Kingdom of Kandy was an independent monarchy of the island of Lanka, located in the central and eastern portion of the island. It was founded in the late 15th century and endured until the early 19th century. Sena Sammatha Wikramabahu (1473–1511) was the first king of kingdom of Kandy and initially operated as a client kingdom of the Kingdom of Kotte. Kandy gradually established itself as an independent force during the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries, allying at various times with the Jaffna Kingdom, the Madurai Nayak Dynasty of South India, Sitawaka, the Portuguese and the Dutch to ensure its survival. From the 1590s, it was the sole independent native polity on the island of Sri Lanka, and through a combination of hit-and-run tactics and diplomacy kept European colonial forces at bay, before finally succumbing to final, British colonial rule in 1818. The kingdom was absorbed into the British Empire as a protectorate following the Kandyan Convention of 1815, and definitively lost its autonomy following the Uva Rebellion of 1817.
According to chronicles the city of Senkadagalapura may have been founded as early as the mid-14th century during the reign of Vikramabahu III of Gampola (1357–1374). Central Sri Lanka was ruled by the kings of Kotte from the early 15th to late 16th centuries; with Kotte’s weakening in the face of Portuguese influence the area developed into an autonomous domain with Senkadagalapura at its capital. Following the Spoiling of Vijayabahu famously renowned Vijayaba Kollaya in 1521, and the subsequent partition of the kingdom of Kotte, Kandy asserted its independence and emerged as a serious rival to the eastern and southern kingdoms.
Highlights of Colonial Era
The first time Sri Lanka fully fell into the hands of a foreign power happened in Kandy with the signing of the Kandyan Convention in 1815 at the Sri Dalada Maligawa. The king, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha of Kandy who was of South Indian ancestry faced powerful opposition from the Sinhalese chieftains and sought to reduce his power. A successful coup was organized by the Sinhalese chieftains in which they accepted the British crown as their new king. This ended over 2500 years of Sri Lankan monarchs and the line of Kandyan monarchs and Rajasinha was taken as prisoner. By 2 March 1815 the islands sovereignty was under that of the British Empire. The treaty was not signed by the deposed King but by members of his court and other dignitaries of the Kandyan Kingdom.
In 1848 led by Gongalegoda Banda and Puran Appu led the rebellion known as the Matale Rebellion. Prior to that the city and the country had been under British rule for 32 years, in which the British had expropriated the common land of the peasantry and reduced them to extreme poverty. The Kandyan villagers were forced to abandon their traditional way of life and become wage-workers in the abominable conditions that prevailed on these new estates and plantations that had been introduced, despite all the pressure exerted by the colonials the Kandyans refused. This forced the British to bring in hundreds of thousands of Tamil coolies from southern India. The Rebellion began on the 26 July 1848 with Gongalegoda Banda, crowned as king, and Puran Appu, as prime minister, and their main objective to capture Kandy back from the British. The Matale Rebellion was a peasant revolt in the hands of the Common people, the Kandyan leadership being totally wiped out after the Uva Rebellion, marked the first step in a transition from the classic feudal form of anti-colonial revolt to modern independence struggles. The leadership was for the first time passed from the Kandyan provinces into the hands of ordinary people or non-aristocrats.