The Last King’s Jail Cell.

The last jail cell, which people park trishaws park next to

The last jail cell of the last King of Sri Lanka is absurdly nestled in the shadow of the Ceylinco Building. It’s a few minutes from Dutch Hospital (O Bar) and is a nice way to show a date that you’re somewhat knowledgable about the city.

This whole area was shattered in the 1996 Central Bank bombing, so we doubt that this is the original structure. As it is, the last jail cell is a tiny building which looks like an ornate security post.

The King and Queen behind bars

Inside there are portraits of the King (Sri Vikrama Rajasinha), his wife (Queen Venkata Rengammal), the first Prime Minister to betray them (Pilimatalawe) and the British Governor General who took over (Robert Brownrigg). There’s also images of the ship that took him away and his final resting place in South India.

Our last king is interesting not because he was an especially good king (he lost both local support and the entire kingdom, all while being pretty tortuous and murderous) but because, well, he’s more of a metaphor.

Firstly, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was born Kannasamy Nayaka, in India, and he was Tamil speaking (among other things). That’s right, Sri Lanka was ruled by Madurai royalty for generations. It is his flag which forms the main part of the modern-day Sri Lankan flag and, while people point to this as a symbol of Sinhala chauvinism, it’s actually the standard of a Telugu/Tamil origin king.

Secondly, his somewhat absurd monument in the shadow of various skyscrapers and high-rises (the Bank Of Ceylon tower, the World Trade Centers, the InterContinental) shows how history passed this regent by. His kingdom was quickly cut up and devoured by the British and traitors within and that royalty is hardly remembered today.

You can, however, catch a random glimpse of history in the Ceylinco parking lot. If you’re at Dutch Hospital or thereabouts, it’s worth a gander.

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