Rajapihilla in Kandy – royal resplendence of yesteryear
By Arundathie Abeysinghe
Located about two kilometers away from Kandy City, Royal Bath (Rajapihilla in Sinhala) is the royal spout where Kandyan Kings (during the Kandyan Kingdom) have bathed whenever they wanted to bathe outside the premises of the Royal Palace.
According to legends, King Weera Parakrama Narendrasinghe (1707 – 1739 AD, the last Sinhalese King of Sri Lanka) had ordered to build this open-air bath stone basin made of granite on a six-foot (approximately 1.8 meters) tall granite pillar. There are three spouts in the stone basin to let out water (from the basin). The water for the bath was taken from the Rajapihilla canal that flows through the *Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve.
The kings had been brought to this location from the Royal Palace in a *palanquin by palace workers. According to legends, during the Kandyan Kingdom, there had also been a room for changing purposes. *Diyawadana Nilame was responsible for arranging the King’s bath and *Saluwadana Nilame was responsible for the Royal Wardrobe. Both officials had to be present when the king arrived here to take a bath and they were assisted by over 100 people. This place had been resplendent during the Kandyan Kingdom. At present, there is only a stone basin supported by a stone pillar.
Renowned scholar D.T. Devendra has carried out extensive research of the location. According to his description, Rajapihilla was known as Heelpenkandura as the water that flowed from the basin was cold.
According to Devendra’s records from an extract of a report compiled by a *Ratemahatmaya of lower *Hewaheta and submitted to the Government Agent, the location of Rajapihilla as the royal bathing place was due to the following reasons:
“It is believed that during the reign of *King Kirthi Siri, he caused the waters of all the natural springs in the vicinity to be weighed and tested, and the water of this Heelpenkandura was found to be the best of all. So his Majesty ordered that this stream should be kept exclusively for the royal household, and no one was allowed (except those of the royal household) to use it.”
“The King also ordered a bathroom to be built there, surrounded with a strong wall, and a gate leading to it; and also appointed two officers-one to watch the kandura and one to guard the gate; and his Majesty made it a rule to proceed thither every Wednesday in a palanquin followed by procession of tom tom beaters, musicians and others. This rule was followed by his successors.”
Devendra has also recorded observations of *John D’Oyly and *John Davy regarding the ceremonies of the Royal Bath.
“The king used to bathe daily (chiefly in warm water) at mid day, sometimes in the afternoon. Two villagers, Bolana and Lagomuva, were set apart for those who attended to the preparations for the bath. Tenants from them supplied fuel for warning the bath, and cleaned up the place, taking fortnightly turns. They took orders from the Diyawadana Nilame who with the king’s permission set a Vidane (an influential post in the native headman system in *Ceylon) over them”.
Hence, the Royal Bath (the King’s bathing ritual) has taken the nature of a ceremony.
A royal resplendence of yesteryear, the Royal Bath and the bathing location used by Kandyan Royals during the Kandyan Kingdom, is at present surrounded by shrubs and weeds as well as in a deplorable condition, unnoticed by locals too.
Location – Rajapihilla Mawatha, Kandy (This place can be reached by travelling on Ampitiya Road)
- Ceylon – Sri Lanka gained Independence from British Colonials in 1948. In 1972, Ceylon became a republic within the Commonwealth and Ceylon was thereafter known as Sri Lanka.
- Diyawadana Nilame – Chief lay custodian of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and has the responsibility to oversee all aspects of the Sri Dalada Maligawa and the traditional duty of organizing the Kandy Esala Perahera (annual pageant). This position was formerly an office of the royal household. During the Kandyan Kingdom, he was officer of the Royal Palace, one of the three officials who attended to the royalty’s daily needs. His main task was to ensure that facilities for the king to bathe were in place. He also had to pour water from a gold jug for the king to wash his hands before having his meals.
- T. Devendra – Born on April 1, 1901 Don Titus Devendra (D.T. Devendra was an enthusiast in history and archaeology which led him to become an internationally reputed scholar who explored Sri Lanka’s history and archaeology, the new discipline of Ceylon History). In 1948, he joined the Department of Archaeology as the Assistant Commissioner responsible for publications, but his duties were not restricted to publications only. He was a kingpin in the Department and participated in field activities with former Commissioner of Archaeology Dr. Senarath Paranavithana exploring and observing historic sites. He wrote the first archaeological guide books to important sites such as Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Panduvas Nuvara and Yapahuva. He also functioned as Acting Archaeological Commissioner before he retired in 1957.
- Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve – Also known as Wakara-watta (known by locals for decades) or Walker Estate (its former estate name) is a forest cover overlooking Kandy City (part of the forest reserve is within Kandy City) located at a height of approximately 548- 875 meters (1800 -3200 feet) above sea level.
- Hewaheta– Situated approximately 44 kilometers from Kandy City, Hewaheta is a village in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
- John Davy – He was the author of “An account of the interior of Ceylon and of its inhabitants with travels in that island” (1821).
- John D’Oyly – He was the great diplomat who represented the British Government at the signing of the *Kandyan Convention of 1815. He drafted the Kandyan Convention of 1815. He was the first Baronet of Kandy and a British colonial administrator. (He was born on June 6, 1774 in the United Kingdom and passed away on May 25, 1824 in Kandy and buried in Garrison Cemetery, Kandy).
- Kandyan Convention – Kandyan Convention is an agreement signed on March 2, 1815 between the British and Chiefs of the Kandyn Kingdom of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Under the terms of this convention, Kandy was annexed to the other British holdings in Ceylon (other British holdings of Ceylon were under British Rule). With the signing of the Convention, British took control over the entire island (Sri Lanka). King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the South Indian King was deposed under the agreement entered into by the Convention and his sovereignty was vested with the British Crown, thus ceding the Kandyan Kingdom territory to British Rule. This agreement was signed at the Audience Hall in behind the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
- King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha – He was the second *Nayaka King of Kandy, a prince from Madurai Nayak Dynasty. He was the brother-in-law of Sri Vijay Raja Singha (reign 1739 – 1747). King Kirthi Sri succeeded his brother-in-law to the throne in 1751.
- Nayaks of Kandy – Referred to as Kandyan Nayak Dynasty, they were the rulers of Kandyan Kingdom from 1739 – 1815. They were the last dynasty to rule Sri Lanka.
- Palanquin – A portable bed or couch (open or enclosed) mounted on two poles and carried at each end on the shoulders of porters. Very often, royals especially, a king was carried by porters of the royal household on a palanquin.
- Ratemahatmaya – A local chief or headman in the Central Province of Sri Lanka
- Saluwadana Nilame – An official of the royal household, his duty was to attend on the king when dressing.