Menikkadawara Fort of the Portuguese – මැණික්කඩවර බලකොටුව

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17th century map of Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara identified as Tontotte Fort
17th century map of Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara identified as Tontotte Fort
Source :

According to historical documents, The village of Manikkadawara has been built during the period of Dharma Parakramabahu IX (1489-1513) and the Portugues used Manikkadawara as a military station against Kandyan Kingdom for the first time in 1598.

The portuguese General Jerónimo de Azevedo was first to realise the military importance of Manikkadawara in order to launch attacks against Kandy.  He had first protected all the entry points through the mountains to Manikkadawara which covered an area with a diameter of 2.5 kilometers. Then he had build a strong fort using rocks within 4 months using the labour of the portuguese soldiers. This is said to be the only impregnable fort at that time. It is said that the fort had a capacity to hold 300-400 soldiers.

There has been a building made of bricks and wood at the center of the building which most probably served as the ammunition dump. Excavations has found this building to be 14×15 feet in size and 3 feet deep. It is said that the bricks required for the fort had been brought from the Suthigara Chethiya in Dadigama which lies about 2 km away.

Portuguese emblem carved on the rock slab
Portuguese emblem carved on the rock slab

Unfortunately today this fort has become just a mound of earth. A granite slab with the Portuguese Emblem had been discovered in the Manikkadawara Rajamaha Viharaya during the English rule had been moved to Colombo National Museum in 1890.

Portuguese Menikkadawara Fort

by Kishanie S. Fernando
source :

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.

Remains of the Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara
Remains of the Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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.

Also See

Map of  fort at Menikkadawara

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Traveling Directions to fort at Menikkadawara

Route from Colombo to fort at Menikkadawara

Route from Nelumdeniya to fort at Menikkadawara

Though : Kadawatha – Nittambuwa – Warakapola – nelumdeniya
distance :76 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
distance : 7km
Travel time : 10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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