Sinhalese – Portuguese War: The Battle of Mulleriyawa
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Author:  Saman [ Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:03 am ]
Post subject:  Sinhalese – Portuguese War: The Battle of Mulleriyawa

Sinhalese – Portuguese War: The Battle of Mulleriyawa (1562)

Mulleriyawa Satana in 1562 was the first major battle between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese and it was one of the most decisive battles in Sri Lankan history. At the time, it was the worst ever defeat for a colonial power on eastern soil. Local chronicles say that the marshlands of Mulleriyawa turned red with blood after the annihilation of the Portuguese by the army of Mayadunne of Sitawaka, a battle commanded by: Tikiri Bandara (subsequently Sitawaka Rajasigha)[1]. By winning this battle Sitawaka emerged all-powerful, able to challenge the Portuguese who lost the opportunity to ensure their total control of the island.


The Portuguese wanted to conduct an all-out offensive against Sitawaka and kill King Mayadunne since relations had so deteriorated between the Kotte King and Sitawaka. But King Bhuvanekabahu VII did not support their cause; he only wanted Portuguese help for defensive purposes. After Bhuvanekabahu's death in 1557, 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.

Under these circumstances, in 1562 the Portuguese Captain General in Colombo, Dom Afonso Pereira de Lacerda persuaded Dharmapala to invade Sitawaka and led an army along banks of the Kelani River towards its capital.

The battle

Mayadunne received the news of this invasion force and sent a strong army under the command of his son Tikiri Bandara towards Colombo. The two armies met in marshland at Mulleriyawa on the southern bank of the Kelani River. 1600 Portuguese Soldiers and several thousand locals under the command of the Portuguese (Lascarins) including a small number of cavalry and a number of Cannon were in the side of Portuguese. The battle was fought over several days during which the entire Portuguese army was either killed or captured. It came to light that even though the Portuguese were equipped with superior weapons, the Sinhala kings had used their local knowledge to great effect.

This was the first major battle between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese. The Portuguese became extremely weak within their area. 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.

↑ Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505-1658, By P.E. Pieris, page 85

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