Posted by: lrrp | October 7, 2005

The History of the City – Chilaw

In ancient times, Chilaw was famous for its pearl fisheries and known as Muthu Halawatha.

According to the Mahawansha, there were very valuable pearls among the presents sent to the King of Madurapura by King Vijaya. It could be understood that pearl fishery was existed in the northwest sea coast where King Vijaya was landed and initially established his power at that time. According to the Plinie in Rome, that the pearls brought from the gulf of Mannar and northwest coast of Ceylon were the highest precious pearls in the world. Tolemi (150AD) also had known about the pearl fishery in the gulf of Mannar.

Although the written records do not relate the history of Chilaw beyond the 12th century, Hindus belive that God Vishnu worshipped Munneswaram temple eons ago and that the shrine was established by the epic hero Rama, himself an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu 130 million years ago.

It is said that the Thumula Soma Pirivena at Munneswarama was constructed by a minister of King Devanampiyatissa known as Thumaula Soma.

Salavaththota or Chilaw was also an important landing place and sea port from the twelth century onwards. Between the years 1189 AD and 1200 AD the Cholas landed at Slavaththota in their third invasion of Ceylon. (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society No 82, VOL XXXI pages 385-6)

The Dambadeni Asna also refers to the landing of foreigners at the same port. In 1344 when Iban Bathutha landed at the Slavat (Chilaw) port, he had noticed that there were cineman stacked for export.

Chilaw was included in the Mayarata when Ceylon was divided into three divisions. The Deduru Oya (also known as Gargara Nadee or Maya Nadee), which is two miles away towards the north of Chilaw, separated the Pihitirata from Mayarata. The kingdom of Chilaw extended from Negombo as far as the mountain of Gurudumale (Kudure Malaie) and adjoined the Seven Korales. (Catholic Chilaw by E.Aloysius Fernando page 1)

The King Parakrama Bahu the great (1153 – 1186 AD) before becoming the king of the whole country was ruling the Mayarata from the capital of Panuwasnuwara, which is situated 20 miles away from Chilaw. Most of the irrigation work done by him were based on the Deduru Oya. Therefore the prsent area known as Chilaw district was populated before 12th century.

When Arya Chakravarthi, King of Jaffna, challenged the Sinhalese army under Alakeswara, the detachment of the army that was brought from India by the King of Jaffna had been stationed between Chilaw and Colombo and held a continous communication. (The Kingdom of Kandy by Fr. S.G.Perera) It is said that the army of Arya Chakravarthi sent by land advanced as far as Matale where it was defeated. The army that went by sea landed at Panadura but was defeated by Alakeswara in 1368, who also captured the Tamil encampments of Colombo, Wattala, Negombo and Chilaw. According to the Nikaya Sangrahaya, at the time Colombo, Wattala, Negombo and Chilaw were important feoreign trade centres and the ruler of Jaffna apparently attempted to control the foreign trade of the island.

Chilaw has occupied a fairly importance place when the establishment of the capital at Kotte in the end of 14h century. Guththila Kavya, a sinhala poem which is beleived to have been written during the Kotte period makes a reference regarding a minister known as Jayapala residing at Chilaw as “Salavatha Jayapala methidun”.

At a later period when the Mukkuwas became hostile to the King of Kotte and took possesion of Puttalam. Accordng to the Mukkaru Hatana, the Mukkuwas from India had landed off the Puttlam coast and were preparing to capture the land. King Sri Parakrama Bahu VI of Kotte (1412 – 1467 AD) appealed to the three towns Chanchipura, Kaveripattanam and Killakkare and an army with Arsakulasuriya Mudiyanse, Kurukulasuriya Mudiyanse, Varnakulasuriya Adappa Unnahay, Manikka Thalavan as Generals embarked for Ceylon to help the King. (Ithihasa by Rev. Sri Sumangala Pg 60). The success gained by these Generals in quelling the power of the enemy pleased the King and he donated t them on Thamba sannas, Anavilundawa and Munneswarama (near Chilaw) ,Meegomuwa, Grand street, Vella veediya etc. All of these Generals and their battalian were belonged to the Surya Clan. Those that settled in Chilaw belonged to the Mihindukulasuriya Clan. Itmay be interesting to note that there are five sub clans in Chilaw. They are the Fernando, Perera, Peiris, Pinto and Costa. (The Karave of Ceylon by M.D.Raghavan). It may be interesting to note that the King of Kotte in recognition of the Surya Clan also granted them a number of flags. Among these there was a separate Karava Kodiya for Chilaw. (Sinhala Banners and Standards by E.W.Perera)


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