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King Rajasinghe II – Alias Maha Astane (1635-1687)

A Vivid Introduction

King Rajasinghe II, also known as Maha Astane, ascended the throne of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1635 following the death of his father, King Senarath. His reign marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the Kandyan Kingdom, characterized by fierce military campaigns, strategic alliances, and efforts to restore and preserve cultural traditions. Rajasinghe II’s rule was set against the backdrop of a turbulent period in Sri Lankan history, with the Portuguese and Dutch vying for control over the island’s lucrative trade routes and territories.

Rise to Prominence

Rajasinghe II’s rise to prominence was marked by his determination to expel the Portuguese from Sri Lanka and reassert the sovereignty of the Kandyan Kingdom. In 1638, the Portuguese launched their final invasion of Udarata under the leadership of General Diago de Mello. A fierce battle ensued at Gannoruwa, where Rajasinghe II’s troops annihilated the Portuguese forces. This victory solidified his position as a formidable leader and earned him the epithet ‘Trisinhaladeeshwara,’ meaning the ruler of all three parts of Sri Lanka: Ruhunu, Pihiti, and Maya.

Military Campaigns and Strategic Alliances

Recognizing the need for naval support to expel the Portuguese, Rajasinghe II sought an alliance with the Dutch, who were active in trade and spreading their influence in Asia. In 1638, a treaty was signed between the Kandyan Kingdom and the Dutch, promising mutual support in expelling the Portuguese. The Dutch agreed to assist Udarata in exchange for a monopoly on the cinnamon trade, while Rajasinghe II promised to bear the war expenses and provide the Dutch with a port and sovereign trading rights.

During this period, the Portuguese sought to negotiate a treaty with King Rajasinghe II, leading to discussions between a Portuguese emissary and the king in 1648-1649. King Rajasinghe II had clear expectations: he wanted the Portuguese to recognize him as the legitimate ruler of Sri Lanka. In return, he was willing to allow Catholic priests to reside in the hill country, provided that Buddhist monks were permitted to live in the maritime areas. However, the Portuguese had their own conditions, insisting that the king should designate specific territories for Portuguese control. Ultimately, both parties found the terms unacceptable, and the negotiations fell through.

Meanwhile, the Dutch refrained from declaring war against the Portuguese between 1642 and 1650 due to a truce in Europe. However, hostilities resumed in 1652, leading to significant military actions. The Dutch seized the forts of Kalutara and Anguruwathota in 1655, captured the Colombo fort on May 12, 1656, and took control of Mannar in February 1658 and Jaffna fort in June 1658. Consequently, most of the territories previously held by the Portuguese fell into Dutch hands.

Together, the Kandyan army and the Dutch forces successfully captured key Portuguese fortresses, including Batticoloa in 1638, Trincomalee in 1639, Galle in 1640, and Colombo in 1656. Despite these victories, the Dutch were reluctant to hand over the coastal regions from Negambo to Galle, where cinnamon was successfully cultivated. This led to tensions between the two allies, as the Dutch omitted a crucial clause from the treaty that would have allowed the king to control the captured ports. The treaty of 1638 was made in 2 copies and it was mentioned in the king’s copy that all ports captured from the Portuguese by the Dutch may be kept under the control of the Dutch only if the king so desired. However, the conditional clause “if the king so desired” wasn’t included in the copy of the Dutch. The king was in the opinion that Dutch deliberately omitted this clause from the document written in Portuguese.

By this time, it had become evident to the Kandyans that the Dutch aimed not only to expel the Portuguese but also to replace them as the dominant colonial power on the island. This shift in power is believed to have given rise to the Sinhala idiom “ඉඟුරු දී මිරිස් ගත්තා වාගේ” (Inguru di miris gaththa wagay), which translates to “Like one exchanged ginger for chili.” The phrase reflects the sentiment that Dutch rule proved to be an even greater menace to the king and more oppressive to the people of the island than Portuguese rule.

Rajasinghe II’s military prowess was further demonstrated in his campaigns against the Dutch. In 1644, the Dutch captured the Negambo fort and attempted to seize Sathkoralaya. However, Rajasinghe II defeated them and annexed Sathkorala to the Udarata Kingdom and Sabaragamuwa in 1652. By 1658, the region from Puttlam to Negambo was under Kandyan control, allowing the people to engage in open trade with foreign traders. By 1656, Rajasinghe II had expanded his territory to its maximum strength, effectively countering the belligerent policies of Dutch Governor Van Goens.

Deteriorating Relations with the Dutch

By the later stages of Rajasinghe II’s reign, the cordial relationship between the Kandyan Kingdom and the Dutch began to deteriorate. The king adopted an anti-Dutch policy, setting fire to regions captured by the Dutch, particularly the cinnamon forests. He relocated settlers from these areas to Udarata, either with their consent or by force, resulting in a significant number of Roman Catholics settling in regions such as Ratnapura, Avissavella, Ruwanvella, Galgama, Kandy, Weuda, and Wahakotte. Rajasinghe II also abolished trade between the Dutch and the Sinhalese and prevented the supply of food to the Dutch. Two Dutch emissaries who visited Kandy for discussions were kept in custody, further straining relations.

In retaliation, the Dutch captured the port of Kalpitiya in 1659 and, between 1665 and 1668, seized Trincomalee, Kottiyarama, and Batticoloa, which were under Udarata’s control. They also expanded their territory to the eastern and southeastern coasts and some regions of Sabaragamuwa and Sathkoralaya. Meanwhile, internal dissent against Rajasinghe II’s tyrannical acts led to the ‘Rebel of Nillamba’ in 1664, led by Ambamwela Rala.

The internal chaos weakened Rajasinghe II’s position, but he remained resolute. Between 1670 and 1675, he launched a series of assaults on Dutch-controlled areas, reclaiming territories in the Arippu and Ma-oya area in North West, Satharakoralaya and Sathkoralaya in west, Kottiyarama, Trincomalee, Batticoloa and Panama in East of the kingdom. These campaigns demonstrated his unwavering commitment to protecting his kingdom’s sovereignty.

Cultural Restoration and Strategic Leadership

Rajasinghe II was not only a warrior king but also a patron of culture and tradition. He made significant efforts to restore and preserve the cultural heritage of the Kandyan Kingdom. He revived the practice of higher ordination by inviting monks from Burma (Myanmar) and restored important temples such as Lankathilaka and Gadaladeniya. His reign saw a resurgence in the construction of religious and cultural monuments, reinforcing the kingdom’s identity and heritage.

Marital Alliances and Internal Strife

Rajasinghe II pioneered marital relationships with the Nayaks of Madurai, India, by marrying a Nayak princess as his chief consort. This practice was followed by later kings of Kandy, eventually leading to the Kandyan throne being passed to the Nayaks in 1739. While these alliances strengthened ties with South India, they also introduced new dynamics into the Kandyan court.

In the later years of his life, rumours has that, Rajasinghe II became addicted to drugs and spent most of his time at the palace in Hanguranketha. This allowed the Kandyan chiefs to increase their power over the court and win the hearts of the people. As a result, the chiefs created an independent power base in their regions during the reigns of later kings.


King Rajasinghe II’s legacy is a complex tapestry of military triumphs, cultural revival, and strategic leadership, interwoven with internal strife and shifting alliances. His reign marked a period of significant territorial expansion and consolidation for the Kandyan Kingdom. Despite the challenges and controversies, Rajasinghe II’s efforts to preserve the kingdom’s sovereignty and cultural heritage left an indelible mark on Sri Lankan history.

In the annals of Sri Lankan history, Rajasinghe II is remembered as a warrior king, a strategic leader, and a patron of culture. His life and reign exemplify the resilience and determination of the Kandyan people, who, under his leadership, stood firm against the tides of history and emerged victorious. Through his efforts, Rajasinghe II ensured that the spirit of the Kandyan Kingdom would endure, inspiring future generations to uphold the values and traditions that defined their identity.


  • krithika
    20/06/2022 at 09:13

    write 2 gift given by king rajasinghe 2 to gerad hulft

    07/12/2022 at 20:14

    Very interesting story i like it

  • Isarasanjaya
    13/10/2023 at 18:42

    This is very important 👏

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