This site is a mirror of the original site, made in 2022 by Heraldry of the World. The original site is unaltered. This mirror functions as an archive to keep the material available on-line.
All rights remain with the late Hubert de Vries, the original site owner.





The Empire

The State

The People

The Nation

The Ruler

The Sinhalese Lion


Back to Sri Lanka




Sri Lanka appears to have been inhabited from as early as 125,000 BC. Balangoda Man was the ancestor of the present day Veddhas, a racial minority now inhabiting remote forests. The Great Dynasty (Mahavamsa) of the Sinhalese was established in 543 BC by King Vijaya, who came with his followers (the Sinhala or ‘Lion Race’) from Bengal and settled in the north. Traces of the vast irrigation system they established still exist. About 300 years later, a royal prince from India named Mahinda, son of Asoka, introduced Buddhism. Tamil settlements began in the 10th century AD, and gave rise to a Tamil kingdom in Jaffna. There was a long struggle between Sinhalese and Tamil kings for the control of the north of the island.

By the end of the 13th century, the Sinhalese were forced to migrate to the south. Malaria set in when the irrigation and drainage systems were destroyed by continuing warfare. The Sinhalese population split into two separate kingdoms at the end of the 15th century, the up-country kingdom of Kandy and the low-country kingdom of Kotte.


The Kingdom of Kotte was established in 1412. It was absorbed at the end of the 16th century (1597) by Portugal. In the first half of the 17th century the Portuguese were defeated by the Dutch as a result of the Dutch-Portuguese war. At the end of the 18th century the Dutch posessions on Ceylon were annexated by the British.


The Kingdom of Kandy was located in the central and eastern portion of the island. It was founded in 1473 and endured until the early 19th century. Initially a client kingdom of the Kingdom of Kotte, Kandy gradually established itself as an independent force during the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries, allying at various times with the Jaffna Kingdom, the Madurai Nayak Dynasty of South India, Sitawaka, the Portuguese and the Dutch to ensure its survival. From 1597, it was the sole independent native polity on the island of Sri Lanka, and through a combination of hit-and-run tactics and diplomacy kept European colonial forces - in particular the British - at bay, before finally succumbing to the third and last colonial ruler in 1818. The kingdom was absorbed into the British Empire as a protectorate following the Kandyan Convention of 1815, and definitively lost its sovereignty following the Uva Rebellion of 1817.


In 1817 Kandy and the former kingdoms of Kotte and Jaffna were united under British rule.




As the sinhalese empires were highly organized states and offsprings from the Indus culture, the sociopolitical  symbols of the parts of society were also developed on the island. These were symbols for the empire, the state and its ranges of authority, the ruler and a system of badges of rank.

(See also: Bharat, Introduction)


The Empire


Like in many other societies the Sinhala empire was symbolized by a sun. Contrary to the very ancient Egyptian and Chinese sun, which was always depicted as a red disc, the sinhalese sun is sometimes radiant and sometimes also just a red disc. The sun radiant as an emblem of the empire has its origin in ancient Mesopotamia from where examples are known from the late third millennium BC..Early sinhalese examples are this throne of unknown origin and date and an early mediaeval astamangala stone slab from Anuradhaphura, now in Colombo National Museum. [1]


Sun throne




The throne shows a sun radiant surrounded by a zodiac, supported by two lotus-flowers which are the symbol of administrative authority. When seated on this throne the ruler is represented as “the Ruler of the Empire”. Such seats, the sun making a halo around the head of the ruler, are also known from other cultures, for example from mediaeval Europe.

The astamangala (about 90Í90 cm) shows a lotus flower charged with a sun radiant symbolizing the administrative authority of the empire. Surrounding this administrative authority are the institutions of srivatsa (throne, law), ankusa (rod for driving elephants, leadership), svastika (enlightenment, longevity) and sankha (conch, spoken word), each supported by a pair of animals, symbolizing the four weapons of the sinhalese armed forces: elephant, bull, horse and lion. Each side of the square also symbolizes a point of the compass and in this way the astamangala symbolizes the empire in a wider sense, comprising terms for heaven, the government, the people (that is: all armed men) and the territory.

Sun radiant on a fresco in Degaldoruwa temple, 1771


Younger examples of a sun radiant are very scarce. From the middle of the 17th c. the sun is usually charged with the portrait of the ruler, making a faced sun symbolizing the ruler of the empire. In the kingdoms of Kotte and Kandy the faced sun apparently was considered to be the symbol of the Empire, at the same time illustrating the pretensions of the royal family to be the descendants of the Sun God Suriya.

It was painted on round screens displayed in the near vicinity of the ruler.

Faced sun on the Salagama Banner, 17th century. [2]

The sun is accompanied by nine stars and a moon. Below is the image of the ruler., the umbrella symbolizing his rank

Sun screen and umbrella

 from the time of Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-’82) in Degaldoruwa Temple



Sun-screens of King Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782–’98)

On a kandyan fan in the British Museum and from a Sinhalese painting reproduced 1821 [3].

Sun flag Nelummal maha kodiya of the Udapalata. [4]

Probably from the time of Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815) or later.


The State


The sinhalese state is symbolized by a moon. Probably it came to Ceylon by Buddhism in which it is supporting the seat of the Buddha and the various Boddhisattvas. As a result of its position pictures of a full moon are scarce because most of the time the moon-disc is between the seat of the ruler and a lotus in a horizontal position and hardly visible.


Moon-stone of Anuradhapura 10th-11th c AD.


This stone is symbolizing the state (moon), administrative authority (lotus), the civil officials (geese). and the military officials (the four beasts). It does not comprise the symbols for the empire (a sun) and of the priests (religious officials), these symbols probably being depicted in the interior of the temple of which the moon-stone was the threshold.


Early sinhalese examples of the moon show a disc or a demi-disc but younger examples show a crescent which is not of buddhist but of ancient hellenistic (and for that reason of christian and muslim) origin. Crescents can be seen on 18th and 19th c. Kandyan flags when they are depicted together with a red sun-disc.

Crescent and sun on the Sinha Kodiya (Matara)


Sometimes the crescent has a face and this in fact symbolizes the head of state.

In another version the crescent encloses a rabbit which is the symbol of fertility and of the queen, often head of state. In more recent times the crescent-and-rabbit is the symbol of burmese queens.


Maybe of some importance in this context is the fact that in the early 16th century the royal shield was round and white, thus making a picture of the moon. 

Perera writes:


“The royal shield was white [5] with the device of a conch shell (sak paliha) [6] This was of considerable antiquity, and was granted as a signal mark of royal favour to chiefs who had distinguished themselves.


‘Not many days after this the king of the hill country raised a rebellion in the Hatara Kórale. Dharma Parákrama Báhu (1505-’27) having heard of this committed the army to his younger brother, Sakalakala Walla of Udungampola, and sent him to seize the hill country. Accordingly, Sakalakala Walla encamped in the heart of Yatinuware. The king of the hill country came to meet him, and in token of homage sent the pearl umbrella, the conch shield (i.e., the royal shield emblazoned with the white conch) and the chain of honour (derisana mále).  [..........] [7]


According to DeCouto the Crown Prince of Jaffna was distinguished from his followers by his white shield, probably by the sak paliha, as he prevented the landing of the Portuguese.


‘And on setting foot on land, there came to meet them the hereditary prince of the kingdom with two thousand men, he being conspicious in the front with a shield entirely white, uttering their battle-cries and shouts of defiance like men that intended to prevent the disembarkation.’[8]


Such a shield was displayed in the vicinity of the ruler, the other emblem being the sun-screen. The documents available on which the shield is seen, shows it upheld by a servant, the “moon-side” turned away from the viewer. 

In the Kingdom of Kandy the full moon was replaced by a crescent. This can be seen on the 17th century Salagama Banner on which there is a circular white moon with a small yellow crescent. Later versions show the crescent with a face and the last version the crescent encloses a rabbit.


“Moon” shields

On an ivory chest from Kotte, 1543 (Treasury of the Residenz. Munich) and on a  Sinhalese painting reproduced 1821


The Ranges of Authority


The ranges of authority were, as in other cultures, religious authority, administrative authority and armed authority.

The symbol of religious authority in the hindu era was a conch shell (sanka). Later we see in Kandy also the christian latin cross and the bo-pat leaf of the sacred Bodhi tree, a Ficus religiosa, the tree under which the Buddha attained his enlightenment. 


Conch and Bo-pat-leaves, the second from the 15th century


The symbol of administrative authority was a lotus flower which was depicted seen from above in the hindu era. In the 17th century and later the flower was depicted closed and still later, in the 19th century in a more or less naturalistic way.


Sinhalese Lotus, 12th, 15th 17th, 18th and 19th centuries


The symbol of armed authority in the hindu era was a club but in the Buddhist and Christian era it was a sword Kastana. It is characterized by its short curved blade and highly decorative hilt and scabbard.

Such swords were the badge of rank of the king and all high-ranking warriors.




The People


Unlike in many other societies a symbol for the people was a part of the constellation of socio-political symbols. Initially the people was defined as the warriors, the weapons being symbolized by a lion, an elephant, a horse and a bull. At a certain time, the bull was omitted from these symbols. After the introduction of Buddhism and Christianity the people was symbolized by stars, disregarding its social status but probably still representing the warriors. 


The Nation


The emblems of the Empire, the State and the People were combined on a flag which can be qualified to be the national flag. Such a flag was the ira handa maha kodiya (sun, moon [and stars] great flag) of the Hatara Korale Disawa.

Flag of the Hatara Korale Disáwa, Kegalla. 19th century [9]


The sun and moon flag seems to be of considerable antiquity. In the Mahabarata it is said that when the god-king Rama proceeded from Devundara (Dondra) to Alutnuwara in great state, with a four-fold army “like unto a festival of the gods,” the flag emblazoned with emblems of sun and moon (sóma rivi ruva pihiti kodiya) was borne in front. In the Kingdom of Kandy the flag was displayed in processions by the Hatara Korale but it is not known when it was introduced. [10] Probably the tradition of the flag was invented in Kandy in the 18th century by king Kirti Sri Rajasinha.

The Hatara Kórale became the premier disáwa (vice-king) of the Kandyan Kingdom when it fell from its position as a principality of the Kotte Kingdom.

“The Maha Dissáwa of the Four Kórales was privileged to lead the way in war, as well as at the annual daladá perahera, and on other like occasions to have borne before him five insignia as marks of special honour viz., the great sun and moon banner (ira-handa maha kodiya) the davunde (drum), pachcha lansa (green spear), ketariya or illukóla (javelin) and red flag.” [11]


Sun, crescent and stars are also on the late 18th century banners of some Dutch regiments, probably in the service of de Kandyan king. These banners have the arms of the States General of the Republic of the United Provinces in the corners.

Sun, crescent, decrescent  and stars banner. Obverse

The arms of the Dutch Republic in the corners. [12]


The two crescents remain unexplained but they may act as ‘supporters’of the sun here.


The Ruler


The ruler is symbolized by his image, that is to say by a portrait of him in full official dress. The royal mount was an elephant. (see the section about the moon) Diadem, sword, royal shoes, state umbrella, and chowry (chamara, i.e. yak-tail fan) were the five royal insignia.


An early image of a Sinhalese king shows him bearded and with a headdress, dressed in a long skirt. In the late portuguese era a shirt (kamisiya) was added and he was armed with a sword with a lion hilt (kastana). In the 17th century we see him dressed in trousers (udaya) and standing on a pedestal of three steps (asana) From 1737 the king is wearing a new crown, a shirt (kamisiya), a tunic (bo-hettaya), a cape (mante), trousers (udaya), slippers, earrings, necklaces and pendants. Suspended over his waist is a double-headed bird pendant known as a kurulu bendi malaya.  He holds in his left hand as an emblem, a lacquered arrow, and in his right hand, what appears to be a white kerchief. Also he stands on a pedestal (asana).


Statue said to be of Parakramabahu (1153-’86) in Polonnaruwa


King Vimaladharmasuriya (1590–1604)

The picture has been engraved after drawings made on Ceylon. [13]

The king wearing a crown, a collar and a (then old-fashioned) sword. Like his Kotte predecessors he is clean shaven


Rajasingha II (1634-’87)

from Robert Knox's Account of Ceylon, 1693

The king wearing a plumed headdress, trousers, shoes and a karave

In 1693 a throne was presented to king Vimaladharmasurya II (1687–1707) by the Dutch Governor Thomas van Ree (1693-’95).

A crown was made for king Vira Narendra Sinha (1707–’39) in 1737

Both were used until the fall of the kingdom in 1815.


Raja Singa, king of Candy (1739–’47) [14]

The king wearing a plumed headdress, trousers, shoes  and a karave


King Kirti Sri Rajasinha in Dambulla Temple

The King wearing the six-pointed crown, a long shirt (kamisiya), a tunic (bo-hettya), and a cape (mante), over which hangs a floral pendant. He wears patterned trousers and is barefooted.


Painted Panel of Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782–’98)

Sri Lanka, 18th century,  31Í21cm

The king wearing a crown surmounted by a boralaya, a shirt (kamisiya), a tunic (bo-hettaya), a cape (mante), trousers (udaya), slippers, earrings, necklaces and pendants. Suspended over his waist is a double-headed bird pendant known as a kurulu bendi malaya.  He holds in his left hand as an emblem, a lacquered arrow, and in his right hand, what appears to be a white kerchief. Befitting a king, he stands on a pedestal (adana).


Sri Vikrama Raja Singha 1798-1815

on a mural painting in Kandy



The Sinhalese Lion


In buddhism the lion is the supporter of the throne of Buddha. The lion of Buddha is also the supporting beast for the thrones or bases of various deities, often literally supporting the base with its up-raised claws in an Atlas-like pose. In this sense, as a supporter of the throne, the lion has been used also in the Sinhalese empires, most likely being the emblem of the royal guard or -guardians which is the first or ultimate line of defense of the king.


The lion is a very ancient emblem in sinhalese iconography, early examples on coins dating from the 1st century BC..

The lion was one of the four beasts symbolizing the weapons of the early Sinhalese army consisting of the guard, the elephant’s phalanx, the cavalry and the infantry. These were symbolized by a lion, an elephant, a horse and a bull.

The four beasts are carved on a 10th-11th century so-called moon-stone (Sandakada pahana) in Anuradhapura which shows a lotus charged with a moon-disc surrounded by a ring of geese and another, outer ring  of lions, elephants, horses and bulls (see the section about the moon).


Other examples of such arrangements are known from Urartu in Armenia and the well known four beasts in European culture (eagle, bull, lion and man) are related.


Bronze shield of king Argišti I  (785-753BC) from Karmir Blur (Urartu). [15]

Concentric rings of lions, bulls and lions around a sun.

The shield symbolizes the battle array of the Uratu empire.


Moon and lotus originate from the Hindu system of sociopolitical symbols, the other symbols being the cakra, the conch and the club, often depicted in the hands of Vishnu.

On the Anuradhapura stone the beasts apparently have an equal military status. This has changed on the sandakada pahana of the temple of Polonnaruwa.  This stone shows the moon surrounded by three concentric rings, the inner circle carved with horses, the second ring with elephants and the third with geese. Lions are on a frieze of the same temple.

A lion-throne is in the Council Chamber of King Nissankamalla (1187-’96) and this makes a military hierarchy, the head of state being the supreme commander and the commanders of the cavalry and the elephant phalanx of the second and third rank. The absence of the bulls would mean that the infantry was not commanded by the supreme commander or was of no importance.


Sandakada pahana of Polonnaruwa 12th c. AD.


Lion Throne of King Nissankamalla in Polonnaruwa late 12th c. AD


In the succeeding empires the battle array seems to have been maintained until the end of the Sinhalese Kingdom in 1815. In the last period of the Kingdom of Kandy the army was extended with some other weapons like the musketeers, the heavy- and the light artillery. Also new special services of the  army were organised adding ordnance, signals and couriers and trumpeters and drummers.


Still however, there was an elephants’ phalanx and cavalry whose commanders had an elephant and a horse for emblem. The commander of the guard bore a special flag, the lion being the emblem of the king then.

Lion on the staircase of Yapahuwa palace (1271-1302)

Woodcarving with lion

from Embakke devale palace of Gampola (1344–1405)


These representations of the Sinhalese lion were always in the context of the royal palace. Early 15th century a single lion was also displayed on a banner flying from the royal castle, as may be deduced from the following stanzas from the Perakumbásiritha (V. 91), ascribed to Sri Ráhula (1415-1467) which may be translated as follows:


Behold the Himalayan height (i.e. snowy rampart) bearing the lion banner on the northern side,

There heavenly maids sing to the lute this wise,

The only peer of King Parakum among the monarchs of the three worlds,

In the reflection of his own image shown in the mirror [16]


Very interesting data are furnished, again, in a Royal grant of the same period [17]. It invests a chief with the privilege of bearing the Lion flag, the double talipot palm sunshade, and ceremonial torches. [18]

In the 16th century the connection of the lion with the king becomes more distinct as it is depicted on objects belonging to him. This can be seen on two ivory caskets presented to the king of Portugal by the kings Bhuvenakabahu (1521-’51) and Dharmapala (1551-‘93) of Kotte.


The first chest was made at the court of the king of Kotte and was taken c. 1543 as a gift to Portugal, which had conquered parts of the island earlier in the sixteenth century. The ivory carvings depict the Ceylonese legation, dancers, musicians, people riding on elephants and scenes of homage and prayer.


Kotte Chest, detail. Frieze with lions.

The chest shows the king of Kotte in procession, riding an elephant.

 (Ivory, gold, rubies, sapphires; H. 18 cm), Kotte, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), around 1543. München, Treasury of the Residenz. Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria acquired the chest later in the century with the aid of the Fugger banking family.)


The second shows a frieze and  medallions with lions, together with portraits of the king.


Medallion and frieze with lions on an ivory chest, 1551 ca.

Casket. Kotte (Sri Lanka), mid to late 16th century  (10.9Í16.5Í10.1cm). Ivory, gold, glass, rubies, turquoise, and gilt bronze. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accession number: 1993.29. Bequest of William A. Coolidge.)


By 1565 the capital of Kotte was abandoned by King Dharmapala (baptised as King John Dharmapala) due to frequent attacks from the rebellious kings Mayadunne (of Sitawaka 1521-‘81) and his son Rajasinghe I (1581-’93) and he took refuge in Colombo under Portuguese protection. Most of the territory of Kotte Kingdom was annexed by Mayadunne and, after the downfall of Sitawaka in 1594, these territories were occupied by the Portuguese. In 1597 Dharmapala gave the Kotte Kingdom to the Portuguese king and Kotte ceased to exist, leaving the Kingdom of Kandy the only sinhalese kingdom on the island.

In the Portuguese, later Dutch part of the island an elephant was adopted as the emblem of the Governor. This had been the emblem of the commander of the elephant phalanx and/or commander-in- chief of the Kotte army. This left the sovereignty of the king of Kandy untouched.


The Arms of Dom Joăo, Prince of Kandy


Foto H.d.V. 1985

Arms of Dom Joăo, Prince of Kandy on his tomb in theTelheiras in Lissabon (1642).


D. Joăo de Cândia, also called The Black Prince, was born in 1578 as a son of D. Philip (Yamasinghe Bandara) who ruled Kandy for one year but had to go into exile in 1582. In 1588 Joăo was baptized together with his father in Goa and was made the heir of the kingdom in 1591. In 1610 he was brought to Portugal by order of king Philip III of Spain. He was kept at first in the monastery of St. Francis in Lissabon.

In 1625 he acquired a parcel in Telheiras where he founded a church and a monastery. He died in 1642 and was buried in Telheiras.


His royal coat of arms is preserved on his tomb. It may be described gu, within a bordure of  Castile a conical crown having a cross fleurie and a lion rampant, surmounted by an irradiated sun, all or.

The arms were probably granted by King Philip III after his arrival in Portugal. The charges are eastern, but the blazoning follows European rules of heraldry. The lion was the royal emblem, and the golden sun symbolized the Kingdom of Kandy or the Solar dynasty from which the monarchs of Ceylon drew their line.

The crown was the ancient sidde ottuna (celestial crown) shaped like a pagoda: the cross indicated that the prince was a Christian, Another possibility is that the crown represents the Temple of the Tooth containing the sacred Tooth Relic, brought to Kandy in 1595 by king Vimaladharmasurya (1590-1604).

The bordure of Castile, the same as the bordure of the royal arms of Portugal, may indicate that D. Joăo was considered to be a vassal of Portugal (which was united with Spain 1580-1640)  





The Kingdom of Kandy in the other half of the island apparently continued the use of the heraldic emblems of the Kotte Kingdom.

In the 17th century a red lion on a golden field was seen by Dr. Daalmans, a Belgian physician, who visited Ceylon in 1687, and described the royal standards borne at the military pageant held by the Dutch in Colombo in memory of the obsequies of Raja Sinha II. (1634-’87):


After this, that is after the company of sailors, followed four trumpeters and a kettledrum, all on horseback and in deep mourning, and the coat of arms of the King of Candien, which is a red lion on a golden field, to the best of my recollection, was designed all round on the cloths both of the kettledrums and of the bandrolls of the trumpeters. Next followed the great standard of the king, then two smaller ones, then a lef horse fully clothed in black velvet, then  the banner of the king, from the two ends of which tiffany or crape, two ells in lengthe, trailed behind ; then another led horse in mourning, then the gold spurs, the gloves, the golden dagger in its sheath, the helmet, the coat of mail. All these things were carried by petty merchants, all of whom were in mourning. After this followed the carriage, also in mourning, as well as the six horses, all hung with the king’s arms, and each horse led by a slave. [19]


In this quote the lion is called “the coat of arms of the King of Candien” for the first time.


A seal showing a lion passant with a sprig in his dexter claw is known from the reign of Vimaladharmasurya II (1687-1707), the sprig probably intended to make a difference with the Kotte lion.

Picture by courtesy of the KIT, Amsterdam

Seal on an envelope of a letter of the Kandy Government

 to the Dutch Governor Cornelis Simonsz (1703-’07)

http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/default.aspx?ccid=197866. TM-number: A-9018


Cast of the seal


The seal shows the sinhalese lion and the inscription uNj i,  (Mahava Sala = Great Court)

The salutation of  the letter reads: “In this talpota (= letter) sent to the governor who is courteous to the Great Court of our Beneficient and Noble King, Lord of the Earth”.

Which leaves open if the lion is the emblem of the king or the emblem of the (great) court.


The lion was also used by the kings of the Nayakar Dynasty (1739-1815).


                               Photo  Museum Meermanno Westreenianum

Wax-seal of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy (1747-’82)

on a letter to the Dutch Governor Iman Willem Falck,  1772.

Sinhalese lion between the words uNj i,  (Mahava Sala = Great Court)

(Coll. Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, The Hague. Ć ca. 4 cm.)


The sprig in the dexter paw of the lion was replaced by a sword in the last years of the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha. It is on the picture of a flag in the very old Dambulla Temple. Dambulla temple came into prominence as a religious centre in the 18th century. In the Dambulu Vihara Tudaputa (a palm-leaf manuscript) of 1726, it is stated that king Senaratna (Senarat) (1604-‘35) of Kandy restored and repaired the temple. The last great royal benefactor of the temple was King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782) under whose patronage Buddhism revived in the Kandyan provinces. Cave No. 3, then used as a store room, was further excavated on the order of this king, and turned into another shrine roost. Also the paintings of Dambulla were renovated and painted again. Paintings in Cave No. 4 clearly represent the new school of Sinhalese painting which flourished in the Kandyan provinces after the 17th century.

The banners on the Dambulla frescoes are usually ascribed to the legendary kings Dutugemunu (Dutthagamani Abhaya 161-137 BC) and Elala but are distinctly contemporaneous with king Kirti Sri Rajasinha or his successor. The one of king Dutugemunu shows a lion passant with a sword and a sun and moon in chief.



Banner  carried by King Dutugemunu to battle on a fresco in Dambulla Temple


The sword is no doubt inspired by the sword of the Dutch lion, well known on the island by the time, also because the Dutch and the Kandyan were allies against the Portuguese. The arms of the Republic had been:  Or, a lion rampant Gules, a sword in his dexter and a bundle of arrows in his sinister claw. In the sixties of the 17th century the colours were reversed and the arms became: Gules, a lion rampant Or, a sword in his dexter and a bundle of arrows in his sinister claw.


A picture of a Kandyan delegation to the Dutch Governor in 1785 shows the lion with the sword on the round screen on the left which seems to be of the same design as the seal of the Great Court (the two others probably decorated with a sun and a lotus)

The  lion-flag however, shows the lion without sprig nor sword. Apparently the lion is red (?) on a white field with bo-pat leafs in the corners.


Envoys of the King of Kandy to the Dutch Governor, 20 November 1785

(Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Inv. nr. NG-1985-7-1-8)


In the time of Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815), after the eclipse of the Dutch on Ceylon in 1795,and when the British had taken over in their territories, the similarity between the Dutch lion and the Kandyan lion became even greater as the lion having a sword in his claws was depicted in gold on a red field, the bundle of arrows only missing.


The quite famous flag of Vikrama Rajasinha was captured at the fall of Kandy in 1815.

Flag of Vikrama Rajasinha in Chelsea Hospital.


A fragment of a manuscript on flags in the library of the Malwatte Vihára records:


‘The Sinhalese royal standard: a banner bearing the device of a lion holding a sword in its right paw. This was the flag of Sri Wikkrama Rája Sinha, (1798-1815) who became the Sinhalese King’


Edward W. Perera writes about this flag:


By rare good fortune, as stated in the Introduction, the writer discovered three Sinhalese banners at the Chelsea Hospital in 1908, two of them being representations of the royal standard. The design on one of them was completely faded, but the identity of the flag was made clear by a drawing in water colour hung upon the wall- gu., a lion pass. or, holding in the dexter paw a chowry of the last.. [20]

The other was the banner of the last King of  Kandy, Sri Wikkrama Rája Sinha (1798-1815), who surrendered in 1815 at the fall of Kandy. Together with the eagles of Napoleon, it was deposited at Whitehall Chapel, thence removed to the United Service Museum, and later to the Chelsea Hospital. This flag has since been renovated, and the emblem is clearly discernible, a lion passant holding a sword in its right paw, as described in the Malwatte manuscript. For the capture of Kandy, in 1815, Sir Robert Brownrigg, Bart, was granted by royal letters patent, as an honourable augmentation, the flag of the Kandyan monarch.


The second, faded, flag was probably reconstructed as follows:




Back to Main Page



© Hubert de Vries 2012-08-08



[1] Karunaratne, T.B.: The Astamangala figure on an Attani pillar of Sena I from Kivulekada, Sri Lanka. In: Senarat Paranavitana. Commemorative Volume. E.J. Brill, Leiden 1978. pp. 106-114.

[2] Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Brtain and Ireland. Vol. III, 1835 pp. 71 and 332. Perera, Edward W.: Sinhalese Banners and Standards. Colombo, 1916. P. 20 fig. II.

[3] Davy, John:  An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, and of Its Inhabitants: With Travels in that Island. London. 1821.  P. viii

[4] From: Fernando, Edith: Lanka Flags., unique Memorials of Heraldry. Colombo, 1980.

[5] He (i.e. the Portuguese General) had with him as a badge of royalty two Modeliares with white shields, and a great number of drummers and trumpeters,’- Royal Asiatic Society’s Journal (Ceylon Branch), Vol. XI., p. 574.

[6] See  Perera op.cit. Appendix.

[7] Perera op.cit. writes: B. Gunasekara Mudaliyar’s translation has been mainly followed. The error ‘Conch and Shield’ for ‘Conch Shield’ (Sin. sak paliha) has been corrected. (vide Rajavaliya, Sinhalese version, p. 59, and Mr. Donald Ferguson’s note in RASJ (Ceylon Branch) Vol XX, p. 187). But I think that the translation Conch and Shield  was correct.

[8] The family cognizance of the Maharajas of Travancore is a conch or chank shell, and the Rajas of Cochin bear a similar emblem with other symbols. Golden Book of India, pp. 319-52.

[9] From: Fernando, Edith M.G. op.cit., Fig.5.

[10] Perera op.cit. p.12.

[11] Perera op.cit citing: Bell, H.C.P.: Report on the Kegalla District Colombo 1892, p. 3, 125.

[12] From: Fernando, Edith M.G.:op.cit. p. 6. The reverse on p. 26. Another banner in Perera op.cit. fig 19 (obv.) and fig. 22 (rev). The banners are thought to be of the Hatara Korale Disawa by both authors. They have the dimensions of the banners of dutch brigades and batallions.

[13] From: Spilbergen, Joris van: Historis journael van de voyage met 3 schepen uyt Zeelant naer d' Oost-Indien onder het beleyt van den commandeur Joris van Spilbergen, sijn eerste reyse. Inden jare 1601, 1602, 1603, 1604. Amsterdam 1648.

[14] From: Bois, J.P.J. du: Histoire Générale Des Voyages, Ou Nouvelle Collection De Toutes Les Relations De Voyages Par Mer Et Par Terre,, part XI, opposite p. 155

[15] Berghe, Louis Vanden & Leon de Meyer: Urartu. Een vergeten cultuur uit het bergland Armenië. Gent, 1983. Afb. 35.

[16] Sri Parákrama Báhu VI of Kotte (1412-1467)

[17] In the Uggalboda sannas

[18] Perera, Edward W.: Sinhalese Banners and Standards. Colombo, 1916 p. 35 Who adds: This proves that the Royal insignia, including the standard, were conferred on chiefs whom the King specially delighted to honour.

[19] RASJ (Ceylon Branch), Vol. X., pp. 149, 150.

[20] Diadem, sword, royal shoes, state umbrella, and chowry (chamara, i.e. yak-tail fan) were the five royal insignia.

Flag Counter In cooperation with Heraldry of the World