Thuntota Portuguese Fort in Holambuwa

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17th century map of Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara identified as Tontotte Fort, According to research this fort was situated near Thunthota in Thummodara on Raja Mawatha from Gampola to Kelaniya from the Dutch National Archives (
17th century map of Portuguese fort at Menikkadawara identified as Tontotte Fort, According to research this fort was situated near Thunthota in Thummodara on Raja Mawatha from Gampola to Kelaniya from the Dutch National Archives (

According to historical documents, The city of Manikkadawara (Manikkadawara Nuwara) has been built during the period of Dharma Parakramabahu IX (1489-1513) by his brothers, Sri Raja Singhe and Vijayabahu. The Portuguese used Manikkadawara as a military station against Kandyan Kingdom for the first time in 1598. Manikkadawara Fort is mentioned in number of historical documents and according to HCP Bell, there has been two forts called and one of these forts had been located in the area called Thuntota at Holombuwa.

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.

Mr H.C.P. Bell had carried out a brief investigation in the latter part of 1800’s and has published his observations in the 1892 report on Kegalle District.

In addition to the minor outposts at Alawwa, Pitagaladeniya, Bisowala, Kannaththota this was the chief fortification within the Kandyan Territory for Portuguese armies. General Jerónimo de Azevedo was the fist to make use of this fort in the battle against Don John Wimaladharmasuriya I (1592 – 1604) in 1598. Bell records the following in his Kegalle Report quoting from the English translation of Portuguese historian Manuel de Faria e Sousa

After the gaining of the victories in the Seven Corlas which we have described, and the destruction of the enemies stockades, the General D. Jeronymo d’Azevedo determined to send and make a stockade in Manicravare. as it was nearer to the kingdom of Candea, in order to be able to conquer it from there; and to build m that stockade a military magazine and barrack, that it might serve as a garrisoned fortress near the Four Corlas. This stockade he decided should be of stone for better fortification and security of the troops who were to be stationed there. Wherefore he collected a large number of pioneers and workmen, and all the tools and materials necessary for the work. These he entrusted to Salvador Pereira da Silva, who set out with an ample body of Lascoreens and as many Portuguese soldiers as could be assembled ; and, one league before reaching the fort of Manicravare in the past September of [15]98, he pitched his camp, in which he remained some days. During this halt was collected the plant necessary for the work, in order to complete everything the day they arrived. He suspected that the Tyrant had a mind to surprise our troops before they had fortified themselves, so as to hinder a work which would be of great embarrassment and harm to him, as they [the Portuguese] would thereby block the gates of the kingdom of Candea where he would be confined. The requisite materials having been collected, our men set out for the place where the fortress was to be made, and on arriving at it they at once fortified themselves ; and when the following night came on which the enemy had determined to surprise them, there was already made a defensible fort of wood, our men qute secure inside it, and the enemy frustrated in their design without daring to meddle with them.

Our men soon put their hands to the work of [building] the fortress of stone, on which they spent a period of four months at great loss and labour ; and whilst engaged therein they did not fail to make several incursions into the territories of the Tyrant, from which they always returned victorious.

The Tyrant seeing that he could not stop that work, determined to draw away the General. Wherefore he proceeded with his army to the frontiers of Dinavaca, and commenced to make war vigorously on those districts which were ours. Upon this the General hastened thither with another army which he had formed of soldiers taken from the garrisons in various parts, leaving them, however, guarded. He sent Captain Salvador Pereira da Silva in command to oppose the enemy: this the latter did, and in several encounters routed them. ‘The fortress of Manicravara was carried on until the whole was completed, with its walls, bastions, and a tower of two stores in the middle, the work being so well finished and strong, that it was considered impregnable throughout that Island. Thither the said General proceeded with the rest of the army at the beginning of the past January of [15]99 and made preparations for making an inroad into the Corlas.

D. Hierome de Azevedo in Ceylon raising a strong fort at Manicravara be the nearer to the kingdom of Candea, the conquest whereof was his chief aim, so perplexed the usurper that he, setting out several bodies with the king of Uva to dstract our General, was in all places by him overthrown.

D. Jeronymo being informed of this (the incursion of the Kandyans into Portuguse territory) provided the stockade of Manicravara, which he was, with three companies of soldiers, the Captains of which were Thome Coelho, who was head of all, Joao Serrao da Cunha, and Diogo de Aranjo, and with victuals and ammunition for many days.

According to Bell, the first and the larger camp mentioned above is not located in Manikkadawara but in the adjoining village of Holambuwa. Bell reports there was a large almost circular mound with flat surface 242 feet wide and 231 feet long with bricks scattered around it. Bell believes that this would have been completely made of clay bricks as the Dadigama Kota Vehera site which was less than 2 miles away would have supplied the Portuguese with unlimited quantity of ready made bricks. In the centre of the fort stood an oblong brick building, 58 ft. by 45 ft., probably divided into rooms.

Bell also states that the fortress at the Menikkadawara, a mile off, may not have been run up till some years later. This is pointed out by the natives as the real Parangi Kotuwa, or “Portuguese Fort.” Regarding Holombuwa they know nothing.

The Portuguese may have used the better known name Manikkadawara for the Holombuwa Fort. This is same fort which is also known as Thunthota Fort (Tontotte Fort) by the Dutch (see above drawing of the fort). E.K. Hemathilake Bandara in his book Ithipura Kolombuwa states that this fort was built near Thunthota in Thummodara on Raja Mawatha from Gampola to Kelaniya. This road was built by placing slabs of rocks across Kuda Oya that flows from Dedigama and allowing water to flow over it to allow horses to cross the stream with ease. Today the Gurugoda Oya flows to the left of the fort land and is surrounded by paddy fields. The current area where paddy fields are may have been flooded at that time.

He also states that the length and width of the fort is 242×231 feet. There appears to have been a brick building 58 1/2 feet long and 45 feet wide in the center of the fort. This seems to have had 6 rooms. The base of the walls around the fort wall is left about 5 feet in some places. There are 4 places which can be identified as possible locations of the 4 bastions. The fort fall lies at about 7 feet height from the Gurugoda Oya. It is 5-6 feet away from Thunthota Oya. In the middle of the fort is a trench. The rock in the middle of the Thunthota Oya has two 5×5 foot cavities cut in to it. It is said that a wooden bridge was built with 2 stone pillars fixed these cavities. From here, large stone slabs (4-5 inches thick, 9-10 feet long, 4-5 feet wide) were laid at various points along the way to the fort wall. A large cannon has toppled in to the Gurugoda Oya. Residents say it rises during the off-season.

The exact location of this Holombuwa fort is lost today 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 Thuntota Fort at 7°11’28.3″N 80°15’58.8″E based on the map details and satellite imagery.

The fort at Holombuwa is the only four sided star fort constructed in Sri Lanka. This fortification is a product of dual parentage, built in both European and Sri Lankan traditions. Curtain walls with central, instead of corner, bastions enclosed this square fort. The internal structure had a pyramidal roof and was surrounded by verandas both on the ground- and first floors.


  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., Floore, P. and Klingelhofer, E., 2010. First Forts – Essays on the Archaeology of Proto-colonial Fortifications. Leiden.Boston: IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP.
  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.

Also See

Map of  Thuntota Fort in Holambuwa

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Traveling Directions to Thuntota Fort in Holambuwa

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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