King Dominicus Corea of Kotte – article by Deva Corea

Vernon Corea’s cousin, Deva Corea, has written a thorough article on their ancestor, King Dominicus Corea or Edirille Rala:


Dedicated to Henri Corea, who mapped the pedigree chart of the Corea family and researched the life of Dominicus Corea. He was assisted by his daughter Aruni, who documented the pedigree chart by hand. To Randunna Corea the son of Henri Corea, who conducted further research to refute publications, by those who attempted to denigrate the Corea family, in which endeavor he was assisted by Ms.Samala Amarasekera, the grand-daughter of Henri Corea.

King Parakramabahu the VI’th was the last great King of Sri Lanka to rule the entire country. When Sri Rahula wrote the `Selalihina Sandesaya’ it is said that he prayed that Ulukudaya Devi the daughter of King Parakrambahu the VI’th be given a son. That son was Jayabahu II, whose daughter Abarawathi married Ranamuka Bandara. Ranamuka Bandara was a descendant of Buvenaka Bahu Epa, the son of Buvenaka Bahu IV King of Gampola.

Buvenaka Bahu Epa having accompanied Alakeswara in his campaigns finally settled in Kotte. Ranamuka Bandara and Aberawathie had two sons, Ranamuka Aratchi and Edirilla Aratchi, officers in the Sinhala Army. Edirilla Aratchi converted to Christianity and was baptized as Emanuel Corea. His son, Jeronimo Corea was the `Interpreter’ and `Colombo Aratchi’ to King Don Juan Dharmapala.

Jeronimo Corea and his wife Anna had two sons, Dominicus and Simon. Born in AD 1565, Dominicus and his brother Simon grew up in the precincts of the palace, by virtue of the position held by their father. Dominicus excelled in sports and martial arts, especially as a swordsman.

John.M.Seneviratne writing of Edirille Bandara a.k.a. Domingos Corea begins thus; Of the Sinhalese `Mudaliyars of renown bred in war’, in the service of Don Juan Dharmapala of Kotte, especially during the closing years of that ill fated sovereign’s rule, there was scarcely anyone more distinguished for valour, and certainly non more remarkable for good looks and a fine presence than the youthful Domingo Corea.

De Queyroz the great Portuguese historian says of him that ‘He was able to read and write like a well-bred man’. Handsome and with his winning ways he soon found favour in the sight of the King and the Portuguese who were then in Kotte.

Visiting Sitawaka on a mission of espionage dressed as a Hindu priestess, he found favour with King Rajasinghe and had the run of the palace, especially the harem. Padma Wanisapperuma from Attygalle near Hanwella was reportedly the loveliest lady in the Kingdom. She was the grand daughter of a chieftain who died by the side of Vidiya Bandara in Jaffna in 1556 and was the King’s favourite. She was to be elevated to the rank of junior queen. Mudaliyar Bulathsinghala wrote that the pseudo priestess saved the lady from a rabid dog when all others fled the harem in fear. Dominicus revealed himself to her that night and leaves for Colombo the following day, still garbed as a priestess. According to John.M.Seneviratne; his love for a lady, Padma Wanissaperuma, the most entrancingly beautiful in King Rajasinghe’s harem, made him practically ‘Desert’ to Sitawaka.

He joined the army of King Rajasingha of Sitawaka, but soon fell foul of the King when he expressed his aspirations. Rajasinghe it is written, ‘roused to furious anger by the presumption of the lovelorn youth, ordered his death. Fleeing the kingdom, he was caught by Rajasinghe’s men, who cut his throat and left him for dead. Nursed back to health by a Mukkuwa woman, his neck was slightly crooked, earning him the nickname of `Mal Degolado’ or `The Ill Beheaded’. Returning to Kotte a much sober and changed man, he served under King Don Juan Dharmapala. His bravery, stratagem and ruthlessness on the battlefield, paved the way for him to be appointed a General or `Vickramasinha’. He was by then known as Ederilla Mudiyanse or Ederilla Rala.

Entrusted with the subduing of the territory from Colombo to Chilaw, he fought three battles against Akaranga Bandara, winning all. A remarkable occurrence it is written, saved his life at the height of the second battle. King Dharmapala had gifted to Dominicus a big black dog given to him by the Captain General of Goa. The dog named `Kaluwa’ by Dominicus, is said to have entered the battlefield in search of his master and seeing him in peril had sprung on Akaranga Bandara to hold him by the neck. Kaluwa was dislodged suffering a bad sword-cut. Akaranga Bandara although wounded by Dominicus escaped. Captured after a subsequent battle he was thrown to the elephants.

Dominicus Corea was credited with recovering the `Tooth Relic; hidden under a grinding stone at Delgamuwa in Kuruwita and conveying it to his boyhood friend Wimaladharmasuriya (Konnapu Bandara) King of Kandy, who enshrined the sacred relic in the `Dalada Maligawa’.

This incident was corroborated by the late Hon.Nissanke Wijeratne then Minister of Justice, in an article written by him titled the `The Esala Perehera’ that appeared in the Sunday Observer, when he was the Diyawadana Nilame.
Says John.M.Seneviratne, `Apart from any personal regard or admiration which he may have honestly felt, Vimala Dharma was too shrewd a man not to realize that the security of his own kingdom depended in great measure upon the continuance, in health and power, of a man of the capacity of Dominicus Corea to fight the hated Portuguese. Dominicus was given as his bride, Subadra Devi the daughter of Vidiya Bandara King of the Sath Korale and Suriya Devi the daughter of Mayadunna, King of Sitawaka. This is the only wedding recorded in the annals history, as having been held in the Kandy Maligawa with much pomp and pageantry. At his coronation and wedding, Dominicus Corea was proclaimed, King of Kotte and Sitawaka by King Wimaladharmasuriya-1. Dominicus took the name Edirimanasuriya.

According to John.M.Senevratne, `coolness, skill, strategy in the planning and conduct of warlike operations, allied to personal bravery and daring, bordering sometimes on recklessness in the midst of battle, these brought him to the front ranks of the Sinhalese Captains of War of his time. John.M.Seneviratne writes that `on the 17th of November’1595, not being at the time more than thirty years if age, in the presence of 7,000 troops and a large gathering he raised the standard of revolt against King Dharmapala and assuming the title of Ederille Bandara, had himself solemnly crowned the King of Kotte. Turning against the Portuguese and their puppet King, Dominicus then carried out a vicious campaign when even churches were destroyed. Felled by a bullet in a subsequent battle at Uruwela, he was carried unconscious from the field of battle.

John.M.Seneviratne writes that his enemies make him out as a man of overweening ambition and wicked disposition while De Queyroz described him as `inclined to evil and cruel by character. De Queyroz writes of the reprisal he took on Portuguese prisoners for the killing of his cousin Iddagoda Naide. He writes, ` He not only cut off their noses, as others did before him, but also their right hands, a cruelty equal to that of Diocletian’ and others he threw to the elephants, ` which either hurled them in the air with their trunks or crushed them with their feet’. This type of brutality I suspect, was common to the period.

The Portuguese had a `love hate’ relationship that soured after Dominicus Corea changed his allegiance, to attack them. According to De Queyroz, he accomplished so many and such arduous enterprises which are not specified on account of the number, with extraordinary success. John M. Seneviratne states` If there was one man in the Kingdom who had no reasonable cause or excuse to rebel against his King or to turn against the Portuguese who sought to uphold the authority of that King, that man was the Vickremesinghe, Dominigos Corea Mudiyanse.

In his final battle at Uduwara, it is said that a mistaken signal caused Dominicus Corea to be isolated from his men. Fatigued beyond endurance and famished, he sought refuge in the house of an old woman, who once he was asleep, betrayed him to Samarakoon Fernando Mudaliyar. Brought to Colombo in chains, he was tortured and interrogated for forty days, mainly to recover his treasure. He addressed the gathering before his execution, on the 14th of July’1596. Bento Da Silva a soldier and Magistrate of De Azvedo’s time records that before his execution, Dominicus Corea prayed to the Lord Jesus a poignant prayer for mercy saying at the end, `If in hell there is room for sinners, in Heaven also there is room for penitents’. Writes John.M.Seneviratne, it was true he never expressed one word of regret for taking up arms against the Portuguese. On the contrary he gloried in his rebellion. But in respect of his misdeeds against Catholicism a religion which he re-embraced with fervour in these days , he was undoubtedly genuinely sorry.
He prayed to God thus; `Lord Jesus Christ’ Have mercy on me, for, because of my enormous sins, I am not worthy to obtain it. Extend to me Thy superabundant clemency. For I confess that I have sinned against Thee, my father and my God; for now I am not worthy to be called Thy son, nor to raise my eyes to heaven because of the number and gravity of my sins whereby I have made myself unworthy of being supported by the earth, for with such licentiousness did I provoke Thy wrath.

`But since I have cost Thee so much, I beg of Thee, my God, not to cast me away from Thy presence, nor to spurn me.; because the ship of my heart, without the pilot of grace and without helm, dreads to run into the abyss. And unless Thou receivest me into Thy bosom, mitigating with clemency the raging waves of Thy wrath, I justly fear the perdition I have deserved.

`Withhold, O Lord, Thy hands. for, though hitherto I have been abhorred, yet, after my repentance, because of what Thou art and because of what I fear, I still merit being loved, because Faith teaches me that Thy merits can obtain everything, and that the greatest sinner may hope for everything from Thy great mercy; for, being infinite, it covers the gravity of all sins.

And now that Thou has restored to me the knowledge of Thyself, O Lord, let thy pardon fall on me, since Thy infinite mercy is not better known in anything than in pardoning a Dismas (the traditional name of the good thief) on the Cross and a Dominicus Corea on the gallows. If in Hell there is room for sinners, in Heaven also there is room for penitents. Sentenced to death, at last the day came when he was to be publicly executed. They set up a theater, in the `most public place in the City, with mourning suited to his dignity’.

Corea mounted it with calm mien and firm tread, and, facing the thousands who had assembled to see him die, delivered the following address; Benign and clement Judge, Catholic and venerable people . So great is the enormity of my sins that, if I had a hundred lives, with them all I would not be able to pay for the least of my sins. And as I know the abundant cause I have given you to abhor your obscure and ungrateful country-man, I beg a general pardon from all for all my wickedness. In this last point and bitter transit to which my ambitious will has brought me. Because when I was free and rich, I gave myself entirely to sensuality, and within my heart, there formed a contagious and perverse habit, which increased, and dragged me from vice to vice, to the state in which you see me, where, when my body has paid for the wicked deeds I have committed, I shall be to you a horrible spectacle, and to posterity a memorable example. A lesson, to all who walk the corridors of power.

Both hands were first cut off and then his head after which the body was quartered and the parts placed in four prominent places in the city. He was 31 years at the time of his death. The Portuguese took his head and suspended it on pole at Atulugama, where he was first crowned King of Kotte, for the urchins to make sport of. A lascorin who fought under Dominicus Corea rescued the head and buried it. It is written that the Portugues do so, out of a spirit of vindictiveness.

Dominicus Corea had a posthumous son, Lewis Corea who became the Dissawe of Uva. Sir Paul Peiris wrote that `With the disappearance of Dominicus Corea, came a short lull in military operations of which the Portuguese officials availed themselves to give free rein to that rapacity which so frequently disgraced their careers in the East’. Dominicus Corea was succeeded by his brother Simon, as Dissawe of the Sat Korale, Kotte and Sitawaka.

Deva Corea