Sri Lanka History is incident full. Being an important trade port and oasis of Nature for sea farers of India, East Asia, Europe and Arabia of the ancient times. Sri Lanka has a fascinating documented history over 2500 years of Civilization. Sri Lanka has a recorded history since 543 B.C. Although records are not found of civilizations before 543 B.C., historical facts reveal that a civilization existed even long before from Rawana Times. It’s believed that an Expelled prince Vijaya to be the first Aryan King of Sri Lanka. Since then many Kings Ruled Sri Lanka Till 1815.
Sri Lanka- Pre Historic Times
The Homo Sapiens first appeared in Sri Lanka about 500,000 B.C. Few artifacts have been found dating back to subsequent Paleolithic culture of the second Stone age period. Stone cultures endured until about 1000 B.C. The second phase of stone age may have ended some few centuries later with the establishment of metal. The Stone working culture was known as Balandoga Culture. They first made an impression on island life about 5000 B.C and spread through out the Sri Lanka.The Balangoda Manawaya survived until about 500 B.C and faded out under the advance of early settlers from India.
According to the mahavansa, yakkhas confined to the center of the Island and Naga dominated the northern and western parts in sixth century B.C. Therefore North of the Island was called Nagadipa. Mr.Kanagasabai,author of “Tamils 1800 Years Ago’, mentioned that Yakkhas were the acient ‘Yuh chi’ a yellow race that emigrated from central of Asia into India through the Himalayan and eventually spread over the whole of bengal and ultimately move to Ceylon
The Fa hien, monk had told there were no human inhabitations, but was occupied by Nagas and spirits, with which the merchants of various countries carried on a trade. The spirits never showed themselves ,they simply set forth their precious commodities ,with indications of the price attached to them, while merchants made their purchases according to the price.
Nagas was so called because they were serpent-worshippers. Archaeologist conjectured that the name was derived from the fact that their head covering was in the shape of the hood of a hydra-headed cobra.
Aryan emigrated to Ceylon and spread their power across the country. Eventually Naga and Yakksha population was reduced because of Aryans.
Thammana Kingdom – 543 BC – 505 BC King Vijaya
Prince Vijaya is a son of King Vijeyabahu, who was a provincial King in ancient India. The Prince was expelled from the Kingdom along with 700 followers after the King couldn’t put up with Prince’s mischievous behavior.
The Vessels carrying the Price and his entourage harbored the Northwest cost of Sri Lanka. After defeating the local tribes with the help received from yaksha tribe princess “Kuweni” the prince establishes a Kingdom in Thammana, and ruled the country for 38 years. Kuweni was expelled by King lately and married to an Indian princess after his coronation.
It’s Believed that Kuweni had two children named Deegahatta and Visala from Kiong Vijaya. They supposed to have gone to the Jungle after Kuweni was Killed by her relatives for betraying them.
The Veddhas believe that they are decedents of Deegahatta and Visala the Children of King Vijeya and Princess Kuweni.
Upathissa Grama – 505 BC – 504 (King Upatissa)
King Upatissa was the prime minister of the King Vijaya. The King Vijaya did not have any heir for the throne and sent for his younger Brother, prince Sumiththa in India.
By the time the delegates arrived in India the Prince Sumiththa had become the King, and instead he sent his younger son prince Paduwas Dev. Before prince Paduwas Dev reached Sri Lanka the King Vijaya passed away and King Upatissa ruled the kingdom for one year, until the rightful owner took the throne. The Upatissa Grama was the Capital of the kingdom
Panduwas Nuwara – 504 BC 474 BC (King Panduwas Dev)
King Paduwas Dev ruled the country for 30 years, keeping the Upatissa Grama as the Capital. He was married to an Indian princess who was a close relative of great monarch King Suddhodana. They had ten sons and a one daughter, the famous princess Unmada Chithtra. King Paduwas Dev built the first reservoir in the Island, known as Abhaya wewa.
Anuradhapura Kingdom was built by King Pandukabhya, son of Princess Unmada chithtra. The city was the first of it’s kind with well designed sanitary system, Gardens, Irrigation and Water supply systems, Temples, cemeteries and burial grounds, etc. The city was then became the capital city of Sri Lanka and flourished under many subsequent Kings ruled for centuries.
Anuradhapura Kingdom was highly vulnerable to invasions from South India and suffered usurp of throne several times, by invading Kings from south India. Singhalese Kings have managed to defeat the invaders after reorganizing the troops, although the invading kings ruled in the mean time. One such historic battle held Between King Dutugamunu and South Indian King, Elara. In that, King Elara was defeated and King Dutugamunu ruled the country in single sovereignty.
The Anuradhapura Kingdom was under constant threat from south Indian kingdoms. The King Mahinda V ascended to throne in 982 A.C, and was the last Sinhalese king to rule the country from Glorious city. At this time the South Indian realm Chola, became very powerful under the Great Rajaraja (985- 1018 A.C) and conquered Sri Lanka. The King Mahinda was captured and imprisoned in South India.
The South Indians ruled the country for next 75 years. They shifted the Capital city to Polonnaruwa due to strategic reasons after considering the vulnerably for attacks from both native Sinhalese people and other south Indian Kingdoms.
Polonnaruwa Era existed between AC 1065- 1120.
The governing period of this time was about 186 years and 19 rulers had sat on the throne in that period. During the final period in the Anuradhapura era, the cholas shifted the political power to Polonnaruwa, which was situated in the eastern side of the dry zone. The main reason was security, as it was regarded as a strategic location to guard against an invasion from Ruhuna, the refuge of the Sinhalese liberation force.
Still the Cholas were unsuccessful in defending themselves against Vijayabahus offensive riot against Polonnaruwa. They Surrendered in 1070 and left the island.
Polonnaruwa had its own fabulous Buddhist architecture and irrigational network that had been built over the centauries by earlier sinhala rulers. (Ex- Minneria Tanks)
The First Sinhalese king to rule in this period was King Wijayabahu who ruled for 55 years after he defeated the cholas.(AC 1065-1120). He restoered Buddhism to its former glory and was also responsible for economic regeneration.
The Next famous King to take over from Vijayabahu is King Parakramabahu (AC 1164-1197)
He unified the country under one rule and built a remarkable series of irrigation work including the massive Parakrama Samudraya.
Nissanka Malla was also a king to take notice of, because he also stabilized Sri Lanka during his period. But his death brought instability & a pirate named Magha, who came from south India conquered Polonnaruwa & executed many years of ruthless control over the island.
Yapahuwa was considered as strategically important point since the Polonnaruwa era.
Prince Buwanekabahu, the son of great Parakramabahu who ruled in Dabadeniya, was stationed at Yapahuwa to protect the kingdom against enemy attacks.
When the Dabadeniya kingdom fall after the King Wijayabahu the 4th, The throne was taken by Prince Buwanekabahu, who ruled the kingdom from Yapahuwa. The sacred tooth Relic was brought from Dambadeniya to Yapahuwa and kept in the specially built palace. The ruins of this temple can be seen today and is considered one of the best archeologically valuable sites on the Island.
Kurunagala – 1293 – 1341.
Kurunagala was a royal capital starting from Buvenekabhahu II (1293-1302). This was about half of century which is now clarified by ruins. among these ruins there are parts of temple of tooth relic. One of the caves discovered by modern archeologists, the cave hermitage of Arankele, indicates that ancient times in Kurunegala, in addition to buddhist monks there has been forest dwelling (called Thapowana) hermitages called Brahmi. In the area the inscriptions of ancient brahmi donatives has been found. In the Ridigama Vihara, a temple near to the cave hermitage of Arankele, there had been a silver orc which belongs to the time of King Dutugemunu.
In the temple a reclining Buddha statue is seated, which belongs to the 18 century. The temple is attracted by a door frame with ivory carvings and alters tilled with Dutch tiles and an artificial lake under the shadow of the hill.
Gampola Era 1341- 1415
Gampola was made as the capital city of the Island by the King Buwanekabahu the fourth, who ruled for 4 years in mid fourteenth century. The last king of Gampola was King Buwanekabahu the fifth. He ruled the Island for 29 years. A separate city was build in Kotte during this time by a noble known as Alagakkonara.
Among the remnants of Gampola era, the most famous temples are Lankathilaka, Gadaladeniya and Ambekka Dewalaya. The ancient stone scripts (Shila Lekhana) of Lankathilaka temple helps to reveal a considerable amount of vital information regarding the Gampola era. The statue of Buddha of the temple indicates style of south Indian arts. The Ambekka Dewalaya possess a large collection of wood carvings, where no other temple in Sri Lanka owns such a collection.
Kotte Era 1415 – 1514
Sri Lanka remained in a instable situation during the 14th & the 15th centauries. King Parakramabahu vi (1415-1467), the last Sinhalese King managed to reestablish rule over the island. His power base was in Kotte.
In the later stages of his rule, Gampola was challenged and he appointed a prince of Gampola royal house as its administrator.
After the death of Parakramabahu, the island again plunged in to divisive struggle. Jaffna declared itself an independent Tamil kingdom under Pararajasekaram. (1497-1579)
The Dutch came to Sri Lanka in 1505, during the times of King Parakramabahu IX. The King made a pact with the Dutch as they were a powerful army than of the King’s. The King grant permission to Dutch to build a small fortress in Colombo. The Dutch began it’s missionary service in Sri Lanka and many some of the citizens were converted in to Catholicism.
Kandyan Era 1514 – 1815
After the death of King Parakramabahu the vi, Kandyans asserted their independence from Kotte.Portuguese arrived in the early 16th centaury, signifying the arrival of the Europeans.
They established a trading settlement in Colombo. By the year 1600, they converted some of the Sinhala royalty to Catholicism, and had a major control over the southwest coastal region.
By then Senarath (1604-1635), had established the kingdom of Kandy. His relationship with the Portuguese deteriorated in 1617 & his son Rajasinghe II also opposed the Portuguese, forming an alliance with the Dutch.
The Dutch alliance also broke down & they captured the eastern ports of the Kandyans.
The Dutch captured the forts, Colombo, Galle & Negombo. By then they had most of the regions of Sri Lanka under their rule. But Kandy maintained their independents.
The first British conquest took place during 1795-1796. They drove the Dutch out of the country & seized all the major ports. The Kandians grip of their own empire were weakening. They managed to beat back the first resistance by the British in 1803.
But eventually the British captured the hill country in 1815. The last of the Sri Lankan Kings were captured & in 1816 he was sent to be imprisoned in Wellor, India.
Portugease Times 1505
European ambitions arrived with the Portuguese during the early 16th century. The newcomers sought to establish a trading settlement in the growing port city of Colombo on the southwest coast. By then, the Sinhalese kingdom of Kotte had completely collapsed into petty partitions among three separate rulers.
The Portuguese were more interested in controlling the island’s commerce than in absorbing its territory. In the process, they began to intrude in the affairs of the coastal regions. By the year 1600, after converting some of the Sinhalese royalty to Catholicism and breaking a strong bid for dominance by the rulers of the rebel state of Sitawaka, the Portuguese had effectively controlled the southwest coastal region and managed to snuff out the last Tamil kingdom ever to rule Jaffna as an independent state.
It was the attempt to bring the Kandyan kingdom under control that proved more troublesome, and eventually led to the demise of Portugal’s power in ceilao, as they knew the country. Senarath (1604-1635) reestablished the kingdom of kandy following a short-lived conquest by Sitawaka. He entered into a treaty with the Portuguese in 1617 but relations began to sour after Portuguese incursions into the Kandyan ports of Batticalos and Trincomalee. Senarath’s son, Rajasinha 2, conducted a vigorous campaign against Portugal, forming an alliance with the Dutch.
Dutch Times 1796
he Primary interest of the Dutch, as in the East Indies and parts of Southeast Asia, was spices. They received a promise of a monopoly over the island’s spice trade in return for help in driving out the Portuguese. But the Kandyan compact with the Dutch proved as ill-fated as the earlier alliance with the Portuguese.
The Dutch recaptured the eastern ports for the kandyans. But when they regained Galle and Negombo in 1641, they decided to keep these ports for themselves. The Hollanders also seized the Portuguese fort of Colombo in 1656 and drove the last of the Iberians from Ceylon, as it was now known, in the year 1658 with the capture of jaffna. In defiance of their pact with the kandyan rulers, the Dutch held onto most of this captured terriory. Sri Lanka had merely exchanged the rule of one European power for another. Through it all, the kandyan kingdom stubbornly maintained its independence. In the course of time, Kandy’s survival as an independent Sinhalese Kingdom led to the emergence of a dichotomy among the Sinhalese themselves – a distinction between the low country coastal people and the Kandyans of the interior.
Arabian Traders in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was called as taprobane and serandib as Arabian Travelers. Arabian traders have visited Sri Lanka mainly for gems, spice and on other main reason.
IBAN BATUTA a famous traveler has visited Sri Lanka simply to climb Adams Peak which they believed as the Holy Foot print of Adam. Many arabian traders arrived in beruwala and made pilgrimages to Adams peak via Ratnapura where they traded Gems.
With the portugese taking control of the west coast the Arabian Traders reach the country through Baticaloa. The Traders sold Horses, Silk and Gold Jewelry.
Many traders got married to local women and some even served the King of Kandy. The Ancient Mosque by the sea at Beruwala was established by Arabian Traders many centuries ago.
Many Sri Lankans believe that Sinbad the sailor was here in Sri Lanka and he traveled to Ratnapura for Gems and Climbed the Sacred mountain Sri Pada as a Pilgrimage worship Adams Foot Print.
Early 20th Century Political Formations 1815- 1948
In failing to establish a laissez-faire state in Ceylon, British appointed a commission called Calebrooke -Cameron commission. The main concerns of the commission were to eliminating mercantilism, state monopolies, discriminatory administrative regulations and any interference in the economy. Above problems were considered with regard to the Dutch rule and the commission was a major step to eliminate those mal-functions.
Calebrooke Commission showed an increased function during 1830s and 1840s. It’s waves spread allover the political, economic and social spheres. Many of the proposals made by the commission, basically on administrative, economic, judicial, and educational were continued for next century.
The commission was recommended to keep country under an one administrative system, and five provinces based on the culture and language of the people. Cameron made the changes in judicial to bring the justice in front of law. In 1633 his concept was granted.
Calebrooke Commission suggested an Executive Council, that to replace and reduce the power of the government. A legislative council to discuss the legislative matters.
The Council consisted three Sri Lankas to represent Sinhalese, Burghers, and Tamils in 1833. During the British colonization the English education was prominent. The Calebrooke Commission emphasized the importance of the education through the local languages.
Crew Maclum Amendments
In 1910, there was a distinct change in constitutional council. The number of members were increased to a twenty one. Eleven of them were officially appointed and other ten were non-official. Out of non-official members, six were appointed by the governor, for different races and remaining four were elected.
One of the important steps in Maclum reforms is establishing the right for ballot. It was given to a limited number of people depending on their asserts and level of education, which all with right of ballot in the country were about four percent. The four of non-official members, elected with limited ballot, included with two Europeans, one Burger and one Sri Lankan, who was Ponnambalam Ramanathan.
Another main step was establishing the financial committee. The important issue is this committee included the colonial secretary, colonial treasurer, revenue controller and all the non-officially elected members. The financial committee was able to control the revenue, at the time where there are no constitutional meetings. Non-officially elected members were allowed, for some extent, to involve in ruling.
However, there were no much changes in governor or in constitutional council. But the Maclum reforms were unable to satisfy the Sri Lankan, so there were clamors requesting for power and positions. This was a great annoyance to British because Second World War also started at this period. During this time Sri Lankan clamors were well organized. The Sri Lankan National society gave the leadership to most of the clamors. Sri Lankan National society in 1919, presented a set of constitutional reforms. It was included, increment of members constitutional council up to fifty, a divisional representation, handover the control of budget to the legislature, and electing both official and non-official members of executive council are some of the suggestions. Taking those in to consideration again there was a reformation in 1920, called Manning Reforms.
First Manning Reforms
A clear change in First Manning Reforms is increment of the number of members in constitutional council up to thirty seven. Fourteen of them were officially appointed and other twenty three were non-official. First time in Sri Lankan history, the non-official members became the majority.
Sixteen of non-official agents were elected from with limited ballot, the remaining seven was appointed by the governor. When electing sixteen of non-official agents, in spite of electing regarding the race, it was also introduced the divisional representation. Out of sixteen of non-official agents, ten were elected divisionally, that is three from western province and each from other provinces. There were no much change to the governors position. Three non-officials were elected to the executive council; however they were unable to exert much pressure.
Still the Sri Lankans were not satisfied and a set of changes were presented by the Sri Lankan National society. Those suggestions included;
1. Constitutional council with forty five members
2. Twenty of them needed to be elected from poling divisions
3. Selecting eleven for minority by nomination
4. Selecting a speaker to Constitutional council from the members
5. Consisting the executive council from three officials and three non-officials
6. Lower the qualifications for right of ballot
While these changes were introduced by Sinhalese leaders of Sri Lankan National society, the Tamil leaders introduced their own changes. Taking these changes into consideration the, it was presented to the colonial secretary by the governor Manning.
Second Manning Reforms
Under Second Manning Reforms, the number of members of the constitutional council were forty nine. Only twelve of them were officials, where as other thirty seven were non-officials. Out of non-officials, twenty nine were elected, and others were nominated by the governor. The head of the constitutional council were handed over from the governor to a selected member. Main idea behind this was to keep the governor as a counselor. But still the authority of the country was the governor.
Executive council was upgraded to ten members and four of them were selected from non-officials of constitutional council. But the other six officials were powerful enough to suppress the non-officials.
Second Manning Reforms had more weaknesses. The legislature was a weak institute. There were non-officials more than three times, that of officials. But it was not a much constrain to the governor, due to racial difference between members of non-officials. The power and responsibility was separated; that is non-officials had no much power, and therefore Sri Lankans had responsibilities with no power.
Separation between constitutional council and executive council was a greater constraint, which should have had solidarity. Even four members from the constitutional council were selected to the executive council, they had no much power.
Presence of both racial representation and divisional representation made conflicts between races, which was advantageous for British rulers. Even twenty nine was elected by ballot, the number of people with right to ballot is lower. The power of the governor had to be reduced, since Sri Lanka was unable to use their minor power.
These weaknesses were presented to the colonial secretary by the governor Huckliford. Eventually the Donoughmore Commission was sent to the Sri Lanka.
Donoughmore Commission 1937
In 1927 a royal commission under the Earl of Donoughmore arrived in Sri Lanka to find out why the representative government as charted by 1924 constitution had failed and make changes to over come the shortcomings. The commission proposed international adult franchise and an experimental system of government to be run by executive committee, to amend the shortcomings.
The proposed donoughmore constitution proclaimed in 1931 to accommodate these new proposals in government, was a unique document that provided Sri Lankans with self-government. The document assign the highest level of authority to the British Governor. The legislative branch of the government, the State Council functioned in both an executive and legislative capacity. Seven committees performed executive duties. Each committee consisted of designated members of the State Council and was chaired by an elected Sri Lankan, who was addressed as minister. The board of ministers was formed with three British
officers of ministerial rank along with seven Sri Lankan ministers. The British ministers totally handled responsibility for Defense, External affairs, Finance, and Judicial matters.
The Donoughmore Constitution implemented in period of experimentation in participatory democracy. The executive committees did not tend to development of national political parties. As a result the Great Council of the Sinhalese (Sinhala Maha Sabha) was originated. The Sinhala Maha Sabha was the strongest proponent of this resurgent ideology. Other communal grounds also tend to organized political parties including the Burgher Political Association in 1938,The Ceylon Indian Congress in 1939, and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944.
In 1944, a committee leaded by Lord Soulbery arrived Sri Lanka according to the statement made by Sri Lankan ministers. The commission enquired the existing constitution and submitted a report to British government. The report was mainly similar to the Sri Lankan minister’s propositions.
A new Government constitution was arranged based on the Soulbery propositions. An election was conducted according to the new legislation in 1947 and decided to negotiate with the electing government and give a dominant status. Soulbery legislation consisted following behest.
1.1947 Lanka Independence act
2.1947 Lanka Independence Royal order
3.1946 Lanka Governance Royal order
The Soulbery constitution was spread with in 25 years and put the basement to the 1st Republic constitution.
First Janaraja Constitution – 1972
Sri Lanka got a dominion type of freedom after 1948. From that up to 1972 Sri Lanka had constitution made by the Soulbery commission. Because of the weaknesses in Soulbery constitution, there was an increased demand for a new constitution at about 1970. With Soulbery constitution Sri Lanka was unable to become an independent republic. There several reasons.
1. Still the Queen of the Britain was the ruler of the country
2. Acceptance of the British Preach Council as Appeal court
3. The Parliament was not completely independent
4. The country was governed with an offered constitution and the parliament was unable to reform it.
Under such conditions the Sri Lanka was still a part of the British. Also Soulbery constitution had weak points that have to be corrected.
1. Presence of non-successful council
2. Absolute authority of the Parliament had been limited
3. Mention on basic rights and government policies were not included
Soulbery constitution was not a will of the Sri Lankan community. Therefore it does not represent the Sri Lankans and there was a necessity of a new constitution. In 1970, the Samagi Peramuna gave a promise at their political campaigns to change the constitution in order to make Sri Lanka an independent republic. Ultimately the Samagi Peramuna got more than two third majority. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was the minister of constitution. Therefore Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was the president of the constituent assembly. The Soulbery constitution was revoked by the assembly completely. The new constitution was flexible and could be changed by the National Government Council. Some important new features can be seen.
1. It was stated that Sri Lanka was an independent country
2. Introduction of president to the country
3. Establishment of national government council
4. Introduction of a supreme court and appeal court
5. Introduction of constitutional court
6. Inclusion of statements on basic rights and freedom
7. Inclusion of a fundamental statements on government policies
8. Establishment of Government counseling board and State Service Discipline Board
9. Establishment of court service counseling board and a Discipline Board
10. Inclusion of National language, National religion, National Song, National Flag etc. to the constitution.
Unlike the British constitution, the new constitution was a documented. It had mild non documented parts and had all the basics existence and function of the government.
Second Janaraja Constitution – 1978
The UNP (United National Party) government which was led by the Hon. J. R. Jayawardana came to the power in 1977. With the new government there was again reformation to the constitution with establishment of the executive presidency. It was a rapid change to the constitution, in considering secular values.
At the election in 1977 the UNP government received two third majority, mainly because the adverse economic situation in the country during the reign of Samagi Peramuna. Therefore the main reason of success of the UNP during the election in 1977 was peoples need for a relief.
In 1978 august 31 the new constitution was approved. In new constitution the Country was considered as Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. There some new features.
1. Basically written and non flexible
2. Introduction of executive presidency
3. Still there was the cabinet; So it a mix of cabinet and presidency
4. Cancellation of simple majority method and introduction of proportionally electing system
5. Introduction of referendum
6. Introduction of Ombudsman
7. Extension of the chapter of basic rights and handover the power on rights to the supreme court
8. Establishment of provincial councils
Even with advanced changes the 1978 constitution is not much success one. During the last twenty years after approval of the 1978 constitution there had been seventeen reforms. It indicates weaknesses of the constitution.