On the southern edge of the Jaffna peninsula three forts were linearly situated across the neck of the narrow peninsula. Elephant Pass was the southern most fortification out of these forts.
Three miles north east from Elephant Pass in the general area of Iyakachchi was situated the second fortification called Pas 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 Pyl. These 3 Dutch forts (Pas Elephant, Pas Beschutter, Pas Pyl along the neck of Jaffna Peninsula acted as a barrier against invasions from South as well as to control of goods entering and exiting peninsula.
In 1697 it was reported that fort Pas Pyl, Pas Beschutter and Pas Elephant together had 11 Europeans, 3 Mesties (a name used by the Dutch for people with ¾th european blood and ¼th black blood), and 45 Toepasses totaling a strength of 59 who were under the payroll of Dutch East India Company. The purpose of the above three forts was to protect the commercial interests of Dutch East India Company in the Peninsula from attacks originating in the Wanni mainland and the Sinhalese. These forts were also also to prevent persons passing in or out without a passport, or goods being taken in or out without a license, as also to prevent the theft of slaves and the incursions of elephants and other wild animals into the Provinces.
However the author comments that since these 3 forts are stretched along a 2 mile neck of the Jaffna peninsula, there are incursions and people pass through the gaps unnoticed to the militia. Discussions had been made to connect these 3 forts together though trenches, a hedge of palmyra trees, fense of thorns or a wall. However the Dutch Company felt that this is advantageous to the inhabitants of the peninsula therefore the people should spend for the enhancement thus was never built.
Fort Pyl was situated on the most eastern corner of the sand belt which connected Jaffna to main land. The fort is built using coral stones and was square with two bastians on two opposite directions similar to the fort at Elephant Pass. According to François Valentijn, the fort was named as such in honour of Lorenzo Van Pyl, Governor of Jaffna in 1679. The fort had no rampart running around the structure. Instead, the internal buildings were standing directly against the rear of the main rampart. The bastions were accessible by stairs. Although it was believed that nothing remains of this fort due to the decay near the sea and the terrorist war which span almost 30 years, few ruins of this structure and an old well discovered on the sandy and thorny beach is now believed to be the ruins of this fort.
An archaeological study done on this area in 1980’s has discovered this area to be an ancient settlement site of Jaffna. Pottery has been discovered from an area of about 10 acres and these have been dated to the dawn of the Christian era to early British era. The fort has been constructed on the earlier archaeological site.
Fort Beschutter too was similar in shape and designed with 2 bastians in opposite directions. There had been a partial rampart walk on this fort. Some ruins believed to be from this fort has been discovered after the defeat of the LTTE terrorists. An arched store room, possibly an gun powder storage and some parts of a wall has been preserved at this site.
The ruins of Fort Beschutter lie 4 km off Kandy – Jaffna road or 4 km from Elephant Pass.
- Pieters, S., 1911. Memoir of Hendrick Zwaardecroon, Commandeur of Jaffnapatam (afterwards Governor-General of Nederlands India) 1697. For the guidance of the council ot Jaffnapatam, during his absence at the coast of Malabar (translation to English). 1st ed. Colombo: H. C. Cottle, Government Printer.
- Tennent, J., 1860. Ceylon: An Account of the Island – Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notes of its Natural History, Antiquities, and Productions. 4th ed. London: LONGMAN, GTIEEN, LONGMAN, AND ROBERTS.
- Jayasena, R., and Floore, P. (2010). Dutch Forts Of Seventeenth Century Ceylon And Mauritius: An Historical Archaeological Perspective. In First Forts, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. Available From: Brill https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004187542.i-278.91 [Accessed 18 April 2021]
- Ragupathy, P., 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey. 1st ed. Madras: Sudarsan Graphics.
- Forts and Fortifications of Sri Lanka
- Ancient Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
- Other Places of Interest Within Close Proximity
Map of Fort Pyl & Fort Beschutter
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Traveling Directions to Elephant Pass
|Route from Colombo to Elephant Pass|
|Though : Putlam – Anuradhapura|
distance : 360 km
Travel time : 8 hours
Time to Spend : 15-20 mins
Driving directions : see on google map