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King Wimaladharmasuriya

Continued from last week

Wimaladharmasuriya was the first Sinhala king to initiate discussions with the Dutch. In 1602, two Dutch ships under Joris van Spilbergen came to Batticaloa. Spilbergen was taken to meet the king. He was fed wine made from local grapes. The discussions went on for several days.

Wimaladharmasuriya wanted to know all about the Netherlands.

Wimaladharmasuriya was next visited by Dutch Vice-Admiral de Weert who was given a secret audience where he was asked whether the Dutch would help Wimaladharmasuriya to get rid of the Portuguese.Wimaladharmasuriya, in his enthusiasm, had given de Weert a hug which nearly cracked his ribs.

Wimaladharmasuriya’s court was very westernized. Dona Catherina and her children wore Portuguese costume to receive guests.

They ate European food. Portuguese names were fashionable among the courtiers.Wimaladharmasuriya spoke fluent Portuguese. Spilbergen says Wimaladharmasuriya had furnished his palace in Senkadagala in Portuguese style.

He had developed an eye for Portuguese architecture during his period of exile in Goa. Spilbergen’s visit ended with a banquet where everything was arranged in European fashion. The chairs were in Spanish style.

Wimaladharmasuriya developed the Udarata. He constructed the main road between Kotmale and Uva and made ample provision for its repair.He renovated ambalamas throughout the Udarata. He made Senkadagala secure by building 18 watch towers with high and thick ramparts.

He established iron foundries at Uva, Ruhuna, Dumbara and Sabaragamuwa. He revived paddy cultivation. He is said to have brought under the plough lands in Anuradhapura, Ruhuna and Kataragama. He started gem mining in untapped lands and encouraged cotton growing. He had anticipated the Portuguese embargo on Indian textiles.

Wimaladharmasuriya personally visited the chief shrines in his kingdom. He repaired the temples at Lankatilaka, Gadaladeniya and Attanagalla. He gave land to Devanagala vihare whose chief incumbent had helped Wimaladharmasuriya to come to the throne. He brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Senkadagala from Delgamuwa where it had been hidden and placed it in a especially built temple.

Wimaladharmasuriya got down Bhikkhus from Thailand and housed them at Malwatte vihara to revive higher ordination (Upasampada).

The first ordination was held at Getambe in 1597, the second at Dambulla five years later.

Senkadagala became a centre of great Buddhist activities.

Portuguese sources described Wimaladharmasuriya as tall, well- built, proud, of keen intellect, of great military skill and courageous, fairly learned, prudent and sagacious. He never lost his self control or evenness of mind.

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