Hambantota’s historic gems | Daily News


Hambantota’s historic gems

Old Hambantota Government Agent's Residence. Pictures by Raja Waidyasekera, Tissamaharama Special Corr.
Old Hambantota Government Agent's Residence. Pictures by Raja Waidyasekera, Tissamaharama Special Corr.

Historical records on the Hambantota District tell us that the region is one with a long and rich history, with archaeological evidence pointing to it being a hub of trade in the Ruhuna Kingdom. However, the curtain fell on this flourishing civilisation with the vagaries of power that later befell Ruhuna.

In the more recent past, the former epicentre of trade faced many youth uprisings birthed by poverty and unemployment, but this changed once the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime came to power.

Upon its advent, Hambantota witnessed a major transformation under numerous development projects.

Historic monuments

The district is also home to several monuments from the colonial era, including the Martello Tower, Hambantota Lighthouse, Kathiresan Pillayar Kovil, Hambantota Gallows, the old Government Agent's Quarters, and the old Court Complex.

Historical records that had been maintained by Sir Alexander Johnson, a Chief Justice during the colonial rule, show that the Martello Tower was set up under the supervision of an individual named Captain Goper of the British Engineering Corps. It reached completion in 1796.

The Martello Tower was built to mirror the Torra di Mortella set up in Corsica during the 19th Century. It was on the verge of collapse owing to long years of negligence, but was renovated during the same time period Sri Lanka's first Maritime Museum was set up; in 1992, when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held the portfolio of 'Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister'.

However, the museum's wonder was drowned in the 2004 Tsunami; all its exhibits were washed away. It was only six years later that the museum was restored to its former glory with financial assistance from the Government of the Netherlands.

Hambantota Lighthouse

The Hambantota Lighthouse, which is situated near the District Secretariat, is about 35 feet tall. Lamps were used in colonial times to illumine the lighthouse, which outstretched its light into the seas of the night with powerful convex mirrors.

Old Government Agent's Residence

This building was set up 150 years ago by the British as the Government Agent's official residence. Its walls, which are 12 inches thick, still hold strong to this day. Leonard Woolf was the Government Agent of Hambantota District at the time it was set up.

Old Government Agent's Office

The old Government Agent's Office was also built around the same time the Government Agent's official residence was. At present, it is being converted into a museum.

Old Court Complex

Hambantota's old Court Complex is located in its current District Secretariat premises. However, this establishment is said to have been set up by the Dutch. At present, this complex is abandoned as it has been replaced with the Hambantota Magistrate's Court and Hambantota High Court.

Old Rest House

The old Rest House in Hambantota, which was set up by the British in the Tower Hill area, is a single-strand structure bearing a wide veranda overlooking the sea.

Hambantota Gallows

The Hambantota Gallows, which is located near the District Secretariat, was set up when Leonard Woolf was the Government Agent of the district. The gallows consists of an oak pillar fastened on an iron base. A fence was erected around it in order to control spectators during executions.

Old Hambantota Mosque

This mosque is located in the heart of the Hambantota town. It has been renovated several times with donations from philanthropists and organisations.

Kathiresan Pillayar Kovil

The Kathiresan Pillayar Kovil is found a short distance from the heart of the Hambantota town, on the Matara – Tissamaharama main road. A noteworthy sight at this kovil is that religious rituals are conducted not only by Hindu devotees, but by members of the Sinhalese and Muslim communities as well.

Police Station and old Cemetery

This Hambantota Police Station and old Cemetery were both set up by the Dutch. The cemetery was used mainly for the burial of the rulers of the era, as well as Tri-Forces personnel.

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