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History of Hambantota

The name Hambantota the city received from two Sinhalese words Hamban and Thota. Once this place was once used to describe a certain choice of sailing vessels, which were designated by the collective word Hamban, and the second part of the name — Thota — means Bay, Port. Thus, Hambantota — means «Port for the Hamba ships».

Later, the city that grew up on this site and connected with this port, as well as the administrative district around became known under this name. By the way, in the same way, such cities as Colombo, Matara and Kalutara, associated with the ports, received their names from the original Kolomtota, Mahatota and Kalutota, respectively.And in their time the administrative districts around them became too well known by these names.

Under the term «Hamban» in the old days, there was a particularly wide variety of sailing ships built by connecting two boats together. This type of sailing vessel is widely used for navigation in the ocean. And this type of vessel was quite popular among the ancient Chinese, Malays and Moors who inhabited the Asian region. It is possible that Sinhalese word Hamban may be a «brother» word in Chinese for Sampam, which also means the same type of sea boats. However, there is no historical evidence to confirm that this is a place that is located on the south-eastern coast of Sri Lanka, functioned as an international port in ancient times.

Close to Hambantota there is a place named Godawaya, located at the mouth of the Wananadi River, served as a port on this coast in ancient times. Historical evidence confirms that this was the most important port on the south in the 2nd century AD. According to some oral traditions of the inhabitants of this region, the subjects of the king of Gajabahu were attacked by invaders from the South Indian kingdom of Chola. The army of King Gajabahu released prisoners from Indian captivity and returned to their homeland, to Sri Lanka. As expected, ships with freed captives moored in this port upon return to the island. Just the ships used by the king for this liberation voyage from India, and were known as Hamban. Thus, this port already knew how Hambantota, back in the II century BC. However, there is no historical evidence to prove this story, very widely known in the south of the country.

Settlements began to grow around Hambantota from ancient times, when the place proved to be an important port. The Dutch, who fought for influence in Ceylon with the Portuguese conquerors, deployed a naval military regiment in Hambantota, which then belonged to the eastern border of the administrative district of Galle. In those years, the Kingdom of Kandy received supplies of salt from the Hambantota. The Dutch, who realized the importance of the saltier as a weapon in their attempt to lead the King of Kandy out of power, deployed their battalion in Hambantota. They built various offices and headquarters close to the Hambantota port.

During the period of British rule, Hambantota continued to develop not only as a port, but as an urban settlement. Even before 1928, the port of Hambantota became the largest hub in Lanka. The British company Messars Walker & Sons Ltd. was entrusted to carry out the maintenance of the port of Hambantota in accordance with the British order of administration. The British rebuilt the Kachcheri district, regional offices of some government departments, schools, a police station, a hospital and a court in Hambantota. Thus, the port site of Hambantota, which was known to the colonialists for nearly 500 centuries, became a major city, as well as an administrative district around it.

Archaeological ruins of Yahangala in Hambantota
But let's go back to the times of King Gajabahu. The small village of Yahangala leading to Badagiriya is a calm peasant village in the district of Hambantota, where rich archaeological ruins and ancient dagobas of the Ruhuna Kingdom were found by ancient Sri Lankan scholars.
The temple on the cliff of Yahangala is a unique find and one of the oldest brick buildings in Sri Lanka. The rock boulder, as historians believe, was sacred to the Arhats (Buddhist hermits who reached the goals of religious life) in ancient times. This boulder has the same sizes and proportions, and, as the legend says, on this stone meditated ancient Buddhist arhats.

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During the reign of King Gajabahu, this province in the district of Hambantota was called Keliyapura Nuwara. The chronicles of the times of Gajabahu describe this sacred place as unique and vivid. Dagoba itself is mentioned as Bubulakara — a bubble in the dagoba form. Traces of a person, embodied in a stone, refer to very ancient times. Some prints are barely discernible due to the influence of time. Badagiriya — another time-destroyed dagoba lies on outcrops of rocks near Yahangala. The ruins of two separate dagobas are still visible.

The entire landscape of the current region of Hambantota is dotted with abundant rice fields, saltworks and lakes. The place is deserted and some of the oldest dagobas found now and here are overgrown with ivy and moss so that they are difficult to detect. Among the archeological artifacts found in this place, for example, in the 1980s, stone carved statues of the Buddha without a head, stone pillars scattered among the ruins. The inscriptions on the writing of brahmi on a stone near the staircase leading to one of the dagobas are the clearest evidence that the Hambantota district was inhabited by the most ancient people of the pre-Sanskrit era. And this means that in Hambantota there were highly developed civilizations still about 8-9 thousand years ago. But their traces were erased by history. And the mysteries around the ruins of the Hambantota are no less than around the vanished Harappan civilization.

More about the history of the Hambantota district you can find out by visiting these places, stopping at hotels by Lankarus. Exciting historical excursions to the many priceless historical monuments of the TangalleHambantota area are available in the home region of our company.

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