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Sunday, 16 February 2014

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The Portuguese and Dutch invasion of Ceylon

Sri Lanka is a country with a proud and remarkable history going back over 25 centuries. The episodes of Sri Lanka's history of the journey to independence are replete with events and achievements.

With the Portuguese embarkation on Ceylon (Sri Lankan) shores in 1505, the history opened yet another chapter of battles, chaos and conspiracy which practically left the country wholly dependent on Europeans. It was a great opportunity for the Portuguese to capture the political power of the country when the King of Kotte, Buwanekabahu VII requested an external succour (from the Portuguese) to safeguard himself from the kings of Raigama and Sitawaka.

It proved to be a simple task for the Portuguese to capture power under Don Juan Dharmapala, a weak king the successor to King Buvanekabahu Warrior Veediya Bandara established a fort at Pelenda in Pasdun Korale to confront the Portuguese who were by then acquiring increasing power within the country.


Battle against the Portuguese

Veediya Bandara who had by then empowered himself with adequate military prowess at Pelenda, was a threat for Mayadunne, the ruler of Sitawaka. When Mayadunne requested Veediya Bandara's support to recapture the power of the upcountry, seeds of hostility began to sprout between them as Veediya Bandara refused his support for Mayadunne.

Thus, both Mayadunne and Portuguese forces united with the single aim to destroy Veediya Bandara. The Portuguese with Mayadunne's support invaded Veediya Bandara's fortress at Perenda. Consequently, Veediya Bandara, on the verge of defeat, withdrew his fighting teams to Jaffna and joined king Sankily. Later he was killed by the king of Jaffna because of serious conflicts.

Meanwhile, a warrior called Edirille Rala had secretly organised troops and empowered himself with a vast military adequate to confront Portuguese and was killed in 1596.

Danthure and Balana

Danthure battle was a fierce confrontation between the forces of king Wimaladharmasooriya and the Portuguese. In this historic battle, King Wimaladharmasooriya vanquished the Portuguese forces and married Dona Katherina whom once had acted as the secret agent for the Portuguese.

In the wake of repeated defeats at several battles, the Portuguese chose to implement alternatives to capture the power of the upcountry. Accordingly Asavedu, the newly appointed commander got down a supplementary cadre of soldiers from India for the invasion of upcountry. They succeeded in capturing several fortresses near Balana. The Sinhala cadre were capable of seizing the Balana fortress after a pause of a week and Asavedu, with little prospect to save his life, fled to Colombo.

The battle of Randeniwela

The troops commanded by constantinu De Sae launched a fresh invasion via Badulla. By that time a strong rapport had been established between the Sinhalese Mudaliyars of Down South and King Senarath.

The Portuguese power became frail owning to the large scale dispersion and flight of their troops in the face of fierce attacks by the Sinhalese soldiers.

Ultimately the Portuguese captain was killed by upcountry civilians at Randeniwela near Wellawaya.

Battle of Gannoruwa

Following the demise of King Senarath, his son, Rajasinghe II became the successor to the throne and launched negotiations with the Dutch to subdue Portuguese power.

The Portuguese in complete knowledge of this plan attempted to capture the upcountry before the arrival of Dutch in Ceylon. The troops commanded by General Diego de Velo plundered and set fire to the city.

Meanwhile, the Indian soldiers joined king Rajasinghe's troops and subsequently there came a fatal warfare at Gannoruwa between the two parties in 1638. This was recorded as the final battle fought between the Sinhalese and the Portuguese. The purpose of bringing the Dutch to the country was to ostracise Portuguese and to recapture the control of areas which were dominated by the invaders.

Since conventions between the Dutch and the Sinhalese king appeared to be trustworthy, both parties signed an accord in May 1638.

Although the king offered the dominance of the cinnamon trade to the Dutch, they were far less satisfied with it and they wanted to seize the power of areas occupied earlier by the Portuguese.

After several strategies, the Portuguese were finally repelled from the island but the Dutch appeared to redouble the threat posed by the Portuguese.

Here the Dutch tried to establish their authority down south. The Dutch and the Sinhalese were in frequent battles to capture the coastal areas earlier possessed by the Portuguese.

When the king faced challenges with the Dutch rulers, he desperately sought assistance from the British to curb the domination of Dutch rulers.

When the Dutch governor forwarded a document with conditions which the king could hardly comply with, the Dutch declared war against the king. Dutch platoons commenced their expedition to Kandy but unfortunately they were stranded midway.

Gaining the advantage, the king's troops attacked Dutch at the right time.

Thus, the attempt of the Dutch to invade the upcountry lamentably failed in 1764. The negotiations between the British and the king produced good results but the areas which had been under Dutch supervision were captured by British East India Trading Company in February 1797.

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