Funday Times - Our History

Sitawaka comes under Portuguese rule

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

Once Sitawaka was captured, Pedro Pereira, kept the army there and came to Colombo. The
commanders who preceded him, could not capture Sitawaka. Pereira was able to accomplish this within a few months. By this time, Kotte and Jaffna had both been conquered by the Portuguese. Due to Pereira’s victory, Sitawaka was also captured. Overjoyed with all these successes, the Portuguese next thought of conquering Kandy. They were already angry with King Vimaladharma of Kandy.

This king was a person who had been brought up and trained in martial arts by the Portuguese. He was a Christian earlier. Forgetting all that the Portuguese did for him, he had turned out to be an erstwhile enemy of the Portuguese. King Vimaladharma had no right to the throne of Kandy.

The real heir to the throne was King Karaliyadde’s daughter. While still on his deathbed, this king gave his daughter to the custody of the Portuguese. They kept her in Mannar and brought her up.

She was made to embrace Christianity and take up the name Dona Katherina. Her original name was Kusumasana Devi. The Portuguese thought of chasing their enemy Vimaladharma, who had no claim to the throne and placing Dona Katherina on the throne. They thought she would be able to get the support of the people of Kandy. Pereira kept the Viceroy informed of this plan. He requested an army to be used for this purpose.

Lopes-de-Souza who carried the message, had a discussion with the Viceroy. He forgot about his friend and obtained the leadership for himself, to conquer Kandy. As a result he was able to come to Colombo, accompanied by an army of about 600 soldiers. He arrived in Colombo in May 1594. Then he sent a few soldiers to bring Dona Katherina. Once she arrived, they took Jayaweera Bandara who was loyal to him and along with his army, all of them began their march to Kandy.

Pedro Pereira was angry that he was not given the power to organize this march. So he did not join them to march to Kandy. Instead he stayed in Colombo. Souza marched through Attanagalla, Menikkadawara and Polgahawela. On their way, he met Veediya Bandara, the prince of the Four Korales. He too joined them. All of them continued their march to Kandy. Then an army arrived from Kandy to stop their advance.

When they saw Dona Katherina leading, they dispersed. King Vimaladharma fled Kandy. The Portuguese arrived in Kandy and set up camp. They dispatched small battalions of soldiers in all directions to conquer the surrounding areas.

They captured the Prince of Uva and beheaded him. They succeeded in keeping Dona Katherina on the throne of Kandy. The people were happy because a queen belonging to the generation of Kandyan kings ascended the throne. But they had no chance of visiting her.

This queen was kept amidst tight security of the Portuguese. So the people of Kandy began to suspect her. They thought that she was kept just as a nominal head. Then a rumour also spread that either Souza or some Portuguese leader, was about to get married to her. This increased their suspiciouns. At this stage, Jayaweera came forward as a suitor for Dona Katherina.

The Portuguese did not like this proposal. Yet, they did not show their displeasure. The proposal was kept waiting. When things were happening this way, Vimaladharma, the shrewd character he was, deceived Jayaweera and tempted him to do what he wanted.

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