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Batticaloa

Batticaloa Sri LankaBatticaloa is the provincial capital of the eastern province of Sri Lanka. It is also the seat of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka. It is on the east coast, 69 m. South by South East of Trincomalee, situated on an island.

The city has five main divisions :
Distance From Colombo : 303 km
  • Pullianthivu: Seat of many government department and offices, schools, banks religious places, General Hospital, Weber Stadium and Shops. Nowadays many NGO offices including ICRC, UN, UNICEF, WORLD VISION etc are located also.
  • Koddamunai: Schools, Banks, Sri Lanka Telecom regional office for East, Shops and many government offices are located. Two bridges called Perya Palam and Puthuppalam are connects Pulianthivu island with Koddaminai land mass.
  • Kallady: Here there are many Government buildings and private industries, schools, hospitals and Eatern University Medical Faculty. Kallady Lady Manning bridge (the longest bridge in Sri Lanka) connects Kallady and Arasay.
  • Puthur: This is where the domestic airport of Batticaloa is located.
Batticaloa district is divided into two sections by a lagoon. They are called Ezhuvan Karai or East coast and Paduvan Karai and West coast. Tamil people in these two sections differ in caste and are called Vellalar and Karaiyar, the latter being at the coast. Farmers live inland around the Kokaddicholai area. Kaththankudi is a suburb south of Batticaloa. Batticaloa mainly populated by Tamil Hindu's. Many ancient dams, irrigation tanks, and abandoned villages from ancient times exist in this region. This is also near [jungle] areas.

Climate

Batticaloa is one of three warmest cities in Sri Lanka; the others are Trincomalee and Vavuniya. The dry season in Batticaloa runs from March to November and the monsoon season runs from December to February. Batticaloa is regarded as part of the "dry zone" of Sri Lanka. The average temperature is 26.9 degrees celcius or 80.4 degrees farenheit (The MKS system as well as Celsius degrees are used in Sri Lanka). The average annual rainfall is 14m (551in.)

The first educational institution established in Batticaloa was Bt. Methodist Central College, Batticaloa, founded in 1814. Other noteworthy institutions are: Cecilia's Convent, Hindu College, St. Vincent Girls High School, St. Michael's College, and Shivananda Maha Vidyalayam. The Eastern University of Sri Lanka (EUSL), located in Vantharumoolai 16 km north of Batticaloa, was founded in 1980. Its development has been interrupted by the civil war. It is the cultural and economic focal point of the district of Batticaloa and extends its influence towards Trincomalee as well.

There are many Hindu temples in an around Batticaloa. Puliyanthivu Anaipanthy Sri Sithy Vigneswarar Alayam, Puliyanthivu Sithiravelayutha Swamy Koyil, Puliyanthivu Thiroupathaiyaman Koyil, sitrandy murukan kovil, Sri Thakkaiyageswara Kovil, Vaivy Road, Batticaloa, and Sivan Kovil, Navatkudha are important from a devotional point of view. The Mandur temple is in the southern end, while the Mamangeshwarar temple is in the western-most edge at Muhaththuvaram. The latter is a historic harbour and ancient Buddhist shrine, mentioned in the "Dhathu Vamsa". While the Dagaba and shrine in the Dutch Fort is the oldest (1st century CE), Mangalaramaya is a well known modern Buddhist temple in Batticaloa. The Colany Mosque, and the Koddamunai Dharga and Madrasa are two note worthy Muslim institutions. There are a large number of mosques in the region...

Rice and coconuts are the two staples of the district, and steamers trading round the island call regularly at the port. The lagoon is famous for its "singing fish" supposed to be shell-fish which give forth musical notes. The district has a remnant of Veddahs or wild men of the wood. Prior to the Sri Lankan civil war, there were large scale shrimp farms as well as fish and rice processing activities. Currently the economic activities are related to trading due to the effect of the civil war.

Transport

Batticaloa is the terminus of a Broad gauge branch railway of the Sri Lanka Government Railway network and the Batticaloa Airport is a military air force base.

Batticaloa is on the East coast, 314 km from Colombo. The population of 515,707 consists mainly of Tamils, Moors, Sinhalese, Euro-Asian Portuguese Burghers and indigenous Vedda population.

The District of Batticaloa itself consists of several administrative divisions, which are: Manmunai North, Manmunai West, Manmunai South West, Manmunai South & East Pattu, Manmunai Pattu, Koralai Pattu North, Porativu Pattu, Kattankudy, Eravur Pattu, Eravur Town, Koralai Pattu and Koralai Pattu West. Some 515,707 persons (50.9% female) were recorded in the 2000 census, constituting 128,689 families.

There are several versions of the origin of the name "Madaklapuva" (Sinhala), and "Mattakalapu" in Tamil. In analysing this, S. Caseichetty in The Ceylon Gazette, 1834, explains the etymology of the Tamil word as arising from the Sinhala, which means "muddy lagoon". Fr. S. Gnanaprakasar has given a similar analysis. The word "Kallappu" does not exist in the Madras or Winslow Tamil lexicons, or in any Chankam literary sources.

'Kalappu' is a common Tamil word which means mixture. 'Mada kalappu' means a mixture of mud. Various other words also could be searched in the University of Koeln Online Tamil Dictionary

Madakalapuva was a part of the "Digamadulla" province of the pre-Christian kingdom of Ruhuna which existed until the rise of the strong unified government of Parakramabahu.

Other theories are found in contemporary Tamil writings. Thus, according to "Mattakalapu Manmium" a book about the history of Batticaloa by F.X.C.Nataraja the name "Mattakalapu" is claimed to have two possible origins. Since the honey production from the forests around the lagoon was very large, the people are said to have named the town in Tamil as "Mattu Kalpu (Thenaru Kallakum Nadu)" which literally means "The land of confluence of honey river". The word 'small islands in the sea coast' is claimed to be "Kallappu" in Tamil dictionaries.

Colombo was named Kalanpu at the time of Portuguese invasion and derived its name from the word Kalanpu. It referred to the delta of Kalani river. Similarly Names like Mattakkuliya are found in the Delta area of Kelani River. As such it could be concluded that it refers to the delta area of Batticaloa Lagoon.

Also place names like Karaveddi and Kokkuvil are found in Batticaloa. That shows people from these places migrated into Batticaloa and settled from Jaffna. Majority of the Batticaloa people came directly from Vadamaradchy area in Jaffna as still people claim their ancestry from various villages in Vadamaradchy and the Mukkuva and the Karaiyar caste system is brought from there.

Another legend, which contradicts the previous one is that a group of people called Mukkuva from Eastern India reached their destination at the forests around the lagoon. It is claimed that he Mukkuvas gave the name "Kallpu-Mattam" which was called "Matta-Kallappu", indicating the destination of Mukkuva's voyage and the water is flat. These legends have no serious academic backing but have some interest as folk lore.

Natural disasters affected the Eastern Province population through out history. As such it has been a target of destruction and settlement by various races. Tamils were the first to settle after the Veddhas. The local population is a mixture of Tamils and Sinhalese.

The Kandyan Kings have ruled Eastern Province throughout history. Thus the racial mixture was ensured by the Kandyan kings marrying into the families of Batticaloa rulers. Dutch invasion took place through Batticaloa with the alliance of Batticaloa rulers and Kandyan king Rajasinghe. Both were Tamils and Hindus. Even though the Kandyan Kingdom was Sinhala Buddhist to the core, the kings were Tamil Hindus of Madurai Nayakkar origin.

Since Kandyan kings were of Madurai origin they brought ship loads of Mappilla Muslims from Kerala as the trading partners of the kingdom and granted asylum when the Portuguese launched the Holocaust against the Muslims in Sri Lanka. Thus the Eastern Province is the residence of majority of Muslims and a safe haven for them during the Sri Lankan Civil War.

Places like Karadiyan Aru and Urugam contain stone inscriptions in Brhm+ script which are still in existence.

The earliest historical artefacts are a dagaba and Chatra from the Ruhuna kingdom of King Kavantissa (1st century BC), found in the Dutch fort built in the seventeenth century CE. Many archaeological sites dating to pre-Christian times have been found in this region. Thus Lankavihara, Roththei (Roththa) temple, Kinnaragala, Rahathgala (Shanthamalai), Veheragalkanda (Pulukunai), eluvamulla(Pullumuilai), and Taaththon Kovil, are some sites identified and listed by the Government archaeological survey. Many towns of the area show toponymic evidence, as well as evidence from stone inscriptions, of ancient sites related to 'Seruvavila' and other Buddhist shrines of the area.

From Cape Comorin the Dutch Admiral Spitzburgen steered his course to Point de Galle; but, without landing there or at any of the other places which were strongly fortified by the Portuguese, he sailed round the south coast of the Island and made for Batticaloa, where he anchored on the 31st May, 1602.

He learnt that the town of Batticaloa, where the chief of the province resided, was about three miles inland; so he sent him a messenger proposing to enter into trade with him. In the meantime he learnt from some Tamils who came on board that there was plenty of pepper and cinnamon to be had, but that it was to be obtained from the chief of the place. These Tamils brought with them a Portuguese interpreter; for Portuguese was the only European language then heard or spoken in Ceylon, and the natives of the Island had no idea that there were other white people who spoke a different language.

The Admiral was taken from Batticaloa to Kandy and was given a liberation hero's welcome as King Rajasinghe seized the opportunity to get rid of the Portuguese, the oppressors who were slowly encroaching the island systematically and promoting subversion against Rajasinghe.

The Batticaloa fort was built by the Portuguese in 1628 and was the first to be captured by the Dutch (18 May 1638). It is one of the most picturesque of the small Dutch fort of Sri Lanka, it's situated in an island, still in good condition. Near Batticaloa the Portuguese had a tiny fort at Tanavare (there is a map of it but no remains) There is a 1st century CE Buddhist Dagaba inside the Dutch fort.

Batticaloa and World War II

In 1942, during World War II, Royal Navy Ships HMS Hermes and HMS Vampire were stationed near Batticaloa. Both these ships came under Japanese Aerial attack and were sunk. Some of the remnants of HMS Hermes still remain at around 9 nautical miles off Batticaloa.

Today, still despite all the tragedies that have befallen the town of Batticaloa over many generations and many centuries that have come to pass, it is still probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, with warm crystal turquoise waters and sun-kissed sandy beaches year around, there are no 'high class' hotels near by, other than a dilapidated guest house or two, but from Habarana, this is a wonderful day trip, done just to experience the little town and a day spent on the beaches...
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