Bentota is a coastal town in Sri Lanka, located in the Galle District of the Southern Province, governed by an Urban Council. It is approximately 65 kilometres (40 mi) south of Colombo and 56 kilometres (35 mi) north of Galle. Bentota is situated on the southern bank of the Bentota River mouth, at an elevation of 3 meters (9.8 ft) above the sea level. The name of the town is derived from a mythical story which claims a demon named 'Bem' ruled the tota or river bank. Bentota is a historical place described in ancient messenger poems (Sandesa Kavya). The Galapatha Viharaya is one of a cluster of five ancient temples in the region. In the 17th Century, the Portuguese built a small fort at the mouth of the Bentota River (Bentara Ganga), which in Sinhala was called Parangi Kotuwa, meaning the fort of the Portuguese. The river marked the southern extremity of Portuguese held territory in Sri Lanka. The Dutch subsequently allowed the fort to fall into disrepair, converting one of the large buildings within the fort into a colonial rest house for Dutch Officers travelling between Colombo and Galle.