Funday Times - Mahavamsa

The fortress in Colombo
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history

1. The Portuguese governor sought permission to build a fortress in Colombo. After consulting his ministers, King Dharma Parakramabahu gave his consent. When the Muslims heard this, they were disturbed and they started protesting. They carried out a campaign saying – "if the Portuguese are allowed to step on this island, immense would be the problems we would have to face."

2. They managed to influence the ministers and the general public and somehow instigated them to rise up against the Portuguese. Once before too, the people objected when the Portuguese were erecting a room for stores.As they were influenced by the Muslims, a number of navy personnel who came by ship were caught by the Sinhalese. They put up a fence around the area where the store room was built.

By installing guns there, shots were fired towards the Portuguese ships. Arrows were shot and the store house was damaged. Albagaria too, ordered his men to shoot in return. An army was asked to land and set fire to the places where the Muslims were. They burnt their dwellings and later on marched towards Kotte, destroying the enemy.

4. This army could not go far. The Sinhalese attacked and the Portuguese were forced to retreat. But they did not allow the Sinhalese to get close to the stores. Cannon-balls were fired. The fence that was broken down was repaired. The governor Albagaria began to investigate as to who was behind these rebels.

5. He had suspicions about the Muslims. The king too was questioned and he too said that it was at the instigation of the Muslims that all this happened. Not paying any heed to the obstacles, the Portuguese governor started building a fortress. They decided to build the fortress on land that juts out to the sea – where the modern 'Break-water,' is built.

6. Initially, they started building a small building. Once it was built, cannons were installed for its protection. This fort was built of mortar and stone. Once all the construction work was complete, the Portuguese governor made a request to the king to put into effect the older agreement, where there was special mention, regarding the payment of tribute. When everything was finalised, Don Juan Silvaria, was appointed as the person in-charge of the fortress.

7. A regiment of a considerable number of soldiers was also stationed here. The governor went back home. The people, however, were not at all happy about the king giving permission to build this fortress. A group of people who opposed it, got together and attacked the fort, one night. A section of the wall was pulled down. Silvaria, the officer-in-charge complained about this, to the king.

8. The king tried to repair the wall. A few of the royal officials objected to it and as a result the king could not do it. In the midst of all this trouble, the king passed away. Prince Vijayabahu came to the throne.

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