Funday Times - Our History

The downfall of the Kotte Kingdom

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

The captain in Mannar, was quick to act. He defeated the Malabar army and captured their ships. They were brought to Colombo. Prince Rajasinghe was shocked to notice all this. The jubilant Portuguese army left the fort in Colombo and began to chase the Sinhala forces. The Portuguese soldiers set fire to all the security points of the Sinhalese. Several villages too were set on fire. A lot of looting took place. The Sinhala army was chased as far as Sitawaka.

In 1562, King Mayadunne and Ekanayake gathered a huge army, consisting of elephants. They came to besiege Colombo and Kotte simultaneously. They were able to crush all the security points of the Portuguese.

The Portuguese then, intensified the security of the two cities, by fortifying all the security measures. The walls and the trenches around the two cities were well guarded. Then they advanced to face the Sinhala army.

The battle started. The first one was very severe. It ended up with no defeat or victory to either party. But Prince Rajasinghe did not retreat. He brought fresh contingents of soldiers and surrounded the Portuguese. The Portuguese were taken by surprise. They started to fight. They went on fighting for ten long hours to save their lives. This struggle weakened the strength of the Portuguese. Only about 125 soldiers were able to escape death.

It is with the greatest difficulty that they were able to reach Colombo. This battle cost much loss to the Sinhala army too. They were unable to give chase to the fleeing enemy. Yet, Prince Rajasinghe was not one who was easily discouraged. He would not repent on counting the amount of loss suffered. He quickly assembled an army and marched towards Kotte. He surrounded the city on all four sides and terrorized the citizens.

The citizens were frightened of this unexpected siege. They joined Prince Rajasinghe. In the meantime, other contingents of soldiers went to Kelaniya. By this time, the Portuguese had vacated Kelaniya. So it was easy for the Sitawaka army to capture Kelaniya. All these incidents put the Portuguese into a
very difficult situation. The entire country was supporting Prince Rajasinghe. It was difficult to gain any
benefits by providing food to the Portuguese.

Meanwhile, King Don Juan Dharmapala was depending solely on the Portuguese. Prince Rajasinghe made an announcement threatening that all the people who supported King Dharmapala would be punished. So they went and joined the captain. They said that there was nothing to do, but to surrender the city. The captain too agreed. To discuss matters the War Council assembled. There the captain explained the nature of the situation and said that city should be surrendered.

The other members of the Council opposed this idea. So it had to be abandoned. Prince Rajasinghe, who heard this, attacked Kotte, but it was a failure. The security forces of the city did their best to save the city. Once again, Prince Rajasinghe tried to capture the city of Kotte. That too was a failure. He had to retreat. In the meantime, a Mudliyar who was angry with Prince Rajasinghe began to help the Portuguese.

The Portuguese became powerful again, as a result of this support. They won a few skirmishes. Then a captain with some additional soldiers landed in Colombo. King Mayadunne of Sitawaka too marched forward with a huge army to attack Kotte. Now the Portuguese did not have sufficient forces to guard two cities. So Kotte had to be abandoned. The Council in Goa, ordered the Portuguese leaders here, to bring the king, his supporters and the riches that had been so well protected, to Colombo.

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