Battles on the banks of the Kalu ganga
by Gamini G. Punchihewa
Many major battles were fought on the banks of the Kalu ganga between the Portuguese forces and King Mayadunne, King Dharmapala (of Kotte 16th century) and Bhuvaneka Bahu (VII) helped the Portuguese.
King Mayadunne (of Sitawake) led by his gallant son, then a boy of 13, Tikiri Rajjuru Bandara (later King Rajasinghe I) fought the Portuguese forces supported by Widiya Bandara's forces.
P. E. Pieris, in his 'Ceylon and Portuguese (1920)' describes the blood-battles fought on the banks of Kalu ganga and Kalutara itself: "In accordance with this the Sitawake army commanded by the youngest son of Mayadunne, Tikiri Rajjuru Bandara, a boy of thirteen, with whom was associated Wickremasingha Mudiyanse, the bravest of his father's generals, advanced to the Kalu ganga, and was joined at Kalutara by the Portuguese contingent of three hundred men. After crossing the limpid waters of the Pelen ganga the allied forces were met and attacked by Widiya Bandara, who after a hard fought battle was forced to flee, abandoning his wife and treasures to the conquerors."
Later on, Widiya Bandara was forced to seek refuge in the Udarata region under the protection of Karaliyadda Bandara. The fate of Widiya Bandara is another part of the story where he actually had to take refuge in Jaffna. In Jaffna he along with his son Wijayapala was slained.
Coming back to the battle scenes around Kalutara, the blood thirsty Portuguese in 1574, commanded by Diogo de Mele with his forces devastated that part of the country destroying shrines and temple. These ravages took place from Kelaniya, to the towns of Kalutara and Beruwala.
In late 1594 the Portuguese forces led by General de Azavedo were fast advancing towards Kalutara to capture it. Paul Pieris in his above quoted book has recounted how de Azavedo planned the capture.
The builder of Kalutara fort was Jorg de Albuquerque in 1622. Later it was captured by King Rajasinghe I of the Sitawaka kingdom. Then still later it was captured by the Dutch and re-captured by the Portuguese. On 14.10.1655 the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch.
Phillipus Baldaeus was a Dutch Pastro who lived most of his sojourns in Jaffna. He wrote a book in Dutch (later translated into English by Pieter Brohier), titled 'A True and Exact Description of the Great Island of Ceylon (1672). In it, he gives the following vivid description of the Portuguese fort of Kalutara built by the Portuguese and captured later by the Dutch "Within days journey of Gale (present Galle), lies the fortress of Caletura (Kalutara) situated in a most locality near the mouth of a large and broad river close by the sea. The defence is strongly built with double earthen walls, and is at present under our sway, it was taken over by us (by gods' blessings) under the directions of Honourable Director General Hulft (sic) on the 15th October 1655".
Portuguese, Dutch named present Kalutara as Caletura. Dr. R. L. Brohier, the author of many books on ancient irrigation works in his 'Seeing Ceylon' (1965) summarises an historical account of Kalutara thus: "There is much to interest one in this hinterland, but it is rather on fragments of the earlier history was ruled by a Sinhalese king, and when, if you look from the northern bank across the waters of the Kalu ganga, near its mouth, you saw, on the outlying spur an insignificant hill, an ivory-white dagaba poised on its crest, Gangatilaka Vihara, they called it: and De Queyroz, the historian, says of the river flowing by, that it was named 'Santosa Ganga'. There large trees and avenues of teak which cast shadows over green maiden and gardens in bloom. All this, and more, the Sandesa poems have translated into song". That was the glorious past of Kalutara.