Funday Times - Our History

The final battle of Veediya Bandara

This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
By Halaliye Karunathilake, Edited and translated by Kamala Silva, Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

The captain of the ship chased them away. Commander Veediya Bandara was badly offended. He began to attack the captain and a few of his men. As a result of this fight, a few people on board the ship died. The commander and his three friends were victorious. They boarded the ship and started
sailing towards Jaffna. They went and met the then king of Jafffna, Vagaraja. Forgetting all previous enmities, he welcomed this chivalrous commander very warmly.

He showed respect to the other three as well. Proper accommodation was arranged for all of them. Veediya Bandara of course, was housed in the palace itself. He was showered with all the luxuries.

But Veediya Bandara did not wish to receive luxuries or even honour and respect. His only intention was to get the necessary military help to chase the Portuguese from Sri Lanka. This was the main purpose of his special trip to Jaffna.

Veediya Bandara was keen to take over the leadership of the army of King Vagaraja. He informed the king of his intention. As King Vagaraja already knew of the skill and military prowess of Veediya Bandara, he readily agreed to extend his assistance. It was King Vagaraja’s intention to chase away the Portuguese from the country. He too entertained a great hatred towards the Portuguese.

There were substantial reasons for this enmity. The Portuguese adopted as cruel a policy in Jaffna, as they did in Kotte. They ill-treated the Hindus and tried to spread Christianity using force. Churches were erected in the district. This made the influential people of Jaffna detest the Portuguese. They simply hated them. This resulted in King Vagaraja becoming an erstwhile enemy of the Portuguese. He convened a meeting of all the leaders in his kingdom and ordered them to recruit more and more men to the army.

This included the leaders of Vanni. Therefore many Sinhala youth too joined the army. The presence of Commander Veediya Bandara was a big attraction for the Sinhala youth to join up. Before long, about twenty thousand Sinhala and Tamil soldiers were in training. The next step was to establish Veediya Bandara’s leadership and abide by his orders.

Before taking a pledge of obeisance to Veediya Bandara, these soldiers practiced their religious observances. The soldiers who practice Hinduism, gathered at the Nallur temple. It was evening. Vanniyars and Mudaliyars too joined in the religious observances. The chief officers like the Arachchis’ and other commanders too joined in. Commander Veediya Bandara and Bangai Rala and their group also joined. The religious ceremony commenced. There was just a little time left to begin the swearing-in.

Quite an unexpected thing happened. As they began to burn incense at the commencement of the ceremony, a spark of fire fell without anyone noticing it. It flew to the place where Veediya Bandara was standing. There was a stock of gunpowder there. As the spark fell on this, it caught fire. Veediya Bandara suspected that someone was trying to harm him. He became furious. The other Tamil commanders too were shocked. Veediya Bandara held his sword high and cast a threatening look around.

The crowd that had gathered there thought that he was getting ready to attack them. A Tamil commander also took out his sword. Then all the Tamil soldiers got ready to fight. All of them took one side. Veediya Bandara had just a few supporters like Bangai Rala. So he retreated for a moment. He stood leaning against a tamarind tree that was in the vicinity.

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