iSurprise Matara Bridge

Bridge across the crocodile-infested Nilwala River

Crossing a river

When in 1753 Johan Wolffgang Heydt visited Matara Fort, he described the bridge as ‘an unusual float on the water’. In 1868 a temporary bridge was built under the British Governor's authority. Improving the connection with Galle and in 1907 Matara got a permanent bridge over the Nil-Ganga for a budget of Rs. 76,882/-.

Altogether very poor, only a float on the water and lifting with it as it rises and falls. In the middle strong trees are driven in to fasten the bridge to them with stout rottangs, and it is good and convenient, for all that it may appear unusual.
— Heydt’s Ceylon, 1735

A connector

Now the Mahanama Bridge is a main connector and landmark of Matara Town. From the bridge, you can see where the Indian Ocean and the crocodile-infested waters of the Nilwala River meet. The bridge is a busy point, with beggars, cobblers, umbrella makers and small peddlers fighting for space to sell their wares. It is even a known suicide point.

I have been selling spices on this bridge for 20 years. The bridge saved our lives in the tragedy of the Tsunami, 2004.
— Peddler on the bridge

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