Forts and fortifications in Sri Lanka date back thousands of years with many being built by Sri Lankan Kings, these include several walled cities. With the outset of colonial rule in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka was occupied by several major colonial empires that from time to time became the dominant power in the Indian Ocean. The colonists built several western-styled forts, mostly in and around the coast of the island. The first to build colonial forts in Sri Lanka were the Portuguese, these forts were captured and later expanded by the Dutch. The British occupied these Dutch forts during the Napoleonic wars.
Most of colonial forts of Sri Lanka were garrisoned up until the early twentieth century. The coastal forts had coastal artillery manned by the Ceylon Garrison Artillery during the two world wars. Most of these were abandoned by the military, but retained civil administrative officers, while others retained military garrisons, which were more administrative than operational. Some were reoccupied by military units with the escalation of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Jaffna fort for example came under siege several times.
Full list of Forts of Sri Lanka
Rising 200 meters vertically from the flat pains, Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock) in Sri Lanka provides you with one of the most dramatic sites in Sri Lanka. Top of this rock contains ruins of an ancient palace complex, built during the reign of King Kasyapa (477AD – 495 AD) and surrounding rock is the Royal…
Robert Brownrigg, the Governor during the Uva Wellassa Rebellion sent Major Douglas Wilson was dispatched with a sizable cavalry force. This fort at Keppetipola was built to accommodate this cavalry force of Major Wilson.
Medamahanuwara mountain is today known as Hunnasgiriya mountain. On the top of this hill are the remains of an ancient fort or palace. According to legend, this fort was built by King Senarath (1604 – 1635) who ruled Kandyan Kingdom.
The Fort at Tangalle was built by the Dutch overlooking the sea on a slope above the bay. The fort is now converted to a prison and lost most of it original shape.
This old fort of Kiriella is located about one kilometer away from Vidyala Mawatha in the center of Ilandagoda (Kiriella) under Kiriella Divisional Secretariat Division. This Portuguese fort, known today as Kotugodella, covers an area of more than half an acre. This historical monument is located on a high plot of land on the south…
Chilaw, anciently called “Pitigal Korale” was under the possession of the Kandyan king until 1756 when it was captured by the Dutch However the Portuguese had built a small fort in Chilaw in the 16th century
Hakmana Fort was in fact a stockade built by the Dutch around 1645 and was destroyed by the Kandyan Forces in 1761. No remains of this fort is found today.
Welanhinna Fort would have been a strategic fort of the Kandyan Army to observe enemy movements at Idalgashinna Pass, this was one of primary entry points to the Kandyan kingdom from Uva.
Baldaeus, a Dutch preacher provides a brief description of this town, harbour and the church in 1672. The area has been rich in cotton trees and was well known for its cotton harvest. A fort has been built not so long ago during skirmishes with the British in this area.
The fort at Holombuwa is the only four sided star fort constructed in Sri Lanka. This fortification is a product of dual parentage, built in both European and Sri Lankan traditions. Curtain walls with central, instead of corner, bastions enclosed this square fort.
Arandora Fort is a Portuguese Fort used as a base camp of the main fort at Manikkadawara which lied on the road to Kandy. Realizing the strategic location of this fort the Dutch captured and occupied this fort in 1666 made in to a fortification against the wishes of Rajasinghe II, King of Kandy.
Archeology Department board of the Fort at Menikkadawara, stood on the side of the road, but hardly was there any other indication of an ancient site.A few shops and a sub post office made a very tiny bazaar.
The fort at Kayts was built by the Portuguese. Antonio Bocarro, who served as chronicler-general of the Portuguese State of India has made a note of the fort in 1635. He has called this fort “Fort at the Elephants Quay”.
The Malwana Fort was of defense importance placed on the right bank of Kelani Ganga, a river which leads to Sitawaka. Malwana was first selected as the adobe of the Portuguese Captain General Azevedo in 1590s who had his headquarters there.
Delft Island – This island was called by the Portuguese ilha das Vacas, had a fort built by them. The Dutch called it Delft Island. The tamils call it the Neduntheevu or Neduntivu.
Fort Fredrick is a fort built by Portuguese at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka in 1624. It is said to built from the debris of an ancient Hindu temple that was destroyed by the Portuguese.
The Black Fort is the most ancient part of the Galle Fort which was built by the Portuguese. This fort was built in 1588 and was called “Santa Cruz”. After Galle was coneded to Dutch it was known as the “Black Fort” , ” Zwart Fort” or the “Zwart Bastian”.
The ruins of the Kaduruwela Fort belonging the pre christian era was discovered in 1979 and excavated in 2010. Based on the dating this is now believed to be the famed Vijithapura Fort.
The Dutch Fort at Ratnapura lies on the area covering the current police station which covers 10 archeological protected buildings in this small hillock.
Arippu Fort is a small two bastion fort built by the Portuguese just before the causeway at Arippu. This fort was handed over to the Dutch in 1658 after the fall of Mannar. This fort again changed hands to the British.
The fort at Mullaitivu was built by the Dutch in 1715 was originally a small wooden structure, in 1721 a quadrangular fort of earth-work has been erected. The English had rebuilt it during the British occupation of the island.
This Star Fort was built to the unique shape of a six-pointed star with space for 12 large cannons to cover approaches from all directions. The fort was surrounded by a deep moat and was built to hold a small garrison, food supplies, and enough ammunition. It also had two prison cells and a well…
The ruins of the Sitawaka Fort and the palace of King Rajasinghe 1 can be seen by the side of the Avissawella – Panawala road — this being the same route to the Maniyangama Raja Maha Viharaya.
With regard to the Ruwanwella Fort, it is said that the Portuguese, in the 1590s, had a fortified base camp here and the Dutch, in 1665, built a wooden fort here but abandoned it a few years later.
Ratnapura Portuguese Fort lies on the grounds of the Maha Saman Devalaya which was destroyed by the Portuguese around 1618-20. This fort was destroyed By King Rajasinghe II (1635 – 1687) of Kandyan Kingdom
Pooneryn Fort was built in the north portion of the island first by the Portuguese to protect its possessions in Jaffna, it was expanded by the Dutch till in 1770.
The Portuguese fort that stood where the current Negombo Fort is situated was mostly destroyed by cannon during the Dutch siege in 1644. The Dutch fort was built on its ruins, not on the usual square pattern, but on a pentagonal one, though it had only four bulwarks. The fifth one was never bui
The old town of Matara is located on a land tongue between the ocean and a green lagoon, and is protected on the landside by Matara Fort, a 13 meter thick, 5 meter high rampart. On all other sides it is unprotected apart from the natural barrier of the water.
Though the Martello Tower at Hambantota is not spread in a large area, it could also be considered as a defense watchtower. Generally believed to be a Dutch fortification, but actually built by Capt. Goper of the Army Engineers during the British Period.
Built on the island of Mannar in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese in 1560, Mannar Fort surrendered to the Dutch on 22 February 1658 and was rebuilt by the Dutch in 1696. On 5 October 1795 the Dutch surrendered to the British.
Koddiyar Fort was a partly built fort by the Dutch t in 1622 with the permission from the King Senarat of Kandy but the Portuguese who were in control of Trincomalee destroyed this partly built fort.
Katuwana Fort is a internal fort built by invading forces to counter attacks from Kandy in the Katuwana divisional secretary of Hambantota District. It was built in 1645 A.D by the Dutch.
At the extreme tip of the Kalpitiya is the Kalpitiya Fort, built in 1667, on the spot where the Portuguese had a stockade and a Jesuit chapel. The fort is is now a Sri Lankan Navy base.
Situated on the south side of the Jaffna peninsula at the water’s edge of the lagoon, the ancient Jaffna Fort is the second largest existing fort in the Island. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1619 and re-built and expanded by the Dutch during the second half of the 17th and the 18th centuries.
Hanwella Fort – In 1521 when King Mayadunne (1521 – 1581 A. D.) started the Sitawaka Kingdom at Avissawella and built the first fort at Hanwella to guard against the Kingdom of Kotte.
Fort Ostenburg is believed to be the fort buit by King Rajasinghe II who ruled this country for 52 years (1635-1687) to attack the Portuguese at Fort Fedrick.
Fort Macdowall was built by the British in the town of Matale in 1803 as an out post during the Kandian Wars. The fort was named after General Macdowall, who led the expedition to the Kingdom of Kandy, it is one of the few forts build inland.
The Hammenhiel Fort was built by the Portuguese in mid 17th century of quarried coral and was named Fortaleza Real (Fort Royal). The Dutch renamed it as Hammenhiel (Heel of the Ham) and was rebuilt by them in 1680.
Haldummulla lies about 175 km off the capital of Colombo at a elevation of about 1200 metres. The Portuguese fort of Haldummulla existed in the early 17th century between Haldummulla and Idalgashinna.
The Dutch Galle Fort is a rare historical jewel protected by dark, thick stone walls – with the endless ocean on one side.
Three miles north east from Elephant Pass in the general area of Iyakachchi was situated the second fortification called Pas (Fort) Beschutter built by the Dutch near the village of Koyilvayal. Further to the north east from this point was the third Dutch fortification named Pas (Fort) Pyl.
The Dutch were the first to erect a fort at Elephant Pass. It was more like a stockade or a watch post. Though well fortified and built with strong defenses the extent of the fortifications were much smaller to that of Galle or Jaffna forts.
The Colombo Fort was a walled city, with administrative and military buildings, as well as cinnamon storehouses, mills, a parade ground, a church, residential buildings, and stalls for horses and elephants.
The Fort in Batticaloa lies on a one of the many small islands of Batticaloa in the east coast of Sri Lanka. It was built by the Portuguese in 1628 after a Dutch fleet landed in Batticaloa in 1603 with a fleet of six ships to take part in a joint effort to oust the…
After the Portuguese landed in Sri Lanka in 1505, their aim was to acquire more territory. But, the Balana rock fortress that served as an observation post stood against an invasion of the Kandyan kingdom.
To the South of Sigiriya is the Mapagala Fortress. Archaeological Commissioner Hocart in the 1920s took note of the cyclopean style stone walls in the fort, and the square hammered stones in the ramparts of the Citadel.