Malays in Kandy

Kandy Malay Association


The central kingdom of Kandy had been a refuge for Malays deserting or escaping from the colonial powers ever since the Portuguese times. Malays fighting for the Sinhalese king Rahju against the Portuguese in 1587 are mentioned by Powell (1973:26).

During Dutch and British rule, more Malays had escaped the colonial forces and fled to Kandy. The first Malay reported to have done so during Dutch times was a royal exile who slipped into Kandy in 1742 (Hussainmiya 1990:69). In 1765/66 the Dutch General Baron van Eck left behind a large number of Malay soldiers when retreating to Colombo (Powell 1973:37f). Generally, the deserted soldiers and runaway slaves were held in high esteem by the Kandyan king (Hussainmiya 1990:78). The Britishcould not prevent desertions to Kandy either (Hussainmiya 1990:67).

The Kandy Malays remained true to their military inclination in Kandy as welland served as soldiers, guards, and even as bodyguards for the king. After the BritishKandyan wars, the Kandyan king Wickremasinghe was eager to assure their loyalty.But Wickremasinghe lost his temper at the end of his reign (Hussainmiya 1990:71) and the loyalty of the 200–300 Kandy Malays was split in the 1815 war with the  British (Hussainmiya 1990:82f). The Kandyans lost the war, sealing the fate of the last Sinhalese kingdom in Lanka (De Silva 1981:220ff).
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