Batticaloa and around

Batticaloa and around

The principal east-coast town south of Trincomalee, BATTICALOA (often shortened to “Batti”) sits on a narrow sliver of land backed by the serpentine Batticaloa Lagoon. The town is surrounded by water on three sides, and the constantly shifting views of land, lagoon and ocean lend Batticaloa an interesting character. It’s a pleasant enough place, although there’s not much reason to come here apart from sheer curiosity or, if you’ve got your own vehicle, to
explore the attractive and totally undeveloped coastline hereabouts.

The town retains a solidly commercial feel, especially along Main Street, a neat collection of small lock-up shops with colourful signs in Tamil and huge wooden doors. It’s also worth a stroll through the back streets which meander up the hill behind Main Street, dotted with colourful churches, a few old colonial villas and the grandiose St Michael’s College.
Batticaloa was the first Sri Lankan stronghold of the Dutch, who constructed the town’s solid-looking Fort, which stands some 200m behind the large public library at the west end of the town centre. The hulking and rather dour exterior walls are well preserved, while inside, an old colonial warehouse and various modern buildings are crammed together cheek by jowl. There’s a grand view of the lagoon from the far side of the fort.

The singing fish of Batticaloa

Batti is famous in Sri Lankan folklore for its singing fish. According to tradition, between April and September a strange noise – described variously as resembling a plucked guitar or violin string, or the sound produced by rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a glass
– can be heard issuing from the depths of the lagoon. The “singing” is allegedly strongest on full moon nights, though no one knows exactly what causes it. The most popular explanation is that it’s produced by some form of marine life – anything from catfish to mussels – while another theory states that it’s made by water flowing between boulders on the lagoon floor. The best way to listen to the singing is apparently to dip one end of an oar in the water and hold the other end to your ear. Kallady Bridge, a couple of kilometres outside town, is traditionally held to be a good place to tune in.

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