Galle has an ancient and interesting history. In pre-Christian times Galle, called ‘Gimhathitha’ which is derived from the ancient Sinhala script meaning ‘port near the river Gin’ ( Gin Ganga ) was a major port in our country. As early as 1400 BC cinnamon had been exported and Galle may well have been the main transshipment port in this part of the world, with Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese doing trade. A trilingual Inscription on stone dated February 14, 1409 in Chinese, Tamil and Persian was erected by the Chinese Admiral, Zheng He, to commemorate his visit to Galle. This is now in the Colombo National Museum. A copy can be found in the Maritime Museum in Galle. So dear reader our country’s friendship with China is a centuries old one. Nothing new in that. Galle is also referred to by the famed Muslim Berber-Moroccan scholar and traveler Ibn Batuta, in his well documented book ‘Rihlah’ (Travels ) who visited the island in 1344 CE. He referred to Galle as Quali/ Kali..
No doubt that all these references to the ancient port city of Galle and others as we will read about later on, contributed to UNESCO listing the Old Town of Galle and the Fortifications as a World Heritage Site in 1988. According to an article in the Ceylon Observer datelined November 26, 2017 by Dimuthu Attanayake and Manjula Fernando it is stated that, “The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS ) in its advisory body evaluation has recommended Galle Fort under its criterion IV Code. Galle provides an outstanding example of urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian tradition from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Among these characteristics that makes this an urban group of exceptional value is the original sewer system from the 17th century which is flushed with sea water and controlled by a pumping station formerly activated by a windmill in the Triton Bastian.”