Sitawaka Fort and the Palace of King Rajasinghe I
- The Castle of the Lion King and a Portuguese Fort -
Little remains today of the 16th century medieval Kingdom of Sitawaka whose first king was Mayadunne, followed by his illustrious son Rajasinghe 1 and finally by Rajasuriya .
The ruins of the Sitawaka Fort and the palace of King Rajasinghe 1 (or at least the site so identified) can be seen by the side of the Avissawella - Panawala road -- this being the same route to the Maniyangama Raja Maha Viharaya.
When we reached the site we could barely distinguish brick from stone due to the over growth of grass, weeds and creepers.
To us it looked like several narrow mounds and we had to be satisfied with the detailed account given on a prominent board set up by the Archaeological Department whose office was also in the same precints.
I quote here from an account written by Dr. John Davy the surgeon and physician of Governor Brownrigg, in his book “An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, and its Inhabitants” who stumbled upon this site around 1819; “Sitawaka once a royal residence was a place of considerable consequence, it is now merely a name. No traces of what it was are now to be seen by the traveller passing along the road; and, for a considerable time none were supposed to exist. Lately some remains of buildings have been discovered in June 1819, when travelling this way the third time, I was conducted by the natives to an old fort concealed by wood, situated on a tongue of elevated ground, formed by the confluence of a small deep steam with the river.
I went in a boat, and accessed from the river by a short flight of hewn steps and after walking about a hundred yards, came to the building, which I found to be nearly square, formed of three walls, one within the other. ……the space was overgrown with weeds.
Here I observed a deep well, carefully made, with its sides lined with masonry. The second wall, only a very few feet from the inner, seemed intended for its defence. The inner enclosure was probably roofed, and was the dungeon keep of the fortress.
There were no marks of its having been divided into different compartments, and indeed it was hardly enough to admit it.
The natives who call this ruin Kotuwa (a fort ) have a tradition, which is probably correct, that it was built and occupied by the Portuguese when the neighbourhood was the arena of the princes of Sitawaka. The nature of the building, the circumstance of there being a good well within its walls, its situation on the Colombo side of the river and nearly opposite to the spot on which there is reason to believe the palace and town of Sitawaka formerly stood, seem to be proofs of the correctness of the tradition……. “
The stone steps that are referred to above are believed to be the steps that led to the castle, which is still said to emerge when the water level drops. The outer and inner walls as described had collapsed and the wells cannot be identified. Partly buried stone pillars lie scattered around. And this is all that remains in addition to its being in a sad state of neglect.
by Kishanie S. Fernando
February 4, 2007