The Obelisk marking the Battle of Randeniwala

Arundathie Abeysinghe, in e-Lanka, 28 October 2021

A monument constructed at the ninth kilometer post on the *Ella–Wellawaya Road near the village of Randeniwela is a unique obelisk to commemorate the Battle of Randeniwela (Battle of Randeniya or Sinhalese – Portuguese War), a battle fought on August 25th 1630. The battle was fought between Portuguese forces commanded by the *Governor Constantinu De Saa de Noronha and King Senarath’s (1604–1635) youngest son Prince Maha Astana (pre coronation) who was later crowned as King Rajasinha II (1635–1687), the second ruler of Kandyan Kingdom and his brother Prince Vijayapala.

The battle was fought near *Wellawaya, situated in close proximity to *Badulla. The battle had taken place when Constantino de Sá launched an invasion via Badulla. The Portuguese army, despite their superior cannon power, suffered a massive defeat subsequent to a mass defection by its Lascarin (local militia) contingent. The Portuguese power had been frail during the battle due to the retreat of their troops. During the Battle, the Captain was also killed.

According to some historical records, during the battle, unable to bear the ignominy of the defeat, the Portuguese General Don Constantine De Saa had committed suicide. According to historical records, Kandyans had fought ‘with great force and fury’ and the Portuguese had also fought ‘with the utmost valour’.

The Battle of Randeniwela is also recorded in Portuguese sources such as Queyroz’s ‘Conquest’, Ribeiro’s ‘Historic Tragedy’, Menezes’s ‘Rebelion’ as well as an anonymous account known as the ‘Jornada’, considered as a more authentic account of the Battle, written in 1635, approximately five years after the events (of the Battle). In the account of Jornada) there are descriptions about *Muthiyangana Raja Maha Viharya (Temple) too.

According to Jornada’s account of the events leading to the Battle “a stone wall and a ditch on one side and the river (considered as the Badulu Oya) on the other. The next day he spent in sacking and torching the city, particularly the Kataragama Devale (devale meaning Hindu Shrine) and ravaging the countryside, destroying ‘more than 2000 measures of rice in the stalk’ and all the cattle he could find”.

The Battle of Randeniwela is considered as a significant historical event that took place during the Portuguese colonial era in Sri Lanka.

The toponyms of the area surrounding Randeniwela, almost every hamlet have names with military connotations; Hingurukaduwa (the hiding place or store for swords), Hewankandure (a stockade for soldiers), Ulhititenne (a place where palisades were set up), Hinapahuwa (a place where the army retreated), Udawadiya (a camp on the heights), Randeniya (plain of soldiers), Kolabure (a fracas or uproar), Polgaswela (the field where coconuts were dashed to celebrate the victory) and Ballakatuwa (derived from Balakotuwa meaning fort).

  • Arhat – According to Buddhism, an Arhat is one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and achieved *Nirvana.
  • Badulla – Situated in lower central hills, Badulla is the capital city of *Uva Province and Badulla District.
  • Bodhi Tree – Also known as Bo Tree, according to Buddhist tradition is the specific sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha attained *Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, India.
  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka gained Independence from British Colonials in 1948. In 1972, Ceylon became a republic within the Commonwealth and Ceylon was thereafter known as Sri Lanka.
  • Constantine de Saa de Noronha – He was the sixth as well as eighth Governor of *Ceylon during Portuguese rule. He was first appointed under Philip II of Portugal in 1618 and served as the Governor of Ceylon until 1622 and from 1623 until 1730. A strict disciplinarian, incorruptible man of high principles, a blue-blooded fidalgo as well as the Captain General of the Portuguese Colonials, considered as the key player in the Battle admired by his people.
  • Ella – Situated at an elevation of 1041 meters above sea


A NOTE from CR de Silva in USA responding to my Invitation, 8 November 2021:

Arundathie Abeysinghe’s article on ‘The Obelisk marking the Battle of Randeniwala‘ posted in in e-Lanka, 28 October 2021 and republished in  provides some useful information particularly on her identification of the current names of villages near Randeniwela which seem to have military connotations. She is correct in identifying that the main sources for the battle for historians include the works of Fernão de Queyroz, João Ribeiro, Joao Rodriguez de Sa de Menezes and the very valuable account called La Jornada do Reino de Hua.  There is an account of the battle based on these works and other archival (and Sinhala) sources in my The Portuguese in Ceylon 1617-1638, Colombo, 1972, pp. 104-109 and I append a short bibliography of sources at the end of this communication.

There are, however, a few minor issues that need clarification. Arundathie Abeysinghe states that the Kandyan forces were led by King Senerat’s son Prince Maha Astana (later Rajasinha II) and Prince Vijayapala (Prince of Matale). However, evidence from the sources indicates that Vijayapala’s brother, Kumarasinha (later Prince of Uva) was also a commander at the battle. De Queyroz asserts that Senerat who had caught a fever was not at the battlefield, but Sinhala sources (Rajavaliya, Rajasiha Hatana and Mandarampurapuwatha) indicate that he was present.

Also, though Arundathie Abeysinghe is correct in stating that de Sa was killed in battle, she also repeats the story that de Sa committed suicide. The suicide story first appears on the work of Robert Knox and the tale that he stabbed himself with a knife of a kaffir is unlikely in view of available contemporary data and the assertion of his son, João Rodriguez de Sa de Menezes, that the Sinhalese killed him.

Finally, while it is clear that the Portuguese defeat was partly due to the desertion of some of the local troops (lascarins) they had recruited (the plot to desert had been hatched as early as 1626), a contemporary account of the battle written by Fr. Manoel de Assumpcão, and evidence from La Jornada, Ribeiro and de Queyroz, indicate that a number of local recruits, (some say up to half, others only some 200) remained loyal to the Portuguese and fought with them. This might give a clue as to how some 600 Portuguese and topazes resisted 15,000 Kandyans for two days (August 21 & 22, 1630).


de Assumpcão,  Fr. Manoel, Recopilacão breve das guerras da ilna de Ceilão e da Rebeliam das Levantados morte do geral Constantino de Sa de Noronha e perda de todo arrayal co outras cousas q succederão, Unpublished Mss, Arquivo Nacional de Torre do Tombo, Manuscritos da Livraria, 1699.

de Sa de Menezes, João Rodriguez, Rebelion de Ceylam y las progressos de su conquista en el gobierno de Constantino de Saa de Noronha, Lisbon, 1681.

de Silva, C. R.  The Portuguese in Ceylon 1617-1638, Colombo, 1972.

de Queyroz, Fernão, The Temporal and Spitirual Conquest of Sri Lanka, translated to English by S. G. Perera as Colombo 1930. 3 vols.

Knox, Robert, An Historical Relation of Ceylon, Dehiwala,1958.

(La Jornada) The Expedition to Uva made in 1630 together with an account of the seige laid to Colombo by the king of Kandy, translated to English by S. G. Perera, 1930.

Maha Hatana, edited by T. S. Hemakumara. Colombo, 1954

Perera, S. G. The Rout of Constantine de Sa de Noronha, Colombo 1926. (Ceylon Historical Association Paper 15).

Rajasiha Hatana, edited by H. M. Somaratna, Kandy 1966

Rajavaliya, edited and translated by B. Gunasekera, Colombo, 1954.

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2 responses to “The Obelisk marking the Battle of Randeniwala

  1. Janaka Perera

    There are conflicting versions of De Saa’s death.
    According to some sources it was the result of an enemy arrow piercing his heart. Others says it was suicide.
    Whatever it was, a well-known story is that his decapitated head was placed on a plate and presented to the Kandyan King

  2. Senaka Weeraratna

    ” It is narrated that Prince Rajasinghe – later to become King Rajasinghe II – who was commanding the Kandyan forces, was bathing in a brook nearby, when they brought the severed head of de Saa to him. The head was placed in a drum and taken to the capital Kandy to be shown to Prince Rajasinghe’s father, King Senarath. The King is supposed to have addressed, the severed head and said ‘How many times have I told you not to harass my Kingdom?’”


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