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The Rampart of Galle

Galle Dutch Fort

The “Galle Fort”, or Dutch Fort, is also known as the Rampart of Galle, which is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Sri Lanka. It is also a listed world heritage site by UNESCO. Though it’s known as the “Dutch” Fort, it was fortified and first built by the Portuguese on the Southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, initially as a very basic fort made of mud and surrounded by the palisades/stake walls. But obviously it was Dutch who developed the Galle Fort with the valuable architecture.

The Dutch Fort illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to 19th centuries as It was served as the key trading port for the European colonial powers. Dutch imported men from African countries and from other countries including Kerala and Malaysia for the construction. During the latter part of the 16th century, more than 1000 black men were engaged in the construction and maintenance of rampart.  The important feature of the architecture is the use of European models adapted to the geological, climatic, historic and cultural conditions of Sri Lanka. In the structure of the ramparts, Coral is frequently used along with the granite. In the ground layout all the measures of length, width and height conform to the regional metrology. There were 14 bastions built over an area of 130 acres. Some of the names of the bastions that the Dutch built are Star, Moon, Sun, Aurora, Tremon, Kleipenberg and Emaloon. Most of the walls were built in 1663. The town that was created within the walls was built in a well-planned grid layout. The roads close to the outer edge of the city were built parallel to the ramparts of the fort, allowing for easier access for defense in case of an attack or breach.

After the fort fell into the hands of the British in 1796, they made it their southern headquarters and made many changes. These included the sealing of the moat, construction of houses and a lighthouse at the bastion Ultrecht, the addition of a gate between the Sun and Moon bastions and a tower erected in 1883 to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In the map prepared by Adrian de Leu in 1659 AD, by order of Adriaan Vander Meidan (1653-60 AD) and the High Commissioner Rijckloff van Goens (1660 – 63 AD) can be introduced as the oldest map of Galle fort made by Dutch. Adriaan Vander Meidan (1653-60 AD) was the first Dutch ruler appointed to the Colombo administration Center. He held the office of Governor of Ceylon during the period from 1653 AD to 1660 AD. This map is the oldest Dutch map showing the rampart constructed by Portuguese and the town. This map was made in May 1659 AD.

Galle’s earliest historical existence is traced to Ptolemy’s world map of 125-150 AD when it was a busy port, trading with Greece, Arab countries and China. Its mention as a “port of call of the Levant’ by Cosmas Indicopleustes. Another historically famed traveller, Ibn Batuta who lived in the 14th century also mentions having passed through the port on his visit to Sri Pada and Tenavaram Temple which were then some of the most famous sites of Sri Lanka.

Some believe that the 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’. Anyways running to the deeper history before the foreigner’s arrival, 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. The fort fell into the hands of the Dutch after their combined attack along with the Sinhalese king of that time King Raja Singha II.

“The Rampart of Galle” is a historic location that has seen many communities throughout the history and associated with it. It has shared so many secrets as well as has even more hidden secrets. As it’s one of the most attracted holiday destinations what we can do is to help its ruined monuments to bear its secrets and protect the world heritage of future generations.

Credit – Lakpura, Sunday Observer, Galle Fort, Galle Heritage, Three Blind Men

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Dinamina Supa Shasthraya Circa 1936

Ramani Bartholomeusz