Old Batti

sights / Other

Old Batti information

Batticaloa , Sri Lanka
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Wandering around Old Batti is particularly atmospheric late at night: cicadas call and water drips, but not a soul stirs on the eerily empty streets. Dim street lamps give lugubrious form to shadows around the various colonial edifices like the pompous sky-blue St Joseph’s Convent (St Mary’s St), St Michael’s College (Central Rd), which is so drenched in vines and creepers that the brickwork is starting to be broken away, and the sturdy 1838 Methodist Church (Post Office Rd). Of the dozens of churches, the most eye-catching is the huge blue, eight-sided, unfinished Our Lady of Sorrows (Trinco Rd), the vaguely Mexican, earth-toned St Anthony’s (St Anthony’s St) and the grand, turquoise St Mary’s Cathedral (St Mary’s St). St Mary’s was rebuilt in 1994 following its partial destruction during fighting between local Tamils and Muslims. Beside Kallady Bridge is the fairly modern St Sebastian’s Church (Kalmunai Rd), built in the shape of a whale.

Of the many Hindu temples, Anipandi Sitivigniswara Alayar (Hospital Rd) is visually the finest, with a magnificent gopuram that’s decorated with a riotous festival of intertwined god figures.

The 6m-thick walls of Batti’s Dutch fort (Bazaar St) surround the rambling kachcheri (administrative office). The fort itself contains government offices and isn’t very interesting, but the stroll along the eastern fringe between the walls and the water is nice. By the eastern entrance gate you’ll find a couple of old canons guarding the District Secretariat Office, while inside, on the 1st floor of the office opposite the entrance gate, is a stone slab engraved with a 1707 VOC inscription; it was recently removed from the fort walls and now balances precariously on a chair.

A great place to observe the fort is from across the water, beside the tiny Auliya Mosque (Lady Manning Dr), with its curious green minaret.