Battle of Mulleriyawa
|Battle of Mulleriyawa (Mulleriyawa Satana)|
|Part of Sinhalese–Portuguese War|
|Kingdom of Sitawaka|| Portuguese Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
|Mayadunne of Sitawaka
battle commanded by: Tikiri Bandara (subsequently Sitawaka Rajasigha)
|Captain major Jorge de Menezes|
|4,000 Sitawaka men
Unknown number of militia
Unknown number of war elephants
Small number of cavalry
|Exact figures not known|
|Casualties and losses|
|exact figures not known||1,600 Portuguese and Lascarins , several of the Kotte men and officers|
The Battle of Mulleriyawa ( මුල්ලේරියාවේ සටන Mulleriyawa Satana in 1559) was a battle part of the Sinhalese–Portuguese War. It was one of the most decisive battles in Sri Lankan history and considered as the worst and devastated defeat of Portuguese during that period. According to local chronicles the marshlands of Mulleriyawa turned red with blood after the annihilation of the Portuguese. With this victory Sitawaka emerged as a military power which able to challenge the Portuguese expansion.
- 1 Background
- 2 Movement to battle
- 3 1st battle of Mulleriyawa
- 4 2nd battle of Mulleriyawa
- 5 Casualties
- 6 Legacy
- 7 2nd campaign for Mapitigama stockade
- 8 Locations today
- 9 Aftermath
- 10 450th Anniversary of the Battle of Mulleriyawa
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
In 1521, Kotte king Vijayabahu VII’s three sons mutinied against their father. They killed him and divided the kingdom among themselves, leading to the events which known as “Spoiling of Vijayabahu” (Vijayaba Kollaya). Eldest son Buvanekabahu VII received Kotte with the sea board and ruled with the title of emperor. Second son received the principality of Raigama and ruled under the name of King Raigam Bandara. The youngest son, who was the leader of “spoiling”, received the kingdom of Sitawaka and ruled as King Mayadunne Bandara.
With Raigam Bandara’s death in 1538 Mayadunne annexed principality of Raigama and invaded Kotte. Buvanekabahu VII with the help of Portuguese defeated Mayadunne’s invading forces, eventually paving the way to an uneasy peace between two kingdoms.
Portuguese wanted to conduct a full scale offensive against Sitawaka and neutralize the threat exerted by King Mayadunne. But King Bhuvanekabahu VII did not support their cause; he only wanted Portuguese help for defensive purposes. After Bhuvanekabahu's death in 1551, Dharmapala came to the Kotte throne; he was more or less a puppet king under Portuguese influence. At this time Mayadunne of Sitwaka was raiding the Kotte border and extending its (Sitawaka's) sphere of influence. After the unsuccessful siege of Kotte from 1557-1558 by Mayadunne, Portuguese were laying plans to invade Sitawaka.
Date of encounter and the commander of Portuguese
It is widely accepted that a Portuguese army led by Captain Major Dom Afonso Pereira de Lacerda was defeated by Sitawaka forces at Mulleriyawa in the year of 1562. But Portuguese sources provide a different picture.
Dom Afonso Pereira de Lacerda was suffering from chronic malaria which almost reduced him to a state of delirium. So Goa sent a veteran commander named D. Jorge de Menezes (nicknamed Baroche for his exploits at the city of Broach which lies in the bay of Cambaya) to take over from him. He took over the office in year 1559 and claimed that he intend to finish the enemy that brought him to the island. He marched out triggering the events that eventually led to the battle of Mulleriyawa.
Movement to battle
Portuguese army advanced along the southern bank of the Kelani River through Maedanda and Weragoda towards Mulleriyawa. Their objective was to capture Mapitigama stockade which was located on the northern bank. It was strategically located (current day Udumapitigama ) controlling the river and land route to Sitawaka. Therefore, by capturing it Portuguese expected to use it as a launching pad for the coming invasion.
Mayadunne received the news of this invasion force and sent an army under the command of his son Tikiri Bandara towards Hewagama. On arrival he summoned militia from Aturigiri korale, Hewagam Korale, Koratota and Hokandara areas to further enhance his numbers.
Meanwhile a Portuguese detachment under Jorge de Menezes and Jorge de Melo successfully surprised the retreating Sitawaka forces (border guards) in a sneak attack at dawn. They captured a smaller stockade on the southern bank killing the garrison of 300 men. Encouraged by this early success Jorge de Menezes prepared his forces to capture the grand stockade of Mapitigama. At this moment, he received reports of Sitawaka forces in a meadow (Hewagama) and ordered a night march.
1st battle of Mulleriyawa
The battle was short and Sitawaka forces were defeated. They retreated towards Hewagama leaving 200 dead and pursued by Portuguese army. Wickramasinghe Mudali was himself wounded. Jorge de Menezes wanted to annihilate the Sitawaka force and pressed the pursuit.
Retreating Sitawaka forces took refuge in a narrow pass which has been fortified earlier. Against the better judgment of veteran soldiers, Menezes ordered to attack the fortified pass. But now reorganized and well entrenched, Wickramasinghe Mudali managed to repulse repeated waves of attacks.
These futile efforts exhausted the Portuguese and consumed their ammunition reserves. When the captains approached Menezes regarding low gunpowder reserves, it led to the famous reply “..If there is no powder they might load their muskets with sand, and if they did not shoot, they might finish the fight with the sword, because such brave Portuguese had no need of arms as long as they had nails and teeth.”
2nd battle of Mulleriyawa
Once received the news, Tikiri Bandara divided his forces into three groups. First group consisted of militia men from Athurugiriya, Hewagama, Koratota, Hokandara and 1000 Sitawaka targe bearers trained in fencing schools (swordsmen carrying round shields). He sent them in a flanking maneuver to cut off enemy’s retreat and to attack in the rear.
Then he reinforced Wickramasinghe Mudali’s remaining forces with elephants and elite targe bearers and deployed them in left and right wings. Their exact role is not known but probably their orders were to secure flanks and to stand by as reserves.
Finally Tikiri Bandara deployed the remaining targe bearers, war elephants and cavalry in the center and assumed the command himself.
Meanwhile Portuguese found their rear been blocked by large trees and the enemy close by, drew up them selves (arranged in battle ranks) in an open area at Mulleriyawa. (Rajavaliya specific about the fact that sitawaka forces attacked an enemy army in formations, on the other hand according to Portuguese sources they were ambushed by a force of war elephants while withdrawing.)
Tikiri Bandara, mounted on a horse led the center on a full frontal attack. His force was arranged in divisions (Jayasundara division, Vijayasundara division) but the targe bearers, war elephants and horses charged mingled together to prevent Portuguese from reloading their muskets. Targe bearers advanced under the cover of the elephants to avoid fire (“clinging to the tails of the elephants” – Rajavaliya). Same time the mixed force of militia and targe bearers attacked from rear and flank and joined the fight.
This tactic worked and war elephants broke through the ranks of Portuguese. The battle reduced to an intense melee and since unable to reload, Portuguese had to use muskets as clubs. Intensity of the battle described in Portuguese sources by accounts of men trying to stop elephants with banner staffs, and a soldier attacking Chingalaz (Sinhalese) with teeth when he lost his weapons.
Tikiri Bandara riding throughout the battle line, encouraged men to continuously press the attack and to close the gaps. Once Portuguese managed to retreat through a gap in the line and found that Sitawaka forces hurrying on to the next pass to cut off their retreat again.
The Portuguese had almost given up themselves when something unexpected happened. A soldier named “António Dias de Lomba” fired a berço cannon (canhão de berço – breech loading swivel gun usually used for grape shots) which had been abandoned in the field. The shot fell among a line of Sitawaka men and killed many. It must have shocked the Sitawaka forces because they stopped attacking.
Portuguese took the advantage of the lull and managed to retreat through a wood. Although Sitawaka forces were no longer pressing the attack, Portuguese sources provide names of 6 soldiers which were killed in this wood by Sitawaka forces using musket fire alone. Some Portuguese soldiers retreated using boats.
Those who escaped found refuge in the smaller stockade which captured in the early part of campaign. But many were wounded and their pride has shaken.
According to Portuguese sources, only 50 soldiers were killed (30 in the main battle and 20 from their wounds, after retreating to the smaller stockade). According to Rajavaliya 1,600 Portuguese and Lascarins besides several Kotte men and officers have felled. But both Portuguese and local sources are silent regarding the number of Sitawaka casualties.
After the battle Tikiri Bandara sent for Arachchies of Koratota, Hewagama, and Hokanrdara (Aturugiri Korale left out?) and rewarded them for their gallant charge on the enemy’s rear. He gave the name “Hewagama” to the Korale because a victory has been won by military service or Hewakam (Previous name not known). Koratota arachchi has received Tikiri Bandara’s sword and even after 450 years, descendants of Koratota Arachchi serve as guardians of the sword and the art of angam.
Names of two war elephants; “Viridudassaya” of Jayasundara division who captured an enemy standard and “Airavana” of Vijayasundara division who captured a shield and a chain appear in chronicles.
2nd campaign for Mapitigama stockade
After the victory Tikiri Bandara promptly fortified the area with moats and ramps. He built two forts at Kadudevola (current day Ran-kadudevola, Kaduwela) and Raggahawatta and armed them with cannons. Before retire back to Sitawaka he organized raiding sorties along the river towards Portuguese held area to lay waste.
After three months, Portuguese reinforced by fresh troops from Goa launched a three pronged attack towards Mapitigama stockade. This time they sent a force along the northern bank through the Siyane Korale, another force along the southern bank and a fortified paddle boat called “Kattala” (? Couple) along the river.
“Kattala” was built in Modara area, by lashing two river barges called Padavs (Padawwa in Sinhala). Then they fortified it with a palisade which was built using coconut trunks. They armed it with fire bombs, rogeyra cannons (regular cannons) and 40 sailors and Lascarins. It was also carrying gunpowder, provisions, and weapons.
Upon receiving the news Tikiri Bandara arrived at Raggahawatta. He dragged two field pieces to the river, ordered to lower the bank and mounted the cannons at water level well hidden from the approaching enemy. When the Kattala drew near cannons opened raking fire. A shot went from prow to stern killing 20 sailors. The boat started to leak and floated down river.
Meanwhile Wickramasinghe Mudali attacked the northern Portuguese force from the direction of Siyane Korale and pursued them. He finally defeated them at Nakolagama ferry (It was the largest of two ferries across Kelani River and Portuguese called it “Passo Grande”; current day Grand pass). He went back to the king Mayadunne on the shoulders of a captured Portuguese soldier.
Receiving the news of the defeat, southern land force withdrew back to Colombo.
Following suggestions are based on research of historian Dr C Gaston Perera but these places not been verified archaeologically. 1).Mapatigama Stockade – High ground closer to the northern bank of Kelani River at Ranala – Udumapitigama ferry. 2).Raggahawatta Fort – a rise still bears the name Raggahavatta by the riverside in the Kaduwela area. Under it, the river bank still bears traces of embankment which was used for cannons that attacked the “kattala”. 3).Mulleriyawela Battle site – Levallavatta area between Ambatale and Kelani River.
This was one of the few pitched battles between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese. The Portuguese became extremely weak within their area and the threat to Sitawaka from this direction ceased. Emboldened by this victory, Mayadunne and Tikiri Bandara conducted frequent attacks against the Portuguese and the Kotte Kingdom. By 1565 the Portuguese were unable to hold the capital city of Kotte. They abandoned Kotte and moved to Colombo (which was guarded by a powerful fort and the Portuguese navy) with their puppet King Dharmapala.
450th Anniversary of the Battle of Mulleriyawa
Angampora Fighters from Korathota Arachchi who fought for this historical battle was staged night of 2012-08-23 on the banks of Mulleriyawa lake to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the victory at the battle of Mulleriyawa. Angam specialist Ajantha Mahantharachchi and his studetns presented a dramatization of the indigenous fighting tradition along with a religious ceremony, to pay respect and immortalize the warriors of the legendary battle of 1562. A website including historical background of this great peace of land put online at www.mulleriyawa.org by Minister Ranjith Siyabalapiya on this memorial day.
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- 450th anniversary of the Battle of Mulleriyawa
- www.mulleriyawa.org - A website which includes historical background and current status of this great battle field in both English and Sinhala Languages.
- Angan to the fore as the battle of Mulleriyawa rages to the sound of drums
- "Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505-1658", By P.E. Pieris on Google Books
- Historical significance of Mulleriyawa's first victorious battle