Start Fort, or someone called “Tharaka Kotuwa,” is an ancient building in Matara, Sri Lanka. It was built by the Dutch as a defense building during the period of 1763–1765. The start fort is located 350 meters east of the Matara fort on the Nilvala River. The Dutch called this fort “Redoute van Eck” back then.
The Dutch captured Sri Lanka from the Portuguese in 1638. They captured the Matara fort from the Portuguese and reconstructed it in 1640. However, it was vulnerable to attackers coming from the land. The Matara Rebellions and the Kandyan Kingdom army attacked and captured the Matara Dutch Fort in 1762. Anyhow, the Dutch re-captured the fort in 1763. They identified the vulnerable situation of the fort and then decided to increase its strength. As a result, they planned to build the Star Fort.
The name “Star Fort” comes from its unique shape. It has a six-pointed star with enough space for 12 large cannons to cover all directions. The rampart walls have been constructed with granite rocks and corals. The width of the rampart wall is 14 feet. It also has got enough space to hold a small garrison, food supplies, and ammunition.
Further, it has two prison cells and a well in the center with a 2.75-meter diameter. The roof of the building was completed with cadjam leaves in the early days and then replaced with clay tiles. There is a deep moat around the Star Fort, which also provides additional protection.
Even today, you can see the VOC emblem and the year of the construction near the main gate. The Dutch were made to live in this fort for their protection, but they never had a chance to prove that. They handed over the Star Fort to the British in 1796.
The site is still open to visitors and is under the control of the Sri Lankan government. You can walk around the star fort and experience the Dutch culture in Sri Lanka. It is a nice place to visit around the Matara area of Sri Lanka.
(Star Fort Image Credit: Viraj De Alwis from Facebook)