Patriotism in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has never bowed down to defeat
Although Sri Lanka is a tiny island nation, it has never been decisively defeated in war. As surprising and almost arrogant as this fact sounds, it’s true! Sri Lanka has successfully held its central Kingdoms from powerful opposition superpowers throughout history, by simply manipulating other foreign superpowers to fight alongside Sri Lanka.
- Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka from (1597–1658). During the 60 year hold they managed to secure the critical ports and use them for trading. Sri Lankan Kings invited the Dutch to defeat their common Portuguese enemy.
- Dutch and Sri Lankan forces removed the Portuguese and soon fighting began between Sinhalese and Dutch forces. Total extent of Dutch Rule in Sri Lanka shown below (1640–1796).
- The Dutch Empire gradually became weaker and the Sri Lankan’s asked Britain to join their campaign to remove the Dutch which was done with minimal bloodshed.
Soon, Britain and Sri Lanka began to wage war. Sri Lanka called upon France to free the crucial harbour of Trincomalee “The Battle of Trincomallee” which ended in a British victory.
Intense fighting re-ignited between British and Sri Lankan forces with Sri Lanka proving to show a stubborn resistance compared to other conquered commonwealth nations.
Britain gained more ground on the tiny island compared to the previous invaders but still failed in seizing the central Kingdom of Kandy. This was mainly due to Sri Lanka ability to exploit Kandy’s mountainous terrain in their favour and utilize the millennium old military fortifications that were dug in. As long as Kandy stood, Britain knew that the people of Sri Lanka would not give into Commonwealth Rule.
Both sides continued to shed blood, however newer problems were developing on the Sri Lankan side. The Sri Lankan King, (Sri Vikrama Rajasinha) began to be suspect that his own noblemen would commit a regicide to gain the throne due to the weakened position of the Kingdom. Consequently, Rajasinha began killing off his own noblemen out of paranoia which led to Kandyan aristocrats defecting the King and coming before Britain to propose the Kandyan Convention. The convention was a unique treaty which called on Britain to safeguard Buddhism and the Sinhalese identity on the island, in exchange for the prized Kingdom of Kandy. Britain signed the convention and Sri Lanka became known as Ceylon.
Additional Short Story -to give you an idea of how stubborn the Sinhalese were:
When the convention was brought before Britain, one British solider immediately took down the Kandyan flag and replaced it with the Union Jack. A Buddhist monk, Venerable ‘Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Thero’, who saw what had taken place, pulled down the British Flag and re-hoisted the Kandyan one yelling, “The convention has not been signed yet!” British solider’s where dumbfounded and angered by the monks actions but the situation was quickly defused. Sir John D’Oyly ordered his soldiers to back down as the monk was correct in his protest. The Venerable monk is considered a national hero in Sri Lanka has he showed that the Sri Lanka’s national pride will never be taken away!
Statue of Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Thero