Battle of Vijithapura.

The fortress of Vijithapura was earlier placed near Vijithapura Vihare near Kala-weva. Mr Dennis Fernando has identified the remains Vijitha-nagara as the ancient  site  between the New town and the Railway station at Pollonnaruva. This was  from satellite Photo’s. According to the Mahavansa all the troops of King Elara, who were in various fortifications along the Mahaveli river threw them selves for protection into a fortress of Vijitha Nagara. This fort was between the crossing of the river  and Anuradhapura the capital occupied  by King Elara, which is most probably  the fortress now identified by Mr Dennis Fernando.

vijithapura map

Mahavansa Ch XXV para24.

“When the king had (thus) put them both to the test he marched to Vijitanagara. Near the south gate befell a fearful battle between the warriors. But near the east gate did Velusumana, sitting on his horse, slay Damilas in great numbers.

The Damilas shut the gate and the king sent thither his men. Kandula and Nandhimitta and Suranimila, at the south gate, and the three, Mahasona, Gotha and Theraputta, at the three other gates did their (great) deeds. The city had three trenches, was guarded by a high wall, furnished with gates of wrought iron, difficult for enemies to destroy. Placing himself upon his knees and battering stones, mortar and bricks with his tusks did the elephant attack the gate of iron. But the Damilas who stood upon the gate-tower hurled down weapons of every kind, balls of red-hot iron and molten pitch. When the smoking pitch poured on his back Kandula, tormented with pains, betook him to a pool of water and dived there.

`Here is no sura-draught for thee, go forth to the destroying of the iron gate, destroy the gate !’ thus said Gothambara to him. Then did the best of elephants again proudly take heart, and trumpeting he reared himself out of the water and stood defiantly on firm land.

The elephants’ physician washed the pitch away and put on balm; the king mounted the elephant and, stroking his temples with his hand, he cheered him on with the words: `To thee I give, dear Kandula, the lordship over the whole island of Lanka.’ And when he had had choice fodder given to him, had covered him with a cloth and had put his armour on him and had bound upon his skin a seven times folded buffalo-hide and above it had laid a hide steeped in oil he set him free. Roaring like thunder he came, daring danger, and with his tusks pierced the panels of the gate and: trampled the threshold with his feet; and with uproar the gate crashed to the ground together with the arches of the gate. The crumbling mass from the gate-tower that fell upon the elephant’s back did Nandhimitta dash aside, striking it with his arms. When Kandula saw his deed, in contentment of heart he ceased from the former wrath he had nursed since he (Nandhimitta) had seized him by the tusks.

That he might enter the town close behind him Kandula the best of elephants turned (to Nandhimitta) and looked at that warrior. But Nandhimitta. thought: `I will not enter (the town) by the way opened by the elephant’ and with his arm did he break down the wall. Eighteen cubits high and eight usabhas long it crashed together. The (elephant) looked on Süranimila, but he too would not (follow in) the track but dashed forward, leaping the wall into the town. Gona also and Sona pressed forward, each one breaking down a gate. The elephant seized a cart-wheel, Mitta a waggon frame, Gotha a cocos-palm, Nimila his good sword, Mahasona a palmyra-palm, Theraputta his great club,’ and thus, rushing each by himself into the streets, they shattered the Damilas there.

When the king in four months had destroyed Vijitanagara he went thence to Girilaka and slew the Damila Giriya.”

The fortifications

According to the Mahavansa

a.The city had three trenches, was guarded by a high wall, furnished with gates of wrought iron, difficult for enemies to destroy.

b.Kandula and Nandhimitta and Suranimila, at the south gate, and the three, Mahasona, Gotha and Theraputta, at the three other gates did their (great) deeds.

c.But Nandhimitta. thought: `I will not enter (the town) by the way opened by the elephant’ and with his arm did he break down the wall. Eighteen cubits high and eight usabhas long it crashed together.

The Map drawn by Mr Dennis Fernando is shown below .The remnant of the fort of Vijithpura where this battle took place was discovered by Mr Dennis Fernando. The dimension of the remnants of the fort and the size of it as given in the Mahavansa is in agrement.

vijitha fort

The shows that the fort is approximately 3/4 Mile square.having perhaps three Moats.The north gate has an remains of a fortified gate.The size of the fortress is perhaps 1/2 mile square.A mile is approximately 32 Usabas, perhaps the half the length  of the wall along[ 8 usabhas] with the gate collapse under the attack of the war elephant and Senpathi Nanda-miita.

a.The four directional attack , led by the generals named along with Kandula the elephant.



The earliest lithic record of human habitation at Polonnaruva is a short cave inscription of the 1st century. The first illusion to the place in  the Chronicles is a construction of the tank Topavava  in the reign of Upatissa I (365–406). But its antiquity  goes back to much earlier  times  because  there are good ground to identifying Polonaruva or a place very  close to  it, with fortress named  Vijjitanagara where  a decisive battle was fought about BC 153 ;between  the forces of Dutthagamni Abaya  and the foreign  rular Elara. The position of Polonaaruva was one of great strategic importance since it commanded  the crossing  of the Mahaveli ganga ,the defense of which was vital   against rebel forces advancing into Rajarata  from Ruhuna; at the same time in the event of an invasion from South Indian power the  position  was distance enough to give time for organisation and manning of river defenses, so as to halt the invading forces in the river line and  further more if  these defense failed , to facilitate the retreat to Ruhuna. So that it gave greater security to the King from enemies both within and outside the Kingdom.

Vijitagama [ established by Vijitha a brother of Ummaga-Citta] or Vijitanagara or Vijitapura was a settlement said to have been founded by one of Vijaya’s Ministers, but a later tradition is that its founder was one of the brothers-in-law of Panduvasudeva: the older Chronicle, the Dipavamsa [Dipavansa.Ch 9.10 7. 45:25.19, 21-23, 47, 70 , 73.152: 78.87], does not name Vijita as one of the latter. Bhaddakaccana, and her companions, who are said to have landed about this time at the mouth of the Mahavali Ganga, were on their. way to Upatissagama (a Yojana north of Anuradhaprrra) when they were met at Vijitanagara by the Sinhalese Ministers : therefore, Vijitanagara was between Anuradhapura and the east coast.

After Dutthagarnani Abhaya, about B.C. 163, had reduced the many forts held by Elara’s troops along the line of the Mahaveli Ganga from Mahiyangana to the sea, ‘ all the Damilas on the bank of the river who had escaped destruction threw themselves for protection into the city named Vijitanagara’. It is evident that if Vijitanagara was the present Vijitapura, near Kalavava, Elara’s retreat from the river to this place would have uncovered and opened the way to the capital, Anuradhapura, which was Dutthagamani’s objective. Vijitanagara, where the fiercest resistance was offered by Elara’s troops, was, obviously, the key fortress supporting the numerous small forts along the defended river line and the main obstacle to progress beyond the river towards Anurdahapura. Opposite Vijitanagara, that is, between it and the river, Dutthagamani pitched camp in open country to organise the assault on the fortress, and the camping place came to be known as Khandhavarapitthi or Kandamunna ; it is further stated that after crossing the river Duthagamani had his meal at Battabhuttavaldhaka or Batbunnltota and then  proceeded to Khandhavarapitthi: therefore, Khandhavarapitthi must have been a few miles from the river.

In Sinhalese literature, Polonnaruva is sometimes referred to as Kandavuru-nuvara, ‘ the Camp-City ‘.  A suburb of Polonnaruva named Vijita is mentioned in the reign of Parakkamabahu I. Vijita, the 12th century suburb of Polonnaruva, Khandhavarapitthi which was Dutthagemani’s camp in front of Vijitanagara, and Kandavuru-nuvara, the early name for Polonnaruva, are all associated with Vijitanagara,and Parker, Story, Codrington and Paranavitana are undoubtedly right in locating Vijitanagara at or, very near the later Polonnaruva. Near Khandhavdrapitthi was Hatthipora. : [Codrington, Short History,20.32.; E.M.25.47; M.T. 272, 16; N.S. 66; Puj.2; Raj.21: C.J.S. (G) II 146; C.A.X. 52; Parker, Ancient Ceylon, 227-238; Parker Ancient Ceylon 227-238].

After the capture of Vijitanagara, Dutthagmani advanced to Girilaka, aiso called Girinil-nuvara and Girinillankada, and fought a successful action there.’ (Girinelavahanaka Vihera, to the north of Kanda-nagara or Kandara, was built by Suratissa early in 2nd B.C.).

Many Ruins and geometrical shaped stones, now used by farmers as grinding stones, there are few ruins and remnants of ancient dagabo. There is also a trace of a Palace.

The name Vijitha is mentioned as one of the first cities founded by Generals of Wijaya, in the 6th century B.C. The Mahawamsa and the Rajavaliya definitely indicate that Vijithapura is in Raja Rata and just across the border from Ruhuna, beyond Magantota (Manampitiya).

Vijithapura as a fortress was first mentioned in the famous war (circa 161B.C.) between Dutugemunu and Elara, it was here that the generals of Elara fought the last battle across the frontier of Rajarata and Ruhuna. This site is of strategic importance and it was in excellence only second to Anuradhapura.

The best evidence the dimensions of bricks, is uncertain. Those accessible in Kalaweava dagabo are all more or less in pieces , and of two sizes, averaging 2.71 inches in thickness, which is possibly may be pre- Christian, and 2.10 inches. There are also some worn fragments of inscriptions of the fifth or sixth century A.D., cut on the step leading to the temple enclosure. Nothing but this monastery is locally known to have been constructed at this spot. In the story of the re-conquest of northern Ceylon from South-Indian invaders by king Duttha-Gamini before 161 B.C , there is a long and fanciful account of his capture of a very strong fort at Wijitapura, with triple fortifications, the strongest fortress in the country next to Anuradhapura, which was at that time the capital; but no such place is known any  where near Kala – waewa. The account of this campaign is fully related in the Mahavansa (i, p. 96 ff.). Duttha-Gamini’s, marching from Magama or Tissa in the extreme south-east of Ceylon, began it by capturing the town of Mahiyangana, an early settlement on the eastern side of the Kandian mountains ; after which he gradually made himself master of a chain of forts established by the invaders along the banks of the Mahawaeli-ganga. The history then states (p. 97) .All those Damilas [Tamils] who had escaped the slaughter along the bank of the river threw themselves for protection into the fortified town called Wijita. It is clear, therefore, that this town was not far from the lower section of the Mahawaeli-ganga; and, as we know from the journey of Panduwasa Deva’s bride, was on a public road leading direct from the port of Gonagama to the northern capital. By holding it the Indian troops evidently hoped to check Duttha-Gamini in his victorious march on Anuradhapura.

When that king had taken it he next marched on a post termed Girilaka, The station of a chief called after it  ‘Giriya’, the Giri person[ Each village gave its name to the Damila Chief in charge of it.’ ], This may have been the place eight miles north of Polannaruwa now known as Giritale was on the present road to Anuradhapura. The meaning of the name ‘Giri plain,’ shows that it may be derived from the Giri-village’ where the chief Giriya lived From there the king proceeded to Mahela, which maybe the village now termed Maha Aela-gamuwa on the road from Dambulla to Anurddhapura  with these very probable identifications to confirm the line of Duttha-Gamini’s march I feel justified in assuming-that the fort of Wijita which he captured was close to Polannaruwa and possibly either an city name of that city itself , or a place at  the site of Parakramabahu’s branch city., It cannot have been a town on the north-western side of Kala-waeva, at the site of the Wijita-pura wihara, which is completely out of the line of march to Anuradhapura from any point on the lower course of the Mahawaeli-ganga, and is also too far from that river to be a rallying-ground for troops who were blocking the king’s advance on the capital

We now return to the journey of Panduwasa Deva’s bride from the coast to Upatissa. If Wijitapura where the king’s ministers met her was near Polannaruwa we see at once that the meeting-place was nearly half-way on the great highway which passed from Magama to Anurddhapura and Upatissa, through Guttahala (now Buttala), and across the Mahawaeli-ganga at Dastota. This old highway , part of which is now called  “Kalu-gal baemma,”    ‘Black-Stone Embankment,’ is still in existence, but over grown with forest: and it is said that it can be traced from Buttala to the river’  Where I examined it near Nilgala, and at the present high road to Batticaloa it is well defined. Near Nilgala it runs on an embankment which is about twenty feet high near a stream – crossing and one hundred feet wide at the base. The top of this bank appears to have been thirty or forty feet broad, or even wider.


To quote Rajavaliya, page 38 :

The fortress of Vilithapura was in this wise. It was girt about with three moats filled with water. Around it was a rampart of bronze closed by a gate of eighteen cubits. Amongst the fortresses reduced there was none like unto this. Except the city of Anuradhapura none of the other fortresses equaled it.

The Mahawamsa gives a detailed account of the battle of Vilithapura in 161 B.C. The details given in the chronicles conform fully to the newly discovered fortress near Polonnaruwa and confirms without doubt that this fortress was the Vijithapura of 161 B.C.

In Parakrama Bahu’s times circa 1153 A.D. mention is made of Vilitha as one of the three townships in the periphery of his citadel at Polonnaruwa. A later historian who described the extensive works of King Pardkrama-Bahu I (1164-1197 A.D.) at Polannaruwa, his capital, relates (Mah. ii, p. 201) how he formed three suburbs of the city : ‘Afterwards the king caused three smaller cities to be erected. namely, the Rajavesi Bhujanga, the Raja Kulantaka [also called Sihapura on p. 259] and Wijita’. It then states that in the space between the palace and these three towns he built three wiharas, thus indicating that they were not far from the capital. At p. 260 reference is again  made to ‘the branch city, Wijita.’ It is a constant  habit of the later historians to use the word meaning to construct when the actual work done is a repair or re-construction; and whether it was the  case in this instance or not,  it  is at least proved by these record’s that close to Polannaruwa there was a Wijitapura in the twelfth  century. Can it be the celebrated fortified city captured by Duttha-Gamini ?


All historians like Henry Parker, H. W. Codrington, S. Paranavithana, C. W.Nicholas were of the view that Vijithapura of 161 B.C. was not at Kalawewa where there is a temple by the name of Vilithapura ; as it did not conform to its physical position according to the ancient chronicles.

All of them were of the view that it was very close to Polonnaruwa. It was very unfortunate that Wilhelm Geiger, in his translation of the Mahawamsa, had recommended that in his view Vijithapura is at Kalawewa and was generally accepted, as its ruins were not discovered. Be that as it may.

The name Kaduruwela is in possibility derived from Kandavurawela, the field below the fortress. This later became Kanduruwela



4 thoughts on “Battle of Vijithapura.

  1. Pingback: Lions, Gods and Heroes: Military in the Popular Culture of Post War Sri Lanka | rhulgeopolitics

  2. Pingback: Lions, Gods & Heroes: Military In The Popular Culture Of Postwar Sri Lanka-Posted by: COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH

    • The old fortress is still seen on Satellite photos,This was of strategic importance, lesson of good and bad from history, as we still making a fuss about in present conflict, created in the minds of men.

  3. Pingback: Lions, Gods & Heroes: Military In The Popular Culture Of Postwar Sri Lanka – Academici Vagantes ( Vagrant Academics)

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