Arundathie Abeysinghe

National Railway Museum – reminiscence of yesteryear – By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie Abeysinghe

National Railway Museum is situated adjacent to Kadugannawa* Railway Station between Balana and Pilimatalawa Railway Stations on the upcountry railway line about 515 meters above sea level.
The building of the Museum is divided into several halls. Among the items on display at the Museum are gas lamps, tablet machines, tools, rail cars, trolleys, machineries, ancient railway equipments, signs and railway memorabilia including a station sun dial which had been used since the beginning of Sri Lanka Railways (formerly Ceylon Government Railways – CGR). The Museum is situated adjacent to the platform of Kadugannawa Railway Station on the up-country railway line.
The Railway Museum also showcases a large collection of railway memorabilia including several diesel and steam engines, locomotives as well as diesel carriages that were used in Sri Lanka in the past. As steam power engines are not used at present, many people, especially children and youths have not seen them. These magnificent locomotives in the open air are a glimpse into the past when steam trains were a common sight in Sri Lanka, a contrast to the present day power-sets which run through Kadugannawa Railway Station on their way to Kandy and Badulla on the up country railway line.

Read More →

Authentic Sri Lankan food at Hela Bojun Hala – By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Authentic Sri Lankan food at Hela Bojun Hala

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheHela Bojun Hala (Traditional Sri Lankan Food Court), serving quintessentially delicious fresh food at subsidized prices are situated in many places in Sri Lanka. Each food is vegetarian, fresh and healthy as well as free from flavors and additives. The first outlet of Hela Bojun Hala was started in Gannoruwa in Kandy as a pilot project with the objective of promoting fresh local food as well as empowering local women. Prices of food items range from Rs 25/= upwards and a whole meal costs around Rs. 300/= (about 2.2 AUD).   Spacious with open kitchens, Hela Bojun Hala outlets are scattered throughout Sri Lanka from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya to Jaffna and Matara.

Initially, the project was set up by Women’s Agriculture Extension Program of the Ministry of Agriculture and at present the project is taken up by Provincial Agriculture Departments also.

Authentic Sri Lankan food at Hela Bojun Hala

Each food stall has a variety of items ranging from kiribath (milk rice), *pittu, hoppers, string hoppers, *those, *vandu appa, kiri appa (succulent hoppers made with rice flour and a generous amount of coconut milk), *levariya, rice *kottu, kos kottu (jackfruit kottu) and *olu rice. Certain food items such as polos cutlets (tender jackfruit cutlets), mushroom cutlets and keselmuwa cutlets (banana blossom cutlets) are not found elsewhere in Sri Lanka. In addition to *ulundu wade and *masala wade, *cowpea wade (a novel food item) are also sold in these outlets. Traditional sweetmeats such as *konda kevum, *mung kevum, *narang kevum*undu wel and *kokis are also sold at these outlets. 

Authentic Sri Lankan food at Hela Bojun Hala

 Tasty curries for string hoppers, thosai and hoppers include keselmuwa (banana blossom) curry or polos curry (tender jackfruit curry). *Pol sambol, an accomplishment for string hoppers or thosai are also prepared using freshly grated coconut. Except the mixture for thosai, all the ingredients for the meals such as rice flour and spices are ground at the outlets, thus retaining the freshness of each item. Food items are prepared in front of the customers and are hot tasty as well as fresh without too much salt or spices. Certain food items such as *mani pittu, kos (jackfruit) *kottu and *wandu appa are hardly available anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Sweetmeats are also not too sweet but succulent. Hence, everybody from a small child to an elderly person can have a tasty meal at a very affordable price at Hela Bojun Hala outlets.

Each outlet has a variety of fruit juices including passion fruit, soursop, avocado, woodapple, kola kenda (herbal porridge) as well as traditional herbal drinks such as *beli mal accompanied with a piece of jaggery.

The meals are wholesome and very filling. All food items in these outlets including pancakes are made using rice flour.

To serve food, porcelain plates are used instead of plastic plates. Cane baskets lined with banana leaves are used to sell certain food items such as hoppers or thosai whereas, *kenda leaves or banana leaves are used to wrap takeaway food.

As the concept of Hela Boju Hala is to produce substance free, fresh healthy food at low cost as well as promote local produce among consumers, females employed in these outlets are given extensive training on preparing healthy, hygienic food.  Rural females with culinary skills are trained and recruited to work in these food outlets. If there is food left without being used, they are discarded.

Hela Boju Hala outlets are popular among locals as well as foreigners.

  • BeliBeli (Aegle marmelos), known in English as bael fruit is a highly nutritious fruit. The flower of the fruit (beli mal) is boiled and prepared as herbal tea in Sri Lanka. According to Ayurveda, beil mal herbal tea relieves palpitations, heart burn, increases appetite as well as cures bowel disorders.
  • Cowpea – Rich in protein, cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a cereal cultivated in Asia and Africa. Cowpea has multiple uses; food for human beings and fodder for livestock. Cowpea is commonly referred to as blackeye pea and southern pea.
  • Helapa – This is a traditional Sri Lankan delicacy eaten during tea time prepared with a combination of kurakkan (millet) flour, rice flour, treacle, cardamom and grated coconut. Helapa is steamed in wrapped *kenda
  • KendaKenda (Macaranga peltata) is a plant found in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Helapa dough is flattened on a kenda leaf and steamed to soak in the flavor of the leaf.
  • Kokis – This is a deep-fried Sri Lankan traditional sweetmeat made from rice flour and coconut milk batter dipped in hot oil. This sweetmeat plays a major role during Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations. According to folklore, this sweetmeat has been introduced to Sri Lanka by Dutch.
  • Kewum and Konda Kevum – Made with rice flour batter mixed with treacle and dipped in hot oil, kewum is a traditional Sri Lankan sweetmeat served during festivals.
  • Kottu – A popular food item in Sri Lanka made with rice flour as the main ingredient mixed with crispy vegetables using aromatic spices prepared on a hot griddle.
  • Kurakkan – This cereal is known as millet (Eleusine coracana) in English. The flour is gluten-free and is a source of calcium and iron. The flour is an excellent source of nutrition for children, nursing mothers, elderly, vegans and vegetarians.
  • Levariya – Made from string hoppers and a filling of grated coconut mixed with boiled treacle.
  • Mani pittuA Sri Lankan delicacy made from rice flour.
  • Mung Kevum and Narang Kevum – Made with a batter mixed with ground mung (green gram seed) and coconut milk cut into shapes and dipped in hot milk. Narang kevuwm is prepared with balls of ground green gram seed and coconut milk with a filling of grated coconut mixed with boiled treacle.
  • Olu rice – A nutritious rice extracted from olu (water lily – Nymphaea pubescens) eaten for breakfast accompanied with coconut chutney.
  • Pol sambol – A traditional Sri Lankan dish made with grated coconut ground with dried chilies, salt, onions and mixed with lime juice consumed with rice or string hoppers.
  • Pittu – This is a food made of steamed ground rice mixed with grated coconut, popular in Sri Lanka, South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • Thosai – A popular food in Sri Lanka usually accompanied with mixed vegetable curry (sambar), dhal and coconut chutney. This is a South Indian food also known as dosa. Thosai is similar to a pancake and made from fermented batter using *undu and cooked on a flat griddle. Thosai is a popular food among locals as well as foreigners in Sri Lanka.
  • UnduUndu is also known as Ulundu or Urad (Orid seeds). The seeds are ground and used to prepare thosai. Undu removes waste from the body and prevents constipation.
  • Undu Wel This is a Sri Lankan sweetmeat prepared with a batter using ground undu seeds, dipping batter in round shapes in hot oil, draining oil and dipping them in a mixture of treacle. This succulent sweetmeat is a popular snack during festivals in Sri Lanka.
  • Wade – This is a popular snack in Sri Lanka also known as wada. There are two types of wade – ulundu wade (made from ground undu seeds) and dhal wade also known as masala wade (made from ground dhal) eaten piping hot with coconut chutney.
  • Wandu Appa – This is a rare and delicious Sri Lankan food, a sweet hopper steamed in a wrapped kenda

Authentic Sri Lankan food at Hela Bojun Hala


Read More →

Nine Arch Bridge – spectacular architectural marvel in Ella –
By Arundathie Abeysinghe


Nine Arch Bridge

Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheNine Arch Bridge also known as Bridge in the Sky (Ahas Nawaye Palama in Sinhala) due to its breathtaking visual appearance is a famous attraction in Ella visited by local and foreign tourists. The artistic ingenuity of the Bridge and the beautiful landscape including mountains and tea plantations surrounding the Bridge are tourist attractions. If a person stands below the bridge and looks up, the sky can be seen through the nine arches of the Bridge.  Hence, it is popular as Ahas Nawaye Palama (Bridge in the Sky) among locals.

Spectacular vistas of the Bridge is enhanced and the environment creates a mystic and captivating scene when the famous ‘blue train’ (of Sri Lanka Railways) passes over the Bridge with ‘clicks’ from phones and cameras of the visitors who waited impatiently for the surreal moment. 

If it is a misty day when clouds hang low in the valley, the scene is magnificent with the train passing through the mist creating a fairy tale ambiance.  

Built at 3100 meters above sea level among craggy peaks of Central Highlands flanked by thick jungle and verdant tea plantations, majestic Nine Arch Bridge, a Colonial Era construction of early 20th century is a viaduct bridge. The Bridge is 25 meters high, 92 meters long and the width is 7.62 meters with nine spans.

P.K. Appuhamy, a local resident in consultation with British Engineers built this bridge which was commissioned by the British in 1941.

Situated in Gotuwala between Ella and Demodara Railway Stations, this spectacular bridge has been built with blocks of stone, bricks and cement without using a single piece of steel. According to history, when construction commenced on the Bridge, the work came to a standstill due to lack of steel caused by World War I. Hence, the Bridge had to be built without using steel. But the Bridge is solid from the period it was built to date. 

There is a story behind this spectacular bridge.

According to the most popular story, P.K. Appuhamy, a traditional drummer and *devil dancer was returning home after losing a dancing competition when he met a British Officer. As Appuhamy was in traditional dancing clothes he had a devilish appearance and the British Officer was frightened.  Appuhamy inquired from the Officer about his whereabouts and heard that he was in Gotuwala to construct a Railway Bridge. Later, Appuhamy and the Officer became friendly.

As there was a shortage of labor to construct the Bridge, Appuharmy assisted the Officer by supplying him with labor from the Village. When the construction commenced, the Officer and his team of workers found that there was a quagmire in the valley below the location of the construction site of the Bridge. As it was not possible to create firm anchoring due to the quagmire, Appuhamy requested if he could construct it. The British Officer though reluctant to hand over the project to him initially, later allowed him to go ahead with construction.  Appuhamy and his team toppled giant rocks into the quagmire and filled the space and a firm bed of rocks was formed as the foundation.   

He created the brick columns of the Bridge over the bed of rocks and completed the bridge. The construction project was cost effective and completed within a short period. The British Officer was happy and rewarded him well. According to folklore, Appuhamy returned to the village with four carts of silver coins. He gave each a villager a silver coin and enjoyed for many days with his relatives and neighbors.

Fact or fiction, this massive solid construction through which at least six trains ply on the up country railway line is very solid from the period of its construction in 1941 to date and will definitely last in the future too.

As Nine Arch Bridge is a popular tourist spot, it is better to go early in the morning to avoid crowds and view the breathtaking vistas surrounding it as well as take beautiful photos.

Location: Gotuwala, in close proximity to Ella town

  • Devil Dancer – The person performing devil dancing. These dances are performed to respond to the common belief among people that certain ailments are caused by unseen hands and they should be chased away to cure the ailment. Similarly, if an individual or family is not doing well (in education, business etc.), there is a belief that such people are harassed by unseen hands and such elements should be chased away. On such instances, the services of devil dancers (dressed in special costumes wearing masks similar to devils) perform *‘thovil’ to chase away such unseen elements.
  • Thovil – Ritual of chanting, dancing and drumming – a form of exorcism. During a ‘Thovil’ ceremony, dancers dressed as demons chant, dance and drum to vanquish the unseen hand before the patient.


Read More →

Bible Rock – landmark in Colombo – Kandy Road: By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Bible Rock Bible Rock 

Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie AbeysingheBreathtaking views of craggy dense mountains shrouded in early morning mist, panorama of cascading waterfalls, luxuriant meadows … Bible Rock, the magnificent mountain is a colossus dwarfing the entire landscape of Kadugannawa…

Bible Rock is a landmark that has inspired poets, photographers, painters and nature lovers from time immemorial. It was a square lookout point used by Sinhalese ancestors to protect the Kandyan Kingdom.

This fascinating mountain is seen from Kadugannawa Pass on Colombo – Kandy Road, the same route which British took in 1815 to conquer Kandyan Kingdom. Bible Rock is visible to any traveler on the Kandy-Colombo Road but it can be seen clearly to those traveling by train from Colombo to Kandy. The surface of the Rock is mostly covered in *mana grass.

Bible Rock known as Bathalegala by locals is shrouded in thick jungle. The Rock seems to rise up almost vertically making one wonder if it is really climbable. Situated near Aranayaka in the Kegalle District in central Sri Lanka, it rises to a height of 798 meters above sea level.

It was during the British Period that this rock was named Bible Rock as the appearance is quite akin to an open book/Bible when viewed from Kandy Road which the British built. The Rock is also similar to famous Sigiriya Rock.

According to historical records, when the Kandyan Kingdom was surrounded by Portuguese in the 16th and early 17th century, Sinhalese set many watchtowers on prominent peaks and Bathalegala was one of them as the watchers on the summit of the Rock could easily monitor Kadugannawa Pass as well as Kegalle Valley. Their alarm system to signal the arrival of the enemies from the road below was with a bonfire from the next mountain. This chain of bonfires ended at Bahirawakanda Mountain, the hill closest to Kandy City.  

Bible Rock is surrounded by many other mountains which are less prominent, Devanagala Kanda (Mountain) hallowed by the visit of legendary God Aluthnuwara deiyo (deiyo meaning God in Sinhala) Kaithankadagala and Urakanda hillocks, Wakirigala Kanda and Uthuwankanda from the north. From the summit of the Rock, breathtaking views of Ambuluwawa Mountain, Kabaragala Mountain and Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) can also be seen on a clear day.

The location of the Rock is an ecologically important area in the central hills as there are endemic flora and fauna.

Many travelers think that Bible Rock cannot be easily reached due to its shape. But there are two trails to reach the Rock. The Rock’s 798 meter height offers a great challenge for hikers interested in seeking an adrenaline hiking experience.

From the summit of the Rock, breathtaking vistas of the valleys below can be seen.

There is a Buddhist Temple in Bible Rock. There are also caves, an old devale (Hindu Temple) dedicated to God Suniyam as well as a water spring in the trail to the Rock.

The trail to the Rock starts with a narrow footpath along a mild slope which gets steeper and it is a continuous climb without flat surfaces through dense jungle. There are steps with stone slabs midway similar to a staircase and the trail ends at the summit of the Rock. 

It is better to climb the Rock on a sunny day for spectacular views of the surrounding areas as well as endemic bird watching opportunities. If the weather is good, Knuckles Mountain Range can also be seen from the Rock.

Directions: Bible Rock can be reached from Mawanella Town on Colombo – Kandy Road. There is a signboard to the right of the Road indicating directions to the Rock.

  • Mana grass – Commonly known as manna grass or reed sweet-grass is a species of rhizomatous perennial grass which grows in wet areas such as riverbanks and ponds.


Read More →

Royal Palace of Kandy – By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie Abeysinghe


Royal Palace of Kandy - By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Royal Palace of the Kandyan Kingdom is located to the north of Dalada Maligawa. It was the royal residence of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815), the last reigning King of Kandy as well as Sri Lanka. The palace dates back to the 14th century. King Wickramabahu III (1357-1374) and King Senasamatha Wickramabahu (1469-1511) of the Kingdom of Gampola constructed the palace. King Wimaladharmasuriya I (1592 – 1603) was the first king to occupy the Palace. Each king who resided in the Royal Palace made improvements to the structure of the Palace. The original palace walls were burnt during wars between foreign invaders and the Kandyan Kingdom.  The Palace was renovated during the Kandyan Kingdom after the wars without alterations to its interior.

Royal Palace Complex included the Royal Palace (Raja Wasala), Royal Audience Hall (Magul Maduwa – hall where the king met his officers and carried out his administrative duties. This hall is situated at the Northern end of the Royal Palace Complex) Queen’s Palace (Meda Wasala), King’s Harem Quarters (Palle Wasala) and Queen’s Bathing Pavilion (Ulpange situated on the edge of Kandy Lake to the left of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic).

According to chronicles, the section of the Palace facing Natha Devale is the oldest section of the Palace.

The Royal Palace is a long building with a central doorway and a flight of steps entering into an imposing hall beautifully decorated with stucco and terra cotta. The rooms of the Palace are situated in the two wings and there is a long veranda* facing the inner courtyard.

During the Kandyan Kingdom, there were three gateways (wahalakada in Sinhala) including a 2.4 meters (8 feet) high wall. These had been the main entrances of the Palace. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa) and the Royal Palace were associated with religious and administrative duties during the Kandyan Kingdom.

According to chronicles, the section of the Palace facing Natha Devale is the oldest section of the Palace.

During the Colonial Era, the Palace was used by Government Agent Sir John D’Oyly, first Baronet of Kandy. Subsequently, his successors also used the Palace as their official residence.

Adjacent to the Royal Palace, there is a Victorian Era building which was used as Kandy High Court until recently.

At present, the Royal Palace is preserved as an archaeological museum. The Museum offers a glimpse into the artefacts that belonged to Kandyan Royals. There are over 1000 objects in the Museum. This Museum is of immense importance to scholars, researchers as well as students interested in learning about the history of Kandyan Kingdom. For history enthusiasts interested in satiating their curiosity, the Royal Palace is a place they can visit during their stay in Kandy.  

Veranda – Veranda or verandah is an open-walled roof or open-air gallery attached to the outside of a building or house. Usually a veranda was enclosed by a railing and was used to protect the entrance of a building. In the past visitors to buildings or houses were entertained in the veranda.

Natha Devale –14th century Natha Devale is the oldest devale (Hindu Temple) in Kandy. Natha devale is perched on a stone terrace with a wahalkada (solid panel structure). There are Bodhi trees and dagobas in Natha Devale premises. During the Kandyan Kingdom Natha Devale has played an important role in the establishment of the royalty. The king was given his royal name at Natha Devale. This is one of the four devales of Kandy. The other three devales are Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini.




Read More →

Bahiravakanda Vihara Buddha Statue in Kandy – By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Bahirawa Kanda Vihara Buddha Statue in Kandy


Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheThis beautifully sculpted white omnipresent Buddha Statue is 88 feet (about 27 meters) in height and depicts the Buddha in the posture of Dhyana Mudra (posture of meditation associated with the Buddha’s Enlightenment). It is one of the tallest Buddha Statues in Sri Lanka as well as a prominent landmark in Kandy City. The temple where the Buddha statue is located is Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya. But it is popular as Bahirawa Kanda (Gnome Mountain) Temple. This temple is situated at Bahirawakanda Road about two kilometers from Kandy City.

Majority of Buddhist temples in Kandy were constructed during the Kandyan Kingdom under the guidance of Kandyan Kings. But this temple was constructed in 1992 and was officially opened on January 1, 1993. The Temple was founded by Venerable Ampitiye Dhammarama Thero.

According to devotees, paying homage to the Bahirawa Kanda Vihara Buddha Statue is a pilgrimage as well as a soul-searching experience. For tourists, viewing the Buddha Statue renders a peaceful and serene experience. Visitors to the Temple are required to remove their hats and shoes before entering the premises.

There is a flight of steps to reach the Statue. Many devotees as well as tourists prefer to climb the stairs instead of using the road beside the Buddha Statue and the Temple. As the Buddha Statue is located on a mountain, the entire cityscape can be seen from its location. From the Temple, panoramic views of Kandy City, Peradeniya, Tea Museum as well as Bogambara Prisons can be seen.

Read More →

Lipton’s Seat – Tea with breathtaking views – By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Sir Thomas Lipton

Photo caption: Statue of Scottish Tea Baron Sir Thomas Lipton at Lipton’s Seat

Ms. Arundathie Abeysinghe

Named after the connoisseur of Ceylon Tea Trade, Scottish Tea Baron Sir Thomas Lipton, Lipton’s Seat is an observatory point situated at an elevation of 1,970 meters above sea level on Poonagala Mountain in Dambetanne Tea Estate. The lookout from Lipton’s Seat is equal to breathtaking views from World’s End at Horton Plains. Sir Thomas Lipton, the famous tea planter had used this literal seat to survey his burgeoning Tea Empire (sprawling extents of thousands of acres of tea), seated on a bench at this highest point in Dambetanne Tea Estate.

On the way to the Lipton’s Seat a visitor will pass through the 2500 acre Dambatenna Tea Estate and factory set up by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890. Sir Thomas Lipton had lived in this estate and the first leaves which left Sri Lankan shores were produced here. Most of the machinery used for tea production in Dambatenna Tea Factory had been used about a century ago and they are still well-maintained and in good condition.   

The ascent to the observatory point takes about three hours. The signs from the tea factory up to the viewpoint are easy to follow.

From this viewpoint, there are bird’s eye views of Uva*, Central, Southern, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provinces. Lunugamwehera, Kataragama, Wedihiti Kanda (Kanda meaning hill in Sinhala), Handapanagala Lake, Chandirka Lake, Moneragala Lake, Uda Walawe Lake, Wellawaya and Koslanda towns as well as Hambantota Harbour and Hambantota Airport can also be seen from this place.

Read More →