Kingdom of Kotte

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Kingdom of Kotte
කෝට්ටේ රාජධානිය
Flag of Kotte.svg
Flag of Kotte
Kotte Kingdom 1412-1597.svg
  The Kotte Kingdom at its greatest extent
  Kingdom of Kotte after the death of Parakramabahu VIII of Kotte in 1518
  The Kingdom of Kotte (under Dharmapala of Kotte) in 1587
Capital Kotte
Official languages Sinhalese
Government Monarchy
Parakramabahu VI
Bhuvanaikabahu VI
Parakramabahu VIII
  Capital moved from Gampola
27 May 1597
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Kingdom of Gampola
Kingdom of Kandy King of Kandy.svg
Kingdom of Sitawaka Flag of Sitawaka Kingdom (1521 - 1594).png
Portuguese Ceylon Flag Portugal (1640).svg
Map of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (1557-1565) Map of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte (1557 -1565).png
Map of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (1557–1565)

The Kingdom of Kotte (Sinhala : කෝට්ටේ රාජධානිය, romanized: Kottay Rajadhaniya), named after its capital, Kotte, was a Sinhalese kingdom that flourished in Sri Lanka during the 15th century.


Kotte, under the rule of Ming-backed Parakramabahu VI, [lower-alpha 1] conquered the Jaffna kingdom and the Vanni principalities, and brought the country under one flag. It led to a punitive invasion against the Vijayanagar dynasty and captured a port, which was converted to a trade route.

The Kotte Kingdom was largely dissolved during the Sinhalese-Portuguese War, as it faced attacks from rival Sinhalese kingdoms, the Kingdom of Sitawaka and Kingdom of Kandy. Don João Dharmapala handed it over to the Portuguese, thus leading to the formation of Ceylon. The remainder was annexed into Sitwaka and Kandy.


The term Kotte is said to have derived from the Sinhalese word kotta (කෝට්ට) and Tamil word kōttei which mean fortress. [1] [lower-alpha 2] The word Kotte was introduced by Nissankamalla Alagakkonara, who was the founder of the fortress. They were believed to be from the city of Vanchi, identified with Kanchipuram of Tamil Nadu. [4] The Alagakkonara family have also been identified to be of Tamil ancestry of Vallanattu Chettiar. [5] [6]


Kotte was founded as a fortress by Minister Alakesvara (1370–1385) of the Alagakkonara clan of the Kingdom of Gampola during the reign of Vikramabahu III of Gampola to checkmate invasions from South India on the western coast; Parakramabahu VI later made Kotte his capital city in 1412. It was well protected by the large swamp that surrounded the area. [7]

Parakramabahu VI first became the king of Raigama in 1412, then, in 1415, he made Kotte his capital. The King upgraded the existing citadel and built a new royal palace. Parakramabahu VI waited until ties between the Vijayanagara Empire and Jaffna Kingdom were severed. First, he captured the Vanni and made its leaders loyal to him. Prince Sapumal was the commander of the Kotte army at the time. Tamil served as one of the court languages of the Kotte Kingdom at this time. [8]


In 1450, Parakramabahu VI had, with his conquest of the Jaffna kingdom in northern Sri Lanka, unified all of Sri Lanka. At its height, the Kingdom oversaw one of the greatest eras of Sinhalese literature. Notable poets at the time were Buddhist monks such as Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera, Weedagama Maihree thero, and Karagala Wanarathana thero. By 1477, however, 10 years after the death of Parakramabahu VI, regional kingdoms became more powerful. Most notably a new Kingdom was founded in the central hill-country of the island by Senasammata Vikramabahu who successfully led a rebellion against the Kotte Kingdom in 1469.

Rule from Kelaniya

Parakramabahu IX of Kotte moved the capital to Kelaniya in 1509 and it stayed there until 1528.

Arrival of the Portuguese

The Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505, [9] [10] landing in Galle Harbour. Once they learnt that they had arrived in Sri Lanka, they sailed to Colombo. [9] They were taken by a tortuous route to the capital, Kotte, which was actually quite close by. This was done in order to create the impression that the kingdom was too far inland to make invasion from the harbour feasible. This plan was, however, spoilt by the fact that the Portuguese who remained with the ship fired the ship's cannon repeatedly, which sound was heard by the Portuguese party being taken to Kotte. [11] This incident gave rise to the local saying "Parangiya Kotte Giya Vage" ("like the Portuguese went to Kotte") [11] [පරන්ගියා කොට්ටේ ගියා වගේ], which refers to doing something or going somewhere in a roundabout route instead of a direct route. However, during this meeting, the Portuguese managed to secure a trade agreement with the Kotte king. [12]


Political map of Sri Lanka following the "Spoiling of Vijayabahu" Sri Lanka geopolitics - after "Spoiling of Vijayabahu".png
Political map of Sri Lanka following the "Spoiling of Vijayabahu"

Kotte Kingdom's downfall began with an event in 1521 that became known as the "Wijayaba Kollaya". The Kotte King Vijayabahu VII's three sons mutinied and killed their father dividing the kingdom among themselves. [13] This gave rise to three minor kingdoms, Kotte, Sitawaka and Principality of Raigama. [14] The divided Kingdom of Sitawaka became more powerful with local popular support and the Kotte Kingdom had to rely on Portuguese for help. The king of Kotte after Wijayabe Kollaya, Buvenekabahu VII, got assistance from the Portuguese in order to defeat his brother, Mayadunne. He also allowed his daughter's son, Prince Dharmapala, to be baptized as a Catholic by the Portuguese. After Buvenekabahu had named Dharmapala as his heir, he was shot – supposedly by accident – by a Portuguese soldier.

In 1565, [15] the capital of Kotte was abandoned by Dharmapala of Kotte due to frequent attacks from the Kingdom of Sitawaka led by Mayadunne and his son Rajasinghe I; he was taken into Colombo under Portuguese protection. [16] Most of the areas of Kotte Kingdom were annexed to the Kingdom of Sitawaka [17] however after the downfall of Sitawaka in 1594, these areas were re-annexed to the Kotte kingdom. [18] In 1597 Dharmapala gifted the Kotte Kingdom to the Portuguese throne and the Kotte era was officially ended.


The military of the Kotte kingdom was closely associated with both its rise and demise. Poems written in this era give vivid accounts of the contemporary military. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, firearms had not been widely adopted but it is believed that firearms had been introduced to Sinhalese by Arab traders due to the similarity of the design of Sinhala firearms to Arab guns and the Portuguese expressing unfamiliarity with the designs of Sinhalese ordinance used by 1519. However, the use of heavy armour and firearms by Europeans would also result in locals rapidly adopting firearms. [19] [20]

The military consisted of four main departments, namely

Notable commanders of Kotte army

In the final periods of the kingdom, the Portuguese were often in charge of the military.

Significant military victories of Kingdom of Kotte


The kingdom was situated near Colombo, a very important port at the time. Moorish merchants from India and Arabia dominated the trade of the kingdom until the arrival of the Portuguese. The spice trade, e.g. in cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, dominated the exports while gemstones also was a big export. After the conquest of Jaffna, Kotte possessed the pearl trading which gave an enormous wealth to the kingdom. Portuguese who arrived there as traders were able to secure a trading deal with the kingdom on their first visit.


One of the greatest fields that flourished under his rule was literature and art since the king himself was very fond of them. Royal patronage was given to literature paving way to a golden age of literature in the island.

Great poet monks of Kotte era

Notable art works of the era

A flag of the Catholic Karava Sinhalese who became Catholics during Kotte era Karava Catholic flag.jpg
A flag of the Catholic Karava Sinhalese who became Catholics during Kotte era

Sandesha poems

  • Kokila Sandesha
  • Paravi Sandesha
  • Gira Sandesha
  • Salalihini Sandesha
  • Hansa Sandesha
  • Nilakobo Sandesha

Poems and other anthology

Buddhist education institutions started in the era

These institutions paved way not only to the enhancement of Buddhist literature but also to the development of Ayurvedic medicine.

Aryvedic medical books written in Kotte era


Kelani Viharaya Kelani Vihara.jpg
Kelani Viharaya

Buddhism was the state religion for most of its existence. Parakramabahu VI built a shrine for the Sacred Tooth Relic near the royal palace. Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya was also enshrined by Parakramabahu VI to celebrate the Esala Perahara Pegent, in Honor of the Sacred Tooth relic. He also repaired Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara; which along with the Sri Perakumba Pirivena and Sunethra Devi Pirivena have become the most famous monasteries in the country.

Hinduism was also given a foremost place in society. Most of the Buddhist temples entrusted shrines of Hindu gods Vishnu, Murugan (god Katahargama) and goddess Paththini, and God Gambara as the provincial god. Prince Sapumal (crowned Bhuvanekabahu VI) had built a shrine near the ancient bo tree of the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya as a vow to defeat Arya chakravarthi. Prince Sapumal is also credited for building or renovating the Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna. [23]

The Portuguese converted much of the population into the Roman Catholic faith. The last king of Kotte, Don Juan Dharmapala, was one of two Catholic Sinhalese monarchs in Sri Lankan history (the other was Kusumasena Devi), though several other contemporary kings had also been temporarily Catholic.[ citation needed ]


Battaramulla was a village that provided rice to the king's palace. The royal flower gardens were also located in this village in an area called Rajamalwatta.

See also


  1. Ming-Kotte War#Aftermath
  2. The word kotte is derived from the Tamil-Malayalam word, kōttai, which is derived from the Proto-South Dravidian word kōtt-ay, meaning fort. The word kōttai further evolved to kēāṭṭa in modern Malayalam. [2] [3]

Related Research Articles

Walpola Rahula Thero (1907–1997) was a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, scholar and writer. In 1964, he became the Professor of History and Religions at Northwestern University, thus becoming the first bhikkhu to hold a professorial chair in the Western world. He also once held the position of Vice-Chancellor at the then Vidyodaya University. He has written extensively about Buddhism in English, French and Sinhala. He wrote the book What the Buddha Taught about Theravada Buddhism.

Jaffna Kingdom Former Kingdom of Ceylon

The Jaffna Kingdom, also known as Kingdom of Aryachakravarti, of modern northern Sri Lanka was a historic monarchy that came into existence around the town of Jaffna on the Jaffna peninsula. It was traditionally thought to be established after the invasion of Magha, who is credited with the founding of the Jaffna kingdom and is said to have been from Kalinga, in India. Established as a powerful force in the north, north east and west of the island, it eventually became a tribute-paying feudatory of the Pandyan Empire in modern South India in 1258, gaining independence in 1323, when the last Pandyan ruler of Madurai was defeated and expelled in 1323 by Malik Kafur, the army general of the Delhi Sultanate. For a brief period, in the early to mid-14th century, it was an ascendant power in the island of Sri Lanka when all regional kingdoms accepted subordination. However, the kingdom was eventually overpowered by the rival Kotte Kingdom, around 1450 when it was invaded by Prince Sapumal under the orders of Parakramabahu VI.

Sinhala Kingdom Series of monarchies in Sri Lanka from 543 BCE to 1815 CE

The Sinhala Kingdom or Sinhalese Kingdom refers to the successive Sinhalese kingdoms that existed in what is today Sri Lanka. The Sinhala Kingdom existed as successive kingdoms known by the city at which its administrative centre was located. These are in chronological order: the kingdoms of Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka and Kandy. The Sinhala Kingdom ceased to exist by 1815. While Sinhala Kingdom existed from 543 BCE to 1815 CE, other political entities co-existed in Sri Lanka spanning certain partial periods, including the Jaffna kingdom, Vanni chieftaincies and the Portuguese and Dutch colonies. During these partial periods of time, these political entities were not part of the Sinhala Kingdom.

Karava Maritime martial Sinhalese caste in Sri Lanka

Karava is a Sinhalese speaking ethnic group of Sri Lanka, whose ancestors from ancient times migrated from the Coromandel coast, claiming lineage to the Kaurava royalty of the old Kingdom of Kuru in Northern India. The Tamil equivalent is Karaiyar. Both groups are also known as the Kurukula.

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Rajasinghe I was a king of the Kingdom of Sitawaka who was known for his extreme bravery and patriotism against the Portuguese invasion of Sri Lanka. Born as Tikiri Bandara to King Mayadunne of the Kingdom of Sitawaka, he received the name "Rajasinha" after the fierce fighting against Portuguese forces at the Battle of Mulleriyawa. Rajasinha means the King of Lions.

Kanakasooriya Cinkaiariyan was the first of the Aryacakravarti dynasty kings of Jaffna Kingdom to lose complete power to a rival king. He inherited the throne from his father Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan in 1440. He was deposed in 1450 by Sapumal Kumaraya a military leader sent by Parakramabâhu VI from the rival Kotte Kingdom in the south. Number of primary sources such as Rajavaliya and Kokila Sandesa written in Sinhalese vividly describe the planning and conquest of the Jaffna Kingdom.

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Kingdom of Sitawaka Sinhalese kingdom on the island of Sri Lanka (1521-93)

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Parâkramabâhu VI (1410/1412/1415–1467) was a king in the Sri Lankan kingdom of Kotte. He is the last great king in Sri Lanka who managed to unite the island under one flag. His rule is famous for the political stability which he maintained in that time period and the thriving of literature, especially poetry. Classical literature as well as many rock inscriptions and royal grant letters have been found, rendering much information pertaining to this period.

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The Battle of Mulleriyawa in 1559 was part of the Sinhalese–Portuguese War. It was one of the most decisive battles in Sri Lankan history and considered as the worst defeat of Portuguese during that period. According to local chronicles the marshlands of Mulleriyawa turned red with blood after the annihilation of the Portuguese. With this victory Sitawaka emerged as a military power which able to challenge the Portuguese expansion.

Portuguese Ceylon Portuguese-controlled kingdom in Asia, 16th–17th century

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Upulvan Sri Lankan Buddhist version of Hindu god Vishnu

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Vira Parakramabahu VIII, also known as Ambulagala Kumara, was King of Kotte in the fifteenth century, who ruled from 1484 to 1518. He succeeded Parakramabahu VII and was succeeded by his son Dharma Parakramabahu IX. Another son Vijayabahu VII also became king.

The siege of Kotte from November 1557 – November 1558 was a battle part of the Sinhalese–Portuguese War. A 50,000 strong Sitawaka army led by King Mayadunne besieged Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, the capital of Kotte Kingdom, for 12 months against a combined force of Portuguese and Lascarins led by Captain-major Dom Afonso Pereira de Lacerda. After receiving reinforcements from Mannar, Portuguese made a sally and succeeded in forcing the besiegers to withdraw. This siege marked the beginning of a series of battles between Portuguese and Sitawaka forces, and ultimately ended as Portuguese abandoned Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte in 1565.

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Bibliography of Sri Lanka

This is a bibliography of works on Sri Lanka.

The Kotte conquest of the Jaffna kingdom was an expedition against the Jaffna kingdom by the Kotte kingdom. The Kotte's campaign had several phases against Jaffna dated between A.D. 1449–50 and 1453-4. The first campaign, led by Prince Sapumal, adopted son of Parakramabahu VI in 1450. In the second campaign, Prince Sapuma defeated Kanakasooriya Cinkaiariyan and ruled the region nearly 17 years as a representative of Kotte.

Maggona Arachchi Ancient Kalinga-Sinhalese military caste in Sri Lanka

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