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 Post subject: Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara
 Post Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:47 pm 
Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara

by Kishanie S. Fernando

We were more than surprised when we saw an Archaeology Department Board indicating a Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara, some 10 kilometres on the Galapitamada road after we had turned off the Kandy road at Nelundeniya. So we stopped to find out for our selves.

I recalled reading somewhere that the Captain-Major of the Portuguese Army was based in Menikkadawara which became the army headquarters due to its proximity to the Kandian frontier. The Captain–Major commanded about 350 – 400 soldiers, who formed 12 companies. About 150 soldiers were stationed in Jaffna Fort and the remainder were distributed between the forts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Kayts, Mannar, Negombo, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Mennikkadawara, Malawana, and Sabaragamuwa.

The Archeology Department board at Menikkadawara, stood on the side of the road, but hardly was there any other indication of an ancient site. A few shops and a sub post office made a very tiny bazaar. There were some old men sitting outside the shops. We asked them where the fort was and they pointed, with some annoyance maybe, to the rear of the shop. We asked them how to get there. And they showed us a tiny space crammed between two buildings littered with kitchen refuse and other rubbish.

We picked our way through the foul smelling, slippery and uneven path which seemed to be serving as the garbage dump of the area. It was quite a short distance really and then up a small embankment to an overgrown uneven piece of land which we assumed to be the unexcavated Portuguese Fort.

Three or four distinct mounds were seen at one end. We walked around the small area. On one side the embankment formed a small cliff. From here the valley spread into the distance, with a mountain rose in the background. We looked around for some sign of interest, some evidence of the history and the archeological treasure that lay buried beneath us. But only the huge trees above us rustled to break the silence. And directly below us was a buffalo tied to a tree munching contentedly at the grass, hardly bothering to raise its head to observe the strangers who stood on the embankment.

Maybe there would have been an important road leading to the Kandyan kingdom in this vicinity those days when the Portuguese decided to build a fort there.

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