Ports of Ancient Sri Lanka

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Almost all the ports of ancient Sri Lanka, were situated by the side of the River mouths. Salawatthota   was   situated near Deduru Oya, Kolonthota at the bank of Kelani River Kalithiththa at Kalu   Ganga,   Heemathiththa   near Bentota Ganga, Gimhathiththa at Gin Ganga, Mahawalukagaama at Polwathu Ganga,       Nilwalathiththa       at Nilawalaganga,     Gothababbatha   at Walawe Ganga, Kirinda at Kirindi Oya, Gokanna thiththa at Mahawadhka River, Mahathiththa at Malwathu Oya are clear examples.

Mahathiththa port was the main entry point to Sri Lanka from India. It is proved by Archaeological evidences that Mahathithitha Port was a popular port until the Portuguese era king Vijayas Chief Queen and troupe arrived from Madhura Pura via Mahathiththa Port. This was an important port as it was situated in close proximity of Anuradhapura and India.

Codrinton says Sambalthurai situated near Kankesanthurai in the Jaffna peninsula is the one known as Jambukola Pattanaya. Passengers from Sri Lanka embarked to North India at this port. It is mentioned in Mahavamsa that Jambukola Pattanaya was the main port in Nagadeepa of Northern Sri Lanka This port was important for trade and religious affairs as Thramaliptha port of India was connected to Jambukolaya in sea journeys.

Gokanna port situated in Eastern Sri Lanka is considered as the Trincomalee Port. This is one of world’s natural harbours, Gokanna Harbor is known as Thrikuta alias Girikandara in Maha Bharatha tribes of ancient Sri Lanka had identified this port as Gokarna alias Gokarna.

There is evidence that goods were imported from abroad and goods such as gems were exported from a port called Godapawatha situated in Ambalantota area of Ruhuna and an order mentioned that the taxes collected at Godapawetha port should be handed over to the Gothababbatha Viharaya for its maintenance is still available at this Viharaya.

Princess Hemamala, daughter of King Guhaseewa of Kalinnga state and her husband Prince Dantha of Udeni State brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka and disembarked at the port called Lanka Patuna near Trincomalee.

Uruwela Pattana port near Kala Oya River Mouth was about five yodhun (1 yodhun = 16 miles) west of Anuradhapura. It is mentioned that Uruwela was a port exporting pearls and six cart loads of pearls from this area was sent for the construction of Ruwanweli Seya.

Sidhath magazine of Chief Incumbent of Pathiraja Pirivena of the Dambadeni era in the 13th Century is the oldest literacy source that mentions the name Colombo.

Rajawaliya says that the army of Arya Chakrawarthi who was in power in Raigama, Disembarked in Colonthota sir emerson tenant says Colon Thota was a port close to Kelani Ganga. Various merchant sailors had come to Kelaniya through this port Chinese trader wan Ta Yuan furnished information regarding Colombo. It is said that Chinese Ching Ho who came here in 1411 embarked from Colombo with some people. As Iban Bathutha mentions Colombo Port was administered by a Controller named Jalasthi Five hundred bisinian nationals served under him He was famous as a person who did a lot to international trade During the time of Portuguese Colombo port was known as East Clapham Junction.


This port was ideal for steam ships and sailing ships that traveled via Indian Ocean. As per the discretion of Barbosa Sailans king lived in Colombo city, every year ships came to the large port to take cinnamon while bringing gold, silver fine cloth, and coral mercury. With the start of commerce, Galle had been a prosperous international trade center, R.L. Brohier says Galle port may be the one identified as open Tharshahish in Muslim history that mentions King Solomon’s fleet of ships full of Gold, silver, elephant tusks, monkeys and peacocks. Fleet of Lorengo de Almeida got caught to a storm and had to berth in the Galle Port after being drifted It is from the Galle port that most of the ships sailed from. During the time of Dutch and British export of spices was handled by the Galle Port, With the fall of cinnamon trade, Galle port had a setback but developed because of the Mediteranian sea route.

As mentioned in the Mahawamsa commentary an alms giving took place in a metal ship at the Moowelapathana Port and it was situated near Mahathiththa Pallawawanka was the port to which ships full of colorful cloths, camphor, and satin arrived from the Ramauna state during the reign of Vrjayabahu the first.

It is mentioned in Mahawamsa that King Maha Parakramabahu sent his fleet of ships against Ramanna Nation from the Pallawawanka port. Willhelm Geiger says Pallawawanka is Batticaloa port. In folklore it is considered that Lord Buddha arrived to this country in 580 B.C. from the Sakkarasobbha port. But there’s an opinion that Sakkarasobha is Seenigama. As per the folklore, it is believed Lord Buddha arrived in a ship of Madukashaliya Pugiyama Company in North East Ruhuna Province Abhayanaga, younger brother of King Vbharika Tissa ran away to Hallathiththa sea port. During the period of Parakramabahu I, Weligama of Ruhuna was an important port. It is said very wealthy traders lived here.

It is mentioned in Kalyaniprakana that the messengers of the king of Ramanna nation came to Sri Lanka from Weligam Patuna and travelled to Sri Jayawardenapura during the time of King Buwanakabahu the Sixth. Robert Knox who arrived in 4th April 1660 says that King of that time collected duty from ships from the Kottiyar and Puttalam ports the but after the Dutch took over those ports the Sinhala King lost that revenue It is seen in the message poem (Sandesha Kaavya) there was a coastal road to Devinuwara via Galle through Beemathiththa and Ginhathiththa, there was a port in Beruwala which was not deep only small boats were anchored. It is said that in the 14th century that the ship Marignoli was travelling to China reached the Periwil port. Mahawansa states that Maththikawata Thiththa port is identified as the port from which the army was sent to the Chola state during the time of king Vijayabahu in 1085.

It is believed that Maha Jallika Kevulgama where Bodhi branch was planted as mentioned in Bodhiwansa is present days Kalpitiya. Gothaimbara Giant embarked the ship in Kevlgama known as Maha Jallika Thottamthivu known as Dodanduwa has been having relations with other countries from long time ago. During the time of Parakramabahu II an officer named Maha Panditha controlled the Devundara Port. Mahawansa says that Kammalthota situated in Makaduru Oya river mouth is the place where Prince Panduwasa disembarked in the 5th century B.C. Kannawaddamana port where Lord Buddha disembarked on his second visit is today known as Mullativu. As of above there had been many ports in ancient Sri Lanka. There is evidence to show that these ports were used for different purposes from time to time.

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