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A Taste of Ethnicity

Written by
Swetha Rathnajothiee

Explore the cultural landmarks and the heritage of the island. From exotic beaches to historically famed sites, there are plenty of places to visit. When in the island, experience an abundance of Sri Lanka's rich culture and history in the Southern province. 

Dondra Head Lighthouse

The lighthouse was built by the British in 1989. The 150 ft tall structure was constructed solely using stones, were shipped from Scotland and weigh over two tons each.

The lighthouse is currently operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. It is also the tallest lighthouse of Sri Lanka and in the South East Asia. One of the four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka, it consists of seven floors, 14 two panel windows and 196 steps, which, once climbed provide a breathtaking view. However, prior permission from the Ports Authority is necessary in order to gain access to the top. 

The Dondra Lighthouse is positioned at a crucial point in the Maritime route, and is still active and guides ships and boats and. It also transmits radio wave signals to surrounding lighthouses in the country.

Galle Fort

Galle Fort in the cultural capital of Galle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fort is vibrant with many shops, galleries, restaurants and cafes which allow the visitor to immerse in the cultural hub of Galle. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, there's a little bit of history embedded in the origins of the quaint fort. Built by the Portuguese and extended by the Dutch and British, the Galle Fort is a blend of colonial architecture.

Major changes were brought in during the Dutch reign, which included the fortification containing 14 bastions, construction of buildings for military, administrative and commercial purposes and church buildings with unique architectural style. It was during the colonial rule that the Fort became a hive of activity. Today, the Fort with a Dutch legacy is visited by everyone.

©BT Images

Matara Fort

The Matara Fort, a 13-metre thick, five-metre high rampart, acts as an ancient sentinel overlooking the city of Matara. It is believed that the Portuguese built a fort in 1595. King Don Juan Dharmapala who ruled over the Kingdom of Kotte, was said to have aided in the construction.

However, the present fort was built by the Dutch around 1645. During the Dutch era, it was considered to be the second most important fort in the Southern Maritime Provinces. The British assumed control over the area in 1796.

The structure was constructed using limestone, granite, and coral. The southern bastion which faced the seaside was later removed to allow convenience of access to the town from the seaside. The remaining rampart now bears a modern clock tower.

©BT Images

Nupe Market

Built in the shape of the letter ‘T’ in the English alphabet, the structure located at the Nupe Junction in Matara has been used as a market since the British occupation. The building feel into disrepair and was restored by the Department of Archaeology in the 1980s. the restoration work was eventually completed in 1989 by the Urban Development Authority and the building was given to the Hunupitiya Gangarama Temple.

Constructed on pillars, the building is 15m in height and supported by stone pillars. Kandyan Era flat tiles (pethi ulu) are used to pave the roof, which feature three small roofs above the main roof. Today, the building houses various exhibitions.

 Puppet Showrooms

Ambalangoda is famed for its traditional mask production. Generation upon generation of artisans create colourful masks that have become symbolic of traditional Sri Lanka. The masks fall into three categories: ‘Kolam’, ‘Raksha’ and ‘Sanni’.

The Raksha or demon masks are used in festivals and ceremonies and the demonic features are characterised by bulging eyes and protruding tongues. The ‘Sanni’ is a traditional ritual in Sri Lanka. Akin to an exorcism, the ritual aims to expel evil spirits from an afflicted individual’s body. Thus, the Sanni masks are often alarming and disturbing to look upon. The Kolam masks are the least intimidating: originating from the colonial era, they are satiric, subtly calling out the ridiculous.

©BT Images

Richmond Castle

Nanayakkara Rajawasala Appuhamilage Don Arthur De Silva Wijeysinghe Siriwardena, the Mudaliyar of Kalutara District built this imposing castle upon his return from England towards the beginning of the 1900s. Inspired by the abode of the Maharaja of Ramnad, India, Arthur de Silva Wijeysinghe Siriwardena imported the material to build his castle from overseas.

The Richmond Castle encapsulates four distinct styles of architecture: the courtyard tradition of ancient Sinhalese homesteads, the architectural genius of the Maharajas, Grecian architecture and Roman-Dutch architecture. The Castle dominates a 42-acre land area, and within its walls as well as throughout its grounds contain numerous treasures from the past. 

Star Fort

True to its name, the Star Fort in Matara is built in the shape of a star; the only fort of its kind in Sri Lanka. Located near the Dutch Fort in Matara, the fort was built to offer an additional layer of protection and defense for the Matara Fort. Its construction was prompted by the Matara Rebellion in 1762, and Governor Redoute Van Eck is credited with its erection.

Over the main gate, the construction gate (1762) is imprinted onto the structure, guarded by two carved lions. At present, the Star Fort houses the Archaeology Museum of the Matara District.

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