Matara, Sri Lanka

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City of Matara
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Matara Foreshore
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Coordinates: 5°57′N80°32′E / 5.950°N 80.533°E / 5.950; 80.533 Coordinates: 5°57′N80°32′E / 5.950°N 80.533°E / 5.950; 80.533
Country Sri Lanka
Province Southern
  Type Municipal Council
   Mayor Ranjith Yasarathna
13 km2 (5 sq mi)
2 m (7 ft)
   City 74,193
  Density5,841/km2 (15,130/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Matarians
Time zone UTC+5:30 (Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone)
Postal code
Area code(s) 041

Matara (Sinhala : මාතර, romanized: Māthara, Tamil : மாத்தறை, romanized: Māttaṟai) is a major city in Sri Lanka, on the southern coast of Southern Province. It is the second largest city in Southern Province. It is 160 km (99 mi) from Colombo. It is a major commercial hub, and it is the administrative capital and largest city of Matara District. [1]



Consist of two elements, the term Matara gives its meaning as the Great Ferry, [2] that may be derived from the Tamil Matturai meaning "great seaport" or "great fortress". [3] [ need quotation to verify ] It is also thought as being derived from the mispronunciation of the word 'Matora' by the Portuguese who called it 'Mature' or Maturai in 1672. [4] [5] The native word 'Matora' might also derived from 'Maha Tera' meaning the place where the Great River was crossed. [4]

It was also called 'Maha Tota' (Malo Tota) or Maha- pattana, the great ferry. The word Mahathota might be derived from the Tamil Maha Ethara meaning "great ford". [5] [ need quotation to verify ] Today, the Nilwala River runs through Matara and it is said that there was a wide area where ferries used to cross. In 1673, the Dutch minister Philippus Baldaeus had called it 'Mature', in 1681, Robert Knox named it as 'Matura' and in 1744, Heydt called it 'Maderon'. [4]


Matara historically belongs to the area that was called the Kingdom of Ruhuna, which was one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka (Thun Sinhalaya තුන් සිංහලය). According to Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera's Paravi Sndesaya King Weerabamapanam made Matara as his capital and named it "Mapatuna". The temple in the middle of the town is also built by ancient kings, and now it is a very popular sacred place among the Buddhists in the area.

In the 16th and 18th centuries, Matara was ruled by the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively.

In 1756 the Dutch captured the Maritime Province and divided it into four administrative areas — Sabaragamuwa, Sath Korle, Sathara Korele and Matara. Out of these, Matara District covered the largest area (essentially the whole of the Southern Province up to the Kaluganga River). In the deed given by King Dharmapala to the Dutch, it mentioned that the area of Matara District extended from Kotte to Walawe Ganga River.

In 1760 the fort was successfully attacked by forces from the Kandyan kingdom. Matara maintained in the hands of the Sinhalese for almost one year. In 1762, the Dutch recaptured Matara Fort, without any significant resistance. Matara was the second most important fort, behind Galle fort, for the southern maritime provinces of the Dutch and a commanding base for some inland forts.

In 1796 the fort was ceremoniously handed over to the British. The Dutch and English culture and architecture can still be seen throughout the area. The lighthouse at Dondra Head was built by the Dutch, and it is considered one of the oldest lighthouses in Sri Lanka. The two fortresses, the Matara fort and the Star fort, that were built by the Dutch can be found in the city. Other important Colonial works are the St Mary's Church and the marketplace at Nupe Junction.

Weherahena temple Weherahena.jpg
Weherahena temple

The most famous thinkers who lived in the area are Kumaratunga Munidasa and Gajaman Nona. The ethnic majority of Matara is Sinhalese; during the 16th and 17th centuries Moors arrived in the area as traders from Arabia. Today their descendants coexist with Sinhalese peacefully as an ethnic minority.


Parevi Dupatha in Matara Islet in Matara.jpg
Parevi Dupatha in Matara
Wewurukannala Viharaya, Sri Lanka Wewurukannala Vihara, Sri Lanka.jpg
Wewurukannala Viharaya, Sri Lanka
Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya in Sri Lanka.jpg
Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya

Matara is a busy, booming and sprawling commercial town that owes almost nothing to tourism – which can make it a fascinating window on modern Sri Lankan life. Matara's main attractions are its ramparts, Dutch architecture, a well-preserved fort and its street life.




Economy and infrastructure



The Matara railway station, is the terminus of Sri Lanka Railways' Coastal Line, though an extension to Kataragama is planned.


Matara is a major transport hub in the country. It is served by the A2 highway, which runs through the city. It is also the southern terminus of stage 2 of the southern expressway E01 expressway (Sri Lanka) since March 2014.

See also

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  1. Trip destination Matara Sri Lanka
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