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
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
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.