Trincomalee is a major port city in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka and lies on the east coast of the island, about 113 miles south of Jaffna. It is also the administrative capital of Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. It has a population of 99,135 The city is built on a peninsula, which divides the inner and outer harbours. Overlooking the Kottiyar Bay, Trincomalee is one of the main centers of Tamil speaking culture on the island. The city is home to the famous ancient Koneswaram temple alluded to in its historic Tamil name Thirukonamalai from which its anglicized name is derived, and has been a sea port that has played a major role in the maritime and international trading history of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee, one of the finest natural deep-water harbors in the world is located 257 km north-east of Colombo, capital city of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee is home to fine beaches of Nilaveli, Uppaveli and off-shore Pigeon Island. Recently Trincomalee has become popular as a Whale Watching destination too. The Dive centers at Nilaveli, Uppaveli support the tourists to enjoy their holidays in diving, snorkeling and swimming. Trincomaleedistrict, called Gokanna or Gokarna in the historical chronicles and inscriptions, being studded with a multitude of ruins of ancient Buddhist temples, is a major Sinhalese Buddhist cultural and archeological site of Sri Lanka. The seven hot springs at Kanniyai located just 8km from Trincomalee attract regular crowds throughout the year in view of the therapeutic properties of water therein varying in temperature from one well to the other.
Gokarna in Trincomalee, Mantota in Mannar and Dambakolapattuna in Jaffna, among other sea-ports of Sri Lanka, had been great ports of ancient Three Sinhala since 543 B.C. Trincomalee or Gokanna or Gokarna or Siri Gonamala as the ancient sea-port town was recorded in the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, is the harbor where Prince Panduvasudeva, King Vijya’s nephew sailed into Sri Lanka from Sinhapura, India. “Badda Kachchayana who later became the queen of King Panduwasdeva (505-474 B.C.) with her party of royal maidens too landed in Siri Gonamala harbor. She was a sister of Prince Digha, the founder of Dighavapi.
In an essay entitled, Aryan settlements and early kings, published in the Concise History of Ceylon by Sri Lanka’s foremost historian a pre-eminent archeologist Dr. Senarath Paranavithana writing about the king who ruled Ceylon (Sri Lanka) after the first king Vijaya said, “Panduvasdeva with thirty two followers, it is said, arrived in Ceylon in the guise of mendicant monks. They landed at the mouth of the Mahakandara River at the port of Gokanna, the modern Trincomalee according to the commentator of the chronicle (Mahavamsa)”.
E. T. Kannangara, in “Jaffna and the Sinhala heritage” wrote, Trincomalle during the periods of the Sinhala kings was one of the chief trading centers in Sri Lanka. Sri Gokarna, Siri Gokanna, Sri Gonapura, Siri Gonamala, Gonagamaka Pattana, Gonagama-Patuna, and much earlier Gokannatitta were some of the names attached to this place in the chronicles. The present Sinhala name Thirikunamala is apparently a derivation from Siri Gonamala. The conversion of the name follows the pattern that Sinhala names Somapura, Kokavila, Mampe and Valigama Madakalapuva being converted into Sampur, Kokuvil, Manipay, Valikamam and Mattakalapu.
The conversion of Gokarna to ‘Tirukonamalai’ first appears in a Tamil inscription dated to 10th or 11th century A.D. Buddhist Vihara at Gokanna called Sri Gokarna Vihara built in the reign of King Mahasen (276-303 A.C.) was the earliest religious edifice in Trincomalee Being on a rock it was also called Vehera Gala (Vihara on a rock). Gokanna Buddhist Vihare temple was expanded by King Agbo V (718-724 AD) and demolished by the Portuguese to build a fortress in the 16th century. Gokanna Vihare is one of the 74 Buddhist sites identified at Trincomalee district by the Department of Archeology of Sri Lanka. Swami Rock, the highest point in Fort Frederick is an ancient site where there had been Buddhist shrines.