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Galle and Galle Fort. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lanka Nest   
Sunday, 09 March 2008

Image Galle has a very long history and is marked in the island of Sri Lanka in Ptolemy’s  world map prepared around 125 – 150 AD.  During that time Galle was a busy port.  Foreign traders like Greeks, Arabs, Chinese etc have been  visiting Galle for trade.

Some believe that word Galle is  derived from  the Dutch word ‘Gallus’ which means chicken. But some believe that there was a very large  ‘Gaala’ of cattle here. Gaala in Sinhala means the place where cattle  are herded together. So they believe Galle   is a  development from ‘Gaala’. It is from Galle harbor that  Portuguese led by Lorenzo de Almeida first arrived in Sri Lanka.  There arrival  marked an important watershed in Sri Lanka’s history because it  completely changed the course of Sri Lankan history.  Their arrival however,  was not a planned one. It was by mere chance they came here as there ship was caught in a storm and  it is the winds that  brought their ship to Galle .

After their arrival in Sri Lanka,they befriended Dharmaparakrama bahu , the  then King of Kotte.He permitted them to  build a  fort and church inside.  The Fort was meant for the security of the Sinhalese. But by  an irony of fate , that  Fort later became  the prison to keep  Sinhalese who opposed them.

In 1640 King Rajasinhe ii captured Galle Fort  with the assistance of the Dutch.   As he found later,  the Dutch were no better than the Portuguese. This gave rise  to the Sinhala proverb which means  ‘ Like  Giving ginger and taking Chillies instead. ( Inguru deela Miris gaththa vagey ) The walls of the Fort you see now as you enter  were built by the Dutch according to their style of architecture.  Image
The building inside Fort are also of Dutch architecture.  The Dutch were also responsible for   introducing  a system of roads and canals for transportation.  They devised a  sewage system  to carry all the waste inside Fort to the sea by gravity, using the high tide.

There are two main gates in Galle Fort. The walls in front of the  Fort were  built by the Portuguese . The Dutch have reinforced  them  by  building several bastions.  – Star Bastion, Moon Bastion and Sun Bastion. In the Gate from  where you enter  towards the  Harbor,  outer walls contain the logo  of the British while  you  see VOC, the logo of the Dutch East India Company on the inside walls.

The Aurora Bastion, Tremon Bastion,  Kleipenberg Bastion, Emaloon Bastion and the light House adds more colour and interest to the beautiful view of the Fort.

Some of the street names  inside the Fort still bear Dutch words. The Oriental Hotel inside Fort which was built in 1694  , was a building constructed for the use of  Dutch Governor and his officials.. The Dutch Museum consists of a large collection of items used  during the Dutch Period.  This museum is near the Oriental Hotel  while the first Marine Museum  of Sri Lanka is  housed near the Old Gate.

Tsunami of 2004 had a devastating effect on Galle Fort.  Most of the buildings were either completely destroyed or were damaged to a large extent.  Those that were completely destroyed are being rebuilt afresh and those  which were damaged are being renovated now.  These are being  done under the supervision of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs so that the new buildings and the renovations retain the old appearance which was there prior to Tsunami.

The Bread Fruit Tree inside the Fortis believed to be the oldest Bread Fruit Tree in Sri Lanka. Popular belief is that the  Dutch introduced Bread Fruit to Sri Lanka thinking that the highly ‘heaty’ nature of  Bread Fruit would either kill them or make them sick. But Sri Lankans ate Bread Fruit with Coconut  and coconut   neutralized the adverse effects of Bread Fruit.  Ultimately it became a delicacy among the population.  It is  now considered  to be  very  tasty and nourishing. It is so popular now that there is no part of Sri Lanka where you cannot find a Bread Fruit Tree if it could be grown there.

Galle therefore is a place  which  is of historical,  archaeological and architectural  significance.

Galle has a multi ethnic and multi religious population.  All these communities live in peace and harmony.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 April 2008 )
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