Hambantota in days of yore


By Edmund Dissanayake

An entire generation of our students were the losers when the Dept. of Education introduced Social Studies to replace History, Geography and Civics. However after a lapse of over 30 years these subjects have once again been included in the School curriculum.

History is studied in order to understand how the present has developed from the past., while Geography helps us to understand how Man has made use of his environment in order to live.

How many are aware of two "Light Houses" referred to as Great Basses and Little Basses in our South East, are considered World famous and as "engineering wonders"? They were built by the British. The word BASSES is derived from the Portuguese word BAXIOS meaning a reef. They were built on two coral reefs.

A Wesleyite, Brian Perera was employed at the Great Basses, for a short period. According to him, each week a boat left for Hambantota for replenishment.

The Martello Tower, situated near the H’tota Rest House is 50 feet in height. It was built by the Dutch. The Dutch restricted the supply of salt to the Kandyan Kingdom in order to bring the Kandyan King into submission. A garrison had been placed there. The Tower was necessary for the security of the region.

Why is H’tota curd creamier and tastier than curd from other areas?

The reason lies in the fact that buffaloes which feed on grass with more alkaline contents around the lagoon, produce creamier and more delicious milk.

Hambantota is also synonymous with kalu dodol. Prior to the work connected with the construction of the harbour, there were around sixteen shops that sold this delicacy. Now these shops are found a little away. However, the latest "Hambantota Kalu Dodol" packed in a cellaphane cover beats them all. My nephew Mahendra presented several of these packets to my relations at a function recently.

In 1890 C A Murray, A G A introduced the cultivation of the palmyrah palm along the coast to prevent sand being blow into the H’tota town. Once while on holiday, together with Nasim, an expert tree climber, having paid a fee of ten cents we made use of this succulent palm to quench our thirst. However, there are wrong doers who with one payment of ten cents climb several trees!

On that occasion we found a small family who had constructed a hut, and stored there jaggery, treacle, baskets etc. This was an industry that should have been pursued.

Court Jester ANDARE lived in Magampattu, latterly. His verses (Kavi) are enjoyed today. It is believed that he had died under the shade, of a Palu tree, quite suddenly. A grave standing by the H’tota Weerawila road is believed to be the place where he was buried.

Kirinda is famous as it was here that Vihara Maha Devi was cast ashore.

She was selected by lot to be put into a boat and sent out to a rough sea, for wrongs committed by King Kelani Tissa, as an act of penitence. The boat drifted to Kirinda. A precious stone marked the place where the boat finally ended. Now sea water covers the entire area.

It is well know that she was the mother of Dutu Gemini, who fought King Elara subsequently. There are songs connected with her arrival at Kirinde.

In this respect, it was Siridatta Jayokody, who had commissioned a famous Italian sculptor to produce 2 statue of Vihara Maha Devi. The other statue is at Vihara Maha Udyanaya, opposite the Town Hall.

As a matter of interest, Siridatta lived at Ganemulla in a 52 roomed house!

At the entranced to H’tota, past Ambalantota, stands an elegant statue of the undisputed Queen of Sinhala poetry in Ruhuna... GAJAMAN NONA.

"She displayed great dexterity at producing verses packed with terseness, laughter satire and sarcasm" (Ranjith Samaranayake).

Engelbert was a German National who had been ship wrecked at Yala. His association with a Sinhala woman produced a child. As he refused to accept paternity, the case came up before the AGA, H’tota Leonard Wolf. when the child was produced in open Court, the child was as fair as milk.

The AGA told him that there were only two white men in this area. What do you say? "Guilty" my Lord!

Subsequently, Engelbert functioned as a Warden at the Yala Wild Life Sanctuary.

30th May 2012... After completing our Religious Observances at Kataragama, we were on our way home. Our second daughter Eyanthi was keen to see the newly constructed Harbour at H’tota. We stopped at the petrol shed and asked the attendant from where we could get a permit. He said we had passed the office. Anyway he told us that there was nothing to see at the end of the road we were on.

How many are aware Leonard Sidney Woolf English Administrator and writer lived in H’tota? His book "The village in the jungle" was very popular indeed. He was A G A H’tota for several years.

When he paid his periodical visits to outlandish areas he used to call over at Welipitiya Walauwwa, Middeniya. There he met Chetwin Wirasinha, the father. of Hamilton who married my sister, Pearlyn. It was a knowledge of English that brought them together.

Utensils like caps and saucers, jugs plates etc imported from England for Woolf’s use where in the custody of Hamilton. After the death of Pearlyn, these articles were sent elsewhere for safe keeping.

The Lion of Ruhuna.. On 7th March 1936 D. M. Rajapakse was elected to the H’tota Electorate in the Sate Council. This heroic figure fearlessly championed the cause of the Ruhunu Peasants.

He was elected as Cricket Captain of Richmond in 1914 and 1915. In the 1916 Election, De Mel, a rich boy treated the students in the canteen and beat D M R. At the General. Assembly, the visibly moved Principal, who stood for Justice and fairplay announced, "On your votes, de Mel has been appointed Captain. Rajapakse will join Wesley College tomorrow. RICHMOND WILL NOT PLAY CRICKET NEXT YEAR".

D M played for Wesley in 1916 under the captaincy of A. J. Boteju. His son George Rajapakse captained Royal in 1944.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...