An Eastern paradise shattered by war.

Blitz history.

In the early days, Trincomalee was a large settlement of Indo-Aryan immigrants. The Temple of the Thousand Columns (also called Koneswaram Temple), located on the edge of the peninsula, is considered a Hindu temple and was likely founded before 400 B.C. with a classical Dravidian architectural style.

[1] A multi coloured statue of Shiva, previously coloured gold. There's a similarly coloured Hindu statue of Vishnu in Galimanuk, Indonesia. [2] A woman wearing gold jewellery passing by incense in front of the Koneswaram Temple.

The first Europeans who occupied the city were the Portuguese. In the 17th century in a religious war they destroyed the temple, and used the stone to built a fort. Later the port of Trinco underwent some changes by the Dutch and the French, until the British gained control of it in the late 18th century. The significance of Trincomalee as the main British base in Asia during WWII increased after they were ousted from Singapore by the Japanese. The British kept the harbour until independence when they handed it to Sri Lanka, after which the port became commercially unimportant. After the victory by the Sinhalese in the civil war, Trincomalee was transferred to the rule of the Sri Lankan army and remains so to the current day.

ABOVE: An Army look-out point still standing after the war, near Pearl Beach, Trincomalee. This land now belongs to the Sri Lankan Navy. LEFT: Military base near a house destroyed by the Tsunami on Nilaveli beach.

For 30 years, no one wanted to visit Trincomalee. It’s not that tourists didn’t want to see the beautiful wild beaches, exotic temples, wildlife, taste delicious Tamil food or familiarise themselves with the local culture. The civil war had split the district in half on political and religious grounds  — Sinhalese and Tamil; Buddhist and Hindu. When the war ended and real estate investment into the country began to flow, tourists reappeared. In 2010, Trinco (as it’s nicknamed locally) developed, and tourism took off.

Trincomalee is known for its natural deep-water harbour, and since ancient times has attracted sailors, traders and pilgrims from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia. Trinco, or Gokarna as some Indians call it, was a seaport and pilgrimage centre for Hindus from the fourth century BC.
The earliest epigraphic inscriptions found in the city of Trincomalee are written in Tamil, and not in Sinhala, spoken by the majority of Sri Lanka. Tamil people are the ancestors of Indians and have lived in Trinco, as well as in the northern part of Sri Lanka, for several centuries. On image: Mosque tucked between buildings.
The kings of Pallava were important in the early history of Trincomalee due to commerce and the significance of Hinduism. Slowly but surely they cultivated the city, covering it with the unique style of Dravidian architecture.

In December 2004 a large tsunami, triggered by an undersea earthquake, near Indonesia killed hundreds of people in Trincomalee and caused widespread destruction.

Today, speaking about Trincomalee usually means Uppaveli beach, a popular Tamil village and tourist destination, as Trinco itself generally has nothing for tourists to see but beaches.