Posted by: lrrp | May 29, 2008

Kalutara through the eyes of the Dutch

Dr. R. L. Brohier, in his ‘Seeing Ceylon’ (1965), gives the following account of the Dutch occupation of Kalutara and the fortifications made to the original Portuguese Fort on the hillock overlooking Kalu Ganga: “One of the earliest notices of Kalutara in the period of the Dutch occupation is by Christopher Schewitzer, an adventurer who took service under the Dutch East India Company and kept a diary. Under date 22nd April 1677, he wrote: “I was sent with 30 soldiers to the fort of Kalutara – to have some new ramparts added to it”.

“This apparently was the first attempt by the Dutch to re-model the crazy Portuguese Fortlaesa. Van Goens, the Dutch Governor and Commissioner of War, also ensured in this instance that a good road was constructed along with men could march abreast, taking their field guns”. The Dutch captured Kalutara from the Portuguese on 14.10.1655.

The original Portuguese fort when it was extended and fortified by the Dutch comprised a residential fort complete with a moat and draw bridge. Dutch were reputed canal builders. Among the well known canals built by them are the Hamilton Canal and the Negombo-Chilaw canal.

The Hamilton canal was rehabilitated to some extent to resuscitate the old canal transport service. In the good old days of the Dutch, padda boats plied up and down these canals taking cargoes of rubber, coffee, pepper, cinnamon and bringing back salt, rice and other food commodities.

Kalu Ganga from ancient to medieval times of the Dutch was navigable. The old navigation routes were from Kalu Ganga, Diyagama from there along Kapapu Ele (cut by the Dutch) through Bolgoda lake and Kalu Ganga thotupala. From there the canal route was through Hamilton Canal to Negombo-Chilaw and Puttalam via Palavi.

The Dutch grew sugar – cane and coffee extensively as in the Kalutara area. The Dutch distilled run from the sugar molasses manufactured in their own distilleries based in Kalutara. Their other products of export were cinnamon, coffee, coir fibre and agricultural outputs produced in the Kalutara region. During Dutch times, sailing vessels called over at the port of Kalutara. The present Police Station of Kalutara south occupied once upon a time a portion of the fort.

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