The name Hambantota was derived from the Sinhala words ‘hamban’ and ‘thota’. Hamban was used to describe a certain variety of sailing device created by joining two boats together, and thota means ‘port’. So Hambantota really was the” port for hambans”. Needless to say, Hambantota’s location played a significant role throughout history and still does with Hambantota city serving as the main port of the south.
Centuries ago it was a profitable trading stop for sailors and traders but evolved to become an important agricultural centre in 200 BC, a preserver of culture for the Sinhalese people and Buddhism, and then an administrative hub during colonial times. Hambantota is still a significant stop during the annual Pada Yatra pilgrimage heading to Kataragama, an ancient tradition that started centuries ago.