Matara Dissave; Mastermind of the Elephant Trade
Fort’s nerve centre
This is the oldest heritage building in Matara and nerve centre of the Fort. All elephant trade activities were controlled from here by the Dissave, the Dutch VOC-appointed ruler of the coastal district. The historic maps show the bungalow and warehouses right behind the Fort ramparts, probably one of the first structures the Dutch built when they conquered the Fort from the Portuguese in 1640. Built out of strong coral and plastered with lime it is still in excellent condition.
There were 4 elephant stables in the Fort that together could hold about 80 elephants at the time. Elephants were captured in the jungle, tamed in wooden cages by the Gajanayaka Mudali and Ali Vidane (elephant headman) and then brought to the fort to be taxed, bathed and prepared for transport to Galle.
Galle harbour was a large elephant exporting centre and Indian Maharaja’s came with their own huge ships to shop for elephants which they used in battle. The Indian ships did not come empty-handed, they brought rice that Sri Lanka needed.
Nice to know
It is also where the British Governor Frederick North stayed for a night in 1801 for his first journey around the Island.