Matara is a prime city in Sri Lanka, on the southern coast of the Southern Province, which is also the second biggest city in the Southern Province of the country. rIt’s 160 km (99 mi) from the capital of the county, Colombo. It is a large commercial center and the administrative headquarters and the biggest city in the Matara district. The Matara district is governed by a District Secretariat led by a District Secretary (who is also a Government Agent) appointed by the central government of Sri Lanka.

Matara Etymology

Consisting of two components, the term Matara gives its sense as the Great Ferry which can be interpreted from the Tamil Matturai meaning “great seaport” or “great fortress.” It is also assumed to be originating from the misstatement of the word “Matora” by the Portuguese who named it “Mature” or “Matturai” in 1672. The native term “Matora” may even be derived from “Maha Tera” indicating the location where the Great River was crossed. 

It was also named “Maha Tota” (Malo Tota) or ‘Maha Pattana, a wonderful ferry.  The term Mahatota may be originated from the Tamil Maha Ethara meaning “great ford.” Today, the Nilwala River flows through Matara, and it is claimed that there was a big place where ferries used to traverse. In 1673, the Dutch minister, Philippus Baldaeus, declared it “Mature,” in 1681 Robert Knox renamed it “Matura,” and in 1744 Heydt named it “Maderon.”

Matara History

Historically, Matara belonged to the region regarded as the Realm of Ruhuna and was one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka. As per Thotagamuwe, Sri Rahula Thera’s Paravi Sandesay, King Weerabamapanam made Matara his headquarters and called it “Mapatuna.” The temple in the center of the town is also founded by ancient kings, and now it is a very famous sacred place among all the Buddhists in the country. 

In the 16th and 18th centuries, Matara was dominated by the Portuguese and the Dutch. In 1756 the Dutch conquered the Maritime Province and split it into four constituent regions — Sabaragamuwa, Sathara Korale, Sath Korle, and Matara. Out of all these, the district of Matara occupied the largest region (mainly the entire of the Southern Province up to the Kaluganga River). In the document given to the Dutch by King Dharmapala, it was stated that the region of the Matara district stretched from Kotte to the Walawe Ganga River. 

The fort was effectively invaded by troops from the Kandyan kingdom in 1760. Matara has been in the possession of the Sinhalese for about a year. In 1762, Matara Fort was recaptured by the Dutch, without any major opposition. Matara was the second most powerful fort, after Galle Fort, for the Southern Coastal Provinces of the Dutch, and the controlling base for several inland forts. 

The fort was solemnly turned over to the British in 1796. Dutch and English culture and design can still be found in the area. The lighthouse at Dondra Head was designed by the Dutch and is known to be one of the earliest lighthouses in Sri Lanka. The two fortresses, Matara Fort and Star Fort, which were founded by the Dutch, can be found in the area. Such significant Colonial works are the St Mary’s Church and the Nupe Junction market. 

The most prominent figures who have been residing in the region are Kumaratunga Munidasa and Gajaman Nona. The ethnic majority in the district is Sinhalese; and during the 16th and 17th centuries, Moors visited the region as merchants, particularly from Arabia. Still, their members coexist comfortably with the Sinhalese as an ethnic group.

Attractions in Matara

  • Matara is a prosperous, booming, and flourishing commercial city that can transform it into a fascinating window of modern Sri Lankan existence. The key attractions of Matara are its ramparts, Dutch architecture, a well-preserved fortress, and street culture. 
  • Parey Dewa Temple is a fairly modern Buddhist temple on Pigeon Island, which is a remote offshore island that sits in front of the city. It is approached by an elegant cable-stayed footbridge that was installed in 2008 (substituting an earlier bridge that was swept away in the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami). The temple is set in beautiful landscaped and contains several sculptures of the Buddha and a model of the presumed footprint of Adam’s Peak. 
  • Weragampita Rajamaha Viharaya 
  • Matara Bodhiya, a Buddhist monastery, the location of a holy fig tree. 
  • Matara fort/ramparts: the Matara fort was founded by the Portuguese in 1560 and was extensively restored by the Dutch in 1640, following the capture of Galle. The fort, consisting of a wide stone rampart, comprises the headland between the lagoon of the Niwala River and the ocean. 
  • The Dutch Reformed Church, Matara, was founded in the Matara fort by the Dutch in 1706. It was thoroughly redesigned in 1767 after the fort was restored in 1762. 
  • Star Fort is on the western or land-bound side of the Nawali River. The fort was founded by the Dutch after the Matara Rebellion in 1761 to defend the main fort from river assaults. In 1765, the building of the unusual star-shaped fort was finished. 
  • The Old Nupe Market was founded in 1784 by the Dutch, some 3.2 kilometers (2.0 mi) from the Matara Fort.
  • St. Mary’s Church is situated on Beach Lane. The date on the gateway (1769) corresponds to the reconstruction of the Matara Revolt in 1762.

Matara Climate

Matara sits 11m above sea level. This town has a tropical atmosphere. Matara has a large volume of rainfall during the year. This is valid for even the driest month. The climate status of Köppen-Geiger is Af. The mean maximum temperature in Matara is 26.8°C, 80.2 ° F. Approximately 2147 mm 84.5 inches of precipitation drop yearly.