This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa’, the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
The battle of Vijithapura
There 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.

However 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.

The 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.

After 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.

Kandula, 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”.

Encouraged 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”.

Kandula 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.

Then 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
Illustrated by
Saman Kalubowila

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