Second Kandy-Dutch War - 1761-1766

 Extract from Chryshane Mendis's MA Thesis titled "Fortifications and the Landscape: A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka" , 2020, University of Amsterdam.

Second Kandy-Dutch War - 1761-1766

The long sustained peace between the Dutch and Kandy was crumbling by the mid-18th century due to the economic tug of war and harsh policies by the Dutch on their own subjects. From 1757 onwards there were complaints to the Kandyan King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1782) from the people of the Dutch territories on the injustices faced by them,[1] and these were eagerly attended to by Kandy. Towards the end of 1760 many Sinhalese inhabitants of the Dutch territories in the southwest were in open rebellion actively supported by Kandy. In early 1761, the Kandyan forces invaded the Dutch territories in the west and south west to aid the rebels. After a six week siege of Hanvälla, the fort capitulated and other assaults were directed to the lands around Negombo. The campaign for Mātara was better prepared and establishing themselves at famous rock temple of Mulkirigala, the Dutch forts of Hakmana, Katuvana and Tangalla were taken and a close siege of the Mātara fort was maintained which was eventually captured and destroyed[2] in March 1761. However by the middle of 1761 the Kandyan offensive died down. With the people of the Dutch territories realigning themselves to the Dutch, the Dutch took the offensive and drove out Kandyan forces including the recapture of Mātara fort and even expanded to capture the salt pans of Hambantota in early 1762.[3] On the west, they even moved into the Kandyan territory and occupied Chilaw and Puttalam, fortifying these posts and establishing many other posts in the Seven Kōralēs in 1763. The Kandyans had in the meantime established contact with the English East India Company in Madras and an embassy was sent to Kandy under John Pybus but no agreement came about this contact. Realizing this threat from the English, the Dutch turned their attention to the conquest of Kandy. By 1763 most of the Kandyan forces had been expelled from their territory and preparations were made for a campaign in the interior. Throughout this year the King sought out peace but the new Dutch Governor Lubbert Jan van Eck (1762-1765) refused and laid down his own terms;[4] which were the recognition of Dutch sovereignty over the lands and the cessation of the Three, Four and Seven Kōralēs, and the entire coastline of the island. A campaign was launched in 1764 to Kandy starting from six directions however all armies failed in their objectives and were turned back.

In January 1765 a fresh campaign was undertaken which took the route to Kandy via Kurunegala. The Dutch met with stiff opposition specially at Uhumiya but proceeded on and the Kandyan fort of Galagedara was captured. The next fort of Girihagama was then abandoned by the Kandyans and thus the route was cleared for the Dutch until Katugastota. The king sued for peace here as well but nevertheless the Dutch crossed the river and occupied the city of Kandy on February 19, with the king having fled to Hanguraketa. The garrison at Kandy was constantly attacked and plagued with sickness killing many; hence after almost six months of occupation they decided to abandon the city in August 1765. The army only avoided a total massacre when a Mudaliyar[5] showed them a secret path avoiding the fortified Balana pass.[6]

With this retreat both parties actively sought out peace talks, which began in December of that year. While the peace talks were in progress, the Dutch attempting to bring pressure on Kandy in agreeing to their terms, dispatched another expedition in January 1766 to threaten hostilities; this force marched up to Matalē and burned the palace there. In the meantime the peace treaty was signed on February 14, 1766 and the expeditionary force was withdrawn.

The treaty signed was a unilateral imposition of demands which the King signed under duress.[7] Through the treaty the legitimacy for Dutch territory was acknowledged and further a strip of one Sinhalese mile in width of the entire coast of the island[8] was ceded to the Dutch, thus officially giving them mastery of the entire littoral and making Kandy a landlock kingdom.

[1] Silva, K. M. de. ed., 1995. p.297

[2] Ibid p.298

[3] Ibid p.299

[4] Silva, K. M. de. ed., 1995. p.300

[5] Mudaliyar was a military officer of the lascorin force; also an honorific.

[6] Silva, K. M. de. ed., 1995. p.308

[7] Ibid p.313

[8] Ibid p.310


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