Deshamanya Vidya Jyothi Dr. Roland Silva is one of the foremost Asian experts in the conservation of historical monuments and sites and one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent archaeologists. He was the former Commissioner of Archaeology (1983-1990) and the Founder Director General of the Central Cultural Fund that implemented the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle, former Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, former President of the World Body of Conservators, the first international president of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) from Asia (1990-1999) and UNESCO Chair and the founder President of The National Trust Sri Lanka.
The Prison cell of the last King of Kandy, King Sri Wickrama Rajasingha in Colombo fort is a somewhat well-known monument. Although most individuals working in the Fort area do not notice it, it is a famous destination for tourists. It is situated within the premises of the Ceylinco House building down Janadipathi Mawatha (Queen’s Street) at the turn off to Bank of Ceylon Mawatha. The aim of this article is to see if this is really the prison cell of the last King or something else; as there appear currently two traditions to this story, a common tradition and an academic tradition.
Muthugala, a quiet dry zone village situated in the Welikanda Divisional Secretariat in the Polonnaruwa District is a paradise of nature where man and wilderness live side by side. This untapped archaeological heritage of the ancient Sinhalese lies in the forests boardering the village and the Flood Plains National Park along the Mahaweli Ganga. To arrive here, one needs to arrive at Sewanapitiya junction which is 18km from Kanduruwela on the Batticaloa road and from there turn left on the road running along the canal, proceeding about a kilometer on this turn left once more along with the branching off of the canal. From there proceed along this for 5km passing lush green fields and home gardens to the village of Muthugala; from there turn left from the school along the bund of a small tank till the road ends at the forest, from there is an off road track which is a 10 minute hike to the site. The remains of the forest monetary is spread throughout that area on the rock outcrops surrounded by willus created by the Mahaweli River.
The Balana pass, the key to the Kandyan Kingdom was a pass on the southern edge of the Alagalla Mountain range from which ran the old Colombo Kandy road giving access to the mountain kingdom. This was the most important pass in the Kingdom with the other being at Galagedara, as the road coming from the lower plains climbs over a thousand feet in less than a mile over the pass to the plateau of the central highlands. The hill of Balana, being over 600m (GPS - N 7° 16.18116 & E 80° 29.77146) above sea level, fell under the ancient administrative division of the Four Korale (Sathara Korale) in the Galboda pattuwa. Balana is mentioned in the Trisinhale Kadaim Potha as being the boundary line which separated the Four Korales from the Uda Rata, and the maintenance of this post fell onto the Dissave of the Four Korales. Today Balana falls under the Central Province and is the also the boundary line between the Sabaragamuwa and the Central Provinces. Balana was a key point in the old road to Kandy (From Colombo via Kotte and Kaduwela to Sitavaka, Ruwanwella, Arandara, Attapitiya, Ganetanna and over Balana to Gannoruwa) which many a foreigner had written about its difficult climb.
The student of the colonial history of Sri Lanka has undoubtedly come upon the name of S. G. Perera in their studies. Fr. S. G. Perera, a Catholic Priest of the Society of Jesus was an exemplary scholar of the last century and whose parallels are unheard of. Publishing over a dozen books and over 300 articles in journals, his contributions to the history of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka and the history of the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods of the island have aided the development of historical knowledge to a great extent in Sri Lanka; what could be called his magnum opus, the translation of the ‘Conquista’ of the 17th century Portuguese historian Fr. Queyroz, is the single most important Portuguese literary work which is the basis for any historical study on the Portuguese period. His proficiency of the Portuguese language gave him access to numerous original sources which he has translated and made available to the public is part of the wonderful legacy of this great historian of Lanka.
My research into the remains of the Fort of Colombo led me to identify 7 locations in total which all belongs to the Dutch built fort. The previous article dealt with my identification of 3 sections of the Dutch fort lying within the Navy Headquarters; that is the entire Dan Briel bastion, the Postern gate known as the Slave port and sections of the rampart from Dan Briel bastion to Amsterdam bastion. In this article I would discuss the remaining 4 locations.
Sri Lanka is home to several Dutch forts found throughout the island in varying size; much of the Dutch forts have survived the ages and some being in the mint condition such as the massive Galle Fort which is a World Heritage Site. Another interesting fort known to many is the Jaffna fort situated in the heart of the Jaffna town bordering the lagoon. Out of the other Dutch forts, the Jaffna fort is the most geometrically perfect, being of an equal sided pentagon with five bastions in the corners and would have been the third largest Dutch fort in the island after Galle and Colombo.
Historical researches undoubtedly require reference to original sources; at present much of the original literature on Sri Lanka both local and foreign have been reproduced and translated into the present vernacular. This tedious task has no doubt aided the modern student of history to dig through original works of literature with much ease. Contributions of Donald William Ferguson in the areas of Portuguese history are a landmark in scholarship in the country and there is scarcely a student or writer of Sri Lankan history who has not benefited by the penetrating researches of Donald Ferguson.
Passes and bastions are important elements of fortifications. The Passes, large and small give access to and from a fort and at times of war would be heavily guarded. Bastions are fortified projections on the ramparts of a fort from which defenders could easily defend the rampart as well as attack enemies due to its wide angle of fire. The fortress of Kotte was equipped with both these elements.
The harbour of Kolon Thota or Colombo was a prominent port in ancient Sri Lanka and from the 15th century onwards it was the principle port of the country due to its proximity to the Capital city of Kotte. With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, they made Colombo their main center establishing a large city over time. The succeeding European colonists, the Dutch and British too made Colombo their center.
The Pettah, located in the heart of Colombo bordering the Colombo harbor and the commercial hub Fort was once part of the colonial Dutch city of Colombo which was the center of administration of the Dutch. The Pettah during the Dutch period was known as the Oude Stad or Old City and formed the residential quarters of the city which the bordered the Castle or the Dutch Fort of Colombo on the west.
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