How Etipola Dissawe captured Trincomalee Fort
This article written by late R.B. Etipola has been reproduced by his daughter Warna Beatrice Etipola Imbuldeniya and was originally carried in the Ceylon Observer.

An article which appeared in a morning daily on the capture of the ‘Trimangala Kotuwa’ (Fort Trincomalee) in 1661 AD dated April 29, 1024, is in the possession of the writer.

It has been written by Mohotty Mudaliyar of the Galle Atapattu, Mr. F.E. Gooneratne and with further reference to the Matale Kadaimpotha (Governemnt register of events and land boundaries before 1815), compiled by Nayarepola Alahakoon Mohottala and the Kadaim Potha handed to the National Museum Colombo, by H.C. Bell, Archaeological Commissioner and with the aid of old ola documents preserved at the Government Archives.

These state that King Rajasinghe II, having decided that the capture of Trincomalee was imperative in the interest of the Sinhala nation, sent Morahela Dissawe, a distinguished warrior with a great army of eight thousand Sinhala soldiers to capture ‘Trimangala Kotuwa’ in the Sakaraja Warusa 1582 (1661AD).

Records also show that he made several attempts and returned unsuccessful when the king had him beheaded. All his lands are stated to have been given to one Weparaya, and the king then summoned Etipola, who was in charge of the Atapattuwe Murapola (Military Officer’s guard post), and enquired if he could undertake the capture of Trincomalee.


It is stated also that Etipola enquired; ‘Will you be satisfied, O God Rajasinghe king if I should take Trincomalee with one arrow’.

This did astound the king and his ministers of state, and the king immediately called on Hindagala Pallegampaha Adigar (Prime Minister) and Dascon Adigar, who were present, to appoint Etipola the Seneviratne (General of the Sinhala Army), as Morahela was now beheaded and according to custom in order to lead a Sinhala army to appoint Etipola, Dissawa of Matale.

Further, all the above records state that he asked the king for his own officer at the Atapattuwe Murapola, namely, Kulatunga Mudiyanse of Udupihilla, Wannisekera Mudiyansa of Aluvihare, Dumbukola Chadrasekera Mudiyanse, Hampath Veddah and Gammadige Veddah. The king thereupon requested him to take an army of 4,000 Sinhala soldiers with necessary war elephants.

These records further state that Etipola Seneviratne Rajaguru Kumarasinghe, Dissawe of Matale, reaching the outskirts of the Fort of Trimangala (Trincomalee) prepared a tripod with three large tree trunks from which hung a large ‘Na’ battering ram by a massive iron chain.

At dead of night he had this erected before the eastern gate of the fort.

Awaiting dawn, when the east sky over the sea was not yet turned crimson and red, Etipola wound a strip of cloth bathed in oil to his arrow and lighting it he leaned on to the Bo-tree before the gate and facing east he shot the arrow which rose into the sky and fell into the gun powder magazine within the fort which then blazed and also lighted the ground outside the fort walls.

The General ordered his war elephants to ram the gates. Elephants and men entered the fort and all within and the buildings were destroyed. Just four ‘payas’ (hours in Sinhala), before dawn, Etipola raised the Royal Standard the Lion Flag, over Trimangala (Trincomalee).

Lion Flag

The above records with the Government of Ceylon, as stated, mentions that Prince Vijepala at Godapola Nuwara with the permission of Rajasinghe II; ordered a sannas to be prepared by Hulangamuwa Sannasrala that Etipola Dissawa should receive all land below the Fort of Trincomalee, in extent 65 amunas, both high and low land along with other lands that are mentioned therein.

He had also ordered that Niyarepola Alahakon Mohottala should now write out the Matale Kadiam Potha in such a way as to remain in perpetuity and to enlarge the Dissavony of Matale.

Having captured the Fort for the Sinhala nation in 1661 AD; Etipola Maha Disawa got it re-built and sent back the good news to King Rajasinghe II through Galathabuwa Rala addressing him in verse.

The Royal Standard, the Lion Flag of the Sinhala race, was raised over the Fort of Trincomalee (Trimangalawa) in 1661 AD and remained within the territories of the Sinhala nation as it existed until 1815 and such area was ceded to the British Empire under the Treaty at Kandy on March 2, 1815.

The Royal Standard, the Lion Flag, was raised once more over the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic at Kandy on February 4, 1948, to the roll of 1,000 drums by D.S. Senanayake, first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon and again by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1956, over Trincomalee.

-Daily Mirror -