The Streets of Pettah

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Written by – Ranuli at OmeBiz

Colombo’s multi-ethnic city Pettah, also known as ‘Pita Kotuwa’ or outer Fort, provides an exceptional insight into the cultural diversity of our developing nation. With its chaotic markets and crowded streets, Pettah is located in the centre of Colombo bordering the harbour and the commercial hub (Fort). The once residential area gradually transformed into a commercial hub with its one of a kind appeal not felt elsewhere.

Pettah is well known for its open markets. The narrow streets and by lanes that make up the ‘Pettah Market’ are congested with Tuk-Tuks and men pulling heavy loads, while a bewildering variety of shops demand business. It is a whole region of Colombo that is devoted to the wholesale and retail shopping where anything and everything is available.

We felt that most Sri Lankan’s hardly knew their way through the Pettah Market or knew only part of it, here are some insights into the streets of ‘Pita Kotuwa’:

Main Street

Ranjana’s Shopping Centre


Assorted clothing stores can be found such as ‘Ranjanas’ and ‘Visakamals’. There is a wide range of sarees—from the more average silk to the more expensive ones with embroidery and beadwork.

A set of streets, suitably named Cross Streets are found running parallel to Main Street. The cross streets are:

First Cross Street – Packed with vendors selling electrical goods, where one can avail themselves of electrical fans, DVD players or air- conditioners. Hardware shops such as Transasia and Polek eMarket selling mobile phone chargers, second-hand mobiles and phone accessories. These stores also offer AAA grade substitutes to original phone accessories.

Second Cross Street – A mix of various different goods like perfumes, cosmetics, electrical home appliances, and a vibrant selection of jewellery and fabric stores. The well-known Kandurata and Rainco umbrella showrooms can also be found here along with the Apsara’s Saree Center.

Second Cross Street


Third Cross Street – Packed with colourful fabrics stores with several wholesale and retail dealers lining the pavement.

Fourth and Fifth Cross Street – Both these cross streets also contains wholesale food items, fresh vegetables, fruit and dried goods. Fourth Cross Street is packed with trucks unloading sacks of spices and warehouses with piles of spices. Fifth Cross Street specializes in Ayurvedic medicines, with a dash of tea and spices too.

Fourth Cross Street


Malwatte Road – offers a wide variety of shoes, bags, and suitcases. They also offer watches and are mostly knock-offs of expensive brands like Rolex, Piguet, Mont Blanc and Omega at very reasonable prices.

Maliban Street

Wedding couple’s paradise, with an authentic selection of wedding supplies such as invitations, cake boxes and so on made available through a line of paper and board manufacturers and importers. Office stationery and options of all sizes, colours, and weight are available as well.

Sea Street

Muthukaruppan Chettiar


Filled with gold traders and dealers of semi-precious stones is where jewellery is usually sold and is frequented by customers purchasing gems or jewellery worth small fortunes. Giants in the jewelry sector such as Ravi Jewellers, Muthukaruppan Chettiar and Swarna Mahal are also found here. This is also known as Hetti Veediya.

China Street

A string of Chinese shops are said to have once dominated this street, but now only a handful remain selling ornaments and home decor, glassware and polythene. This street also has stores comprising of party and festive decorations

Bankshall Street

Chemicals—borate, boric acid and chemicals used to treat water, as well as artificial flowers and other equipment are found here.

Old John’s Street

Building materials such as sacks of cement, bricks, sand, asbestos sheets are found here.

Gabo Lane

Pharmaceutical items, Ayurveda drugs and cake items like baking trays, cake ingredients and more can be seen here, while Perera Road has a selection of dried fish.

Olcott Mawatha

This lane is where the majority of the buses coming from long distances pass through, thus, the lane comprises of a variety of goods. More vegetables and fruits can be found here along with clothes, jackets, bags and sunglasses are available at cheaper prices.  Moreover, the Norris Hotel Bakery is also present where travellers can grab a bite to eat and drink a Milo.

Dam Street

This lanes offers a wide array of bicycles and spare parts. The lane has various showrooms such as Tomahawk, Lumala and City Cycle are present here. More cake items and ingredients can be found here as well.

Prince Street

Dutch Museum


This street offers electronics, light fittings and toy stores such as Penguin Toys and Novelties. The Dutch museum and the Fancy Mahal shop can also be found into the depths of the street. The lane is lined with a variety of roadside tea shops and small restraints as well.

Bodiraja Mawatha

Toy Store in Bodhiraja Mawatha


This busy street can be found next to the fifth cross street and is often the main entrance route to the Gunasinghepura private stand. The street is lined with an array of stores selling a colourful variety of toys, junk jewellery, retail goods and silverware. Moreover, avid travellers can also indulge at the Hansagiri Restaurant and bar. Furthermore, the well-known shopping complex, People’s Park is also present here. This complex has various banks, the Ceylon Electricity Board, music equipment shops such as Yamaha and wholesale outlets.

The World Market can be found next to the Fort Railway Station. This set of stalls houses a massive selection of clothes, leather products like bags and shoes at comfortable prices such as Rs. 400 – Rs. 600 with their target market being foreigners.

These lanes usually have drink shops where business never dies and a large glass of orange juice would cost just Rs. 30. These shops have customers coming in every 2 minutes and is never idling.



This is where real business takes place. Price is the most important determinant of a sale on the streets. Then comes the screaming, singing and rhyming calls to get the buyer’s attention. This is the place where customers regardless of status will bargain and benefit from buying the product at a cheaper price than from a renowned store.

The district is a living organism in itself, expanding and adapting to supply and demand.