Arandora Portuguese Fort

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A 1695  map of Portuguese fort at Arandora from the Dutch National Archives
A 1695 map of Portuguese fort at Arandora from the Dutch National Archives (www.nationaalarchief.nl/)

Arandora Fort is a Portuguese Fort used as a base camp of the main fort at Manikkadawara which lied on the road to Kandy. Realizing the strategic location of this fort the Dutch captured and occupied this fort in 1666 made in to a fortification against the wishes of Rajasinghe II, King of Kandy. They erected the the fort not on the hills of Arandora but on the low grounds at the base of its hills. This was as square fort with bastions at the four corners.

Mr Bell writes that the Rykloff van Goens report to the Counsel at Batavia, dated October 1675, he dwells on the importance of the post at ” Alauw,” :

This post lies, as has been said before, on the frontier of the Four and Seven Corales, and our guard on the opposite side in the Catugambele Corle, one of the Seven ; and on the south of the river Bilgal Corle, or the richest of the Four Corles, of which Arandore is the chief town, a very important situation, where of old the inhabitants of the Four Corles had to assemble as often as they were summoned together there by their Dessawe.

Here, too [at Arandore], is, as has been said of Alauw, not only the meeting of all the roads of the country but also the chief or high way from Candi runs through it, much shorter than from Alauw. The air, moreover is healthier here, the country also all round is full of populous villages, and provided with the best Christian Lascaryns, well trained for war against the highlanders.

In this Corle there is abundance of rice ; and the camp of the Portuguese, when it was in the field, used generally to be pitched here. Therefore we also have erected at Arandore our chief fort, or entrenchment (schans). In order to further secure Tontotte [Kannattota] situated on the river of Buanelle and the pass to Manicraware, Doravaecke, and the considerable post of Dangowitte, a very strong redoubt was built, standing within an old Portuguese fortification improved by us, and our guard is safe from all attacks.

With strained relations with Rajasinghe II, Kandyans attacked border strongholds of Dutch VOC in September 1668 forcing them to withdraw form these fortifications. These were sporodic localised attacks which was not sustained and the VOC militia re occupied these forts soon after. However in October 1670 a massive attack was launched by the king and captured the fort at Arandora, the erection of which he had never forgiven, and carried off the entire garrison as prisoners. The Dutch insisted on the release of their men, threatened reprisals, and closed the ports of Batticaloa, Kottiar, and Kalpitiya but the king remained unmoved.

Adrian van Rheede, in his “Considerations on Ceylon,” delivered to Maatsuyeker and the Council at Batavia, dated November, 1677 says;

Causes of the War between Raja Sigha and the Honorable Company, begun November, 1670 –

Arandore lost.—At length the Raja began to chafe, as he said, that everywhere the King’s enemies and fugitives were caressed, his land was traversed, his saltpans invaded, and that not only was he thus impeded, but his own people were led against him, so that he lost all hope of restitution. Therefore, in the year 1670 he sent from all quarters his soldiers to the low-country about Colombo. In the Fonr Corles, they commanded the garrison in the Fort Arandoere in tle king’s name to withdraw iron there, or threatened that they would compel them to go.

Arandoere was situated on a small plain commanded by the uplands lying at the foot of four very high mountains. from which artillery fire could command the fort, so that it lay as it were exposed. ‘

The ensign Hans Steenbeck, having directions from the Governor to avoid all causes of offence and discontent and not knowing how to act such a case, as he had received no distinct orders. thought best to abandon that fort. The more so as he did not know if it was peace or war with Raja. sinee the Governor kept that to himself, in order to explain it well or ill, and bear no part in the disgrace, leaving that on the shoulders of the weak. Having gone some distance they found the way to Colombo blocked with trees, so that they were obliged to return to the fort, but were so hemmed in that they had to surrender, on the understanding that their lives would be spared. Whereupon they were carried captive to Candia, to the number of 48 Hollanders, 12 Toepasses, and 100 Lascaryns, together 160 persons; and this officer is still slandered in the letters as a barefaced rogue, because otherwise the Governor himself would have had to answer for the loss.

Arandora Fort seems to have been re-occupied the Dutch soon after as the same report states that the they (Dutch) has abandoned this and some other post in 1675 in view of a threatened attack by the Kandyan forces.

After peace had been signed in 1681, the VOC abandoned the fortifications in the lands captured after 1665, strengthened the existing forts, and built a number of new forts.

During the British occupation, Sir Robert Brownrigg has placed a detachment at Arandora in 1818 and it was placed under the control of “Fort King” in 1821. There are records of having few militarymen at this fort until about 1830. This fort was abandoned as a military post probably with Attapitiya fort in 1834.

In 1892 Mr Bell reports the status of the remains of this fort as bleak;

Monsoon rains and forest growth (1 mill tree measured7 ft. in girth 6 ft. up) have almost obliterated the outline of the old fort. As far as can be judged, it consisted of a simple entrenchment six-sided, covering an area of about 162 ft. by 150 ft., of which the central portion (75 ft. by 25 ft.) was raised to a height of some 20 ft. above the outer trench. The familiar projecting bastions are wanting, and there are no signs of stone or brick building ..

Today no remains are found on the fort or any indication of the location. Mr Chryshane Mendis in his masters thesis ‘Fortifications and the Landscape – A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka‘ has placed the Arandara Fort at 7°11’27.2″N 80°18’02.0″E based on the map details and satellite imagery.

Superimposed plan of Arandara to scale in its present location (source: NSDI Geoportal OSM imagery with inland waterways vector layer)
Superimposed plan of Arandara to scale in its present location (source: NSDI Geoportal OSM imagery with inland waterways vector layer)
source : FORTIFICATIONS AND THE LANDSCAPE A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka

Sources

  1. H. C. P. BELL, 1904. ARCHEOLOGICAL, SURVEY OF CEYLON. REPORT ON THE KEGALLA DISTRICT · OF THE PROVINCE OF SABARAGAMUWA. 1st ed. Colombo: GEORGE J. A. SKEEN.
  2. H.C.P බෙල් (සිංහල පරිවර්තනය කොත්මලේ කේ. බී. ඒ. එඩ්මන්ඩ්), 2005. ලංකා පුරාවිද්‍යා ගවේෂණය කෑගල්ල දිස්ත්‍රික්කය පිලිබඳ වාර්තාව (Report On The Kegalle District – 1892 : සිංහල පරිවර්තනය). 1st ed. කොළඹ: පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තුමේන්තුව.
  3. Jayasena, R., and Floore, P. (2010). Dutch Forts Of Seventeenth Century Ceylon And Mauritius: An Historical Archaeological Perspective. In First Forts, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
  4. Mendis, C., 2020. FORTIFICATIONS AND THE LANDSCAPE : A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka. Master’s thesis. University of Amsterdam.
  5. De Silva, K., 1981. A History of Sri Lanka. 1st ed. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Also See

Map of  Arandora Fort

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Traveling Directions to Arandora Fort

Route from Colombo to fort at Thuntota Route from Nelumdeniya to fort at Thuntota
Though : Kadawatha – Nittambuwa – Warakapola – nelumdeniya
distance :79 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Distance : 7 km
Travel time : 5.3 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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