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Mulleriyawa - dumping ground of our past

by Padma Edirisinghe

Arms and the Heroes, who from Lisbon's shore,
Thro' seas where sail was never spread before,
Beyond where Ceylon lifts her spicy breast
And waves her wood above the watery waste,
With prowess more than human forced their way
To the fair kingdoms of the rising day
What wars they waged, what seas, what dangers passed,
What glorious empire crowned their toils at last !

(From the Lusiads, the epic poem of Portugal)

A temple at Mulleriyawa whose monk claims that this door frame belonged to the old palace.

The Lusiads naturally omit mentioning the Mulleriyawa war where this super power of the world in the 15th and 16th Century ie. the Portuguese also known as Ferenghis or Parangis (locally) suffered an ignominous defeat at the hands of our Tikiri Kumaru Rajasinghe. Mulleriyawa itself is today a suburb of Colombo. Angoda and Mulleriyawa are so connected that one does not know where one begins and the other ends.

Even the Home for the Mentally Deranged flows over today from Angoda to Mulleriyawa due to the increasing number of mentally disturbed in our country. Sited in a scenic terrain by the Kelani river as it speeds its way to Modera to join the Indian ocean. The area burst into recent history when the Japanese bombed the Home of the Mentally Disturbed accidentally during the Second World War. The inmates who were unharmed ran in all directions never to return. Many women are said to have jumped into the Kelani, their disturbed state more disturbed. It reminds one of the females in Professor Goswamy's unfinished autobiography where desperate Indian women (mostly widows) jump into the Jamuna as it flows by the famous Brindiwaden Gardens of India.


Mulleriyawa shot into fame further back in history ie. in the eve of the 16th Century when the valiant king, Rajasinghe of Sitawa ka, defeated the super power of the world in a stretch of paddy fields here reddening the field water with the blood of the Parangi soldiers. This wonderful victory is capsuled in a popular folk verse that mentions the reddening of the field waters after the massacre of the foe. Today this field lies neglected and forlorn, and at one end a miserable shed shelters a garage, a small kiosk and some odd workshop. You get down from the vehicle and ask the staring men where Mulleria wela is and they grin and show the fallow stretch, its waters now just a muddy stench.

One can only sigh at 'the ignominous celebration of such a historical place where the mightiest nation of the world in the 15th and 16th centuries suffered their most disgraceful defeat.

Here the super power of the world in the 16th century Portugal suffered her most ignominious defeat at the hands of a Sinhala prince. But only the men in this ramshackle shed photographed recently knew the landmark.

Along with Spain the Iberian Peninsula had overthrown the mighty empires of South America, as the Peru and Mexico empires and decimated the glorious old empires of the African continent to zero point. Theodore Ropp in "His war in the modern world" gushes "Portugal and Spain outran everyone else and raced each other as empire builders". But at Mulleriyawa this country of Portugal that ran ahead in the world in the conquests field just halted.

Of course despite the negligence Mulleriyawa too has its epic writers and dedicated propagandists who work silently.

The writer met two of them, one a school teacher, Somapala Athukorale and the other S. Siriwardena, proprietor of Sunils' Diamonds, Mulleriyawa who actually was responsible for the writer's Mulleriyawa trip.

The latter's Ge name is connected to the village of Kuruwita and he claims that he belongs to a clan who were brought over from Kuruwita of the Sabaragamuwa area by Tikiti Kumaru Rajasinghe (also known as Degamboda Sinhaya, the lion who fought on the two banks) to fatten the Sinhala armies who waged their wars against the Ferenghis.

Mr. Siriwardena of tall sturdy built says almost all the males in this group exhibit similar characteristics physically. This clan never went back but stayed on and today heads many an enterprise in the area, soon to become an El Dorado as Colombo grew.


Mulleriyawa is today well-known for housing The Home of the Mentally Deranged and also for the Mulleriyawa field of war but a rather obscure fact is that a royal palace had once sprawled on this terrain by the Kelani. Its remains still lie there in the form of remnants of kabook walls, parts of moats and sturdy foundations. According to Mr. Athukorale who had done his own research the place was the habitat of sub-king Sakala Kala Vallaba, son of Vira Parakramabahu viii. Mulleriyawa then had occupied a point of vantage sited between Kotte and Kelaniya. As turmoil in the area escalated this Upa raja or sub-king had proceeded to Ugugampola off present Gampaha and built a new palace there. (Beautiful women from the village of Korase had formed the harem of this rather unambitious king who is supposed to have rejected an offer of the throne of Kotte).

Certain door frames of the old palace of Mulleriyawa are today found in a temple at Mulleriyawa sited deep in marshy land.

A villager displaying an artefact of the old palace

Rugged villagers of unkempt appearance, almost replicas of the Sinhalese who lived in Rajasinghe's time who defy the long time passage traversed, come out of their doors and grimace and take pains to show some piece of artefact of the ancient times found when building their little homes.

These souvenirs are almost held in sacred awe as they say "ape raja unnansege maligawe kaali" (pieces of our king's palace). Almost incongruously a factory bell rings somewhere and billows of smoke rise from the industrial complex surrounding Colombo giving the skyline a reddish glow.

It reminds you that you are only a few miles away from the capital belching with smoke and noxious fuel and people. But what is more important to realize is that you are plump in the spot where a son of our soil vanquished the world's mightiest power in the eve of the 16th Century. But only those men grinning in that ramshackle garage cum workshop cum kiosk know the landmark. What more national tragedy than that?

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