Dondra Head is a cape on the extreme southern tip of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, near the small town of Dondra near Matara. The Dondra Head Lighthouse, ruins of several Hindu shrines of Tenawaram and a vihara (Buddhist temple) are located in the vicinity. Dondra is an anglicized version of the name Tevan Thurai (God's Port) and Ten Thurai (Southern port)
Historically known as the Tevanthurai Tenavarai temple port town or Tanaveram temple town, Dondra was until the late 16th century CE a historic Hindu temple port town complex. Its primary deity was a Hindu god Tenavarai Nayanar and at its zenith was one of the most celebrated religious sites of the island, containing a thousand statues. It was maintained by Tamil merchant guilds at the port town during its time as a popular pilgrimage destination and famed emporium, having extensive contacts with Asia, Africa, Europe and the rest of the Malabar Coast. The temple was built on vaulted arches on the promontory overlooking the Indian ocean. Patronized by various royal dynasties and pilgrims, Tanaveram temple became one of the most important surviving buildings of the classical Dravidian architectural period covering a vast area housing shrines to many Hindu deities including Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Its rediscovered statue images and ruins from the 5th-7th century CE reflect the high points of Pallava art, and the temple's splendour drew comparisons to another famous Pallava developed shrine complex in the region, Koneswaram ofTrincomalee, during the medieval period.
The central gopuram tower of the Vimana and the other gopura towers that dominated the town were covered with plates of gilded brass, gold and copper on their roofs, and the many shrines of the town were bordered with elaborate arches and gates, giving the entire temple complex an appearance of a city to sailors who visited the port to trade and relied on its light reflecting gopura roofs for navigational purposes. Chroniclers, travelers and benefactors of the temple describe the entire town as the property of the temple and inhabited solely by merchants during the medieval period.
The temple was destroyed in February 1587 CE by the Portuguese colonial De Souza d'Arronches, who devastated the entire southern coast. Its ruins of granite pillars that formed the shrines' mandapa can be found in the town spread over a considerable area. The temple's ancient Lingam statue and sculpture of Nandi, excavated in 1998 provide early examples of Pallava Hindu contributions to the island.
There was a temple to Vishnu with a gilt copper roof, destroyed by the Portuguese, and the place still attracts pilgrims today to the Dondra Fair and Perahera, held in the month of Esala (July–August).
Dondra Head was once the capital of the country.