Posted by: lrrp | March 12, 2008

Saving Galle Fort and Ignoring Vijitapura

D. H. Gunadasa of Hikkaduwa has raised a valid question about our sense of values as a nation (The Island, 11-02-08). He has suggested that Sri Lanka could enter the Guinness Book of Records for being the only country in the world to glorify foreign invaders. The sarcasm involved here is quite appropriate, for successive Governments have not only neglected, but also allowed the desecration, of two of our most important ancient forts.

One of our heritage sites that is still a tourist attraction comprises the remains of the 12th century Fort of Polonnaruwa. Apart from caring for the ruins of religious edifices, the only concern here had been to conserve the impressive walls of the inner citadel and the walls of the burnt down Royal Palace therein. Plenty of ancient buildings and valuable artefacts still continue to be dug up by private owners of the land within walls of the ancient city.

The trunk road from Maradankadawala to Batticaloa (A 11) passes right through the Northern Wall of Polonnaruwa fort up to the Police Station close to its Southern end. From there, it turns northeast to pierce through the Eastern Wall to reach what is now being called Kaduruwela (Kanduruwela in Survey Dept. maps earlier.) It is the site of Kandavurupitya where King Dutugemunu pitched his Kandavura or Military Camp to lay siege on the Elara’s fort of Vijitapura, in the 2nd century BC. The road (branching off near the Police Station,) to the New Town passes through the southern wall. Thus more than two miles of major roadways have been built to pass through the northern, southern and eastern walls of this ancient Fort.

The land on the southern end of the Polonnaruwa Fort, and all along the road through the eastern wall, land has been alienated to private owners. It has become a haven for treasure hunters, some of whom have become rich thereby. That is the treatment given to a fort built by our own kings nearly eight centuries before the Dutch built their ugly fort at Galle, using the impounded labour of the indigenous folk.

In the 12th century, Vijitapura was a suburb of Polonnaruwa where Parakrama Bahu the Great built the Veluvana Vihara (Mahavamsa Ch. 73 v.87). It was the site of the greatest of all forts belonging to King Elara, 14 centuries before Parakrama Bahu. The moats of this rectangular fort are clearly marked on the one-inch to-a-mile maps. But it was recognised as the site of the ancient fort of Vijitapura with the three fold moats on the southern side as described in the Chronicles only in 1980. This was done by two officials, B. H. Hemapriya (then Secretary to the Ministry of Lands and Land Development), and Dennis Fernando when both were flying over it by helicopter. The pair of them, and especially Dennis, has been crying out aloud to the Government and to Dept. of Archaeology to recognize this ancient site and conduct archaeological excavations there, for over quarter of a century now.

I too visited the site and contributed an article on the subject to the Sunday Observer in April 1980. (Perhaps it will be converted back to a Sugar-cane Farm very soon). The legitimate plea of these two amateur archaeologists fell on the deaf years of the JRJ Government that was pushing ahead with the preservation of old Dutch buildings. It has been the same with all the subsequent governments up to now, as well as the so-called archaeologists of the Cultural Triangle Project at Polonnaruwa. The damage done to archaeology by the latter group has been rightly exposed by Dr. Raja de Silva in his recent book “Digging into the Past”.

D. H. Gunadasa’s parting shot should be modified to read as follows: “We are the only country in the world to glorify foreign invaders and preserve their leftovers, while consigning the much older ruins of greater value to our heritage, to be desecrated and passed down to total oblivion.”


  1. goal fort is a icon of a dark time when sri lanka was hulmiliated and destroyed by the west, we should ignore such things and use all the money wasted on that shit hole on sri lanka’s real heritage the heriatge of our kings who ruled fairly and build monuments not to dominate us but as a testament to our glory.

  2. Excellent Story!
    I loved this blog.

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