Arundathie Abeysinghe

Fort Frederick in Trincomalee – emblazoned with colonial insignia

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 
Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheSituated about four kilometers from Trincomalee town center, Fort Frederic also known as Trincomalee Fort or Fort Triquillimale is a fort built by the Portuguese. The Fort was built in 1624 CE on Swami Rock Konamamali from the debris of world renowned ancient Hindu Temple, Koneswaram Temple (Temple of Thousand Pillars). The Temple was destroyed by *Constantino de Sá de Noronha under Phillip II. Fort Triquillimale was dismantled and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1665 and renamed it as Fort Frederick. Later, the Temple was rebuilt.

Originally, Fort Triquillimale has been a triangular shape. The triangular fort had been outfitted with artillery bastions with the objective defending against British invaders.

In 1795, during the British Colonial Era, the British took over Fort Frederick and added artillery to the Fort. The gateway of the Fort which pierces the sturdy walls is crowned with royal insignias.

Fort Frederick in Trincomalee - emblazoned with colonial insignia

According to folklore, the Dutch had enlarged the Fort and British have further expanded it.

Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley during his tenure as Colonel in the British East India Company had visited Trincomalee and resided in Wellesley Lodge situated inside the Fort. This lodge is situated within the Fort to date.

According to archaeological excavations conducted within the Fort, there had been Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures of archaeological significance within the Fort. There had also been a Tamil rock inscription belonging to 16 th century AD at the main entrance to the Fort. According to a Sanskrit Rock Inscription dated 1223 AD, there is a description of the arrival of a person known as Godaganga at the Fort premises. Ruins of the ancient Gokanna Monastery which had existed centuries ago had also been found in the premises of the Fort.

Divers who had been diving in the vicinity of the Fort had discovered Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures and brought them ashore.

The Fort is popular among tourists as Koneswaran Temple is situated within the precincts.

There are prominent places in the vicinity of the Fort; Gokanna Rajamaha Viharaya (famous Buddhist Temple), Observation Rawana Abyss (according to legends, *King Rawana had used this place to watch the Indian Ocean) and Lookout Cliff as well as Lover’s Leap.

Located at the end of a narrow peninsula, Fort Frederic has served as a significant defensive site for centuries. Fort Frederick is a legendary monument of Colonial Era *Ceylon. There are herds of spotted deer grazing freely under banyan (Ficus benghalensis) trees in the premises of the Fort. At present, the Fort is used by a detachment of Gajaba Regiment of Sri Lanka Army.

But the Fort can be explored by local as well as foreign tourists.

 

  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka gained Independence from British Colonials in 1948. In 1972, Ceylon became a republic within the Commonwealth and Ceylon was thereafter knownas Sri Lanka.
  • Constantino de Sá de Noronha – He was the sixth as well as eighth Governor of *Ceylon during Portuguese rule. He was first appointed under *Philip II of Portugal in 1618 and served as the Governor of Ceylon until 1622 and from 1623 until 1730.
  • King Rawana – Mythical Demon King according to Hindu Mythology *Ramayana.
  • Mahavamsa– “Great Chronicle” or “Great Dynasty” in Sinhala is the most significant work of Sri Lankan origin written in Pali Language. This Chronicle describes life and times of Sri Lankans from the arrival of Vijaya in 43 BC to the reign of King Mahasena from sixth century BC to fourth century AD. Culavamsa (lesser chronicle) covers the period from fourth century AD to British takeover of Sri Lanka in 1815. Mahavamsa consists of three parts covering a historical record of over two millennia. It is considered as the world’s longest unbroken historical record.
  • Philip II – (King Philip II of Spain), He was also known as Philip the prudent. He ruled one of the largest empires; Portugal, Naples, Sicily and also served as the Duke of Milan from 1598-1621.
  • Ramayana – This is an ancient Indian epic composed in 500 BCE to 100 BCE by Indian sage Valmiki. This epic composed in Sanskrit describes the conquest of Sri Lanka in 3000 BC by Prince Rama (Prince of Ayodhya, the eldest and favorite son of King Dasaratha, King of Ayodhya. Rama is an incarnation of God Vishnu) who fought with demon King Ravana (legendary emperor of Sri Lanka) to rescue his wife Princess Sita. Prince Rama was exiled with his wife Princess Sita due to a plot by his stepmother Kaikeyi. Princess Sita was abducted by King Ravana when Rama and Sita were in exile.
  • Trincomalee – Popular as ‘Trinco’ among locals, Trincomalee is a port city on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee is situated on one of the world’s natural and beautiful harbors. According to scholars, it may be the site of historic Gokanna asdescribed in *Mahawamsa.
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Sarachchandra Open Air Theatre – spectacular amphitheatre

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheSarachchandra Open Air Theatre is located at the center of *University of Peradeniya. It is named in memory of *Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra. Built according to the architectural style of ancient Greek Theatres, it is a spectacular theatre and is popularly known as “Wala” (meaning pit in Sinhala due to its shape) among undergraduates at the University and drama enthusiasts.

According to drama enthusiasts, the Theatre is also called “watching place” as spectators sit on the stone steps created on a slope.

Built in 1950s, the space where the theatrical performances take place is semi-circular with stone steps for spectators. A large number of spectators can be accommodated in this space. This is the venue for the majority of dramas which take place at the University. Acoustics have played a vital role in the construction of this theatre as spectators seated in the extreme far rows can also hear the sounds (songs sung by dramatists, sound of drums and musical instruments as well as dialogues of the cast) of dramas or plays clearly.  

 

Sarachchandra Open Air Theatre - spectacular amphitheatre By Arundathie Abeysinghe

The beautiful landscape of the Theatre with trees is mesmerizing. The shades of the trees and the cool breeze make the venue enchanting. The Theatre adds glamour to the University and the landscape, a fine example of how a well-designed as well as aesthetically pleasing structure blends well with the surroundings.

The venue of the Theatre becomes more enchanting in May and June (every year) with blooming flowers as the Pink Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia rosea) spreads a carpet of light pink flowers on the terraces during the blooming season. At times, the steps are completely covered beautifully similar to a carpet with flower petals, a spectacular scene.

Professor Sarachchandra had a vast knowledge as well as experience in oriental and occidental theatre traditions and was of the view that *Maname could not be staged on a proscenium stage as such type of stage was more suitable for staging naturalistic plays. Instead, a ranga madala (circular stage) was more suitable. While serving as a lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, he was on the lookout for a suitable place to stage Maname.

According to Professor Sarachchandra’s memoir ‘Pin Ethi Sarasavi Waramak Denne’ published in 1985, there is a great story about the construction of the Theatre.

Sarachchandra Open Air Theatre - spectacular amphitheatre By Arundathie Abeysinghe

According to his memoir,

 “Those days I was residing in one of the three bungalows on Sanghamitta Hill. While descending the hill and walking towards the Arts Block, I noticed a piece of land concave in shape, like a part of a broken clay pot. This was a terraced paddy field which had been abandoned and was overgrown with weeds. At the bottom of the land was a flat space. Although I had been passing that place daily it was only after I started thinking of an open-air theatre that it struck me as a suitable location for what is known as an Amphitheatre – an auditorium with a stage. The space at the bottom could be used as a stage and the audience could sit in the terraces” (p. 209).

Although, Professor Sarachchandra was of the view that the land was suitable for an Open Air Theatre, he decided to further look into the possibility of such a construction.

 “It was essential,” he adds. “To find out what the acoustics of this place was like for theatre performance. One evening I went there with a group of students. I think Gunasena Galappaththi was one of them. I placed several of them in various places in the pit and made them talk and sing. Then I realized that it was a place with natural amplification of sound. The Epidorus Amphitheatre in Greece came to my mind. If you stand anywhere and strike a match you will be able to hear it”. (p. 210).

According to him,

 “I had no power to give orders to the Works Department or to the Administrative Section. That could be done only by the Vice Chancellor or the Registrar. The expenses involved in constructing even an amphitheatre at the site I mentioned would be minimal. What had to be done was cutting and removing the weeds on the terraces, constructing in cement a circular stage at the bottom and putting up a *cadjan shed behind it.” (Pages 210-211).

But the Professor had doubts about the venture as he served as a lecturer and did not have an authority about such type of construction in the University. As the University Vice Chancellor Sir Nicholas Attygalle was a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine (before he assumed duties as the Vice Chancellor of the University) perhaps without any knowledge about theatre and arts, he may not approve such a project. But due to news about a play known as Maname winning accolades in the country and it was created by one of his lecturers at the University, he asked Professor Sarachchandra to stage it in the University. But Professor Sarachchandra informed him that there was no such venue in the University to stage his play, instead there was a suitable site in a location which he had already inspected. Thus, the Vice Chancellor provided the necessary logistics to construct the Open Air Theatre and the theatre was constructed within a short period.

As the location was an abandoned paddy-field, during early days the terrace with seating facilities was leveled with trimmed grass. Later, the terrace was constructed in granite.

Declared open in early 1958, the first drama staged in the Theatre was Professor Sarachchandra’s ground-breaking Sinhala play *Maname. His popular drama Sinhabahu* was also performed at this theatre in 1961.

At present too, the majority of dramas shown at the University are staged at this theatre.

Location: University of Peradeniya, about one kilometer from *Galaha junction and about 8.5 kilometers from Kandy City

  • CadjanInterwoven coconut palms used for thatching of roofs and walls. There were cadjan houses in rural areas in India and Sri Lanka in the past.
  • Galaha – Situated about 20 kilometers from Kandy City at an elevation of about 700 meters, Galaha is one of the first areas in Sri Lanka where tea was planted.
  • Maname – This is one of the best plays of Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra and is one of the most celebrated dramas in Sri Lankan theatre. Maname is a combination of theatrical craft and poetic sophistication.
  • Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra – Professor Sarachchandra (1914 – 1996) popularly known as Ediriweera Sarachchandra is considered as the premier playwright in Sri Lanka who produced many critically acclaimed theater plays during his lifetime which spanned more than four decades. Professor Sarachchandra was also a novelist, poet, literary critic and social commentator. He served as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka for many years and as Ambassador to France from 1974-1977. Professor Sarachchandra’s birth anniversary was on June 3, 2014 and this day was recognized by UNESCO. He was the first as well as the only Sri Lankan artist to be recognized by UNESCO.
  • Sinhabahu – This is a play directed by Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra, the popular and celebrated dramatist. The play is based on the legend of King Sinhabahu, the son of a lion and a Royal Princess – Suppa Devi. The dance and the performance choreographed in the Play render unique experiences to Sri Lankan audiences. According to Professor Gananath Obeyesekera (Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University), Sinhabahu is the paradigmatic myth of the Sri Lankans Oedipus.
  • University of Peradeniya – A leading state university in Sri Lanka consisting of eight faculties, University of Peradeniya is the largest university in Sri Lanka. Originally established as University of Ceylon in 1942, University of Peradeniya is the most beautiful university in Sri Lanka and one of the most beautiful universities in the world. The architecture of the University is a blend of Kandyan architecture as well as modernity. Sir Ivor Jennings served as the first Vice Chancellor of University of Peradeniya. A concept of Sir Ivor Jennings, the architect of the University of Peradeniya, the University is situated in a spectacular environment.

 

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Galway’s Land National Park – montane ecosystem in Nuwara Eliya

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie Abeysinghe

Situated about two kilometers from Nuwara Eliya on the outskirts of the town, Galway’s Land National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka with an extent of 29 hectares.  Located towards east of Nuwara Eliya town, the Park is popular among people of all walks of life, yet not an overcrowded place ideal for a leisurely stroll while admiring the breathtaking scenery of the surroundings.

Galway’s Land National Park was initially declared as a wildlife sanctuary on May 27, 1938 and was declared as a national park on May 18, 2006 to conserve the montane ecosystem within the Park.

Galway’s Land National Park is named after Colonel Galway, a British Army Officer who arrived in *Ceylon in the 19th century. He was presented with the land of the Park by the British Colonia Era Government for cultivation. Colonel Galway was enthralled by the spectacular surroundings of the land as well as the natural forest with endemic fauna and flora. He decided to preserve the land without harming a single tree. When Colonel Galway left Ceylon in 1938, he requested the Governor of Ceylon with a letter to protect the land “for the sake of the unknown generations of the Ceylonese”. Hence, when the land was declared a sanctuary in 1938, it was named Galway’s Land Sanctuary.

The Park has a dense patch of montane forest comprising natural forest as well as introduced trees such as turpentine and pine trees interspersed with native flora. There are seasonal orchids as well as introduced plants with blooming flowers adding splendor to the Park. Layers of the forest floor carpeted with leaves, a haven for insects as well as microscopic fungi to larger insects and creatures, barks of gigantic trees covered with moss and lichens is a breathtaking scene which a visitor can encounter during the trek. Call of shrub frogs, perhaps communicating with each other similar to the sound of crickets amidst the litter of leaves echo rhythmically throughout the forest, especially at dusk, the tone of a musical instrument.

Galway’s Land National Park – montane ecosystem in Nuwara Eliya By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Popular for its exotic as well as endemic fauna and flora, the Park is frequented by environmentalists, naturalists, ornithologists, undergraduates as well as local and foreign tourists. Home to the rare winter visitor Kashmir flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) as well as Dull blue flycatcher (Eumyias sordida) and Grey headed flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis), there are over 30 endemic and exotic birds in the Park. Popular as a Birders’ Paradise as well as a haven for feathered creatures, according to ornithologists, Galway’s Land National Park is a significant birding site because of the high density of birds in the Park.

Apart from birds, the Park is home to many species of multi-colored butterflies as well as bees busy with pollination tasks, a mesmerizing site.

There are 10 endemic Sri Lankan birds and about 20 rare migrant birds in the Park, on their way in search of food or returning to their nests while many are nesting and feeding their young. There are also transient fowl species in the Park.

Apart from birds, the Park is also home to a large number of mammals such as barking deer (Muntiacus), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) coexisting to form biodiversity. Apart from these mammals, horned lizard (Ceratophora stodartii) and earth snakes, especially the common rough side snake (Aspidura trachyprocta), the only type of snakes endemic in hilly terrains are also found in the Park.

The Park is also home to endemic dusky-striped jungle squirrel (Funambulus obscurus) and rare day gecko (Phelsuma), an endangered species. Jungle fowls (Gallus), giant squirrels (Ratufa macroura) and highland bear monkeys (Semnopithecus vetulus) have also made the Park a safe haven.

The atmosphere of the Park is filled with the aroma and beauty of wild flowers as well as planted flowers landscaped in a breathtaking manner. The wooden benches in the Park are ideal for those who want to relax while walking or bask in the glory of the spectacular surroundings.

There are two trails in the Park and the first trail is a distance of around 850 meters situated to the left side of the Park and after climbing a few steps leads towards the forest area. As the terrain has gentle slopes, the trail is easy to trek. The second trail, one kilometer distance trek continues after the first trail with mesmerizing views of fauna and flora.

Although, the Park can be visited without a guide as the trek is easy to follow, if there is any necessity for a guide, the Park Officers are ready to assist visitors.

The Park is open for visitors from 6.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

At present, the Park is conserved by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Location: Department of Wildlife Conservation, Havelock Road, Nuwara Eliya.

Directions: From Nuwara Eliya travel along Upper Lake Road to Havelock Road to reach the Park.  

  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until 1972.

Image courtesy: dwc.gov.lk

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Batadombalena Cave – journey into the past

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheVerdant vistas of spectacular mountains… Silver streams with crystal clear water…Cascading waterfalls…Huge trees towering into the green gloom of the surrounding…Icy cold streams flowing down the slopes… Tall trees covered with wild creepers creating weird shapes in the thick jungle similar to prehistoric monsters…Pools of water among the rocks home to diverse small fish, crabs and frogs… Biodiversity rich forests with endemic fauna and flora…

Situated in close proximity to *Kuruwita about 90 kilometers from Colombo, Batadombalena Cave is the home of the prehistoric *‘Balangoda Man’ (Homo sapiens balangodensis) where        the Caves reveal a significant landmark in human paleontology, the remains of prehistoric man.

Situated below the rainforests of *Adam’s Peak, Batadombalena Cave is an archeological treasure trove.

The Caves are located behind a gently cascading waterfall, a mesmerizing site. From the summit of the rock, a thin sheet of water similar to a bridal veil falls into an abyss directly in front of the ledge. This flimsy silver curtain almost shields the entrance to Batadombalena Cave creating a mesmerizing scene with the soft breeze of the wind. When viewed from the Caves, the view of the valley below is spectacular.

There are three caves in Batadombalena Cave. The three caves are large and airy and spread out along the rocky face. The largest cave has an opening 18 meters wide and 15 meters high. The floor of the Cave is covered with ancient shells of tree snails which had been Balangoda Man’s diet. There is a large archaeological excavation pit at the opening of the largest cave.

There is a small grove of banana trees in front of the caves and according to locals, these trees were a part of the diet of the hermits who had lived in Batadombalena Cave as one of the caves had been converted as a Buddhist Hermitage by enclosing the opening of the cave with a wall. There is also a low stone bench and a sleeping platform of granite blocks inside this cave.

According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford in 2015, teeth that were found in Batadombalena Cave revealed a significant discovery; Isotopes in Balangoda Man’s teeth indicated a diet that was based on food from the nearby rainforest. According to scholars, humans might have dwelled in the vicinity as early as 45000 years ago. Earlier research indicated that modern humans did not colonize the rainforest until 8000 years ago, after the end of the Pleistocene Period. Scholars were also of the view that jewelry made of seashells and shark teeth as well as sea salt that were found inside the Cave indicate that Balangoda Man had constant contacts with the coast situated about 40 kilometers away from Batadombalena Cave.     

In 1930s, skeletal remains of human adults and a child were found in the Batadombalena Cave. In 1981, Mr. P.E.P. Deraniyagala, a paleontologist and zoologist (father of former Commissioner of Archaeology, Dr. S.U. Deraniyagala) along with his team unearthed complete skeletons which they estimated were around 16000 years old.

During the excavations, long triangular trapezoid and circular pieces of flint were unearthed. These had been the tips of hunting weapons, spears and arrows. They were also the earliest evidence of the use of tools by modern humans apart from those found in Africa.

According to scholars, Fa Hien-lena has yielded the earliest evidence (at ca. 37,000 BP) of anatomically modern man in South Asia followed by Batadomba-lena around 31000 and 18000 BP and Beli-lena around 16000 BP. These facts have been confirmed as these human remains have been subjected to detailed physical anthropological studies. 

According to Dr. S. U. Deraniyagala, former Director General of Archaeology, Sri Lanka:

“The tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small (less than 4 cm long) flakes of quartz and (rarely) chert fashioned into stylised lunate, triangular and trapezoidal forms (ibid:266-70,688-94). Such geometric microliths have been traditionally considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic Period as first defined in Europe. The earliest dates for the geometric microlithic tradition in Europe are around 12,000 BP. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were found as early as 31,000 BP at Batadomba-lena, 28,000 BP at two coastal sites in Bundala and over 30,000 BP at Beli-lena. Sri Lanka has yielded evidence of this sophisticated technological phase over 19,000 years earlier than in Europe. However this apparent anomaly has been resolved by the discovery of geometric microliths in various parts of Africa, such as Zaire and southern Africa, from contexts in excess of 27,000 BP, thereby suggesting that Europe was late in manifesting this techno-tradition due to as yet undefined reasons”.

Batadombalena Cave - journey into the past By Arundathie Abeysinghe

According to archaeologists, there have been human settlements in Sri Lanka dating back to over 25000 years. The ape man Balangoda Manawaya (Balangoda Man) has lived in many caves including Beli Lena Cave in *Kitulgala, Batadombalena Cave near *Kuruwita, Bellan-Bendi Pellessa near *Embilipitiya as well as in Pahiyangala Cave (also known as Fa-hien Cave) in Yatagampitiya in *Kalutara.

The prehistoric remains of Batadomba Lena had been studied at the Cornell University, USA too.

As Batadombalena Cave is a significant milestone in Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage, the Department of Archaeology has named the Cave as an Archaeological Reserve.

  • Adam’s Peak– Located in Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak has been a pilgrimage site for more than 1000 years. According to Buddhists, the footprint at the summit of the peak is the Sacred Footprint of the Buddha. Adam’s Peak is one of the tallest peaks of Sri Lanka (2243 meters height). It is a mountain climbed for religious purposes (due to its significance for all four religions in Sri Lanka) as well as for its breathtaking views made up of densely covered jungle as well as cliff drops. This Peak is popular among pilgrims as well as local and foreign tourists. The season to climb the peak is from December to May.
  • Balangoda Man – These prehistoric humans are referred to as ‘Balangoda Man’ ‘Balangoda Manawaya’ or Balangoda Apeman in popular dialect as he is considered responsible for the Mesolithic ‘Balangoda Culture’ first defined in sites in close proximity to *Balangoda. Anatomically modern, prehistoric remains that were found in Sri Lanka are commonly referred to as Balangoda Man. According to scientists, males were 174 meters tall and the females were 166 meters tall. They had robust bones, thick skull-bones, depressed noses, heavy jaws, short necks and conspicuously large teeth.
  • Balangoda – A large town in Ratnapura District of *Sabaragamuwa Province.
  • Embilipitiya – Embilipitiya is situated in *Ratnapura District of Sabaragamuwa Province in Sri Lanka.
  • Kalutara – A large town of Western Province and the district capital of Kalutara District.
  • Kelani River – One of the major rivers in Sri Lanka and is 145 kilometers long.
  • Kitulgala – A small town located in the wet zone to the west of Sri Lanka. Kitulgala is famous due to the Academy Award-winning film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ directed by David Lean and filmed on the Kelani River. At present, the only evidence of the filming scene is the foundation of the Bridge used for filming. According to locals, the submerged train compartments of the train (used for filming) had been found at the bottom of the *Kelani River at Kitulgala many years ago. Kitulgala is famous among local and foreign naturalists due to Beli Lena Cave, another cave where prehistoric Balangoda Man has inhabited.
  • Kuruwita – Situated about 87 kilometers from Colombo, Kuruwita is in Ratnapura District of Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka.
  • Ratnapura District – A major town in Sri Lanka and the capital of Sabaragamuwa Province. Ratnapura is the traditional center for gem trade.
  • Sabaragamuwa Province – One of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka located in the south-central region of Sri Lanka.

Directions: Colombo-Ratnapura-Kuruvita-turn to Erathna Road (the road which leads to Adam’s Peak), proceed two kilometers, there is a signboard marked with the turnoff to Batadombalena Cave (a vehicle has to be parked at this point and walk up to the Cave). After almost one kilometer, the terrain rises up to a height of around 260 meters through rubber and tea plantations.

 

 

 

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Meemure – Paradise hamlet in Central Highlands

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheLocated about 324 meters above sea level among verdant vistas, cascading waterfalls, terraced paddy fields, misty spectacular mountains, Meemure is an isolated paradise hamlet in the *Central Province with a population of about 400 people, away from modern day civilization.

With exceptional natural beauty, magnificent fragrant wild flowers, arecanut (Areca catechu) and kithul trees (Caryota urens), reed bushes and cattle grazing in home gardens, eco friendly houses made of clay and spear grass, boundaries of houses as well as lands demarcated by stone-ridges with stones piled neatly, wooden fences leading to large home-gardens with rock stones as steps to reach the houses, this highland hamlet is a serene paradise nestled among breathtaking mountains. One boundary of Meemure is marked by the gently flowing Karambaganga Ela (Ela meaning stream in Sinhala).

The hamlet is encompassed by scenic pyramid shaped *Lakegala Mountain from the east, picturesque *Knuckles Mountain Range from the west, Heen Ganga (ganga meaning River in Sinhala) to south and to north a forest spreading towards *Pitawala Pathana grassland.

According to folklore, Meemure received its name from the abundant Mee trees (Madhuca longifolia) in the village.

 

Located near the border of *Kandy and *Matale Districts and situated approximately 50 kilometers from Kandy City and about 175 kilometers from Colombo, the only access to Meemure is via a 14 kilometer trail from Loolwatte in the *Hunnasgiriya Mountain Range, a part of Knuckles Mountain Range. This picturesque village became a popular tourist destination after the screening of the Sinhala movie “Sooriya Arana” which was filmed in breathtaking Meemure.

As there is no direct mail delivery to Meemure, a villager travels daily to Thepal Junction or Mail Junction situated on a hill (Thepal meaning mail in Sinhala), to exchange incoming and outgoing postal mail with a postman from the nearby Post Office. As there are no telecommunication or cellular facilities, postal service is the only mode of communication for villagers in the remote hamlet.

According to folklore, the village dates to over 5000 years.

Meemure - Paradise hamlet in Central Highlands

There are many streams flowing through Meemure originating from the Knuckles Mountain Range, catchment areas of water supply to the village.

Meemure is a breathtaking nature paradise with endemic fauna and flora; home to over 130 species of birds with 10 migrant species and 20 endangered species, 25 species of freshwater fish with 8 endemic and 7 endangered and 20 species of amphibians with over 12 endemic. 

Vegetation of Meemure is similar to Knuckles Mountain Range with lowland semi-evergreen forests to Montana forests.

There is only one tiny shop in Meemure, similar to shops known as “Game Kade” (meaning Village Shop, located in many remote villages in Sri Lanka) for villagers to buy essentials such as salt and sugar.

Residents of Meemure are farmers and they cultivate paddy, a major livelihood. As the staple diet of residents is rice, paddy cultivation is essential for villagers. In addition to paddy cultivation, villagers are engaged in *chena cultivation as well as pepper and ginger cultivation. The crops planted by villagers are sold to bargain-hunters from *Hunnasigiriya, the nearest village to Meemure.

Until 2004, the only mode of transport to Meemure was pack-bulls. Earlier, the road leading to Meemure was a footpath. At present, it has been widened, but not yet carpeted with certain places in a rugged condition. With the advent of new transport methods, trishaws, jeeps and trailers are used to transport goods to the hamlet.

Meemure is a fine example of sustainable tourism.

As villagers of Meemure lead a simple unsophisticated lifestyle, it is necessary for tourists to respect their lifestyle while touring the village.

 

Meemure - Paradise hamlet in Central Highlands

  • Central Province – The central mountainous terrain of Sri Lanka encompassing Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Matale Districts and one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka.
  • Chena cultivation – This is a traditional form of cultivation which extends as far as 5000 years, the oldest form of faming in Sri Lanka. In the past, each village had a chena. Vegetables, cereals as well as green leaves are cultivated in a chena.
  • Hunnasgiriya Mountain Range HunnasgiriyaMountain is a 1,184 meter peak situated near *Wattegama in Kandy at the edge of the beautiful Knuckles Mountain Range. It is famous for amazing views and its lower slopes are covered by tea plantation and there are sub-montane forest with bamboos, wild strawberries, moss, ferns and waterfalls up to the peak. Hunnasgiriya Mountain is the highest mountain in the area and is a biodiversity location.
  • Hunnasigiriya – Hunnasgiriya is a village in the Central Province. At Hunnasgiriya, a 29 kilometer cul-de-sac branches off to Meemure with breathtaking views of endemic fauna and flora.
  • Lakegala Mountain Situated in Meemure, Lakegala is a 1310 meter high rock famous due to its unique triangular pyramidal shape and colossal size. Spectacular Lakegala Mountain is one of the highest bare rock outcrops in the world.
  • Kandy – Capital of Central Province, Kandy was the last kingdom (Kandyan Kingdom) in Sri Lanka. Kandy is the hill capital of Sri Lanka as well as the cultural capital.
  • Knuckles Mountain Range Situated in Kandy and Matale Districts, at a height of about 914 meters above sea level with a land area of around 21 hectares, Knuckles Mountain Range has a total of 35 peaks which rise above 900 meters. British Surveyors called this Mountain Range “Knuckles Mountain Range” as it is similar to a clenched fist. There are 35 peaks in the Mountain Range and it is the highest aggregation of such peaks in a single mountain range in Sri Lanka.
  • Matale – Located at the heart of the Central Hills, Matale is situated at an elevation around 365 meters above sea level. Matale is the administrative capital and largest town of Matale District of Central Province.
  • Mee tree – A native tree in Sri Lanka grows well in wet, intermediate and dry zones in moist areas near waterways. Mee tree grows up to a height of 20 – 30 meters. Considered as a source of organic fertilizer, this tree has water retention ability as well as provides a good shade. The oil of the seeds of the Tree is used for medicine, cooking as well as to light oil lamps.
  • Pitawala Pathana – A unique grassland with great ecological value spread over an area of around 10 hectares.
  • Wattegama – Located about 12 kilometers from Kandy, Wattegama can be reached when traveling via Katugastota, Madawala, Bambarella Road.

Meemure - Paradise hamlet in Central Highlands

Directions to Meemure: Kandy – Hunnasgiriya – Loolwatte – Meemure

As Meemure is a spectacular and pristine hamlet, it is essential to keep the terrain immaculate.

Take only photos… Leave only footprints…

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Bogoda Wooden Bridge – oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheSituated in Hali-Ela in Badulla, Bogoda Wooden Bridge dates to 1600s, but the temple adjoining the Bridge dates to the first century BC. The covered wooden bridge was built across the *Gallanda Oya, (Oya meaning stream in Sinhala), a branch of Uma Oya in *Badulla District; a tributary of the *Mahaweli River which is on an ancient route that linked Badulla and Kandy in the past.

According to folklore, the Bridge was built for Buddhist Pilgrims from Badulla to cross the rock strewn Gallanda Oya on their way to Kandy to worship at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Bogoda Wooden Bridge - oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka                                                          

The wooden railings on both sides of the Bridge are decorated with elaborate ornamental work influenced by the art and crafts of the *Kandyan Era. The Kandyan style clay shingle roof is supported by 11 carved pillars with a hand rail on both sides supported by many upright column posts with beautifully carved hardwood, a marvel of craftsmen of yesteryear.

According to chronicles, King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747 – 1782) has ordered the Bridge to be built as crossing Gallanda Oya during the rainy season was difficult and dangerous for pilgrims. The roof of the Bridge has been built over the Bridge later as pilgrims could have a place to rest during their arduous journey to Kandy as well as people travelling across the Bridge can be protected from sun and rain. In the past, the Bridge had been used as an Ambalama (a resting place for weary travelers) also.

According to archeologists, this is the oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka. In the past, Buddhist monks had lived in the cave adjoining the Bogoda Temple. This bridge is still in good condition and it is used by villagers to go to the temple. Bogoda Wooden Bridge is also used as a road link to travel to several villages in the vicinity of Bogoda Temple. The hamlet Mahakumbura is situated across the Bridge.

This bridge is a fine example of engineering skills and craftsmanship of Sri Lankan craftsmen.

In the famous literary work, Sandesa Kavya (Epistle Poems 1612-1624), in the chapter Maga Salakunu (road signs), the route through this bridge is described (the route from Badulla to Kandy by foot). The poet invites travelers to worship the Bogoda Temple on their way from Badulla to Kandy.

According to legends, a father and son who were clever timber craftsmen had built this bridge. It is completely made of wood including the fixtures without using a single metal nail and this is the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka. The bridge is about 15 meters long and about 1.5 meters wide.

Jack (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) logs have been used to construct the Bridge and the structure rests on a massive tree trunk about 10 meters tall. For the railing and decorative work the craftsmen have used Kaluwara (Diospyros ebenum) timber and Milla timber of the milla tree (Vitex pinnata).

The Bridge is a unique piece of architecture; a single piece of wood connects the two banks of Gallanda Oya

The Bogoda Vihara (Vihara meaning temple in Sinhala) is located beside the Bogoda Wooden Bridge which is partially built into a rock cave on one side of the Bridge. There are ancient ornate paintings reminiscent of the Kandyan Era. According to legends, it had been commissioned by King Walagamba in the 1st Century BC, during the *Anuradhapura Era. According to the *Brahmi script inscribed in stone near the Temple, the Temple had been donated to a Buddhist monk by Tissa, a provincial leader in Badulla.

Bogoda Wooden Bridge - oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka By Arundathie Abeysinghe

According to chronicles, the rock cave beside the Bridge has been converted into a temple by King Walagamba (104-76 BC) who had found refuge in the Cave. He has also used the adjoining tunnel to escape from the marauding Dravidian invaders from South India. The King had lived in the Cave for two and a half years and had used the 22 kilometer long tunnel through the rocks. He had used the Cave and the Tunnel to organize his army and defeated the invaders. After he won the battle with Dravidians, he had converted the rock cave into a temple honoring the Buddha which had provided him refuge as a hideout.

The interior walls of the Temple are made of a mixture of cotton wool and bees honey paste mixed with purified white clay. The walls of the Temple are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures of the Kandyan Era. The Temple has a ‘Meda Midula’ (indoor garden) and pillared verandahs.

Location: about 15 kilometers from *Ella off *Hali-ela junction

  • Anuradhapura – A major city in Sri Lanka, the capital of Anuradhapura Distict.
  • Anuradhapura Era – A period in the history of Sri Lanka from 377 BC to 1017 AD and during this period, King Pandukabaya established his kingdom in Anuradhapura and became the first monarch to rule from Anuradhapura.
  • Badulla – Situated in lower central hills, Badulla is the capital city of *Uva Province and Badulla District.
  • Brahmi script – The earliest writing system developed in India after the Indus script and considered as an influential writing system. All modern Indian scripts as well as several hundred scripts that are in South Asia, Southeast and East Asia are derived from Brahmi.
  • Ella – Situated at an elevation of 1041 meters above sea level amid lush green forests, rolling carpets of tea and breathtaking mountains, Ella is a small town in the *Badulla District of *Uva Province. Popular among local and foreign tourists, Ella has a mild climate and a laid-back atmosphere.
  • Gallanda OyaThis stream (oya in Sinhala) is a branch of Uma Oya, a tributary of *Mahaweli River.
  • Hali ela – A Divisional Secretariat of Badulla District of Uva Province.
  • Kandyan Era – Kandyan period is from 1597-1815, the last independent monarchy of Sri Lanka. Kandyan Kingdom is located in the central region of Sri Lanka. The Kingdom was independent from Portuguese and Dutch rule. Later, the Kingdom was colonized by the British in 1815.
  • Mahaweli River – Sri Lanka’s longest river, 335 kilometers in length with a drainage basin of 10,448km2.
  • Uva Province – This is the fourth largest province in Sri Lanka bordered by Central, Eastern and Southern provinces.

 

 

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Aluvihare Rock Temple – historic temple of a landmark Buddhist event

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie AbeysingheSurrounded by verdant hills Aluvihare Rock Temple is a historic temple situated in Matale in *Matale – *Dambulla Road about 30 kilometers from Kandy City. History of the Rock Temple dates to 3rd century BC, the era of King Devanampiyatissa (247 BC – 207 BC). According to legends, King Devanampiyatissa had founded the Rock Temple after the introduction of Buddhism to *Ceylon and had also built the dagoba (stupa) and planted the *Bo sapling in the temple premises. The Rock Temple spreads across a large area through rocks and verdant vistas interspersed with coconut palms.

The Rock Temple is the historic location where the *Tripitaka, the Pali canon was first written in text on *ola leaves.

Situated on several levels of rock surface and lush greenery, the atmosphere of the Rock Temple has a majestic look. There are 13 caves in the premises of the Rock Temple and monks have inhabited these caves in their quest for *Nirvana. There is a giant reclining Buddha Statue attended by images of divine and human figures in the dark main rock. There are also several monastery caves in the Temple, some of them displaying frescoes. Some of the rock shelters at the Temple have *Brahmi inscriptions and there are paintings and sculptures in some rocks.

According to chronicles, the scholar monk Buddhaghosa had visited Aluvihare Rock Temple in the 5th century AC, read and verified the commentaries of the Buddhist texts to indicate their authenticity.

Several years ago, Venerable Ethipola Medhankara Thera, a Chief Incumbent of Aluvihare Rock Temple had invited an Ayurvedic physician and four people, experts on writing on ola leaves and written the Tripitaka with the objective of preserving it. The writing on ola leaves were carried out between 1981- 1991. The ola leaf manuscripts of the Tripitaka are preserved in the library of the Rock Temple to date.

In 1986, additional features have been added to the Rock Temple; *Makara Thorana and Eth Pawura (Elephant Wall) and in 1997 the Sanghawasa (abode of monks) had been renovated with funds donated by a Korean Thero.

According to folklore, the rock caves of the Temple have occurred due to a massive landslide in the hill country.

There are many legends regarding the origin of the name Aluvihare. According to one legend, the Aloka Vihara became Aluvihara. According to another legend, Pali word Aloka (meaning light became Alu (light) and as it was the abode of monks, it was known as Viharaya (meaning temple in Sinhala). The two words Alu and Viharaya have been combined and become Aluviharaya or Aluvihare. According to another legend which many villagers also are of the view, the huge rock situated east of the main rock cave, there is light. Hence, the cave was known as Aloka Lena (meaning cave of light in Sinhala). 

The entrance to Aluvihare Rock Temple is adorned with a majestic entrance with mythical monsters entwined for eternity.

The Rock Temple is a landmark on Matale – Dambulla Road.

 

Aluvihare Rock Temple - historic temple of a landmark Buddhist event By Arundathie Abeysinghe

  • Bo sapling – The sapling of the Bodhi tree or Bo tree is the specific sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) sat when the Buddha attained Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India.  Ficus religiosa is a species of fig tree native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • Brahmi The earliest writing system developed in India after the Indus script and considered as an influential writing system. All modern Indian scripts as well as several hundred scripts that are in South Asia, Southeast and East Asia are derived from Brahmi.
  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka gained Independence from British Colonials in 1948. In 1972, Ceylon became a republic within the Commonwealth and Ceylon was thereafter known as Sri Lanka.
  • Dambulla – Situated in Matale District, Dambulla is the second largest town in the District. Located about 43 kilometers from Matale, 72 kilometers from Kandy and 148 kilometers from Colombo, Dambulla is a popular tourist destination.
  • Makara ThoranaConsidered as guardians of Buddhist temples, Makara Thorana is erected at entrances.
  • Matale – Located at the heart of the Central Hills, Matale is situated at an elevation around 365 meters above sea level. Matale is the administrative capital and largest town of Matale District of Central Province.
  • NirvanaIt refers to a release from the cycle of death and rebirth, the ultimate spiritual goal of Buddhism.
  • Ola leaf – Palm leaf used for traditional writing in ancient times. The leaves are from the talipot tree (Corypha umbraculifera). During the latter part of the first century BC, Buddisht monks inscribed teaching of the Buddha through oral tradition on ola leaves, some of which are preserved to date.
  • Pali – A Middle Indo-Aryan liturgical language native to the Indian subcontinent, Pali is widely studied as it is the language of the Pali canon (Tripitaka). Pali is also the sacred language of *Theravada Buddhism.
  • Theravada Buddhism – A conservative form of Buddhism (the other form is Mahayana Buddhism) which developed from Hinayana Buddhism (Sanskrit term literally meaning “small vehicle”, the name given by followers of Mahayana Buddhism to the more conservative school of early Buddhism). Theravada Buddhism is practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (former Burma), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
  • Tripitaka – This is the *Pali canon (Buddhist scriptures – Vinaya Pitaka, Abhidhamma Pitaka and Suthra Pitaka). Tripitaka is the most sacred scripture of Buddhists worldwide. After the Parinirvana (passing away) of the Buddha, Buddha’s preaching was passed from one generation to another verbally. The first written text of Tripitaka was carried out at Aluvihare Rock Temple by Buddhist monks.

 

 

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Udawattakele Sanctuary – Royal Forest Park of Kandy City

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheUdawattakele Sanctuary, popularly known as “Udawattakele” is a historic forest reserve situated on a hill-ridge behind Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy City.

Udawattakele Sanctuary is also known as the Royal Forest Park. During the Kandyan Kingdom, Udawattakele Sanctuary was known as Uda Wasala Watta (Upper Palace Garden or the garden situated above the Royal Palace) as it was used by the royals, was a forbidden forest and out of bounds (Tahansikele) for ordinary people.

According to folklore, King Sena Sammata Wickramabahu (1473 – 1511), the first king of the Kandyan Kingdom, had his Royal Palace inside Udawattakele. The forest reserve had been a pleasure garden and a safe haven for the Royal family. During the Kandyan Kingdom, the Queens had used the pond in the Park for bathing and it was called the Royal Pond. 

The Sanctuary is a vital biological reserve of Kandy City and the forest extent is about 257 acres.  This is the only reserve bordered by a bustling city in Sri Lanka. The catchment areas of the forest reserve provide the majority of water resources to Kandy City.

Udawattakele is the first protected nature reserve in Sri Lanka. With the downfall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815, the pristine condition of the forest gradually deteriorated losing its antiquity due to illegal logging. Hence, in October 25, 1856, a gazette notification was issued to declare it as a nature reserve and since 1938 the forest has been declared a sanctuary. 

Udawattakele Sanctuary - Royal Forest Park of Kandy City By Arundathie Abeysinghe 

According to legends, centuries ago, Kandy had been a Rain Forest and human settlements had taken place during King Parakramabahu’s era (1302-1326 AD).  King Senasammata Wickramabahu (1469 – 1511) chose Kandy as his kingdom and had founded Kandy City.

According to folklore, in the past, there had been a tunnel underneath the Royal Palace that led to the ancient pond in the forest.

Udawattakele Sanctuary is of great religious importance as there are Buddhist meditation hermitages and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist hermit monks. The Sanctuary has three Buddhist Forest Monasteries; the Forest Hermitage, Senanayaka Aramaya and Tapovanaya as well as three ancient cave-dwellings which had been used by Buddhist hermit monks: Cittavisuddhi-lena, Maitiri-lena and Senkada-lena, (Senkanda Cave, a rock cave where *hermit Senkada had lived in a cave in the past). Hence, the forest has historical importance too.

The medieval rock dwellings of Buddhist monks and hermits are memoirs of yesteryear.

A water pond and the highest peak in the city known as Kodimale Peak are also situated in Udawattakele Sanctuary.

Udawattakele is rich in biodiversity, rare as well as endemic fauna and flora; over 400 species of plants, large number of mammals, about 70 species of birds and 32 diverse species of butterflies.

Many researchers have carried out research about fauna and flora in the Sanctuary.

The forest reserve has a canopy, sub canopy and an underground layer and its dense plant life restricts sunlight reaching the ground soil. The forest cover of the Sanctuary is rich with vegetation; canopy, sub-canopy and underground layer, dense forest, endemic species and an emergent layer. The Sanctuary also has a great variety of plant species, trees and shrubs including several lianas. The thick plant life obstructs sunlight from reaching the ground soil surface. The underground layer of the Sanctuary comprises of the canopy layer species as well as creepers which extends towards the top of the canopy layer trees, a breathtaking sight.

The forest cover towards north of Kandy Lake has many hardwood trees, lianas as well as giant bamboo trees. There is a giant ancient (about 200 – 300 year old) Pus wela (Entada pusaetha) in the Sanctuary. Among the other endemic trees in the Sanctuary are Ankenda (Acronychia pedunculata), Tel kekuna (Aleurites moluccana), Madatiya (Adenantheara pavonina) and Karawala Kebella (Antidesma bunius).

The Sanctuary is also famous for its extensive avifauna popular among foreign tourists, especially bird watchers. About 80 avifaunal species have been recorded in the Sanctuary. The forest reserve is home to 81species of birds including Ceylon white-headed babbler (Turdoides affinis taprobana), Gold-fronted leaf bird (Chloropsis aurifrons insularis), Ceylon brown-capped babbler (Pellorneum fusco capillum) and the Ceylon spotted ash-dove (Streptopelia chinensis ceylonensis). The endemic bird species at Udawattakele are Layard’s Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae), Three-toed Kingfisher (Ceyx erythacus), Yellow-fronted Barbet (Megalaima flavifrons) and Brown-capped Babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillus). The two birds listed as threatened species, the Red-faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus) and Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) can also be found in the forest reserve.

Tall canopies of Udawattakele Sanctuary provide fresh water to Kandy Lake and Kandy City gets its purified air supplies from this forest reserve. 

The Sanctuary is home to endemic fauna ranging from the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus),    palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), hare (Lepus) and deer (Axis axis ceylonensis). There are also many endemic mammals in the Sanctuary such as the Pale-fronted Toque Macaque (Macaca sinica aurifrons), Mouse deer (Moschiola meminna), Porcupine (Hysterix indica), Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis), Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica), Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithii), Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista philippensis), Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus) also known as great Indian fruit bat.

In 1834, Sir William Horton, Governor of Ceylon (1831 – 1837) built the first road through the Sanctuary and named it as Lady Horton’s Drive (named after his wife). According to Henry W. Cave, the trail had been about five kilometers (three miles) long. There are also many other roads in the Sanctuary such as Lady McCarthy’s Drive, Lady Torrington’s Road, Lady Anderson’s Road, Lady Gordon’s Drive, Gregory Path, Russell Path and Byrde Lane.

The short walks in the Sanctuary including Lady McCarthy’s Drive, Lady Torrington’s Road and Lady Gordon’s Road are visual delights.

Udawattakele Sanctuary - Royal Forest Park of Kandy City By Arundathie Abeysinghe

The British Garrison Cemetery is also in the lower section of the forest reserve. Sri Lanka Forest Department has two offices in the forest reserve and a nature education center with pictures and posters. The forest reserve is visited by naturalists as well as undergraduates and school children.

Udawattakele is a popular destination of nature lovers and bird watchers.

Location: Behind Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic                     

Directions: Visitor’s entrance to the Sanctuary is located on the western side about 15 – 20 minutes from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. From the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic travel north along D.S. Senanayaka Veediya and after about half a kilometer turn right at the Post Office situated near Kandy Municipal Council. Travel along the road situated along the hill. The entrance to the Sanctuary is situated on the right side of the Tapovanaya Monastery.

Tourists can purchase a map of Udawattakele Sanctuary from the ticket office. Last tickets to enter the Sanctuary are issued at 4.30 p.m.

  • Senkada – Kandy was known as Senkadagala or Senkadagalapura during the Kandyan Kingdom. According to folklore, during King Wickramabahu’s era, Kandy was known as Senkadagala as the hermit Senkada had lived in a cave in Udawattakele Sanctuary.
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Adisham Bungalow – wrapped in serenity of misty hills

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

 

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheSituated about four kilometers from Haputale and designed in Tudor and Jacobean style, similar to Leeds Castle in Kent with solid granite walls as well as long narrow windows and chimneys, Adisham Bungalow is situated in a spectacular environment with undulating mountain ranges and breathtaking valleys. The well-maintained charming gardens with blooming flowers of the Bungalow have the allure of English Gardens. The terraced well-manicured lawns, flowerbeds as well as the orchards are etched on the skyline to take the shape of an outline known as “Sleeping Warrior”.

Visitors to Adisham are enchanted by the melodious chirpings of green barbets, paradise flycatchers, blue magpies, horn bills as well as some endemic birds which frequent the area.

The railway line between Haputale and *Idalgashinna Railway Stations is situated below the Bungalow.

Situated in the verdant mountains of *Uva, Adisham Bungalow is a British Colonial Era heritage and visited by thousands of tourists annually. The Bungalow is similar to a Rock Fortress in the cool climes of Central Highlands.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers, the creator of the charming bungalow was an English aristocrat and planter born in 1869 in Adisham Rectory in Kent. He served as the trustee of the Church of England. Sir Thomas arrived in *Ceylon as a youth to work as a trainee in Elbedde Estate in *Bogawantalawa.

Adisham Bungalow - wrapped in serenity of misty hills By Arundathie Abeysinghe

He got married to Evelyn Hope, daughter of planter W.H. Walker. A keen painter, Lady Villiers spent her days pursuing her talent and her paintings adorn the walls of Adisham to date. There are 25 oil and water color paintings adding glamour to the walls.

In 1905, Sir Thomas joined George Steuart, a trading and estate agency house in Colombo and rose to the position of Chairman, a position he held until his retirement in 1948.

While serving as the Chairman of George Steuart Company, Sir Thomas commenced constructing his dream home in 1929. Situated about 1525 meters above sea level in *Haputale on a land surrounded by the beautiful pine forests and *Tangamalai Bird Sanctuary, Adisham Bungalow is similar to an English Castle.

When constructing Adisham Bungalow, Sir Thomas wanted the Bungalow similar to his country home in Kent with vivid memories of his childhood. Adisham is a luxurious abode; Burma teak covered roof, doors, windows, paneling, staircase as well as the floors done in teak and spacious rooms of the Bungalow with fireplaces.

During Sir Thomas Villiers’s stay in the Bungalow, they had entertained the social elite of Ceylon. Among the distinguished guests was the Governor of Ceylon as well as many prominent personalities of British Colonial Era. Lady Villiers, the Chatelaine of Adisham had been a sociable and nice hostess for her visitors.  Salubrious climate of Haputale along with luxurious facilities of the Bungalow, paved the way for guests to relish a luxurious abode during Villiers’ stay in Ceylon.

A unique feature of the Bungalow are wind turbines fixed on the roof which sent cold wind to the fireplaces and heated the rooms, an amazing technique. Another remarkable feature of the Bungalow is the water system where water obtained from the hillside is sent through the pipes from the boiler room to many parts of the building including the upper floors without using a single motor

As Sir Thomas preferred a luxurious lifestyle in Sri Lanka similar to his lifestyle in Kent, he imported fine furniture, linen, carpets, porcelain, fine silverware as well as high quality glassware from the United Kingdom for the Bungalow.

Portraits of the Dukes of Bedford and the Clarendons, Sir Thomas’ relatives adorn the pillared landing on the main staircase.

According to folklore, Indian masons were employed to do the stone work of the Bungalow.

There are many large rooms in Adisham Bungalow similar to present day suites in star hotels. Sir Thomas and Lady Villiers occupied the ‘Blue Room’ and the ‘Horse Shoe Room’ beautifully furnished and well-maintained to date.

On a clear day, breathtaking vistas of *Hakgala, *Pidurutalagala, *Namunukula Mountain Ranges as well as *Diyatalawa Army Camp can be seen from Adisham Bungalow. There is a wing in the Bungalow with spectacular views of the Uva Valley.

Adisham Bungalow is a pleasant memory of Villiers’ presence in Ceylon. Every nook and corner as well as each and every stone of the Bungalow of the majestic mansion is a memory of yesteryear.

Among the notable and well preserved furniture, the Georgian gate-legged table set for serving tea with Wedgewood jasper china and the Dutch marquetry card table enhance the majesty as well as elegance of the Bungalow.

The library of Adisham Bungalow with excellent and valuable books on diverse subjects conserved in cupboards is a well-maintained treasure trove.

After retirement from George Steuart Company, Sir Thomas returned to the UK and the Bungalow was owned by Sedawate Mills in 1951.

In 1961, the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Bungalow and converted it to a Monastery, the Adisham Monastery, to serve their novitiate, those who are trained to enter the monastic life.  

At present, Adisham Bungalow is a monastery run by Benedictine Monks, a congregation of St. Sylvester.

The priests at the Adisham Monastery maintain the flower beds and orchards surrounding the Monastery with the assistance of villagers. They cultivate strawberries, oranges and peaches and the fruits cultivated at the orchard are used to manufacture delicious jams, cordials and chutneys which can be purchased from the Adisham Shop situated in the premises of the Bungalow. Adisham products are natural and delicious without any flavors or additives.

Adisham Bungalow - wrapped in serenity of misty hills By Arundathie Abeysinghe

As the Bungalow is at present a monastery, the entire building is not open to visitors except the main sitting room which was originally used as Sir Thomas Villiers’s library.

Adisham Bungalow is open for sightseers during school holidays, public holidays and weekends from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.

  • Bogawantalawa – Situated at an altitude of 1515 meters above sea level, Bogawantalawa is famous for tea estates.
  • Badulla – Situated in lower central hills, Badulla is the capital city of *Uva Province and Badulla District.
  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until 1972.
  • Diyatalawa – Situated at an altitude of almost 1500 meters above sea level, Diyatalawa is a former garrison town in the Badulla District of Uva Province. At present, Diyatalawa is a popular holiday destination of local tourists.
  • Hakgala – Situated around 2170 meters above sea level, Hakgala is a mountain situated in Nuwara Eliya District of Central Province.
  • Haputale – Situated above 1430 meters above sea level, in Uva Province, Haputale is a mountainous area covered by cloud forests and tea plantations.
  • Idalgashinna – Situated an elevation of about 1615 meters above sea level, Idalgashinna is a small village in the Badulla District of Uva Province.
  • Namunukula – Literally meaning “Nine Peaks” in Sinhala, Namunukula is considered as the backyard mountain of Badulla, its main peak 2036 meters high.
  • Pidurutalagala – Situated at 2524 meters above sea level, Pidurutalagala (literally translated as “Straw Plateau Rock) is the highest mountain in Sri Lanka and is situated about seven kilometers from Nuwara Eliya.
  • Tangamalai Bird Sanctuary – Tangamalai meaning ‘Golden Hills’ in Tamil, the location is a popular bird watchers’ paradise.
  • Uva – This is the fourth largest province in Sri Lanka bordered by Central, Eastern and Southern provinces.

As Adisham is a monastery, it is necessary to maintain its serene edifying atmosphere and divine peace when visiting it.

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Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park – alluring edible landscaping

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

 

Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie AbeysingheSituated in the salubrious climate of Gannoruwa in Peradeniya about four kilometers from Kandy City and bounded by the *Mahaweli River on three sides with an elevation of about 473 meters above sea level, *Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park is a novel concept in agriculture.

Located in close proximity to world renowned Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, the Park provides glimpses of almost all crops and herbs in Sri Lanka displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

The Park is situated on both sides of the Gannoruwa Road with each side comprising different sections; diverse local plant species, model home garden with an arched entrance of granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) vines, a tissue culture division as well as a plant diseases section with information about different plant diseases and how to treat them. The Park provides information on traditional as well as modern methods of agriculture including crop cultivation.

This agro technology park has aesthetically beautiful edible landscaping with tropical crops as well as separate areas demarcated for paddy, vegetables, fruits, dry zone crops, root crops and floriculture.

Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park - alluring edible landscaping By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Vegetable garden including leafy vegetable garden and citrus garden, roots and tuber crops, environmental friendly integrated farming, banana garden, plant genetic resources, gliricidia plantation (Gliricidia sepium), bee-keeping section, demonstration of traditional tank (wewa) culture, mushroom house, *Jak Garden as well as an indigenous rice garden (diverse traditional rice varieties are grown here) are some of the areas visitors can see in the Park.

Diverse vegetable plants blend well with cactus plants and the row of dragon fruit trees adding splendor to the Park, a demonstration of how different varieties could be grown together.

The Park is designed well providing sunlight and wind throughout the day, a boon to fine cultivation.

Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park - alluring edible landscaping By Arundathie Abeysinghe

The majority of plants in the Park are grown in gunny bags, discarded barrels or bins, a novel concept of agriculture demonstrating how crops could be grown in a limited space. 

The Park has around 15 instructors to provide guidance and instructions to visitors including school children about plants, agricultural methods as well as prevention and treatment of plant diseases.

Some plants are grown according to hydroponics technique, a novel concept of agriculture where a liquid base is used instead of planting on soil.

Established in 2004 and maintained by the Department of Agriculture, the Park is an agricultural knowledge hub set up with the objectives of capacity building of stakeholders of agriculture as well as information dissemination mechanism for farmers, school children and the general public.

There is a signboard at the entrance to the Park with a map numbered with each section and visitors are provided flyers with a description of each section of the Park. Visitors who prefer to see the Park on their own can make use of the flyer.

Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park - alluring edible landscaping By Arundathie Abeysinghe

The total area of the park is two square kilometers.

Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park is a very popular place among farmers, school children and the general public interested in farming, novel concepts of agriculture and home gardening.

Location: Gannoruwa Road, Kandy

  • Gannoruwa – Situated about four kilometers from Kandy City and about one kilometer from Peradeniya, Gannoruwa was the location of the ‘Battle of Gannoruwa’ fought between Sinhalese forces (Sinhalese King’s Army) and Portuguese in 1638.
  • Jak – Widely found in tropical countries such as Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, jak tree, also spelt as jack tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) bears the largest fruit of all trees weighing around 50 kilograms. A mature jak tree produces around 200 – 500 fruits per year. Fleshy petals of the fruits are eaten, boiled or cooked as a curry, whereas the ripe fruit is eaten as a dessert.
  • Mahaweli River – Sri Lanka’s longest river, 335 kilometers in length with a drainage basin of 10,448km2.

 

Gannoruwa Agro Technology Park - alluring edible landscaping By Arundathie Abeysinghe

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