Untold history of Sri Lanka’s Independence The formal ceremony marking the start of self-rule, with the opening of the first parliament at Independence Square by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in the presence of Rt Hon D.S. Senanayake as first Prime Minister of Ceylon.
In Sri Lanka, as in every other colonial outpost, resistance to foreign domination predated Western intervention by well more than two centuries. Surviving numerous onslaughts of South Indian conquest, the Anuradhapura kingdom gave way to the Polonnaruwa kingdom in the 11th century AD. The latter’s demise 200 years later led to a shift from the country’s north to the north-west, and from there to the south-west. It was in the south-west that the Sinhalese first confronted European colonialism, a confrontation that pushed the Kotte and the Sitava kingdoms to the last bastion of Sinhalese rule, Kandy.
The shift to Kandy coincided with the commencement of Portuguese rule in the island. Both Portuguese and Dutch officials emphasised, and sharpened, the line between the Maritime Provinces and the kanda uda rata. The Sitavaka rulers, in particular Rajasinghe I, had fought both Portuguese suzerainty and Kotte domination. These encounters more or less breathed new life into the country’s long history of resistance to foreign rule.
The Kandyan kings inherited this legacy and imbibed this streak. But under them resistance to colonial subjugation acquired a new logic and a fresh vigour. That was to define the island’s struggle against imperialism for well more than three centuries.