Dissava was a feudal and colonial official in Sri Lanka. Originating from the Sinhalese kingdoms, it was retained under the successive European colonial powers, namely the Portuguese Empire, the Dutch East India Company and the British Empire.
The Portuguese continued the administrative units of Disavanis, which existed in the territories the Portuguese gained from former Sinhalese kingdoms. During the Portuguese rule there were four such disavanis. The civil, military and judicial administration of these units where carried out by a Dissava appointed by the Portuguese Captain General in keeping with the tradition of the land. The Dissava led the Lascarins which was the local militia in time of war. Initially both Sinhalese and Portuguese were appointed to this post, thereafter Portuguese were preferred. He was assisted in military functions by Mudaliyars, Muhandirams and Arachchis. In judicial functions he was assisted by Basnayakas and Mohottalas. Each Disavanis was divided into sub units called Korales. These were presided by a Korale Vidana, who was a magistrate and revenue collector.
The Dutch continued the system of administration of the Portuguese, but gradually reduced the power of the local headmen. The Dissava s were members of the Political Council of the Commendary the locality they belong to.
Persons were appointed to the title and office by the King during the Kingdom of Kandy, these appointees headed the administration of a large province of the Kingdom known as a Dissava and was the king's personal representative, tax collector in that area. There were twenty one provinces of which twelve of the larger out lying provinces where Dissava. There was no time limit for the officer holder as he held the post at the pleasure of the King, which meant throughout his life, if not incurred the displeasure of the King. It was not hereditary, although members of the same family have been appointed.
As king's personal representative in a province they held much power, controlled the civil administration, taxation, judicial, law enforcement and military matters of the province. Many close relatives of the King being commonly appointed. They received a portion of the taxation as pay and also large land grants from the King, some being hereditary. Along with Adigars and a few others high officials of the kingdom they made up the Radala caste, who were referred to as the Chieftains of Kandy by the British. Many were instrumental in the surrender of the Kandyan Kingdom to the British and were signatories to the Kandyan Convention in 1815.
- Ten Dissavas of the Kandyan Kingdom
- Dissava of Wellassa & Bintenna
- Dissava of Matale
- Dissava of Uda-Palatha
- Dissava of Nuwara Kalawiya
- Dissava of Sath Korles
- Dissava of Thun Korles
- Dissava of Sabaragamuwa
- Dissava of Hathra Korles
- Dissava of Uva
- Dissava of Tamankaduwa
Following the expansion of British rule into the provinces of the former Kandyan Kingdom since 1815, the British retained the office of Dissava appointing Kandyans loyal to the British Crown. Following the Uva Rebellion in 1818 and changers to the administrative divisions of the island with the creation of Districts, British Government Agents took over the duties of the Dissava, with the remaining and newly appointed Dissavas being mere honorary titles. After Ceylon gained independence in 1947 these appointments were never made.
- Molligoda Adigar - Singularity to the Kandyan Convention, 1st (Maha) Adikar & Dissawa of the Sath (Seven) Korles
- Keppetipola Disawe - Leader of the Uva Rebellion of 1818
- P.B. Bulankulame Dissava - Ceylonese Cabinet Minister
- Barnes Ratwatte Dissawe - Politician
- Harris Leuke Ratwatte Dissawe - Politician