Fort Hammenhiel

Fort Hammenhiel
Fort Hammenhiel (Sinhala: හැමන්හිල් බලකොටුව; Tamil: அம்மன்னீல் கோட்டை) is an old Dutch fort situated on a small island between Kayts and Karaitive islands in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka.

During the Portuguese period, Hammenhiel which had been named by the Portuguese as Fortaleza do Caes (Wijebandara, 2014), was used to guard the passage by water to the castle Fort at Jaffna. The Dutch under the captains Cornelies Reb, Piester Waset, and N. van de Reede captured Fortaleza do Caes in 1658, soon after the occupation of Mannar. The Dutch renamed it Hammenhiel (heel of the Ham) as they considered that shape of Ceylon resembled a smoked ham and the fort was located at the point where the shank bone projects (Wijebandara, 2014). A thank offering sermon for the god on the victory of the Dutch is said to have been conducted here on 28 August 1658 (Wijebandara, 2014).

After occupying this Portuguese establishment, the Dutch carried out many repairs to it as they found some weaknesses in the structure. They constructed a stone breakwater newly as the sandbank on which the fort was built, had been undermined by the storms of the northeast monsoon. The hollow ramparts and their beamed roofs were also repaired and replaced by the Dutch to use them for a long period without the fear of any destruction. Also, a huge reservoir paved with "Dutch bricks" was built by the Dutch on the northern side of the fort to collect and preserve the rainwater.

In 1795, the fort was captured by the British (Wijebandara, 2014).

An inscribed limestone pillar attached to the outer wall of the fort was discovered by Herbert Keuneman while spending a holiday at the fort (Indrapala, 1991). The pillar which is assumed to be a door jamb of a temple was removed from the fort wall later by the Department of Archaeology and is presently kept on display in the Jaffna Museum.

Two Tamil inscriptions, both nearly identical in context, are found inscribed on the pillar. The inscriptions belong to the 11th century and record the conquest of Sri Lanka and the capture of King Mahinda V of Anuradhapura (982-1017 A.D.) by a South Indian Cola commander named Jayankonta Cola Muventa Velar in 1017 A.D. (Indrapala, 1991).

The fort
The fort remains in good condition and is garrisoned by the Sri Lanka Navy. There is only one vaulted entrance to the fort which is not more than 7 ft in height. The living quarters consist of three or four rooms in the courtyard and the vaults under the ramparts were used as storerooms. The Dutch maintained a garrison of about thirty soldiers under the charge of a Lieutenant or Ensign on this spot.

The fort is presently maintained by the Navy as a tourist hotel.

A protected site
Hammenhiel Fort belonging to Kayts West Island in the Grama Niladhari Division of Kayts town bearing No. J-49 in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Kayts Northern Island is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 February 2007.

Fort Hammenhiel
1) DJI 0047-01 by KingAlawaka is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
2) Hammenhiel fort by AntanO is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

1) Indrapala, K., 1991. Inscription no. two from fort Hammenhiel, Kayts. Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon: Vol:VI . Part:II. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. Sri Lanka. pp.154-160.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1486. 23 February 2007. p.129.
3) Wijebandara, I.D.M., 2014. Yapanaye Aithihasika Urumaya (In Sinhala). Published by the editor. ISBN-978-955-9159-95-7. pp.110-112.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

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