First, they left behind them a legal legacy: the Roman Dutch law:which is still resound and hold sway in Sri Lankan Courts.
When the Dutch sailed their ships to Ceylon’s waters, it was trade that followed the flag, however faith preceded it. The heritage of the Dutch Reform Church. They built many churches from Point Pedro to Dondra Head and the Wolvendaal Church they built on Wolvendaal Hill in Kotahena in 1749 survives to this day.
And that is not all. The Dutch Government House in Galle, Star Fort in Matara, Kalpitiya Fort, Jaffna Fort and many such buildings built by the Dutch have survived the elements of nature and are still in use to this day.
The single storey Dutch Commissariat built in 1656 within the Galle Fort and the storehouse for the Dutch Garrison are now the National Museum of Galle housing a collection of exhibits from the Portuguese, Dutch and British, and the National Maritime Museum.
In Galle Fort is also the Old Dutch Hospital. De- signed with long colonnaded verandahs on both side of the building, it was turned to barracks by the British in 1850 and made the Galle Town Hall of an independent Sri Lanka a hundred years later. Four years ago, renovated, it was converted to a shopping and dining precinct.
It is the same with the Old Dutch Hospital in Fort, Colombo. This heritage-listed building was built in 1681 and still presides over the capital’s commercial hub within Colombo’s busiest square. Seven years ago, it was converted to a shopping and dining arcade with its architecture preserved and intact. Today it has be- come one of the most popular venues for nightlife in the city.
The Old Dutch Governor’s House is a two-sto- ried building built by Thomas Van Rhee, the Dutch Governor of Sri Lanka from 1692 to 1697. Today it is a Dutch Museum, displaying over 3,000 objects of the Dutch period. The Dutch also built a network of waterways, canals to expedite the transport of cargo. The canal from Puttalam to Colombo, the Hamilton Canal, is over 80 miles long.
Then of course, there is the contribution the Dutch to the Sinhala lexicon. The entire attire of the modern day Sri Lankan male is defined in Dutch script. For instance, the word for shirt in the Sinhala vernacular is kamisama, the trouser is kalisama and even the hanky is lensuwa; and where all of them are stored, the cupboard is called almariya.
As far as cuisine goes, the Dutch left us with the Christmas bruedher, with the night time waffle and the all time favourite lamprais. This is just a glimpse of the Dutch legacy that we enjoy today. There is so much more to experience.