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 Post subject: Sinhalese – Portuguese War: The Battle of Balana
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:03 am 
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Sinhalese – Portuguese War: The Battle of Balana (1602)

to be dited~...

After defeats of several battles, Portuguese had to implement alternatives to capture the control of upcountry. Asavedu, the newly appointed captain got down a supplementary cadre of soldiers from India to invade Upcountry. They were able to capture several fortresses near Balana. But after a week, again the Sinhalese cadre was able to seize the Balana Fort. Asavedu had a little fortune to save his life and fled to Colombo after his defeat.

The Kanda uda rata formed a plateau at a height of approximately 1500 feet above sea level. It was accessible through three passes, Galagedara, through the Sath korale, Balana through Sathara korale and Idalgashinna through Sabaragamuwa. The Portuguese preferred the Balana route. It was the closest and easiest route from Colombo. Once Balana pass was taken there was no other point at which successful resistance could be offered.

The Portuguese army started from Menikkadavara, 1150 feet below Balana, in Sathara korale. They approached Balana along an exposed path with the adjoining hills strongly held by the Sinhalese. From Ganetenna they had to climb a thousand feet in a little over a mile to reach Balana.

The Sinhalese defended Balana from fortified positions at the foot of the pass at Buddassagoda, Alutnuwara and Ganetanna. Buddassagoda and Alutnuwara were frontier posts, but Ganetenna which guarded the entrance to Balana had a stronger structure. There were also forts at the top of three craggy peaks, Rajakotuwa, Deyyane gala, and Veralugolla kanda. Balana was a look out point as well. Sentinels blew a conch, and then men below lit a beacon. This signal was taken up by sentinels on further hills at Diyakelinavala and Gannoruwa. The Portuguese noted that while the fighting was going on, the Sinhalese watched as spectators Queyroz says the Sinhalese ‘had many seats as spectators’.

Ribeiro says Portuguese complained of having to march in single file among the forests, shoeless through marshy fields, covered all over with bloodsuckers (leeches). They could not fight in formation either, since the groups got broken up by the narrow and difficult roads. The army was reduced to a long straggling line. They could not use heavy artillery, cannon or their guns.



Unlike the Portuguese the Sinhalese were familiar with leeches, monsoon rain and the Udarata terrain. They knew the lie of the land and the secret footpaths and successfully engaged in guerrilla warfare. They set up road blocks on the narrow winding paths; usually at a bend. They placed their guns between rocks and trees and launched surprise attacks. They regularly ambushed the Portuguese as they climbed the hills. They dropped felled trees and boulders on them. Then they attacked the trapped soldiers.

Fords were made impassable by felling trees. The waters were dammed and released, so that the soldiers drowned. A large, strong thorn called elephant thorn, was woven like mats and kept at the bottom of the ford, weighed down with stones. These thorns were used on land as well, they were used suspended on a crossbar on uptight supports, and could be lowered to form an impenetrable barrier.

When the defeat was known, ‘the whole country sprang to arms’. Negombo, Galle, Matara, Attapitiya, Opanayake, Ruvanvella and Menikkadawara were taken. Soldiers in the Portuguese army began to desert. 1603 saw two major rebellions, by Kangara arachchi and Kuruvita rala. Wimaladharmasuriya helped both rebels. Kuruwita rala was experienced in warfare. He took Raigam korale, the southern half of the Udarata kingdom and most of the disavanis of sabaragamuwa and Matara. He raided Beruwela, forced the Portuguese to abandon the newly built Sabaragamuwa fort and persuaded some of the lascarins of Matara to desert to him. Kuruvita arachchi staged a second rebellion from 1617 to 1619.


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