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Matara, Sri Lanka


Matara, Sri Lanka

Matara Foreshore
Matara Foreshore
Matara is located in Sri Lanka
Country Sri Lanka
Province Southern
 • Type Municipal Council
 • Mayor Sosindra Handunge
 • Urban 13 km2 (5 sq mi)
Elevation 2 m (7 ft)
Population (2014)
 • City 831,000
 • Density 5,841/km2 (15,130/sq mi)
Demonym Matarians
Time zone Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone (UTC+5:30)
Postal code 81xxx
Area code(s) 041

Matara (Sinhala: මාතර, Tamil: மாத்தறை) (originally Mahathota) is a major city in Sri Lanka; it located in the southern coast of Southern Province, Sri Lanka, 160 km from Colombo. It is one of the major commercial hubs in the country, and it is the administrative capital of Matara District. [1] It was gravely affected by the Asian tsunami in December 2004.


  • History 1
  • Attractions 2
  • Education 3
    • Universities 3.1
    • Schools 3.2
  • Economy and Infrastructure 4
    • Transport 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Matara historically belongs to the area that was called the Kingdom of Ruhuna, which was one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka (Thun Sinhalaya තුන් සිංහලය). Matara was previously called Mahathota. The Nilwala River runs through Matara and there was a wide area at this location where ferries used to cross. Hence the town was called Maha Thota which was derived from the Sanskrit word Maha Theertha, which means "the great ferry". According to Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera's Paravi Sndesaya King Weerabamapanam made Matara as his capital and named it "Mapatuna". The temple in the middle of the town is also built by ancient kings, and now it is a very popular sacred place among the Buddhists in the area.

In the 16th and 18th centuries, Matara was ruled by the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively.

In 1672 the Portuguese called the town "Maturai", which means a great fortress. This also may have been a mispronunciation of Thurai, which is the Tamil word for "Ferry". The present name of "Matara" however has been in used for the last three centuries, relating to the town's connection with the Nilwala River.

In 1756 the Dutch captured the Maritime Province and divided it into four Administrative areas. They were Sabaragamuwa, Sath Korle, Sathara Korele and Matara. Out of these, Matara District covered the largest area (essentially the whole of the Southern Province up to the Kaluganga River). In the deed given by King Dharmapala to the Dutch, it mentioned that the area of Matara District extended from Kotte to Walawe Ganga River.

In 1760 the fort was successfully attacked by forces from the Kandyan kingdom. Matara maintained in the hands of the Sinhalese for almost one year. In 1762, the Dutch recaptured Matara Fort, without any significant resistance. Matara was the second most important fort, behind Galle fort, for the southern maritime provinces of the Dutch and also a commanding base for some inland forts.

In 1796 the fort was ceremoniously handed over to the British. The Dutch and English culture and architecture can still be seen throughout the area. The light house in Point Dondra was built by the Dutch, and it is considered as one of the most beautiful and oldest light houses in Sri Lanka. The two fortresses, the Matara fort and the Star fort, that were built by the Dutch still exist and can be found inside the city. Other important Colonial works are the St Mary's Church and the market place at Nupe Junction.

Weherahena temple
Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya

The most famous thinkers who lived in the area are Kumaratunga Munidasa and Gajaman Nona. The ethnic majority of Matara are Sinhalese; during the 16th and 17th centuries Moors arrived in the area as traders from Arabia, and today their descendants coexist with Sinhalese peacefully as an ethnic minority.


  • Parey Dewa (Rock in Water) or Parevi Dupatha Temple - is a relatively modern Buddhist temple located on Pigeon Island (a small offshore island) in front of the City. It reached by an elegant suspension footbridge, which was erected in 2008 (replacing an earlier bridge, which was washed away in the 2004 Tsunami). The temple is set in attractive gardens and houses numerous statues of Buddha and a replica of the gold footprint found on Adam's Peak.
  • Weragampita Rajamaha Viharaya Temple
  • Matara Bodhiya, a buddhist temple, which is the site of a sacred fig tree
  • Matara fort/ramparts - The Matara fort was built in 1560 by the Portuguese and was substantially re-built by the Dutch in 1640, following the capture of Galle. The fort, which consists of a large stone rampart, occupies the promontory, which separates the Niwala River lagoon and the ocean.
  • Dutch Reformed Church, Matara - constructed within Matara fort by the Dutch in 1706. It was extensively remodelled in 1767, following the recapture of the fort in 1762.[2]
  • Star Fort - located on the western or landward side of the Nawali River. The fort was constructed by the Dutch following the Matara rebellion in 1761, in order to protect the main fort from attacks originating from the river. Construction of the unique star shaped fort was completed in 1765.
  • Nupe Dutch Market - was constructed in 1784 by the Dutch, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) from Matara fort.[3]
  • St Mary's Church - located on Beach Road, the date on the doorway (1769) refers to the reconstruction following the 1762 Matara Rebellion.
  • Muhiyiddenil Jeelani mosque
  • Mahanama Bridge, a six-lane bridge constructed across the Nilwala Ganga, with Korean assistance and unveiled in December 2007 on the third anniversary of the tsunami.




Economy and Infrastructure


  • Rail

The Matara railway station, is the terminus of Sri Lanka Railways' Coastal Line, though an extension to Kataragama is planned.

  • Road

Matara is a major transport hub in the country. It is served by the A2 highway, which runs through the city. It is also planned to be the southern terminus of stage 2 of the E01 expressway by April 2014.

See also


  1. ^ Trip destination Matara Sri Lanka
  2. ^ "The Matara Church". Wolvendaal Foundation. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Punchihewa, Gamini G. (24 March 2002). "The historic tale of Matara".  

External links

  • Matara in Sri Lankan Village Directory
  • History of Matara City
  • District Secretariat - Matara
  • MSN Map
  • Matara in
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