The battle at Katuwana Fort | Sunday Observer

The battle at Katuwana Fort

19 December, 2021

Katuwana Fort was built by the Dutch and is considered to be a very important location that separated the Kandyan Kingdom and the coastal areas. The Fort, which is believed to have been built in the 1690s, is located in the Katuwana area about 40 kilometres away from the city of Matara.


The Dutch conquered the coastal provinces of Ceylon in 1658. They were then building fortified Forts along the coast and building new Forts inland. It is said that the Katuwana Fort was completed by the Dutch in 1697. Katuwana Fort is of great archaeological value as it is one of the main Forts built inland by the Dutch to protect their territories from other Western nations, including the Portuguese. At the same time, many Dutch Forts were later renovated and used by the English, but Katuwana Fort was not altered or reused as such.


The Fort is a square-shaped building 150 feet in length. The main wall is about 20 feet high. The interior of the wall varies in height from approximately 8 to 12 feet.

There is only one entrance to the Fort. It was built in the shape of an arch. To the left of the gate was a very tall building inside the Fort. It is said that a clock was also installed there. It was visible above the munitions depot, and the commander-in-chief’s official residence was located to the right, adjacent to the Fort wall.

On the long side of the courtyard was a warehouse, and at its end was a two-storey building where munitions were stored. It is said that the upper floor was reserved for soldiers.

At the other end of the Fort were an operating room equipped with medical equipment and a large well filled with water to the left of the main entrance. This well can still be seen today. The land on which the fort is located covers an area of about five acres.


The Dutch have focused on two main areas in the construction of the Katuwana Fort. One of their objectives was to ensure the security of the region between the southern coastal border and the upcountry border. Another of their goals was to use the fort as a shopping centre to achieve their commercial needs. In addition, the main road from the then capital Kandy to the South was through Katuwana.

Therefore, protecting the road leading to Matara, a major Dutch city, as well as maintaining trade relations with the Kandyan Kingdom are some other factors for maintaining this Fort.


According to historical sources, the Dutch did not govern the coastal areas according to the treaty with the then Kandyan king. They seemed to be a nation focused on trade. For such reasons, the Kandyan king was not happy with the Dutch rule in the coastal areas which led some local leaders from the Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces to attack the Katuwana Fort, which was a major stronghold in the south. Accordingly, on the instructions of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy, three leaders from Uva and an army of five thousand five hundred from Sabaragamuwa left for Katuwana in the 1760s.

Among the Sabaragamuwa leaders who left for the battle were Kirielle Jayasundara Mudiyanse of Kuruwiti Korale, Matuwagala Abhayanayake Kuruppu Mudiyanse, Gunathilake Alahakoon Mudiyanse of Amatiyagoda Walawwa in Atakalan Korale, Dharmalankara Seneviratne Mudiyanse of Makandure and Maduwanwela Wijayundara Ekanayake Mudiyanse of Maduwanwela Walawwa in Kolonna.

Troops from Sabaragamuwa and Uva marched through Thambalagamuwa, Maduwanwela and Middeniya to Mulkirigala and with other Ruhuna troops to the Katuwana Fort. The main reason for the destruction of the Katuwana Fort was the continuous artillery attack by the Sinhalese army on February, 6, 7 and 8, 1761. The main gate of the Fort as well as the internal buildings were destroyed by these attacks. The Sinhalese army had also built strong huts a short distance away from the Fort wall, from which they mounted artillery attacks on the Fort.

The locals climbed the high wall with the help of bamboo ladders and another group surrounded the Fort after which they opened fire on it.

According to sources, there were not enough troops from the Katuwana Fort to face the continuous attack by the locals. 11 soldiers were killed and several others were seriously injured in the attack.

Two days later, the Dutch found it difficult to defend the Fort. The commanding officer of the Fort then hoisted white flags as a sign of surrender. However, it is said that the Dutch captured by the Sinhalese army chiefs, were taken away into the jungle and later killed.

Following the battle

After a difficult battle, the Katuwana Fort was captured by the Sinhalese army on February, 8, 1761. The attack destroyed the main entrance to the fort as well as many of the interior buildings.

It is said that the Sinhalese army destroyed the Matara Fort too and then ruled the southern region for five months. They arrived in Kandy in November, 1761. After that King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe is said to have given lands and other privileges to the leaders who took part in this battle.