutch; he felt, his ally in fighting Portuguese. The Dutch didn’t return territories occupied by Portuguese to the king, as king presumed would happen, after the Portuguese were defeated by joint military action, but instead they themselves occupied the territories and took over the trade monopolies of their predecessors.
The king was conducting court affairs from a lesser town called Nillambe, towards Gampola and prince and his mother , the queen, were living in Kandy ,the capitol. The king had preferred Nillambe to kandy because he, it appears was paranoid about his personal security , and felt Nillambe with thick forest cover and isolation from population is a more secure for him than Kandy.
Kings assessment of the situation was justified. Rebels stuck at the midnight of 20th December 1664. About 200 armed men entered the city at midnight, killed many officers of the kings guard who resisted. Some of the guards joined the rebels , probably the officers who have previously conspired with the rebels.
Some loyals and officers whose allegiance is uncertain were killed, and most loyals who escaped ,flocked to the defense of the king. Only protection that separated king and the rebels was just a clay wall. Kings men put up a strong fight and rebels decided to postpone the attack until daybreak. That was a bad decision no doubt , by morning rebels found loyals had fled to a place called Galauda in Mandaram Nuwara.
Fleeing has not been easy. King and his entourage, mounted on horses, pushed through thick jungle for about 15 miles whilst guards on foot drove elephants before him to clear a path for him. His refuge , a large rocky mountain, could have been easily assailed, but rebels, probably because they were led poorly, abandoned the chase and came back to Kandy, the capitol, to attend to the administrative matters first. Second mistake!
All the Europeans who were kept prisoners by the king for last many decades , including best known prisoner in Kandyan kingdom, Robert Knox ,had been brought to Kandy few days earlier were in Kandy when rebels arrived. First the rebels crowned the prince. Then they explained the reason for the rebellion to the European prisoners. Following were the major reasons.
• Not returning ambassadors to respective governments after the embassy is over (diplomacy)
• Not allowing trade with other nations(trade)
• Detaining foreigners who enter the kingdom (international affairs)
• Killing his subjects and families arbitrarily (law and order)
• Keeping kings officers separated from their families (human rights)
Meanwhile the prince who has been brought up by king within the palace walls without much public life in a very private surroundings was confused by all these people coming to him, prostrating in front of him and calling him king. Rebels who were planning to go to mountains to capture the king on 25th December are utterly perplexed and disappointed by this attitude of the prince.
There are more surprise in store for the rebels. A day before the rebels to proceed for capturing of the king, they find the prince has run away to his father with kings sister. Now they have no hopes whatsoever , so they fight each other and declare allegiance to old king. To prove their loyalty to the king they kill their fellow conspirators, claiming its they who conspired against the king.
King receiving all this intelligence ,allow this mayhem to continue for ten days and issue orders to stop killing each other whilst restoring his rule.
King returns to the capitol, torture leaders who have been arrested, make more arrests ,put to death everybody who has even been mentioned in connection of the rebellion. But King cannot think of a suitable punishment for the leader of the rebellion and he thinks Dutch who are masters of the coast would have more brutal way of executing traitors than in Kandy.
So he sends Ambanwela Rala , the leader of the rebellion, to Dutch, in chains. What happened to him in Colombo is a more interesting story than the rebellion itself!
King now is looking to prevent another rebellion like that, of course no king would like rebellions. So he analyses. What did he learn from last rebellion, because he knows history will repeat. Two most important lessons;
1. There is no chief in Kandy he dare assume throne
2. Dissenters will always plan to crown his son in case they want to get rid of him.
King does the most logical thing,the prince disappears; people believe that he has been poisoned by king.
6th December 1687
king Rajasingha lies in his death bed 23 years after the rebellion. His ministers are waiting in his sleeping chambers. They are in a immense predicament because king is not leaving a heir apparent .
young person enters the chambers. King introduces this young person to his ministers and says that it is his son and he has been brought up in a temple since the rebellion and he should be crowned after his death, since he is his son the legitimate heir apparent to the throne of Kandy.
Ministers wouldn’t believe it, they knew the prince was killed after the rebellion. Aghast, they are reluctant to accept him. King felt the tension in the room and he doesn’t have much time to convince the royal courtiers.
King , with greatest difficulty, get up from the bed for one last time with the help of two nobles and prostrate on the floor , in front of the young person, who he claims to be his son. Ministers were convinced without an iota of doubt because Rajasingha would never bow down in front of anybody.
What better way to convince the ministers that the stranger is his son!