Located within accessible distance from the commercial capital, Negombo is a well-known for its aquatic splendour. The economy of the region primarily based on fisheries. As a result, it offers the best of seafood freshly prepared to tantalise the foodie traveller. Popular with both natives and non-natives, Negombo provides to be a delightful beach excursion in Sri Lanka.
The locals identify it as ‘Mee Gamuwa’ literally translated to honey village. Legend claims that its name derived when the army of King Kavantissa discovered bees honey or mee pani in a boat in this region for Queen Vihara Maha Devi who was pregnant with Prince Dutugemunu.
Due to its inherent ecological feature of being a lagoon with shallow waters, vessels could easily be docked here. As a result, Negombo developed as a trade city, largely dominated by middle eastern merchants. This was until the Portuguese ousted them and claimed their commercial power over the region. The influence the Portuguese had over the population here was strong and can still be experienced even today.
During the early colonial era, a very lucrative and common business activity then was the exports of spices. Cinnamon here was an important trade good and was produced in Negombo. The Portuguese seized this when they ousted the Muslim traders. When the Dutch seized power from the Portuguese, Negombo flourished as a commercial city. The Dutch did not hesitate in reserving their hold on the cinnamon trade, and therefore invested in developing the city. This included the fort constructed by them in 1672 and a vast canal system that runs all the way through to Puttalam.
In 1815, when the Kandyan Kingdom ceded power to the British colonists, the cinnamon trade was already on the decline. Combined with this Negombo lost its fiscal strength as all the commercial interest switched to Colombo.
However even today, Negombo is a culture hotspot in the country. Appealing to the curious visitor, it maintains a unique ethos intermingling with its environment.
Attractions in Negombo
Travellers can effortlessly immerse themselves in Negombo, a melting pot of history, culture and coastal grandeur.
The Dutch Fort stands as one of the foremost examples of the Dutch influence in the region. The Dutch rebuilt the fort on the remnants of the Portuguese Fort which was destroyed during battle. A favourite amongst guests, the fort is a must visit for the international traveller.
St Mary’s Church
One of the largest cathedrals in Sri Lanka, St Mary’s Church is symbolic of the Portuguese influence in the region. Finished with sculptures of saints, the murals on the ceiling is said to have been painted by the local artist N. S Godamanne.
One of the most engaging sites in Negombo, the Angurukaramulla Temple is unique in design. Warding off spirits, visitors enter the temple through the dragon’s mouth. The vicinity also exhibits vestiges of a library estimated to be over 300 years old.
The Dutch Canal
Boasting their niche skill in constructing drainage systems, the duct built by the Dutch is a fascinating attraction. An extensive underground channel, the canal stretches at least 120 km reaching all the way to Puttalam.
For the nature loving traveller, Muthurajawela Marsh is a hidden sanctuary. The marshy land, home to a variety of birds and species of flora is a blissful utopia of its own. In addition, boat rides here are easily facilitated by the visitor centre.