How Did Colombo Derive its name ?
by Mr. Jayewardene
Colombo derives her name from the Port of Kolomtota (Colombo harbour), which traces back to the Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte kingdom. In 1369, Nissanka Alakesvara, King Vikramabahu III's powerful prime minister, established Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, which has been the administrative capital of Sri Lanka since 1982. Through centuries of Portuguese, Dutch and British rule, the name was changed to Colombo.
Kolomtota was the port first used by traders from China and the Far East, India, Persia, Abyssinia and Indonesia, who came to barter for the country's famed spices. In April 1505, however, an epoch of 443 years of foreign occupation began in Sri Lanka, when the Portuguese fleet under the command of Don Lorenzo de Almeida arrived in Colombo's harbour. Soon after, Portuguese rule became official with the signing of a trade treaty with King Parakramabahu the VIII, and it prevailed until 1656. Following the Portuguese were the Dutch, who occupied the country from 1656 to 1796. Then came the British, ruling the region as a colony until a few years after World War Two..
era of western domination ended peacefully when Sri Lanka was granted
independence in 1948. However, foreign occupation had a tremendous impact
on the people of Colombo. Laws were changed, the economy strengthened, and
the monarchy gave way to a parliamentary democracy. The dawn of a new
began to change--from clothing to customs, religion to proper names. An
entire new culture took root. Even today, the influence of the Portuguese,
Dutch and British is clearly visible in Colombo's architecture, names,
clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three regimes
still stand in their pristine glory as mute reminders.
first to adopt Colombo as their administrative centre, the Portuguese
built forts, stores, barracks, churches and residential quarters. The
Dutch then used the city as their operational centre and expanded her
borders. The British made Colombo the capital of their new colony and
positioned her as a blossoming metropolis of the east.
current centre, Fort, got its name from the presence of the Portuguese and
the Dutch fortifications located there. At the turn of the 21st century,
the British, who took over from the Dutch after bitter fighting, razed the
last structures of the Dutch stronghold.
links between Sri Lanka and Portugal are in evidence today. Several items
of furniture in Sri Lanka derive from the Lusitanian style. Sri Lankan and
Portuguese names have many similarities: Mendis (Mendez), de Silva (da
Silva), Dias (Diaz), Corea (Correa), Tissera (Teixera), de Mel (de Mello)
and Swaris (Soares), to name a few. The most obvious legacy of the
Portuguese, however, is Catholicism, still practiced by a small percentage
of the population. The
Dutch introduced the Roman Dutch Law system which Sri Lanka still uses
today. The Burgher community, another Dutch legacy, are descendants of the
original settlers from Holland and neighbouring countries. They came out
with the Dutch United East India Company and remained throughout the
British period that followed.
The Dutch culinary tradition also endures here. Popular local delicacies include lamprai and pilaf, frikkadelas and meatballs, pastellas (curry patties wrapped in crisp pastry), love cake, breudher and poffertjes.
Dutch Museum, housed at "Dutch House" at Prince Street in Pettah,
was built in the 17th century. As the former residence of Dutch governor
Count Carl Van Ranzow, it embodies the unique architectural features of a
colonial Dutch townhouse. Another impressive sentinel of the period is the
Wolvendaal Church, constructed in the Doric style.
was the British, however, who left a truly lasting impression on almost
every aspect of life in Colombo. They developed a unique urban plan to
modernise Colombo, under which specific areas were demarcated for
economic, political, judicial and cultural developments. They encouraged
the rapid and uninterrupted development of the plantation sector, which in
turn presented demand for a banking and commercial shopping complex at
British were also responsible for creating the country's first parliament
building, Temple Trees (the official residence of today's Prime Minister
and formerly of the colonial secretary), and the President's House (the
official residence of the President and of the former British governor).
In 1923, a classical-style Secretariat and a Town Hall were constructed.
The British introduced schools and streamlined education. They instigated
a democratic government and paved the way for efficient administration. By
initiating a road and rail network, they introduced modern methods of
transport. Among the many first-class hotels they constructed, three--the
Taprobane (Grand Oriental Hotel), the Galle Face Hotel and the Mount
Lavinia Hotel--are still standing. Several sports clubs for cricket, rugby
football, tennis, swimming, rowing and yachting also exist today, some of
them more than 100 years old.
While upgrading the ancient port, the British laid down plans for the country's armed services and police. But far more telling than any of these reforms was the introduction of the English language, which has helped millions of Sri Lankan's in their educational and employment pursuits, and thousands of others in their quest to immigrate abroad.
in 1948, and the following economic development, encouraged skyscrapers to
alter the Colombo skyline radically. Stunning hotels and commercial
buildings stand out among remnants of the city's architectural past. True
to the essence of Colombo, the new stands side-by-side comfortably with
the old. With independence and the swing to nationalism has come today's
emergence of national identity. Colombo's people are proud to be Sri
Lankan, proud of their city's history, and proud to be a part of her