Wednesday 31 October 2012

Vellore's Kandy connection

What has Kandy in Sri Lanka got to do with Vellore, in India. The two cities are hundreds of kilometres apart and are situated in different countries.
Vellore is located 145 kms from Chennai in the State of Tami Nadu. Vellore shares a unique link with Kandy. The last King of Kandy, Vikrama Rajasinghe, is buried in this city.
Vellore is home to one of the best maintained forts in India called the Vellore fort. It is this fort that Vikrama Rajasinghe was exiled.
This is the story of  the last King of Kandy.
The British had been steadily nibbling away at the Kingdom of Kandy which had been ruling over large parts of Sri Lanka., In 1815, the King of Kandy, Vikrama Rajasinghe, abandoned the city of Kandy and along with his family and came to Meda Maha Nuwara..
(King Vikrama was born in 1780 and  his  coronation was in 1798)
The British marched into Kandy and when they found the city deserted along with the King, they launched a manhunt, They managed to trace the King and his four queens along with other members of the royal group  including  his four wives, mother, brother-in-law and a few others.
On February 15, 1815, the British captured King Vikrama Rajasinghe and his family.  The Royal family was then deliberately taken to Colombo. On March 2, 1815, the Kandy convention came into force, ending the rule of the of  Lankan kings and formally heralding the handing over of the territory to Britain. This convention was an agreement between the British and a few local rulers for ending the rule of the kings of Kandy.
The British then decided to exile Vikrama and his queens to India. When the preparations for taking the King to India were going on, the King and his family members were under house arrest in a house in Galle.
In January 1816, the King and his family members were put aboard the HMS Cornwallis which travelled to Chennai (It was then known as Madras).
The ship docked at Madras and the royal party stayed here for a day. The next day, they left for Vellore by road.
A small palace in the Vellore fort was readied for the King of Kandy. This palace and the fort was in the hands of Hyder Ali and Tiu Sultan  just two decades ago.  The irony was that the descendents of Tipu, including his sons, were imprisoned in this very building from 1799 till 1806 when the Sepoy mutiny broke out.
The British believed that the sons of Tipu and other members of the Tipu family had a hand in the mutiny and sent them to Calcutta. So by the time the King of Kandy arrived in Vellore, Tipu’s family had already been moved out.
The King of Kandy set foot in Vellore on February 28.  The Royal family was assigned a palace and this came to be known in local parlance (Tamil) as Kandi Mahal. Even today, there is a sign board within the Vellore Fort pointing to the direction of Kandi Mahal.
The Kandi Mahal is now a sub-registrar’s office.   
The King continued to live here for 17 years with his queens Venkata Jamal, Mutukanama, Venkatamal and Nachiyerammal. He died at the age of 52 due to dropsy on January 30, 1832.
King Vikrama Rajasinghe was cremated in Vellore with full military honours. Even today, his tomb can be seen in Vellore. A descendant of the King and the Government has built a small memorial at the spot.
The memorial is called Muthu Mantapam and it has the tomes of six persons. It is near the Palar river.
The Vellore museum has some artefacts devoted to King Vikrama Rajasinghe. Among them is an ivory chess board and coins, There is also a photograph of his palace back in Kandy.     

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