|The Palace of Empress Mahabandige Kusumasena Devi-Dona
Dr. K. P. V. D. Fernando
This palace was situated in the Sabaragamuwa province in the district of Kegalle, in the Parana Karu Korale, Mawathagam Pattuwa, at the border of Rockhill Estate, Kegalle in the archaeological reserve declared in the early 20th Century.
This archaeological reserve of 6 1/2 acres was acquired from the LRC by a prominent citizen of Kegalle who sold to the Mussulemen for hundred and thirty five thousand rupees.
The former G.A. Mr. L. U. C. Kuruppu allotted with untold difficulty and kept back a mere half an acre of this historical site to build an edifice to commemorate our first Catholic Queen of Kande Uda Pas Rata. This was in order to continue lighting an oil lamp in perpetual memory of Queen Dona Catherina, as was done for the last several centuries, under an old gnarled tree.
Queen Dona Catherina left the palace of Kandy after her second husband King Senarat poisoned her eldest son prince Maha Asthana - the heir to throne, in order to the pave the way to install his own son prince Rajasinghe. She built this palace at Welimannathota, where she lived with her children after abandoning King Senarat. Prince Rajasinghe later ascended the throne as King Rajasinghe the Second - Rasin Deiyo.
Queen Dona Catherina was the sole child survivor of a smallpox epidemic which wiped out her entire family, the family of Karaliyadde Bandara. As an orphan she was brought up by the Nuns of the convent at Mannar.
Queen Dona Catherina during her last illness travelled in the Royal palanquin from her palace at Welimannathota to visit her Royal Vedarala at Hettimulla close by.
On her death bed she appointed Kuruwita Rala, the second prince of Uva and prince, Marcellous of Migonna as her regents and guardians of her children. He was Antonio Barreto, a lascoreen from Negombo who rose to this prestigious royal position as the second prince of Uva, due to his courage and devotion to the Royal Kandyan Family. She was finally laid to rest in the mausoleum built by Kuruwita Rala in the palace premises at Welimannathota vide Baldeus and Constantinu Hatana.
Every effort was made to preserve this declared archaeological site but it was of no avail. This site had remains of four foot thick foundations and the place was strewn with Kandyan tiles and other palace debris. It should be recorded with disgust that a Sinhalese Catholic official who came to inspect this site, officially rejected it saying that, "It had nothing of any historical importance". This "Inspection" was done without even stepping out of his "limousine" and was probably given to please his superiors and relevant high authorities.
Thus he paved the way to officially hand over this priceless reserve to the Mussulmen, he was the Asst. Commissioner of Archaeology who came to declare officially that this site was of no significance archaeologically.
Thanks to the untiring efforts of former G A., Mr. L. U. C. Kuruppu, the attempt to acquire the entire land by the Muslims with powerful connections was prevented and half an acre was officially alloted to build a suitable memorial to Queen Dona Catherina.
This half an acre in being encroached by the Mussullmen hordes a special restrictive order was given by the then G.A, not to destroy the Mauseolum of both that of our beloved last Catholic Queen Maha Bandige Dona Kusumasena Devi - Dona Catherina and of the deceased Prince Mahasthana.
A Grama Sevaka Niladari was commissioned to demarcate this half an acre. But unfortunately he returned without performing his official duty. Even today this officially reserved half an acre is not properly demarcated and fenced off.
Recently this historic mausoleum was ransacked by an irreligious hoard where they desecrated Queen Dona Catherinas mortal remains by scattering her bones. According to rumours, the holy rosary of pearls wound around her hands, together with Bible and priceless royal jewellery were pilfered from her grave by the Musselman Hordes, yes these Goni Billas.
Preparations should be made to construct a memorial at this grave site, to appease the provoked spirit of " the sole survivor of the ancient Suriya Wansa Royal Kshatriya Kula Sinhala line" and give her eternal rest. Therefore, we implore the proper authorities to officially demarcate this neglected site of a half acre in order to build a suitable edifice to commemorate Queen Dona Catherina and to light a perpetual oil lamp in her memory, similar to the oil lamp lit by Cundanrnaliyalwa - Suriavalli, daughter of Kulatunga Cholar Deva - wife of Weera Perumal (Manabarana) the Pandiyanar (father of king Parakkrama Bahu the Great) who gave ten "Kacu" to maintain this oil lamp in perpetuity" vide the Budhumuttawa Copper Plate Charter.
All Sinhalese should get together to pay homage to this Suriya Wansa Queen Maha Patabandige Kusumasena Devi and pray that this edifice comes to pass, so that a permanent oil lamp in her memory can be lit as it was continuously done until recently, under the shade of an old gnarled tree which too was destroyed by these Musselman hordes.
And as Mark Anthony declared at the burial of Julius Caesar - "Friends Roman Countrymen lend me your years I come to burry Caeser and not to praise him". In similar fashion I as a Kegalle citizen implore all our Sinhalese brothren irrespective of caste or creed to come forward to fight for our rights and privileges to form a restoration society in order just to re-build an edifice, to collect the scattered bones thrown out of beloved Queen Dona Catherina and lay her to rest eternally and to light coconut oil lamp permanently in her perpetual memory and in the records of Kshatriya Kula, Lord Sakya Muni. Gauthama - "May all beings be happy."
Anitha Vessa Sankara
And this restoration is in our hands come what may and let us all do our duty.
Akin to the charge of the light brigade- forward march charged the noble six hundred and dont retreat under any circumstances till you, achieve your ends.