Lighthouses of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is a teardrop-shaped
island nation off the southeastern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Portugal
and Holland had early settlements on the island, but Britain took charge
in 1796 and retained control until 1948. Beginning in the early 1980s,
Sri Lanka was torn in an insurrection by Tamils in the northern
part of the island. The government finally extinguished the revolt in
May 2009. However, some areas in the north continue to be restricted
or unsafe, and several lighthouses in contested zones have deteriorated
from years of neglect.
The island is roughly 400 km (250 mi) long from north to south and 200
km (125 mi) wide. Colombo, on the southwest coast, is the capital and
major port. Trincomalee, on the east coast, has a magnificent harbor
and was a major Indian Ocean base for the Royal Navy during British
rule. A new port is being developed at Hambantota on the south coast.
The great tsunami of 26 December 2004 devastated low-lying
areas of Sri Lanka, especially on the east coast. No lighthouses were
destroyed, but many were damaged by the great waves.
Lighthouses of Sri Lanka are operated and maintained by the Sri
Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). In recent years SLPA has worked
to restore and modernize the lighthouses in the south of the island,
where the government's control has been firm. Work is
beginning on restoring lights in the northern part of the country.
ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS
World List of Lights. Admiralty
numbers are from volume F of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog
Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.
- General Sources
- Sri Lanka Attractions: Lighthouses
- Information and small photos posted by the tourist site AmazingLanka.com.
- Luechttürme in Sri Lanka
- Photos by Andreas Köhler.
- Lighthouses of
Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1964
- Photos contributed by David Meare.
- Lighthouses in Sri Lanka
- Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
- World of Lighthouses - Sri Lanka
- Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Asiens auf historischen Postkarten
- Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
Dondra Head Light, Dondra, December 2009
photo copyright Andreas Köhler; used by permission
- Northern Province Lighthouses
- * Mannar Island (Talaimannar)
- 1915. Reactivated (?); focal plane 17 m (56 ft); white flash every
5 s authorized. 19 m (62 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern
and gallery. Lighthouse painted white. A 2007 photo and a view from the sea (second photo on the page) are available, Romesh Goonewardena has a distant view,
and Bing has a satellite
view. The Sri Lankan Army was clearing mines in the Talaimannar
Pier area in 2003-04, but Goonewardena's photo indicates that
the area is now considered to be safe. There are several Internet
references to the lighthouse as being abandoned or "burnt
the insurrection. In J.M.S. Bandara's November 2011 photo the lighthouse appears abandoned, with several panes of glass missing from the lantern. In 2013 the tower was repainted and at least partially restored, as seen in a photo by Mohamed Kiyas. Harsha de Silva has a photo of an old tower nearby that may have been an earlier lighthouse, but there's no evidence of this in light lists. Located near the northwestern end of Mannar Island,
a short distance east of the Talaimannar Pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-015; Admiralty F0884; NGA 27364.
- Pungudutivu (Punkudutivu)
- Date unknown. Active(?); focal plane 11 m (36 ft); white flash every 5 s. This light is described by NGA as a "stone building"; Google's satellite view appears to show a square tower. No photo available. Located near the southeastern point of Pungudutivu, an island in Palk Bay about 25 km (15 mi) south of Kovilan Point. Site status unknown. Admiralty F0877; NGA 27216.
- Kovilan (Kovilam) Point (2)
- 1916 (station established 1899). Status unknown; focal plane 31 m (101 ft); two white flashes
every 10 s authorized. 30 m (98 ft) round masonry tower, painted
white. Keeper's houses unroofed and in ruins. Anjana Gunathilake has a 2010
Thiru Jeyan also has a 2010 photo, and Bing has a satellite
view. In Gunathilake's photo, the lighthouse appears to be poorly
maintained and probably out of service. This lighthouse marks a
cape on Palk Bay, which divides northern Sri Lanka from India. The first light was shown from a mast. Located
at the northwestern corner of Karaitivu Island, about 25 km (15
mi) northwest of Jaffna. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-013; Admiralty
F0874; NGA 27212.
- Kankesanturai (Kankesanthure)
- 1893. Inactive at least since the start of the insurrection. 22 m (72 ft) octagonal masonry tower with lantern and gallery. AmazingLanka.com says that the lighthouse "has faced the ravages of war with the terrorists and is in a dysfunctional state"; the site's webmaster has posted a 2013 closeup photo. A distant view is available, and Google has a satellite view. Endangered: the lighthouse has been abandoned for years and is in very poor condition. Located near the junction of the AB16 and AB21 highways on the Kankesanturai waterfront.
Site and tower closed; this is reported to be a high security area. ARLHS SLI-012; ex-Admiralty F0872; ex-NGA 27224.
- * Point Pedro (Point Paduru)
- 1916. Active; focal plane 31 m (102 ft); white flash every 5 s.
32 m (105 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted
white. Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai's photo appears at right,
Rajitha Withanage has a 2010 photo,
Deepal Senathilaka has a 2011 photo, Wikimedia has a 2012 photo by Anton Croos, and Bing has an indistinct satellite
view. Point Pedro is the northeastern corner of Sri Lanka and
the southern entrance to Palk Strait. Controlled only briefly by the Tamil rebels, the town was a base for government forces during the insurrection. The name "Pedro" is not Spanish; it is a corruption of the local name, Paduru in Sinhala and Paruthi in Tamil. Located about 30 km (20
mi) east of Kankesanturai. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-017;
Admiralty F0870; NGA 27228.
Point Pedro Light, Point Pedro, January 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Eastern Province Lighthouses
- * Chapel Hill
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 111 m (364 ft); white flash every 10 s.
Described by NGA as a "white structure on building." No photo available,
but a Google satellite
view probably shows the station. If so, there is a tall communications tower adjacent to the light. Located at Manayaveli, on the heights on the north side
of the entrance to the harbor of Trincomalee. Site presumably open, tower
status unknown. ARLHS SLI-004; Admiralty F0853; NGA 27248.
- Round Island (Trincomalee, Kevuliya)
- 1863. Reported inactive by AmazingLanka.com; focal plane 31 m (102 ft); three flashes every 15
s, white or red depending on direction. 21 m (69 ft) round cylindrical
masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse painted
white. Wikimedia has Rehman Abubakr's distant photo, and Google has a satellite
view. In Abubakr's photo, we see that a skeletal tower now surrounds the lantern, but no lens is seen at the top. Trincomalee (Thirukonamalai), on Sri Lanka's northeastern coast, has a magnificent
protected harbor, the finest in the Indian Ocean; for decades it was
a major Royal Navy base. The lighthouse is located atop a small island
in the bay; one of the white sectors marks the proper line of entrance
to the harbor. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS
SLI-019; Admiralty F0852; NGA 27244.
- * Foul Point (Kevilea)
- 1863. Inactive. 32 m (105 ft) round stone tower with lantern and
gallery, painted white. Sivam Kandar has a 2008 photo, Lightphotos.net has a Sri Lankan Navy photo, and a view from across the bay is available, and Michel Forand has
a historic postcard
view. Endangered: the tsunami left the lighthouse directly on
the beach, as seen in a Google satellite
view. Located on the point at the southern entrance to the
harbor of Trincomalee. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS
- * Batticaloa (Mattuwaran)
- 1913. Active; focal plane 27 m (89 ft); white flash every 3 s.
28 m (92 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted
white. A photo by Anton Croos is at right, Wikimedia has several good photos, M. Thirumaran has a view from
the water, and Google has a satellite
view. A historic
photo taken in 1970 is also available. Batticaloa,
a small fishing town on the central east coast, was devastated
by the tsunami. The lighthouse suffered only minor damage, but
on a post-tsunami visit Preethi Burkholder found it to be neglected
and in very poor condition. A big part of the problem was that the
Batticaloa area had been contested for a long
time between the government and Tamil forces. In early 2008 the
lighthouse was restored with USAID tsunami relief funds; Markus
Spring has a May 2008 photo of the results. Mattuwaran is the Tamil name of the lighthouse. Located
at the end of Bar Road on the north side of the harbor entrance
in Batticaloa. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-003; Admiralty
F0846; NGA 27260.
Batticaloa Light, Batticaloa, May 2010
Wikimedia Creative Commons
photo by Anton Croos
- * Oluvil
- 1999. Active; focal plane 25 m (82 ft); white flash every 10 s.
24 m (79 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery,
attached to a 1-story equipment building. Lighthouse painted white
with gold trim. Bill Barkle's photo appears at right, and Google
has a satellite
view. The lighthouse was built as part of a project
to open a new fisheries harbor at Oluvil, a town on the southern
east coast about 12 km (7.5 mi) south of Kalmunai. The harbor, town,
and lighthouse were all damaged by the tsunami, but the damage has
been repaired. Located on the beachfront at Oluvil. Site open, tower
closed. ARLHS SLI-026; Admiralty F0845; not listed by NGA.
- * [Sangamankanda Point]
- 1947. Inactive since 2004. This was originally a 7.5 m (25 ft) round white concrete tower. A blog (in Sinhala) has numerous photos, and the stump of the tower is barely visible in Google's satellite view. This small light was overwhelmed by the tsunami of 26 December 2004, and it has not been repaired. Barely 4 m (13 ft) of the tower remains. Located on the beach at the easternmost point of Sri Lanka, about 35 km (22 mi) south of Oluvil. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-020; Admiralty
F0844; NGA 27264.
Southern Province Lighthouses
- 1878. Active; focal plane 34 m (112 ft); two very quick white flashes every
10 s. 37 m (121 ft) round granite tower with lantern and double gallery,
painted white with a black horizontal band. Dive Sri Lanka has a photo, Lightphotos.net has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. PTI helped refurbish both lighthouses in
1998-99. In December 2004 the two lighthouses withstood the force of the
tsunami with only modest damage; the English lighthouse agency Trinity House
agreed to repair them and the light was back in service in late 2005. The lighthouse was designed by James Douglass and
built by William Douglass. Note: "basses" is a corruption of the Portuguese word baixio, meaning a shoal. Located about 10 km (6 mi) offshore from Yala
and 16 km (10 mi) south of Kumana. Accessible only by boat. ARLHS SLI-014;
Admiralty F0842; NGA 27268.
- 1873. Active; focal plane 34 m (112 ft); white flash every 15 s.
37 m (121 ft) round granite tower with lantern and double gallery,
painted white. Lightphotos.net has a photo, and Google has a good satellite
view. This lighthouse was designed by Alexander Gordon and Sir James
Douglass. Like Little Basses Reef Light, it withstood the force of
the tsunami with only modest damage; the English lighthouse agency
Trinity House agreed to repair it and the light was back in service by 2007. The two Basses lighthouses
are among the most famous offshore lighthouses of Asia. Located about
13 km (8 mi) offshore and 16 km (10 mi) east of Kirinda. Accessible
only by boat. ARLHS SLI-010; Admiralty F0840; NGA 27272.
Oluvil Light, Oluvil, August 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Bill Barkle (no longer online)
- * Hambantota (2)
- 1913 (station established 1903). Inactive. 14 m (43 ft) round masonry
tower with lantern and gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted, but
the use of dark and light stone gives it the appearance of having
black and white spiral bands. Keeper's house and other light station
buildings; there is also an early 19th century Martello
tower adjacent to the light station. The City of Hambantota has a photo,
Lightphotos.net has a photo by Priyanjan de Silva, and Google has a somewhat distant satellite
view. On a December 2009 visit,
Andreas Köhler found the lighthouse to be in very poor condition.
The original light was much lower, with a focal plane of only 15
m (50 ft). The present lighthouse was active at least into the
1970s. Located on a promontory at Hambantota on the southeastern
coast of Sri Lanka. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS SLI-011;
- ** Dondra
- 1890. Active; focal plane 47 m (154 ft); white flash every 5 s.
49 m (161 ft) octagonal brick tower with lantern and gallery, painted
white. Andreas Köhler's 2009 photo appears at the top of this page,
Rudolf Klos has posted a particularly nice photo
of this famous lighthouse, Tim Ellis has a closeup photo, and Google has a satellite
view. In addition, Lighthouse Digest has a feature
article on the lighthouse by Preethi Burkholder, and Huelse
has a historic postcard
view oddly misindentified as the Beruwala lighthouse. Designed
by James Douglass and constructed by William Douglass, the
lighthouse stands on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. Located
on the point, near the village of Dondra. Site open, tower
open daily by arrangement with the keepers. ARLHS SLI-001;
Admiralty F0836; NGA 27276.
- * Galle
(Pointe de Galle) (2)
- 1939 (station established 1848). Active; focal plane 28 m (92 ft);
two white flashes every 15 s. 26.5 m (87 ft) round cast iron tower
with lantern and gallery, painted white; the base of the lantern
is painted red. 4th order Chance Brothers Fresnel lens in use. David Trattnig's photo is at right, Pawel Makowiecki
has a good photo,
Sunila Galappatti has a 2008 photo, Wikimedia has a 2012 closeup, Lighthouse Digest has a feature
article on the lighthouse by Preethi Burkholder, and Google
has a satellite
This is Sri Lanka's oldest light station. The British Library has
a photo of
the original lighthouse, which was destroyed by fire in 1936. The
light station is within the walls of the ancient Galle Fort, a UNESCO
world heritage site and well known tourist attraction, making this
the country's most often visited lighthouse.
the end of a peninsula sheltering the harbor of Galle, at the southwestern
corner of Sri Lanka. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-018; Admiralty
F0830; NGA 27284.
Light, Galle, January 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by David Trattnig
Western Province Lighthouses
- ** Barberyn (Beruwala)
- 1890. Active; focal plane 46 m (151 ft); white flash every 20 s.
34 m (112 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery, painted
white. Lighthouse Digest has a June 2006 feature
article by Preethi Burkholder on this lighthouse, including two
photos, Andreas Köhler has a good 2010 photo,
Asantha Illesinghe has a closeup,
Ranjith Gunarathne has a distant view,
and Google has a good satellite
view. Located on an island near Beruwala, about 55 km (35 mi) south of Colombo.
Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower open daily by arrangement
with the keepers. ARLHS SLI-002; Admiralty F0826; NGA 27288.
- * Colombo
(2) (Clock Tower)
- 1860 (station established 1829). Inactive since 1952. 29 m (95 ft)
square cylindrical brick tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse
painted white with unpainted stone trim; lantern is gray metallic.
The tower rises from an open, arched base. Dennis Hurd's photo is
at right, Martin Jendrichowski has a 2009 photo, and Google has a satellite
view. Huelse has a historic postcard
view in which the tower has a brown horizontal band below the
gallery, a band also seen in David Meare's 1964 photo.
This lighthouse was built as a clock tower in 1857; the lantern was
apparently added in 1860. The early history of this station is somewhat
obscure. The first Colombo light, apparently mounted on a church tower,
was demolished around 1838 to make way for expansion of the nearby
fort. The first
Colombo lighthouse was an interesting neoclassical structure,
the light tower rising from a circular stone building and surrounded
by an elaborate colonnade. The British Library also has an image
of the first light and states that the light was moved to the clocktower
in 1867; however, this conflicts with light list data, which shows
the clocktower light already in use by 1865 with 1860 as the date
of construction. The lighthouse was deactivated after its light became
obscured by nearby buildings. Andreas Köhler, who visited in late
2009, reports he was not allowed to take photos for security reasons.
Located at Chatham Street and Janadhipathi Mawatha in downtown Colombo.
Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SLI-021.
- * Colombo
(3) (Galbokka Point)
- 1952 (station established 1820s?). Active; focal plane 26 m (85
ft); three white flashes every 10 s. 15 m (49 ft) round stone tower
with lantern and gallery, rising from a 1-story stone building. The
seaward side of the tower is painted in a black and white checkered
pattern, seen in a 2012 closeup but barely visible in a distant photo
and in David Meare's historic photo.
Wikimedia has a closeup photo, a photo
taken from the rear is available, and Google has a satellite
view. Andreas Köhler, who visited in late 2009, reports he was
not allowed to take photos for security reasons. Located at Galbokka
Point south of the harbor on the Colombo waterfront. Site open, tower
closed. ARLHS SLI-005; Admiralty F0780; NGA 27332.
Colombo Clock Tower Light, Colombo, September 2006
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Dennis Sylvester Hurd
- Colombo Southwest Breakwater
- 1913. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); green light occulting once
every 5 s. 18 m (59 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery,
painted white. A 2006 photo and a 2012 photo are available, a photo
taken from the sea also shows the Pilot Station (next entry), and
Google has a satellite
view. Peter Bryant has a historic
photo taken in 1963, and David Meare has a 1964 photo. Located
at the end of the outer breakwater of Colombo, marking the south
side of the western entrance to the harbor; this is the entrance
used by larger ships. Site status unknown. Admiralty F0794; NGA
- Colombo Pilot Station
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); green flash every
3 s. 19 m (62 ft) round cylindrical tower topped by a dome, centered
on a circular 2-story pilot station. Building painted white. Jürgen
Klinksiek has contributed the photo at right, which shows that the
tower has been raised in height since Meare's 1964 photo. Senanayaka Bandara has a 2011 photo, and Google has a satellite
view. Located at the end of the original southwest breakwater.
Site status unknown. Admiralty F0796; NGA 27312.
- Colombo Island Breakwater South End
- 1905. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); red flash every 3 s. 12
m (36 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted white.
This light is on the left in J.M.S. Bandara's panoramic view of the breakwater,
and Google has a satellite
view. Located at the south end of the detached breakwater protecting
Colombo Harbour, marking the north side of the western entrance.
Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS SLI-007;
Admiralty F0792; NGA 27316.
- Colombo Island Breakwater North End
- 1907. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); green flash every 3 s.
12 m (36 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted
white. This light is on the right in J.M.S. Bandara's panoramic view of
the breakwater, Meare has contributed a 1964 photo,
Huelse has a historic postcard
view, and Google has a satellite
view. Located at the north end of the detached breakwater
protecting Colombo Harbour, marking the south side of the northern
entrance. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS
SLI-006; Admiralty F0790; NGA 27320.
Colombo Pilot Station, Colombo, April 2007
photo copyright Jürgen Klinksiek; used by
- Colombo Northeast Breakwater
- 1907. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); continuous red light. 10 m (33 ft)
round concrete tower with lantern and gallery. No photo available, but Michel
Forand has a historic postcard
view. We need current information on this light: the breakwater has been
replaced by a broad quay, but the Google satellite
view and the Bing satellite view suggest the lighthouse may still be standing. The channel between
this light and the Island Breakwater North End Light is now closed with a
chain. Located at the end of the northeast breakwater, marking the north side
of the northern entrance. Site status unknown. Admiralty F0782; NGA 27324.
Information available on lost lighthouses:
- Mullaittivu (1896-1997?), northeast coast. Described as an "iron
latticework obelisk." No photo available. According to AmazingLanka.com, the lighthouse was destroyed in the civil war in 1996-97. ARLHS SLI-016; Admiralty F0866; NGA 27232.
Notable faux lighthouses:
Adjoining page: North: Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
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Posted February 13, 2006. Checked and revised January 29, 2015. Lighthouses: 23. Site copyright 2015 Russ Rowlett and the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.