Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka

Kotahena (Colombo-13)

St. Lucia’s Cathedral
St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena
Śrī Ponnambalawaneswarar Kovil, Kotahena
Śrī Ponnambalawaneswarar Kovil, Kotahena

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The Kotahena Riot of 1883
The Kotahena Riot of 1883

Kotahena (Colombo-13) begins along the western coast of Colombo where the Pettah (Colombo-11) ends and winds its way up north towards Mutuwal (Colombo 15) and east towards the town of Grandpass (Colombo-14) and Hultsdorp (Colombo-12).Most of its populace comprises of Tamil Catholics and members of the Colombo Chetty community who have been resident therein from colonial times.

The town boasts of one of the oldest and largest Catholic parish cathedrals in Sri Lanka, the St. Lucia’s Cathedral, located with its rear facing the Indian Ocean and facing East towards Grandpass. There is also a large population of Tamil Hindu’s in the town.

Being a very Roman Catholic town, there are many famous Catholic churches located within it and many are the famous feasts that are held annually at these places or worship. The town also has a very large population of Tamil Hindus, thus creating an environment that also has many famous Hindu temples and Hindu festivals.

Two famous schools that have provided an excellent medium of education for boys and girls in Kotahena are St. Benedict's College (boys) and Good Shepherd Convent (girls), both managed and maintained by the Catholic Church.

Other places of religious interest in Kotahena are: the Dipaduttaramaya at Kotahena, 5km (3 miles) from Fort; the Sima Malaka at 61 Śrī Jinaratana Road, Colombo, 3km (2 miles) from Fort; the many Hindu Temples at Kochchikade, Kotahena, the Śrī Siva Subrahmanya Swami Kovil, Gintupitiya – within walking distance of Sea Street, Pettah, Colombo 11. In the Sea Street in Pettah in Colombo are several Hindu temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan with their colorful gopurams (doorways). Several other Hindu temples (kovils) are also seen in the City.

"Father Anthony COCHIAL built a chapel on the ground given to him by the Governor. The Protestants in derision called it COCHIKADE - the shop of the COCHIN Man. He worked among the Christians of Colombo more or less unmolested to his death, and was buried in his modest chapel.

At present, St. Anthony's Church, one of the most frequented of Colombo, stands on the spot of the ancient chapel, and all that quarter of the town is called 'KOCHIKADE'." - Quoted from a paragrap of 'HISTORY OF CEYLON: an abridged translation of Professor Peter Courtenay's work - by Francis M.G.

Paramanada Purana Viharaya in Kotahena was founded in 1806 and Dipaduttamaramaya in Kotahena is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city.

Several copies of the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya were built across the world in ancient times. There are numerous modern copies as well. A rather bazaar copy was built in Kotahena, a suburb of Colombo, in 1928. The lower part of the temple is a good copy of the original but the pinnacle is completely different. This Kotahena Pagoda, as it is called, attracted a lot of attention when it was first built. It is in a very bad condition today.

G P V Somaratna’s book, published in 1991, titled Kotahena Riot 1883: A Religious Riot in Sri Lanka, explores the true nature of the events which took place in Kotahena in 1883. The intention is not only to contribute to an understanding of the social history of Sri Lanka but also to provide the original documents to the readers to enable them to make their own assessment of the events (from the author’s preface).

“The riot in 1883 caused great amount of unrest and anxiety among the officialdom in Sri Lanka. The serious incident of rioting took place on Easter Sunday, March 25th 1883 where two people, one Buddhist and one Roman Catholic died and about thirty others including twelve police officers were wounded. It was a turning point in the revivalist movement of Buddhism where anti Christian propaganda and rhetoric led to a violent clash” (from the introduction).

The book is all original documents excepting the brief introduction and a concluding chapter of analysis which is not even 30 pages in length.

It may be interesting to note that the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic riots that were sparked off in 1983, a hundred years later, also had significant impact on the residents of Kotahena since they were largely Tamil. Many schools in the town were used as refugee camps to shelter and transfer the victims of this recent tragedy.


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