Hambantota (Sinhalese: හම්බන්තොට, Tamil: அம்பாந்தோட்டை) is the main town in Hambantota District, Southern Province, Sri Lanka. This underdeveloped area was hit hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and is undergoing a number of major development projects including the construction of a new sea port and international airport. These projects and others such as Hambantota Cricket Stadium are said to form part of the government is plan to transform Hambantota into the second major urban hub of Sri Lanka, away from Colombo.
When the Kingdom of Ruhuna was established it received many travellers and traders from Siam, China and Indonesia who sought anchorage in the natural harbor at Godawaya, Ambalantota. The ships or large boats these traders travelled in were called “Sampans” and "thota" means port or anchorage so the port where sampans anchor came to be known as “Sampantota” (which is now known as Godawaya). After some time the area became to be called “Hambantota”.
Hambantota District is part of the traditional south known as Ruhuna. In ancient times this region, especially Hambantota and the neighboring areas was the centre of a flourishing civilization. Historical evidence reveals that the region in that era was blessed with fertile fields and a stupendous irrigation network. Hambantota was known by many names ‘Mahagama’, ‘Ruhuna’ and ‘Dolos dahas rata’.
About 200 BC, the first Kingdom of Sri Lanka was flourishing in the north central region of Anuradhapura.
After a personal dispute with his brother, King Devanampiyatissa of Anuradhapura, King Mahanaga established the Kingdom of Ruhuna in the south of the island. This region played a vital role in building the nation as well as nurturing the Sri Lankan Buddhist culture. Close to Hambantota, the large temple of Tissamaharama was built to house a sacred tooth relic.