Dutch Fort of Kalpitiya – කල්පිටිය බලකොටුව
Kalpitiya, that was called Calpenteyn or Calpetty by the Dutch, is a narrow land tongue that stretches to the north for about 50 kilometres beyond Puttlam, parallel to the mainland. At the extreme tip is the Kalpitiya Fort, which, after a long time of neglect in which it slowly deteriorated, is now a Sri Lankan Navy base.
It’s not very far from here that the guerrilla war between the Government and the Tamil Tiger terrorists is being fought and sometimes the Tigers make forays in small boats packed with explosives for suicide attacks on Navy patrol boats.
One is not allowed to go inside the Kalpitiya Fort or take pictures of the main gate. It’s a small fort that looks to be in good condition. It was built in 1667, on the spot where the Portuguese had a stockade and a Jesuit chapel. The walls are about 4 meters high and inside are the remnants of the chapel, a commander’s house, barrack rooms, a prison and several go downs.
In between the village and the Kalpitiya Fort is an old unused church in a state of disrepair with a small cemetery. Inside it’s quite empty. The only object in it is the heavy stone font. A few inscribed gravestones in the floor tell the stories of the dead. A girl born in Jaffna who married the Commander of Kalpitiya died at 15 years. The building seems to have been renovated around 1840, when a semi-circular porch with brick and plaster pillars with Corinthian capitals was added, as well as three spires on its front gable. The roof of the porch has since collapsed. The belfry is original and is similar to the ones found in Galle and Colombo. Around the turn of the century the bell from the belfry, along with all the furniture from the church, was removed to an Anglican church in Puttlam
This place is now as out of the way a backwater as any in Sri Lanka, let alone in the world. In the time services were held in the church and the fort was manned by Dutch soldiers, it was probably a livelier place, with the regional trade carried out by ‘the Moors’, or Muslims, who traversed the coastal waters in small boats called dhoneys, though the Dutch often tried to restrict that. To them the main value of this outpost was strategic. There is no suitable harbor and there have never been many people in this area. Across the water on the mainland, which is visible in the distance, is only the forest of what is now the Wilpattu National Park. The Company had occupied Kalpitiya mainly in the interest of suffocating Rajasingha, because from Kalpitiya it could control the King’s trade between Ceylon and India. It commands the entrance to the harbour of Puttlam. It could also more easily enforce the monopoly on cinnamon from here and from Mannar, a little way to the north. It seized all vessels that the English sent to Ceylon from their factories in India.
Still there were, and are, many coconut plantations on Kalpitiya, and the estuary is full of fish which was salted and dried. The produce was transported by local boats along the estuary to Puttlam, and from there by a canal via Negombo to Colombo.
Half way the Kalpitiya peninsula is the statue of St. Anne that can work miracles. From the mid-nineteenth century it started to draw large crowds of Sri Lankans of all religions on the festival of St. Anne on july 26. Today it’s a large complex with parking for busses and housing for the pilgrims who usually stay several days.
Map of Kalpitiya Fort
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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Traveling Directions to Kalpitiya Fort
Route from Colombo to Kalpitiya Fort
|distance :170 km|
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map