SIMON COREA NAVARATNA BANDARA – DISAWE OF SATH KORALE, KOTTE AND SITAWAKA
Simon Corea was the younger brother of Dominicus Corea. They were the sons of Jeronimo Corea the `Interpreter and Colombo Aratchi’ to the King of Kotte, Don Juan Dharmapala. Their mother was Anna Devi and they had a sister who married Belthazar Monis.
The brothers grew up in the precincts of the palace, by virtue of the position held by their father Jeronimo Corea, who was assassinated by Rajasinghe, the son of Mayadunna King of Sitawaka. The brothers Dominicus and Simon were sent to Colombo for their safety and grew up with the young prince Konnapu Bandara, who ruled the Kandyan Kingdom as King Wimaladharmasuriya-I. They were both trained in sport and martial arts, especially as swordsmen.
On the death of his brother Dominicus Corea, Simon married his widow, who was at the time pregnant by Dominicus Corea and later gave birth to Lewis Corea. Lewis Corea was later the Disawe of Uva. This is confirmed by Queroz (page 611) who states, `He sent Simon Corea with his nephew Don Lewis’. Simon Corea later married Boyaganne Kumarihamy and Mademoiselle Braganza. Dona Braganza lived in Kotahena in Colombo in a house that is today the ‘Leather Factory’, on the banks of the Kelani River and no doubt her descendants reside in Kotahena.
De Barros and De Couto wrote (Journal R.A.S. Vol. XX No. 60 of 1908, page 417) that `This Simon Corea had taken the title of King of Seitavaca, to whom the tyrant gave a fair sized army of picked troops and of the most practiced modeliares of his kingdom and among these there would be a thousand fire-locks; and he commanded the King of Uva to get ready with the rest of his forces to go in his rear and support him’.
The Rajavaliya states that after the death of Dominicus Corea his brother Simon Corea was captured by King Dharmapala and banished to Goa where he was sentenced to death and spared execution when a Portuguese maiden offered to marry him and that he later returned to Ceylon. The Rajavaliya records that under pressure by the armies of King Wimaladharmasuriya, Dharmapala King of Kotte sent for Simon Corea and embracing and kissing him said, `My brother fight with these enemies and save my honour’. It is further recorded that Simon Corea captured the warrior Kannangara and put Kuruppu Mudali to flight causing Wimaladharmasuriya to retreat to the hill country leaving the lowlands in the hands of the Portuguese and that Simon Corea lead seven campaigns into the hill country and finally died of an `inflammatory disorder’.
Paul Peiris in contradiction writes that the King recommended that the Sinhala Vidanes should be replaced by Portuguese and that Corea (Simao) himself, who had always been a suspect, be deported. It was however pointed out to him that such a policy would create a degree of dissatisfaction among the more influential natives, which might prove a serious menace to the peace of the country. (Ceylon and the Portuguese 1505-1658, Peiris). Simon Corea was however sent to the Inquisition in Goa, from which he returned. (Queroz –page 532). Further detail on the subject is given in Ferguson’s `History of Ceylon from the earliest times to 1600 AD’, Joao de Barros – Diogo De’Couto 1908, No-60, P.407, from 1777-1778 Standard Editions, Journal R.A.S. Ceylon Vol XX Page 417 Doc Rem ii 134, 309 iii 200, Ribeiro’s Ceilao 1909 P.191 from Lisbon ed. 1836, original 1685.
According to Phillip Baldaeus however (Chapter Six – page 30), after his brother’s death Simon Corea was received by the Portuguese with great honour and becoming courtesy’, giving him the government of a country and a Portuguese lady in marriage. But as soon as she was found to be pregnant by him, she was safely kept by them in Colombo. According to Baldaeus, Simon Corea instead of avenging his brother’s death seemingly took up arms against the Emperor and the realm of Candy whilst he was secretly informing Don Juan to be on the lookout.
Simon Corea accompanied his brother Dominicus Corea throughout his campaigns and was a seasoned fighter and veteran campaigner in his own right. He succeeded his brother Dominicus as King of the Sat Korale, Kotte and Sitawaka, till his demise in 1615. Simon Corea’s death in battle, at Vellevayar (Wellawaya) is documented by Queroz in P.778 of `Conquest of Ceylon’.
Dominicus Corea was the first Disawe of the Sat Korale during the Portuguese era and according to De Queyroz: “The city of Kurunegala which within the short period of his kingship, Domingos Corea had built like a robber among rugged and inaccessible mountains. Domingos Corea according to folklore was, fond of bathing at a spout behind the Government Agent’s Residence at the base of `Ibbagala’ or ‘Tortoise Rock’, so called because of its shape. On his death in 1596, his brother Simao Corea succeeded him as the Disave of Sat Korale and is said to have built the Kurunegala lake. Construction it said could not be completed as the bund kept giving way and soothsayers advocated a human sacrifice to which the ruler would not permit. Simao Corea’s son by a lady from Boyaganne, reportedly, sat in the breach and was covered, in oil-cakes and milk-rice, offering himself as a human sacrifice. The bund thereafter never gave way.
Sir Paul Peiris in his notes on the `Portuguese Era’, wrote that the village next to Boyagane was occupied by those of the Saliya caste, the descendants of Simao Corea’s palanquin bearers. The residence of Simao Corea who ruled from 1596 to 1621 was at Mettiyagane, where his fort, is still identified as ‘Kotuwewatte’ and the pond he bathed in, as ‘Rajapokuna’. Adjoining this pond is a little Roman Catholic church Simao Corea built. He endowed this place of worship with a plot of land, sufficient in area to plant 200 coconut trees, as this was the manner in which land extents were measured at the time. The annual festival at this church is attended by Colombo Chetties from Pettah, who own much of the surrounding land. Mr. Hunukumbure who lived in Getuwana Road, possesses a `Silver Sannasa’, which is a grant of land to the Hunukumbure family gifted by Simao Corea to an ancestor, who was a tutor to Simao Corea’s children by the lady from Boyagane.
The Sat Korale flag which is today to be seen in the Kubaldiwela Temple in Kegalle is said to be that of Simao Corea. It is not confirmed that this was the same flag that belonged to his brother Domingo Corea. This flag was captured by the man who killed Simao Corea at the battle of Wellawaya, when he died alongside Constantine de Saa. The descendants of this man bear the family name of, ‘Simon Corea Meru Mudiyanselage’ or ‘The Mudaliyar who killed Simon Corea’. Robert Knox in his book,
A Historical Relation of Ceylon’ refers to a Simon Caree said to be a great Sinhala General, but of a cruel mind. According to Sir Paul Peiris, he was known as Kusal Nethi Deiya’, or the ‘King without mercy’ and is today considered a deity, with a Devale (Temple) built in his memory at Kataragama, where devotees make offerings to appease and obtain his blessings.