History of Trincomalee

The District was captured by Portugese in the 16th century. The destruction and looting of the Koneswarar Temple by Constantine De Saa on a New Year day in the beginning of 1620 was a turning point in the history of the District. The Dutch conquered this district from Portugese in 1693 and it fell into the hands of British in 1796.

By a Proclamation of 01/10/1833 when the country was demarcated into five provinces for purpose of administration, Trincomalee District formed part of the Eastern Province. Until 1953, except for occasional changes the District boundaries remained unchanged. Until 1958 the District was administered by an Assistant Government Agent under the Government Agent of the Eastern Province in Batticaloa.

From August 1972, Thennamaravadi (31E) and Pulmoddai (31G) Gramasevaka Divisions of Kuchchaveli A.G.A. Division and Parana Madawachchiya (31F) Gramasevaka Division of Gomarankadawala A.G.A. Division were detached from Trincomalee District and attached to Pdaviya A.G.A. Division of Anuradhapura District. Subsequently, Padavi Siripura (31D), Thennamaravadi (31E), Parana Madawachchiya (31F) and Pulmoddai (31G) G.S. Divisions of Padaviya A.G.A. Division were attached to Trincomalee District with effected from 13th May 1982.  As the A.G.A. Divisions were increasing, the internal boundaries of the A.G.A. Divisions were subjected to changes from time to time.

Trincomalee District has a population of 412,432; the ethnic composition is Muslim 41% Tamil 35% and Sinhalese 24 %.

Areas

Trincomalee District which is in the Northern part of the Eastern Province is bounded in the North by Yan Oya, by Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Districts in the West and by Verugal Ganga in the South. The total extent of the District is 2630.8.sq.km. With an inland water coverage of 96.7sq.km.

The Harbor

To begin with features sacred, is not to belittle or depreciate the other manifold fascinations of Trincomalee. Nature has endowed the region with a beauty and grace that has not been excelled by man. No doubt, man here has enriched Nature’s gifts, so much so, that Trincomalee today is a product of both aspects harmoniously blended.

Its importance as a place of strategic consequence guided its destinies in modern times. The great European powers vied with one another for the mastery of the harbor. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English, each held it in turn, and many a sea fight was staged off the cliffs of Trincomalee. Of all harbors in the East, it can be said that it is largely today as Nature endowed it.

Commanding the finest view in all the station, are the terraced high lands overlooking the harbor—the site on the eminence of which stands the most commodious and attractive of the hotels of the place, the Welcombe Hotel. Below stretches in its entire splendor the placid waters of the harbor, with but the gentlest of ripples playing over its surface as the soft wind blows over its wide expanse. To all appearance, more a lake set in natural surroundings, than an inlet of the sea, the view of the harbor from the terraced premises of the hotel is a sight most refreshing, physically and mentally. Guarding the entrance to the harbor are the pair of projecting headlines, much as the twin figures of dwarapalas at the entrance to one of the temples of Anuradhapura. It is the temple of Nature that these headlines safeguard. Far away in the distant horizon is a thickly wooded strip of land which “connects the landscape with the quiet of the sky.”

Irregular in outline all around as Nature made it, this enhances the charm of its setting. A carriage road winds along the northern and eastern sections of the harbor.

The situation of Trincomalee in an environment comparatively less developed and sparsely populated, has been a handicap in the past ages, to its advancement. Nevertheless plans to develop Trincomalee as a commercial seaport are under way. These hold forth rich promise of brighter days. Its gifts as a natural harbor may ere long bear fruit, as a commercial port of immense consequence to the economy of Ceylon.

The Hot Springs

Among the sights of the place are the seven hot springs of Kanniyayi, on the road to Trincomalee. About a mile on a side road branching from the main route, the springs are worth a visit. A high wall assembles all the seven springs in a rectangular enclosure. Each enclosed in a dwarf wall forms a well of its own. The water is mildly hot; the temperature varies but slightly in each. In effect, a public bathing resort, the use of the springs is controlled by the neighboring Mari Amman Kovil who holds the lease of the wells. The site of the springs is crown land.

The Dutch Fort

The entrance to the roadway leading to Koneswaram is actually the entrance to what used to be Fort Fredrick. The fort was built in 1623 by the Portuguese and captured in 1639 by the Dutch. It then went through a phase of dismantling and reconstruction and was attacked and captured by the French in 1672.

Hindu historical sites

The Konēsvaram temple attracted pilgrims from all parts of India. The Konēsvaram shrine itself was demolished in 1622 by the Portuguese (who called it the Temple of a Thousand Columns), and who fortified the heights with the materials derived from its destruction. Some of the artefacts from the demolished temple were kept in the Lisbon Museum including the stone inscription by Kulakottan (Kunakottan) It has an emblem including two fish and is engraved with a prophesy stating that, after the 16th century, westerners with different eye colours will rule the country for 500 years and, at the end of it, rule will revert back to Vadugus. The Hindu temple was also documented in several late medieval texts such as the Konesar Kalvettu[8] and the Dakshina Kailasa Puranam.

The British in Trincomalee

On January 8, 1782 the fort was captured by the British, only to be recaptured by the French on August 29 of the same year. In 1783 the French ceded it to the British and subsequently Britain ceded it the Dutch. In 1795 the British recaptured and held it until Sri Lanka's independence in 1948. The importance of Fort Fredrick was due to Trincomalee natural harbour. Through Trincomalee, it was believed a strong naval force could secure control of India's Coromandel Coast. Prior to world war 2 the British had built a large airfield to house a permanent RAF base, RAF China Bay and a fuel storage and support facilities for the Royal Navy and HMS Highflyer naval base based there. After the fall of Singapore, Trincomalee became to home port of the Eastern Fleet of the Royal Navy, and submarines of the Dutch Navy.

Until 1957, Trincomalee was an important base for the Royal Navy and was home to many British people who were employed by the British Admiralty. One of the places inhabited by the British was Fort Fredrick which is now occupied by the Sri Lankan Army. Some of the old buildings in the fort were used as residences, including one previously occupied by The Duke of Wellington. In the early 1950's The British Government built groups of bungalows within the Fort specifically for their employees. These bungalows still exist and provide accommodation for soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army. One of the groups of bungalows was named Edinburgh Terrace where the author of this piece lived with his parents for 3 years. Children of the British residents attended a Royal Naval School which was part of the Naval Base.

Naval and air bases were take over by Sri Lanka in 1957, today SLNS Tissa and SLN Dockyard are used by the Sri Lankan Navy, while the Sri Lanka Air Force is based at SLAF China Bay.

Trincomalee War Cemetery, is one of the six commonwealth war cemeteries in Sri Lanka, it is maintained by Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Naval Museum The Navy Base is home to a naval museum called The Hoods Tower Museum. The name of the museum refers to a watchtower built on a hill commanding a 360-degree view of the harbour and the bay.

Land Area by A.G.A. Division (D.S.Division)

S.No

A.G.A. Division
(D.S.Division)

Area sq. km

No of Wards

No of Villages

No of G.S. Divisions

1 Town  and Gravets 148.0 12 66 42
2 Kinniya 146.9 7 61 31
3 Muthur 179.4 7 48 42
4 Kantalai 397.3 7 34 23
5 Seruwila 279.0 - 36 17
6 Gomarankadawela 285.0 - 43 10
7 Padavi Siripura 217.1 - 12 10
8 Kuchchaveli 313.3 - 30 24
9 Thampalakamam 244.4 - 45 12
10 Morawewa 322.4 - 29 10
11 Verugal (Echchilmpattu) 98.0 - 23 9
  Total 2630.8 33 427 230
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Implemented by HITESDO, Sri Lanka