June 2017


Discovering Trincomalee
June 2017




Trincomalee is known for its picturesque and pristine beaches

Far in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, lay a very special carving of the coast line. Caving inland and to depths in some places yet unknown, it has become a treasure not only to this Island, but to the entire Indian Ocean. This is Trincomalee - Sri Lanka's crown jewel.


Words and Photography:
Shyam Ranasinghe


History

Since time immemorial, 'Gokanna' or Trincomalee has been the focal point in trade and commerce, foreign relations and of religious significance. Historical evidence speaks about the presence of a holy temple dedicated to Konesar - Lord Shiva. Located on top of a small hill, it bore the name of Konesar - Malai (the latter meaning hill in Tamil). With the addition of the phrase Thiru (Sacred) the locality took on the namesake Thiru-Kona-Malai, which is later believed to have evolved into Trincomalee through the ages as well as languages. It was also known as Gokanna in the ancient chronicles of the Island, the name once again having its origin from a reference to the cheek of Nandi - Lord Shiva's bull, which the inhabitants of the time believed to resemble the circular shaped harbour.


Trincomalee was one of the three main harbours in the country since the Anuradhapura era and as such a main economic centre of gravity. King Parakramabahu the great is said to have set sail from Gokanna on his quest to conquer Burma. The harbour, due to its central location in the Indian Ocean has attracted the attention of many sea faring nations including the Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, French and British. Interestingly, the temple within the colonial era Fort is called the Sri Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya.


Konesar

One of the main attractions in Trincomalee is the Kovil of Konesar or Lord Shiva. It is considered one of the main Hindu temples in the Island and also has a chronicle stemming from King Ravana. It is said that King Ravana split the rock to search for the Shiv Ling (an object of veneration) and this is known today as Ravana's cleft. The traditional way of homage is through offering a basket of fruits, dashing of coconuts and of course prayers. An interesting sight within the kovil premises are the dangling miniature cots, hung by women who pray for Lord Shiva to bless them with a child.


Colonial Heritage

The Portuguese built in 1625 ADa fort aimed at the harbour defence in classical Portuguese style with massive ramparts lining the land side. The remnants of Fort Frederick remind us of this very ancient legacy. The fort has survived the test of time as well as of many battles. The British who occupied this since the late 18th century were perhaps the ones who reaped its potential to the best. With the onset of the 20th century, they built a dockyard and an airfield. An oil tank farm made up of over 100 tanks, was added on later. This became a nerve centre during World War II and as a result was targeted for an aerial attack. A destroyed oil tank in a far corner of the tank farm lay in crumbles as a reminder. Members of the Allied Forces who laid down their lives in protecting Trincomalee remain interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery, staying behind in the very same soil that they were committed to protect.

If you ask anyone, as to what Trincomalee is famous for, probably the first thing that would be said is the golden beaches.


Beauty and the Beach

If you ask anyone, as to what Trincomalee is famous for, probably the first thing that would be said is the golden beaches. Pristine, soothing and breathtaking, the beaches in Trincomalee will offer a totally new experience. Marble beach, Dutch Bay and Black Bay are some of the well-known and patronised beaches by both sea farers as well as fun lovers. If it is a dive, a snorkel, a bit of angling, or a simple dip in the sea, Trincomalee is your one stop spot for all with the choice of beaches stretching far north up to Kuchchaveli and beyond.


Modern Trincomalee

Trincomalee is truly multi-cultural and multi ethnic. It is yet another perfect example of how different ethnicities can live entwined in one community. A special attraction in the city is the free roaming deer, who perhaps consider themselves more urban than the humans. Unfazed and unafraid of the thriving human activity around them, these deer are considered a treasure by the city. They will happily pose for a picture provided you don't intimidate them.


With a wide range of choices in accommodation, both for the star class as well as the budget traveller, Trincomalee will keep opening up to you. How far will this vibrant town go to please you - well there is only one way to find out.

 

Fact file

Trincomalee is the world’s second deepest natural harbour, falling only behind Sydney, Australia.

The entire caving in of the coastline is divided into three segments, Inner harbour, Thambalagamuwa (Thampalakammam) bay, and Koddiyar bay. Of these, only the Inner harbour provides sufficient depths and mooring locations for even the biggest of the ships.

There are locations within the inner harbour of which the true depth is yet to be accurately discovered.

The country’s sole wheat flour manufacturer, has its facility on the edge of the harbour, working day and night.


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    Entrance to Fort Frederick

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    Lord Shiva statue at Koneswaram Kovil

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    Commonwealth War Cemetery

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    The Sri Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya

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    Swami Rock looks out to the deep waters in Trincomalee

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    The impressive Trincomalee Harbour

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    Fishing boats on the soft sands of Black Bay

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