Point Pedro Fort in Jaffna

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A 1693 map of Portuguese fort at Point Pedro from the Dutch National Archives
A 1693 map of Portuguese fort at Point Pedro from the Dutch National Archives (www.nationaalarchief.nl/)

Point Pedro lies 30 km North-East of Jaffna and has been used as a natural anchorage for ships from the ancient past. It is said to be the best natural harbour in the Jaffna peninsula. The name Point Pedro is a corruption of the Portuguese name “Punta das Pedras” meaning “Rocky Point” an identity descriptive of the of the natural features of the cape. As generally believed, Point Pedro is not the most northern edge of Sri Lanka. The small triangular fort has been built on the corals jutting out to the sea at Point Pedro around 1665 during the second Anglo-Dutch war by the Dutch VOC company. It had only one bastion facing the land. The sea side was only a wall with no bastions or cannons. The fort was 80 meters long on the sea side and other two walls were 42 meters long while meeting at the bastion in the middle.

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. This area is called Paretiture in tamil which means “Cotton Harbour” signifying the cotton harvesting in the area. The Church Paretiture was the largest and most stately looking one in the whole of this Province according to Baldaeus. The harbour is safe for anchorage for 7-8 months but when the Northern Monsoon sets in, this becomes a dangerous shore line.

The large Tamarind tree which stood in front of the church where Baldaeus has preached was a landmark of Point Padro which has fallen down during the cyclone in November 1952. The trunk of the tree was 42 feet (12.8 meters) in circumference and 65 feet (20 meters) tall.

On the 5th of September, 1760 a Danish Missionary, Christian Frederick Schwarz of the S.P.C.K. visited Point Pedro for the purpose of seeing the tree under which the celebrated Baldaeus preached and in 1906, a stone was set up beneath the tree commemorating this event:

Baldaeus’ Tree
1658
Visited by Schwarz
5th September, 1760.

However whether this stone exists today is unknown.

No traces of this fort remains today. The exact location of this fort is also unknown. Based on the map of the fort, it can be seen this has been built on a triangular area jutting out to the sea off the cost of Point Pedro. The marker on the google map below has been marked based on the satellite images of the coastal line and the most possible location. The same point has been identified as the most potential place of this fortby Mr Chryshane Mendis in his masters thesis ‘Fortifications and the Landscape – A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka‘ based on the map details and satellite imagery.

Massive Tamarind Tree at Point Pedro where Baldaeus preached in the 17th century.
Massive Tamarind Tree at Point Pedro where Baldaeus preached in the 17th century.
Source : A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon (1672)

References

  • Tennent, J., 1860. Ceylon: An Account of the Island – Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notes of its Natural History, Antiquities, and Productions – Volume 2. 4th ed. London: LONGMAN, GTIEEN, LONGMAN, AND ROBERTS.
  • Baldaeus, P., 1672. ‘A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren.
  • Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon, 1953. Baldaeus ‘Tree : Vanishing Landmarks Which Made Dutch History. XLIII(1), pp.51-52.
  • Mendis, C., 2020. FORTIFICATIONS AND THE LANDSCAPE : A GIS Inventory and Mapping of Kandyan and Dutch Fortifications in Sri Lanka. Master’s thesis. University of Amsterdam.

Also See

Map of  Point Pedro Fort in Jaffna

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Point Pedro Fort in Jaffna

From Colombo to Jaffna (route 1) From Colombo to Jaffna (route 2)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Time to travel   : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map
Through : Puttalam – Silawathura – Pooneryn 
Distance : 365 km
Time to travel   : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map 
Route from Jaffna to Point Pedro Fort in Jaffna
Though : Point Perdo road
Distance :33 km
Travel time : 50 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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