Officer’s House in Court Road
Elephant keeper’s house
This private Villa at Court Road is one of the few properties in Matara Fort with typical Dutch architecture still intact. Its plain narrow verandah with round pillars is similar to a Dutch church.
From old maps, we suspect that this was the house of the elephant tax collector, located near the stables. The house's traditional name is Gajapathigewatta, it means elephant keeper's house, so it could also have been the Gajanayaka Mudaliar, the person in charge of the elephant trade.
The Gajanayaka Mudaliar was an official at the Department of Elephant Gathering, with the responsibility to provide the VOC traders with 84 elephants every year along with 4 tuskers. The duties of the elephant gatherer were to look after the elephants and supply them with food. He did not have the authority to shoot at elephants. When they could not hand over the annual elephant count to the company, the VOC charged an elephant tax, the Ceylon export tariff in those days.
Matara still has many villages that have the name ‘Gaja’ (elephant) such as Gajapathi Arachchi Estate, Gajagedara and Gajanayakagama,