What we can learn from Gannoruwa battle

What we can learn from Gannoruwa battle

by S.B. Karalliyadda

What we can learn from Gannoruwa battle by S.B. KaralliyaddaThe history of the Senkadagala Kingdom is replete with several incidents connected with March. The Kandyan Convention was signed on March 2, 1815. March 29 is the day on which the Portuguese were massacred, except 30 of their soldiers at the Gannoruwa battlefield. It was only three years after Rajasinghe was crowned as the King of Senkadagala Kingdom. The King was a youth of 30 at the time.King Rajasinghe IIIt was on March 5, 1655 that Rajasinghe fled the Kingdom to escape a coupe de grace staged at Nilamba led by Ambanwala Rala and other leaders. The King was 47 years then. This article is about the Gannoruwa battle and the lessons taught to us which are most applicable to the nation in the context of modern party politics.

The intelligence collected at Portuguese headquarters in Colombo was disturbing and not to the liking of the Portuguese high command. They gathered through their spies that the King was seeking the assistance of the Dutch to rid the land from the Portuguese. Hitherto the Portuguese had to face the King’s forces in the land only as the Sinhalese had no sea power. But if assistance came from the Dutch they will have to face a formidable sea power too. The news disturbed the Portuguese leaders and they discussed their strategies to face the situation.


Their thinking on the matter was two-fold. One opinion was that they collect all their arms and ammunitions burn all the ports and leave our shores at the first available opportunity. The others thought that this precious island that they occupied without any confrontation and bloodshed should not be given back at any cost, but fight to the last to win the battle. Damijavo Batado who was instrumental in building forts in the island was of the opinion that they should muster all their forces and attack the king before he could join the Dutch.

Batado with Sgt. Major Sorde under the command of Diego de Mello started marching towards Senkadagala in the first week of March to attack Kandy. Rajasinghe through his spies came to know of this situation. His strategy was to evacuate Kandy to allow the Portuguese to enter the city without any obstruction. Rajasinghe with his forces left the city to a hillock at Gannoruwa from where he could watch seated on a tree trunk the happenings in Kandy. The Portuguese burnt Kandy city and caused mayhem.

Parangi Hatana

Philippes Baldaeus in his war records states “to their great ruin they encamped with their entire forces consisting of about 2,300 white Portugezen and mixties besides 6,000 blacks.

This was what Rajasinghe desired; for he immediately blocked up the road to Balana as well as the other passages around the hill with huge trees that were hewn down for the purpose as a result of which all their Sinhalese and coolies or baggage porters came over to the Emperor”. Now the Portuguese had no alternative, but to negotiate peace terms with the king. For the mission Mellow decided to send two priests one a Franciscan and the other an Augustinian. The King kept on biding for time without sending back the priests until a suitable time for an attack dawned.

Baldaeus says that eventually there fell a heavy storm of rain which the King availed himself without delay, and immediately gave orders for an attack on the enemy. The archers from Magal Korale in Puttalam were there in Gannoruwa to help the King and were the first to attack. The troops in the battlefield are described in the Parangi Hatana thus.

“Kalingu Thelingu Kannadi Urumusi
kavisi Kabisi Arabi Isbasi
Javaka Kogena Cheena Parasi
Nikmuni avi lelava Bena Vasi”

The troops were from Kalinga, Kerala, Kannad, Orimus, Kaffir from Africa, Abyssinian, Persian and Chinese.

All the troops except 30 who were fortunate to escape were massacred in the battlefield and their heads heaped up to form a pyramid. The King enshrined his sword used in the battle and built the Dodanwela Devala.

The style of Rajasinghe in the battlefield is described thus in the poem Parangi Hatana and a literal Sinhala translation by a panel of English teachers from a Kandy International school is given.

King Rajasinghe accompanied
By his warrior battalion of cavalry
Perched on his formidable tuskers
Carved his way to enemy ranks
Who were disturbed by the
Declining spirit of fellow men
Showed himself, the reincarnation
Of King Vijaya, and his
Equal ferocity – beheaded – the
Portuguese soldiers – and their
Heads in scattered heaps – in Gannoruwa,
Reminding how Vijaya destroyed
The ranks of Yakka soldiers
And enlightened Sri Lanka.
Lessons from Gannoruwa

It is a historically known fact that Senerath crowned his son Maha Astana as Rajasinghe II when the two sons of Wimaladharmasuriya I Godapala Kumarya alias Wijepala of Matale and Uva Kumaraya alias Kumarasinghe of Badulla were the rightful heirs to the throne.

Rajasinghe after becoming the King made several attempts to get rid of these two princes and to wards the latter half of their lives they lived in Jaffna and finally went to Goa and were baptised and lived until death. These two princes joined Rajasinghe in the battle of Gannoruwa to rid the Portuguese from the motherland.

There are three Bosaplings planted in the battlefield where they encamped. The Kumarasinghe Bodi is in the Vishnu Devala premises, Vijayapala Bodi in the Getambe Rajopavanarama premises and Rajasingh Bodi in the site where water cutting ceremony is performed after the Esala Perahera.

History records that the Portuguese General Diago De Mello sent several ambassadors to meet Vijayapala and solicit his support to defeat Rajasinghe with the promise that Vijayapala will be placed on Senkadagala throne with Portuguese support. But the patriotic princes put the country first before themselves.

In another instance when Rajasinghe was at war with the Portuguese in Batticaloa he had observed a young Sinhala lad fighting gallantly in the front. After the battle he was rewarded by the King who asked him his whereabouts.

The youth a son of Vijayapala fled from Godapalanuwara, Matale to escape the wrath of Rajasinghe. He was named Gamakumara and lived in a remote village off Pallepola in Matale.

His descendants are found even today under the name Kumaragama.




2 thoughts on “What we can learn from Gannoruwa battle

  1. Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
    Is it tough to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my
    own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? With thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s