article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa’,
the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
battle of Vijithapura
prevailed a peaceful atmosphere in ‘Pihiti Rata’. King
Dutugemunu, who witnessed the bravery of his soldiers decided to
give them further training. Meanwhile the Tamil commanders were
strengthening their hold on Vijithapura. After the lapse of a few
days of peace, the king advanced and besieged the fortress at Vijithapura.
strong, the king’s army was, it was no easy task to attack
the fortress. It has been so well defended. Around the fort was
a huge wall, which was about 27 feet in height. Next there were
three deep trenches. Around the fort, there were clever archers
on guard at short intervals. At every iron gate soldiers were kept
on guard. In addition, there was the traditional army of elephants,
horses, chariots and foot-soldiers.
Sinhala army began to attack fearlessly. The enemy retaliated. There
was a serious battle at the southern gate. At the eastern gate,
warrior Velusumana was fighting the Tamil soldiers. They too, were
not likely to give in.
a long battle, Velusumana succeeded in defeating them. The Tamil
soldiers dropped their weapons and fled into the city. The archers
who wanted to run for life, climbed and went inside the fort. There
was trouble at the southern gate. The elephant Kandula, along with
warriors Nandimitra and Suranimala, were attempting to break open
the gate. Mahasona, Gothaimbara and Theraputtabhaya were alert at
the northern gate. The Tamil soldiers, who were confined to the
fortress, were now mad with rage. They began to attack the Sinhala
forces with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on.
placing himself upon his knees, and battering stones, mortar and
bricks with his tusks, went on attacking the iron gate. The enemy
soldiers, who noticed this, hurled weapons at the elephant. The
elephant continued regardless. Then the enemy threw balls of red-hot
iron on to the elephant. Kandula managed to dodge them. They then
poured molten pitch. Kandula, forgetting where he was , ran and
jumped into a pool of water to ease his burns. He went on diving.
Noticing this, Gothaimbara ran to him and said, “Let’s
not give up. It is not impossible to break open the gate”.
by these words, the elephant trumpeted and came out of the water.
The physicians, who were at the scene to attend to Kandula’s
wounds, washed the pitch away, cleaned the wounds and applied medicine.
The king, realizing that the elephant was in pain, went up to him.
He stroked his head lovingly and said, “Kandula, you who were
born on the same day as I, have and right to this country of Lanka”.
was greatly pleased with the words of the king. He nodded in appreciation
and ran up to the southern gate once more. Roaring like thunder,
Kandula pushed the iron gate with new force. The enemy soldiers
were scared of the loud noise the elephant made and retreated into
the fort. The southern entrance was put down. At this point, one
of the iron pillars, was almost falling on Kandula, when warrior
Nandimitra jumped forward and pushed it away with his shoulders.
Kandula was safe.
the elephant eased the earlier wrath he had nursed against Nandimitra,
for seizing him by the tusks. He looked at Nandimitra, as if inviting
him to ride on him. Nandimitra did not do so. Instead, he, with
his arms attacked the wall and it came crumbling down.
By Halaliye Karunathilaka
Edited and translated by Kamala Silva