Located near Galle, Sri Lanka, the region of Matara is a notable district of the south. Primarily a commercial district, Matara is a large coastal destination. Boasting of a rich heritage, the territory is largely unexplored by the international traveller.
Since early times, Matara has tied its origins to the heritage of the South. However, the region alone was recognised during the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa. It was then called ~Mahanagathota~. In addition, it is believed that King Maha Parakramabahu had sent armies to Matara to battle the armies of his enemy.
During the Colonial era, Matara came under the both Portuguese and the Dutch invaders. The first had called the region ‘Maturai’ denoting great fortress. The chronicles reveal that the region boasted of reserving acres and acres of cinnamon plantations. This was one of the key reasons for the Portuguese to focus on Matara.
In the 18th century, Matara was one of the coastal regions that the Dutch usurped from the Portuguese. When the Dutch established their rule on the shoreline, Matara was one of the largest areas that came under their administrative purview. When the Kandyan Kingdom attacked the administrative points of the Dutch, Matara was under their possession for almost a year, until the Dutch recaptured it. It was only second in strategic strength to the Galle Fort.
The regions is also popular for producing legendary local authors and poets such as Kumaratunge Munidasa and Gajaman Nona.
Attractions in Matara
Enchanting visitors, the region of Matara preserves many fascinating sites including a few nearly intact Forts built during colonial occupation.
The initial fortifications set by the Portuguese, the Matara Fort was further enhanced by the Dutch. Encompassing Dutch and English Architecture, the fort inside provides for an intriguing excursion. The nearly 40ft high tower found here was constructed during the British Colonial period.
The name stemming from the very shape of the fort, the Star Fort was constructed to protect the administration from military strikes from the Kandyan Kingdom. Complete with a deep moat, and could support a small garrison, store food and ammunition.
Parawi Dupatha Temple
Translated to Pigeon Island, Parawi Dupatha Temple is a small offshore island. The temple is set amidst the luscious greenery. It is also home to several Buddha statues and even a replica of the foot print found on Adam’s Peak.
Old Nupe Market
The structure here is said to have been built by the English while its preliminary settings would have been fortified by the Dutch. Despite this uncertainty, it was certainly used as a market during English occupation.
Dutch Reform Church
Found within the Dutch fort, the Dutch Reform Church is an enchanting colonial church. Consecrated in 1706, it is one of the oldest protestant churches in Sri Lanka that is still in use. An impressive treat for the culture thirsty traveller, the church preserves several gravestones backdating to the 17th century.